When I was a kid I fell in love with the children’s book “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”, written by Judith Viorst. In the story poor Alexander experiences the worst of things. All in one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Everything from waking up in the morning with gum in his hair to being scrunched in the middle of the back seat on the way to school. From not having his picture chosen to be hung on the classroom wall to lima beans for supper. From having his marble go down the drain at bath time to biting his tongue. You get the picture. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I think the reason I love the book so much is that deep down in my kid heart, I identify with Alexander. I have the same kind of day every now and again. Even as an adult.
Today my name is Alexander. I had to deal with disappointment. Rather deep disappointment.
No one died. The house didn’t burn down. We didn’t lose all our savings. I didn’t iron a hole in my favorite shirt. The car didn’t break down. No one threw up. But something I was very much looking forward to got cancelled.
I really should say postponed rather than cancelled. Because that’s what really got me thinking in the first place.
I discovered that I tend to think that if God says “No” once then that was the only chance at the thing. It won’t ever come back around. Perhaps it’s the perfectionism in me that thinks that way. I get one shot at things and after that it’s all over. Only one chance. Better get it right the very first time, cause honey, that’s all there is. No three-strikes-and-you’re-out. No, no, no. One strike and you’re out. One chance is all you get. The door may open once, but if it closes, it’s closed up tight, never to re-open.
But today made me reconsider. Feeling the disappointment was rather Alexander-ish and I thought maybe it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But then I realized that the thing I was anticipating was not cancelled, but rather postponed. It just wasn’t the right time. Another time will indeed come for me.
Maybe there are second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth chances after all. Maybe there is another, better time for a thing. Maybe God is waiting for the right time. Maybe He hasn’t cancelled my dreams, only postponed them.
Take Jacob for example. Circa Genesis 25-48. He could have been named Alexander. He and Esau tried to crush each other before they were born. They fought pretty much their whole lives. Jacob cheated to get what he’d been told was his. He wrestled with an angel and lived to tell about it. His favorite wife died. His favorite son Joseph was “killed by wild animals.” There was a famine in the land. Son Simeon was put into prison and the other sons expected to take Benjamin with them back to Egypt when they went to get more grain. Life was just plain rough. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life. Skip the day. It was just a bad deal.
But Jacob couldn’t see the end of the story. He couldn’t know that Joseph was still alive and had been storing up grain to keep the whole Abrahamic family alive. He had no idea that Joseph’s two sons would be two tribes of Israel. God hadn’t cancelled His goodness (or what Jacob thought was goodness). Jacob just couldn’t see it. . .
And this really isn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day after all. There’s tomorrow. And the day after.
Am I willing to bear the disappointment for now, knowing that God is still good?
Am I willing to wait for God? Trusting in Who He is? Waiting for His glory to be revealed?
Are you? How are you plucking up your courage and faith and hope in the meantime?
16 January 2011
15 January 2011
January 1, 2011. Saturday afternoon. Many people were reviewing their New Year's resolutions. My sweet Grandma, Rhoda Showalter, was beginning her "real life" in her new home. She passed from death to life. She traded a worn out body for a new one. She was ninety years old in this life. I find myself wondering what she looks like now.
Following is the tribute that a cousin and my sister read at her funeral. I wrote it after hearing stories and memories of cousins both near and far.
We cousins gathered at the front of the church and stood together for the reading.
Each of us standing here together today have at least one thing in common: Rhoda Showalter was our Grandma. As cousins we’ve compiled numerous memories and thoughts about who Grandma was and the place she occupies in our hearts.
We knew prayer was an active part of Grandma’s life. She prayed for us and she prayed with us. When we’d ask Grandma how she was, she’d reply “The Lord is faithful” or “God is so good.” She was always interested in us and didn’t want general information. She wanted to know the details! There were always hugs and kisses when you arrived and hugs and kisses when you left.
We remember songs sung at bedtime and countless stories read aloud. Walks to the garden. Picking up sticks in the front yard. Picking tea. The horse swing in the basement. Pink “Grandma candies” left under pillows at nap time (to be eaten ONLY after the nap was finished).
Grandma’s roses carefully arranged in a beautiful vase with asparagus ferns. Sledding on Grandpa and Grandma’s big hill whenever there was enough snow to cover the ground. Playing in the creek. All the little empty jars that Grandma kept under the kitchen sink, but gladly shared with us for insects, creek creatures and other treasures. Grandma’s toy collection.
And Grandma’s food: Warm gingerbread with lemon sauce and whipped cream. Raisin filled cookies. Citrus mint tea. Sweet potato casserole. Pulling taffy. Cutting off corn on the cob. Shelling lima beans. Canning pears.
Grandma was once seen wearing a grandson’s basketball shoes around the house. Just because. And Grandma let you put lots of butter on your bread. She’d drizzle the homemade whole wheat bread with honey and cut it up into little squares so you could eat it with a fork. She’d give you apple slices and raisins if you were hungry between meals.
Grandma was genuine. There was nothing hypocritical about her.
She was gracious. She may have felt “out of her element” at times, but you’d never know it.
Grandma was a mentor. She mentored others, but she also mentored us.
We could each stand and talk for hours of the ways that Grandma has influenced our individual walks with the Lord, but the essence of each story would be the same. She followed Jesus and wanted the same for each of us.
To borrow the words of C.S. Lewis, Grandma’s term is ended: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning! For Grandma this is only the beginning of the real story. All her life in this world was only the cover and the title page: now at last she is beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which none of us has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.