Archive for Religious Thoughts

Struggle

Okay, first of all, EM’s foot is not broken. All of the x-rays showed normal, healthy bones. So we just have to wait a few more days and see if she persists in not walking on it.

Last night was a struggle for me. I was tired and burnt and needed a break. The constant, 24/7 demands of three small children got to me. Especially when everything that has to be done around here has to be done with three kids in tow. And now one of those three has a bum foot and can’t walk. Any time we need to go to the bank or the store or post office, I have to deal with the weather, too. As of today, we have had snow on the ground continuously for 2 months. Considering it’s January, I know there are at least two months ahead to look forward to.

So, when DH finally got home yesterday and I had a chance to get out and go to the store, I took it, even though it was already 3 o’clock. I knew I didn’t have enough time to do my errands, get groceries, and still have any decent prep time. But I still went. I went all the way to TC and felt justified doing it.  I did manage to get all my groceries and get out of the store before sundown, but there were other things I needed to get in town, so I popped over to Target and went in.

An hour and a cart full of stuff later and I was ready to check out. But I couldn’t do it. I stood there in the aisle for several minutes, thinking back over my life and the things I used to believe, the things I used to say I’d never ever do, and this was one of them. I left the cart full of stuff in the racks of women’s clothes and walked out the door. I knew it wouldn’t really make me feel better, and as I walked out into the snowy night air, it still didn’t FEEL like Sabbath to me, but I knew I’d taken a necessary step to getting back to that place.

Even when I was at WC I was one of the most conservative Sabbath keepers in a group of ultra-conservative Sabbath keepers. I didn’t like the fact that a lot of them listened to contemporary Christian music on Sabbath. I even wrote an article about it for an English class. I couldnt’ understand why some thought it was so very self-righteous. I remember the very first time I turned on the radio on Sabbath. I was 20, and dating “the Boy”, as some of my friends liked to call him. I felt so guilty about that it wasn’t funny.

When I first came to Berrien I remember D&B used to turn on the Animal Planet on Sabbath afternoon and I was horrified. I’d always go read a book in the other room. Once when a bunch of guys went wheelin’ they stopped and got gas in town and I was embarassed to be in that group, not that we got gas, but they did and we were with them.

Maybe that sounds like I was simply a very uptight, over-conservative person who needed to come back to reality. But this is how I was raised, and how I have lived my life and how I wanted to live and raise my children. I truly held Sabbath to be a HOLY day, set apart. I remember how it felt to welcome the Sabbath, to prepare for and anticipate that day, and I miss it.

How I went from the beautiful celebration of the communion last Sabbath to shopping in Target the very next is beyond me.

I know a lot of it has to do with how Sabbath, for me, is the day I work the hardest. I cannot just realize, half an hour before sundown, that I haven’t gotten this and that done and choose to ingnore that until after the Sabbath. Children still have to be fed, dressed, ordered and cleaned up during those hours. They take the most concentrated effort on Sabbath. Food still has to be set out and cleaned up.

It has become, in many ways, like every other day. One that comes and goes, the sun sets and rises, then sets again. But just like my children were capable of sitting through communion and understanding a little bit of the ritual and rites therein, they are capable of learning to prepare for and revere the Sabbath. It just takes more preparation these days, and I must choose to look at what needs to be done on Thursday, on Friday, that we all can do in order to be ready.

Just like standing there in the parking lot last night, I CHOSE to obey and leave, but because of my lack of planning to obey, I had to deal with the inevitable consequences. I had to get in my car and drive the 30 minutes home. There was no *poof* I’m there with a clean house and food prepared.  When I was young, I could choose to obey at the last minute and nothing adverse were the consequences. Now part of the process of obeying, for me, includes the planning in advance. I’m sure that’s true in a lot of areas, not just in this one. Maybe that is the whole key to my lack of anticipation and joy in special days.

I came home in time for worship with the kids. And…… A CLEAN HOUSE! My hubby had fed the kids dinner, washed the dishes, vaccuumed and swept, wiped down the table and the counters, brought in wood and stacked it in the wood bin next to the stove so it wasn’t cluttering up my kitchen. I came in, got the children ready for bed while he fed the horses, and then we all sat down and had a nice worship time before the kids went to bed. My husband filled in where I lacked, and it was good for both of us. He has at times had the same struggle.

Well, my quiet time is done and the kids are getting up. I have to run, so hopefully that made some sense.

Remembering

20 years old here

20 years old here

It is December 2nd again. I can’t believe it has been 7 years. I probably say that every year, don’t I?  It’s hard to believe how fast the years go by when each day seems to go so slowly and tediously at times with three little kids. I’m looking at pictures of a birthday picnic by the river for his 23rd birthday. My word, but we were all just kids back then, weren’t we?

(***** sorry, sweetie! I thought about cropping you out, but it’s so beautiful just the way it is. No one I know reads this, except you 🙂 but if you want me to take it down I’ll do so.*****)

carl1

2001 made us all grow up in so many ways. It was the year I hopped on a plane with a one-way ticket away from home with a suitcase full of clothes and $42 to my name. And then Jake became a dad, only the second in our group to become a parent, and to me it seemed the whole universe added another dimension with that birth! I took my first real road trip in the midst of a confusing break up and made some lifelong memories!

Jeremy got married, and just a week later the sky fell down around us when the Twin Towers collapsed. The realization that such a thing was possible in our own country was startling, it took years for that shock to wear off, and I still hesitate sometimes when I turn on the TV in the morning to watch the news. My breath catches when I see a Breaking News segment flash across the screen, and I can’t help but say a prayer. Just a few weeks after that I got married, moved across the country, and started a new life. A month later Scott was in that terrible accident, and left behind a young widow and three babies.

At that point I thought I was nearly numb – so much had already gone wrong, so much to process already with 9-11 and Scott’s death.

And then Carl. Beautiful Carl. 24 years old, gone. So final, there is no going  back. There is no chance to say the words you might have said if you had known he would be gone. No way to change anything. I remember the last time I saw him, standing on the stone steps of the church. He looked so lonely. I wanted to invite him over for dinner, especially since my parents were visiting, but we had already made plans to go to D&B’s for dinner. I didn’t explain that to him, and looking back now I know no one would have cared, even D&B, if he had come along with us.  I know, it’s all fruitless regret, part of the process of coming to terms with it and making plans to not have regrets with the rest of the people you care about. I guess I’ve come to terms with it as much as is possible. As much as a person can come to terms with something God never meant us to know, to feel. We were never meant to have to know death in that way, or so many other things that are the result of a fallen world, of sin and selfishness. Only God can redeem us from the cynicism, guilt, fear, false securities we place in our hearts as a result of these hideous things, and only He can heal those scars, both those placed there by others and by a sinful world, and those we put there ourselves.

20 years old, at my 18th birthday party

20 years old, at my 18th birthday party

So this is the first year of the anniversary that John is dead, too. I can’t help but wonder if they buried him next to Carl. That part of it doesn’t seem real to me, I still have this fear in the back of my mind that I can’t quite get rid of, even knowing he is dead. Maybe I would believe it more if I could see his grave. Maybe it is less a fear of the actual person and more a fear of the unimagineable. Because in that moment, hearing my brother’s voice, those words seemed far away, in a distant world that I didn’t belong to. And then, the disbelief was slowly displaced by facts, by reality. Somewhere in those hours of sleeplessness I had to face the fact that even the most evil, hideous things, only dreamed of in the minds of demons, really do happen. Innocence is gone in a moment, replaced by fear or faith, whichever you choose. Sometimes that choice is a desperate, daily struggle, especially since becoming a mother, since knowing I cannot make my children safe. I can do my best, but it will never be enough. Never. They are in God’s hands.

It was horrible to go through J’s surgery. I really had to place him over and over in the hands of God, each time struggling with the knowledge that it’s possible for someone so young to die, to be lost in a blur of pain and memories that fade, to be gone when there is so much potential yet to be realized. Maybe I would have dealt with it all differently if I didn’t know that, but that is a knowledge you can’t remove from your soul.

I remember Carl’s smile, I remember his laugh. I remember hearing his laugh once very distinctly rising above the tall grass through the apple trees in the orchard and it is a good memory in many ways. I remember his voice singing beside me as we trudged through the snow singing carols for ingathering. I rememer sitting with him in the ski lodge while we drank hot chocolate and talked about watching people while he waited patiently for my feet to unthaw. I remember sitting in a theater with him while I cried over Rose and Jack. I remember him standing thigh deep in the water of the American River, the sunlight on his back, watching him watch R. I remember him standing on a pinnacle 2000 feet straight down to the rocks below, nonchalant, no fear. Hey, if Jake could do it, so could he.. and that was an arrangement that worked both ways with those two.  I remember the sleet and snow the day of his memorial and the tears that wouldn’t stop. It’s good to remember, though. I’ll always remember.

About Last Weekend…

To be honest, I’m still processing. If you asked me how I feel about last weekend, I wouldn’t be able to describe it, let alone label it. I simply don’t know how I feel. I was geared up for mourning and moving on, for making new plans and letting go of old dreams. Now? Now I’m in a bad mental and emotional funk that I can’t seem to shake off. For DH, life went back to, well, life. Nothing changed for him, and to cut it all down to the core, nothing changed for me, either.  But because I so fully expected life to change, I can’t get over the fact that it didn’t.

Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, and I am so far from a holly, jolly mood it’s ridiculous. I have so very much to be thankful for, and I must choose to focus on those things rather than on what has disappointed me. Life is full of both blessings and disappointments, and it all comes down to what you choose to see, what you choose to focus on. Hiding out and avoiding everyone won’t delay the holidays. They come whether you are ready or not.
So here I am going to try and switch my focus around to the positive and stop being grouchy. Because I am grouchy lately. So much so that I do believe I have some ‘splainin’ to do, and some apologizing as well.

Last weekend I had the great privilege of sitting in the university church where we used to go when we were first married and DH was still in school. I’d forgotten how crowded it can get! And how beautiful the music is! It was the Thanksgiving Program, with a full choir and orchestra, grand old hymns, and a short homily by an excellent speaker. Even though it was only a homily, it was the first sermon I’ve sat all the way through and actually heard in what seems like about 5 years! *sigh*  Sitting through church has become such a chore with three small children. My attention is going in several directions at once, I am often losing my spot or the trail of reasoning in the sermon, and I usually don’t catch half of what is being said. A problem hugely exacerbated by having a Russian pastor with a heavy accent. You’re never sure if he’s saying “faith” or “face” because they sound EXACTLY the same! There are actually some words he’s been banned from saying from the pulpit because they sound too much like a swear word!

But I digress. I was so thrilled in my soul to hear the music, to be able to participate without distraction, to hear a message and get the whole point… it was so moving I had a hard time suppressing the tears. When they gave us stationery and invited us to write a letter of thanks to someone in our lives, I nearly broke down again. I wrote a letter of thanks to the Children’s Hospital where J had his surgery. It’s amazing how you can move forward and every day life continues on in such a normal way that you think you have recovered from the emotional trauma, only to be reminded in some small way and then the dam breaks and composure dissolves.

It just brings up so many questions. I have these thoughts that keep rolling around in my head, and I want to get them out, write them down, look at them for a while, and make adjustments to how I think. Maybe all of this won’t make sense and maybe it will, I can’t tell yet.

In my devotional this morning I read something relevant to the subject I’ve been thinking of writing about that I was thankful for:

“God cursed the ground for man’s sake. (Gen 3:16) The thorn and the thistle – the difficulties and trials that make his life one of toil and care – were appointed for his good as a part of the training needful in God’s plan for his uplifting from the ruin and degradation that sin has wrought. The world, though fallen, is not all sorrow and misery. In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. There are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses.” STC 9, 10.

It’s not that I don’t believe that God makes all things work together for good, and even our toil, which was initially a “punishment” for sin is for our benefit and makes us happy, content, and fulfilled, but what about the scars that we choose? The sins we are attracted to that we can’t see the consequences of? Okay, I have to run before I get started on that subject. It will be for another day.