Monday, August 31, 2015

In The Moment

       It is good to live in the moment. We're not dwelling on the past, we're not wishing life away by focusing on the future--we are experiencing the present. But what if the present isn't so good? What if we are suffering?

       I think we grow up learning from society around us that suffering is something that "shouldn't be." Mistakes are not supposed to happen--on the road, at work, in the McDonald's drive-thru or at the hospital--and if they do...then sue. Three of my friends were told by their doctors to terminate their pregnancies because of bleeding and an inability to find a fetal heartbeat. All three women said no, and there are now three healthy boys running around our town. I am convinced that the doctors felt that they had to recommend termination, for if they had not and the woman had complications, they could have been sued. Sadly, mistakes happen.

       I think it's possible that a mistake was made on our farm and that may be why Mary Pat has deformities and developmental disabilities. I will never confront anyone about it. There is no real proof. But if it is true, then it caused suffering. I have written about Mary Pat; she is such a blessing. She always knows more people in the local supermarket than I do. It's like being with a celebrity. Children run up to her as I walk into school and hug her, or give her a high-five. Through our suffering, through her life, many people have been blessed in ways that could not have happened without Mary Pat's life.

       Living in the moment is hard at times, but it can also be blissful. Sitting on the beach with the waves crashing and soft breeze blowing. Hitting that run of moguls and the adrenaline surge of speed and skis pounding hard. Jumping a horse over a big fence. Embracing a loved one. A first kiss.

       But there are also illusions of a moment, aren't there? They can lead us to errors in judgement, to impulsive acts. The things that keep us from making these errors are formed in us well before that moment, in our interior lives, in our moral formation. I am told that developing virtues combats these errors in judgement. All the education in the world may not keep someone from committing a crime or a huge mistake, but virtue might.

       I came across a beautiful and tragic quote the other day:

       "Let Herodius now groan, she who is guilty of the impious murder,
        for it was neither love of God's law, nor life eternal that she loved,
        but the illusions of a moment."


       No. It is a reading from the Byzantine liturgy regarding the death of John the Baptist. Herod kind of liked John, even though he didn't mince words about Herod's sinful lifestyle. Herod's wife, however, despised John the Baptist and finally devised a way to force Herod to kill him. Her daughter Salome (Herod's niece) danced such a beautiful dance one night that Herod told her to ask him for anything and he'd give it to her. Her mother whispered to her to ask for John the Baptist's head, and Herod, beside himself with conflict, gave in. Herodius got her revenge.

       Revenge sometimes feels good in the moment. So do big mistakes--like infidelity, sin, porn, getting drunk when we shouldn't. Later, we may regret it terribly. At the moment it felt and seemed good!

       Moments are indeed precious. Illusions of a moment assert that the moment is more important than wisdom and judgement, than right and good, than even the One who created moments.

       I believe that God wants the best for us. I want to be grateful for my moments, even in the suffering ones. Christ suffered. We learn that to follow him means taking up our cross. That does not mean a cross of gold and happily ever after fairy-tale living. There will hopefully be some great moments, but there is no promise that life will be without pain. Ann Voskamp wrote an inspired book about her life, about the suffering of her family and how all was turned around for her when she focused on gratitude.One Thousand Gifts  is a book which changes lives. I hope you'll read it.

       And I hope you'll live solidly and gratefully in the moment, that you'll be wise and perhaps take some more moments before deciding on a course that you might later regret. Sacrificing that illusory moment might be the most fully in-the-moment thing we ever do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hershey Chocolate, Screenplay, and Cupid

       And--they're back to school. Next year I will plan better for summer activities, and maybe even a distant camp or two. That was something I never had the opportunity to do as a kid. I'm not complaining, I think I had a great childhood. I remember my friend Bev went away to camp every summer. The boys' and girls' camps were owned by her mother's family: Green Cove and High Rocks. I visited with her when we were in high school; a lovely little southwest corner of North Carolina, in the mountains.

       That's a bit far from Kansas, but I think the older boys would like more activity. I'd had a busy school year and I kind of "veg'd" with them this summer. I learned that teaching a college course, tutoring, substitute clinical instructing, grad school, every other weekend doing community health nursing, and being Mom to six under twelve was...too much. The six needed more of me. So we veg'd. We did go to Hershey, PA. That's always fun. Chocolate. And I think Milton Hershey is my new hero.

       Later in the summer Mary Pat, Susanna and I flew to Milwaukee for a special wedding. Joe lived with us the summer of 2013 and during that time met Maria, who helped care for Mary Pat. Joe fell in love watching her sing to Mary Pat, and care for her so lovingly. They asked for Mary Pat to be their flower girl. It was a wonderful weekend. Maria says Mary Pat is like the paper airplane in "Paperman." She's a cute little cupid!

       I did one other big thing this summer. I wrote a full-length, motion picture screenplay. I'm sort of amazed I got it done. The idea had been mulling around in my head for a number of years, with notes here and there. I read in April that Meryl Streep was funding the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT)writer's lab workshop in September. Eight scripts would be chosen, their writers flown to a lake in upstate New York to develop their screenplays. The writers had to be women over 40.

       I got the email on August 1st that 3500 screenplays had been submitted (!) and mine was not in the eight chosen. Truthfully, I knew it was a long shot, but I had to try. The workshop was the incentive I needed to get something really big done, that time had not previously allowed. I had a couple months between grad courses, I'd become a disciplined writer and I did it. I have some future plans for the screenplay, but we'll see. I thank my children for encouraging me to finish that first draft. It may never have been completed without their support.

       So, back to today. The two oldest boys said it was a great day in their new school. I'm proud of them. The others were equally enthusiastic. Mary Pat was ecstatic to go back to her school and almost raced from my hand to the bus!

       Summer 2015 was good.

       Here's to a great Fall for us all!