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Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category

Prayer used to come easily. Or at least, more easily than it does now. I journaled in college, then stopped as a newlywed, then started again when, ironically enough, I was seeing a counselor who caused more stress than she reduced and another friend suggested I write out what I’d like to say to the counselor so I wouldn’t be so caught off-guard. I filled three small notebooks in about three-and-a-half years, writing heartfelt prayers to God of praise, pain, questions, and concerns for myself and others. Sometimes He seemed to answer, sometimes not, but I always felt unburdened.

I’ve tried to pick it up again. I started a new journal, one with a scene from I Love Lucy on the cover to remind me to laugh, and I wrote a few hope-filled entries as I waited to see if my first IUI worked. When it didn’t, and my mom shortly thereafter had brain surgery, I found myself unable to write to God. That was six months ago.

I tried again during a breakout session at a prayer conference hosted by my church (organized by my beloved pastor Danna, who truly outdid herself, in case she’s reading this!). It was a prompted group activity. It shouldn’t have been so hard for someone who has devoted her entire life to writing, but it left me in a funk the whole day.

My written prayers don’t take many lines before they devolve into angry, accusatory demands. Why has my writing career still not taken off? Why is my endo still so painful? Why do we still not have a baby? Why doesn’t anyone choose to make an adoption plan through our agency anymore? Why are we still waiting for something that comes so easily to everyone else? Do You, in fact, have a plan for us that includes something other than dashed hopes?

If all the bucks in all the universe stop with You, and You say You love us as a parent loves their child, why are we still stuck?

I never feel unburdened after such prayers. I feel more angry, more hopeless, more broken and helpless than ever. So I don’t write God letters.

Maybe Danna suspected this when my thirtieth birthday rolled around last November. My only day-of celebration was lunch out with her and Mike, and during our lunch she gave me a “Palm Cross,” a wooden cross designed to fit the curve of your hand and soak in the oils of your skin. It helps, sometimes, to hold this. It helps to focus, and it helps to have something to squeeze, even if it’s not terribly yielding.

But tears and anger can still flow from those prayers, and so often do. I want to squeeze acceptance, peace, thanksgiving, joy, those sorts of things out of my little cross, but some days that’s just not possible.

Maybe there is nothing for it but to pray through this season of anger and hurt, being thankful for the glimpses of God’s goodness that I receive in spite of myself. Maybe going through the motions of worship and other disciplines will eventually give way to more heartfelt desires for the presence of a God who loved the world enough to die.

At least I know He is patient. Even at my most impatient, I can praise Him for His patience with me.

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Dust

Ashes

So after my expressions of frustration about Lent and all the feelings it brings up, I heard a beautiful Ash Wednesday sermon preached by my dear friend and pastor, followed by a long talk with her about not falling into despair but instead trying to keep up hope. It all helped. Truly, I felt a shift in my heart that comes when certain people hit the right notes in their sermons. In hers, it was a reminder that God is our Father. When we say “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” it’s because God created Adam from dust and breathed life into him. “If we are dust,” my friend said with absolute conviction, “then we are beloved dust.”

Beloved dust. Beloved sons and daughters of a Father who has the right to demand perfection but gives perfect love.

Maturity in faith is so contradictory to secular maturity. Secular maturity says you have achieved the judgment and skills to live on your own and make your own decisions, not relying on others to do things or decide things for you. And we need to do that in life, to the best of our abilities. We need to become adults. But we don’t ever stop being God’s children, because we never outgrow our need for Him.

He is our Father. He is, thankfully, a patient one. Even in my pre-parental state, I know enough about children to know you don’t explain things once and for all and watch them suddenly transform. Our Father knew what He was doing when He instituted annual remembrances in Israel’s calendar, and again when He planted the idea in some ancient church father to do the same with Advent and Lent. We need reminders, in the midst of crises or just everyday life, that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

Dust so beloved that He sent His only begotten Son to die for our salvation.

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Ashes

I actually love Lent. Since I began taking it seriously as a high school junior, I’ve slowly seen it as a private holiday that hasn’t been taken over by the great American marketing machine. Sure, Easter has in many ways, becoming a pastel celebration of spring and bunnies and chocolate eggs. But no one advertises special candy or trinkets for Ash Wednesday, right? I mean, I’ve sent flowers and encouraging notes to my pastor-friends during Lent, but that’s for morale, not lack of sales-resistance. Those who are worshipping Jesus and remembering His sacrifice know the next six-and-a-half weeks are a holiday of sorts. Those who aren’t can proceed as normal, and the rest of us can proceed with our vows and extra time at church.

But Lent has become something else to me recently. It was during Lent in 2011 that I first had endometriosis symptoms, and my first laparoscopy was the week after Easter. Lent 2012 was about resetting my body after Lupron and getting ready for adoption. Our profile books were completed during Holy Week, a feat that nearly drove us to the loony bin.

Lent 2013 came after a busy season that included my second surgery, my mom’s marriage to my second stepfather, Mike’s braces, and a new car and home refinance because we hadn’t spent enough money on the other things. But there weren’t any major changes in our quest to become parents–and that would be the problem.

On Maundy Thursday, we had our dear pastor and friend pray for us after she gave us communion during service. We didn’t even have to tell her what to pray for–she knew. She knew because it was the same thing she’d been praying for since she hugged us goodbye a few days before our European adventure. I loved her in that moment for knowing. I hated that she had to.

Now, Ash Wednesday 2014, a few hours before we head to service and a few hours after beginning our Lenten vow to actually get up when the alarm goes off, we get an email from our social worker saying she’s mailing the papers we need for our mandatory homestudy update. We’ve been on the shelf so long we’ve expired and need to be replaced with fresh information. We’ll probably have a follow-up home visit near Holy Week in order to get everything squared away by our two-year approval anniversary, May 4, 2014.

Lord, have mercy.

“Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee”

-final lines of “Ash-Wednesday,” T.S. Eliot

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Night on the Town

We’re frugal introverts who love nothing more than a night at home catching up on TV or reading. But every so often, it’s good to have a night on the town.

Date Night 2-7-14

Ours happened to fall the week before Valentine’s Day, but the catalyst was actually my birthday back in November. I decided awhile back that what I wanted from my husband for my Big 3-0 was tickets to a full-length classical ballet other than The Nutcracker, which we’ve seen a few Christmases of our married life. I wanted to go big and see a Pacific Northwest Ballet production, not one of the smaller suburban companies with a lot of adorable students and imprecise sequences.

How perfect that PNB happened to be doing The Sleeping Beauty this season. I’ve loved the score since I discovered as a little girl that the Disney cartoon borrowed nearly all its music from the ballet. And it’s a show that promised to be as pretty and sparkly as my inner little girly-girl could hope for.

Mike, for his part, was a very good sport.

He got tickets to a Saturday matinee, a frugal choice that allowed cheaper tickets and the ability to take the bus into one of the most congested areas of Seattle instead of fighting for parking. We also thought a nice dinner should be included somehow, and decided to do that the night before, with a stay at a nearby hotel in between.

For all that it feels kind of silly to stay in a hotel that’s less than half an hour from your house, it was a fun extravagance. We got dressed up in a new dress and sport coat and met downtown for dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. We ate Mediterranean food with our fingers while a belly dancer occasionally performed for us (she was good, but overall I preferred the ballet). We enjoyed a lavish breakfast spread the next morning and a tour of the Gates Foundation visitors center while killing time before the ballet.

We were tired after all that, but we had a grand time. If there is a silver lining to not having children yet, it’s that we get to do things like that without needing to find a babysitter.

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Comfort Books

I loved marching band in high school, but every summer going away to band camp was pure torture.  Insert all summer camp cliches–the food sucked, the cabins had no air circulation, the beds were uncomfortable, and the showers made you feel dirtier after using them.  Each year, my best band friend sang the Beach Boys’ song about the horrors of the Navy, “Sloop John B (I Wanna Go Home),” and debated whether it would be worth it to sprain our ankles or purposely electrocute ourselves with a hair dryer and a puddle.

Anne booksMy comfort, other than notes and cards from my parents, was one of the Anne of Green Gables books.  I never went to camp without one.  The familiar words and the well-worn pages were balm for my soul.  They were more precious to me on those trips than my flute or piccolo.

I’ve been longing for comfort books again lately.  Not Anne so much this time, or at least not Anne Shirley Blyth.  As I’m trying to rediscover my love and discipline for writing, I treated myself to Anne Lamott’s classic writing book, Bird by Bird.  Not that I ever stopped loving to write, exactly.  More like I stopped finding it important.  But it is important–it is perhaps the most important thing I do for myself every day other than praying and snuggling Mike.  May God bless Anne Lamott for always being able to remind me of this, if only I let her.

Two other great comfort books are the books I bought at a sixth grade book fair and carted around to college and into my adult life right alongside my boxed set of Anne books–Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice.  Like my Anne books, they somehow smell like every home I’ve ever lived in with them, and so they feel part of me the way new books just don’t (yet).  It was Midwife that I took to read while my mom was recovering from brain surgery, and it’s Catherine I’m reading now as my pelvis recovers from the pseudo-surgery that was so mean to it this week.  When I got to meet Karen Cushman a few years ago, I got her to sign both of these beloved books.  She blinked hard at seeing such old editions before saying, “Wow.  These are really…yours.”

Catherine, Called Birdy

Such is the nature of any object of comfort, I suppose.  It’s something that’s survived alongside us for a long, long time and that shows its love in no longer being bright and shiny.  It’s something that transports us back to a safer, happier time.  For someone who spent as much of her childhood reading as I did, it makes sense to let familiar phrases and plot twists reassure me that there is still comfort to be found.  That I don’t have to stretch myself and expose myself to new things all the time, that it’s okay to re-group and re-charge in the land of the familiar.

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Maybe

Adoption tends to be one giant “maybe” most of the time, but this past week, a lot of other things have gotten on the maybe bandwagon.  It’s enough to drive this impatient INFJ a little batty.

The only definite thing lately is that I will be canceling my appointment with the pain doctor who so deeply turned me off.  This will immediately be followed by making another appointment with another doctor recommended by my fertility doc’s most recent endo patient.  I was so relieved by someone in a large practice who seemed to actually understand pelvic pain, but whether he can help or not is in fact another maybe.  Along with these, for good measure:

Maybe we’ll get placed with a baby boy from Oregon who’s due at the end of February.  Or, in case we needed an adrenaline rush, maybe we’ll get chosen for twin girls in Missouri who are due in about two weeks.  Most likely we’ll get placed with neither, bringing us crashing back to Earth and looking forward to the infinite maybes attached to potential adoption case #48, whenever it arrives in our inboxes.

Maybe we’ll be visiting my in-laws in February so my husband can do their taxes and we can both clean out their basement.  They are both being caught off-guard by full-steam-ahead aging lately, and things like de-cluttering take a backseat to, say, doctor’s appointments.  It was a sure thing a week ago, but then…

Maybe we’re headed to London in March instead, husband for business, me for pure pleasure.  Well, and once business is done, we’ll stay another week so he can get some pleasure in too.  Pleasure in the form of extreme sight-seeing and day-tripping and general ogling my favorite city in the whole world.  That is, if his boss’s boss says it’s okay for Mike to go instead of his boss, who is burned out on travel at the moment.  We should find that out late this week.

Actually, we should know about all of this stuff by the end of this week.  Though of course, now that I’ve written this, it’ll be many more moons before we do.  But it does feel like my whole life is on hold.  I’m tired of it, darn it!  Somebody make up their mind already!  Somebody, that is, with more power than me.  Like, say, God.  Or at least the birthmother carrying our baby, whoever she may be.

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Bountiful Birthday

It’s true, I didn’t get what I truly wanted for my birthday (a healthy mom and a healthy baby), but I had two lunches out with friends, a singing voicemail from my mom (who was able to express her disbelief that her oldest child is now thirty–an amazing accomplishment), cards from family and friends, gift cards and shopping rewards for some of my favorite stores, and lots of texts, calls, and Facebook messages letting me know I was loved and thought about.

And ballet tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty.  Those were from Mike, at my very specific request.  Unfortunately, I have to wait until February for the performance.

And flowers.  Lots and lots of flowers, from Mike, from my boss “Queen” Lisa, and from a lovely Sunday School volunteer.

bountiful birthday

Not the happiest of birthdays, admittedly, but the best part was the same as it always is–a yearly reminder that I am loved.

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