Friday, July 8, 2016

{One Way or Another}

Twenty-five years ago, my sister and I stood before the bathroom mirror, coiffing and giggling. It was the 4th of July and a glorious day awaited. As per tradition, our family would head down to Officer's Row to the home of our very dear "Uncle" Ron and "Auntie" Marlene. We'd gather with other families and do very patriotic things, like wave flags, grill burgers, listen to guitars and banjos, and marvel over apple pies and strawberry shortcakes.

I was fifteen, my sister thirteen, and it was the early nineties. This meant that our hair was big and held firmly in place by Aqua Net, our nails were fiercely glittered, and our Keds were red and blue. (We each swapped a shoe to make a very patriotic -- and, we hoped, impressive -- statement.)

What I didn't know at the time was that this day would become a sort of anniversary. After the lawn and barbecue festivities, our families sauntered down toward the gazebo (church friends met "to the right of the gazebo" every year) to prepare for the Fort's fireworks show. My sister and I spread out our blanket and poised ourselves in our red, white and blue cuteness, giggling and watching. Because you just never know who might walk by.

Well, one certain young man did walk by. It was providential -- some of his friends hadn't arrived, so he went with Plan B, which involved checking out the crew "to the right of the gazebo." We'd known each other for ten years, but something about the excitement of the day (or was it the Aqua Net?) caused him . . . to stay. He and a couple of friends decided that our blanket would be a nice one to share. We welcomed them warmly, flashing our smiles and glitter, and somehow everything just clicked. The fireworks were especially memorable that year, and Jamie and I started dating three months later.

Over the years, we've celebrated the 4th in various ways, but once kids came along it just never seemed practical to head down to the Fort. That is, until this year. Over our barbecue meal on Monday afternoon, we retold our kids about that festive day long ago, and we suddenly realized it had been 25 years. Something in the significance of that caused us to decide that we really should go to the Fort again this year.

So we packed our blankets and headed down. Much was the same. Elephant ears called our names (and we answered). Girls still walked around with coiffed hair and boys still joked loudly, hoping someone might notice. Toddlers still ran about in patriotic tutus, and parents still sat on coolers or tossed around frisbees.

Some things were different. The 80s band played songs that were now considered "oldies." One way or another I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha. There were frequent pauses for "selfies" among the crowd, and iPhones provided a noticeable level of entertainment and diversion.

Avery noticed something different, too. Something that smelled like . . . weird popcorn. We hesitated and then broke the news to our innocent pixie. "That's marijuana, honey."

Pixie was appalled. "Marijuana?!?! Why are people drinkin' marijuana?!?!"

The fireworks had changed too, in that the show was a bit shorter than it had been 25 years ago. But the delight in our lives was even greater, knowing that we'd shared those years together, and it really wasn't the Aqua Net, Keds, or glitter that had orchestrated our destinies, after all.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

{Cherish the Ordinary}

The birds chirped outside his window this morning, the chickadee starting off the day with his merry, chicka-dee-dee-dee! My son, of course, was asleep. He'd been out late, celebrating with friends. For last night was graduation night.

I'm sure he wasn't thinking about chickadees at the time (his obsession as a 7-year-old seems to have waned a tad), but he just might have been thinking about penguins. The Clark College Penguins, that is.

He and his closest friends lined up side by side in their caps, gowns, and honor cords, preparing to receive both their high school diplomas and their AA degrees, this first collegiate journey further deepening their bonds as they proudly realized the completion of hours spent studying, comparing art projects, rating professors, looking for the bouncy ball, congregating in the student center, and conquering finals.

It's been much more than a two -- or even a 12 -- year journey. Really it began 18 years ago. I remember the delight of coming home from Drew's baby shower, arms laden with beautiful gifts. Our church family had blessed us with dozens of darling outfits, and I couldn't wait to show Jamie the little overalls, the miniature baseball cap, the snuggly blankets, the cozy sleepers.

With pride, joy, and anticipation over the baby to come, I removed the clothing tags, sorted a load of laundry (in which everything was small and soft -- no adult clothing allowed in this load!), and pulled out the pink box filled with brand new, baby scented Dreft detergent.

That load of laundry was a joy to fold. The tiny shirts, the handsome little jeans, the wee socks that would probably never really stay on his feet, the receiving blankets that were oh-so-ready to receive.

This baby -- now a man -- does his own laundry these days, but last night was a flurry of activity as he looked at the care instructions on his graduation gown. "Um, Mom? Could you iron this for me? And maybe my shirt, too?" That long gown hung in my bedroom doorway, that handsome man-shirt, so much bigger than the little suit he wore once upon a time . . . and I said yes. I joyfully said, yes.

I glided that iron with mingled joy, awe, and something nameless that ached deep down, over the folds of that royal blue gown. Every pleat, every tuck. The steam rose and hissed, the heavy metal plate pressing and perfecting. It was such an ordinary task . . . but the significance of it caused me to linger and give myself fully to the work.

For 18 years I've completed similar ordinary tasks. Each day building one upon the other. Washing a load, folding a load, ironing for this occasion or that. The washing machine runs and swirls, the dryer turns and tumbles, and the days slip by, one by one. All ordinary in their own way, yet here they were, stacked up to this moment, preparing me -- preparing us -- to delight in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Last night the Clark commencement speaker, former POW Jessica Lynch, said something that made me grab my pencil and notebook: "Cherish what you are given." Even when that which you've been given is unexpected, not of your choosing, not the ideal, cherish it. Cherish the days of ordinary laundry when the socks don't pair up and the jeans reveal growing holes in the boyish knees and you end up wearing a dirty shirt after all.

Cherish the days of the extraordinary, when the laundry responsibilities are indicative of change and growth and a future that gleams hopeful and bright. When it's time to iron the shirt for the dance, the slacks for the recital, the gown for the graduation. Cherish what you are given.

Among the thousands, there were at least 50 of us clumped together in that stadium last night, cheering for "our row" of kids. We created a streaming din of celebration for the eight graduates who were our very own. The names were called, we craned our necks, and we really couldn't believe it. . . . David . . . Kendall . . . Drew . . . Jon . . . Cori . . . Aly . . . Alyssa . . . Averie. Our kids. The kids for whom we've washed and ironed, wept and cheered.

And we cherished what we'd been given.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

{Next to Him}

We looked at each other last night, just a bit in awe. Our four children were creating their usual noises and messes, hammering away at the piano, shooting hoops, strumming the ukulele, dumping legos. Three had just performed in their year-end piano recital, and our oldest had just finished his very last, last day of school. He would graduate not only from high school, but also from the local community college.

Tucked in the midst of our everyday kid hubbub, we let our glances linger longer, our kiss hold just a bit more sweetly. For we knew it was no small thing: we were celebrating 20 years together.

Yesterday morning, as I sipped my tea over Nehemiah, my eyes landed on the repeating phrase,

Next to him, the repairs were made . . .

The Israelites were stationed around the wall of Jerusalem, each one working to repair sections that had been broken and burned during their time in exile. Their names are listed, each man (and some daughters, too!), side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

The poignancy of that phrase touched me as I thought of the last twenty years I've spent with the man I love: Next to him.

I've written about those years. The early years when I was a blushing 11-year-old, stealing sly glances toward a tall boy in the youth group.

I've also written about the difficult years. The years of growing children and growing older . . . . 

And about the early months of our marriage when we were down with mono . . . .

And I realized we couldn't have done any of this without holding onto that very phrase: Next to him. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, we've faced brokenness and burns in this wall that is the Lawson family -- even seasons that felt slightly akin to exile and bondage. Yet by the grace of God "the repairs were made" and we've been able to meet each season next to Him, next to our Master builder.

Last night we grinned wryly over the eternal busyness of this month and as we tried to determine when we'd celebrate our anniversary Jamie said, "Why did we get married in June???" I reminded him that we were in college, so it really made the most sense at the time. I also reminded him of my more sentimental reason, straight out of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: "Oh, they say when you marry in June, you will always be a bride!"

After 20 years, I can tell you that there's another way to "always be a bride," and it doesn't matter when your anniversary lands. Ladies, stand next to him. Stand next to your husband, stand next to your Savior. Men, stand next to her. Stand next to your bride, stand next to your Savior. Face that wall together, making the repairs as they come. Don't let breaches and burns turn into bitterness and bondage. Rather, face them as the Israelites did and proclaim, "Let us start rebuilding."

As we drifted off to sleep last night, me next to him, Jamie said, "You know, we really could be only a third of the way through our marriage." My mind looked ahead to our eighty-year-old selves and I knew that our age would never matter. I'd always want to be right there, right next to him.    

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Monday, April 4, 2016

{A Temple to Build}

I don't expect you to call me Mother Bear anymore. Actually, I haven't expected it for about thirteen years now. But you did say it was okay if I slipped and called you Little Bear every once in a while. (I'll try to avoid it in public.) Old habits die hard for a Mother Bear.

The days of Little Bear and dump trucks, Thomas the Tank Engine and ornithological obsession seem to belong to a distant past. But as I scroll through the pictures, I can see the becoming that God was working in you through the years.

Where you once lined up matchbox cars and trains, where you once pored over recycling brochures and animal encyclopedias, where you once organized your friends and family according to their Thomas the Tank Engine names (you were Rusty, I was James), I now see a new creativity, a new appreciation for order and design, a reaching for faithfulness and goodness.

I see it in your love for music, your ability to recall sports statistics, your positive work ethic, your sensitivity toward others, and in your drive to further your education. I see it in your devotion to friends and family, and most of all I see it in the way the Lord is continuing to call you to Himself.

This morning I was reading I Chronicles 28, and I kept thinking about you. King David had prepared everything that was needed for the building of the temple of the Lord. However, he would not be the one to actually build it. That honor was given to his son, Solomon.

On the cusp of this mission, King David gives a charge to his son:

Serve [the Lord] with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind . . . . 
If you seek Him, He will be found by you . . . . Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you . . . . 

Drew, this is my prayer and the prayer of your father, too. We've seen this "wholehearted devotion" and "willing mind" throughout the years, in so many various (and often humorous) scenarios. You once memorized over 100 countries and could point them out on a map. At age two. This shows a willing mind. You often called THE ENTIRE family to the front window to watch the garbage . . . and recycling . . . and yard debris trucks circle through our cul-de-sac. Every week. This shows a wholehearted devotion.

It's still there, it's just matured quite a bit. (Trust me.)

And now you have a temple to work on: "The Lord has chosen you to build a temple." You're on the cusp of a new mission: the mission of adulthood. We -- along with many, many friends and family -- have given you tools and plans and guidelines over the years . . . and now it's time. It's time for you to step over the threshold with those tools in your pocket and to "be strong and courageous and do the work" the Lord has placed before you.

I know you will do well, Drew. You already have, and we are so proud of you. There will be bumps in the road. I know that you know that. For this I say with King David, "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God" (yes, I too can attest to His faithfulness) "is with you. He will not fail you."

He will not fail you, Drew. Which means that -- in His hands and with your open hands -- your temple will be strong and mighty, a fortress that will declare His glory and majesty.

Your mission is a grand one, my son. Such a grand one! And I'm excited to see where the Lord will take you. I'm thankful for 18 years of delighting in your being, of marveling at who you are and how your mind and heart work. I'm thankful for your sense of humor, your generous heart, your respectful bearing, your responsible actions, your faithful friends, and your thoughtful nature.

Most of all, I'm thankful that God entrusted Dad and me with you. Apparently, you don't mind so much either. Last night, as you headed to bed and flashed that characteristic grin our way, you closed the first book of your life and eagerly cracked open the next, calling back, "Thanks for a great childhood!"

Yes, Drew. Thank you. Thank you, so very much.

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