The Hurt That’s Good

As hard as it is to say this, today has been a rough day for me. Why? Ha! I wish I could give you a list of tear-worthy reasons, but I can’t. There has been a series of minor disappointments and irritating challenges over the past couple of days that finally got me down, but that’s it. Petty. Very petty. As I whimpered and whined through my day, all I could see was a grown up version of my two-year-old throwing a tantrum.  That hurt.

At one point in my vent, my son said, “You can talk to me, Mama.”  This came only a few short hours after he did his routine morning inquiry of, “Are you feeling better today? You’re not dizzy or sad or ti-word, Mama?” These precious words from my child are blunt confrontations of the example I am setting for the eyes that are upon me. That kind of hurts too.

When these moods hit me, for whatever reason, I always feel on the outside of all that is worthwhile. I hear my kids singing, laughing and cooing;  I can feel the comforting hand of my husband on my shoulder as he tries to encourage me and solve my problems; I can sense the passing of the day – the only day I am guaranteed to live with my loved ones – and yet I’m not a part of it. That really hurts!

In the midst of all my needless sorrow, I received a refreshing phone call from a precious friend.  She reminded me of God’s goodness and sovereignty. It is very true that “all things work together for good for those who are called…” and today falls under the heading of ALL.  I needed all of these hurts because that’s one way the pruning and refining of my character happens. I need to see that I don’t handle disappointment or alterations to my plans all that well. It’s necessary for me to be convicted of my weaknesses in order to help my children through their own. I cannot turn a blind eye to the impact that my sinfulness has on my family.  This kind of hurt is humbling and drives home the important lesson that I don’t have it all together, but I have a Savior who most certainly does.

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This Is my Father’s World

A couple of months ago, right around the time we found out that we were moving, I was gazing out my bedroom window. It was my favorite view from our apartment because it reminded me of the wilds of Middle Earth: moss-covered crags sweeping down into a valley filled with multi-colored trees; leaves ballet-dancing to the ground while the sunlight glittered across their surfaces. I could count on this view at any time throughout the day.  Initially I was mourning the impending loss of such a view and then a thought tiptoed across my mind: “My heavenly Father created this entire world. No matter where I go I will find beauty that I can enjoy because it is all His. I can be at home wherever I live.”

Today I am recalling this memory because I have begun finding that beauty just a few short days into our journey away from the Islands. We are currently residing on a sprawling ranch; it’s a breezy day with many rich scents riding the currents of the wind. I can’t help but bask in it. Twinges of excitement tickle my spine as I think of the enchanting sights, delicious food and tantalizing smells that are waiting for us on our upcoming road trip to the next destination.  In my quiet moments, I was reminded that I have always wanted to explore these great United States and now that very request is being granted. This opportunity is truly a gift from the God who loves me.

It goes without saying that I am homesick; if I could have one wish it would be to do all of my traveling with every single one of the people I love right beside me. Unfortunately, some wishes can’t come true; however, I am going to do my very best to share my journeys, adventures and thoughts with my faithful readership so that you can be a part of it all as much as possible. After all, every Hobbit needs a friend when setting off on the road through Middle Earth.

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Life in Boxes

They came and took it all away. The books and bookshelves; the pictures on the walls and the photo albums in the corner; the dishes, the decorations, and the dining table; the toys from the nursery, the clothes in the closets, and the cat tree in the hallway; the cedar chest with all of my childhood keepsakes, my wedding dress, and the boxes of cards and letters that I have collected through the years.  My life was packed into boxes, carried down 3 flights of stairs, loaded into crates, and is headed across the ocean to my new home.

It’s an eerie feeling to see all of your most treasured possessions wrapped up in brown paper and carried away. I couldn’t help but think about the Oregon Trail strewn with the belongings of settlers headed to new territory, symbols of desperate attempts to hold on to the hope of surviving.  As that fleeting thought crossed my mind I wondered why my bare apartment was creating such bleak images in my head.  I want to embrace the change, seize this opportunity for continued growth, and be thrilled by the adventure – what is holding me back?

I pondered and pondered over the weekend: as my neighbor vacuumed my floors at 9:00pm so that I could set up my kids’ beds; as I was surrounded by loving friends and family at a surprise farewell party; as I soaked in the natural beauty of the valley where I’ve lived for my entire married life; as I took my final communion at the church in which I was raised.  Finally I realized that my pain comes from leaving the place where I know I’ve lived well. I have an established community, a respected reputation, and a history. Now I’m going to some place I have never been where I will need to build a life from scratch among people I have never met. It’s daunting and I don’t know if I can do it.

It’s true that it’s not going to be easy. Yet instead of focusing on the life that is in those boxes and brown paper crossing the ocean I need to focus on what didn’t go into them: the friends who loaned us their car for 6 weeks; the friend who spent nearly 3 hours helping me stage for the movers and made me laugh through my tears; the friends who text me on a daily basis with Bible verses, prayers, and words of support; my dedicated family who answers our calls at every hour of the day and night; my brave husband and adorable kids who will become my world more than ever before; and me – yes, me! This move is an opportunity for me to discover how much grit and courage lies within me.  The Lord has begun a good work in me and He promises to be faithful to finish it. I think that when I’m unpacking those boxes I will be doing so with a fresh perspective. I think that it won’t be so much unpacking my life as it will be unpacking reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past and knowing that it will continue wherever I go.

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Just Let Go

It’s Good Friday. I was prevented from attending our church’s service tonight despite having planned on going all week. The heavy weather, grouchy kids, and that bitter disappointment worked together to bring my spirits quite low…the tear-filled kind of low.  Sometimes I feel like I’m always having to let go: of my plans, my free time, my personal space, my rest. Moving is taking me to an entirely new level of letting go, a cutting deeper kind of letting go: of my family, my friends, my home state, all that is familiar. I don’t like it. I find it scary. I think I am frightened of what will prove to be lasting; perhaps every thing that I thought was strong and unbreakable won’t be. What will be left? And if it is all so transient, what does that say about me? Am I so insignificant that the memory I leave behind will be as permanent as a footprint on the sand? Have I invested and committed and encouraged and been vulnerable only to be forgotten?

It’s almost humorous how moving can inspire such introspection. Or maybe it’s just that first move away from home. But as I sat and pondered all of these thoughts in my little reading corner tonight, nursing my baby before putting her to bed, I recalled a recent comment my mom made to me: “Can you believe that these are YOUR children? They aren’t your baby dolls or other people’s kids or your students. They are YOUR children.” I brought myself back from all that introspecting and settled my mind back into my living room. The baby locked her eyes on me and started cooing one of her most fervent little melodies; the oldest actually got excited that his little sidekick sister wanted to play cars with him (miracles do happen!!) and she was trying hard to not bug him (too much). It filled my heart to have them all around me, so content, and to have an unread book just within reach. And then a flood of little thoughts surged through my memory: my son rushing into the kitchen to detail his sister’s food falling to the ground and how the dog ate it up; the 18-month old’s upturned face and puckered lips offering kisses before the bedtime story; her instant urge to climb into the empty suitcase; his clever idea of making a road for his cars out of plastic lids; the deep adoration they have for their baby sister and their enthusiasm over her every coo, smile, and cry.  I have a treasure trove of little memories like that.

These little individuals are the people with whom I can be real, invest in, pour into, and to whom I can promise to remember forever.  However, this will require me to let go once again, but this time it will be the letting go of the instinct to hold back. Moments before I gave birth to my little Joy, I realized that I hadn’t given all I had to pushing because I was still concerned about how it might look to the other people in the room. I suddenly didn’t care anymore and mentally yelled, “Just let go!” And with that I pushed my little daughter into the world. THAT’S the kind of fervor with which I want to raise my children, love my husband, and live for Jesus.  I no longer want to worry about how embracing the adventure of life will make me look to those around me; and I certainly don’t want to hide from my own potential.  To love them in the way they need it the most I need to be the authentic me and that’s who I am on my way to meeting when I move away from home.

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Grace to Understand

As my readership knows, this is a particularly challenging season for me.  There’s the new baby, the adjustment from two children to three, the teething, the potty-training, the sibling squabbles and the sibling love…oh! yes! and a move!  I have certainly shed my share of tears and bombarded my husband with a torrent of nonsensical descriptions of my day as soon as he walked through the door.  But in the midst of the tumult I have had a handful of God-given pauses.  In those pauses, life seemed to switch to slow motion and my mind finally grasped  spiritual truths for which it had long reached.

One of those truths involves relationships. I have been agonizing over the people I am leaving behind when I move. I want to know that they won’t forget me or I them. I want to know that our bond will only be strengthened across the miles, not weakened.  And then suddenly it dawned on me: as long as I care for these people and do what I can to stay close, I can trust them to reach back and express their love in the ways they do best. That’s what it means to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  For too long I have tried to force people to live and love the way I do because that’s what I understand best; I now realize that I can rest in my own living and loving, knowing that the differences are good. Understanding my uniqueness is allowing me to understand the uniqueness of my family and friends and embrace it.

This may seem like a very small truth in a very big world, but it has brought me great peace. I appreciate the close presence of God that I felt as I suddenly grasped the relevancy of His Word in this unsettled time.  Perhaps now I am more prepared to meet new people and establish new relationships because I understand that doing so does not mean I am relinquishing the ones I leave behind – as I have long assumed. Perhaps my new connections will further enrich the friendships that are, in fact, not being left behind; rather, they are all coming with me.  Perhaps the world really isn’t so big after all.

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Until the Last Minute

We are going to be moving soon, and as I wait on the timeline to fall into place I find myself pondering and processing the closing of this particular chapter of  my life. I want to stock up on fond memories; take pictures of the most mundane portions of daily life; and determine which items are the most precious and must be packed in my suitcase. Then I started to consider the why behind my frantic attempts to find peace in my departure. I found three reasons.

Insecurity.  I collect precious memories and items with the assumption that if I hold tightly to them I am going to be ready for tomorrow: these treasures of mine are assurances that I do matter to the people I leave behind and that they won’t forget about me. I am fearful that I won’t be happy in my future, but I can always draw up my stored happiness around me like a cozy blanket and feel comforted by that.

Denial. At the same time that I am busy gathering a stockpile of memories, I am also attempting to not think about the approaching change. I am trying to maintain my peaceful routines, to sift through my belongings as if I’m only doing spring cleaning rather than preparing to pack, to simply have fun with my favorite people. And then I remember and cry myself to sleep at night.

Regret. Those bedtime tears are often tears of regret. I had nearly a lifetime to spend meaningful time with my loved ones and now I’m trying to cram that lifetime into less than 2 months. I spent a beautiful morning at the beach with my mom and sister yesterday – the first time we have ever done that despite my mom’s persistent request for it over the years. My mom was right! It was just what we all needed. Why did we wait so long?  I don’t want my regret to multiply which is why I’m no longer putting off until tomorrow what I can do today.

I am fortunate that I have a glimpse of what the near future is sending my way; I am fortunate because I have time to confront  my insecurity, denial and regret before I leave. Rather than clinging to my memories and belongings I should cling to Christ and trust that He will equip me for every good task that lies ahead.  Yes, I want to stock up on memories but only as inspiration for how to live well in the present and not to mourn what can never be relived. This move is a blessed warning that life will not always be the same, that change sometimes drops its subtlety in order to be abrupt and searing, that making memories with my dearest loved ones is not something to be put off until the last minute.

 

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Reflections on my Birthday

My husband recently told me that he has seen maturation in my character with each birthday that passes. I sincerely appreciated hearing that since I rarely see improvement in myself; it might be true, however, because as today approached I fought the urge to cringe at the new number that is now my age. Instead, I have actively chosen gratitude that I can verbalize my age rather than have someone else inscribe it on my tombstone. I have also been pondering the hidden layers to my age.

For instance, in my thirty-two years of life on this planet (I am walking on a planet in the solar system, no less! That’s significant in and of itself!)   I learned how to walk and talk, read and write, figure numbers, ride a bike, swim, and hike in the Alps. I remember our first computer and learning how to type as fast I could; I remember when we got our first “cellphone;” it was about the length of my forearm! I remember DVDs and CDs coming out and wondering if they could truly replace video cassettes and cassette tapes. And then Ipods replacing walkmans, wireless Internet replacing dial-up, flip phones being all the rage and now look at where we are! I have flown on planes, driven in cars, learned how to drive a car, lived on 3 continents, spoken 3 languages, and shaken hands with a former president of the United States. I fought and won the battle against cancer and survived being robbed at gunpoint.

Age also means a transformation in my perspective towards other people. I believe that every significant and perhaps not so significant occurrence in my existence has boosted my awareness of others’ human experiences. I know what it’s like to have a broken heart, to feel lonely and invisible, to be disappointed and discouraged, to question my faith in God and love for Jesus, to hope and hope and hope some more, to have the urge to cry in joy and sorrow at the exact same time, to be utterly exhausted and then feel guilty for how impatient I am because of it, to want help and be ashamed to ask for it, and to feel insecurity and jealousy. I know the exultation of the spirit that comes from having the wind blowing in my face on a mountaintop; the inspirational smallness that is felt when sitting at the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean; the satisfying exhaustion that comes from a full day at home with 3 adorable little people; the enveloping love from priceless hours spent with family; the awe when I am confronted by God’s faithful provision in the minute details of life; the soothing comfort when neighbors become friends.

In the process of peeling back the many layers of my age, I have discovered that with each passing year my life becomes ever more interwoven with other lives. The more I experience, the more connected I am to you..and to you…and to you… and to you. I can feel my critical spirit losing its grip on my heart as I traverse this unpredictable planet; pride is losing rank on my list of priorities as my energy is needed elsewhere. Becoming a wife and a mother have  made the most dramatic impact upon my heart and mind, causing the greatest transformation in my attitude and shaping my character more than anything that happened prior to these newest roles. Why? because now I am truly living for someone else. Nothing can change a human being more than realizing that other lives are fully dependent upon your very existence. Now every inch and detail of my day matters to someone else, and I need to make them count. The result of this staggering responsibility? I turn to Jesus for everything! From the strength I need to take my next breath so I can push my baby out to the restraint I need when soothing a two-year old tantrum to offering my husband an encouraging word after a long day with the kids.  Rarely are my prayers  long and detailed; usually they are a simple, “Jesus, please help me!” But I honestly believe that it’s the remembering Jesus in life’s littlest moments that matters the most.

My reflecting has come full circle. It always comes back to Jesus. He created me in my mother’s womb and is my sustenance every day that I’m alive; in fact, that IS the very reason why I am on this planet.  And that’s a very good reason to have another birthday, don’t you think?

 

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