Faith, Life, Philosophy

Otherness

Otherness by tokyoform on flickr

“There are only two types of people in this world,” announced the waiter – obviously a man of experience – to my young parents, “There are those who like parmesan… and there are those who hate it.”

I remember my folks telling this story (although, admittedly, I don’t actually remember that the appreciation for parmesan was the line upon which he divided the human race – I know it was something equally ludicrous!). You’ve probably heard a few of these statements, yourself.

There’s something that appeals to human nature about having a neat system to categorize the people around us.  It seems that, particularly regarding subjects about which we’re passionate, we see things in dualities: either you’re ‘for’ what I’m for, or you’re against me.  It’s ‘us’ vs. ‘them’.  But even when it’s a more nebulous concept – something less obvious than a preference for Italian cheeses – we can be quick to draw lines of division.

Those people…”

Have you ever said, or thought, those words?

Maybe ‘those people’ were the ones from the wrong side of town; the kids whose parents worked jobs that your white-collar parents would disparage because they were ‘unskilled’ or ‘uneducated’ – or perhaps ‘those people’ were the privileged offspring of the ‘entitled’ elite, never having to work to earn the riches they enjoyed, looking down at you and ‘your people’ because they think that they’re where they are because they work ‘smart’ while your blue-collar families just work hard.

Maybe those people were in a community from which you felt an outsider – separated from them by language, culture, or religion.  You don’t understand why they don’t think like you, act like you, talk like you – and why they don’t seem to want to change, as you think they should, to ‘fit in better’ in their new country.  Or perhaps you’re the new one on the block, and you feel like ‘those people’ whose citizenship goes back some generations view you with suspicion, treat you as ‘other,’ subtly exclude you from things because “you won’t get it.”  You feel like they’ll probably never consider you to be truly one of them…  You don’t trust them, and they don’t trust you.

Whatever the case, the assumption you make is that those people are essentially different from you.  You assume that they have different values, different beliefs, different motives…  You figure that they don’t care about the things you care about, and – if you were honest about it – you’d admit that you don’t like them for it.

Money, education, culture, race, politics, religion – these things can be the lines upon which we divide ourselves from others; they’re at the root of some pretty deep rifts between fellow humans.

I’m originally from South Africa.

I wonder if anyone thinks, when reading that, ‘Oh, she must be one of THOSE people…’

Well, I will tell you that I do know a thing or two about the issue of ‘those people’.  I’ve been the fish-out-of-water; I’ve been the standout ‘other’; I’ve been the new kid in class.  I have also, very occasionally, been the ‘local’ with something of a history in a place.  But let’s look beyond my own history to see what History says about what happens when we get a bit caught up in maintaining that separation between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Apartheid was a system adopted by the ruling parties of South Africa toward the end of the 1940s.  We know now that this policy of separate development resulted in an oppressive regime in which people of one race enjoyed every benefit at the expense of everyone else – and we know now that the system of apartheid, aside from being intrinsically unjust, was one that perpetuated injustice, prejudice, and the subjugation of these ‘minority’ peoples under the rule of the others.

We know that NOW, but back then – when apartheid was first instituted – it was based upon a very idealistic (and misguided) belief by many white South Africans that it was in everyone’s best interests for each group to retain their own customs, culture, and language within the confines of their separate but parallel societies.  In theory, this was a kindness (such was the lie that was sold to the voting public).  In practice, there was nothing kind, respectful or just about it; apartheid was simply the institutionalization of racial discrimination.

We know THIS: History has proven that the separation of people based on these divisions – ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – results in greater misunderstanding, greater prejudice, and greater rifts between one person and another.

Not knowing people personally, but instead confining them to a category, leads to a kind of small-minded cynicism about their motives as well as a hard-heartedness towards them as fellow humans.

Remember that assumption I mentioned earlier?  That ‘those people’ are essentially different from you?

We’re all ‘other’ to someone else.

This post isn’t me being political; this is me being personal.  I’m not immune to these lines of division. I have also sometimes been caught up in concern about ‘others’.

I love diversity.  I think that one of the special things about our world is the colour and texture provided by different cultures, languages, traditions – even ethnic differences; the spectrum of eye colours, hair colours, skin…  I love it that, just the other week, here in New Zealand a pair of little girls from our school – one Sri Lankan and one South African – joined together to perform at a local Chinese singing competition (and they won an award!).  So sometimes, when I’ve been thinking about the potential for one nationality or another to dominate all the others because of that nationality’s increasing population, I’ve been concerned about the dilution of that diversity.

I was struggling with this recently, because I try to be conscious of identifying and erasing those lines of division in my own heart that separate me from my fellow humans; and I said to God,
“But if one group or another of us kind of ‘takes over’ then we’ll lose all that diversity that I love so much!”

I felt instantly convicted by this response:

“That stuff doesn’t matter to me!”

What???  But why did God create such interest and diversity if he didn’t care about all those differences?  Variety is the spice of life!

The truth is, our world will always have diversity.  Between the crazy and wonderful gene combinations we’ve got floating around, the variety of physical characteristics, personalities, styles of dress (and other forms of self-expression), and opinions – which we know will never align completely on this side of heaven – we’ve got plenty of diversity.  What we need to do is to ensure that those distinctions don’t become a barrier to connection between ourselves and others.

We’re all equal before God:

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Ultimately, all the differences we see – those things that separate ‘us’ from ‘them’ – are nothing to God.  Clinging too tightly to our national/ethnic identity has a way of blinding us to the hearts and virtue of others; God wants us to recognize our kinship with others.  We’re all His children.  And there’s none of us – not a single one – that God wouldn’t be glad to have in heaven.  We all have equal access to Jesus – and His heart is that we’d all accept him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so that we can spend eternity together.

So what are we doing drawing divisions where none truly exist?  Really, the only ‘us’ and ‘them’ there can be are those who’ve answered His call and those to whom He’s still calling.  We’re all his children – and that makes us family.

Go out today and greet your brothers and sisters with love and warmth.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

-Matt.22:37-39

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Faith, Life, Parenting

Unable

 

9 Crimes

There have been times when I’ve sat on the beds of my young children and wept with frustration and angst at the impossibility of motherhood.

I have cried bitter tears about the enormity of my to-do list and my ineptitude at accomplishing simple tasks.  I’ve sobbed about the big and the little things; the things I’ve meant to do but haven’t; the people I’ve let down; the ways in which I am failing consistently, constantly, relentlessly.  When I’ve been too quick to anger and too harsh in my responses I have fallen broken-hearted on my pillow and cried hot, copious tears until my throat was hoarse and my eyes were swollen and my emotions were spent.

This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

From the physical process of becoming a mother onwards, this journey has been fraught with discomfort and difficulty.

The crushing discovery that my endlessly-breastfeeding baby was not gaining but losing weight; second-guessing every decision I had to make about supplementing, pumping, formula, etc; searching for answers which – when (or if) found – were never quite satisfactory…

The panicked, prickly adrenaline rush when racing to retrieve a tot from the edge of disaster; anxiety about setting and maintaining boundaries for adventurous little explorers without sacrificing their curious spirit nor damaging the maternal bond…

The exhaustion from a full and busy day that then spills into a long night with a sick child; weariness from dealing with other stages and problems that seem interminable and unsolveable…

The heavy burden of guilt – when impatience has become the standard response; when care and prayer haven’t yet yielded solutions to a parenting dilemma; when ‘at the end of my tether’ has become a habitual destination…

Some parenting difficulties, once finished, are easily forgotten.  Sleep issues are one of these.  We went through different phases with all of our kids where they’d need a lot of help to get to sleep, or they’d have trouble sleeping through the night.  At the time that we were going go through them I’d wonder when it was that we’d last had an easy evening or a full night’s sleep, and I couldn’t imagine that it was ever going to be easier to get our kid to sleep; but once we were finally through that phase I almost couldn’t remember why it had seemed like it was such a struggle (until the next sleepless phase was upon us).

But there are other tribulations I’ve faced as a parent that linger even after they’ve been dealt with; echoes of past struggles, internal debates that haunt me; circular arguments on repeat in my head.  Did I really make the right decision about x?  Could I have handled y better?  Should I have responded differently to z?  And how is it that I’ve got a kid who does/says that?!!!

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on one problem, another one crops up.  Just when I’m about to pat myself on the back, I end up having to slap myself on the back of the head, instead.

I mean, sure, there’s joy.  Sure, there are moments where I feel like all is right in my world (through God’s grace alone).  And certainly there is love – deep, fierce, strong, tender, and abiding.  There’s humour – because, after all, they can be funny little people (even when they’re not trying to be).

But where’s that moment – as yet so elusive – where I get to feel that I am doing well at this job?

Where’s the proof that my life’s work will result in the contented, loving, productive people of faith and character that I pray my boys will grow up to be???

I have come to the conclusion, again and again, that I am not able for this challenge of motherhood.  I’m not enough.  At times, this realisation of my profound inability has dragged me to the depths of despair.

But that despair doesn’t get the last word in my story.

Today at church we heard again about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes – actually, the two miracles of the loaves and the fishes, because we were reminded that first Jesus fed 5000+ people and then later he repeated the miracle with 4000+.  Both times, a crowd had gathered to learn from Jesus; he filled their souls and their minds, but another need arose: their stomachs needed filling, too.  The disciples asked around and gathered a paltry amount of food in the face of such need: a few loaves of bread and some fish.  It wasn’t enough.

Jesus took those loaves and those fish and he multiplied them.  The people who were gathered on the sand – and, later, the people who were gathered on the mountaintop – ate their fill, and there was still plenty left over.  God turned ‘not enough’ into an abundance.

I was reminded today that what we bring to God – what we bring to life – isn’t enough; but He multiplies our offerings.  We are unable, but He is able.  We are mired in our weakness, but in His strength he frees us.

Today I need to remember to simply make my offering.  I need to remember to trust in God’s ability to multiply, magnify, and sanctify my small, imperfect efforts.  I need to take tiny, shaky steps towards the goal, and trust in Him to bring me to the finish line.

I am not – and I never will be – enough.  But God is.

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Friends: There’s simply no way around it.  Unless you’re the perfect parent, or you have perfect kids (both of which, believe me, I thought were my destiny before I had kids), you’re going to have parenting trials.  Take heart.  I have been leaning on two verses recently, in my own hour of need:

‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’

                                                                                                -Matt.11:28

‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’

                                                                                                -Phil.4:13

Bring your need: God will be your sufficiency.

Be encouraged, 

-Trix           x

 

 

 

 

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Faith, Life, Personal Growth, Philosophy, Reflection

Books and Covers

Books and Covers by judy and ed on flickr

It was one of those church concerts you so often just stumble upon in European cathedrals.  A visiting Welsh girls’ choir was performing, and I nipped in and grabbed a pew just as the choristers filed in.  They arranged themselves on the sanctuary steps and very shortly a divine sound echoed into the cavernous reaches of the church.

As an old choir girl, myself, I was interested to see how some of the choristers employed techniques for improving resonance and maintaining pitch (including opening their mouths widely to let the sound out, and smiling to prevent the notes from falling flat) – but, in spite of the general professionalism of the group, a few girls looked as if they just weren’t trying.

One girl in particular drew my eye.  She was plumpish and round-shouldered, and she carried a neutral – almost sullen – expression on her face.  She barely opened her mouth when she was singing, made no eye contact with the audience, and seemed altogether uncomfortable.  I kind of wondered why she was there at all.

I was surprised when I saw her step forward at the end of a song.  I figured that somehow she had been chosen to introduce the next piece, and I wondered if she were going to mumble an introduction the way she seemed to be mumbling the songs.  I watched as she took a deep breath.  The piano started with a few bars – and she began to sing.

Though many years have passed since my serendipitous discovery of that concert, I still remember the sweetness of that girl’s solo.  Her voice rang out, clear and true, and the audience was transfixed – none more than me.  I sat, awestruck, stinging with my own ears’ rebuke of my prejudice against this girl: the one with the angelic voice.

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As I ran along the waterfront towards home, the sun shone warm above me and salty breezes buffeted the buggy.  In the marina, the sailboats’ rigging lines sang in the wind.

I came upon a carpool of construction workers exiting a beat-up old van at their worksite.  Two of them were burly, with bellies hanging over their belts where their fluoro vests stopped short; another was rangy, with two days-worth of ‘five o’clock shadow’ and a ciggie hanging, unlit, from the corner of his lips.  We called out good-morning greetings as I approached, and in the background I could hear that their music was still playing loudly – as you’d expect.  What you might not have expected, though, was their choice of tunes.  Strains of Tchaikovsky spilled out of the passenger-side door and mingled with the cries of the gulls overhead.

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A global study on happiness was conducted a number of years ago (not ‘The Happiness Project,’ which is somewhat skewed towards richer respondents).  They looked at affluent societies, industrial communities, aboriginal groups, families living in the most abject poverty – in short, the researchers covered a great diversity in living situations.  And they came up with some surprising findings.  What they discovered was that some people living in poverty achieved a greater sense of contentment with life – happiness – than others in far superior circumstances.  I remember seeing an interview with a group of people in a slum in India following the release of this study’s results:

“Yes, we’re happy,” said one woman, “Because we’re together.”

“Together” meant eight adults living in a one-bedroom shack.  Together meant eating their meagre portions of rice in shifts, because they didn’t have enough bowls for them to share their meal at the same time.  Together meant taking turns to sleep, too, because there was only half as much space as they needed to all be stretched out at once.

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“You can’t judge a book by its cover”

We all know this expression, don’t we?  And yet, how often do we heed the truth of it?

A plain exterior can conceal exquisite talents.  Rough edges can hide tender interiors.  Financial poverty can obscure the fact of the wealth of a life shared.

Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

-John 7:24

Again and again, I am reminded to suspend my knee-jerk judgement and look deeper for the truth.  People are so much more than they appear to be.

This seems an especially apt topic for me to cover right now, as I’m going through a bit of a ‘Common Dowdyfrau’ phase.  I look in the mirror, and all I see is what’s wrong with me – overweight, insecure, unattractive…  I know that this is how others might perceive me, too.

And yet, I also know that there is so much more to me than that.

I am a beloved child of God, for starters – no matter how unworthy I feel, I cannot dismiss the worthiness this gives me.  I am a mother – not always a good mother; not always an accomplished mother; but always, always a devoted mother.  I am a wife – loyal, loving, committed.  And I am a writer, an editor, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a niece…  The mirror tells me one thing, but the Bible tells me to look deeper.  My value – and the value of every other human – is contained in who I am and WHOSE I am, and not what I look like.

How much money you make, what school you went to, where you find your friends on the social ladder, who designed your clothes, and how many ‘Likes’ your facebook statuses get – those things don’t define you.  What defines you is who you choose to be on a day-to-day basis, and whose you are (because, whether you recognize it or not, you were lovingly created).

So let’s get past those covers and start delving into the stories inside.  Let’s stop believing that we’ve got other people all figured out because ‘we can just tell by looking at them.’  And let’s each try to be an open book and invite others to know us better so that they can move beyond appearances, too.

Let’s look inside.

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Life, Philosophy

Switching Gears

sofa warehouse by sacha fernandez on flickr

Next weekend we are moving out of our nomadic phase into a ‘home rental’ phase.  We’re going to be settled; there are lots of changes ahead.

It’s going to be tough switching gears and actually making purchases to furnish our household.

A normal person looks at a price tag as an indicator of the monetary value of something.  I just calculate the exchange rate directly into airmiles.  So while a friend might say, “How much did he pay for that sofa?  Oh, OK – I think I can work that into my budget,” I’d be thinking,

“I could get to GREECE for that much!” 

Which explains how it is that we’ve still managed to do some globetrotting, even after having kids. 

And why we have no furniture.

So now I need to embrace the ‘homemaker’ in me and nest a little.  It’s exciting and scary all at once – will we go colonial?  Country?  Modern?  More than likely we’ll start with a bunch of items that ‘will do in the meantime’ and end up with a hodgepodge in every room.

Ask me for an itinerary of a Europe-with-kids adventure, and I’ll give you a clear and detailed list.  Ask me to decide on a colour scheme (something that won’t clash with the warm Rimu-wood panelling all over our living room – from the walls right up to the high sloped ceilings), and I’m adrift.  Switching gears isn’t for the faint-of-heart!

Last Monday the new school year began here in New Zealand and, in the absence of a place to stay (and therefore any knowledge of what our ‘local’ school might be) I re-embarked on the homeschooling in earnest.  We had a very trying morning of it (when I say ‘we’, I mean that I was tried to the fullest extent – the boys seemed rather cheerful as they were telling me I’m a mean teacher and positively gleeful as they refused to participate in the learning exercises) – so much so that as soon as the clock struck twelve I raced up to West’s office and, with sotto-voce curses, hissed at him to take over – I’m DONE!!! and then proceeded to sob into my pillow for a good half hour, weepily refusing offers of a lunchtime meal.

And then the phone rang.

Gear switch.

The rental agent was phoning to say that we were being offered a house we’d applied for – an older home a block from the beach in a peaceful suburb just under half an hour away from West’s folks.  Homeschool was out of session – permanently.

I blew my nose, reapplied my makeup, and grabbed a toasted sandwich (my appetite had returned); just under hour later we were at the local school, enrolling the boys.  About an hour after that we were in the local uniform shop, fitting them with shirts and shorts (and sandals, sunhats, and fleeces).  And from there we went to the stationers to collect stationery packages for each of them to take to class.

The next day our boys began school for the first time in New Zealand, and we signed the papers for our house rental.

It’s amazing how often we have to switch gears in life, isn’t it?!

One minute you’re on one path, and the next you’ve jumped the track and you’re headed somewhere else altogether.  Even if you’ve planned the change in your trajectory, it can still be a bit of a shock to your system to actually make the switch.

When I returned from a year in Europe following my university studies, I started saving up to go to graduate school.  My plan was to study counter-terrorism (in my chosen field of Criminology) and gain expertise so that I could go into situations following a terrorist attack and help determine who was responsible.

This plan seemed ideal, as I was passionate about making a difference and willing to travel globally, and I was really interested in the topic of terrorism (as I had peripherally experienced its effects in both my native South Africa and my childhood home of Sri Lanka during the escalation of the civil war there).

And then I met West.

All of a sudden I had hopes of a future that included a husband and children, and the idea of putting myself in harm’s way and travelling away from my beloved became less appealing.

Gear switch.

So now I try to make a difference in smaller ways, and I travel for pleasure (including the pleasure of visiting with family), and I use my knowledge of Criminology in raising my own small band of hooligans.

I went back to school (to obtain my Editing certificate) when C was under a year old; at the same time I was challenging myself physically with a new diet and exercise regimen; and I was called to help lead a new marriage ministry in our church.  It was an amazing time of learning and growth, and I felt so blessed to be involved in things that I was passionate about.  My time, my body, my soul – all were changing and I was thriving.

And then we felt the pull to add to our family – and I became pregnant with baby #4 (our D).

Gear switch.

This is what life is.  It’s doing one thing, and then something changes, and then doing another thing. 

And when it’s tough because of the changes, we have to remember something – we have to bear this in mind to keep our perspective: Making those gear-changes smoothly is key to functional driving on the road of life.

This is a metaphor that works well for me, because I am – at best – HOPELESS at driving a car with a standard transmission.

I mean, if you’ve ever seen a reality show like The Amazing Race and wondered at the imbecility of the contestants not knowing what gear they should be in and laughed at them lurching and shuddering along the road in their standard-drive autos, then you would sure get a kick out of me trying to drive one.  West has tried to teach me (and he’s a good teacher!), but we decided that it would be best for our marriage if we just stuck to owning cars with automatic transmissions.  I am THAT bad.

But on the road of life, I get how the gear switches work – and I can see that going with the changes instead of resisting them is just so much better than shuddering and jarring your way along the road.

So, don’t come looking for me on the travel forums tomorrow.

I’m going to be out buying a sofa.

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Faith, Life

Holding Patterns

Plane by Matt Crane on flickr

We’re homeless right now.  That is, we have a place to stay (thanks to the kind hospitality of West’s folks), but we are currently ‘of no fixed address’.

We haven’t yet found a house to rent – which also means that, as we move into the new year, we don’t know what town or suburb we’ll be living in; what school our boys will go to; what church we’ll attend.  We have no idea what our life here in New Zealand will really look like.  And there are still other uncertainties attached to those decisions and choices we’ll be making – how well our boys will assimilate into their classrooms; what activities we’ll be able to provide for them; how the move will affect their attitude towards school, church, and home…

It’s easy to be discouraged.  It is very easy to be caught up in the anxiety of not knowing what happens next.  We’re in a holding pattern, and for a planner like me it can be tough to be in this kind of state for any length of time.

This feeling of uncertainty, amplified exponentially, undoubtedly accompanies other life-changing situations – a serious illness in the family; separation or divorce; job loss – and I know that, as ‘life-altering’ things go, ours is definitely on the minor end of the spectrum.  But the same rules apply.

In my own life, I can recall a number of times in which I’ve felt that I was maintaining a holding pattern.

I distinctly remember, somewhere in the middle of my university years, starting to feel a bit like I was treading water.  I was trudging through a bunch of prerequisite courses in order to get into the classes I really wanted to take; my social life was minimal, because my university was a ‘commuter campus’ and most of my volunteering was with kids and teens (which was great, but not the same as time with peers); and there didn’t even seem to be any particularly interesting boys around upon whom I could hang my affections.

So what did I do?  I made a list.

I sat down and wrote out a whole lot of goals – short-term and long-term – which I could intentionally work towards and achieve.  These weren’t things like ‘get married’ – they weren’t things that I couldn’t control.  They were little things like, ‘Call so-and-so and go out for coffee’, and ‘Go to the gym 3x a week’ – and bigger things, such as ‘Graduate with my BA (Crim. Maj, Engl. Minor)’.  It was amazing how much it changed my outlook to know that I had a sense of direction and purpose.

What else did I do?  I moved forwards.

I just took one step at a time towards the goals I’d set.  Even in a holding pattern, you’ve got to keep on moving – and that is far easier to do when you trust in the outcome.  And you have to remember that baby-steps still get you there in the end.

Last but not least, I prayed.

I prayed.  I trusted.  I believed that God had good plans for me, and I knew that he would illuminate my path.

Gradually I ticked things off those boxes on my list.

The next time I remember feeling like I was in a holding pattern was when I’d just returned to Canada from a year of living overseas in my early twenties.  Although it was an amazing experience, there had been times while I’d been away that I had been in very basic survival mode.  Much of my energy and effort had been expended towards just coping and hanging in there.  So when I got home, all of a sudden I lost the purpose to which I’d been clinging.  I needed to find work, re-kindle acquaintances, and make new friends – but I didn’t have a clear sense of my overall goals or a firm sense of purpose.

I made a list.  Funnily enough, one of the things on my list was just to ‘go out more’ – and that sparked a list of what I’d be looking for in the perfect guy (for me).  It was important for me to identify what I felt were my core needs and goals in life – and it gave me a sense of momentum as I re-created my life in Canada.

I took one step at a time.  I wanted to be social and hospitable; I made an effort to be more engaged with the people around me and to seek out new friendships as well.

I had faith.  I prayed that God would lead me in the right direction, and I trusted in the outcome.

I ended up doing a bit more travelling while I sorted myself out – a solo trip out to the East Coast to see my sister and brother-in-law and then a trip to South Africa for a special wedding and visiting with my family.  Shortly after my return to Vancouver I made arrangements with some friends to go together to the opening of an Irish pub (finding social opportunities, as I’d promised myself I’d do!).  I commandeered a spare beer keg for a stool and sat down at a small table across from a guy I’d never met – who ended up being the love of my life: my West.

Having one aspect of your life sorted out doesn’t make you immune to other complications, either.  There have been a number of other phases in which I’ve had a spell in the doldrums.

A couple of years ago, when my life was interrupted by my shoulder injury, I felt that familiar sense of anxiety over not knowing what happens next.  I couldn’t travel (insurance wouldn’t cover me with a ‘pre-existing condition’, and my shoulder was too unstable to risk it); I didn’t know what the prognosis would be (surgery? physio?  life-long suffering?); I couldn’t drive…  Even our longer-term travel plans were up on the air.  I felt like someone had pressed ‘pause’ on my life.

I made a list.

I took one step at a time.

I had faith.

I found ways of nurturing my boys without being able to physically wrap them in my arms; I made small goals and met them; I grew in my faith; I healed.

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Here I am again; back in a holding pattern, not knowing what lies ahead.  The days and weeks and months in the coming year are going to be full of change – full of things as yet unrevealed.

I’m making lists.  I’m taking one step at a time.  I have faith.

“’I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,

plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

to give you hope and a future. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,

and I will hear you. 

You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart…

(Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Plans to prosper you.  Not that we will ‘get rich’, but that our life will be enriched.

Not to harm you.  Whatever happens, God will make something good out of it.

To give you hope and a future.  We trust in the outcome.

In these times of ‘not knowing’, we do call more on God; we do pray more to him and rely more on him.  We do seek him more (with all our hearts), and we do find him.  God’s provision will be there for us.

The trick is recognizing his hand in all of it, and taking the opportunities he provides.

I don’t want to be the guy in the joke – you know the one: there’s a flood and this guy is stranded on a roof.  A raft, a boat, and a helicopter all come by to offer him a ride but he keeps saying that God will save him… The waters rise and he calls out to God, who answers with,

“What more do you want?  I sent you a raft, a boat, a helicopter…”

I don’t want to miss the boat.

And so I’m praying.  As we make our lists; as we take baby steps; as we rely more deeply on our faith – we are listening for his ‘still, small voice’.  And what a comfort to know that, all over the world, our friends and family are praying for us too.

God is good – all the time.  Even when we’re on hold.

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