An open letter to Gabby Douglas, and all those whose dreams have gone astray, or turned a corner you never expected, or have simply passed their time:
Being at the top, receiving the attention and praise that comes with fame or adulation can become very addicting. Without your realization, it goes from simply a goal to work for to being a must-have, your only source of joy.
It hurts when you feel the rug pulled out from under you, when someone else sits on the throne, worshiped by the media and social chat groups, or even your own friends and community.
You see the problem when I say it that way, don’t you?
Those of us who are still working towards our dreams, who most likely will never be famous or followed by many, may have a shorter path to wisdom: being on top here on earth never brings the satisfaction it promises, brings nothing that lasts.
Gabby, Olympic gold isn’t really the pinnacle of your life. Not really what you were created for, after all. But it can be a means to an end.
When I wonder what to do or I flounder, I go back to the book of wisdom. My vision gets realigned. Eternal vision puts everything into focus. I realize it isn’t about me and what I achieve, how hard I work or how I am received by others. And when I need approval, all I need to do is look up for a smile.
Go for eternal gold. It’s the only one that thieves can’t steal, doesn’t get lost and you won’t leave behind when you leave this world.
Gabby, the girl in this photo was inspired by you in the London Olympics. The number of young girls you have motivated in gymnastics is probably amazing.
But what will be more amazing will be the fruit of how you live your life from now on, the number of people you inspire to seek Jesus, to run with all their might into the arms of the only one who can really catch them.
Spring arrived in our part of Florida last week, with a flourish of pollen and new tree leaves. It amazes me how various oak trees handle spring. Some are totally covered in nothing but pollen, others shed brown leaves as bright green ones push them away, while some simply send out slender new leaves, tentative steps toward turning green. And others are ablaze with color. All oaks. All different. Maybe it’s the pollen, but I can’t help taking this deeper. With all the diversity in our world, what is it in our psyche that wants to box things in, group them all the same?
Do you remember as a kid, when houses all looked like this?
And we drew trees like this?
And people, depending on our developmental age, like this?
We’ve grown up from that place, and those who, like many in my family, have artistic skills can paint a wonder of houses, trees and people, none alike, and all wonderful.
YD painted this.
Sometimes it looks like houses to me, and sometimes people. When I asked her recently what it is supposed to be, she said she wasn’t sure. That is a clue to her winsomeness — that she doesn’t need to nail it down, put it in the box of “house” or “people.”
Snowflakes . . . Fingerprints . . . DNA . . . No two alike.
The Creator obviously celebrates differences, or there wouldn’t be thousands of different kinds of insects!
So why do we expect, or want, people to all fit in a box? In the land of “I did it my way,” and the supposed importance of the individual, it surprises me how much we want to herd others into pens of alikeness.
How little we really tolerate anyone who deviates from the norm, unless, of course, it’s our norm.
Here come some stereotypes – sorry, I can’t avoid it even to make my point.
If you’re in Arizona, you want to seal up your border with Mexico and suspect everyone who looks “Mexican.” (Never mind that Arizona was once a part of Mexico and the oldest families, once Mexican, have been ranching there for hundreds of years.) But if you live in Oregon, then the citizens of Arizona are intolerant, stiff-necked red-necks, not worthy to call themselves Americans.
If you don’t believe me, just read the letters to the editor for a few days, or listen to the talking heads on the news stations.
Attacking the different ones, and the different ones attacking.
Sadly, sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. How many times do we test our worth by how well we fit in with those around us?
How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps you’ve achieved some, but haven’t found the satisfaction you expected. Like the child on Christmas afternoon, he bursts into anger over some small thing, bewildered by the disappointment the eagerly awaited day has produced. Goals are good things. Trying is important. But nothing really, completely satisfies.
In a few days, I will mark six months since I walked with my mother to the door of death. And the strange heaviness, though not my constant companion as it was the first months, has still attacked me at random moments – entering the grocery store and seeing something I should buy for her – opening my cabinet and finding her measuring cup – planning a day trip and wondering if she’d enjoy the ride – hearing something delightful from a grandchild and anticipating sharing it with her.
A few nights ago I had a dream. Occasionally I have dreams that are vivid, clear and more real than being awake. This was one of those.
I was standing by a large body of water and called out, “Who wants to hear what I’ve been writing?” My mother swam towards me and climbed out of the water, full of life as she was the last time we played in the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola Beach. She wave and replied, “I want to hear it, Janie-girl!” and climbed out.
As she drew closer, she grew weaker, and by the time I helped her onto a lounge chair she had shriveled into an invalid. I covered her with thick blankets to quell her shaking. Between chattering teeth, she encouraged me to begin reading Listen the Wind, the historical novel I am putting the finishing touches on, and she had edited for grammar and spelling errors when her mind was still sharp. As I started to read, we were on higher ground, looking out over the water, and she was in a hospital bed, growing weaker.
A sweet, clueless nurse, brought her food. Mom shook her head and turned toward the water and the bright sun as it moved toward the horizon. The nurse kept offering smaller bits, encouraging Mom to eat and gain her strength.
When the smallest piece, a little brown biscuit was offered, Mom pushed it away and whispered to me, “Don’t you see what really matters?”
Then I saw what she was so concentrated on in the splendor of the sun glowing over the water,
calling her to eternity.
And she was gone.
I awoke in the early morning light, tears streaming down my face, with profound peace. I knew that my mother, who most of my life hadn’t understood me (we were very different personalities) deeply loved me and valued my writing.
In my dream, I felt as if she had shared a measure of eternity with me, to encourage me in my journey.
The sense of eternity stayed with me, carried me through the day.
I no longer wish I had another chance to hug her or bring her ice cream or talk with her. She has reached her goal —
the goal we are all yearning for, whether we know it or not.