Friday, March 1, 2013

New haircut? No, my hair is greasy and I choose not to shower. Thank you for understanding.

Two questions I have been asked several times since Ash Wednesday:  "What are you doing for Lent?  and "Did you recently get your hair cut?"  Surprisingly, there IS a connection between these two questions.  Allow me to explain:

Let me begin by saying that each year as Lent approaches, I pray about what I should "give up," and also what I can "offer to" God.  In the Bible, fasting is not solely about sacrificing.  It is also about adding--through prayer, generosity, or focusing on matters that are important to God.  So, this year, I decided to relinquish hot water for all bathing.  (I still cook and wash clothes with hot water).  I decided that during my cold showers I would offer the Lord prayers for people around the world who lack access to any type of clean water--hot or cold. 

My lofty ideals collided with reality the moment I stepped completely under ice cold water the first time I washed my hair.  My hair is really thick, and there is just no way I can avoid standing completely under frigid water for at least 5 minutes.  The initial 30-60 second shock is the worst--no matter how prepared I think I am, extreme brain freeze commences--like Slurpee brain freeze on steroids.  It leaves me with a headache that lasts about an hour.  My goose bumps erupt into goose mounds and every cell in my body is benumbed.  Yes, I tend to over dramatize a wee bit.

God knows that I am a big, spoiled baby. So, I'm sure it came as no surprise to him that I am NOT praying for others while showering. Instead, I'm feeling sorry for myself. I've told God I would intercede for others AFTER I exit the torture chamber, (a/k/a shower), wrap myself in a fluffy, warm robe, and dry my hair with plenty of hot air.

Because I really dislike cold showers, I have mastered the art of the sponge bath.  These are not pleasant, but they are 100% better than a deluge of chilly water.  I only wash my hair every 3-4 days. Lots of natural oils translate into grungy and grimy hair.  Apparently, when my hair contains a lot of grease, it flattens and lays differently--thus the observation by some that I must have had my hair cut recently.  Disgusting?  Possibly. Do I care?  Not really--not if I can avoid a Siberian prison-style shower for another day.

This exercise has reminded me:  though I am doing without hot water, my family is blessed to have constant and easy access to clean water.  I am trying to be mindful to thank God for something I usually take for granted.  When I fill my girls' sports bottles, I thank God for filtered water that flows from our refrigerator.  When I turn on the faucet to fill a pot, I thank God for clean cooking water that will not make my family sick.  When I push the button on my washing machine, I thank God that I am not consigned to hand-washing our clothes in a pit of standing water that is swimming in fecal matter.

And when the chill has worn off from my frigid shower, these are my supplications:

"God, I pray today for those who have no water.  They are literally dying of thirst.  Please provide for their needs.
 I pray for parents who must choose today between having their children slip further into dehydration or giving them filthy water to drink.
Please comfort those who are mourning as they watch their children's bodies lowered into the ground for burial because they died of preventable water-borne diseases.
Please protect women who must travel miles on foot to gather water for their family and who daily run the risk of rape to obtain this basic necessity.
Help my family and others who are wealthy to be willing to sacrifice and share so that water wells can be constructed for every person in the world that needs them."

And Lord, most of all, help me to remember that you are Living Water, and that those who come to you will never (spiritually) thirst again.  I'm giving up warm showers; God, you sacrificed your Son. Jesus, I worship you because you provide the water that saves and nourishes our souls.
"Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said, streams of living
 water will flow from him."  John 7:38

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Marry someone who will love you when you get pudgy in the middle"

In an age of throw away marriages, serial marriages, starter marriages, brief marriages, and loveless marriages, I felt so blessed to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary with them last November.  Though in our fallen world divorce is sometimes unavoidable, my parents managed to forge a happy and enduring marriage when so many others have been torn asunder. 

As their eldest child, I have had a "ringside seat" to their marriage for 44 years.  While people may try to put on airs and fool other people, you simply cannot fake a good marriage within the walls of your own home.  Kids know, sense, and absorb too much on a daily basis.  They sniff out insincerity and hypocrisy with ease.

Accordingly, when we asked Mom and Dad to share their secrets for a long and happy marriage at their anniversary party, my brother Kevin and I knew they were dispensing the unvarnished truth:
  • Choose someone who shares your values and faith.
  • Marry someone who will love you when your hair turns gray and you get pudgy in the middle. (Amen!)
  • Honor your marriage covenant.
  • Pray together often.
  • Laugh a LOT! 
These are not fluffy, "we have to say these things because we are supposed to" answers!  I can attest that these are principles that my parents have lived and believed, albeit imperfectly, every day of their marriage.

Mom and Dad entered into a marriage covenant on November 17, 1962, but their shared values and faith is the glue that has  held them together all these years. The Beetles sang "All You Need Is Love."  However, recognizing that "marriage is the union of two dreadful sinners"(as one pastor has said),  Mom and Dad understood it was crucial to build their union on a faithful foundation. God and his Word were present at their wedding ceremony and have been at the center of their marriage since Day 1. 

My parents were attractive young people when they married, but as years went by, hair fell out (Dad) and went gray (Mom and Dad).  Their weight has inched upward since their wedding day. There are wrinkles and age spots and health issues that go hand-in-hand with growing older.  But my Dad still looks at my Mom like she is the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, and I still observe them hugging affectionately and stealing kisses.

No matter what curve-ball life threw at them, Mom and Dad were determined to stay married and never let divorce enter their realm of thinking.  They have been devoted to each other for better or worse--and their has definitely been some of both over the past 50 years.  I definitely remember times when it would have been easy for one or both of them to throw in the towel, because life is HARD and even the best spouses DISAPPOINT.  They had the integrity to persevere, and I am so happy that they did.

Mom and Dad prayed faithfully--both individually and together.  As a child in our small house with thin walls, I would often fall asleep to the murmuring voices of my parents in their bedroom at night.  Though I could not make out the words, I knew they were praying.  This is one of my most cherished childhood memories.  When times were happy, Mom and Dad praised God.  When challenges, difficulties, and heartache entered their lives, they laid them at Jesus' feet and trusted in His Sovereignty.  Mom and Dad truly "prayed without ceasing."

My parents both have a great sense of humor.  Dad thinks his jokes are really funny, and my Mom does her best to laugh whether she sees the point in them or not.  They frequently tease and needle each other in order to have fun and  relieve tension.  Their example has taught me I don't need to take everything so seriously. Having fun together and even being silly are good for a marriage. 

Mom and Dad--thank you for the gift of a home where both parents are committed forever and genuinely love AND like each other.   I attribute much of the success I have had in my own marriage to the example I saw in yours.  Jeff and I hope to be celebrating our own 50th wedding anniversary on April 24, 2043 with you two looking down from heaven, cheering us on.  I love you both so very much!

"Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.  If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned."
Song of Songs 8:7