Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How Much More

Yesterday morning, Gracie waited alone for the bus as Bub stayed home to complete the "Fever-free for 24 hours" requirement before returning to school today. She was alone outside, except for me. I waited with her on the porch. No one else was outside yet, neither at our bus stop nor at the one down the street.

We discussed her plans for the day, and then excitedly she said, "Maybe I can be the first one at the bus stop!" Without so much as a goodbye, she turned and ran away. I called after her, "Hey, what about a kiss?" She ran back to me, realizing on the way that she was leaving me behind. That caused her to whine a bit and cling to my fuzzy pink robe. I bent to kiss her, and then hurried her back to the stop. She looked at me and whimpered, but I responded by asking, "You wanted to be first, didn't you?" She remembered her plan, and excitedly ran away.

When she got to the bus stop, she was standing a little too close to the road, so I waved to her to step back a bit. Cars fly down the road in the morning dark, ignoring and endangering the children waiting for school. Nothing -- not even the work schedule of my neighbors -- is so important as to risk my Gracie's health and well-being.

As she obediently took that one big step backwards, a generally unpleasant little neighbor girl came clomp, clomp, clomping towards the bus stop. I turned to look towards the other stop to see how close the bus was. When I looked back, Gracie was running towards me, and the unpleasant girl was standing in the spot very close to the road, the spot I'd made Gracie scoot out of, the spot that now made up the front of the line.

Ever the sensitive girl, Gracie was so heartbroken by her displacement. She cried and clung to me, deeply wronged by the neighbor girl's decision. I wanted to scoop her up and rush her inside. I wanted to cuddle her and coddle her and protect her from the big, bad world. Instead, I hugged her and wiped away her tears, and encouraged her back to the bus stop. I want to protect my girl, but more than that, I want her to grow and to blossom and to be able to handle things that come her way, both good and bad. I want her to know that I'm here for her comfort, but equally, I want her to be able to stand on her own two feet.

As I watched her bravely wipe away whatever tears were left and walk back to second place, as I watched her behave politely towards the girl who'd stolen her position, as I watched her wave to me once again while she gracefully boarded the bus, I felt so proud of the girl she is and the girl she's becoming. Considering the situation as a whole, I thought "how much more" does my Father want to scoop me up when I'm hurting, but instead lets me learn a lesson? "How much more" would he rather shield me from the big, bad world, but instead, leaves me to live in it, behaving with grace? (Luke 11:13)

I spent a good bit of time a couple of days ago fashioning a bellyaching post about how painfully directionless I feel at present. Here's an excerpt from the whiniest bit:

In the midst of my day, I talked to a friend, who, with her four-month-old, has secured her position as a stay-at-home-mom for many years to come. I, on the other hand, live in limbo. I’m a mom, and I stay at home, but I don’t parent on an all-day basis. I’m a student, but I’m an at-home student in my thirties, and that’s quite different from being an on-campus student in my teens or early twenties. I don’t travel like I once traveled, and I often don’t do things that once comprised major aspects of my personality. With regards to school, I’m completing a degree that I’m not sure I’ll ever use, and I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up.

I feel like I’m between the seasons of my life – that itchy, watery part of change. I’m suffering from spiritual seasonal allergies and I find myself allergic to life. My chief complaint in the midst of this misery is that there’s no tablet to take, no magic pill of direction available to me, and I’m frustrated by the fact that I have no idea what comes next, or if I’ll even like it.

This is not a complaint of ungratefulness. I am extraordinarily grateful for the abundant blessings that have been heaped upon me by a living and generous God. But the matters are separate. I feel lost and unguided, wondering what in the world I'm to do next.

Now, I know what I’m to do spiritually. I know that I’m to “Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding….” I know that when I “acknowledge him… in all [my] ways… he will make [my] paths straight,” but gracious, don’t I do that? Am I not absolutely clear that it is “in him [I] live and move and have [my] being"? "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Tell me then, why is it that I feel trapped in this in-between state, this purgatory? Why is it in these dark passages do I feel like I have no direction at all? (Proverbs 3:5-6, Acts 17:28a, Psalm 54:4)

It's true that I don't have a clear direction right now, and that lack of guidance can be frightening and frustrating. As anyone else, I don't like it one bit. And I'm sure that just as Gracie struggled this morning and I struggled to resist stealing her away, my Father watches me, wishing he could just make all things right. It should be said that making it all right, making it all easy, is something He absolutely could do, it's just not something He will do. He is a good and gracious God who longs for me to find my feet, and I'm a grumpy, directionless housewife who thinks she'd be really happy with a glimpse at a spiritual GPS.

I'm really trying to be upbeat in the midst of this nothing. I'm trying to be forgetful when there is need to be. I'm trying to capture my thoughts and count my blessings. I'm trying to do everything "right" with regard to my response in the midst of this shadowed journey, but I could really use someone taking me by the hand in a very obvious way, if only but for a few steps.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:1-8

(Yeah, but when does He hand out the maps?)

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away." -- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

"There are few things more crucial to us than our lives. And there are few things we are less clear about. This journey we are taking is hardly down a yellow brick road. Then again, that's not a bad analogy at all. We may set out in the light, with hope and joy, but eventually, our path always seems to lead us into the woods, shrouded with a low-lying mist. Where is this abundant life that Christ supposedly promised? Where is God when we need Him most? What is to become of us? The cumulative effect of days upon years that we do not really understand is a subtle erosion. We come to doubt our place, we come to question God's intentions towards us, and we lose track of the most important things in life. We're not convinced that what God has to offer us is life. We have forgotten that the heart is central. And we had no idea that we were born into a world at war." -- John Eldridge, Waking the Dead


  • The Dukes Family

    Either my mental state is off, or that was a tear-jerker ... either way, once again, you left me with a hundred thoughts. I think we all, at one time or another, have felt like we're standing at that impasse ... even if it's momentarily. Your current season is so different than previous seasons, with the kids off at school all day, but no less important as you see how much Gracie needs you in the little things. God will impart direction ... but in the meantime, know that what you do each day (even writing this blog) is important, inspiring and perfect.

  • Someone Being Me

    It is funny to think about how God looks at us like we look at our kids. Allowing us to learn the hard lessons, realizing the sting won't last forever, seeing that we can't have everything we want right now. Its all about perspective.

  • Playful Professional

    So sorry. I posted the meme wrong the first time. The fourth link should be about something you love, not something about yourself again. I just changed it on my blog!

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