Weird Christian Attitudes About Money


imagesChris and I had a simply terrific pastor for pre-marital counseling. His name was Mark Brattrud, and he pastored a little Full Gospel church that met in a Howard Johnson’s in Albany. Mark was perhaps thirty at the time, married for a few years with a couple of small kids. The church grew like wildfire. Made up mainly of college kids and young marrieds, we got the job done.

We sent out missionaries, sent up Sunday school programs for little ones, and had all kinds of positive things going in the community. I’m convinced that one of the reasons this happened was because Mark took what the Bible had to say about money very seriously.

At the time, a man named Larry Burkett had started a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts out of Georgia. Larry merged his ministry with another one, and it’s now called Crown Financial Ministries. Larry passed away after that from cancer, but Crown continues to thrive.

Mark got all of the “managing your money God’s way” materials and made Chris and I study them together as part of our counseling. We learned all kinds of things like this:

*Jesus talks more about money than any other topic except salvation and love. “Did you know that?

“The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.” (www.crown.org)

*”Thou Shalt Not Go Into Debt” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It does, however, admonish us with all kinds of scary images about debt. Ps. 37:21 calles us “wicked” if we borrow and do not repay. Proverbs 22:7 says the “borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Yikes!

* Money is intimately connected to your heart.

Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So, Pastor Mark wanted Chris and I to “hide these things in our heart” from the very beginning of our relationship. Considering that nearly 80% of all divorces cite “Money” as one of the top 3 reasons for splitting up, this was a very wise idea.

Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that reasons for arguing with your spouse abound. It’s nice to knock “Money” off the list from the beginning. I can sit here and tell you with clear eyed truthfulness, Chris and I never argued about money, because of this early training.

So, now that  he’s gone, what to do? In the previous post, I related to you a gritty situation I found myself in regarding money.

The megachurches I have been involved in over the past years, sadly, don’t seem to handle their money well. Before Chris was diagnosed, we attended a church up here that has since shut down. Money was a constant issue. The church was affluent and well attended. It was estimated that the average annual income of the attendees there amounted to about 70 million dollars a year. (Average household income in the area about 70,000$ a year, times about a thousand regular givers.)

Out of the seven years we went to that church, it stretched to meet a two million dollar budget. Jesus asks us simply to tithe. Just tithe, or give ten percent of our income. Jewish folks actually were encouraged to make all kinds of other offerings, the ten percent was a minimum.

Had my old church simply been obedient and tithed, our annual budget would have tripled. Think of it. Seven million dollars. We could have started a free medical clinic, immunized poor kids, supported food pantries, had every single ministry in the family of God provided for abundantly, very likely with some left over.

This is, sadly, the modus operandi of most American megachurches. Honestly, it’s so irritating I could spit. My kids and I talk about this type of thing all the time, and fortunately, so far, their training in generosity seems to have ‘stuck’.

Ten percent isn’t that much. If we can’t get along with 90 percent of what most Christians make, we seriously need to reevaluate.

Did you ever notice, too, that Christians can’t seem to talk about this type of thing without raising up a whole crop of squirrely attitudes?

I got blasted the other day by a regular reader about the previous post. David is a doll, and one of my most valued friends. Still, he’s a redheaded Irishman, and trusts me enough to let loose now and again.

“Victoria! You should take that post down! You can’t assume about people’s financial situations! And besides, you’re making yourself out to be this loaded chick with more money than God! You are sounding very manipulative!”

Hmm. I thought about it. Really, I did. David is one of about 5 people that I actually listen to when they criticize me.

I realized that David was right about some things.  Since Chris and I used God’s principles of handling money from our marital infancy, we’ve always had a surplus. The point of that surplus, after the needs of the family are met, is to give it away. Really, it’s not brain surgery, a minimum of study will reveal that God owns it all anyway, so we may as well be obedient.

Very, very few Christians are obedient in this way.  Thus, people like me come across as indiscreet. How unfortunate. How much better for ALL of us to be obedient, and maybe even get together and TALK about the good we could be doing with a surplus!

When Chris and I were young, we had the joy of discovering that even a well placed 50$ could make a world of difference to someone. As we went along, we learned about how wise Christians provide even for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) and how we need to know where our money goes and have a plan for it (Proverbs 27:23) .

The blessings of this sort of concrete planning are really pretty cool. I think the best part of this type of thing is the joy that comes with contentment. Chris and I were not millionaires, and with four children to educate, I’m not  going to be that, probably ever. But we knew the faces of our flock, AND knew the faces that came with sharing with those of us who don’t have a surplus, and could use some of ours.

So, my friends, lay off the judgements, if you please. I talk about giving because it’s what Jesus asks us to do, not because I’m made of money. Also because I think it’s pretty darn fun.

I would dearly love to talk to YOU about giving, because I know for a fact, somewhere you have a fifty lurking around that could change someone’s life. You know you want to, don’t you. images-1

Much love to you all,

 

Victoria

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Eleven. Who Doesn’t Love the Louvre?


Raise your hand if a piece of artwork has ever truly moved you. I mean really, brought you to tears, made you laugh, made you think or stopped you in your tracks. OK, GO!

Anyone? Anyone at all? No one? Ferris? Ferris Beuller? No, seriously, it’s OK. I never appreciated art until I was forced to take an elective in ‘Art Appreciation’ at DU. I thought it was a fluff course, but it was one of those unexpected game changers.

After that quarter I gained a new appreciation for what we humans need to let our imaginations take flight. Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci took on a whole new meaning as a very patient professor from DU’s school of Art and Art history explained the meaning of themes, terms and the cultural context of many very important works.

I mean, think about it. Imagine, if you will, life without the constant influx of images and data we have streaming at us every single day of our lives. Imagine, instead, standing in line in Rome to pay your penny to see this:

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper.

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper. Yep, that’s Rachael’s cute little head. 

I get the biggest kick out of this one though, because if you really study it, you notice all kinds of interesting details. Like this one, a detail of Jesus’ face:

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

If you Google  this Raphael, and get a bigger and better shot, you’ll notice that he set this “Water into Wine” picture in the context of 15th century gentry. I find this to be hilarious. On the left, are all sorts of bejewelled upper class. On the right, a few peons are allowed at the table. To Jesus’ right, you see Mother Mary, presumably dropping the hint that the guests are complaining the bar is running dry.

All of his works were commissioned, of course, so the man had obligations. He had to make his patrons look good, and make Jesus seem like part of the nobility. As I went through the exhibition with the girls, the various versions of Jesus really jumped out at me. One, a gentle looking boy with a staff. Another, a very wise looking baby gazing adoringly at Mary. (How come mine never gazed adoringly at me? Wait, no, they did if I had a cookie in my hand.) Another was even blonde!

Ha! Can you imagine? In America, the real flesh and blood Jesus would be stopped at the airport, pulled into an interview room, strip searched and profiled as an Arab terrorist. I mean, really.

Still though, you had to give it to these men. Typical Italians at the time travelled very little. They had few diversions, and devotion to Jesus was chief among them. Looking at these marvelous pictures no doubt gave them conversation for weeks. Here’s one that especially blew my mind.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It's called 'The Sacrifice at Lystra' and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It’s called ‘The Sacrifice at Lystra’ and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. (Far left corner) The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed, they want to give the glory to God, not men. Right on. 

I can hardly imagine that. Right beside this enormous piece of fabric which decorated one of the apartments at the Vatican, was Raphael’s ‘cartoon’ of this piece. A ‘Cartoon’ is basically the painting, then given to the weavers, who wove this painting into a piece of material. With thread and things. I can hardly wrap my mind around that kind of skill.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raphael was a genial, popular painter who had a large studio and a devoted following. He supposedly died of a fever gained from too many (eh-hem) ‘amorous pursuits’ at 37. That was youngish, even 500 years ago!

Master Da Vinci painted the cheerful Lisa Giocondo, or La Jaconde, and she seemed almost anticlimatic, compared to these giant rooms full of master artworks.

She seems like a cheerful sort.  Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

She seems like a cheerful sort. Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, though, it was an exhausting, but wonderful break.

Part of the point of Sabbatical in a Teacup is to find out what there is in the world that fascinates me still. A day at the Louvre is really one of the most relevant things for a person like me.

See, when I am in my usual environs, I notice things. I’ve been a teacher for a long time now, and things like distances have  changed during the 26 years I’ve been teaching.

Distance between ignorance and knowledge. It seems to be harder to get kids to really ‘know’ something now. I mean to internalize and benefit by something, like a piece of artwork.

Distance between loved ones is another. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand if it has an iphone in it, for example.

Paradoxically, distance between cultures has both shortened and lengthened. I can call China right now for pennies. I can step outside onto the Rive Gauche right now and find an all night cafe and write.

But no one will bother me with the impenetrable screen up. I will be left alone, and the distance between me and that grandmotherly French woman at the table next to me will seem enormous.

But put away the screens, and even leave my purse at the hotel. Wrap up in a pashmina scarf, or three, and stick some Euros in my pocket. Grab a kid or two, and see if we can’t make ourselves understood to the French cabbie.

After a few minutes of pidgin French, an elderly gentleman cabbie slowly explained to me, in both English and French, that he could take me to the Quartier Latin for a cinema, and that he had family in Colorado Springs, and what was the capital of Colorado, and did I like Paris.

Poof! Distance eradicated. I think I see a dissertation in there somewhere.

To be continued. Train to Nice tomorrow.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Four. Shakespeare and the Olympics.


Here we are mugging Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre in London. It’s a replica, of course, but built about two hundred yards from where the original was excavated. The pillars in the background aren’t stone, they’re 400 year old single trees painted to look like marble. Many are older than the original Globe itself.

I had several pictures of the Olympic Complex to show you, and if you like, I still will.

This is the Observatory Sculpture overlooking the Olympic complex in London. It was surrounded by “Authorized Personnel Only” signs as the whole complex is being dismantled.

Here’s one. That funny looking observatory sculpture, that to me still looks like a work in progress. It stands watch over the Track and Field center, the Aquatics and Water Polo centers as well. Looking at this mess, I found it to be profoundly depressing and impermanent. Is there really nothing else to be done with these structures besides knocking them down for car parks and block condos? Sad.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about permanence today. Mainly, that there’s not a lot of it in this world. As always, I seem to land in Scripture. Funny how that works. I mean, Jesus talks a lot about all kinds of relevant life issues.

 In the book of Hebrews, chapter 13 I think, it’s claimed that he is the “same yesterday, today and forever. ” Good thing He’s a decent chap and puts up with the likes of us. John’s letter also says he is the very embodiment of love. Therefore, his love for us must be unchangeable. So what’s unchangeable about me? Gosh, I don’t think I could ever stop loving this:

This is Faith, Christopher and Abi getting hot cocoa at the market beside the Thames. 

 But other things? I’m not so sure. I made a new blogger friend today, Evan Sanders (I think) of thebettermanprojects.wordpress.

In it, Evan talks about passion. And being stuck. Those of you who have been with me, know that these are two very important things to me. I simply cannot abide being stuck, and have a very hard time being around stuck people. Passion? Gosh, with just a little digging, I can remember that.

I’d be a terrible counselor for adults. Give me a four year old any day. Preschoolers are about the most dynamic creatures on the face of the earth, and given the right circumstances and environment, I can get about any one of them to change for the better. Adults, on the other hand? Years. Years!

Look at this part of this trip, for example. It’s only just penetrating that these near adults of mine are just that, near adults. They have their own lives, interests, insecurities and abilities, and frankly, sometimes I get on their nerves. It’s pretty funny.

They aren’t quite old enough to get separated and know what to do, not quite, so I make them charge their phones, have money and passports in their pockets, and get giant eye-rolls from the whole crowd. (Heheh, I live for that kind of stuff, it just cracks me up.)

Nevertheless, I can here the role- change clock ticking. Here’s one example:

Christopher: Mom, let’s go down into the tube station. Now, look at the map, do you see how you take the Central tube west to the Picadilly line? Then take that to Earl’s Court? You think you can find your way back from there?

Mom: Thanks, sweetheart. That was really clear. (Thinking- Not quite demented yet, but nice to know that’s how he’ll treat me)” Yepper, now you go and give Shelby a hug and have a nice dinner. Love you!

Christopher:  Love you too, Ma! Bye!

Glad tears jump into my eyes as I wave to that broad shouldered boy-man.

So where does that leave me? Actually, sort of rubbing my hands together in glee. See, Chris and I always took childrearing very seriously. The thing is, the finish line keeps jumping around. But lately, times like that give me a pretty clear indication that my role is changing, and it means that whatever time or braincells I have left, I can spend on something I deem worthwhile.

So, as I love lists, let’s get one going.

1. Brain study. Developing brains have always fascinated me. Watching the brains of preschoolers unfold is a neverending story. What if I checked out what DU has to offer in their cognitive psych department for very young children?

2. Piano. It’s time. The last time I touched it, was before that fateful day in February when Dr. Ted mistakenly told Chris he had liver cancer. Dear Doctor Ted. The very beginning of a very long, draining chain. Where ever you are Ted, we love you.

OK, that’s enough. Too many goals scares the heck out of me. But you know, God says that with Him, all things are possible. I have tasted that, and found it to be good.

Much love,

Victoria

There Must be a Burning Bush Here Somewhere


In the midst of the most painful of faces, God shows up in the strangest of places.

Someone I trust once told me “Victoria, be careful, anger is never the end.” What he meant was that anger is easy, and often a really good mask for what’s really going on.

Shhh. It’s time to listen. I think God is speaking.

I have documented assurance that the EA battle is over, so as each day goes by, I find anger draining out of my body. Those of you who read the previous post know that my little Christian preschool was the subject of some very real religious persecution. Not fair, not right, not OK in any sense of the word. But what’s really the issue here? Religious persecution has existed for millennia, I’m actually in some pretty lofty company.

The Jewish yellow identification star.

Anger at God? Well, that’s pretty easy too. Chris didn’t do anything to deserve such suffering, and neither did I, or all these kids. But what’s really going on here? People get cancer and die. Families suffer, hundreds and hundred of you reading are feeling this ache with me right now.

Anger at friends who betray, deceive, when better paths are obvious? Everyone has experienced a betrayal, even Jesus. What’s really going on?

I am finding more and more that I just can’t keep anger up. I spent over a year being angry at the government, largely because they offended my overdeveloped sense of justice. It’s not supposed to be that way, in the land of the free.

I have spent two years being angry at God, because what God treats his faithful servants so brutally? I have found that the depth of what Christians call ‘sin’ is far more entrenched than I ever grasped. Remember the Lazarus story in John 11? The one about him being raised from the dead? Why do you suppose “Jesus wept” and the disciple John made such a point out of recording it?

I think now he wept for all of us. We were meant for better, and not to have lives that are ‘nasty, brutish and short’, as Thomas Hobbes put it.  Jesus wept because of the utter brokenness of our bodies and situations. Who knows what kink in Chris’s body gave him that horrible disease? But Jesus wept, and that alone makes me feel less solitary.

Anger at friends? Someone today told me that being associated with a ‘need’ for friends is a pretty good guarantee of disappointment. Do I ‘want’ new friends? Sure. Do I want to be social, interact with other members of the tribe? You bet. But do I ‘need’ new friends and situations? Not really. Not enough to be so wounded  when a woman chooses to end a friendship with me out of her own fearful need.

Looking, looking for what’s really going on.

In the end, I find I don’t have the energy to keep it up. Perhaps that’s the burning bush here, what God is speaking to me. I wasn’t made for anger.

I like it, I like the feel of it, the taste of it, the rush of adrenaline I get when I am so clearly wronged. I like being the avenging angel, the wrathful goddess to set things right.  I cherish my anger, I go to bed with it, and polish it, and keep it on display for others to see. I’ve made it part of me, like a prosthetic arm.

I don’t think Jesus cares much for that.  I think it transforms people, and it’s transformed me. I don’t like that much. I am beginning to see that might be what he meant when he said ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’

Remember when Jesus was healing on the Sabbath in a synagogue? (Luke 15) The leaders in the temple got pretty mad that he was ‘working’ on the Sabbath. The chapter says that Jesus was angry, but more in the context of grief. Sort of “You are my people! Why wouldn’t you be elated that I was healing on the Sabbath?”

Maybe that’s the kind of anger he wants me to have. Grieved that our government would act against the interests of the people. Grieved that a woman would abandon integrity, instead of abandoning selfishness.

Grieved that I, the owner of all this, would let anger have such a dwelling place in my heart. I think I’m done. I’d rather have peace.

Much love,

Victoria

…Aaaand Life Goes On. With Adam Young and Owl City.


Being a Christian is a tricky thing sometimes. I mean, there are just so many moving parts. Anyone with an open mind to can look at the Bible, especially any of the first four books in the New Testament, and get a clue that there actually is a God who loves us. Weird.

I “get”  love, especially since I popped a bunch of kids out of my body. When they first laid that scrunched up little boy in my arms, gracious, it was like an altered state of reality. So God gives is His son, which he must have loved as desperately as I love mine.

Where did THAT eighteen years go?

Two years ago a giant hole was ripped out of my love life, all of you know that.

In fact, several holes were ripped into that particular canvas, and boy, was I pissed off at God about that. (I can just picture Mom, who blew out an artery in her brain last January, “Vickey! Watch the language!” Date of eternal relocation, January 8, 2012. The lucky gal. )

So I fumble along, trying to figure out who the heck I am in this new picture, anyway. In the last post, I mourned the loss of not really just a friend, but of an unsuccessful attempt to branch out into new territory.

In thinking about it though, something occurred to me. Jesus Christ once said “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” I have found this to be true.

The day that Chandler did what she did, it was just like being catapulted into Loss Land all over again. Sure, their’s a huge difference in magnitude between losing a husband and losing a friend, but it’s loss nonetheless.

I railed at God, angry again about loss upon loss. Then, one of my very best friends for years showed up. Then another, then a third. Hmmm. Methinks I sense a pattern. All of them drifted through my office, all of them with the same message, “Don’t look at the blips, Vickey, look at the long-lasting things.”

Look at the people who have earned your trust. They’re there.

Look at the people who have loved you, even when you’ve been radically unlovable. Now THAT’s amazing, because I am a true pill quite often.

Look at how I am loved, for real.

Think about cutting off a tree branch, and just sticking it in the ground. What the hell did you think would happen, chica? Of course these efforts would wither and die.

I wept over the loss of Chandler for a few days. It took about six tries for my beloved Father to get to me, six different heartfelt, unconditional, years-in-the-making friends to come and sit in my office and eat M and M’s from my candy jar.  Or to call me from around the world for no reason. Or, the best one, a ten-year veteran buddy of mine who drove by and “just felt like” she should turn in, “for no reason.” I just love that. We had a great time.

In recent years, I’ve become such a cynic.

“Jesus loves me and has a wonderful plan for your life?” What BS. If death and suffering is part of this ‘wonderful plan’, count me out. I am beginning to think though, that I don’t trust enough. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps, just maybe, I’ll get my answers on the other side of heaven, not this one.

In recent days, my most common prayer has been “Oh Lord, Make it Obvious.” and His extravagant love rains down. To wit, in the midst of all this, a decade plus friend ‘appears’ with two tickets to Owl City on October second. Adam Young is coming to the Ogden.

Imagine that.

Much love,

Victoria

On Best Friends, Boy Friends and Bitter Betrayals.


This has been the week for relationship stories around the Lierheimer household. I thought that since three of the kids moved out to go to college, my life would become relatively drama free. Such is not the case.

Now, as far as my children are concerned, the Bible says that “Children are a Gift from the Lord.” Psalm 127:3. I have found this to be, hilariously, the case for twenty years. My kids just crack me up.

I wish I could figure out how to post the pictures, but Christopher is wild about living off campus at college. He’s cooking, and keeps sending me these food pictures. Last night was a plate of steak, baked potato and string beans. Caption” I’m moving up in the world, Ma, you raised me well.” Ridiculous, and funny. The very first one was the “Cheeseburger of Independence” when he moved to CSU. It was a lumpy little thing, with two strips of bacon sticking out like antlers. He shot a picture of it for me : “Mom, you know why this cheeseburger is so good? It tastes like INDEPENDENCE!” I need a poster of that one.

So the girls call me, and tell me about all their adventures. Great shots of very friendly young men and women, and all kinds of tales about college. One of my girls actually admitted it was on her ‘goal list’ to perhaps find a husband! Yikes! Ha, it’s all good. My children have excellent judgement, and aren’t yet burdened down with truckloads of baggage that cloud their vision.

I have discovered that excellent judgement is not always the case in middle age. Most of you who have been with me for a while, know that I’ll do anything not to stay ‘stuck’. Stuck in grief, stuck in loss, stuck in negative thinking, anger or other poor choices. Toward that end, I have felt the need to increase my friend circle as my children get older. You know about Mission Hills, my dance coaching, my other various classes, and of course, life at Evergreen Academy. I am also evaluating the possibility of a doctoral program at DU.

It was during one of these venues that I met a young lady named Chandler Proditor. She was much younger than I am, but Chandler and I hit it off quickly. We had similar interests, drive, goals in life, and I found her to be hilarious.

Grrrl power

As the months went by, I grew to love Chandler like a sister. We would chat almost every day, and the interest was quite mutual. At the time, I was dating an older gentleman named Terrance. Chandler and Terrance were in the same class and knew each other.

After a several months, I realized eventually that Terrance was not the man for me  .  Nothing particularly dramatic, just various reasons, the usual suspects, the usual baggage that middle age brings. I called a time out after about four months, and when we came back together, Terrance and I agreed that there were parts of the relationship we really liked, but that romance was out of the question.

What would it be like to love each other platonically, to look forward to the occasional coffee, to support each other’s life endeavors as heartfelt friends? Terrance was up for it, and so was I.

As I struggled to make sense of this new phase, I confided every step to Chandler. Chandler assured me that she was utterly ‘safe’, had zero interest in Terrance, and that I could confide everything to her without fear of judgement or reprisal. Beside, said Chandler, it was “Girl Code.” Best friends simply don’t date each other’s exes. Period.

Best friends, forever?

What a relief. Chandler was a completely safe haven that I could tell all of my silly middle aged  hopes and dreams to. Early  on, questions like “Maybe Terrance would work out. Maybe his issues would diminish, maybe he would accept the feelings I was developing for him, maybe his expressions of appreciation and support were genuine.” Chandler was one of the kindest, most easygoing women I knew. It was a fun, very  mutual relationship.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Chandler had been dating my soon to be ex, a month before Terrance and I decided to move into another phase. I couldn’t believe it.  Everything, every single thing she said about relationships turned out to be false. I felt the  the bitterest, most foolish kind of betrayal. What a moron I was to place my trust so easily.

Oddly, I found it hard to blame Terrance. He deserves it, as it turns out that he has Chandler convinced that starting over at midlife is a desirable thing for him.  Hoo, boy, it’s like a trite storyline to a bad chick flick. Lord, what fools we mortals be.

I confronted Chandler. I had to. Strange, because at that point, I had realized with utter certainty that being romantically linked to Terrance anymore was just some place I didn’t want to be. Some issues are too entrenched to conquer without divine intervention. Seriously. Not to say that I didn’t wish to have Terrance in my friend circle, when he’s emotionally available, he’s a great guy, and a sterling example of a good friend.

But who was this woman? Who was this person I liked to see coming? Who’s calls I looked forward to picking up?

What kind of woman says one thing to your face, and turns and does the most betraying,  damaging thing she could think of the next moment? I was simply dumbfounded. I viewed Chandler as a giver, a kindhearted soul who was good with children and small animals, and eminently trustworthy. I still can barely find the words. Everything important I believed about her was false.  Now I had the crushing burden to forgive her, or live in Anger Land forever.

Well, that depression lasted a few days, and I am over it. I am blessed with a very protective circle of friends all over the world. I relayed this story to my Chinese sister.

“Vickey, I think these are friend jerks. You need to discard them.”

“Victoria, don’t beat yourself up to much. You knew her for a few months. I had a friend in college for four YEARS who ended up sleeping with my boyfriend.”

“Vic, my good friend sc***** me over for 500 bucks. One minute I was her best friend, the next and evil b****” who wouldn’t share. People are unpredictable.”

Wow, true the last one, especially. I discovered through the loss of Chandler, that constancy is critically important to me. Chandlers excuse was that she had ‘changed’, “Terrance made her laugh” and she was ‘human’. Wow, if being a trustworthy friend is so easily discarded, what else will Chandler discard? She was actually the opposite of ‘safe’.

Losing Chandler has made me reexamine my own commitment to the character God wants us to have. It’s found it the verses describing the fruits of God’s holy spirit:

Against these things there is no law. Paul’s letter to the Galations, chapter 5, verse 22

That’s what I want to be, if that’s what will help me forgive Chandler.

Much love, Victoria

938.50$


Humans have funny traditions about grief. I mean, if you think about it, we’re the only species that acts startled when one of us dies. We moan, cry, tear our clothes, and do weird things like embalm the dead, put makeup on them,  and give them pillowed caskets as they are ‘laid to rest’. As if they care! Other species act much more rationally, from the worldly perspective. They leave their dead where they fall, or eat them.

I think we get all jumpy because at some level, we know it’s not supposed to be like this. We were created to be eternal beings, and death wasn’t part of the original plan.

I’m an unashamed Christian, and believe that my Christian mother understood this thoroughly.  When she was buried, she didn’t give two cents what we did with her. In fact, she made that clear to the rest of us in spades.

I remember one conversation I had with her at the dinner table, several years ago. She had this riotous sense of humor, and wanted to tell us about the arrangements she and Dad had made for their respective burials. She was laughing so hard, she could barely get the words out.

“Vicky, Vicky, listen to me. This is how it works for cremation. Don’t forget, I want to be cremated! And no open viewing! NONE! See, they put you in this casket, and then take you to the service in this really, really nice oak casket. MAKE SURE IT’S CLOSED! Then, you have the service, and then…..” (she starts cracking up) “… THEN! they open a trap door on the side of the casket, and slide you right out! It’s all cardboard! They put you in cardboard, and then off you go to be cremated! It’s so much cheaper! You just rent the casket, you don’t even buy it! You go get cremated in cardboard! Then they put the ashes in a nice bronze urn, and you bury that! It’s so much less expensive because the plot is so much smaller! Heeeheeeheee!”

My brother and I just looked at each other. Who was this person? Hee-hee. It was mom, a Depression era girl, who looked for a deal even in death. What a gal.

When we were making her program, we acceded to another American tradition. Some people spend money to honor people. They sent flowers, gifts, all kinds of things. It’s no use to say “No flowers, please” people will just do it anyway. So we picked the three charities that were the closest to her heart. There is a local pregnancy center, a local food bank, and a fund to educate my children than some very kind friends set up when Chris died.

We put the addresses to each of these things in the program. Boxes and boxes of cards came in, and many people made very generous donations. One, in particular, moved me so much I just had to share it with you.

Byron Post is an elderly friend of my family that lives back east. Byron has had a difficult life. He’s in his seventies now, and was declared ‘different’ by society when he was a teenager. By today’s standards, he would have received an ADD label as a child, and maybe ‘paranoid schizophrenic’ as an adult. Today, he very likely would have gotten some very helpful medicines, and had an easier time of it. In the sixties though, the mentally challenged had a very hard time.

My mother always  had a heart for the hard cases, probably because she felt so different being so poor in the Depression. She always helped Byron whenever she could. She helped him buy food, helped him go to church, helped him get and keep various low level jobs.

The card I received from Byron had this in it:

“Dear Victoria, it was a privilege to read Chris’s words in his Caring Bridge blog before he died. I am very glad that you are continuing to write in Victorias Visits. In the crises times, the mundane still has a way of pressing in. Please accept this as a hug and a token of my love for you, Chris and your mother. Love, Byron.”

Inside the card was a very carefully stapled check for nine hundred, thirty eight dollars and fifty cents, made out to me.

I had met Byron perhaps 5 times in my 47 years. Tears suddenly jumped into my eyes, and I felt very, very loved. Byron barely knew me personally, but he knew my heart intimately over this weird, new form of communication called the Internet. He had figured out how to go to the library when Chris got sick. He figured out how to get on Chris’s Caring Bridge blog. He heard me when I transitioned it to victoriasvisits.wordpress. He continued to hear me, faithfully, every week over the past year or so of posts.

But why 938.50$? Byron worked a minimum wage job at a storage facility. He didn’t have that kind of money to give away. Why not an even 900$? Why so much? I thought about it.

My mother taught me about budgeting when I was a little girl. I have saved twenty percent of my income since I have had any.

My mom was a saver, I think this came from her daddy having to shoot her pet goat to have meat for dinner one week. She worked next to her mother cleaning the local church, and any other work they could find. These things really shaped her.

She very likely imparted the same skill to Byron. 938.50$ sounded like a budgeted amount. An amount carefully set aside from a very small check, stashed away until just the right moment. This was the right moment.

I looked at Byron’s check, unsure about what to do with it. My children will receive an education, their choices are just limited with only one income. This was a huge amount for Byron. Should I keep it? I thought some more, and this mental picture came to mind.

 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Byron had shown me the best example of sacrificial love I had seen in a while. I deposited his check into the education account, and sent him a heartfelt thank you.

I thank you again, Byron, from the bottom of my heart.

Much love,

Victoria