Friday, July 20, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

Tomorrow my brother and his wife will pack their kids into their minivan and embark on a 4 day drive to an unknown land known as Kansas. They are, as my sister-in-law put it: trading in the ocean waves for waving wheat. Having never moved my family across the country (in fact, I have never lived outside the state of Florida), I can only imagine what kind of excitement and exhaustion and grief must accompany such an upheaval.

I'd like to think that JT and I are here to stay. His job, after all, requires an ocean and we could never handle the drama of Hawaii or California, or the temperatures of even N Carolina or Virginia. I grew up in this same town, and it only took me a year of college in Jacksonville (though I gritted it out another 2 in Gainesville) to know that this town is where I belong. Where we belong, though some might argue that Aquaman belongs more in a Scotland type of environment than in the Sunshine State.

I often find myself wanting everyone I love to belong here too. And it's frustrating, because they don't.

But I bet, even for a family that hasn't yet found their "there", that this whole move thing is pretty exciting. And pretty uncomfortable.
And if there is anything I have learned in life, it's that uncomfortable is one of the best places to be.

I have been lying in bed thinking about it a lot lately, as I drift to sleep. Some might call it morbid. But I think about how comfortable my life has been lately. How loved I feel by my family, how we have more than enough to eat, and we can buy our children toys. There are definitely hard things, but they're small in comparison to the mountains that others are facing, and that, in the past, I too have faced.

Sleepless nights with a very cuddly toddler in a comfortable bed do not compare to nights spent crying and lonely and afraid.
Frustration over my 3 year old's boundless and forceful energy and impulsive behaviors can't compete with the terror of watching a loved one battle a life threatening illness.
And wondering how we're going to save enough for retirement and college and a bigger house is nothing like wondering if you're going to be able to pay the bills tomorrow.

So I think I like to challenge myself with the reality of change, there in the comfort of my husband's arms. How would I handle it?

The kind of things that send a chill down your spine when you think of them. Maybe I just like to thrill myself with the scare. But I think what I love, even more than this, is the still small voice that whispers in my ear during those moments: "everything would be ok."

Because it would.
I so often find myself wanting to protect my children from any pain or fear or suffering in this world, but I forget the many benefits of my own journey. The loss of my brother, my mother's cancer, my difficulty fitting in in jr high school, my struggles with depression in college.

In many ways, childhood is a terribly vulnerable time. But in others, it is the best time to encounter the deepest of losses and struggles. It is a resilient time, and a simple time. And it was not the best time of my life, not by far.
The best time of my life has been coming through all of that. Looking back at the steady faith of my parents during extreme upheaval, even when I couldn't understand it. Staring at the silent sky and knowing that I wasn't alone. Running the other way and finding Open Arms behind me. Looking back and seeing one set of footprints in the sand, and knowing that they weren't mine.

Yesterday morning at our daily beach jaunt, the tide was high and the shore pound powerful. Aquaman, my cautious adventurer kept wanting to run farther and farther out into it to challenge himself. Holding his hand and relishing the moment of connectedness, I asked him if he knew what God said about rough water, and he wanted to know.

"“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  
When you pass through the waters,  I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you."
Isaiah 43:1-2

He really liked that.

I hope that he'll remember that. I pray that I'll remember that as well.
Hopefully some if it, he'll learn from our words, and our example. But true faith is not just handed down from generation to generation.  Faith comes, and is strengthened in passing through the waters, in losing control, and in finding that you never really had control anyway. But that it's better that way.

In the end, this small comfortable and beautiful town is not my home, and I don't belong here.
All of the discomforts and disappointments and terrors in this life serve to remind us of this.

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth....
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them."
Hebrews 11: 13,16

Aquaman has been asking me a lot about Heaven lately. ("How did God make ALL that carpet??" because I told him there were no skinned knees there). I've been enjoying studying about it more, so I'd be able to explain it better to him. But the best way I've been able to tell it so far is this: it's our REAL home. And there's no place like home.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." (Galatians 6:4, The Message)

This past week has marked two very momentous occasions in our family, one for each boy.
First, Aquaman finally took off and began to swim on his own.

And second, The Dude left a stinky little present in his new Cars potty.

One happened a bit later than I had originally anticipated, and one quite a bit sooner.
One was the result of years of careful practice and countless hours of acclimation. The other seemed to happen quite by accident, and a touch of good luck.
Both were equally exciting.

Watching our boys proudly entering these new stages in their own time was such a wonderful reminder of something that JT and I have been pondering a lot lately:
How beautifully different we have all been created, and how wasteful it is to make life's most precious moments a competition through comparison.

The only benefit I have found in comparison is the profound respect and awe in recognizing the intricately planned way that we have been formed by our Creator to fulfill a purpose that only we can accomplish in this world.

"For we are God's Workmanship. Created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do." -Ephesians 2:10

Oh, and one of my very favorite verses, Psalm 139:16 which is written on a frame that wraps around a photo of Aquaman at 11 weeks gestation.

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in
Your book before one of them came to be."

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others. JT, even though he is passionate and gifted in his current work, often feels the conviction that he should be wearing a suit and tie to work like his father did.
I myself wish I was more "girly", less clumsy, and not so awkward in social situations.
And, I have to admit, there have been days we've both looked in envy at friends and family whose children emerge from the womb with pleasant expressions, sleep through the night before they're 2.5, and like to sit and color for fun.

But those are only on the days that I've lost my perspective. When I really get down closer and look, all I can do is exhale praise at the perfection of His will.

"Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making
say, 'He has no hands'?"
Isaiah 45:9

JT's body was made to perform tasks that most of us could only shudder at. His heart has adapted to his level of aerobic activity so acutely by expanding and slowing that it has become significantly more efficient for his labor. And that's only physically. Most things that I take for granted have never come easily to my husband, and these have only served to widen and strengthen his metaphorical heart and his mind, making him a better husband, father, and friend.

Aquaman with his intensity and sensitivity and ability to articulate (at full volume, since the day he was born), has made me stand back in wonder at how he could have emerged from my body. He is fearful and hesitant to warm up to many things, and yet he faces them: daily, bravely and fiercely, albiet slowly. He looks often for reassurance, but is very little impressed with the feats of others as compared to himself. He does not see others as the competition (unless he is in a race, then lookout, it might get dirty). They are simply them. And he is Aquaman. Born to march through life in his own firm direction. It is a graceful dance learning to be his mother. The highly sensitive and strongly willed. I want him to have a heart that accepts counsel, but have no desire to pressure him into being like everybody else.

We are just getting to know The Dude, though his days have been planned out since the beginning of time; and have found him to be delightful and exhausting. He is tough and scrappy, and much like his father he never stops moving. Though he is not afraid of being submerged under water or falling from great heights, he has an irrational level of separation anxiety. He also has a shocking amount of grit and determination for one so small. He frequently wears a furrowed brow that can change in an instant to a grin that is capable of turning my whole day around.

And then there's me.
I can never find my car keys, my hair is always a mess, and sometimes I get really panicky about things that don't matter at all. But I am loyal and sympathetic, and quick to learn new things with my mind though not my hands. I work hard, both at work and at home, and love even harder.

And so we celebrate the victories, and the milestones, and the differences. We admire the child who faces his fears and discomforts and sets out on his own after careful practice as much as we do the toddler who, on impulse, finds success on the potty. We thank God for the CEOs and Presidents, and for the EMTs and construction workers. For the stay at home mom, and for the mom who goes to work.
So many differences, but one thing the same: In being fully who we were made to be, we bring glory to One God.