". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leaving Sodom

Oh, yeah. I have this thing. It's called a blog. :-)

I do hope to get back to more regular posting soon. And I hope when I do you're all still here. But for today, in lieu of my own currently non-linear thinking, I'd like to share a few blog posts I recently read. They are similar in that they both address the question of difficult times and how to get through them. The first post is not Christian or even spiritual (except for the suggestion to read an Eckhart Tolle book--you can disregard that) but has what I think are solid strategies for surviving the rough stretches. My family has gone through one of those rough stretches recently, and it was prolonged, including the illnesses and deaths of my husband's parents and several other beloved people, my mother's injuries and illness, my husband's job loss, financial challenges, family separation necessitated by job change, and the pain of broken relationships. At one point in our journey a dear friend and wise woman told my husband, "Expect blessing." Her words have proven prophetic as these days I wake up and pinch myself at all the things that are going right. Sometimes I worry about what is coming. Surely these days aren't going to last forever. But what is the sense in worrying about that time in the future when life will take another downturn? I am trying to enjoy the blessings of today as I leave yesterday behind and refrain from obsessing about tomorrow. I found this article, entitled "Eight Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong," to have some excellent suggestions on how to do that. Thanks to my friend Melody for linking it. Here are a few key sentences:

"Sometimes life closes doors because it's time to move forward."
"Don't allow your scars to hold you hostage."
"Rarely do people do things because of you. They do things because of them."
"The best thing you can do is to keep going."
"Don't let a hard lesson harden your heart."

Now, that's all very well and good, isn't it? But how do you move forward when you feel paralyzed? How do you quit living in your scars? How do you keep going when you want to give up? How do you not put a fence around your heart in an effort to prevent its being injured again?

Short answer: you don't. You can't escape the past. You can't escape the bad things that have happened to you and the people who have wronged you. And you can't escape your own sin. But it's okay, because you don't have to. You don't have to rescue yourself because there is One who has already done so:

"In this fight we are far from alone. We did not leave Sodom on our own initiative, our own will-power. Christ climbed over the city walls to rescue us, and then climbed back over, carrying us upon his shoulders. He bore us up into the mountains, and now, and always, never leaves our side. He knows the past fires that still burn in our chest, so he never tires of dousing those flames with the waters of baptism, daily drenching us with that divine dew. Sodom’s foolish ways he roots out to replace with the wisdom that comes from above, speaking his word over and over into us, to create new hearts and new minds within us, fashioned after his own, heart and minds devoted to higher things." - Chad Bird 

Read the full post here.   

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Signs

I grew up in The South, but I have always resisted the generalization that Southerners are friendlier or more hospitable than people in other parts of the country. I tend to resist sweeping generalizations as a general rule (haha), but in the twenty years we lived in Illinois, I also met enough generous, warm, and welcoming people to belie the notion that Northerners are cold. Still, as I think about our icy, snowy drive from Illinois to Oklahoma a few weeks ago, something stands out. I don't know if it would have happened in Illinois, at least not in Chicago. Right before we crossed into Oklahoma, at a travel plaza located where Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas converge, we had to stop for gas. My elderly mother also needed a restroom break, which necessitated her getting out of the car and navigating an icy parking lot with her walker. As I helped her out of the car, a rather big, burly farmer stopped his truck and got out. "Could you use some help?" he asked. I told him I would appreciate it. He got on one side of my mom as I got on the other, and together we walked her all the way into the store. I know if she had slipped he would have not let her hit the ground.

But that's not the end of the story. After we finished our business in the store and came out, a woman who had just pulled up offered the very same assistance. Granted, my 18-year-old and 10-year-old were in the car and could have been drafted to help. But instead in both cases complete strangers stepped in.

It was a remarkable and symbolic welcome to our new state. Even so, the first night we spent in our new house, I didn't sleep much. I sat up and cried and thought about the place we had left and couldn't get the memories to leave me in peace. But with each day that passes, another act of kindness has made me feel more at home here. That incident at the Oklahoma border seems to have been a sign of things to come.

I am reminded of when we moved from Texas to Illinois 20 years ago. That move was filled with uncertainty. I had lived in Texas my entire life and now we were going to Illinois so that my husband could be a full-time church worker. What in the world were we thinking? On the first morning of our drive, as we crossed from Texas into Arkansas, we were greeted by a rainbow. We took it as a sign that God would bless our way forward.

I don't know if these things are indeed signs or if I am seeing in them what I want to see. But I do know that God always blesses His children. So I cling to the sign that I know is true, that of the cross made over me, my husband, and our children in our baptisms. And that is no overgeneralization.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Toto, we aren't in Illinois anymore.

The polar vortex picked us up and dropped us down in Oklahoma. Or so it seemed. We have no internet yet. I am posting from my phone. More soon!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Moving Day

I started out to write a Facebook status, but it got too long, so here's a blog post instead.

Today was moving day! Yesterday the majority of our house was packed. Also yesterday Phillip, Trevor, and our dog headed out. Today the moving van showed up around 9:00. It was a full day of nonstop packing, moving, and cleaning, and by 5:00 (I think) the van had left, fully loaded. Wow. Earlier in the day a friend picked up Evan and took him on a play date for the afternoon. Today of all days it was a great help to provide him with something else to do. But more important, it was a chance for the two Evans to say a final goodbye. Evan and his friend Evan first became friends when they were in preschool together. Although they have never gotten to see each other as often as I'm sure they would like, there is something special between the two of them. They have just always clicked. Thank you to my friend Anne for this parting gift of one more play date. I think your dropping my Evan off for the last time made everything real to me in a way that nothing to this point, not even the empty house, did. :-(

Since our beds are on their way to Oklahoma and it is late and we are exhausted, we are checked in to a hotel for the night. We will not be driving away until tomorrow--there are still some loose ends to take care of in the morning. But we got a great deal on a room, had some pizza, and will soon go to bed and try to get a good night's sleep. My mom has been a real trooper today. In another example of God's good timing, if we had sold the house and tried to move any sooner, I don't think she would have been as ready for this trip as she now is.

We will take two days to drive. Monday morning the van shows up and the whole thing plays out in reverse. I think the drive will actually be relaxing. Just sitting in a car instead of running this way and that, tending to this detail and that one, wondering if I'm going to remember the next thing I need to do. I can handle that!