Archive for December, 2010

“When the lights go down in the city…”

Posted in NonFiction on December 6, 2010 by alysonnschmidt

I can’t remember the first time I spent the weekend at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Perhaps I was four?  Five?  Old enough to sleep in the four-poster twin among the tiny blue paper flowers peeling from the walls in gradual curls.  This was before the two extra rooms were built onto the kitchen for Great-Grandma to move in, and before they chopped down the apple and pear trees in the far corner of the backyard.

Matthew, of course, being the firstborn, had slept in this very bed many times before.  I wonder if he also began on his back, eyes wide, clutching the flowered quilt under his chin as if it could save him from the heavy darkness.  He never voiced his fears.

The nightlight was worse though.  Instead of providing a false sense of safety, as it was intended to do, the amber ring of light illuminating the wallpaper cut through the pitch and allowed foreign shadows to gyrate across the room.  I had to wait until the symmetrical spotlights crossed over the wall opposite the window — which was above my head — then pass over to the adjacent wall as the latest car drove by the house before I felt safe again.  Sometimes I talked to Jesus until my eyelids dropped, and sometimes I sang myself to sleep.

My older brother and I shared a bedroom at home because our family of four recently became five, but the house only had three bedrooms.  There was no way either of us was going to sleep in the same room as crying baby Jakob.  My pink canopy bed sat parallel to the far wall, and Matthew’s queen, which was closer to the ground, was parallel to mine with a three or four foot gap in between.  We must have thought Mom and Dad couldn’t hear us once they said goodnight and left the room because we threw off our covers and hopped from one bed to the other, giggling like mischievous leap frogs until one of our parents came back into the room and demanded we go to sleep.  Other times Matthew and I made up conversations about nothing in particular or we traded stuffed animals, which were to us like the blanket to Linus in Charlie Brown.  He gave me his favorite Dalmatian dog, and I let him sleep with my bear for the night.  There was no nightlight in our room, but I do remember the moon shining through the window would cast a silver shadow on the end of Matthew’s bed.

Only one night at that house on Rickard Drive really sticks out in my mind.  I like to think it’s because Matthew was there with me, but maybe that’s just me romanticizing my older brother.  He couldn’t have been more than eight, which makes me six, the night the lights went out in Oswego, Illinois.  We might have been watching TV, or eating dinner, or maybe we were doing both at the same time as was the tradition at Grandma and Grandpa’s because we weren’t allowed to at home.  Whatever we were doing, though, all activity stopped when the lights flickered then went out.  Complete darkness.  Rain beat down on the roof as the wind whistled through unseen cracks in the windows and doors.

I helped Grandma light every candle we could find as the boys went in search of a high-powered flashlight, but I wasn’t scared of the dark.  I wasn’t even scared of the impending shadows.  Matthew was nearby.  With the flashlight, Grandpa also brought a 5-gallon bucket full of water up from the basement like a magician pulling a white rabbit from his hat.  I never did find out where the water came from, and neither Matthew or Grandpa explained.  I suppose Grandma knew, but I never thought to ask.  Somehow we passed the time, not knowing what time it really was, and I stuck to Matthew like gum on a shoe.  He didn’t try to scrape me off.  If I annoyed him that night, he never complained, so I soaked up his comfort to keep the shadows at bay.

I asked him once if he was ever afraid that night in the candle-lit dark.  He looked at me the same way he had when I backed into his new motorcycle and sent it crashing into the door of his Cadillac.  “What are you talking about?”


Perspective is a lovely hand to hold

Posted in Uncategorized on December 6, 2010 by alysonnschmidt

We all do stupid things.  Such is the way of the human race.  Sometimes it’s in the privacy of our own homes where no one is there to judge but God and ourselves.  But sometimes our screw-ups are very public and maybe even a little dangerous….especially for those of us who have a tendency to be a show-off.  Yes, I am talking about myself right now.  I’ll admit it; I like attention and I can be reckless.  However, I also have the most guilty of consciences to the point that I can beat myself up all on my own without someone pointing out (and/or judging) my flaws and missteps.

I’m not talking about personality quirks that might get on someone’s nerves but are, in the end, harmless.  Leaving dirty underwear on the bedroom floor that your dog unabashedly rolls in or listening to music a little too loud in the house is just part of learning to live with other people.  I’d even go so far as to say that people who incessantly complain about those types of mistakes need to get a life because they are probably just as quirky!  When I say screw-ups, I mean:
-betraying the confidence of a friend
-cheating on your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse
-cutting off a friend while driving because you’re trying to show-off for some dumb and reckless reason
-lying to avoid punishment
-breaking promises
-playing pranks on someone who doesn’t think it’s all that funny
-verbally slamming another person just to build yourself up
-having sex outside of marriage
-arguing with our parents/siblings simply because we disagree with their guidance, advice and/or opinions
This list is by no means exhaustive.  I’m sure we could all add much more to it, but rehashing past wrongs is not what I’m doing here.  Notice these are just momentary lapses in judgment; impulsive decisions that hurt those we love, whether it was intentional or not.  And we are all guilty.

So why do we judge each other?

If I can be completely honest for just a moment….most of the things on that list come from personal experience (or should I say personal failings).  And it scares me to death that there are kids and young adults in my sphere of influence that view me as some sort of role model.  What are they going to think when they see me, a person they want to trust and imitate (though I don’t know why), stumble and fall flat on my face?  Especially when my own peers just love to broadcast my flaws.  But for what?  To take the eyes off their own failures?  For personal gratification?  Just because they need something or someone to complain about?  Let me tell you, no one likes a tattle-tale or a complainer!

Instead of being judgmental, let’s try love.  That’s not to say we should gloss over everyone’s mistakes and mess-ups and pretend like everything is okay because it’s probably not.  If you’ve been hurt by a friend, don’t keep it to yourself and harbor bitterness or go spreading lies and rumors about the person based off one error in their judgment.  Maybe they didn’t even know they hurt you by their actions.  Maybe they’ve already realized their mistake, learned from it, and will (hopefully) not repeat it.  Instead, check yourself to make sure you’re not just getting worked up over nothing.  Then pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words.  Finally, tell your friend how they hurt you — not with a voice laced in anger and haughtiness — but in a private setting in which you both can be sincere with your words and genuine with your emotions.

Generally, throwing out “you did this” and “you did that” and “you”, “you”, “you” will make the other person defensive to the point they can internally justify their actions because now you’re being the jerk.  That’s not talking.  That’s placing blame.  And in doing so, the accused will be even more alert to all of your flaws, and eager to draw them out, because all of us have skeletons in our closets capable of vindicating the wrongs of those we point the finger at.  “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  As fallen, sinful humans we have no right to play God, who is so holy and perfect that He had to die in order to save us from eternal damnation.

God is as just as He is loving, and there will be consequences to our actions against one another whether they be immediate and clearly seen or delayed until we’re standing before Him.  So I say, let’s not focus on each others’ faults and screw-ups, but rather on who we are in Christ.  Romans 8 and Ephesians 2 state it much more clearly than I ever could.  Please read those passages, if nothing else.  Christ forgave the world of our heinous sins by dying on a cross and rising from the dead in order that we can and should forgive each other, too (Colossians 3:12-17).  I pray that we strive to be more Christ-like everyday.


“And you can’t see past the blood on my hands/To see that you’ve been aptly damned to fail and fail again/Cause we’re all guilty of the same things/We think the thoughts whether or not we see them through/And I know that I have been forgiven/I just hope you can forgive me too….” –Relient K, “Forgiven”