Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Karen the Grinchoween

So last week was Halloween. When I was little, I enjoyed trick-or-treating along with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood and school. I had a costume every year (although it wasn't anything elaborate like what we have nowadays), and I went out with my friends and went door to door in our neighborhoods. It was a careless time, and I didn't really think about it more than an excuse to get a lot of candy.

When our church started to put on alternative candy-centered events on the last day of October, I wasn't sure what to think of it. When I was in college it seemed like just another thing that would take my free time away. Of course who knows what else I'd be doing instead of that. Trick or treating? Hah! But it did get me to start thinking about the meaning of the holiday, and whether or not I wanted to encourage participation in it.

When we had kids, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the holiday either. We got costumes for the girls and took them around the neighborhood, but mostly just to show off how cute they were, especially in their costumes. Whether or not we got candy I could have cared less. Actually I think I would have preferred that the girls didn't get candy at all.

When Elizabeth got diagnosed with her tree nut allergy, it really changed candy and chocolate in our house. Suddenly I had to be careful with everything that she was about to eat. It got to be way too much to handle the first few years of elementary school, reading all the labels, looking up the candy manufacturers' websites, and calling them up and finding out whether or not the candy was made in what we call a "nutty facility."

So last year, we decided to go candy shopping and just do away with the whole Halloween idea. Sure, it's hard to get away from it because the elementary schools really seem to relish pushing the holiday on the kids. Many of the kindergarten homework assignments during the month of October involve costumes, jack-o-lanterns, etc. There's also a costume parade on the morning of the 31st, when all the kids, K thru 8, march around the school wearing their costumes.

But we were able to pull it off not only last year, but also this year.

Last year, we left for Hawaii on my mom's birthday, November 6. We decided to take my parents out for dinner to celebrate her birthday the week before, which happens to be October 31, which also happened to fall on a weekend. So we vacated the house, took my parents out to dinner, and then went to Target to buy candy for the kids. I told them to pick out whatever they wanted, and so they each picked a two-pack of ring pops and were so excited about how they could get whatever candy they wanted. We took it back to my parents' house, and I let the girls gorge on as much ring pops and M&Ms (courtesy of my parents) as they wanted that night. No complaints from anybody.

This year we didn't have to take my parents out on Halloween (we ended up doing it the day before her birthday this year), but we did end up running an errand right before dinner right next to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. So we had sushi for dinner, and then went to Target to pick out candy, and then ToysRUs to use up a couple of gift cards the girls had received for their birthdays earlier this year. The girls picked out sugar free gum. No complaints from anybody again.

I think we've got a successful tradition going on. I've decided I've got a disdain for cheap candy, commercialized costumes and goblins and stuff. The girls told everyone what a fun evening they had the next day and I don’t think they felt deprived. We didnt have to deal with any candy we don’t like, and better yet, we don’t have to deal with any allergens.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Matt Redman wrote a song whose lyrics include these lines:

Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be your name.

A few weeks ago I've been hearing this song a lot. And frankly, it's scaring the snot out of me. I've been noticing the lyrics in this song I've been hearing at church, juxtaposed with the melody that is invariably cheerful.

Can I really honestly choose to say "blessed be the name of the Lord" when darkness closes in and what is given is taken away? It brings me positively to tears. How can I handle that when all that is in me, although I know what is the correct response, would want to scream, rebel, and throw a massive tantrum? It's so easy to be thankful when things are easy, and blessings are added to blessings. It's so easy to bless the name of the Lord when there is nothing to cry about. How selfish am I?

I pray that the land is always plentiful, streams of abundance always flow, the desert place and wilderness are nowhere near me, the sun's always shining down on me, the world's all as it should be, the road is not marked with suffering, and that there is no pain in sacrifice. However, I know that life is not this way, and that despite my prayers, life will never always be a charmed bed of roses. And because of that, I must also pray that I will be strong enough to remember to bless the name of the Lord even then. The thought scares me, but I must be prepared. Right?