Well folks, this might be my last post before I fall off the grid, so to speak, and blogging might start to get spotty. My little house in the projects is echoing bare and empty. I have enough eggs and milk in my fridge here for the morning and have started stocking up my little trailer fridge. (it didn’t take long to fill that thing up, let me tell you) I did a deep cleaning of my big house today in preparation for the fact that my baby will soon be crawling all over the floors. Well, at least as deep as I can clean with windows that are open to the elements and never ending piles of rubble in the corners that seem to produce never ending heaps of dust. And I’ve sorted the last box of stuff for long term storage.
These past few weeks have been exhausting both mentally and physically. There have been a few moments of sheer panic where I have felt like we are making the biggest mistake of our lives. And there have been moments of joy and excitement as we begin to dig in and get our hands dirty, all the while imagining what it might be like to finally be done with this project. But whether we succeed or fail in the attempt, I hope to be able to acknowledge (with a cheerful heart) that this too is part of the story of our lives that God is writing.
This story- this tale that God has made me a part of, is so drastically different from anything I ever could have imagined in those days when I used to plan out my future. My plans were modest, unambitious and mostly centered around my home town, marrying a boy from my home church, having my own children so that I could add to the number of extended family already surrounding me. On days where I was feeling particularly ambitious, I dreamed of doing something as crazy as opening my own bakery. But on most days, even that seemed like reaching too far.
My story has, of course, looked nothing like that. Within five years of high school graduation I had somehow or other spent a year abroad and consequently married a man who was definitely not from my home town. I had ended up in college three thousand miles from my family and earned a degree in vocal performance, which last I checked, had nothing to do with baking cookies. And then down the years- moving and moving and moving again- having babies and losing babies- having jobs and losing jobs- making what we thought were good decisions only to find out later they were the worst decisions we could have made- but also finding amazing grace emerge from the seemingly darkest times.
Throughout these many years, I have often felt as if I had not control whatsoever over our story- like a pawn in the hand of an Almighty (and sometimes careless) God. I remember when we were living in Memphis several years ago- in an apartment complex in a bad part of town- the only white family for miles, or so it seemed. It was a difficult time for me- adjusting, trying to sort out what it felt like to be a minority, trying to be friendly to strangers in a strange world but really wishing I could just hide until this part of my life were past. During that time, we had some friends from our new church over for dinner. I was embarrassed to have them, since our living conditions were less than ideal, and it was clear from the moment they walked in our door that they had never been to this part of town in their lives. After their initial exclamations of surprise were past, they began trying to figure out how we came to be there.
Were we missionaries? Did we have a ministry to these people? Was there an organization we were part of? Surely there was some greater overarching purpose to explain why we lived where we did. But no- the simple answer was tough circumstances- Steve’s job and the fact that we had been apart for six months had finally forced us to be where we were. We hadn’t planned it- it wasn’t in the script. We seemed to have had no other choice.
Now of course that isn’t exactly true. Steve could have quit his job- I could have continued to live with my parents, any number of smaller decisions on our part might have changed the outcome of that time. I know, for better or worse, that we are responsible for our actions and that we are not helpless puppets pulled about on strings whichever way God directs. But I gave up a long time ago trying to sort out where human accountability and God’s sovereignty meet. Even so, I still feel helpless a lot of the time- that no matter how hard I try, the outcome of whatever we are dealing with is probably not going to be what I imagine or plan. It might be worse- it might be a good deal better- but in the end, it will be His plan, not mine.
Keeping all that in mind however- God might the author, but he has given me the role of main character. As such, he has made me capable of responding in a way that pleases or displeases him. He is letting me contribute to the outcome of my own story by how I act as each new circumstance rolls towards us. And as little as I might know about the final ending, I do know what kind of a character I want to be in the current chapter. I don’t want to be the timid and fearful woman that I so often see in myself, wanting to give up even before the next challenge begins. I don’t want to be the woman who lays on her bed and cries in self pity because her life doesn’t look like that of her friends. I don’t want to be the woman who is ashamed of the place that God has placed her, hiding herself from the world and those who might reach out to help.
That is who I don’t want to be. But who do I want to be? I’m not always sure what kind of character I am- my varying traits seem to change from day to day. But it is always safe to look to Jesus. Jesus who was poor and did not have a home to lay his head (we’re in good company!) But even more- Jesus, who lived his life in constant communion with the Father, asking for daily bread and not worrying about tomorrow. Jesus, who gave freely of everything he had, although he had so little. And Jesus, who died for us that we might learn to die to ourselves and live for him, no matter what the next chapter might bring.