Wednesday, February 22, 2017

190: marriage: object or portal, building or frontier

What is marriage? No idea. So this is my rambling.

As a single, sometimes marriage becomes an object. It is something you try to get.

Or we think of it like a portal into another world. You have no idea what the other world is like, but it must be Narnian in its magical qualities.

But we forget--unintentionally, temporarily--the relationship part of marriage.

Edward entered Narnia with his grumpy jealousies and wreaked havoc. Narnia was magical, but they still had to contend with the White Witch. We haven't tried merging our lives with another selfish being--like us.

Marriage is not an object or a portal. It is a building. It looks sturdy and safe and appealing from the perspective of a visitor. But the architect and construction crew know that you don't just say, "I want a beautiful house," and bam! it's there. It takes a lot of planning and starting and backing up and re-figuring, dealing with pipes bursting, and the city finding something wrong with the electricity, and the tile costing more than you planned, and the roofer taking twice as long as promised. On the worst days, you wonder if it was worth the headache to take this on.

Is it worth the labor? Yes. Oh yes. Because then you have a beautiful home that you built. There is pride and satisfaction and shelter.

But it's not an object to snatch up. This building is not up for auction. It's just a piece of land--maybe not even cleared of brush and rubble accumulated from the past. It's a portal into another world, sure--but that world is an untamed frontier you will have to pioneer.
Still sound romantic?

Actually, yeah, it does. :D

Monday, February 13, 2017

189: why I celebrate Valentines (not profound, not comprehensive)

I celebrate Valentines Day because I like romance and oohs and ahhs and an excuse to go over-the-top with hearts and chick flicks and red and pink décor.

I celebrate Valentines Day because I don't want to feel left out as a single person. Yes, that's the selfish, preventing-a-pity-party, barging-into-a-day-marketed-for-couples reason. Ah well.

I celebrate Valentines Day because I relish special moments. Those moments that make you smile from the inside out. That tickle your heart and make you smile even when you recall it months later. Those moments you write down in your journal to remember for always. That the two share that no one else sees--the personal joke, the unspoken expression, the unexpected look or word. Meaningless...except to you.

I celebrate Valentines Day because I believe in marriage. Because I believe God Himself made marriage. Because God Almighty endorses the relationship between man and woman. So Hallmark can be all wet, but no matter if I'm single or married or in a dating relationship that's going south, I'm still going to believe my God that that institution is a GREAT one and that He designed us to fit well in it.

So although rotic it may be (rotic = "romantic" without the man), tomorrow you will find me wearing a heart-bespeckled shirt to school, helping the kids with fractions using conversation hearts, eating holiday treats, and then spending an evening with the girl friends just because I get to enjoy the present!

"Clem caught her eye across the table. It seemed to her sometimes that the most important thing about marriage was not a home or children or a remedy against sin, but simply there being always an eye to catch." --Mrs. Miniver (1942) by Jan Struther


"Catherine coloured, and said, 'I was not thinking of anything.'
'That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me.'
'Well then, I will not.'
'Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much.'
--conversation between Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, chapter 3

Friday, February 10, 2017

188: today's present

Today I am thankful for my little full time job where I can be lying in bed, waiting til the very last minute to get up for work, and get a text saying school is cancelled due to weather conditions. I'm thankful I can feel on top of things by mass texting my students' parents the news and then posting it on the school FB page. I'm thankful I can then be so not on top of things and cuddle back under the covers irresponsibly. I'm thankful I have time to read Laura Story's latest book, When God Doesn't Fix It. I'm thankful for time to get together with a friend and enjoy this oddly spring-like day (was Punxatawny Phil wrong??) by walking down town and book shopping. I'm thankful for money to buy yet more books for my classroom library (if I ever quit, I'll need a storage shed just for my books). I'm thankful for spontaneous friends who will bring over their Chinese takeout and make themselves comfortable while I run to the store for icecream and wait around anxiously for a hard phone call to happen that never happens. I'm thankful for movies from 80 years ago that still set my heart aflutter. I'm thankful for phones with Internet and Kindle apps when the Internet on my computer flops like a slippery trout. I'm thankful tomorrow is Saturday--after a full day off today--and that I can set it aside as a Sabbath and have TWO days off in a row.

These are things I'm thankful for that I would not have experienced if this were not my present. This is my present and I accept these gifts. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

187: this year's Valentines post

I have a new theme for my blog. Embracing the Present.

But I don't want to be always zipadeedooda either.

Basically, I don't know what to write about anymore. I feel like I've already said any thoughts that I continue to regurgitate.

I recommend 2 books. Pain Redeemed: When Our Deepest Sorrows Meet God by Natasha Metzler, and Blindsided by God by Peter Chin. Neither have to do with singleness, but both apply.

I haven't experienced the hardships that other people go through. I haven't experienced infertility or infidelity or wayward children or financial crisis or cancer (which is no respecter of marriage status).

I've only experienced singleness and living at home.

That's it.

So God uses the putty at hand to teach me what I desperately need to learn.

Like, it is okay for life to derail. In fact, it is normal.

When I read my Bible and hear testimonies, I discover that God has no reverence for the "ideal." I'm not sure where we come up with the "ideal" life or the "perfect" life or the most virtuous way of doing things, even down to me thinking that bigger families, living in the country, and not dressing trendy is, by default, "better."

I have completely subjective ideas of what is the ideal life. My ideal would have been to marry NO LATER than 21 years old, have probably a dozen children, raise them so that I have a close relationship with my children and none of them rebel, and have a marriage that would show the older, less-romantic marrieds that this is how you have a good marriage.

What does God do? He gives me, oh, none of it.

I have yet to see where God observes our ideal.

God does not work with ideals. God does not work with your perfect dream.

Sarah was barren for about a century. Her ideal? NO WAY.

Ezekiel's wife dies. His plan? No!

Hosea marries a woman who leaves him for other men, and their relationship is publicized before the whole nation. His idea of a good life? Uh, no.

Moses is sent away by his mother while a toddler, forced into a adoption/foster child type situation where he (my conjecture) fits neither as an Egyptian or as a Hebrew.

Elijah feels all alone in the world.

Daniel is castrated as a eunuch while a teenager.

Esther is forced to marry an older man who sleeps with many women.

Jeremiah is cast into a pit just for doing what God says.

We dismiss these examples because that was God's plan for them. Because we see how God was going to use it. Because they're in the Bible.

No, no, no. These were real men and women who had their lives upended because having your life upended by fate is NORMAL, but God is not fazed IN THE LEAST when your life derails. He does not have to come up with a Plan B. He is right there. His ideal for me was never dependent on me getting married, having children, and homeschooling. His plan for me never involved the path of sanctification I wanted--I wanted, I've always wanted, to be sanctified through marriage, to grow up through the crucible of marriage, to mature through parenting, to fulfill my life's purpose alongside my husband.

Instead, God's plan of sanctification for me means I have to say, no, I have no idea what it's like to be a parent. I've never had to stay up nursing or taking care of a sick child. No, my heart has never broken over my flesh and blood. I have not had to deal with miscommunication with a spouse. I haven't had to learn to compromise with a husband. I haven't had to feel the pang of selfishness being scraped away through marriage. I haven't. And not because I don't want to. But because this, THIS, is God's plan for ME. And the whole world can think I have the easy life as I shake these iron bars and cry out that it wasn't my plan, but--

God is in Heaven, and He does what He pleases. He chooses the paths we trod. Why, why do we hold on to our dreams so tightly and forget that EVERYTHING could go wrong in our lives and, still, EVERYTHING would be ours through Christ? His ideal for us is not temporal and circumstantial but spiritual and eternal. We lose nothing through singleness that every other Christian before us hasn't experienced in their own God-ordained way--the loss of something dear so that we might gain the intimate knowledge of Christ, apart from circumstances.

inside recess on a rainy day

"[T]o be a witness to God is, above all, to know, believe, and understand Him. All that He asks us to do is but means to this end. He will go to any lengths to teach us, and his manipulation of the movements of men . . . is never accidental. Those movements may be incidental to the one thing toward which He goads us: the recognition of Christ." --Elisabeth Elliot, The Savage My Kinsman

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

186: not living the supposed to life but/and being thankful

Some days I feel like I was made to be a homeschooling mom, not a private school teacher. Like, that would be more "me." Especially when I read great articles like this: A Missing Piece that Public School Can't Provide.

For example, I prefer flexible structure. I like giving my students an unplanned half hour of "stamina reading" (ie. free reading without interrupting anyone). I would rather do corporate Bible reading and "Great Books" (reading out loud to them from a higher-level chapter book) than add in more work pages of close reading passages with exercises. I like throwing up the curriculum pages and doing something different sometimes. Going with the flow and seeing what great things we'll learn simply because the flow of interest is heading that way.

But this is the deal: It does not matter if I'm "supposed" to be a private school teacher (at my wonderful country Christian school) or, alternatively, if I'm supposed to end this year of teaching, get married in the fall, start giving birth to children, and finally begin homeschooling my little brood. There is no "supposed to" when it comes to life direction. Man plans his way, but the Lord directs our steps. I can choose to quit my job and look for another. I can choose to stay at home and build up no savings. These are choices I can make. I can choose to find the first guy on Christian Mingle who loves Jesus and marry him because I don't want to wait anymore. Those are choices I can make.

But if those are not choices I think God is leading me toward, I can also embrace my present situation with thankfulness and positivity, just like, Lord-willing, I would embrace any other season of life with thankfulness and positivity.

Interestingly enough, have you ever tried being thankful for the things specific to your season of life? I started trying to do that the other week, and it is kind of eye-opening.

m' life - L to R - part of MLK Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech in cursive for my students to copy, me kicking back during stamina reading (I asked a student to take a pic of me), a 4th grader's interpretation of Magellan, a selfie while on vacation, dangerous roads while on vacation, watching icecream being made in a minute (it was hard and clumpy)
I'm thankful I can...
-sleep in on a day off
-drive out of state to spend a couple days with a girl friend while her husband is working
-listen to the audiobook of my choice on road trips
-stop for food on road trips whenever and wherever I want
-visit friends nearby and binge-watch a season of When Calls the Heart
-spend my evenings however I want

Selfish items for gratitude? Yes, it's a casualty of being single. But if I'm going to reap the benefits, I might as well enjoy them and be thankful for them, instead of wishing for change or feeling guilty (same could be said with any season of life, eh?). And I really AM enjoying this season of life.

So since this is your life, what are you thankful for?

(P.S. You do realize that a lot of this I write so I can later come back and remind my forgetful self of these things, right?)
(P.S.S. Actually I write them to solidify thoughts and create thoughts and write thoughts because writing makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

185: the illusion of nearsightedness

In prep for New Years, I got out my old journals. Last year's entry wasn't interesting (except for the part where I started falling asleep and wrote nonsense), so I began reading other entries and other journals. I found a few entries in one book where I was gushing about a guy. Like, really gushing.

It was rather nauseating. You know why? Because I am no longer interested in him. At all.

But at that time, all I knew was there stood a tiny doorway into a beautiful garden. All I knew was that I couldn't get in there.

"Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway" -Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I know that I don't see the whole picture, the future. But still, like Alice, I fixate on something (someone) I want and believe that it (a relationship with said someone) would be amazing. Part of that is hope. Part of that is complete nearsightedness.

Of course, despite my nearsightedness, I do know a few things about him and a potential "us", some gathered from direct observation, some from generalizations based on observation. Combine that knowledge with my flittering emotions (which are part chemistry, part natural-born desire for there to be something more), and BAM! *creeeeak* my scope swivels to the target and focuses in, because, as I said, I'm pretty sure this would be amazing if I could only have the chance to pass through the narrow passageway and through the door.

I actually think it's fine that our vision is based in hope and nearsightedness. If we waited to act until we had full knowledge and understanding, nothing would ever happen. Perhaps we often haven't acted enough even. Rebellions are built on hope, after all. Rogue One reference there.

But, facts being facts, we must concede that besides the few character traits we've observed, besides the flutter of emotions, we don't know much else. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen--that has nothing to do with faith in a potential relationship. There is no virtue to holding on to an imagined amazing relationship by faith. We can pray and crack twigs and make ourselves available, but when it doesn't happen, we really had no idea if we were pursuing a lovely garden or, alternatively, a land filled with queens chopping off heads and slowly vanishing Cheshire cats (and I'm not saying the guy was a closet jerk--I'm saying we don't know what is best for him or for us). Our faith and hope and longing is not for the unseen future husband. It is for the only One who can see the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10), and who gives good gifts to His children (Mt. 7:11).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

184: on pain . . . what a happy post for Christmas Eve

I did not think I would be sad on Christmas Eve.

(This isn't another post about singleness--just hang in there.)

I sorta thought I had reached a level of contentment and self-contained happiness. Being sad as a single on Christmas is starting to sound cliché. I've got plenty to be thankful for (*cue Holiday Inn song*).

(Ok, it touches on singleness. Got to have a starting point!)

And yet, getting ready to go to my sister's this afternoon, a sadness and insecurity did start settling on me like a snow-less cloud.

Then we arrived, and I found myself in an odd in-between stage that didn't match anyone else present. There were the decade+ older-than-me marrieds/widowed, and there were the decade+ younger-than-me dating couples/families (and my single nephew--but he's only 15, give him time). I have an adorable and smiley great-nephew, but what is it about young relatives having kids before you are even engaged that makes feeling happily content more difficult?

Feelings. I'll admit to having them today. Unavoidable blah.
"The idea that my pain sets me apart from the rest of society is another isolation trick by the enemy. My pain is real, but it is not the only pain." --Natasha Metzler, Pain Redeemed, chapter 4
The last several months I've been trying to sort out what to do with pain--mostly how to deal with it when I see it in other people's lives and I can't do anything to help. [Note: I'm not talking about singleness anymore.] [Note: Seeing the pain of others added to the blah feelings accumulated today.] I've tried praying for miracles. I've tried focusing on my own choices and then ignoring the pain of theirs so it wouldn't hurt me so deeply. I've wrestled with discounting their pain because they are suffering the consequences of their own choices and so they have to just live with it. In an attempt to not have to take any responsibility for suffering unrelated to me, I've sometimes thought, well, that is life, the same could happen to me, we all just have to deal with it. Pain is common to all mankind.

Did I mention December was "compassion month" at school? Think I have some ways to go.

"And that girl who has never tasted infertility and this girl who has never buried a baby--together we're not alone. When I reach out from my pain to offer her comfort in hers and when she looks up from hers to comfort me--Satan's lies are buried in an avalanche of truth and none of us are really alone. . . .
There is no strength, no hope in comparing pain. . . . They are different, we are different, but in binding ourselves together we are the same.
Alone we'll slice each other to pieces.
The mother of five, who spent months in the hospital with her youngest child, does not need her ability to have children compared to my lack of ability.
We need to bind ourselves together, acknowledging that we both experience pain. She needs me and I need her and together we'll walk through hardships." --Natasha Metzler, Pain Redeemed, chapter 4

Does it really matter if a hurt sounds illegitimate? Does it really matter if that person is hurting so much that they annoyingly cannot stop talking about it on social media? Should I care less that it's because of choices made five years ago that that person is about to emotionally collapse?

What do I do with it all, Lord? I cannot help. I cannot fix it. And I cannot say "deal with it." Because while pain and hurt and unfairness are common to all humanity, pain isn't any less real or less legitimate or, well, less painful, because it is common.

You know what I think the beauty of this year is? In Isaiah 9:6--sung during Handel's "Messiah" this time of year--Jesus is declared to be the Prince of Peace.

You might have a family of 5 all sick with the flu right now. You might be only getting 4 hours of sleep every night. You might be in the hospital with a loved one, again. You might be handling the load of parenting alone. You might be feeling like you're never good enough and always misunderstood.

All I can say is He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is the Great Reconciler and the Redeemer of hurt and pain. He came and took up residence among us. He is the God who sees. Who knows. He is the Mighty God.

A Light shines in the darkness. Together, let's cling to that Hope, for ourselves, for others. Lord, You who see and know, and in whose hands are the hearts of those we are feeling for, shine in this darkness! We cannot cut the darkness. We cannot solve. Help us shine Your light however You direct us, and when they are alone, visit each with Your Light that blinds out the darkness. Bring peace. Bring comfort. Do what we cannot. Come quickly. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"When I abandon the foolish idea that I'm the only one writing in sorrow I get the privilege of watching and rejoicing in more victories than just my own." --Natasha Metzler, chapter 4 of Pain Redeemed: When Our Deepest Sorrows Meet God, 2nd Edition (2015). I highly recommend this book and Blindsided by God: Disappointment, Suffering, and the Untamable Goodness of God by Peter Chin.