One Hundred Two

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I told a friend recently that I thought I would be a different person once we were moved and settled into our new home. Turns out, I was right, but I’m not such a fan of the new person I’ve become. I’ve been angry, self-focused, and a recluse. As good friends are wont to do, she gave me a better perspective, and told me to extend myself some grace. I’ve been dealt a lot of change in 2016. And while I still refuse to acknowledge it, stressful situations cause me stress! I’ve experienced a lot of death so it makes sense that I’m now experiencing a time of grieving.

We had good plans in place. Good plans that we felt were going to glorify God and help us to enjoy Him. And we have watched as plan after plan has crumbled and died.

Just this week, I wrapped up a reread of Genesis and took special note of every occurrence in which the people of God put their trust in their own plans and it didn’t work out. The great fathers of the people of God – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – at times? They all acted like total idiots. Sitting in my comfy chair in the year 2016, knowing the entirety of the story, I can comfortably judge them as they simply did what they thought was best. I can point my judgmental finger at them and shake my head as if to say, “Dude, just trust in the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this!”

(Just another plank in my eye situation.)

I have been grieving and angry as all of my best-laid plans have turned out to be different from God’s. And to be completely honest, I’ve resented that his perfect plan includes another baby for our family. I’ve been confused as to how a solid month of completely debilitating headaches have been best for me and for my family. I’ve wondered how on earth he will provide for our family when, instead of our growing our income, he’s expanding the number of mouths to feed.

Of course, a reread of scripture always points to the faithfulness of God. When his people act like idiots, he makes a way. He rescues. He redeems. He’s not surprised. He brings all things together for their good. When the Green Door House disappeared, God provided the Triangular House, and I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful we are that we are here instead of 20 blocks south, where we wanted to be. I wake up and spend my days in a concrete reminder of God’s faithfulness to our family and a testimony that his plans are better than my own. The great cloud of witnesses is surely watching and saying, “Dude, just trust in the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this!”

I still miss it. I still doubt. But this morning I woke up and peeked at my sleeping children (who always look like cherubs when asleep) and felt in my soul, “We can do this. We can add one more person to this crew. This is going to be so good!” I hadn’t felt or believed that even once during this pregnancy. Of course, I knew we didn’t have a choice – we do have to do this, but today, I knew that we could. Not because we are amazing parents and not because all of our questions are answered and our financial burdens have been lifted, but because God has declared that this is his plan. He has always been faithful. Through some of the very scariest times in our lives, he has provided. He’s the Almighty God of the universe. He’s got this.

Amen.

 

 

 

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Ninety-seven

DSC_0018re·gret
rəˈɡret/
verb
feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).

My church is studying Lamentations during Lent. On Sunday we were greeted with a big whiteboard with the question, “What is your biggest regret?” and we were encouraged to write our answer, anonymously. I thought about it all throughout the service, but never wrote anything on the board.

My husband and I talked about it on the way home and shared what we considered the biggest regrets of our lives, as well as the biggest regrets of life more recently.

I haven’t stopped thinking about regrets.

We are moving out of our house at the end of the month. So today, I’ve had house regrets on my mind. There are plenty of little things, like aesthetics. We’ve never hung anything on the walls of our master bedroom. For almost 8 years now, the walls have been completely bare. It’s as if weren’t willing to put down roots/a nail in the wall. It wasn’t until our house was going on the market that we finally finished ripping down wallpaper in the bathroom.

There are bigger regrets. I can only name 4 of my neighbors. I’ve never seen the inside of any other house in my neighborhood. I thought about organizing a neighborhood potluck dinner, but never acted on it. Our neighbor’s wife spent most of the past year and a half wasting away from alzheimer’s and I only took him a meal a couple of times. Actually, I made the meals but made my husband deliver them, because I didn’t want to enter into that grief.

I didn’t show enough hospitality. I hosted showers, a few parties, a Thanksgiving meal, but I didn’t regularly open up our home to share with others. I made too many vague, “We should get together sometime” invitations and never followed through with them.

In this home, I didn’t love well. I wasted time and opportunities. I was lazy. I lied. I yelled. I didn’t repent quickly enough. I did damage. I held grudges. I hurt on purpose.

As we close this chapter of our story, I am filled with regret. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been so much good that has taken place here. Of course there has been. Two of our children were born within these walls. We celebrated numerous birthdays here, including my very favorite 30th. Every square inch of this home is colored with memories and laughter. But too much of my life these past 8 years has taken place within these walls to the point that they almost served as a fortress that few were allowed to enter. My life and my world shrunk down until everything outside of my comfortable space was of distant secondary concern.

The green door house, while still not officially ours, is a symbol of hope to our family. It’s a  symbol of redemption. It’s a clean slate, a second chance. A chance to know and love our neighbors. To show God’s love in real, practical ways.

What will God do? How will he move? How we he grow and change us? What kinds of opportunities does he have in store? What does life in the green door house look like? What does life lived out of the green door house look like? The answers are so close I can almost touch them. Pray with me that these desires would be so much more than just desires. That when the Spirit moves, I would act. That I would have fewer regrets and more rejoicing.

 

Ninety-one

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I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s Advent devotional and the reading from a few days ago has stuck with me:
“Joy…the gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap, that we never stop unwrapping– we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear: ‘All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.’ And His love for you never will. So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed.”

Click here to read the rest of this post…

 

Seventy-seven

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My youngest two kids have been talking a lot about my mom lately.

I blame Bambi. My son requested to watch it during last weekend’s football game. He and his sister watched it for a while, then got bored and moved on, but he started asking me questions about my mom’s death. “Did it hurt her to die? Did she tell you that it hurt?” I had to explain to him that my mom was sick in her brain, so she wasn’t able to communicate like that. I told him I believed she was not in pain when she died.

My daughter usually expresses her sorrow at my mom’s death by saying she’s sorry it happened and that she hopes I never die. She’s four, so I don’t belabor the point, but I do take those opportunities to talk about how we all will die someday but that as Christians we will be with Jesus forever when we die.

With my boys especially, when they bring up their Gran-Jan, I try to remind them of who she was when she was alive, and not just let her be their grandmother who died. She was a huge presence in their life. She loved to be around them and vice versa. It’s really only struck me recently, however, that all of my children have now known more life without her than with her.

My kids are 9, 6, and 4.
They were (almost) 5, 2, and 2 months when she died, so of course it makes sense that they don’t have many memories of her. My oldest has a handful of specific things that he can remember doing with her, but mostly he relies on the stories I tell him to flesh it out.

This reality can cause me to sink into “it’s not fair” kind of thinking, but instead, I’m trying to grab each opportunity as it comes to tell them stories of my mom. I want them to understand that a lot of who I am is a result of who she was. I want her to continue to be a huge presence in their lives, instead of a looming question mark like so many of my own family stories. I want them to feel freedom in asking me hard questions, and grappling with hard things like death together. And I want them to be filled with hope that the gospel is true and that Gran-Jan believed it and we will see her again.

Fifty-six

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Grief has never looked the way I thought it would. When my mom first died, I expected grief to be an overwhelming sense of sadness. I was sad, sure, but more than anything, grief had me feeling “weird,” for lack of a better description. Life was still going on, quite normally for most people, but my life was changed. I had a two month old baby to care for and my boys were 5 and 2. I couldn’t seem to fit in grieving while there were so many people to take care of and responsibilities to uphold. I remember trying to pack my son’s lunch one day and being completely frozen in indecision. “I’ve got a sandwich in there, and chips, but oh my word, what else am I supposed to pack? How do I pack a lunch?!”

May is a month of grieving for me. Between Mother’s Day last weekend and the anniversary of Mom’s death coming up on May 20th, it’s just one reminder after another that she’s gone. Then school lets out and summer begins and the ache continues, because Mom was a teacher who LOVED the summertime with her grandkids.

True to form, grief doesn’t look familiar to me this year. This year, it looks like anger.

I’m angry that she’s gone. I’m angry that all I have left are memories, with no new ones to be made. I’m angry that this is the story God is writing. I’m angry that there are still expectations on me to do normal things, like get out of bed and get my boys to school and make sure they do homework and finish projects and FEEDING MY PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. Why are they always hungry?

It’s easy to romanticize things about the dead. It’s easy to tell myself that I would have a better relationship with my mom if she was still alive. I can envision heart to heart conversations about raising a girl and insecurities and fears and doubts as a mother. In reality, that wasn’t what our relationship was like at all. Mom was a fiercely private person. We connected mostly through sarcasm. I can also allow myself to believe that if she was still here, life wouldn’t be so stressful. I would have more date nights with my husband, or more kid-free days, or extra spending money because she was always generous. And while some of that may be true, it’s also true that my heart issues would be the same, regardless of my circumstances.

If my story was different, and my mom was alive, I would still struggle with control and strength and independence. I would still have an unhealthy desire to be parented perfectly. I would still fret and worry and stress about money. I would still long to be Jesus for my kids and protect them from any and every hurt.

If this wasn’t my story, I would have something else to be angry with God about. There would be some other detail that I thought he didn’t quite get right.

I don’t have a shiny happy ending to this story, or even this post. This is just me, right where I am, with my hands and heart open to the work that God is doing.