Thursday, December 26, 2013

Forgetting the Former Things

A simple question: “Gena, do you have any family Christmas traditions?”

Ummm…I used to.

I imagine I felt a little like a quarterback getting tackled from his blindside. I didn’t see it coming and it stung a little at first.

I had never actually thought about it, but a lot of my family Christmas traditions have passed away. That’s the thing about being the youngest of four, entering the 4th decade of my life with no husband or children. My siblings have all started their own traditions. My parents have lost their immediate family. Gone are the days of the Christmas Eve dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We all haven’t lived in the same house for over 25 years. But I remember lining up at the end of the hallway patiently waiting for the door to swing open so we could race down the long hallway to our gifts Christmas morning. Santa stopped leaving that one gift wrapped in a different and specific way with our names written in gold sparkle on it a long, long time ago. The only tradition I could think of is that our family sometimes doesn’t even get together in one place for Christmas.

There was a quick twinge of sadness in the realization that I may have lost all my family Christmas traditions. However, just like the quarterback lying on his back at the 20-yard line, the wind came back into my lungs. I got up, brushed myself off, and decided that I would return the huddle and make a new play.

I decided I’m not going to let myself off the hook – if I wanted to restore some Christmas tradition in my life, I could start some now. My life may not look the way I thought it would, but it could still include some things to look forward to during this season. I thought about Isaiah 43:18-19

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

If I wasn't careful, I would have kept my eyes on the past. All the things that used to happen that aren't happening now. Or, I'd focus on all the things I couldn't do, instead of what I could. I want to see the new thing God is doing in my life. And from those new things, I could create some new family traditions.

Tradition #1: Dinner and church with my parents on Christmas Eve. I can’t even tell you how awesome it was to have family with me at church at the candlelight services. I have gone to so many holiday services sad that I didn’t have family sitting next to me. What was different this year? I asked! I made it clear it was important to me and I didn’t say their no for them.

Tradition #2: Scheduled phone calls with good friends across the world. There are some very important people in my life who are not a car drive away; but they are a phone call away. I hadn’t spoken to 2 of my dearest friends, and had the chance Christmas week. We laughed. We cried. We were reminded of the special bond we have. After hanging up the phone, it was EXACTLY what I needed. Next year I will make sure that we speak to each other at least once during Christmas week.

Tradition #3: Crafting before and after Christmas. I love to do this. It fills my cup. I’m going to schedule crafting time before Christmas with friends who can make it to work on projects for the season, or to begin some I’ve been putting off. I’m also going to budget a certain amount to take advantage of the before and after Christmas sales. In fact, that’s where I’m off to next.

The thing is, traditions only happen if you start them. I thought back to a recent staff meeting that I was reminded what Lou Ludwig said: “Intention without action is useless.” I had the choice to sit around and be sad about the things that aren’t happening now, or get up and see a new thing happen.

I choose to see the new things. Put me in, Coach!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Ever Happened to Jake Ryan?

It was Friday night, and I was unpacking for the 17thtime in my life. As I sorted through old photos, miscellaneous papers and an insane amount of mismatched socks (did I ever have a matching pair?!), Sixteen Candles came on the television. Of course, I stopped everything and watched it.

Sixteen Candles follows the sixteenth birthday of one Samantha Baker. Unfortunately, because Samantha’s older sister is getting married later in the week, the entire family forgets her birthday. Madness ensues and the angst ridden teen starts the day being stalked by the freshman class nerd (aka “The Geek”), but is later pursued by her all-time crush, Jake Ryan. The movie ends with the classic scene of Samantha getting her wish…a birthday cake and a kiss from Jake. And the audience goes wild.

I really wish there would have been a Seventeen Candles. What happened to Samantha and Jake after that kiss? As a bright-eyed pre-teen watching that movie…I just assumed they lived happily ever after. They probably went to the prom, went to college together, got jobs, got married and had little Samantha and Jake Ryans. But now…now as an adult I wonder…what really happened to Jake Ryan?

You see, I was Samantha Baker. I was constantly in love with the guy I could never have. I was the last of my friends to hold hands, last to be kissed, and last to get a boyfriend. And then it happened. After a note was passed to the guy I had secretly been fawning over from afar, he actually asked me out. I couldn’t believe it! No, really…I couldn’t believe it! I’d spend the next 8 years of my life not believing that someone like that could love someone like me. Even when my Jake Ryan told me he wanted to marry me, I never believed it was actually going to happen.

Unfortunately, I proved me right. He left. With no explanation he decided that I wasn’t the one for him. No blowing out the candles and kissing. No driving off in his red Porsche…just years of wondering why I wasn’t good enough for my Jake Ryan.

It’s different now. I’ve got way more than 16 candles on my cake. Way more years of knowing that I am good enough, rather than not knowing I’m good enough. And unlike the young girl of yesteryear who went through that tremendous loss alone, I now have plenty of great people in my life who remind me I am good enough when I forget.

So whatever happened to Jake Ryan? Who cares. I’m more interested in “The Geek” who will pursue me without question.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Year Without Facebook

Over a year ago, I deleted my Facebook account.

You read that right.

Other than my mom, I don’t know anyone without a Facebook account. There were many reasons for the decision, but mostly I just felt overexposed. I felt overexposed not just for myself, but for some of my “friends” on my timeline. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why someone who hadn’t spoken to me in years, and wouldn’t know me if they crossed my path on the street, was now my “friend” and telling me what they ate for breakfast and the last time they passed gas. Okay, maybe no one actually posted the last observation on their wall…but it was just a matter of time as I had “friended” all my teenage nephews.

The original reason I signed up was because a good friend was moving far away, and we both needed to feel like a day hadn’t passed that we didn’t see one another. Once she had a baby, we really needed Facebook to keep in touch…until she couldn’t post pictures because someone got creepy. This didn’t help my desire to stay “plugged in.”

But now that a year has passed by, I have seen how deciding to not be a part of the social network has kept me from staying in touch with some very important people in my life. I was missing “I’m pregnant” tagged to a sonogram picture. “I said yes!” with the important change of the “single” to “engaged” relationship status. I wasn’t invited to parties and I missed some good deals at some of my favorite places. I also missed the news of the loss of loved ones to people who I really love. And probably the biggest thing I missed was getting an encouraging word or sending one…I loved that about Facebook. It was like the “warm fuzzy wall” we had at camp when I was growing up.

So why join now? It’s going to sound a bit like “Christianese,” but I’m learning that I can be in the world but not of the world. I don’t need to be absorbed by it…I can make decisions that limit how much I’m exposed and I can definitely limit what I want to be exposed to. The reality is I want to see my friend who lives on the other side of the country share her favorite memory of her mom on mother’s day. I want to be included as someone celebrates their birthday or the purchase of their first home. I want to pray for someone when they can’t convey their need in any other way than a status update. And I want to “like” it when they post that the prayers were answered. And although I prefer a hallmark card via snail mail or a catch up over coffee, I realize that a lot of people don’t use a stamp anymore and time or distance is not always on our side.

So I’m back on board. Or should I say, “I’m back on the wall.” Feel free to “friend,” pin, poke, tag or post on my page if I can call you friend without the quotation marks.