Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Middlemarch Quote

I just wanted to share a quote with all of you that I haven't been able to get enough of. It's from the book Middlemarch by George Eliot (BTW Eliot was actually a woman who published under this pseudonym). I haven't read the book, but I watched my BBC movie of it and loved it so much that I can't wait to read it. At its heart, it's the story of a woman who has great plans to do something grand with her life. In the world's view she fails, but in another sense she is as successful as any of us could ever dream to be. I heard this quote at the end of the movie and immediately rushed to the internet to copy the exact wording. It's scribbled on a piece of white computer paper and has been laying at various spots in my house, where I find myself picking it up over and over throughout the day to reflect on its beautiful meaning. At first, I thought it expressed the ideal of what any stay-at-home mom was striving to accomplish. However, now I see that it could really express the goal just about of anyone's life... So, without further ado, I'll just let you read it for yourself.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

--George Eliot, Middlemarch

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Couldn't Marry the Garbage Man After All

As a young girl, I remember saying to myself that I would marry for love and love only...no matter what. That followed to reason that if I wanted to marry for love and also live a comfortable life, then I better be prepared to provide that comfortable life myself. So, I decided that I would be a doctor, and if I fell in love with the garbage man, then I would marry the garbage man because I would be able to support us. Nice, logical little life plan.

This plan was brought back to my memory by spending Wednesday through Friday of this past week with my sisters at the beach. I talked to them about their relationships (or lack thereof at present in one case), and it made me reminisce about my time when I was so anxiously waiting for that mysterious prince to come. While I was willing to marry the garbage man if that was what God had planned, I also was keeping a running list of all the traits I had in mind for a husband. The list was pretty particular and pretty exhaustive, but I had faith that God wouldn't bring me someone that I didn't think was perfectly created by Him for me. I won't say there weren't days when I had major doubts (especially in high school when all of my friends had "serious" boyfriends but me), but on the whole I believed he was out there.

So then, I go off to college. I think that I've lost my Prince Charming to the wilderness of Montana (and in particular a girl named Lisa Ashby from Bonners Ferry Idaho), and I decide to throw caution to the wind--to date with reckless abandon. Forget that list! There are so many more types of boys than I could have imagined as a young girl, and I wanted to get to know as many as possible. (As I re-read those last couple of sentences it sounds like I went a little crazier than I did. I did kiss a few, but that was about as crazy as it got if any of you are worried.)

There was one boy in particular, though, that hit a lot of the points on my list. One of my friends laughingly said I had managed to find a miniature Jeremiah, if that gives you an idea what he looked like physically. He was also a Christian, but then he had this laid back nature. This, "I'm majoring in Psychology but I really don't know what I want to do with my life right now" outlook on life, and a deep passion for U2 and motorcycles. Now here was a combination I hadn't dreamed up. Maybe, I thought, this is why I've been preparing myself to be able to support myself no matter who I marry. Maybe I need a free spirit to counterbalance all of my endless planning. After some crazy concerts, moonlit motorcycle rides, and vegging out on the couch I began to get restless. Then one morning he asked to take me to breakfast before one of my big ChemE tests so that I would be ready for it. When he asked me I thought it was a very sweet gesture, but I tried to explain to him how precious those last hours before the test were to me. That was when I memorized the sheet I'd been forming the night before of all the equations and constants I might possibly need for my test. He said he understood and promised to eat quietly while I did my cramming, but he couldn't help laughing at how diligent I was. "It is just a test," he said. Suddenly I knew! I knew why I couldn't ever really marry the garbage man, and it really wasn't shallow at all. As a lady, who was passionate about life in general and a career specifically, I simply couldn't marry someone who wasn't as passionate as I was. I couldn't imagine marrying someone, putting myself under their leadership, trusting him with the decisions of our family's future if he had no vigor for life.

I remembered all of this as I observed my sisters--who have all made similar choices in their boyfriends. I laughed as I recognized this pattern, this need for ambition and drive. I know that there have to be people out there who need an opposite, but I have found that I needed somebody different than me in a lot of areas...ambition was just not one of them.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mr. C

There is something about older people that really touches my heart. We go to a church that consists of a predominantly older crowd, and so I sometimes let my mind reflect on them when I am having a difficult day following one of Brother Jimmy's sermons :) One thing about them that makes me smile is the way that they are creatures of habit. When I look out from the choir loft, I can be pretty certain that Mrs. A and Mrs. B, the little widow ladies who sit by the aisle on the second row on the right, will be hunkered down together and ready to listen. Mrs. A always looks slightly more "together" than Mrs. B and, while she seems to really love her friend, she is always kind of patting her knowingly on the back and leading her around to their next destination when the service is over. I can't help but think that Mrs. A gives Mrs. B a talking to every morning about the disheveled state of her hair at church.

Then there's Mr. Harold, who sits with his new bride on the right side, fourth row, nearest the windows. He is one of the few older people who I have been able to actually keep up with their names. You would remember Mr. Harold too because he is a POWERHOUSE. He must be in his late 80's, but he is still the most active missionary in our church. Every year he makes a 2-3 week long sojourn to some remote 3rd world country. Every year I get teary before he leaves thinking that THIS must be the trip that will really take more out of him than he has to give. However, every year my heart leaps when he returns, more invigorated than before he left, to share with us about the hearts he saw open to Jesus' love. He's rumored to have oodles of money, and as I mentioned before, he just recently remarried. She is very pretty, always wearing a new tailored suit, with her blond hair sprayed into bob-perfection, her pink lipstick newly applied, and her pearls resting just below her collarbone. I must say I was leery of her at first--worried she was just out for his money. But I am willing to admit that my first impression was, I believe, wrong. She seems to really dote on him, in a sweet way. They hold hands during most of the service and she usually reaches over to straighten his collar before they stand up to leave. I am glad he found someone who realizes what a catch he is.

There is also Mr. Buddy Dortch, who sits with his wife at almost the back of the church, middle section. His wife is in charge of everything that has to do with food at our church. For this reason, when he, whose wife MUST know a lot about cooking, stopped me to tell me that the peanut butter pie I brought to "dinner on the grounds" was delicious, I found myself blushing with pride. He went on to say that peanut butter was his favorite thing in the world, and he never knew that there was such a thing as a peanut butter pie. In a flourish of new wife who is trying to learn how to cook and can't believe that somebody besides my husband (who is obligated) is actually saying I am doing something well, I made a big fat promise to bring him a whole pie without thinking that I might need to know his name, his address, or something about him besides the fact that his wife was in charge of the food. I have been married 4 years now, so that tells you how long it's been since I felt like a new bride. I have made it so far as to find out that his name was Buddy Dortch, but I still have not delivered that promised pie, and I therefore cringe every time I run into him at church. You see that's another thing I've learned about older people--they take your word seriously and they rarely forget an expected tribute (like a thank you note or a pie). I hate myself!

I could go on about the eclectic group at my church. I could tell you all my thoughts on the man with the oxygen machine that you hear clicking if you sit anywhere near the front middle or the mysterious hearing aid that sometimes buzzes at high pitches during the sermon... but I am sure you are all hoping that I'll wrap up this random, rambling post. I just can't do that, however, until I tell you about the man that inspired me to write this post at all. I don't know his name, but he sits in the middle section, to the left, fourth row--Mr. C. We are an old Southern Baptist congregation, and therefore feel like we're living on the edge when somebody sings with the accompaniment of a guitar instead of our normal piano/organ combo. Dancing is certainly not encouraged, and I feel like a rebel in the choir loft when I close my eyes while we're singing a hymn. So imagine my surprise during the "special music" one Sunday, when I looked out and noticed a certain Mr. C with his eyes closed behind his tinted glasses, bobbing his head with the music, with a huge smile spread across his face. Tears welled up in my eyes at the sight of this sweet man truly worshiping God through our music. Ever since that day, I've learned that I just can't look over at him when we're trying to sing unless I want to lose it. He's always there and always joyful during the music--even when I know it's bad :)
A few weeks ago there was an amp and several microphones set up on stage. I knew we were in for some really special "special music." As Brother Jimmy finished welcoming the guests and saying his prayer, he walked down the four steps leading up to the stage and offered his arm to sweet Mr. C who was making his way slowly towards the pulpit. The congregation became silent as he tried to refuse the help that he obviously needed and tottered up that daunting incline. He made it, however, and took his place in front of one of the microphones as he pulled a harmonica out of his breast pocket. Then, Bro. Jimmy sat down on the amp and picked up his base guitar, and Wade from the choir came down and picked up his acoustic guitar. As this sweet trio started to play an old hymn, I was mesmerized by Mr. C, who seemed to cast off old age like a heavy winter coat, and shine like a teenage boy, sitting on the front porch on a summer afternoon, making happy music for his family after supper. He blew into that harmonica with strength and assurance and his hands slid it nimbly from one note to the next. He purposefully fluttered his hand to create that bluegrass resonance that makes a harmonica seem like such a southern instrument to me. I wept like a baby. It was just so beautiful to see him be transformed by his music.

The song ended, he put the harmonica back in his pocket, and I felt like we were all jerked back to the present. As I watched him try to refuse Brother Jimmy's arm as he tottered back down the stairs, I felt like I understood why. We, as young people, have a tendency to think (without even realizing it) that old people must surely always have been old. I think our minds want to believe that we are so far removed from being feeble and dependant on others that we class the elderly into an entirely different race than our own. But in reality, Mrs. A and Mrs. B were once young teenage girls, who smiled demurely at young boys and worried about whether their hair-style made them look more mature. Mr. Harold was once a boyhood leader among his peers and may have even stirred up a little trouble. Mr. Buddy Dortch once had girls offering to bake him his favorite pie in hopes of a date for Saturday night. Finally, my beloved Mr. C, could bound listlessly up his front porch steps to kiss his mom on the cheek before he nimbly played her favorite hymn on the harmonica he kept safe in his breast pocket.