Archive | patience

on being “desperate”

 

desperate

Once upon a time, I swore I would never write about singleness. After all, nothing screams “desperate” quite like blogging about wishing you were married. However, in the past couple of years, I’ve received so much encouragement from my friends who are not ashamed of their relationship status and are bold enough to write about it, that I thought I could share my two cents without labeling myself too blatantly.

Since then, I’ve written about how singleness is not a disease and the real reason it’s hard being single. 

I defended myself in the first one. Singleness is not a disease…I am happy being single! In the second one, I confessed…it’s hard being single. Both are true. It seems that no matter how happy, fulfilled, busy, purposeful and content I am, there’s always an undercurrent of wishing I could marry. I don’t know yet if that’s a hidden form of discontent or a God-given instinct that will one day manifest itself in a real marriage or some of both, but it’s there nonetheless.

Still, the fear that I’ll seem “desperate” is so strong, it kicks the breath out of me at times. I feel like “single” is a name tag stuck in my hair. No amount of smiling and assuring people I’m happy will distract them from that sticky label.

What has surprised me most, however, is that as the years pass, I become happier and happier and more and more desperate. It’s true. The other night, I covered my face with my hands and cried real tears over this. I told God for the first time that I am, in fact, desperate. Desperate in the sense that I cannot shake this desire to be married, but it’s so much more than that. I’m desperate for God to write my story, whether it includes marriage or not.

Only He can fulfill me, only He knows what is best. I have become desperate, alright. Desperate to see Him move in my heart and my future. Desperate to know He’s working on this. Desperate to feel Him close when I feel lonely. Desperate to put all of this—the contentment and discontentment, the tears that come with a wrenching heart and the joy that makes me wonder why I’d ever want any other kind of life, all of this—into His competent hands.

I’m studying The Book of Numbers right now in my Bible study and it’s far from boring. Something really impressed me about Chapter 11, in which the wandering Israelites beg for meat. They “grumbled” and “wept” at the doors of their tents. In other words, they whined and complained to anyone who would listen, but they did not take their desires to God. When Moses could take no more, he addresses God in what sounds like an equally whiny and disrespectful speech:

Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:11-15

His plea is sprinkled with questions of God’s faithfulness and the idea that the burden is entirely on Moses himself. You might think this is the point when God smites them all, Moses first. But that’s not the case. Though the people are punished, God takes mercy on Moses. He actually raises up seventy men to help bear the responsibilities as spiritual leader. God honors Moses for his honesty and the fact that he brought his weaknesses and needs to Him, instead of just complaining to his friends and family.

The people get what they asked for too, if you’re wondering. They get their meat. So much meat, that it oozes out of their nostrils (gross, huh?) and, “while it was still in their teeth,” it gives them a great plague and many die. The place where they fall is called Grave of Craving. Ouch.

That day in my Bible study notes, I jotted: “We can crave our way into the grave if we refuse to be satisfied by The Bread of Life.” 

Katie Davis, a missionary and woman of God I greatly admire, recently married. After living several years in Uganda as a single mom to fourteen, she finally has a husband (something she says she wanted all along) and a dad for her daughters. She writes,

“The Lord who knows my heart has been whispering to me of a new season for a long time, and my flesh has worried that this new season might take me out of my secret hiding place with Him, that somehow a physical, tangible relationship with another might take away from my relationship with my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver. Little did I know that this new relationship would only enhance the other.” (from Katie’s blog.)

My first thought was, “Yes! That’s what I want, too. I won’t settle for anything less than a marriage that enhances my relationship with God.” But later in the week, I started thinking about her words again, and I realized one horrific thing about my heart: There are moments when I would gladly trade my relationship with God for a “physical, tangle relationship.” And I don’t have the kind of relationship with “my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver” that would make me hesitant to receive a new relationship into my heart.

The words from the Rend Collective song came to mind almost immediately:

But I want to love You more
I need You God
But I want to need You more

I’m lost without
Your creative spark in me
I’m dead inside
Unless Your resurrection sings

I’m desperate for a desperate heart
I’m reaching out, I’m reaching

All that I am is dry bones
Without You Lord, a desert soul
I am broken but running
Towards You God, You make me whole

You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy

Maybe I am desperate, but not even close to as desperate as I want to become. 

4

when God the Father seems overly protective

Though I sometimes suspect I’m turning into A Morning Person, I have to admit to a life-long hatred of alarm clocks. The sound my phone makes across the room when it’s time to get up for work is one of my least-favorite ditties ever to exist. In that inevitable moment, I forget that I am the one who told the alarm precisely when to go off and that, after all, it is just a piece of technology, not some demon set on ruining my life. I always give myself time for one “snooze” as I dive back under my comforter and appraise the day for nine minutes.

After forgiving God for allowing this injustice to happen so early in the morning, I begin to pray in short, sleepy spurts. What shall I do today, for The Kingdom? What are His plans for me? How can I glorify Him?

These prayers may sound quite pious for 6:30 AM, but I assure you they are merely the product of sleepy habit and a lot of grace. I cannot even say that my heart is necessarily “in it” at this point in the day (as is sometimes evidenced by my grouchy behavior once I leave my bedroom,) but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. I often look back on these little prayers around noon and think, “Well? Have I begun? Am I doing His work, or not?”

But do you know what irks me about these prayers? It’s the calm, consistent answer they so often receive. I can almost hear the smug tone in God’s voice at 6:33. There is no special assignment. There is no exciting task. It’s almost as if He replies with a small smile and a, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Day after day after boring day.

I hold my palms out in reverent prayer. WHATEVER you might want me to do, Lord, I’ll do. I’m available to you. I am willing.

“Okay,” He replies with that little smile. “Just keep doing what you’re doing for now.”

So, I know I’m being a bit sacrilegious by characterizing God the Father this way. After all, smugness isn’t exactly a fruit of His spirit. But this is the way I feel, sometimes. Like God is not using me. Instead, He’s just keeping me on a shelf, safe and still. I can almost see the dust collecting around my feet.

The truth is, at eighteen I thought I was ready. Everyone thought I was mature for my age. They applauded my wisdom and discretion. I wanted to be married, to adopt kids, to go back to Haiti do mission work. I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s list with a riveting scrutiny of society. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid at times, or that I never felt unqualified, but those feelings never really go away. Big things will always make little people nervous. Why not just start now?

And God gave me that little smile. I think it was the first time I’d seen it. And he patted me on my little head and tucked me into my little bed and told me to grow up. And, like all little children do, I told Him I wasn’t sleepy and I didn’t want to go to bed! I wanted to stay up with the grown-ups and do grown-up things and have fun! And He chuckled a little as He turned out the light and pulled the door, as if to say. “That’s nice, Deary.”

So I pitched the riveting manuscript and was rejected. The guy who would’ve married me got turned down. The tickets to Haiti were never purchased. The alarm clock continued going off at the same time every morning and I continued to lie in bed, nine minutes at a time, wondering what the heck my purpose was.

Now I’m twenty-two and, I’ll admit, a bit weary of God’s overly protective tendency’s at times. I get the feeling He’s holding out on good things for me because He just wants me to be near all the time. To get to know Him better. To spend my hours with Him and talk with Him. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the launch? Where’s the applause from society that comes with great accomplishments? Where’s the fodder for my blog, for Pete’s sake? Nothing every happens to me! I shriek (and throw myself onto my bed with the grace of a prepubescent brat.)

God gives me that look like I don’t know best or something, and leaves me to my pouting.

Other girls get married. Other girls have babies. Other girls travel. Other girls get published. I was never jealous of the girls who had phones before me, cars before me, pierced ears before me…but this? Are they really more qualified? Why can’t I be an early bloomer? (Stomps Mary-janes indignantly.)

This may be an exaggerated description of my relationship with God. I would like to think there’s a little more mutual respect between us, and less whining. But the truth is, I do complain a lot, about my lot. Elisabeth Elliot says of Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure.”

My “lot” is what happens to me-my share of that which comes by the will of the Power that rules my destiny. My lot includes the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing, my job, my hardships, the people I work with, my marital status, hindrances, obstacles, accidents, and opportunities. Everything constitutes my lot. Nothing excepted. (Be Still My Heart, pg. 35)

Can I accept the fact that My Good Father secured the lot that is my singleness? That He designed me this way and set me on this path? Can I accept the fact that He ordained for my book to be rejected? That I’d have to break someone’s heart? That I’d have to learn from mistakes? That my friends would move on and move away without me?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is about Mary and Martha. I think I love it because it’s about women, and sisters no less! And it takes place in their home and shows their personalities and, let’s face it, tells a story all women have experienced. Martha is cooking and cleaning because they have guests and she is ticked that Mary isn’t helping. She’s just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Hello! I  can imagine Martha thinking while she gives Mary a wide-eyed glanced over Jesus’ shoulder. A little help here?!

But Jesus is sort of related to the God I’ve been describing here. He has a way of snuffing out our self-righteous plans with a look or a word.

“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 The VOICE.)

So what if I have an extended adolescence? So what if my life looks boring to other people? So what if I’ll never get to prove how good of a wife/mother/author/missionary I could’ve been at nineteen? God hasn’t been smug with me. He’s been patient. He’s given me years of chances to “choose that one thing” that cannot be taken away from me. I wanted to be Martha, working and doing big things for Jesus. I wanted to show the world how dedicated I was to Him. But it turns out He really doesn’t give a darn about what the world sees me do. He cares about my heart. If I cannot sing a serenade to Him, why do I think a solo concert in front of a big audience will bring Him glory?

I have a  feeling there is a Mother Theresa out there right now who hasn’t been discovered by the media and never will. An Elisabeth Elliot who doesn’t land a book deal. A Gladys Aylward who still hasn’t made it to China, despite her efforts.

God’s ways are not my ways. He actually does know better. So maybe I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. Maybe I did need a little more time on my Papa’s lap, as my friend Jessiqua would say, before chasing my dreams. Maybe He’s preparing me for a greater work than I’ve ever cooked up on my own. And maybe it won’t win me fame or esteem. But maybe it will matter.

4

when you have a whole box of matches (and none of them will light)

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It was a pink, glowing morning. I slid the key into the lock and slipped through the front door of the office, flipped the lights on and opened the blinds before plopping into my spinning chair. The day before, I had found a small box of matches in the office kitchen and I was excited to finally light the candle I had cleverly brought to work and moronically been unable to light. I pushed the box open and saw five small matches. Perfect! I thought. This will last me through the week!

I selected a match and struck it against the rough edge of the box. Nothing. It had been a while since I’d used a match. We have completely succumbed to fancy candle lighter sticks at my house. I scooted my chair out, stood over my desk and ran the match across the box again. Nothing.

I probably wasn’t using enough pressure. I struck the match again and it immediately snapped in half in my grip. I dropped the two pieces onto my desk, grabbed another match out of the box and quickly it across the scaly package. It too snapped in half! I gingerly selected my third attempt and held my breath as I rubbed it along the box. Nothing. I rubbed it again, quickly but gently. And again, and again. Finally I realized I had rubbed off all the ignition, turning my match into a useless little stick.

I carefully selected my next victim and scratched it across the rough strip on the side of the box. It lit! I held the match to the candlewick, singeing my fingers a bit in the process. Ouch! I had forgotten how quickly matches burn up. I panicked a little and blew the match out with some unwarranted vigor. There! I smiled at my candle…only to realize I had extinguished that too. 

I know it sounds dramatic, but standing there in the haze of another failed match, I couldn’t help but relate this to my love life (or lack thereof.) It seemed that for every hope, there was always some grand disappointment. There were the matches that snapped in two as soon as we began, the matches that never lit at all, much to my chagrin. There were the matches that I accidentally extinguished and the matches that left me feeling burned and dejected. And there weren’t all that many matches in the box to begin with!

Sometimes I blamed it on myself. I am too shy, he’ll never notice me. I was to forward, I turned him off. I got scared and ruined everything. 

Sometimes I blamed it on him. It would’ve worked if he hadn’t done that, if he had given me a chance, if he wasn’t already interested in someone else.

Sometimes, without admitting it, I blamed it on God. Was I even given a chance?

And that’s when the “chances are’s” begin. Chances are, I’ll never meet anyone. I say to myself as I wind down after another discouraging day. Chances are, if I do meet someone, he won’t be interested. Chances are, if he’s interested, I’ll mess things up somehow. Chances are, I’ll wind up brokenhearted and alone. Chances are, I’ll be in this same situation when I’m 25, 30, 35…

But the sun rises every 24 hours and, blinking in the light of dawn I remember that things are never so grim as they seem when you’re waiting for the shower at 12:30 in the morning. I smile to think that even if “chances are,” my life is not up to chance. My life is up to someone who loves me more than I deserve, knows me intimately and has a good plan for me. Whether that plan includes marriage or not, is not for me to know. I just have to trust that, whatever the journey is, the destination is the same.

I eyed the matchbox with the look a pitcher gives a batter before throwing a fast one. This ends now. I gingerly picked up the last match and struck it against the box with faith and determination. Much to my surprise, it lit on the first try! I calmly held it to the wick. Much to my surprise, the candle began to glow! I cupped my hand around the match and gently blew out the flame. Much to my surprise, it diffused without my burning my fingers in the process. The candle was lit at last!

I grinned and looked around, but there was no one there to celebrate with me. I didn’t mind. I dropped back into my chair, took a deep whiff of the lovely aroma and turned my computer on. Work was allowed to begin now.

a shift to september

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photo credit: jeweliet.com

Well! After a long wait, change has finally graced us with her presence. As the first flurries of snow fall on the stone streets of Riga, beauty berries appear on the cusp of our woods here at Eyrie Park. A new semester begins and college students flood back into town, children pose for back-to-school photos for Instagram and teachers gird up their loins for another year of backbreaking, rewarding toil.

This morning, my parents and Jeweliet settled into their new apartment and unpacked their month’s worth of necessities. They’re asleep right now, as I type in this sunny bedroom filled with the sound of dinner being prepared. In a couple of days, they’ll appear before court and received custody of Meggie and see her and squeeze her and start to love her in a way we love things we’re never going to lose.

Meanwhile, my oldest brother heads back to Dallas where he’s recently moved in hopes of starting a business with some friends, and brothers #2 and #3 drop their duffle bags in Mema and Papa’s south Houston living room and make themselves comfortable. If you’re counting, that leaves me with the married sister, the brother-in-law and the loud and lovely Jubilee, age eleven. This has got to be the weirdest September ever.

But it’s also wonderful, because things are actually progressing. We’re following a bend in the river, hopeful and trusting and a bit afraid.

I always feel a deep sadness when I realize Summer is slipping through my grasp, because I can never feel I’ve had enough of sunshine, freckles, jumping into the deep end, cicada songs and the leisure of long, long days. Summer in Texas is so hot, many people don’t believe they could stand it and even I complain about the heat from time to time, and yet I adore it. It’s homey and it makes me feel alive and adventurous to squint and breathe in fresh steam.

I always mourn Summer, and yet September has her own magic. September is like a grandmother you’ve always known, but didn’t know was an undefeated basketball champion in 1944. Around here, September is much like Summer. Hot, humid and still as a gargoyle, but it isn’t quite. It is quite anything. Not Summer, not Autumn, just it’s own, mysterious middle-month. September helps ease into the end of the year, whispering, “Don’t forget, Christmas is coming! And–before you know it? A new year.”

September is the mother who holds your hand on the sidewalk all the way up to the big door and tells you to obey your teacher and have fun. It’s a transitional month, a gentle month, an important month.

The sun dangles golden in my windowpane, Jubilee’s voice reverberating through my sliding door with calls for the wandering pup. The married couple works culinary magic and makes plans for their third anniversary. Brothers work and play and text and call and somewhere in Eastern Europe, Meggie lies her head not far from her new “mama” and “tētis” and her wait is nearly over.

Thank you, God, for good changes.

We are a bit excited...

We are a bit excited…

4

the ever distant horizon

EP distant horizon

As hot as the days are in July in Texas, I still find myself leaning against the oven while we make dinner. My sister has just come home from work and is unloading groceries. Her husband should be home soon. They’ve been living with us for one of out the three years they’ve been married.

“All those things we talked about the other day, ” I say, glumly. “Aren’t happening. None of them.”

My sister looks up from the task at hand. “I know.” She says sympathetically. “Next time we all get together and talk about the future, let’s all talk about things we know are about to happen!”

“Like, ‘I’m going to go take a shower’?” I joke.

“Yes!”

It has been a year of waiting for all of us. We have no word from Meggie or the adoption agency. The summer days draw out long and warm, like southern slang. We can hardly beat the sun up before it’s beating down, the cicadas singing like the sizzling of our skin. The hottest days are the stillest ones. The days when no wind of change blows through, no leaves rustle in a friendly breeze. The hottest days are the ones in which the sweat just sticks to your skin and the grass seems to succumb to the persistent heat and dry up, frightened stiff.

We wait motionless, hoping we’ll hear the steps of change coming down the road, but the quieter we get, the stiller we stand, the longer we wait, the louder the silence rings in our ears. No word. No word. No word. Eventually, the feeling of anticipation dies down.

We’ve been through this before, but we don’t like to remember how long it took last time. We joke about how we used to think this time it would be different, quick, easy. “But it’s us.” I remind everyone cynically. We do everything the hard way.

No word from Meggie while other kids come home. No move-in date while other homes pop up in town. No new baby, no new job, no new prospects, no new news.

I look out to the ever distant horizon and have to remind myself that nothing has fallen off the horizon like a sailboat. Everything is still there. It’s just that the horizon is further away than we originally thought. I can still see it all there, gleaming in front of the pink sun with tantalizing promises of turning pages, but the chapter goes on and on.

And yet, just when I think nothing can change, that we’ve hit a scratch on the CD and we can’t move on, I see something creeping past. The month of July slipping through my fingers. The “baby” brother’s brown eyes looking down at me. The “baby” sister reading Nancy Drew aloud over the car’s AC as we drive home from the grocery store, barely stumbling over a word.

I have to grab myself by the shoulders at this point and tell myself, things do change. 

They’re changing all the time, all around you. Perhaps there is no easy-bake solution to your seemingly urgent issues, but things change. Perhaps they do not change like you think they will, perhaps it isn’t your own personal paint-by-number life, and instead a more abstract masterpiece, but things do change. Perhaps not when you snap your fingers, perhaps not without a good long sigh of a summer first, but things do and will change.

We go back to the grocery store and fill up the big fridge again. We will eat and get hungry and shop and eat again. Especially that baby brother who is growing like a laundry pile. We all go to our dental appointments and my mom says she shouldn’t be there, she should be traveling by now, but there she is. We pray with fervency and we get lazy and bummed, and then we pray in panicked, antsy, midnight cries. And most of all, we wait.

But we wait for something.

Because things change.

You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (VOICE)

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