Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bike adventures

I learned to ride a bike when I was seven. My parents gave me a small, beaten boy's bike and I rode like the wind on the sidewalks of our sleepy desert town. I got another bike when I was twelve after we moved to the Midwest. It was bigger, a girl's bike, also old, but I loved it! My sister and I rode the streets of suburbia long after dusk on summer nights. Leaving childhood behind, we zipped around with excitement at our newfound freedom. My mother would sometimes ride with us, but only in the dark. She thought the neighbors would think she was silly. This bike went into semi-retirement during my high school years when it wasn't cool to ride a bike. But I brought it to my first apartment, and having no car, rode it miles back and forth to work through dark and quiet neighborhoods. I pedaled hard and traveled far. I was free, living on my own.

When my boys were school-age with bikes of their own, I found another used bike at a yard sale for $5. It was big and clunky and red. No handbreaks, no speeds. Sturdy. We lived in an area perfect for biking and the boys and I rode many evenings after dinner. Unlike my mother, I didn't worry about the neighbors. But as the boys got a little older, they were embarrassed to be seen with me on my old red bike and I often rode alone with my thoughts, escaping from unfulfilled dreams. I don't know whatever happened to that bike, but I've thought of it many times through the years, looking for one similar and never finding it. At the Jersey shore every year I admire the basic, no-frill bikes and wait for the day we will rent them instead of the surreys.

This Christmas, Fred and I agreed on no gifts for each other, but he didn't follow through on his promise. He told me he ordered me "a little something for your health." No big deal. I didn't give it much thought. But then he said he needed to pick it up--in the van. What in the world? Of course, you guessed it, since I'm writing about bikes, but I had no idea. I heard the door chime announcing he was home. The girls ran to the basement as he came in and I heard their delighted squeals. Still confused I went downstairs. I admit, I shrieked with joy too! Such a childish gift for this old woman! A beautiful, brand-new, girlie-pink bike! It is shiny and flashy, with a wide white, padded seat and a thick frame. The handlebars are set far apart, safe and solid, and there are no fancy, shifting gears. Written on the frame is "Beach Cruzer" and "Classic." It has my name written all over it. My first new bike! What a dear husband who bought it for me.

It is night but I take it out to the driveway for a spin. Biking is impossible on our steep hill, but I couldn't resist crossing the street and trying it out in the church parking lot. Wow! My bike is like an old, familiar friend. The cold air whips past my ears and I still ride like the wind. But this time I'm not running away or breaking free from anything. I'm traveling eagerly, expectantly, into the new year. Oh, the adventures we will have!

I recently read Psalm 103 again, the passage my son Dominic read at our wedding. It was so fitting then, as it is now. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Vs. 2-5.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unexpected gifts

On their 30th wedding anniversary, my friend's husband took her to a beautifully restored historical stone house and told her it was hers if she wanted it. It is her dream house. She is overwhelmed by her husband's generosity and love for her. She's experiencing God's love as well, as she said Ephesians 3:20 came to mind. " him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." What a wonderful gift for my friend right at Christmas! Since Fred is their realtor,what a Christmas gift for us too.

We attended an interactive Christmas program at this same couple's church. Children were invited to participate in re-creating the nativity story, and volunteers were requested for the various roles. My girls were a little too shy to participate in a new church, but my friend's daughter very much wanted to be Mary in the play and waved her hand enthusiastically. But she was not chosen. In tears, she ran to her mother's arms, hid her face and withdrew from the action around her.

After being dressed in her costume, one of the chosen girls decided she didn't want to do it anymore and pulled the gown over her head and sat down. Another angel was needed! "Who wants to be the angel?"

My friend tried to get her daughter to turn around. "Look, they need an angel! Raise your hand!" But her daughter was too upset and too disappointed to see the chance to join in. Another child took the part.

How often do we miss God's gifts or fail to recognize opportunities God holds out to us because we are looking inward, focused on losses of the past, bitter over not getting exactly what we had hoped for? Our church service often ends with the pastor saying, "Look up and receive your blessing!" Jesus said, "It is the Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12.32.

Sometimes, though, his gifts are not so obvious as a new house. They might come disguised in plain paper or come in a box that doesn't seem the right size for what you really wanted. But our Father knows us better than anyone and he chooses the very best gifts. Look up! What has he given you for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The deed is done

As promised, Fred took Liana to the mall. Without any hesitation she chose her earrings and climbed into the chair. A kind and careful woman marked the spot, and zap! Liana didn't even flinch. She sat stoically as her other ear was pierced, climbed down, and accepted her lollypop. Then we saw a small, satisfied smile. The rest of the day she would suddenly turn her beaming face upward, waiting for a response from us. She's a changed woman.

I sense disapproval from some of my friends. Well, maybe not that exactly, just moms who have decided to do things differently with their own children. I say no to so many things, but in this case I couldn't think of a good reason to deny her wishes. (And of course, her dad gave permission.) Does this mean I'm a wishy-washy mom, easily influenced by the whines of my children? Just ask my grown boys. I'm usually much too harsh and negative, a side of myself I don't like. It felt good to say yes for a change!

In this small incident I saw confirmed a character trait of my little daughter. She is decisive and unwavering in her decisions. Those qualities will serve her well in the future. She does not waffle back and forth between options and then second guess her choice. She is also courageous, willing to face possible pain to achieve her goal. I wish I were more like her.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My baby

Liana has been hounding me for weeks and I keep putting her off. It's not a definite "no," just not now. Weary of her questions, last night I finally said, "Ask your dad." I was sure he would understand my concerns. After all, she's my baby, even if she is almost 7.

Liana was just getting out of the tub, her hair in a little bun, her tiny hands with the shiny pink nail polish gripping the towel wrapped around her. She found Dad busy with his trains under the Christmas tree. I wanted to hear the conversation, so I hid behind the wall.

"Daddy, I need to ask you a question."

He doesn't look up. "Go ahead."

"'m scared! I'm afraid of what you might say. Guess what it is."

"I don't know, just tell me."

"You'll say no, I know it!"

"Try me. Don't I give you just about anything you want?" (Except a kitten, I'm thinking.)

Liana is bouncing in her excitement. "Well...I can't say it! Mommy said it wasn't a good decision."

"What is it? You can ask me." Dad is so patient with her.

"Maybe Mommy should ask for me."

"No, you can ask me yourself."

"Well..." Deep breath. "Well...well..." Then her words rush out, "CAN I GET MY EARS PIERCED?"

Dad is calm, examining a train. "Okay."

Liana shrieks with delight and runs to look for me, towel whipping around her. "Daddy said yes!" Her big dimpled smile can melt any heart. Then she races back to Dad. "When, Daddy, when?"


Oh, Fred, you were supposed to agree with me. Those Romans are to blame for this. We've been studying ancient Rome and Liana learned the women wore their earrings looped over their whole ear. Awhile back Fred helped her make a few sets, beads on threads hooked on her ears. She's been wearing them ever since. Silly, but she loves them.

I thought 13 was a good age for ear piercing. Is there a spiritual lesson here?