Of Ice Skating and Decades

According to my calculations, aided by various social media histories, I went ice skating for the first time six years ago yesterday. This was my summation of the experience on twitter: “didn’t fall down enough to truly succeed at ice skating, but did make it around the rink a couple of times.”

Yesterday we continued with the New Year’s Day tradition and went ice skating with a large group of people from church.

In the course of six years I have progressed from “Augh! Why are there blades strapped to my feet? Augh! Now why am I on slippery ice??? *hangs on the edge for a while before ungracefully shuffling feet in an attempt to glide*” to being able to make actual skating motions with my feet and move in a slow but continuous gliding motion (until I freak out that I might be going to fast, because I still haven’t learned to stop, and let myself slow down to a stop before I start going again).

In the past six years I’ve learned a few other things as well, such as not being embarrassed to grab one of the plastic skate trainers (meant for little kids who are learning to skate) for my first couple of laps around the rink, so that my feet can remember what they’re supposed to be doing without having to balance at the same time. Such as knowing that I’ll have fun once I get out there and remember how to skate, even though it always just sounds stressful and terrifying when I’m thinking about trying to do it. Such as NOT stressing about my assumptions that everyone else is wondering why I haven’t figured it out by now, after seeing me shuffle around the rink for six years in a row.

As it turns out though, not bothering to stress about it was a good call, because no one told me I looked dumb, and I got a couple of comments about how much my skating has improved in the past few years.

I’ve been turning over in my head lately the ramifications of my 30th birthday coming up, and I keep coming to the conclusion that I’m really happy to be leaving my 20s behind. Not that my 20s were all bad, but the parts that stand out in memory are things I don’t mind leaving behind. I’m no longer single (as I was for the first half of my 20s), I’m less afraid of looking stupid when trying new things, and I’m more willing to say no to guilt related to having different skills and priorities and quirks than people around me.

As much as I sometimes feel like I’m still just bad at everything I’d like to be good at, the fact is, I can now skate around an ice rink in less than half the time it used to take me. (Even if most of the people on the ice are still passing me.)

 

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Always Winter

It is culturally unacceptable to be cheerful about winter time. People bundled deep in layers of coats and scarves swathe themselves with grumbling as if in added protection against the cold. They range from startled to offended if you dare to suggest that the snow is actually rather pretty. And that’s on an average winter.

When the temperatures stay low for longer than normal and the clouds are thick with any manner of winter precipitation about to drop down on our heads and power lines, the only acceptable response is grumbling. After all, clearly, if God really loved us, it would be spring. Right. Now. (And probably forever.) A few little rays of sun between the clouds are not going to cut it when we know we deserve better.

And obviously, with our clear vantage point on all eternal knowledge, we know exactly what God should do if He really loved us.

Or at least, isn’t that what we’re really saying when we complain about what God is sending us?

Now I know everyone is rolling their eyes, because I’m that crazy winter person who really does think the snow is pretty and rarely gets cold and doesn’t even like summer all that much. But before you tune me out entirely (and leaving aside the fact that even I reach the point where I start thinking green plants might just be prettier than gray slush), let me remind you that I know something about waiting.

I understand being stuck in a season that you can’t change that feels like it should have been over a long time ago. I know what it feels like to ache, not in a theoretical sense, but in a physical, ‘I wonder if this is what a heart attack feels like’ kind of pain in the chest, every time you really know that God is saying ‘not yet’. I know that feeling of convincing yourself that you’re really perfectly fine and being slightly exasperated to find tears rolling down your face anyway.

And if you think I’m going to try to downgrade Winter to the status of a lesser problem, you’re mistaken. Winter may qualify as a major trial in your life, but even if it’s a small trial I wouldn’t write it off as nothing.

Sometimes the ‘big’ trials in life are, in a way, the easiest to deal with. They come at you head on, over and over again, and you can’t ignore them or pretend that you’re not supposed to be dealing with them. I can go straight from working through big trials in my life, and finding a place of peace and calmly trusting, to being completely exasperated that I can’t find a clean pair of socks.

Because overarching life stages are one thing, and God probably has those planned out, even when I don’t like it so well. But really, I have a morning schedule to keep, and I can’t do that if I spend ten minutes trying to find a decent pair of socks to wear, and since I don’t know of any huge life altering consequences to having clean socks, clearly God just doesn’t care enough to arrange these details for me, exactly the way I want them and on my own schedule.

Clearly.

Not like there’s any obvious pride issues that need to be dealt with there or anything…

But the funny thing is, if we can just accept the fact that God really does know what He’s doing, that He really does love us, and it’s all part of this huge happy ending fairy tale He’s writing in the world, it changes how we see things. Instead of being an insult to the eternal summer we think we deserve, that tiny ray of sunlight between the clouds is a promise that it won’t be gray forever.

A Not So Perfect New Year

Every year (several days after the new year starts) I post something about how the last year went and how I’m hoping the next year will go better. This is usually accompanied by me making many lists, coming up with way too many areas in which I want to improve, and angst over the fact that it’s January and I’m already behind on my blog posts.

This year I didn’t really feel like analyzing 2013. Good stuff happened, my health improved and I failed a lot. Moving on. Rah 2014! Maybe 2014 will be the year I stop failing! More lists! More goals! More… angst…

I didn’t even plan on starting my brand new 2014 schedule on January 1st. The fact that this new clean slate of a new year begins immediately after staying up past midnight the night before has always seemed a bit ironic to me. Plus, Colton was able to get quite a few days off around Christmas and New Years this year, so I figured vacation would just stretch until he went back to work. My official new year blank slate would start on the first Monday of the new year.

On the first Saturday of the new year we discovered that we were about to have lots of snow and the coldest temperatures in a long time. We could have just holed up at home for the weekend (church had already been canceled due to the uncertainties of travel in those conditions) but the dangers of being snowed in during a record cold and then having our power go out seemed a little too risky. We could handle a power outage, and we could handle record cold, but not at the same time.

So we spent the weekend with Colton’s family, experimenting with how long we could stay out in subzero windchill throwing snowballs at each other and then proceeding to play games and watch Bleak House (which I must say, is less depressing than it always sounded from the name). Not my plan for the weekend, but fun.

This is where my plans for the new year really started to fall apart. A frozen car meant not getting back to Peoria until Monday evening, which meant skipping my new Tuesday schedule so as to do my Monday chores, notably laundry. Wednesday, the cold I’d had was finally getting quite miserable and my husband made me take a sick day. Thursday I finally caught up on dishes and got the laundry folded, but still lacking a car, grocery shopping was not going to happen. It wasn’t until today that I really got to try out my new schedule, and by then something had changed.

This wasn’t the new start to a new year I had planned, but somehow it was exactly the start I needed. It was the start of letting go of my plans and my lists and my schedules. It was the start of refusing to feel guilty for getting sick while I had work to do. It was the start that forced me to relearn what it means for God’s grace to cover my failures.

And that, I think, is an excellent way to start 2014.

Daily Thanks #23: Rice

I’m not normally a rice person. I can tolerate it if it’s covered with lots of Chinese sauce and meat, but even then I’d normally rather eat the meat and sauce without rice. And if it comes to just choosing a carb I’d rather have any form of potato or garlic bread or plain bread and butter or corn pudding or millet or… you get the idea.

But when you come down with an odd form of the stomach flu where your stomach doesn’t tolerate food but forgets to shut off the ‘hungry’ switch, and you haven’t eaten anything solid except frozen banana puree (which is actually pretty good, but barely qualifies as solid) all day long, rice becomes an amazing substance worthy of sonnets.

Rice. It’s what’s for dinner.

Daily Thanks #18: Clean Laundry

I’m pretty sure that for my Monday daily thankfulness post (yes, I’m a little behind…) I’m supposed to write about how thankful I am to still have a house to sleep in. Or about how great it is that people in the community are stepping up to help tornado victims. Or maybe even something sweet about people getting reunited with their pets.

All those things are true, of course… But the thing is, I didn’t get scared enough during the tornado to have an epic sense of relief afterwards. My post tornado sense on Monday was along these practical lines, “Well, we can’t get out to help with disaster relief today, so I guess I’d better try to catch up on my housework as much as I can so we’re freed up to help later when they’re letting people into the areas that need help.”

The most exciting thing that happened on Monday was that for the first time in about three weeks, I got all the clean laundry folded and put away the same day it was washed.

And I guess when you come down to it, clean laundry is just exactly as mundane and as epic as it needed to be that day.

Daily Thanks #17: Church Community, Part 2

I can’t think of a better group of people to be standing with in a mostly dark basement, hugging the wall furthest away from the windows and waiting to see if any walls or other essential parts of the building are going to blow away.

I love the fact that in an emergency situation the deacons brought the elements of the Lord’s Supper to the basement with us.

And that a power outage doesn’t diminish our ability to proceed with the fellowship meal.