Last Sunday, the first day of the new year, our pastor at church passed out a simple half-sheet of white paper on which to list our goals for the year and keep track of our progress. He mentioned that it was nothing fancy, but often times writing these things down for yourself to see can be helpful in achieving your goals. The visual reminder creates a personal challenge.
I'm usually the type that would fill this sort of thing out immediately, but for some reason I've been much more thoughtful this time. Probably because I'm also the type to tuck a paper like this away somewhere, only to find it years later and toss it out.
This past week, I've spent some time seriously thinking about real and achievable goals for 2006. I have come up with three, which I will not be listing here because these challenges are...well...personal. I will, however, share with you the scriptures that I was given after writing these goals down.
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I'm fully aware that come December, I may not be exactly where I had hoped to be. There will be twists in the road between here and there. But what the word promises is that I have nothing to fear, for the one who is in control loves me and is way more qualified than I to guide my path.
How many times have you been out to dinner with a group when someone in your party asks you for a bite of whatever you're having. "I just want a taste." But you know what they're really thinking is, "I'm starving and I'd love to eat every last crumb on your plate because what you ordered looks way better than what I got."
This is the nature of "just." It's a funny little word meant to indicate that we're not as greedy as we truly are. "I'll just be a minute." "I just want one." "I'm just buzzed." When you hear people say these things, you've come to accept that you'll be waiting at least half an hour, they'd really like about a dozen and they are probably drunk outta their minds.
During this first week of the new year, I've had a recurring just of my own.
"I just want to see her."
It's no secret that I miss Elena, she's my daughter. In the three years since she died, I've struggled with many painful moments. But what I've been feeling this week has been very specific.
"I just want to see her." I think it has a lot to do with Isaiah's development. He's Mommy's big boy now. I love to sit and run my fingers through his curly hair or watch with excitement as he takes steps toward me. And every time I look at him, my mind's eye can see a little girl with a face so similar to his holding my hand. She has long, bouncy curls and a big toothy smile behind her perfect pouty lips. And I want to see her, here.
This feeling has come over me several times a day at various times. It really overwhelmed after watching this week's episode of ER, which paralelled two seemingly unwanted pregnancies. At the end of the show, I found myself sobbing, hugging my husband and thinking one thing.
"I just want to see her."
As I've thought about this feeling, I know that seeing her is not all I want. If some strange miracle happened and I was granted the chance to see Elena as she would look now, once for a brief time, I'm sure I would think, "I just want to hold her." And if that wish came true, I'd be hugging her so tightly thinking, "I just want to push her on the swing," or "I just want to read her a story." And eventually, all thoughts would lead to, "I just want to keep her. Here. Forever."
Those justs are so misleading. I think we've all become accustomed to hiding behind them, hoping no one will see past them and find out what our true desires are. But I'm learning to deal with the justs that allow us to do all that we can, all that we're capable of. I'll continue to be proud of her, and yes, I'll miss her.
The secret's out...I get sidetracked. It happens all the time. Usually it's the unfortunate result of trying to do too many things at once. But occasionally, a nice little reminder will pop up and bring me back so that I can tie everything up in a package with a pretty bow. This is one of those times.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art just before the King Tut exhibit left. I was thrilled, mainly because we were gifted free tickets by my boss, and these days anything free is a good deal. I think I had an idea what to expect in terms of the artifacts, and they did not disappoint. To see physical evidence of history, in amazing condition, right before your very eyes, there's really nothing like it. What I didn't expect was to come out feeling like I'm the one living in an ancient culture.
One of the main rooms held two very small golden busts. They were not particularly noticeable, compared to many of the grander items. But a label on the side of the display indicated in one short sentence that these were only a small part of treasures that were crafted for the burial of two of King Tut's children, two stillborn baby girls. I was fascinated to learn that these babies were buried with jewels and treasures comparable to other notable Egyptians. This was way beyond acknowledgement, these little girls were honored and respected.
I was recently reminded of my fascination while watching March of the Penguins. Now, I have to point out that I was not particularly excited about seeing the film because I was so disgusted by the bandwaggoning that went on when this movie came out and "swept the country." (If you want to see the real documentary, with a truly amazing story, rent the DVD and watch Of Men and Penguins, the behind the scenes doc - there's the film that deserves critical acclaim. But I digress...).
As Morgan Freeman eloquently describes the suffering and sacrifice of both the male and female Emperor penguins to protect their eggs, I was struck by nature's example of honoring life. It is after the penguin parents travel the 70 mile distance to the breeding ground that the real challenge begins - transferring the egg from Mom to Dad without touching the frozen ground, and then keeping the egg warm enough to survive through months of unmerciful winter. Even then, those that hatch run the risk of being consumed by the cold. It's a true miracle that any of them survive the harsh conditions. And for 1/4 of the babies that don't survive, many of the parent penguins will lay down and literally let themselves wither away in despair. It's an example of a selfless creature acting solely on behalf of another creature - an example that's clearly lost on humans.
It never ceases to amaze me how blind we can be to the things that are right in front of our faces. Present nature and ancient history point to the value of one solitary life, but modern human beings will go to great lengths to dismiss it. Especially if it will make things easier, less awkward and more convenient for themselves.
I for one believe there are lessons to be learned in the smallest and simplest things all around us. I just hope I never get too sidetracked to notice.