Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Evolution of Date Night

Matthew and I have always been big fans of a weekly date night. We are so blessed to have my mom, who comes over every week to watch the kids so we can get away together. Date nights have somewhat evolved over the years. When it was just the two of us, date night was a wonderful way to ring in the weekend after five days of work and school. Throughout the week leading up to the event, we’d talk about what each of us would like to do, make any necessary reservations or preparations, and anticipate our night together. Planning these days is mostly to secure babysitting. My mom will call the day before and ask what time she should come over. Most of the time I won’t really know what to tell her, but the general rule is, the earlier the better. “Where are you going this week?” she’ll ask me. A pause. “I don’t know…”, I’ll reply slowly, realizing that we’ve overlooked this minor detail. “I guess it really doesn’t matter.”

Most of our dates are still pretty typical- dinner and a movie, then maybe some ice cream. But it’s more the getting out that counts, and sometimes getting out is all we have the energy to do anyway. One Friday when Harper was just a few weeks old and still waking up throughout the night, we were particularly exhausted. We had just finished a nice dinner at Charleston’s, our favorite restaurant.

“I am sooo tired,” Matthew groaned as we got up from the table.

“Me too,” I sighed, taking his hand as we made our way to the exit. “I just want to lay down.”

Matthew nodded in agreement. “That would be wonderful,” he said dreamily.

As we stepped outside into the night air, we stopped and stared. Just 100 yards across the parking lot, lit up like a beacon of hope, was the neon sign for Sleep America.

Moments later we were staring up at the ceiling, flat on our backs on a $3,000 king size Select Comfort Sleep Number mattress. If it hadn’t been for the pesky salesman who insisted on visiting us periodically, we may have drifted off right then and there. We laid there for as long as possible without looking suspicious, feigning interest in prices and different models, calculating our individual "Sleep Numbers". It was only when someone from the church walked in and recognized Matthew that we decided it was time to go. We thanked the salesman and left our pillow-top respite, brochure and business card in hand. We both agreed, dinner-and-a-movie was highly overrated. Dinner-and-the-mattress-store was the way to go.

Then there was last week when we had dinner and went to Michael’s Arts and Crafts together. I practically had to drag Matthew out of the car. It didn’t help my case that the car in the space next to ours was occupied by a man sitting in the passenger’s seat, reading a book. Once inside, I searched for table d├ęcor as Matthew trudged along behind me, insisting that I count the number of men we encountered. I must admit, I didn’t see any other men while we were shopping, but when we got to the register, each of the three women in line ahead of us had a man standing dutifully by.

“See?” I touted on the way back to the car. “There were three guys in there.”

“Yeah,” Matthew retorted, “And they all looked like me- like they wanted to die.”

Next week we will probably go back to the standard dinner and a movie. “The Sentinel” is coming out and we’ve been waiting for that one. But on those weeks when nothing good is playing, you never know where you might find us, although Costco is a pretty safe bet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cease Striving and Know That He is God

Laying down to sleep each night is always a bit of an ordeal for me. My mind needs time to unwind and organize itself before it can completely shut off. Unlike Matthew who says he simply “takes his brain out and sets it on the nightstand”, I have to file through the day’s events and plan out the next one, which sometimes makes falling asleep a tedious task of its own. A few nights ago this whole process was compounded by the unsettling discovery of a scorpion in our laundry basket. Unfortunately, scorpions are not rare visitors in our home. This was an unusually large scorpion, one that you might find encased in glass and sold as a paperweight to some sick individual who has undoubtedly never encountered one scuttling across their bedroom floor. After Frank (our cat) alerted me to its presence, I plucked out the gym shorts that it was clinging to, rinsed it off into the bathtub, and crushed it with a baseball bat.

Thus was the advent of scorpion season in the Braselton household. This is a season of watchfulness- eyeing the floor with every step, scanning ceilings as you walk into a room, and performing black light inspections of the nursery before laying the babies down at night. Needless to say, this made getting to sleep that night even more difficult that usual. I was laying in bed for over an hour, wide awake, thinking only of scorpions and how to protect the kids from their potentially fatal sting. Jumping every time the sheets brushed against my legs, I went over my anti-scorpion warfare tactics and wondered if maybe I should peek into the cribs just one more time. It was in this anxious restlessness that God chose to teach me something about sleep.

John Piper has an excellent article on why we sleep. I can’t remember the title (Luke, maybe you have a link or something that you can post in comments), but he speculates to answer the question of why God would create us to need to spend a third of our lives sleeping, when so much more could be done for the kingdom in that time. He says a lot of great things, but his bottom line is that our need for sleep is to show us that God is God and we are not. It is along those same lines that I have been brought to look at sleep as a nightly opportunity to trust Him.

I think that women are generally very fearful creatures, which is probably why Peter admonishes us specifically not to give in to fear. I spend roughly 12 hours a day working and worrying, and doing my best to care for and protect my family. But as surely as the sun will rise the sun will set as well, bringing with it an inevitable moment when I must relinquish all control. It is at that point that I must lay down my fearful vigilance and realize that I was never really in control in the first place. Going to sleep renders me unable to continue pretending that the burden of running my little universe rests upon my shoulders.

I must sleep. I have no choice in the matter. And so it serves as a wonderful daily exercise for me to literally cease striving, and know that He is God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bumble Bees and American Cheese

I had a songwriting first today. I was sitting out by the lake with my guitar, working on a song and enjoying the warm, sunny morning. While jotting down some notes, I saw something coming across the water out of the corner of my eye. It was flying straight at me, and it was coming fast. It was a bee. I am aware that for some people, this would be classified as only a minor inconvenience, warranting a firmly stated “Shoo!” and possibly a wave of the hand. These people group bees in with other common nuisances, such as moths, house flies, and door-to-door salesmen. I am not one of these people. For me, a Russian submarine may as well have surfaced on the face of the water. I lost sight of the bee as it zipped in closer, and jumped up from the bench where I had been sitting. Guitar in one hand and notebook in the other, I proceeded to perform a rousing rendition of the where-is-the-bee hokey pokey dance. Turning in circles and hopping up and down, I alternately extended each of my appendages to see if the bee had landed anywhere on my person. When I had finished publicly humiliating myself, I turned around and looked behind me, expecting to see the bee buzzing off in the other direction. Surprisingly, I neither saw him nor heard him. He must have been too fast, I concluded, and returned to my perch on the bench, quite impressed at the agility of this particular insect. I continued strumming along, toiling over my second verse. After about 20 minutes or so, I stopped playing to write some lyrics in my notebook, and I froze. There was a sound coming from my guitar. It is very common for guitar strings to buzz while being played, so I had thought nothing of this buzzing until now, when my guitar rested across my lap and yet the buzzing continued. Horrified, I gently and hastily laid my guitar in its open case and quickly backed away, my eyes glued to the sound hole. I have dropped my share of picks in there, but my reflex to flip the guitar over and shake vigorously wasn’t looking like a viable option. Luckily, no action was required of me as the bee seemed as eager to escape his deafening wooden prison as I was to be rid of him. He rose up between the strings, hovered for a moment, and then was gone.

I hate bees. I hate anything with a stinger attached to it, and I always have. When I was a little girl I remember having two distinct goals in life: Never to tear a slice of American Cheese while removing it from its plastic wrapping and Never to be stung by a bee. Thus far I have succeeded in keeping both of these lofty ambitions, though not without cost. The cheese just takes a bit of patience, but the bees require dogged vigilance. When we were growing up, my sister and I had an intricate bee-avoidance system for the swimming pool. One of us would yell “bee!”, we’d both dive under water, and then we’d surface beneath an overturned raft floating at one end of the pool, specifically positioned for that purpose. And there we would stay, treading water in our bee-shelter, until one of us could muster the courage to see if the coast was clear. I even remember a day when my family was barbequing in the backyard and one of those disgustingly huge black wood bees descended in front of my face. With my eyes trained on the bee I scrambled backwards to get away and ran right into the side of the barbeque grill. I had a nice 2nd degree burn on my leg and a scar for several years, but by golly, that bee never got to me.

I wonder what came of my little winged co-writer. I got away with just a few heebie jeebies, but I’m pretty sure that little guy is going to have some permanent hearing damage. Do bees even have ears? Hm. Let’s find out. Off to google I go… Aha! Here’s what I found:

Question - Do bees have ears? If so, where are they? I seem to remember that grasshoppers have ears on their knees. Do bees too?
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No. Honey bees do not have "ears" even like those of crickets and grasshoppers, and do not sense sound in any way like humans or other animals.
J. Elliott

My conscience has been assuaged.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Journal to Self- Truly Living

(Whenever God teaches me something particularly remarkable I will write a journal entry to myself, knowing that one day, after having long forgotten my epiphany, I will be flipping through the pages and get to re-learn the truth all over again. I have found that the most effective format for the purpose of preaching to my future self is a question/answer, problem/solution sort of system.)

Are you struggling to stay rooted in the Word of God; to be immersed in it regularly?

Then perhaps you are simply not living a life that demands such a rooting, or such a regular time with the Lord. Perhaps your life has grown so self-centered, so safe, and so easy, that you find that you no longer need Him. We all make a beeline for the throne of God when trials come and hardship presents itself. But unless it is thrust upon us we would choose to live in quiet comfort, avoiding tension, difficulty, and uncomfortable situations at all costs.

Do you want to want the Word of God? Like Tozer, do you thirst to be made more thirsty still? Then do something hard. Take a risk. Search out your lepers and serve them. Attempt something for Christ so beyond yourself that you have no choice but to depend on Him. See if you don’t come running back to the Truth in Scripture- back to the answers, back to the wisdom, the power, and the strength.

He is the Source of life. If you find yourself feeling no difference whether near Him or not, than perhaps it is that you are not truly living.