Seeing Rainbows

It is rainy here. Dreary. You know what my daughter would say to the grayish cloudiness that surrounds me right now, “We might see a rainbow soon!”

Isn’t there something interesting about the way girls are nuts for rainbows? Were you? I know there was a space of time – I’d say somewhere between 2nd and 4th grades – when every picture I drew with my Crayola markers 8-pack included a blonde princess standing under a rainbow coming out of two perfectly puffy clouds. I could still draw this for you if you asked. Since I was into symmetry then, the princess’s puffy sleeves were very like the clouds themselves.

I bought my daughters rainbow striped quilts for their beds. When Ada sees a sunset, the kind that fills the sky with oranges and purples, she calls it a “big rainbow.” I think we might be created with this love of rainbows. And in the same way that we love the sparkle of a diamond or a ruby, our love for rainbows is another of God’s reminders to us of our destiny and purpose in the earth.

What is a rainbow but a promise of His faithfulness?

Despite the thunderstorms swirling on the local radar maps today, I’m looking for rainbows.

Your Reputation, Miss, Precedes You

A scene from the BBC movie based on Elizabeth Gaskell\'s novel North and South

This is a scene from the BBC movie North and South (I read the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell this semester and loved it!)  These were the days when a woman was rarely associated with property or career the way women are known today. The most a woman could hope for was the satisfaction of a good reputation. Her reputation, in fact, was under constant scrutiny. The slightest indiscretion could cost her the chance at a profitable marriage. A moral or social misstep and the Miss could be rejected by all good society.

I’m so glad times have changed!

Or have they? It seems to me that our reputation is still the primary signifier for a woman. The ironic thing is that we are constantly trying to further our educations or move up in our careers because we can, and all the time, it is still our reputation that defines us. Doctor, senator, athlete, artist, what we do is not nearly as important as how we do it and with what kind of attitude.

Maybe a die-hard feminist might argue that we’ve accomplished nothing as a gender if we haven’t managed to transcend this definition, but I think it simply reinforces the truth that Paul believed when he wrote, and I paraphrase: “I can have it all, do it all, and be it all, but if I don’t have it, do it, and be it with love — I’m nothing.”

This stuff has me thinking. What is my signifying character trait? How do people describe me to their friends? What will my daughters say about me when I’m old? What is the reputation that defines me?

Another Corn Analogy

Sometimes I wish I lived by the ocean. If I lived by the ocean, I think my analogies would be about the ocean. I live in Missouri. I practically live in a cornfield – as in, in the middle of summer our community is surrounded on every side by corn (sometimes soybeans). My pastors use a lot of corn analogies.

This week the Sunday School lesson was on one of my favorite parables about the seed falling on different kinds of soil. Ever feel dry spiritually? In this analogy, you’ll see the benefit of a dry season.

After corn is planted and begins to grow, farmers hope for rain because rain is essential. The farmer also hopes he doesn’t get too much rain. Too much rain too often and the roots of the corn stalk have no reason to go deeper into the ground in search of moisture. The roots spread out instead of down and stay close to the surface. When the seasonal rainfall is spread out a little, the roots of the corn go deeper.

Root depth is important because in the middle of the summer around here it gets hot. Really hot. And dry. Corn that was spoiled all spring long with frequent rain will have shallow roots. Shallow roots aren’t able to reach the moisture that is further underground. On the other hand, a corn stalk that has experienced dry weather will have roots that are already plunging the depths of the moisture-rich underground. That plant is stronger and will survive longer in a drought season.

I think I’ve often misunderstood this concept of spiritual dryness. I tended to see it as a a sign of weakness or failure on my part. I never stopped to think that God might actually be exercising his right to quiet so that I would start shooting roots down into the deeper parts of my soil, weaning me from my dependence on emotional highs and rain soaked spiritual encounters.

It has been a rainy spring here. The farmers want the rain to stop. If it doesn’t dry out for awhile now, our crops have no chance of surviving the true droughts of July and August.

Dads Matter

Tragic news this week from Nashville that the youngest daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman, Maria, was killed in an accident at their home. News like this sends me into a tail spin of emotions (we lost an infant daughter 5 years ago and the randomness still haunts me), but I have one focus today: dads matter.

Steven Curtis Chapman is almost as well known for his reputation as a great dad as he is for his prolific music career. He and his wife created an incredible foundation called Shaohanna’s Hope. The Chapman’s adopted three daughters from China themselves, and the foundation is helping other families do the same.

In a time of loss such as the one the Chapman’s are experiencing now, I would venture to say that none of their public ministries are as important to them as the clearly loving job they have done as parents. Chapman wrote a song that my husband jokingly says he hates, “Cinderella.” He only says that because as a father of three daughters it makes him breakdown and cry every single time he hears it. The message of the song is that even when the pressures of life are pushing us to rush past a moment, instead, we should take the time to “dance with Cinderella … ‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight/ And she’ll be gone.”

I hate that this family is facing the sadness of this loss, but I know the power of the faith we share. It is a faith that does not always provide answers, but always gives comfort. I know this: I am so glad little Maria got to experience her earthly life with a father that loved her and made time for her. If our world was full of dads like Steven Curtis Chapman, we would see a world full of beautiful little girls grow up to be confident, powerful women who make a difference.

Listen to this song today and remember the little Rare Rocks in your life. And say a prayer for the Chapman’s; I know they are glad they made the choice to celebrate Maria’s life everyday, but I also imagine they mourn the fact that they are so aware of that choice right now.

What Living with Girls Teaches Me About Being a Woman

This will be a new Tag on my blog. I say on my About page that “figuring this out is as much about them as it is about me.” What I’m trying to figure out is how to be the most beautiful believer I can be. I want to defy the box that most people put around a “Christian woman” at the same time that I want to support those who live there. I want to discover the feminine role that is uniquely mine. In her interview on Oprah, Salma Hayek claimed being a girl is more difficult in our culture than being a boy, and I think she is probably right in many ways. So, I look for inspiration wherever I can find it, and right now I’m getting loads from my beautiful daughters, the very ones I thought I was trying to help.

Today as we dressed for church, Ada put on a new spring patterned dress from her grandma and discovered that the collar “felt strange.” She decided not to wear it, to which I responded, oh, yes, you are going to wear it! I proceeded with a lecture about how we are to be grateful for the many outfits that we own since many children all over the world have almost nothing to wear. Also, how is Grandma going to feel if you never wear the dress she picked out especially for you? You can hear this, right? I was in full-on Perfect Mother mode.

After a while, Ada gave in and decided she looked beautiful anyway, so a little collar problem wasn’t going to get in her way. In the meantime, I walked into my ridiculously huge closet stuffed with rows of clothes I never wear and I wanted to disappear. I hate hypocrisy, and yet I found it stamped across my forehead. I made a vow to purge that closet at my earliest possible convenience.

Then I grabbed the clean blue shirt and gray pinstriped pants that I wore just last week around all the very same people I would see today. I put them on and felt beautiful!

The Power of Emotions

I had the strangest dream this week. It was like a romantic comedy I’d never seen before, and my husband and I were the lead roles. Of course, as dreams often go, we weren’t married. In the dream we were just friends with some kind of romantic attempt in our past that didn’t quite work out. You know how dreams are – I knew all of this without it being explicitly explained. Anyway, at some point, after a failed attempt at another relationship, Dan surprised me with a video montage of our lifetime of friendship. In the video he had all our friends and family members speaking on camera (aka, an Oprah special) about why we belonged together and how perfectly we were matched for each other.

I woke up with that satisfied feeling you have after watching a circular Hollywood love potion. It was a cute movie (in my dream mind). I also woke up with a new crush on my husband. It was the opposite of that icky feeling you have after waking up from a nightmare and you can’t really tell for a little bit if someone really did just fill your room with snakes or if that was probably just a dream.

Nothing in our relationship actually changed. For all I know, I went to bed frustrated with him for some stupid reason or another, but in the morning I woke up different. The only thing that had changed was the way I had been thinking about him.

This is the power of emotions to maintain passion in a committed relationship. My sister says I have an uncanny ability to have movie-like dreams with subjects of my own choosing. I did manage to have some pretty sweet dreams about me and Kirk Cameron back in the day, but I didn’t plan this one about Dan. And channeling my emotions of good doesn’t have to be about a dream. It could be about a conscious decision to remember the feelings I had when Dan and I first met. Or about the choice to write him a love note even when I don’t feel necessarily loving. When I make the decision, my emotions start to follow.

My little sister got married here at this park in St. Joseph. Isn’t it beautiful? For Christmas I printed copies of this picture and put it in a nice frame. My thought was that every time she walked by it, even though it is just a landscape, she would remember the feelings of that gorgeous August day. It would stir the emotions of new love even when her love grows older. I know it makes a difference. My grandpa has never failed, in over 60 years of marriage, to take my grandmother out to dinner on their anniversary, even if it is just cold sandwiches at a diner. Decisions make a difference and the strength of our marriages (or other committed relationships) will be the beneficiaries. Dream on, sisters!