Tag Archives: culture

3 reasons you should visit a cemetery

This past week, only days after Memorial Day, I ironically found myself attending 2 funerals and visiting 2 cemeteries. I listened to Taps from a Marine bugle, I watched a flag being folded and unfolded by 2 solemn officers, and I straightened plastic flowers at several grave sites. 

This weekend marked my most profound visit to a cemetery to date. I stood over the graves of both my parents. It’s not something you anticipate having to do until your 60s, but I’ve already done it. Then I stood over the graves of my grandparents, uncles, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents.

And I could hear my mom’s voice in my head saying,

“Don’t walk on the graves. Walk in between them. See the space between the headstones? Follow that when you walk.”

“Read the stones. Someone lived a full life, and this is how they are remembered.”

Mom was religious about instilling in us a respect for the dead because, after having been widowed at 31, she was acutely aware of the value of life.

As I ambled through the Illinois cemetery, I reflected on its role in culture. With the current popularity of cremation, I wondered if cemeteries will one day become obsolete? What value, if any, do they hold for life? My own experience has supplied me with three reasons you should visit a cemetery. I will share them with you, on the premise that you will one day find yourself standing over the granite stone of a loved one. Continue reading

Confessions of a suburb mom

I am not a philanthropist, not a CEO, not a socialite. I’m just a suburb mom, and I have some confessions to make. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the pressure put on our families to succeed and surpass. At what, I don’t know. Our city? The world at large? Whatever this lofty goal is, it’s exhausting. And it’s cramping my style. I have a few bones to pick with suburban culture.IMG_3330

1. I don’t think I should feel embarrassed to walk to the bus stop in my pajamas. We all wear them. And our kids go to school early. None of us moms wake up with make-up on and hair done. Just because I’m not magazine-ready at 7 am, that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing anything today. I don’t even have elementary kids anymore, but this still bothers me. Pajama moms, I salute you! My embarrassment has subsided now because I usually drive my kids to school and no one can see my pajama pants or bed hair from outside the car. I will shower, I promise. I just don’t think I need to impress the other moms who are on their way to work already.

I work. Just later. And sometimes in my pajamas.

2. Swim team is not an essential element to summer. There, I said it. My kids play sports all year, so we like to take the summer off. No competitions, no practices, no schedules. Except for swimming lessons when they were little, of course, because it would be a crime if my kids couldn’t swim. I just wish I didn’t feel the need to explain it. Obviously, the pressure is still getting to me because here I am putting it in a blog. My kids didn’t do swim team. Yet another great American tragedy. They didn’t do cotillion, either. Gasp!

3. I like to do my own housework. I do. It’s a confession because the truly successful suburb moms hire out all their housework. Lawn guy, handyman, dry cleaning, maid service, day care, spa, hair salon, dog groomer, pool guy, nanny, take-out. But not me. I iron. I cook. I dust. I weed. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes I resent it. But mostly, I just resent feeling feeling provincial because I do it. I actually like laundry. You wash it, dry it, fold it, ta-da! Something got accomplished today. Something that can’t be compared to someone else, that will never be discussed because it’s too insignificant. 

4. I’m a soccer mom, but I’m not a soccer mom.  (You know the difference if your kid plays soccer!) I don’t like soccer moms and dads. They are birthed sometime after their kids stop chasing butterflies on the field and before their children actually become skilled. Soccer parents’ behavior gets incrementally worse until their little soccer stars become older teenagers and threaten them into silence. But until that time, moms and dads are screaming at refs and calling fouls they don’t understand. And their kids are learning that life should always treat them fairly and that performing is critical in their relationship to their parents. Hence, the next thing I have to confess.

5. I am so over the competitive spirit of the suburbs. It’s akin to Olympic fever. It amasses intense training, strategy, and celebration, all with a sense of family patriotism and urgency to win now because we might not get another chance. Kids are placed on course to achieve, plain and simple. The future seems to hang in the balance over every event–school, music, sports, manners. Parents pick the kind of college they want their kids to attend, and they plan backwards, all the way into preschool. Every kid must have a sport, an art, a premiere education, a social life, a religious foundation, and a host of extra-curriculars like Boy Scouts, community service, and foreign travel. It’s all good stuff. I’m not arguing that. But unlike the rest of the world, we believe that all of it is essential. And to provide such illustrious opportunities, both father and mother must work themselves to death.

Solution?

No idea, other than move to a farm and try non-schooling. But that would really stress me out. And I draw the line at growing my own food. That’s at least one reason I am a suburb mom.

Worthiness, the Art of Becoming Empty

Do you ever have a day where you struggle to feel fulfilled?

I do, and it’s maddening. I should know better, and yet, there it is again–the self-disappointment, the frustration, the loathing at my own unimportance. Why is my self-worth continually bound up in my productivity? I blame my culture, of course. The fast-paced rat-race of suburban America will steer the best of Christians toward a pattern of materialism and competitiveness. But no convent or monastery could ever rid the soul of the quest to accomplish, to leave a mark, to fulfill destiny.5033007-2xs
Even when I make the right choice to visit the sick or spend time with my children instead of checking something tangible off my everlasting list–I still struggle to stand tall at the end of the day and point to what I’ve done. I long to validate myself, but I continually fall short.

As a life-long believer in Jesus and his teachings, I know all the correct responses required to fight the battle against low self-esteem:

  • I am created in God’s image
  • He knew me in my mother’s womb
  • He created me for a purpose
  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made
  • My body is a temple of the Holy Ghost

All this was spoken into my life throughout my childhood, yet I still believe the lies:  do more, be more, get more. I can never do enough or accomplish enough to satisfy the longing.

This age-old conflict played out among the first family, and it’s been plaguing humanity for over 6,000 years. After the fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam was cursed to physical labor that could never be finished. Eve was cursed to feel subordinate to her husband, yet maintain the desire to control him. While blessed with children, she was cursed with the struggle to balance love and discipline, heartache and delight. She would always strive to do more for her family and always feel like she hadn’t done enough. Sounds familiar.

Her children would experience the same angst. When God explicitly instructed them in the art of worship–the mode of having a spiritual relationship after their parents had screwed up the intended mode–Cain and Able responded differently. Longing for God’s acceptance, Cain brought the best he had produced (still under God’s control, but a lovely accomplishment, nonetheless). Able brought exactly what God required–a life sacrificed, with no accomplishments attached at all. God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Able’s. (Maybe my spiritual success isn’t linked to my general success as a person.)

Perhaps worth is intrinsically tied to worship of the Creator, instead of a worship of oneself. Perhaps when I lift up what I have done (still a result of God’s grace), all the blessing and all the worthiness leak out of it, and I am left holding an empty trophy, which I discard in my quest for another. Surprisingly, I can never keep the trophy filled. I am always left feeling empty and worthless.

I would venture to guess that fulfillment is only achieved through the art of becoming empty. When I have nothing left with which to glorify myself, I am truly fulfilled (i.e. perfect in God’s eyes). Only then, being perfect, I won’t care about feeling important.

Worthiness is pride, wrapped in a blanket of pathetic self-absorption. It’s the reason I so often feel cheated, competitive, unnoticed, unimportant, and imperfect. I’m still under the illusion that my life is all about me.

It’s time to re-read all those oxymorons spoken by Jesus, which still cause people to scratch their heads:

  • he who loses his life will find it
  • if you want to become great, become a servant of all
  • the first shall be last, and the last shall be first
  • whoever humbles himself will be exalted

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:5-11

Emptiness. Followed by supreme accomplishment.