Monday, January 04, 2010

the other half of the glass

It is not wasted on me that my new year's post was kind of gloomy, sad, angry.  I spent the day yesterday wondering if I'd been a little bit too raw in this forum.  I think it's a good question and I asked some trusted people in my life if they felt I'd overstepped any wisdom boundaries.

I think part of the struggle is that, being a lifelong poser, it was scary to admit in this public place that I'm feeling so wounded and insecure.  The entire time the words were coming to the surface I was trying to work out a happy ending to the post.  Something that would make me --and anyone who was reading-- feel better.  But I knew that wouldn't be honest.  I would have only been able to add some kind of moral or platitude that was not accurate.

This is not to say that I am without hope.  By no means!  In retrospect I feel like that post was a kind of davidic lament.  Something along these lines:
Oh Lord, how long will You forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
A sort of healing began just by getting those words in print. With that healing has come clarity, some Spirit-laden energy to look at the bigger picture. Almost everywhere I've turned since that post I've found reminders and exhortations about being patient in hardship and disciplined in remembering the goodness the Lord in the land of the living.

In the interest of speaking the whole truth, I'm not being flippant when I say good riddance to 2009.  But in no way do I mean to say that I am ungrateful for the abundant blessings from Father, Son and Spirit. And when I think about them I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  It's just that the discouraging, painful things the Father allowed seemed to swallow up the good things.  Really and truly - I'm not making this up.

A story: There was that time, before the end of my  nineteenth year, about three months into my marriage.  The story goes (and I'm not making it up) we were far from home, family or, even, obstetrical care for the tiny one growing inside me since about five days into our husband and wife-dom.  We were overwhelmed.  Full-time students and employees and part-time lovers.  We were broke.  And if that idiom implies we ever had any money to begin with than fill in the blank with something else.  And then there was the day that something went wrong with our one true asset, a silver Buick Skylark.We didn't know any better and kept driving it.  And then there was the day that Brian broke down on the side of the road during his twenty-minute drive home from a second shift job.  So there he was -- on the road in the middle of the night -- and a police officer had mercy on my husband and drove him home to a petrified, lonely new bride.  Then there was the day the mechanic told  us it would cost about $900 to fix the blown head gasket.  (I use these terms without understanding a whit.)

But the story doesn't end there.  Shortly before the mechanic-freaking-us-out incident we received word that our income tax return would be -- miracle of miracles -- something along the lines of $900 and one penny.  Can you imagine how we reacted to that news?

Sadly, not well.  We were angry, discouraged, despairing and basically throwing tantrums like a couple of children. (which, in fact, we still were, but that's another discussion.)  We were still naive enough to imagine getting money that wasn't spoken for already and stocking it up in pretty piles on our waterbed.  We foolishly imagined scenarios where we'd be able to splurge on luxuries like, say, lovely large bottles of ketchup and soda-pop to stock our naked refrigerator.  Maybe a date out to eat at a fancy restaurant, something really romantic, like Shoney's.  We had stars in our eyes about this money and we felt robbed by God.  Why did He let our car break down at the same time we had money to use on fun stuff?

Why, indeed?

And I remember this clearly, in the middle of my weeping rant, a thought like one of the baby flutters in my swelling tummy:  Oh!  This is a gift!  This is God taking care of us before we even knew we needed it.  God is good.

And He gives us our daily bread.

That lesson stuck fast in my memory.  It is one of several examples of God's gracious deliverances during those wretched first six months of married life. It is the same lesson for 2009.  This time with relationships, rather than finances. He gave us our daily bread and it was delicious, indeed.  He brought us comfort and company and savory moments with rich family and friends and food and art and music and travel.

In this second week of Christmas, my Advent reading this morning fed me sustaining truth.  I'm still not positive how Emilie Griffin got the devotional text from the daily Scripture reading, but I know that the Father's Spirit was counselling me through her words.
John of the Cross describes the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the soul. This dark night is part of our progress toward God...we need to remember John's [of the epistle] promise: 'Beloved, we are God's children now.' Christ's love and the Father's love are changing us, making us pure, whether or not we fully grasp this love.
Is this purification happening? How, exactly? It is not only in prayer that Jesus changes us. Purification may come about through the sometimes consoling, sometimes buffeting effects of our personal relationships....Today's readings converge to tell us how, through the Son, our transformation is happening. 'See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.'
The immature child in me wants to stock up on friends the same ignorant way Brian and I wanted to stock up on money all those years ago.  The same way the wandering Israelites hoarded manna in the desert all those millennia ago.When I look at the provisions of the Father, Son and Spirit in 2009 with new eyes, I see that He met us all year long with perfect timing -- just the right amount of nutrients on just the right days.

Celebrate with me, will you, the daily bread given us by our Abba-God in 2009.  I noticed as I looked through these pictures that so often the friends and art and music and travel center in some way around food, so I've selected these photos with the theme of receiving our daily bread in mind.  (I'm thinking that has something to do with the losing and re-gaining twenty pounds!  Maybe in 2010 God could provide a lo-cal version?)

Spring 2009

Valentine's Day Dinner with the children

For my new job, from my friend Andrea

Good Friday at Union Center

David and Phaedra Taylor visit for Worship & Arts Retreat at Union Center

Summer 2009

Get-away for Brian's birthday, Cayuga Lake

Korean Barbecue with Hill Family

Visit with the Perry Family / GrantDeb Photographers in VA

Family Vacation, Bethany Beach, DE

Girl's Day in NYC (Cathedral of St. John the Divine)

Philadelphia for Lori's fav concert, Bonnie Raitt

my humble little gardens

Autumn 2009

hanging out with Zane & Bethany at the goat cheese store

NYC in the fall (Billy's Bakery, Union Square Farmer's Mrkt)

Art Show on Main at Union Center

Girl's Spa Night at Janet's

Meeting my sister and nephews for her birthday half-way between NY and PA

Hanging out with the family and getting an impromptu concert from our Opera Singer house guest

Singing for Margaret's mom

A NY road-trip with friends -- tailgating for lunch, Chinatown for dinner

Thanksgiving Weekend festivities

Winter 2009

Christmas gifts after rehearsal @ Harry Tufts


New Year's Eve

What was it I was saying the other day about pain and confusion?

A prayer from Emilie Griffin:
Dear God, help me to know that I am Your child.
Teach me to weigh the meaning of this title: "Children of God".
Show me the power of Your purifying love and make me patient for my own transformation.
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