Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not My Will

It seems that one of our questions about the future was answered this week.
And while, 3 weeks ago, I was perfectly happy with this path when we had voluntarily decided it: somehow the finality of it, the reality of it, hit me harder than I expected.

At first, I didn't quite know what it was. Sensing something was wrong, JT asked me about it. And I told him: "I'm just scared about the future."
He told me I shouldn't be, and I knew he was right.
But as the evening wore on, as I slipped down the stairs to spend some time processing it all; I realized that I had misjudged my own feeling. It wasn't fear at all.
Just a deep and shockingly penetrating sadness.
The kind you feel deep into your bones, that has you looking for a chair.

Over the years, I've discovered that hearts break upwards, and you feel it mostly in your throat. Like you've swallowed something way too hot that gets stuck. So that it breaks into a million liquidy pieces and then drips out of your eyes.
That's what it feels like when your heart breaks.
And it's weird when it happens all of a sudden. When you don't even see it coming, and you're feeling pretty strong and resiliant, and optimistic. But there it is.

And there are 2 things I've learned about dealing with a broken heart.
1) Let it fully break.
Don't try to somehow stop the bleeding. Don't distract yourself or minimize your feelings, or get falsely Pollyanna about things.
2) Once it's broken- once you're in a shattered heap and wondering what you're going to do:

Get up.

And there's only one way I've found to get up in these instances.
Last night, coming to the end of the first stage, letting my sadness collide with my body, I looked up and said: "God? I'm just so, so sad."
I could see myself curled up in a ball on the bed. Feeling small and helpless and utterly at the end of myself.
And then I saw Him reach down, with both hands. and He didn't yell at me to get up and stop feeling sorry for myself. Didn't demand to know where my faith had gone.
He just held me and said these words, and He said them in a way that I could feel His own heart breaking:

"Oh, if only you could see. If you could just see what I see."

And I got up.

I know that sometimes God's will doesn't seem to make any sense, and sometimes it shatters our entire perception of who we thought we were, and the life we thought we were made to live.

I also know that not everything that happens in our lives is the will of God.
We do live, after all, in a world enslaved to sin, surrounded by people (not to mention ourselves) with a free will to do the wrong things as much as, or more than, we do the right.

And so, of course, I remember Romans 8:28
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
All things. Even the things that don't make any sense, and seem very unfair.
Even the things that break out hearts.

And often, I am reminded of Joseph. The wrong choices started with his father picking favorites (sin), and then Joseph rubbed it in a little (more sin), and then his brothers faked his death and sold him as a slave (wow, that was a big sin).
And, long story short, when Joseph meets up with his brothers later, this is what he says to them:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." -Genesis 50:20

Sometimes, that story is a great encouragement to me. And sometimes I still hate it.
Because, I think, "Well, I never asked to save any lives. I never even asked for that fancy coat. I just wanted to live my quiet little life."
Be honest, we all feel that way sometimes.

Sometimes we don't want to be anything special. Sometimes we just want to fly along under the radar and just be comfortable instead.

Some things that happen are clearly the result of sin in this world, and not the will of God.

And some things that happen are God's provision for a future that we just can't see yet.

I still don't know what God is doing here. And there's still something hollow or heavy close by that's slowing me down a little bit.
But I found great hope in His words to me.

Oh, if only I could see.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
-Hebrews 11:1

For now, it remains unseen. And there's a reason for that too. A growing and deepening that I wouldn't want to be denied.

It's hard, I'm not going to lie. It's really really hard.
But sometimes life is that way. And we just get up, and keep going. We hand it over because it's too big and too heart-breaking. We take all of our pre-concieved notions and cultural, even "Christian" cultural ideals, and we lay it at the feet of the God who IS working in this messed up, beautiful world.

Your will, not mine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This Old House

To the many many people who have been and will be traipsing through my parents' house over the next few weeks:

You need to know that this is not just a house. This was my very first home.

This was the place that my sisters and brothers ate a cake that said "8 is enough", but God knew that 8 was not enough.

That pool is where I learned how to swim, fully clothed, as a 1 year old. And I hated it.
It's the pool that I slipped into as a very small child, and one of my few memories of my oldest brother was him jumping in to get me, with all of his clothes on. I still remember the way his wallet looked, drying in the sun. And thinking how he must have loved me.

It's the pool that I spent many summers playing Marco Polo and Toothpaste and Colored Eggs in with my siblings and friends. The same patio where I read all of those library books out in the sun. And where I dipped both of my newborn sons' feet into wet concrete stepping stones...which are out on the grass by the swing next to their cousins', who endured the same rite of passage.

In the living room is where all of my friends would come to hang out in high school. Because my parents never minded the noise or the chaos or the mess (or at least did a really good job pretending they didn't). It was a place where we could be ourselves even when the world had so many other agendas for us. A place of 24 hour "parties", board games, and foosball tournaments.

You're noticing the outdated wood paneling, but all I see are the senior pictures of all 9 of us, side by side.
And all I remember is the laughter and the noise and the knowing that I was a part of something really special.

Of course you'll notice the narrow hallway, and you won't be able to miss the hundreds and hundreds of pictures from the past 30 years. But you'll never capture the feeling of my feet not touching the ground as I ran down it to tell my parents that my twin sister wanted to ask Jesus to come into her heart.

You'll never hear the bizarre mix of middle school clarinet, trumpet and (just as often as not) trombone floating down it.

You might just see a bedroom, but I see the place where I sat close to my mother, late one night at about 8 years old when she had cancer, and told her I was afraid she was going to die. And I can still hear her saying: "Don't you think I'd tell you if I was going to die? I am going to be ok."

I believed her, and she was right.

All you see is a big driveway, with plenty of room for your fancy cars, but I see the day that my family's lives changed forever when I was a preschooler. I see a policeman with no hair who wouldn't let me see my mom, and all of my brothers and sisters crying. I see my older sister P, letting me in her room and hugging me and telling me that everything was going to be ok, and thinking for the first time that it might not really be true. I see my big brother never coming home again.

But mostly, I see roller skates, and impromptu reunions, and hosing off after the beach. I see my boys growing up from the baby swing to the big one. See Noni and Papa, Mom and Dad, and the security of their love that showed me that no matter what changes, some things always stay the same.

I know you think you're just buying a house, but you're not. You're not just buying 4 walls and a big yard and a screened in patio. You're buying the place where we made a million memories. A place that is a part of all of us, somewhere deep inside that we can't always get to.

It is the place where we laughed and cried and dreamed and agonized. Sometimes by ourselves, but mostly together. It is the place where I learned that it is ok to be weak. And that in our weakness, God comes through stronger than ever. My family isn't perfect, and that is the greatest gift they could ever have given me. Because I've learned that I don't have to be perfect either. And that it is in our imperfections that our hearts are tenderized, humbled, and made ready to do more. To be more.


I'm sure you'll take out those old vinyl floors that have been tracked on by countless dogs, cats, toddlers and teenagers. But I hope you never forget that new tile and upgraded cabinets are only very temporary. The things that last forever aren't things at all. They're love and life and giving of ourselves.

Give.

It's the biggest thing I've learned here.
I've learned that if you let God lead you, you might have one (or two!) surprises. And your stuff might not always be nice. And you might get tired...a lot.
But when it's time to leave, when you're there where my parents are now, you'll be able to say, without any question: I'd do it all over again. You'll be able to believe that your life here in this house mattered. That you made a world of difference to so many many lives.

Somehow,  I don't think that this is the last I'll be seeing of this house. I have a feeling that one of those mansions Jesus said He was preparing for us, is going to look an awful lot like my childhood home. And we'll have the best reunion yet there. D will be there. And mom will be running circles around us like she always did. And all those things that never made sense before will be crystal clear.

But, for now, as you walk through a drawn out moment in time, I hope you smile at the possibilities. I hope that you don't let this house- or life- pass you by. Hope that you open your hand and let God fill it with all the wonderful, impossible plans that He has for you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Looming Horizons

Church is over (and The Dude only had one time out for pulling another toddler's hair), lunch is finished and cleaned up. The washer and the dishwasher are both faithfully running. The boys are quietly playing in the sand in the courtyard, and I am finally taking a moment to write.
At the moment I feel like one of those mothers. You know the kind. The kind that has everything under control and running smoothly. Whose children play kindly with each other, and take turns and don't scream and throw sand. You know, the kind that doesn't actually exist.
I feel like one of those mothers until The Dude comes racing in, covered from head to toe with sand. Even in his mouth and ears. He rejects my washcloth. He screams. Bangs his head on the floor. Then happily joins Aquaman to play with the Leap pad.
Until he decides to steal it again.

I haven't taken much time to write lately, because I haven't really known what I'd say.

Life is running along pretty smoothly. JT has been in Indiana for his great aunt's funeral the past 3 days, and to help clean out her house. I've had a nagging headache most of the weekend. But it's been surprisingly easy. The kids have cooperated about as much as usual. They've been ok with the occasional phone call. They've gone to bed maybe even easier than they usually do. It  makes me sad, really. That everything can run so smoothly, and even feel mostly normal without JT here. After all, he would have been working all weekend anyway.

The Dude has just joined me at the computer, to pronounce his desire to regain control of the Leap Pad. "HAB it!" He demands. "I scream in your ear!"

*sigh*
Who can blame him, really? We all want our own way. Want to have our turn all the time. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?...You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."
James 4:1,3
It's friendship with the world. Because friendship with God results in humility, not pride. It's pride that thinks we deserve the turn all of the time.
And humility, I have often found, is the direct result of gratitude.
Change has been looming in our family's horizon for a while now. And I vascillate between total contentment and peace, to excitement over new adventures, to terror of the unknown, to a deep and throbbing depression.
What I keep forgetting is that change is always looming in the near future. For everybody. Not one of us can take for granted that the way things are today will be the same way tomorrow.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."
James 4: 13-14
So today, I am remembering to be thankful for life. And for the God who is with us through it. Even when it never seems to be our turn. Or when the uncertainties of the future seem too daunting. I've been spending a lot of time in Psalms lately. There is great comfort for me there.  Hearing the desperate words of David, whom God called "a man after His own heart." That God does not condemn my insecurities, but rests His hands on my shoulders.
 
"Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass....The steps of a good man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand."
Psalm 37: 3,4,5,23,24
I will fall. And I'm afraid of falling. Afraid of failing, even though it brings me ever closer to His strength.
Despite the uneasy feeling that has been resting lately in my heart, I have been enjoying my children more lately. I feel less overwhelmed and less driven to accomplish. I feel utterly astonished and awed by God's creation in them, and the honor that it is to be a part of their lives. To write a line, or be an undertone in their story.
I'm not
a mother who resents being told by the wistful older lady at the store to "enjoy this time". She often expresses, at the same time: "I didn't enjoy it enough." (And most of the time I'm just grateful that she's not one of those older ladies giving me disapproving glances, who obviously doesn't remember a THING about this stage in a mother's life)
I don't resent it, because I know it IS true, and because, when I get to HER stage in my life, I don't want to have to say the same thing to a young girl pushing a noisy, runny nosed brood in a grocery cart.
I want to be able to look back and truly say: "I made the most of that time. I invested in my children. I spent time with them. I played with them, taught them, held them, and loved them. I enjoyed them. Even when all the days were running together, and my eyes were weary with lack of sleep, and I wondered if what I was doing even mattered at all."
It does. I can see it in those eyes, and in their faces.
And I'm grateful.
 
For moments in time. Toothy grins. Warm hugs.
But mostly for certainty in the uncertainty. Sunshine in my heart even when the clouds are passing. Because that is what they're doing. Just passing.

I'm thankful for another day to be married to my husband and share in his life, even if I don't get to see him as often as I'd like.
Because each moment is a gift, and there is no guarantee of these moments tomorrow.
I'm thankful that this isn't all there is. That it's a shadow of what's to come. And when I put it that way, I can barely contain my excitement.
Because as hard as all of this is, it's also really really good. And it's nothing compared to what's to come. Nothing.

Looming horizons. Beautiful sunsets. Dark and cold nights. But always followed by that streak of pink. That little speck of hope that means morning is coming.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plans

"We plan, God laughs." -Yiddish Proverb
 
Usually on my work lunch break, which is 30 minutes, I end up running errands. Since it's so much easier to run around without children, I visit the Super Wal-Mart a lot. The bank. The post office. Every once in a while, there won't be anything pressing to do, and I'll go to the park and take a walk. Do a little praying. Enjoying the quiet, and the wind rustling the trees and sound of my own footsteps.
Lately, I've been doing a lot of walking at work, though. And even more at night. The Dude is fully night weaned. He nurses maybe 5 minutes total during the day sometimes, since he just wants to, and I don't mind. But at night, he is weaned. And he's sleeping longer stretches now. He wakes sometimes 1 time per night now instead of 5-6. It's a big improvement, except it's just as exhausting.
Now that he is sleeping so much at night, he doesn't seem to need as much time in bed. He goes to bed much later, wakes earlier, and takes forever to put to sleep.
He's still not terribly pleased about this whole weaning thing either, so if he's not completely exhausted at bedtime, and I am trying to rock him, he spends a lot of time screaming.
 
So it's easier to take an evening walk.
And yesterday, as my lunch break approached, and I realized I had absolutely nothing I had to do, and my feet hurt too much to take a walk, I found myself at the park anyway. Sitting under a tree, looking out over the pond on a very windy afternoon, and talking to God. Listening to Him laugh.
He wasn't laughing at me, exactly. I don't think He does that.


Except maybe to teach me to lighten up a little sometimes.
  To get me to look at the other side of things, and realize- it's ok to make plans. And that maybe sometimes He leads us to make plans just to see if we're ready to let go of something that's really really important to us.
Or maybe He even leads us to make plans just to see how flexible we will be about dropping them.
I looked out over that water, sitting there in the springtime grass with my let-down hair swirling around my face and I talked to Him about tomorrow.
And I told Him that I'm not afraid of it.
And for the first time in a long time, I knew that I meant it.
I was looking back at some old blog posts from right around the turn of the year. It's like I knew what this year would hold. I guess in some ways I did, but I don't think I really knew. God prepares our hearts, but sometimes our responses are still surprising.

"Forget the former things, do not dwell upon the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland."
-Isaiah 43: 18-19

God gave me that verse as the year began, but I didn't realize until yesterday how much I would need it.
It's not just the chubby baby cheeks and the rocking and the "firsts" that we hold onto.
Sometimes the things of the past that we can't forget are things are like: failure, and disappointment, struggle, and fear.
Sometimes, don't we just settle in to the wasteland, and get comfortable in it? Accept it as the new normal? Try to work our lives around it?

God is wanting to do a new thing.
I do perceive it.
But, for now, I am done trying to anticipate it and figure out the details.

The wind was blowing hard at the park yesterday. Whipping the waters of the pond up into quite a frenzy and a current. The clouds were moving, the waters were moving.

Like life.

Like change.
But I was just sitting there in the grass, watching it go by.
Watching the little bird that hopped among the purple flowers that reminded me of my little red haired boy, and how he must already know he's royalty.
And reminded me of how "if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" (Luke 12:28)
 
Thinking how it's not my job to make a plan for how I'll navigate that fast-moving pond.
It's just my job to sit and wait for God to go sailing by on some rickety-looking wooden raft, and offer me a hand.
 
And all I have to do is take it.
 
I'm excited about hopping on to that raft. Because if He's there, it's going to be a wild ride. It's going to be an amazing ride. I'm grateful to be hopping on to that raft with the man God made for me before I was even born. The man whose heart is even bigger than his muscles. With two boys who exhaust and thrill me daily.
 
 I don't know why I have been given so much. Except that, like everything, it's not really about me. It's because our God- the God who made these waters, the swaying grass, the hopping birds, the swiftly moving clouds, and this man and these boys whose hands I am blessed to hold- is a God of details, and wonder and intricate imagionations.
 
Where are we going? I have no idea. How will we get there? We'll have to see.
All I know is, it's going to be a beautiful ride.