Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Gift of Love: An Anniversary Sonnet

A week ago Friday was a very special day: my tenth wedding anniversary! Leslie and I met via AOL – a modern miracle. She was recently widowed New Yorker and looking for support from other Christian widows and widowers. I, unfortunately, had some experience and was able to provide some perspective and long distance encouragement. The rest, as they say, is history.

A bit of that history is captured and shared, encrypted in the following sonnet (my first) written for Leslie, but shared here. True love is possible and blossoms in unlikely places. Miracles still happen.

The Gift of Love
-for Leslie on our 10th wedding anniversary-

I had a happy life: three kids, one wife.
Sad day – a lump appeared; the sky grew dark.
And when the storm was done – three kids, no wife.
I journeyed on alone – my outlook stark.

You had a happy life: with child and mate.
Dark day – the babe was gone; a mortal loss.
Before three months had passed – a bitter fate.
First love was gone – a second cross.

Far off we sad did live: two wants, one aim –
To start a life made new; a second chance.
We met, a modern gift – never the same.
You moved at my request – and made me dance.

New life we found afresh: ordained above.
Two lives became as one: the gift of love.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth?

I grew up in the "shadow" of Disneyland. It was a very pleasant shadow, maybe more of a shine or glow, but none-the-less a dominant feature of my youth.

Becoming a resident of Anaheim in '58, Disneyland was only three years old at the time. A friend of mine, who also grew up in Anaheim, gets kidded by his teenage children who say, "Dad, you're older than Disneyland!" Hmmm... I am too. But I digress...

As a youngster during the summer evenings, my family and I would often venture outside at 9 pm each evening to watch the Disneyland firework show illuminate the night sky. We were that close. My mom worked there a bit, and later so did I. Many of my friends and neighbors worked there at various times.

Also during the summer, my family usually played host to one of my mom's 11 siblings and their families. I was a willing, unofficial tour-guide at the Magic Kingdom to many a cousin.

I lived in a sub-division of 1950's homes that included a decorative tile on the front porch that said, "Enchanted Homes." I dreamed of running away to live on Tom Sawyer's Island. After all, Disneyland bills itself as the Happiest Place on Earth.

During my college years I traveled in more than 45 of the United States. This saga was in part my attempt to garner a world-view that didn't take on an artificial afterglow from Disneyland. What was life outside of the OC really like? I wanted to know. Now I do.

I learned that it's not so much the place as it is the person. I learned, "Where ever you go, there you are!" Iowa, California, Montana, Taiwan, or England: it's not so much about destination as it is about attitude.

So what was the catalyst for today's "rant"? My daughter and her family are in town visiting from their home in Illinois, and my sister (a lover of Disneyland) has financed a day at the Park for the four of them. My daughter and her husband have two children: 5 and 3 years old -- prime ages for the wonder of Disneyland.

But I wonder, if Disneyland were the "Happiest Place on Earth" what does that leave for the rest of us? Disappointment? Nah... it leaves reality. It leaves a world full of true wonders and true delights where we are not entertained, but participating, exploring, contributing, and bumbling along. Life isn't perfect. (This is earth, Heaven is later.)

I received a Christmas card from my mom which hinted at the real Christmas: "Family, holidays -- full, rich complicated, beautiful." Real life is more complicated than Disneyland, yet still full, rich, and beautiful.

Disney is a nice escape, but you can't live there.

I've grown up, but ironically I still live where I can see and hear the Disneyland fireworks. They go off at 9:35 now-a-days.

As an American, middle-class, college-educated, white male, some might say my life is a bit Disney-esque. But life is what you make it. I grew up in the glow of Disneyland because my parents "immigrated" (from Iowa and New York). They eventually moved back to Iowa, but I remain. Why? Because it's not where you live, but how you live that really matters. (Besides, there are worse places to live. I like it here.)

(More pictures from Palm Springs Farmers' Market last week.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sunday on Thursday! Merry Christmas!

Despite the fact that the historical origins of Christmas are biblically suspect, much of the world pauses at least superficially to consider and acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ. I think a daily, personal, and practical daily encounter is preferable; however, while our attention is focused on the birth of Jesus, consider this prophecy concerning him,

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This child was given to us, the greatest gift: a Heavenly Father's gift of His best.

He is the ultimate political remedy: the government will be on his shoulders: all other shoulders are inadequate. Sorry.

He alone is able to provide the personal, deep, meaningful Counsel we each need. He is a Wonderful Counselor.

He alone is able to "Get 'er done!" He is the Mighty God.

He alone is able to be the perfect father (protector, provider, friend), who never dies, that each of us longs for. He is the Everlasting Father.

And ultimately he alone can bring about personal, social, international, world-wide, and perpetual peace. He is the Prince of Peace.

Pascal the French mystic asked, "What is the One thing, which being known, all else can be known?"

The New Testament offers an answer, "Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

Merry Christmas!

(Pictures were taken last week at a Palm Springs Farmers' Market)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Navigating the Holidays...

I’m back in town!

Hey, did you miss me? (I missed you!)

Last Friday, the wife and I headed out of town for some vacation in nearby Palm Springs. As good as that sounds, it was even better: we had company! My oldest daughter, her husband and two children met us there.

Our two bedroom timeshare was a wonderful break: new place, new fun, and warmer weather. The high 60's with sunshine were especially welcomed by those visiting from chilly Illinois. I took some pictures, so you’ll be seeing some lovely cacti and palms in up-coming posts. (Today's are from Andreas Canyon.)

The timeshare had a wireless hook-up, but we all decided to by-pass the expense and “enjoy” being unplugged. We missed being able to do on-line research on topics and destinations over the five days. And... I missed blogging! ;-)

We had tons of fun: hikes, cards, swing-sets, and making memories with the grand-kids.

The Holidays are funny times. They have so much potential: for good and bad. Drama happens. Sometimes work drama creeps in, sometimes family drama erupts, but other times things just go “golden.”

Realistically we all probably get a helping of each. I’ve got to admit that as I navigate the Holidays, I have been helped by the lessons I’ve learned by blogging. I’ve got my bearings because I’ve been thinking about what’s important.

Being clear about who I am and what I’m about helps me wade through the mixture of good times and bad times that punctuate this season of family, friends, and various events. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

Happy Holidays!

(I’m looking forward to catching up on the posts of my fellow bloggers!)