June 14, 2013

THOSE Days

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 7:40 pm by Tamara

Today was one of THOSE days.  I held it together by a thread until my husband got home, but shortly thereafter as I was angrily putting my 2 year old into a time out I became acutely aware that I should NOT be disciplining in the state I was in.  I snatched my keys off the counter, informed hubby that I needed to get out of there, and slammed the door behind me.

I stomped around our apartment complex until I found a quiet spot, where I sat down and sniffled and tried not to cry.  It was just.one.of.those.days.  When parenting and life and everything is just too much.  “Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off.”  And then I felt terrible guilt for losing it over tiny things when I know so many people who are facing big things, and felt guilty for abandoning Hubby with the crazy toddler when he had a stressful day too, and I began to feel like the worst person/mother/Christian ever and despaired that I could ever accomplish any of the things I care about if I can’t even handle days like today and….  Then I just cried.

After a while I saw an elderly lady come out of the house across the street and start to peacefully water her flowers.  And *OH* the resentment that suddenly leapt into my heart.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted to yell at her for having it so easy or just beg her to switch lives with me.

Ironically, the last time I remember losing it on one of THOSE days, I fled the house, strapped the toddler into the stroller, and went for a walk.  As we walked, I saw an elderly couple rocking on their porch, peacefully reading their newspapers.  I felt the same thing then: total jealously at the unfairness of them rocking there while I’d had the worst morning ever, and a longing to leap their garden gate, fall on my knees in front of them and beg “Oh please won’t you switch lives with me??

But, I realized as I walked by, for all I knew, they were wistfully looking at me and thinking the same thing.  In all likelihood, that woman had once been just where I was and had her share of THOSE days.  For all I know, she was watching me and wishing for the days when she was a young mom, when her kids were close, when loved ones hadn’t passed away, when she wasn’t dealing with health problems or social security stress or whatever.  For all I know, my stroller-pushing walk in the middle of the day with my cute little man looked positively idyllic and gave her heart a pang of fond memories and longing.

To be honest, in general I’m really loving life right now.  I have a LOT of days as a stay-at-home mom that feel idyllic to me.  I love getting to witness all the little and monumental moments of Bear’s life, instead of wondering what the babysitter is seeing that I’m missing.  I love the freedom in my schedule that lets me decide on a whim to hop off to the park with him, or call a friend for a play date, or lounge around the house with him doing nothing.  I love that the effort and effects of my work directly impact my family, rather than some corporation or CEO I’ve never met.  Most days, I’m incredibly thankful that I can stay at home and be mom all day.

There are, unfortunately, also parts of our lives right now that I do not like at all.  I hate feeling like we are soooo far away from doing the ministry we want to be doing.  And there are other things, and when I’m just thinking about them, it’s easy to want to just be done with this phase, or think “Everything will be better when ____,” and just wish the time away.

So, what’s the point?  I don’t know exactly, but I do think it’s ironic that God seems to put the elderly in my path when I’m wanting out of my life.  Maybe it’s just about perspective, and realizing that in every phase of life, “This too shall pass.”  And that goes for both the good parts and bad parts.

Thankfully, I’d say the great days far outnumber THOSE days for me, but I do still have those days sometimes.  So, I’m glad for a little perspective, and a little reminder not to get fixated on the overwhelming days and wish away all the parts about this phase of life that I love.  And that will be a lesson worth remembering both now, and someday when I’m rocking on my porch watching other young moms pass by.  Someday I’ll probably be there, too, and I hope I’ll have lots of fond memories, a few wistful pangs, and the confidence that I’ve lived fully in every phase of life and have earned both the relaxing rocking and the longing for past things – and the freedom to pursue more and more of my goals until God takes me home.

I finally wandered home tonight, got down on the floor, and (still teary-eyed) apologized to Bear for disciplining him while I was angry.  He gave me a big grin, threw himself into my arms, and immediately began giggling and climbing all over me.  Oh, the grace and energy and living-in-the-moment capacity of a little boy.  Exhausting?  Yes.  Wonderful?  Yes.

April 27, 2010

Really, God?

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 10:20 pm by Tamara

Sometimes I really think I know where God is going with things.  His power is so obvious, His control over the situation so seamless.  Take the story of how God delivers the Israelites from Egypt.  God needs a leader, so He miraculously arranges for a baby boy to be rescued and adopted by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter.  I see where He’s going with this!  Who better to free the Israelites than Pharaoh’s own grandson, who just happens to be an Israelite himself?  It’s perfect!  Moses just grows up, becomes pharaoh, sets the Israelites free, and rules all of Egypt.  Isn’t it so amazing how God can put people in powerful positions in order to have them do His will?

Pause.  What?  Moses commits murder?  Pharaoh orders him killed?  Moses runs for his life, leaving his wealth, his power, his position?

What?

I’ve had some “what?” moments with God before.  I think I know the track He’s rumbling my life along, and then—WHAM—everything gets derailed.  Without warning, Moses goes from a life where he was probably learning political strategy, forging alliances, using wealth, and dreaming of how God might use him to deliver his people.  And then suddenly, he’s sitting at a dirty, dusty well in the backwoods, where no one respects him and he’s constantly looking over his shoulder in fear.  Everything is lost.  To add insult to injury, his solitude is cruelly interrupted by the jangling, jostling, bleating sounds of a smelly herd of sheep plowing their way towards him.  Not only that, but they’re being shepherded by the daughters of a pagan priest.  Great.

Moses watches them fill their water troughs, wishing they’d hurry up and finish so he can be left in peace again.  And then the shepherds come—big, burly, dirty men who start harassing the girls and shoving them away from the well.

Now, to be perfectly honest here, I’m not sure I would have done anything.  I can physically feel how depressed, worthless, afraid, and abandoned I would be feeling at this point.  All my big dreams of doing great things for God are gone.  The most important thing in front of me is a well and some idol-worshipper’s sheep?  I have a sad feeling I might have just gotten up and walked away.  What’s the point of doing something so small when I failed at something so big?  But Moses doesn’t walk away.  Exodus 2:17 says he did two things: “Moses stood up and helped them.”

Moses made a huge mistake in Egypt.  I can remember times I’ve wondered if I have too, and if I’ve completely messed up God’s plan.  Or sometimes it just seems like God has plunked me in the middle of nowhere for no reason.  But He still challenges me to 1) Get up, and 2) Do what He’s put in front of me (Ex. 2:17).  No matter how small it is.  No matter how far gone I feel.  No matter how powerless I feel.  I have no way of knowing what wonderful things God might do through my obedience.

I don’t always get God.  I “think” that I think in big terms, have big dreams, lofty goals, careful plans:

“God, couldn’t You make me president so I can DO something about this?”

“Oh, if only I was a famous movie star, I’d share the Gospel with everyone.”

“I can’t wait to be on the mission field so I can make an eternal impact.”

Those aren’t bad dreams, per se, but it seems like God doesn’t often work that way.  In my case, He’s taken me from being heavily involved in multiple ministries to working a retail job.  Really, God?  Are you sure?

Have you ever had one of those moments?  Ever felt powerless to impact anything?  Ever stared down at that exploding baby diaper, or at the piles of paper covering your desk at work, or at the five page study guide for that test, or at the notice about your layoff, and said, “Really, God?  This is my life?  This is what You’ve given me to work with?”  Don’t get me wrong–I’m enjoying life right now, but it doesn’t seem very spectacular, or like there are many life-changing moments in it.

“Really, God?  A smelly herd of sheep, and pagan shepherd girls?”

“Yes, Moses.”

In the end of the story, God’s plan was infinitely more incredible than where I would have gone with it.  A vision of God in a burning bush?  One of those shepherd girls becomes his wife, and saves his and his son’s lives?  Miraculous powers, signs, and plagues?  The entire Egyptian army being wiped out?  Wow.  But the really impressive half of Moses’ story starts with him just showing compassion and watering a flock of sheep.  Just like Moses’ story, I think the story God’s writing for me—and you—will be more incredible than we imagine.  And it, too, will probably start with obedience in a lot of small things.  We just need to get up, do what He’s put in front of us, and trust Him for the rest.

September 13, 2009

Splash!

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , , at 10:34 pm by Tamara

Several weeks ago I took another dragging, trudging step forward in the vast wasteland known as “unemployment.” I thought that application would probably end (like all the ones before it) in a mirage of hot, scratchy sand, but to my amazement (splash, flounder, gasp!) suddenly the sand dropped out from under me and –water! That’s right, I have a JOB! Thank You, Lord!! And not only that, it’s at a bookstore, a fact I couldn’t be more tickled about. It feels so unbelievable to have the weight of insecurity and worry and guilt for not working suddenly gone; really like I went from dragging my dehydrated, sun burnt self painfully forward to suddenly falling into and floating in cool, clear water. Relief!

I don’t think I scored too high on this Desert Exercise. Mom reminded me of my “retrospectacles” several times—I told her once they were broken. And of course, in retrospect, God came through, both in providing a job for me and taking care of us when I didn’t have one. Sometimes I did okay, but I think my attitude towards Him and His choices for my life was pretty bad several times, especially considering what I know about Him and what I’ve have seen Him do. I suppose that every time I’m ashamed of my attitude towards Him, it’s a reminder to do better next time. I DO see Him growing my faith, and there were some bright spots of trust this summer. And His provision has given me one more stone to add to my monument to His faithfulness—one more thing to remember when times get hard again.

June 10, 2009

Living in Retrospect

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 1:56 pm by Tamara

Picture from: http://i.pbase.com/u43/flyingshaula/upload/27996883.Mar092004EyeglassesAndBook.jpgGod is not going to let me rest until I write this.  I’ve often thought that, “in retrospect,” I don’t know why I stressed out about _______(enter stressful situation here) so much.  God always works it out, but until I see how He does it, I can spend a lot of energy worrying.  Retrospect always looks so different, though—hindsight is 20/20, to borrow another cliché.  In retrospect I can usually see that God was in control and took care of all the details I wasn’t sure He would.  Once I’m looking at life “in retrospect,” I’m peaceful and thanking God for so attentively caring for me.

I think the challenge is to learn how to “live in retrospect” now.  It’s almost like putting on glasses.  “Retrospect glasses” are composed of peace, thankfulness, and assurance that God had it all under control.  Too often I don’t put them on until AFTER I’ve worried a lot and AFTER I’ve seen God (again) come through.

The lenses of retrospect glasses are made of what I know about God.  I know He’s faithful.  I know He’s promised to take care of me.  I know He’s good.  I know He’s concerned about my well-being.  I know He doesn’t change.  Knowing all of that should alter the way I look at life.  It should, like glasses, put things in the right perspective so that I stop worrying.

The frames that hold retrospect glasses together (and, perhaps more importantly, on my face) should be made of how many times I’ve seen God come through in the past.  I don’t just know random facts about Him, I’ve SEEN it in how He treats me.  Time and time again, He comes through, and I think, “I should have known He had it all worked out.”

If I let them fall off, I need to put the retrospect glasses on by remembering who He is and what He’s done, thanking Him it; “setting up monuments” to remind myself of how God has come through in the past.

So, I’m (trying to) chose to look at life in retrospect now.  I, like many, am unemployed.  The deadbeat life was nice for about a week, but now has melted into a puddle of restless, stressed-out, too-much-time-to-think goo.  I’ve been doing pretty good staying peaceful (remarkably good, actually), until the last few days.  So, I searched the house for my retrospect glasses, and they are now back on my nose where they belong (with a little tape on the nosepiece, in my imagination).  I’ll let you know how He comes through (again).