Thursday, August 16, 2007

This photo was taken that day at Dutch Wonderland.
I let Norah decorate a cookie and eat as much of it as she wanted.

My daughter has a DVD called "Gigi: God's Little Princess." Her grandmom gave it to her for her birthday. I find it irritating, cause I think Gigi acts like a spoiled brat, but Norah loves it, and sometimes I doubt myself and I think my standards are too high, so I've let Norah watch the show again and again.

The story goes: Gigi wants a castle for her birthday, the same castle all her other friends have. But, Gigi's dad is thoughtful and handy, so he builds his 'little princess' a custom castle just for her. Gigi's disappointed with her castle at first, because there is no chocolate milk moat like she wanted, just a moat full of water, and there isn't a single pink flower like the castles her friends have, just a row of simple fir trees.

She insists that the castle be changed to look just like the one she had in mind to begin with. But, when it is changed, she almost gets stung by all the bumble bees attracted to the sugar in her chocolate milk moat and she can't spend any length of time outside cause she sneezes over all the pollen in the pink flowers. Turns out that her father knew what would be best for her all along and designed her castle accordingly.

Though the story is supposed to teach a lesson about how God treats us, I wasn't fully convinced this was, in fact, the way God actually works with His people, until certain things happened on our trip to PA.

Norah and I have been tagging along with Dwayne for two weeks. He's had to be in Lancaster for business, so to be together, I moved our home on the road. During the day, Norah and I have been keeping busy around town and I have seen God's loving attention in two particular things that happened here.

One day, I took Norah to Dutch Wonderland, a "Kingdom for Kids" and we rode tons of rides together, ran around the water park there and played games at the booths (games that I had to pay extra for, like at the fair... Grrrrr). But, I saw a sign that said "everyone's a winner" and all Norah has to do is choose a duck from the river. She picks a floating duck and hers turns out to have an 's' inside. S, as luck would have it, stands for "small prize" and she walked back to me with a tiny stuffed frog. Tiny. I felt cheated. I have a moment's glance of understanding with the 'greasy man in the booth' (really, it was a lovely looking teenage girl). But, I was upset and disappointed. I never would have paid two bucks for a tiny, tacky frog with over sized eyes, a smug little smile on his face and badly sewn seams.

Norah didn't seem to mind, though, so I tried hard to keep my disappointment to myself. But, I am thinking deep down, "We're children of God, we have spiritual "Gonnections," a Godfather, so to speak, and I know there is a Proverb somewhere that says every roll of the dice is determined by the Lord.. so why didn't Norah walk away with that man-sized teddy bear?' (Shocking, I know, but I am being honest about what I was thinking at the time).

Later that day, though, Norah and I were beat from playing so hard and she needed some down time. I didn't want to leave the park and go back to the hotel for her nap because I figured that would mean we wouldn't come back in the evening and I wanted to get our money's worth from the day. So, I found a shady spot in the grass and snuggled with her while she rested a little. She couldn't really sleep, but she was still too tired to play again full-force, so we proceeded to have an impromptu game of hide and seek with what we had on hand... our little stuffed "Froggy, Froggy."

She ran about fifteen feet away, turned around, covered her eyes and counted to ten, while I hid the frog under her beach towel, in the stroller's basket, in my shirt (that was the most fun, since Norah couldn't find the frog, even after all the hints of me sticking out my chest). We had as much fun with that little frog as we had at the entire theme park! We both genuinely laughed throughout the game and I really enjoyed finding new places to hide him before she turned around. And, I realized somewhere in the middle of it all, I got this feeling that had the frog been any bigger, I wouldn't have been able to fit him under a beach towel (or in my shirt) and we wouldn't have had that game of hide and seek at all.

Then, later in the trip, we had to change hotel rooms and got "stuck," so I thought, in a room with a handicapped bathroom. There would be no tub for Norah's baths, just a huge newly-tiled bathroom, with a shower head on the far wall and a floor that dips down ever-so-slightly to keep the water from draining over to the sink and toilet and then out into the room.

Norah and I went to the pool one day, but the wind made it too cold to stay and play as long as she wanted. We came back to the new room to clean up, but I wasn't going to be able to give her a separate bath like I normally do and I was dreading it. But, as soon as I turned on the water, her eyes got big like she had some great idea. "Mommy, I can pretend I am at the water park!" and she proceeded to play under the "waterfall" while we both cleaned off.

I finished my shower and realized there was no reason that she couldn't keep playing in the water, so I let her play there for at least thirty minutes using the plastic cups that came with our hotel room's ice bucket, splashing, emptying and pouring. Norah was in heaven and I realized again, from a subtle nudge of God's Holy Spirit in my heart, that had I had my way and gotten the room with the bathtub that I wanted to insist upon, she and I both would have missed all the fun of that huge shower.

So, I am convinced that God does take effort to bless His children with things that will bring us joy. And, I think we honor Him by delighting in our lives and acknowledging His careful, loving hands in the choices He makes for us.

Jesus teaches about God the Father with these words recorded in Matthew 7:9-11, 'Which one of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My husband didn't tell me about him before we married.

I guess he assumed he didn't need to, that I'd like him as much as he did, since we had so many other things in common... But, Dwayne really should have had more foresight because his brightly colored, four foot tall, life sized, to scale, blow up, Emperor penguin has been a source of contention since the first apartment we shared as newlyweds.

As we were moving in, Dwayne eagerly pulled the over sized toy out of a box of his treasures, blew him up and tried to set him in the corner of our living room. I still remember the look of horror on his face when Dwayne saw the look of horror on my face and realized I really wasn't kidding, I didn't like the bird and it couldn't sit out in the open.

We've compromised again and again and the penguin has followed us from one dwelling to another, living in our spare bedrooms, closets and even staying in my elementary classroom for a time. My students loved him. And, when the penguin was unpacked at this house, I already had the perfect spot for him. The bird occupied a basement corner near our oil tank and served to keep our daughter Norah entertained while I loaded and unloaded the washer and dryer. I would have taken a knife to him long ago, but I am a submissive wife, of sorts, and all I can do in good conscience is ask Dwayne, every so often, if I can find a new home for "Napolean."

That's the name we came up with sometime ago: Napolean. It fits, since he's an Emperor and he is also short. History records that the great emperor was a littler man. I asked Dwayne one more time if the bird could "go away" when I was organizing our most recent tag sale (a.k.a.yard sale down south) and he gave me the same "No" I always get, so I dropped it. But, I put Napolean out in the yard for the sale anyway. The picture above was taken that day. I didn't put him out so he'd be sold, honestly, but so he could get some fresh air and function as a conversation piece for our neighbors. So, I was completely surprised when my husband yelled, "Hun! Come say goodbye to Napolean!"

Two college aged boys had pulled up to the sale to look over all the junk and once they saw Napolean, they said, "He's so cool! How much is he?" Dwayne smarted off something like, "Oh, he's not for sale. He's family. Holds a special place in my heart. ...But, I think a twenty dollar bill would fill that special place just as well." He never expected them to pay that much, but one of the boys pulled out a twenty dollar bill without hesitation. And so, Naploean was sold!

I ran to say my goodbyes and made the new owner promise to keep him at least five years into his own marriage, and then, only hand him over to another worthy young man who would promise to use the penguin to challenge the integrity, strength of purpose, character, will, self-control and discipline of his wife, in much the same manner the bird had always tested mine.

Napolean went away in the backseat of a macked-out PT Cruiser with the windows down and the music blaring. The guys who bought him waved and yelled, "We'll take good care of him!" as they pulled away. I swear there was smile on the bird's face. I hope Napolean shows up in those boys' cherished photos of their youthful days. He deserves it. By the way, that twenty dollars didn't go into the tag sale's money box. Dwayne kept it for himself. I suppose he earned it.

(I wrote this several years ago and it was published on another one of my blogs previously.)