Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Why Worry?

By: L.A. Kohl
Nov. 21, 2004(published in the Wednesday, Dec. 22 '05, edition of the “Bull’s Eye”, Vol. 1, No. 9)

My husband will soon be leaving on his sixth trip out of the country – his fourth to the country of India. He asked me, after hearing a family member voice some concerns, how I was feeling about him leaving this time. You know...things like terrorists (he’ll be near the Afghanistan border) and being in a country that doesn’t allow missionaries...aren’t those things to worry about?

I thought I’d write out my “philosophy” on that whole worry thing, so that when the time comes and he’s actually gone, I can look back and take my own advice!

I had to answer him with this question that I’ve often asked myself over the years...at what point should I start worrying? If I thought about it very much, I could worry all the time. I have a daughter who drives off into the world every day. I have another daughter with her learner’s permit, who’s just entering that whole dangerous world of driving. My husband leaves home daily to go to various job sites. He enjoys hunting and owns several guns. We own a 4-wheeler; they’re well-known for causing accidents, sometimes even fatal ones. I have a toddler son who is notorious for getting into trouble and doing things that are potentially dangerous. I could go on and on, and so could you. We all know this world is not a safe place.

So, I had to ask – do I start worrying when he gets on a plane to go to India, but not worry about him when he gets in his dinky pickup and drives 70 MPH down a highway, with other people driving even faster and only separated from him by a few feet and a yellow line? Do I worry about him being in a foreign country, but not worry about him being in the county building (which he often frequents?) Do you think people in Okalahoma City worried that morning a few years ago when their loved ones went off to the federal building? We have no guarantees in this life...I could beg my husband not to go to India because I think it’s not safe, but then he could be fatally injured in a car accident a few miles from home. I have to believe that there is a time and a season for everything – a time to live, and a time to die – and trust that when that “time to die” part of life arrives, my family, friends, and my faith will get me through it. Until then, all the worrying I might do is a waste of precious time. As the sign said at one of our local churches recently, “Worry is a waste of imagination."

The Bible is full of wisdom and advice, but one of my very favorite tidbits has always been this little portion of Matthew 6:34 (RSV) “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” It’s kind of like that old saying, “Don’t borrow trouble.” With that, I’ll conclude this little pep talk, not just for you, but for myself, and send my husband off to the other side of the world in God’s hands.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Less is More

Nov. 20, 2004
By: L.A. Kohl
(published in the Wednesday, Dec. 15 '04, edition of the “Bull’s Eye”, Vol. 1, No. 8)
With the Christmas season upon us, I was reflecting back to the day when we only had a couple of wee little girls in our family...it seems like eons ago. The oldest one was going to be two, and it was the first Christmas that she was really “getting into” the whole excitement of getting and opening presents.

We lived in a one hundred year old “fixer upper” home, and money was pretty scarce. The first present she happened to open was something very simple and practical, like a stocking hat or hairbrush - but she must of “oooed and ahhhed” over it for several minutes. She’d try it out, jump up and down in excitement, and come excitedly show it to us. It was one of those heart warming moments that parents love to experience – giving something to their child, and having them actually appreciate it! It was going so well, we wanted her to go on and open up another present.

Oh, there was more? Well, as soon as she realized that several of the gifts under the tree were for her – everything changed. Now it became a matter of ripping something open as quick as possible, and tossing it aside so she could open another one. We were so disappointed. What happened to our thankful, angelic little child who was ecstatic over one simple gift? She was suddenly gone, and a greedy toddler had taken her place.

Fast forward several years...it’s Christmas morning again, and time to see what’s in the stockings. All of the older girls dump theirs out on the floor, appraise the situation, and now they’re ready to move on to the “real” presents. But wait. The current baby of the family, who is probably about one and a half, is sitting on mom’s lap, slowly reaching in her stocking to pull out one item. We all become entranced, watching her fascination and excitement over those very simple little stocking stuffers that she insists on only bringing out one at a time. And when she finally gets the last thing out – and the big sisters are beginning to get impatient – she decides that was so much fun, she’s going to put everything back in and start over again! She would have been perfectly happy that morning to have only received a few dollars worth of stocking stuffer presents.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s just a little word of advice to parents of young children. Do yourselves and your little ones a favor, and don’t overwhelm them with lots of “stuff” for Christmas. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to provide them with all the latest and greatest toys or clothes...they won’t know that until you and society teach it to them. Children are so easily fascinated with anything new and different, but also so easily turned selfish. Less extravagance may mean more joy and contentment in the long run.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Front Porch View of Holiday Shopping

By: L.A. Kohl
Nov. 15, 2004
(published in the Wednesday, Dec. 8 2004 edition of the “Bull’s Eye”, Vol. 1, No. 7
)

Have you ever stopped to think about the development of our modern day, gigantic “department” stores, and mega size grocery stores? Few people 50 years ago would have dreamed that stores of 75,000 square feet plus would be the norm in the 21st century. There are times when I will tell you that I do NOT like these mega stores – the crowds, the long lines, the walking forever to find everything you want – it especially unnerves me when I have several children with me. But I had to do without anything even closely resembling them a few years ago, and now I think twice before complaining.

Our family spent nine weeks in northern India in 2001. We were located in a town of about 35,000 people, but not one department store. The town was in the Himalayan foothills – thus, there was only one road, and the whole town was built along that one road going UP...it stretched out for miles. If you think walking around a one-stop shop is a pain, try walking a few miles down, and back up, a 30-40 degree inclined road, going from one shop to another trying to find the items you want. We literally had shin splints the first several days! I never did find the clothing store. I found a shop or two that sold coats and sweaters, but I wanted a Punjabi suit, a traditional Indian woman’s outfit. All the other women that I met were wearing them, so I asked another westerner where she bought hers. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

“Oh,” she said, “You can’t buy them around here. Just go to a tailor’s shop, pick out a cloth you like, and he’ll measure you and make one especially to fit.”

Well, I was about seven months pregnant, so the idea of having some stranger take my measurements was just a little too intimidating for me!

The shops in this town were all very small and specialized. As I’ve already mentioned, one shop would be a tailor. Another shop would consist of someone selling stainless steel kitchen utensils. Yet another would be selling junk food – sodas, candy, chips and “biscuits” (basically little cookies.) The next shop might be selling medicines. So, if you wanted a pain reliever AND a birthday card – plan on walking to two different shops.

The one shop that we got the biggest “kick” out of was the egg store. Yes, it sold absolutely nothing but eggs, and they were all one size, one color and in one kind of package! Can you imagine a store like that in America, the land of plenty (of variety?) I checked the egg section of one of Columbia’s huge stores, and the selection is unbelievable...you can buy medium, large, extra-large or jumbo...you can buy white or brown....you can buy organic, vegetarian fed, or “never caged”...you can buy a half dozen, or a dozen, or a dozen and a half, two and a half dozen or even five dozen per box...you can even buy egg substitutes!

It’s about so much more than variety, though. During the holiday season, as you fight your way through the crowds at the mall, huge department stores, or any of the mega size grocery stores, take a moment to be thankful for the mass of abundance and diversity that surrounds you. We truly are a blessed nation. Rather than griping about having to park in the “back 40” because the parking lot is so crowded, or whining about the long lines at the check-out counters, maybe we should try to be a little more appreciative of our country’s great abundance.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Dads, girls and hunting

By: L.A. Kohl
Nov. 13, 2004
(published in the Wednesday, Dec. 1 edition of the “Bull’s Eye”, Vol. 1, No. 6
)

Opening day of deer season...up at 5 am, the smell of sausage cooking and coffee brewing...wool socks, coveralls, bright orange accessories strewn across the room. And a sleepy eyed, sixteen year old girl looking like maybe this deer hunting thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But, she enjoys doing things with her dad, and the fact that hunting is traditionally a guy thing just seems to make her more determined to go give it a try.

Back in those “B.C.” days (before children) my husband dreamed of teaching his boy(s) how to hunt, fish, wrestle, play sports, wield a hammer, use power tools, drive a tractor...and on and on it goes. When girl number one arrived, he was overjoyed that there was going to be a little replica of me around the home. Girl number two showed up less than two years later, and on and on it went until after 17 years of marriage, we were up to the score of: Girls, 6...Boys, 0. Somewhere in the midst of that, he decided that it really didn’t matter. So what if they were girls?

And so, that’s why our oldest is out hunting with her dad. That’s why, sometime within the next few days, our second oldest will also go give it a try with her dad. Our girls get their hunter safety certification long before they get their first make-up kit. Are they out to prove something to their dad? Has he made them feel like sons are more valuable, and so they have to try and somehow be the house full of “boys” that he’ll never have? I don’t think so.

I believe it’s more a matter of instilling confidence in our daughters. He’s never wanted them to feel like there are certain things they just can’t do. He lets them start running his surveying instrument when they’re tall enough to see through it. He let them chisel out joints for our timber frame home when they were only 7 or 8 years old. He knew that a serious slip of the hammer could mean a permanent gouge in our home’s interior frame – visible for all to see, for perhaps generations to come...but that’s okay. Gaining confidence in your ability to do something is more important to him than outward appearances.
And so, another year of deer season has come, and he’s once again giving his daughter an opportunity to gain some more confidence. It probably means that he won’t get a perfect, first shot at something...he’ll let her have that chance. That’s okay, because Lord willing, he’s got another 40 or 50 years to have his chance...but today, bonding with his daughter and helping her gain confidence in yet one other realm is more important.

Here’s to all the dads, uncles, brothers and grandpas out there who realize that hunting is a skill to teach, share and pass on to another generation – and not just an opportunity to get a trophy rack to hang on your wall.