Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holding My Breath

I just painted my son's room.  Beautiful blue with a mural of planets across all the walls.

I'm holding my breath....

Last time I painted a mural on my kid's room, we got the news we were moving in a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Handful of Marbles - or am I losing mine?

Apparently, no one wants to discuss the thought of having to deal with homosexuality close up.  :)  Oh well....  we can keep pretending it only exists "out there" with "those people" for a little longer. 

In the meantime, I am almost finished filling in for a coworker with a broken foot.  I'm exhausted.  Working two jobs is not good for me while trying to maintain ministry and family.  And I hurt my back, or my hip, I think.  Pulled a muscle in my hip, so lifting old people is a pain - literally.  So is walking.  And wearing heels.  Sadly, I have no cute, warm winter shoes that don't have heels, so I keep putting beauty before pain and deeply regretting it later.

Two girls at my work are pregnant.  It seems that husbands, or even steady boyfriends, before getting pregnant is a thing of the past.  What is saddest for me is that one is supposedly a solid Christian, going to church, professing belief and all, and yet sees no problem living with her boyfriend.  It saddens me.  Perhaps because I know about marriage - which is an incredibly tough venture, but one worth doing all the same.  There is something holy about marriage - and I am not just talking about the "save it until you are married" and "two virgins marrying" type of a thing.  There is something holy about a commitment, about being the two of you - that fact said out loud and honored.  A security - even though I am fully aware that marriages break.  Despite that sad fact, there is a solidness about marriage, and as I watch these two girls struggle through decisions about babies and all, I am sad for them.  Wishing they knew the delight of a husband rubbing a round tummy thrilled about his child growing.  Going it alone is not easy.

I am enjoying working alongside my husband in his office.  Funny thing is that I thought office work was never going to be for me.  I actually like it.  Well, most of it.  I was trying to be perfect.... no mistakes and all... I know - I am incurably, optimistically a perfectionist.  I just figured it was possibly to do things well, and that if I did things well, I would make no mistakes.  That worked for a few weeks only.  Anyway, now I have made mistakes.  Done the wrong thing.  Sent the wrong people the wrong things.  I'm learning that it is ok, and that I can not fix everything or do everything right away the right way.  Things happen, and I can refuse to feel the need to "fix" everything and take on everyone else's problems.  I try my best.  I learn.  I go on.  Sometimes there are glitches in systems.  Life happens.

This is a totally random post.  I'm tired, but awake enough to miss talking with people.  I feel as if that is the one thing I have really lost in the last year or so - relationships that I had built up, people I had counted on.  Why I have lost them is likely a variety of reasons... communication is a two way street that if only traveled one way tends to dry up.  Like this blog.... well, if I don't write, even if people try to read, there is no communication.  I am not sure what I will do with various relationships.  Some I will keep.  Some I will grow on from.  It is the way life is as much as I try to hang on.  Sometimes I think relationships are like trying to hang on to a handful of marbles.  You can only hold so many at one time before they start rolling out between the cracks.  So you either let that happen naturally or you spread them out in the dust and sort them into ones you keep and ones you risk.  Did you ever play marbles in the dust?  Shooting them into a ring, aware that you risk any you send in there, but knowing you could just win that other one, too?  I think I ended up trying to hold too many marbles, and I can't.  I've shot all mine into the ring now, and we will see which ones come back to me, and which ones I have lost.  I've never lost all my marbles, not yet, and you always win others.  Each one different, unique, with a design and beauty all their own.

But I am reasonably happy.  Very busy.  Sore.  Sad.  I think sadness would be an overwhelming emotion right now - not the sadness of the last year, that sort of fuzzy sadness of post-stress.  Just a quiet sadness, likely a result of tiredness and mild loneliness.  I lost a friend.  She moved.  Still close enough to visit, but not here daily.  With that, another friend is not around as much.  My core group of women I would have coffee and talk with is gone.  There are other women, and I am building relationships, but there is sadness in time passing and people moving on. 

Yet I am strangely ok in it all.  Happy, content despite it.  I think I learned early that people move on and that you can not count on people or relationships to stay static.  You mourn and you keep going.  And when you are sad, you tell yourself, "one day, heaven".  There we will all be together with all the time in the world.  No loss is ever permanent when we are believers.  One day, heaven.  Heaven is a place where there will be no more fractured relationships.

More random thoughts.  The person in our team who I struggle with the most is arriving soon for a visit.  I am strangely nonchalant about it this time, even thinking that if he needs to stay with us it would be ok.  I think I have grown taller.  Remember those big frightening things you saw when you were little?  But then they were small when you grew?  I've grown taller.  I've also lived a summer with a Asperger's kid, and as I look at this team leader now, after that experience of having this child, I see with different eyes.  I feel pity.  Pity for him and pity for those who have to live and work with him.  Pity because there is no fixing it.

I have learned ways of coping and thinking that I think are helping me.  Maybe part of that is realizing that I do not need to find value in his eyes.  I've always been good at whatever I've set my mind to do.  Pleased others and excelled at things.  People over me were always happy with me - except my parents when I was a child.  But teachers, bosses, leaders... I've always done well.  Even today, I enjoy doing well and being valued on a team.  But when you have a leader who has perhaps a different way of seeing the world... one skewed by his own oddities that perhaps he can not fix ever.... it may be impossible to be valued by him.  And you know what?  That is ok.  Like the mistakes I made in my new office job, it's ok.  I can't do everything right.  When he does not see the good I do, perhaps it is not because my good is not good enough, but because he has his own weaknesses.  Perhaps he is incapable of seeing as normal people do.  When he overlooks normal politeness and rudely ignores me or when he picks up absolutely no emotion or even worse, criticizes emotion that should be treated sensitively, perhaps it is not because he is rude and cruel.  Perhaps he just can not pick up on emotions nor figure out how to respond.  I am taller.  I do not need value from him.

I still need value from people.  Some people will say we need to grow to where we don't, but I think it is a good aim, but not a real possibility.  We need value from people.  Just that we need to learn to look for it in people that know how to give it.  I do better with some words of affirmation.  I also know about ten people who I can count on to give them to me.  So that is where I should go when I am empty.  Not to people who will not even see my need for it.  Those type will hurt - likely totally unwillingly and unaware.

My kids are growing.  That makes me alternatively extremely proud and deeply sad.  The babies are gone.  The sticky fingers are gone.  So are the toddler toys and cute outfits.  Here are overgrown teens with long legs with hair on them who stink non-stop despite frequent showers and liberal reminders to use deodorant.  Bundles of energy who at one minute are wise and mature and at another are exploding with emotions like a two year old.  You know what is funny?  I've got teens, but I've got  bad case of the "I wish I could have another" syndrome and miss being pregnant, newborns, and all that.  I loved being a young mom.  I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.  Being a mom of teens is good, too.  Different, but good.

Life changes.  Relationships change.  Sometimes things hurt.  Sometimes you get injured.  Sometimes you make mistakes.  The only thing impossible to stop is the incessant ticking of time... that relentless moving on.  So often I would have frozen time here or there when something is "perfect", but I can not.  Time goes on, and with it comes goodbyes, changes, and growth.

One day, heaven.  In the meantime, let's enjoy with grace what we have today.  It doesn't always last, but it is good.  Even stinky teen boys with hairy legs are good.  Even when they are fighting me for independence.  I smile later, glad that they are growing and wanting independence... hoping they let us guide them until they are ready for it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Wrong Chord at a Christmas Party

I went to our church's women's study group's Christmas party today.  (Yes, I survived a group!)  I've not been to the study that much simply because my life has been too busy, but it was nice to go today.  We had our study and then a fancy dinner.  It was stunning, gorgeous, perfect food... I made an idea I got off Carrie's blog links - Santa Hat Brownies.  They're simple, but really cute.

What was wrong?  It was a little thing, a wrong note.  And it quietly disturbed me all afternoon.  I may be treading on thin ice here as I know I know people who are in the same boat, and I do not know how they deal with the situation, and I honestly know that I would be totally shaken and struggle to deal with it, too.  But I am either bold or stupid and have some questions... honest questions, wanting to learn with others.... we can ignore it, but it is not going away, so why don't we start talking about it?

A woman was sharing about her daughter who is a lesbian and has been for fifteen years.  This daughter had been to Bible school and all and then left it all and joined the lesbian lifestyle.  The lady shared that because of her daughter's choices, they can not support her lifestyle, so they simply do not see their daughter often.  Then she mentioned that last week, they were in the city (about an hour from us) and they phoned her daughter to meet them in a restaurant since they hadn't seen her in two years.  She arrived with an 18mo. old baby that her partner had given birth to which had both their names.

That was about all to her story.  It was just an illustration of someone they thought was a believer whose lifestyle now proves they never were.

But it disturbed me.  I sat there mulling over what she told me and I was quietly disturbed.

First let me CLEARLY state that I have an immense amount of sympathy for this lady and am heartbroken over what she must face as she grapples with this situation.  It is not easy.  There is no easy way about it.  It is awful.  Embarrassing.  Crushing disappointment of her expected dream of her daughter.  The awfulness of a child turning their back on God.  The embarrassment to say, "my child is lesbian".  I grieve for her.

But I questioned her response.  "I can not support her lifestyle, so we don't have them here and we don't see her often."  She inferred that even when they do see her daughter, they meet elsewhere and refuse to see the daughter's partner.  It was that which bothered me.  I was used to it.  I grew up in the same churches and would have been counseled to make a similar choice.  But now I question that.

Did God turn His back on us when we were sinners?  How is she to learn about God's character if we reject her?  I wonder about the effect of welcoming her daughter - as she is... partner and all - into their home.  Telling her loudly with actions that nothing she can do will change her love for her daughter.  She will break her heart, yes, but she can not stop her love.  Of letting her house be a place that is unashamedly Christian, unquestionably against the lifestyle, but whole-heartedly loving the people.  What if we showed the love God had for us?  What if her daughter and her partner and their baby felt comfortable to come and bake cookies with their mom and the little one grew up calling her "grandma" and loving to be at her house?  No one says that I have to agree with the choices of everyone I love, do they?

Can we not as Christians deeply love even people who have chosen to walk in this awful lifestyle?  Can we not hold our arms and our homes out to them too?  Isn't there a difference between accepting a lifestyle and accepting a person?  Do we best draw people to Christ by rejecting them or by love?

What do you think?  Have you had any experience in this?  I admit I have none, so I am talking without walking.  I have only a brother who has made awful choices in his life.  We battled with some of these questions with him, and in the end chose to continue to be in his life for many years.  The complication with him was that he was not safe around children, and we also had to make the decision that our children are our first priority and were worth a "zero-risk-factor", so we limited our connections with my brother to clearly defined situations.  I don't know that this is the same situation.  Perhaps if there were young children in the house and the adult child was pushy or crude - perhaps that would be different.  But this family had no young children.  No one was at risk from choosing to love.  

I'm still questioning much of how I was taught Christianity, and I am questioning this choice.  To be honest, I've never heard a class taught or a sermon preached on "How to Relate to Your Homosexual Child".  Perhaps we need one.  Maybe we need to start talking about it.  We can stick our heads in the sand and focus all our energy on reaching the lost.... but can we afford to reject the lost in our own families?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Odd New Companion

He joined me almost silently during a difficult time in my life, and he has remained.  He's quiet, so I don't always notice him.  He's not flashy; he doesn't make himself known or push himself forward, but he's constantly there.  He is so quiet at times that I think perhaps he may have gone, but when I turn around, like my shadow, he's there.

This vague sense of disconnect.  My odd new companion.

He's been in my life before, like a frequent house guest - one that you don't bother to put out a folded set of towels on the bed for since he knows where they are kept.  He's shown up when I am sitting in a group of people talking and realize that my thoughts are on a world half a globe away that those I am with have no concept of.  He's come to stay with me through every move as we walk around the house and mentally prepare to leave.  He's been there through abuse when my eyes looked out at a world my hurting child's heart had no way to comprehend.  He's come and gone as our greater missionary family has wound its way through different crisis and griefs.  He moved in for a few months when my daughter died.

Almost a friend.  Familiar.  But even good friends eventually leave.  Now he seems to have signed a lease.

It makes it difficult.  I think, "I should feel/do/think/act....." but I can not.  I am quieter, more reserved.  I trust less.  I went through trauma compounded by the startling absence of those who I thought I could count on.  I find myself less willing to count on people.  In my relationships, I have changed.  I initiate less.  I do not seek after contact, believing it to be false if I have to find it.  "If you really care, you will come/write/call." seems to be my answer to the overwhelming grief of being left alone. 

I struggled so hard to find a way through my lack of trust that I inherited from the abuse in my childhood.  It also didn't help that I led the life of a gypsy (or an MK) and there was nothing constant.  I learned to trust - to begin to.  Technology is nice - not so many final goodbyes as I grew up with.  I began to allow myself to believe people.... they were who they said they were, they would be dependable, they would have good intentions... I could withstand the risk.... learning trust.

Then this happened.  And people, good people, our people, other missionaries... left me completely alone when they knew I needed them.  Trauma compounded with a broken trust.

I'm healing.  I think so.  I'm not demanding of myself that I pretend to be all healed.  I'm still healing.  There is still pain.

And my odd new companion seems to have taken residence in my home.  This odd sense of disconnect.  I'm different today.  I am quieter.  I wait.  I watch.  I initiate less.  I hesitate.  I feel disconnected from people in groups and open up less to people one on one.  (I blog less, too.)  I wonder - who ever really cares?  Why waste my time?

I have this disconnect with God also.  I wait for Him to initiate contact, too.  Thankfully, He does more than people.  We talk.  I ask Him to remind me that He was there.  He does.  I don't have my feelings back - not in my relationship with God, not like they were before.  I'm different.  I'm less demanding, but I am not sure that that is a good thing.  I quietly watch.  I watch God, too, quieter.

I fill my days with different tasks.  I like routine, order, things that are repetitive.  I like quietness or jobs that don't involve my heart.  God is good - He's given me a job like that now.  I love it.  I am to keep order, count, categorize, maintain routines.  It's good.  I still work with old people in a home.  This job, I like.  Somehow, when I am there, my odd companion stays home.  Perhaps it is that this was the place, here among unbelievers, that I received the most support.  Here it was that people really ask, "How are you doing?"  (Ok, there are some believers there, too, but it is a secular workplace.)  Here, I leave my quiet disconnect outside and feel alive.  There is something about caring for the dying and comforting the hurting that comforts my own heart.  Then I leave again, and the quiet shadow follows me.

I wonder when his lease is up or if I have adopted him.

I think about my conversation with a friend who went through trauma right after we did - totally different - but trauma nevertheless.  They are still dealing with the obvious after effects - physically.  When we talked, we talked about this odd feeling of disconnect.  Of wishing we had known that our normal was going to disappear.  We never got to say goodbye.  I liked who I was before.... before when I was learning to trust and feeling on top of the world.

Now I am quieter, watching to see who initiates contact, who really cares, not wanting to risk hurt.  I miss my old self, but life is like that.  There is no going back.  Just like I miss who I was when I was young and believed that you get pregnant and have a baby and life is good.  Before I knew that sometimes you deliver a quiet baby who has already gone.  There is no going back.  I am not who I was before that day.

A strange sense of disconnect.  It's made for a quieter blog.  It's made for a quieter me.  If you are my friend, you already know, its made for long, long silences.  I'm here.  I'm just watching, not ready yet to commit again.  Its sort of like drinking the rest of the hot chocolate after you've burned your tongue.  It may have cooled, but it still hurts, so you don't.

I was listening to a song the other day and I got angry at it.  It was repetitive and boring and kept singing, "I will not be shaken, I will not be shaken."  I thought, "What a stupid song!"  Of course we will be shaken.  We so easily are.  Life is not about my strength.  Yet we won't be shaken.... only because we are hanging on to One who can not be shaken, and even more importantly because He is hanging on to us.

Even when we feel disconnected.  Even then.