Monday, July 16, 2012

Make that seven

Seven years ago, July 16th fell on a Saturday. I woke up early in a house that wasn’t my own, surrounded by beautiful women who might have been just as tired as I was. If they were, they didn’t show it.

I had been waiting for this day officially for 10 months. Unofficially, I knew it had been in the works for much longer.

I was pretty young when I first started thinking about, and praying for, my future spouse. (Now, when you imagine that, imagine it as sort of a ‘mix-in’ at an ice cream place.. it wasn’t something I obsessed over, just something that came up here and there.) A lot of people called me ‘mature for my age’, but it seemed to me that I was just being myself - making attempts to think and feel clearly, and to process what my circumstances brought about - nothing special. The Lord led some really outstanding people (and books and singers) into my path that helped me to think about the kind of potential marriage had in my life, despite the fact that it was a long way off. I began to realize that the decisions I was making about things that seemed fairly trivial wouldn’t escape consequences in future relationships.

At the ripe old age of 14 or so, I decided I was finished. No more boys. I didn’t want to have anything to do with romantic (if you can call it that in junior high) activity until I was really sure the Lord had lead me to another person, and had led him to me. There was no guarantee I would get married, and though I hoped I would, it didn’t seem worth worrying about beyond trying to make wise decisions relationally in my daily encounters.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I failed. You can always assume that with me. I messed up in relationships with girls and guys alike. I hurt feelings, I felt the hunger for sexual attention, I said things I shouldn’t have, and I led people on. I was right there with every other teenager, desperately trying to figure out what was going on and what I was supposed to be doing.

The perspective on marriage that was developing was simmering on the backburner while I went about my business. And then one evening I met a new guy at Bible study and I actually thought to myself, ‘Wow, he’s pretty cute!’ That thought caught me off guard because it was so unhindered. And I found out later, it wouldn't really go away.

One thing led to another and that guy’s blue eyes were opened to his need for Jesus. He saw what I had seen in my own heart way back when. Emptiness, need, ache, brokenness, confusion. He needed a salve to help and heal. Someone who would listen and understand, even when things weren’t getting any clearer.

At some point along the way, he decided I was worth a second look. We weaved in and out of each other’s lives until eventually we were tangled enough that we decided to stick together. We made it romantical. And then we got confused. Our dating relationship makes me laugh, but it makes me so thankful. We worried about such funny things, like the semantics involved in announcing we were ‘dating’ vs. announcing we were ‘courting’. And whether or not it was really ok to go 62mph in a 60mph zone. But we also worried about our physical relationship, knowing that though we thought we would get married, there was no guarantee. We struggled to figure out where to draw the line and we cared about how our actions could affect the other’s future spouse if we didn’t get married.

We held hands a lot. I don’t know if it was the sense of togetherness or nearness or claim on one another that caused it, but we did. I remember one time, fingers interlocked as usual, I wiggled a finger from my other hand in between our coupled hands and whispered, ‘Do you know who’s in there?’ The look on Ian’s face told me he thought I was being funny. ‘Jesus,’ I said.

I cannot tell you how many times since then I have prayed that Jesus would always be at the center. Of our lives, of our relationship, of our family. My perspective on what that means has certainly grown and changed during the years following, but my prayer remains the same.

I could never have imagined the direction of the path I was choosing when I woke, bleary-eyed, on that Saturday morning. The anticipation of the immediate outweighed the anticipation of what lay ahead in the years to come. My unsuspecting, ever-optimistic self was assuming we’d settle down somewhere not too far, have a few kids, a dog, and a sunny life. So far, my assumptions haven’t been very accurate. And, as hard as it has been for me to say at times, I am thankful for that. My life wouldn’t be my life without my husband. I can’t imagine life without him because, aside from Jesus, he is the most influential part of it. I can’t believe where the last seven years have led us, but I am thankful for the many things they have brought us.

Each night when we go to bed, each and every night, the last thing we say is ‘I love you.’ ‘I love you, too.’ It is something I am sure of. Something that doesn’t change. And something I hope is still the same through the next seven years.

Happy anniversary, sweet hubby of mine. I love you.

Friday, July 06, 2012

New Surroundings

I have that feeling.. The one where I know something is missing. Things don’t feel right. It’s hard to describe. Uneasy. Gnawing. Ever-present in stillness.

It’s not something I’ve missed - experiencing this; knowing that there is little to be had that will feel familiar. That daily life will not include recognized faces, predictability, organization. There are things to remember, things to figure out, paperwork to attend.

There will be a string of little victories, brave steps taken, attempts made. There will be disappointments, fears, insecurities, and outright failures.

What is it that gnaws when I am sitting still?

The knowledge that things are different. Is that all it is?

Taking on a new city, a new way of life seems to be a different animal with children in tow. My chances to explore or lessened, my concern for safety is heightened, my ability to connect is limited.

And yet, I find myself excited by little things. Like knowing the library is just a meander down the way. Like experiencing a worship service with people who seem genuine and kind, who give grace to my stretched children and whose gnawing is long gone. Like being reminded this morning that no matter how long our stay, investing is always worth it.

I have been in this position before; the one where our tenure in this particular place may be short. Maybe less than a year. I know the battles of ‘Is it worth it?’ and ‘Does it even matter?’ It takes so long to learn to live somewhere, to know where the heck you are trying to go, what is the point of even leaving the house? Why would I ever spend time knowing someone who will just be pulled from my grasp in a few short months?

I’ll tell you why. Because it is worth it. No matter what my laziness, my selfishness, my fear will tell me. No matter how my homebody tries to pull me back. I know the truth, and that is this: Life is for living. It is not for whittling away on my second-hand couch while experiences wait just outside that door.

Already I am being pushed to do the things I love to do, like find women to befriend, host people in our home, take my children out and about, and I am finding it so easy to make excuses. I’m nervous.. they might not like me.. our house isn’t ‘together’ enough.. I don’t know where I’m going, what is safe, what is not. I’m feeling the urges to create, to express, to do, and to make beautiful and I can feel the resistance.. my supplies are limited.. I don’t know what people will think.. I don’t have any glue.

I am so easily paralyzed. It can be large, it can be small, it doesn’t take much.

If there is one thing I don’t want to do, it is miss out.

I am taking baby steps. A small collage to replace an old photo. A pool party to meet a few people. A chicken pot pie in the freezer to invite someone over for lunch on Sunday. Step, step, step.

In the last few days we have meandered in the early evenings. I find myself continually thinking.. ‘Whoa.. this is, like, a REAL city!’ There are so many places to go, so many things to see and do, and so many kind people wandering around. Of course there are awkward moments - like when it takes me 20 minutes to find the handicap entrance to the library so I can go in with the buggy, only to see that it is the most jankety little lift thing that I kind of never want to use again. I am almost tempted to swear off the library.. almost. Not to mention how on my first venture out with the kids on my own, not five minutes down the road I was confronted by a man who really wanted me to buy him a hotdog. I did, of course. I bought him two.. and a giant fountain coke. :) Which oddly led to me getting to know the gas station clerk more than I might have otherwise. But it just solidified the fact that we are not in Kansas anymore. This isn’t rural Indiana.. it’s not quaint, little St Andrews. It’s more like all the other big cities that we’ve visited, but never lived in. Another learning curve to mount.

But I am so energized and excited by the possibilities. The number of stores and restaurants just in our little area is unbelievable compared to what we are used to. I actually really like watching traffic on the freeway outside our living room window. I love that everyday I am greeted with a sun that is just getting warmed up. And, I am ready to make plans to explore even further.. We’ve got a whole coast to cover and only a year to do it! :)

A little more than a week in, and I am still full of thankfulness.