Thursday, January 16, 2014

I once was lost

Gavin was just a few squishy, squeaky weeks old when I sat across from my mother-in-law and prayed for Jesus to come in to my heart.  Teary-eyed, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed, I knew I needed help.  I needed something, or someone on whom I could rely for comfort and understanding, a listening ear, and a shoulder on which to cry--in the middle of the night or the middle of the day or even the middle of the grocery store.  I knew I'd stepped into a world in which I could not navigate alone; a world for which there was no specific map, no definitive set of instructions, no inkling of what each day or month or year might bring.  

Parenthood wasn't something we had immediately set our sights on once we were married in June 2005.  After all, the majority of our early relationship could be categorized as 'long distance', with a few spans of time where our proximity to one another was much more desirable.  Because of the physical distance between us during much of our relationship and engagement, we had planned on enjoying a few years of married life doing 'couple-y' sort of things before jumping in to the world of parenthood.

But God had other plans.
sidebar: I mean, really.  Randy looks about 15 years old, right?
So there we were, having just moved almost 2,000 miles from our families, in the midst of figuring out living-together life and married life and new-job {times 2} life and homeowner life...and then we were parents.  And let me tell you something.  Nine months was *not* enough time to prepare for the changes and struggles and adjustments we were up against.  Exhaustion and hormones and schedules made for a few less-than-graceful comments, some frustration-filled words, and unkind actions.  

One of these strained exchanges happened in the presence of my visiting in-laws.  I don't even remember what it was to be honest, but my mother- and father-in-law sensed something was 'up'...something was 'off'.  I'm not sure what {or even if} there was a concerned exchanged between the two of them, but I remember sitting in my living room with my MIL while Randy and his dad were in the basement.  Later, in a debriefing with Randy, he and I discovered some similarities with the general direction of our concurrent conversations.

At the time, we were kind of frustrated.  Annoyed by the discovery of what appeared to be a covert operation to check in on the status of our marriage.  I was in agreement with my husband that it seemed all too convenient that we were each approached in a concerned, yet non-threatening way in what appeared to be an assessment of the depth of our commitments.

While I did experience a bit of confusion and defensiveness after the fact, the talk with my MIL was one I won't ever regret having.  It was 'the' conversation.  The one that more or less began my Christian walk.  

I had heard of God before this of course.  I knew about Him, heard His name not only in church, but in anger-filled shouts of dismay when things went awry.  Cursing His name in frustration, throwing the term 'thank God' around like it was a casual catch phrase, and having a crucifix hanging somewhere in the house.  All things I was familiar with.  I went to the church, but I wasn't at the church.  I spent my time standing/sitting/kneeling and counting down the minutes until I heard the words "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."  For me, it wasn't a place of refuge but a place of rule-following.  Traditions and rituals and expectations never fostered the personal connection I was so desperately desiring.

So I walked away.

When I met Randy, I called myself my religion, but I think it was honestly because I hated the idea of not having something God-related with which to identify.  I believed because that was what I had been taught to believe, but I didn't necessarily agree with or feel connected to the way in which I'd spent my childhood learning about Him.

I remember the first time I went to church with Randy and his parents.  Talk about night and day.  Physically the building and its interior were different, spiritually the energy level felt different {'good' different}, and before I knew it I being introduced to the pastor, who welcomed me with a hug {a hug! from the pastor!}.  

This was what I had been looking for.  

The authenticity of his message, the electric energy of people all coming together who wanted to be there {rather than feeling they have to or ought to be there}, and the way in which nearly everyone there not only had *their own* bibles, but they had {gasp!} written in them...I was stunned.  And, to be honest, still a little skeptical.  I mean, really?  This was church?  Where was the pomp and circumstance?  The candles and stained glass and gilded accouterments and rituals that made everything seem more 'official' {for lack of a better word}?  Why in the world was there a huge screen and Power church??  It all seemed overwhelming, all the while striking chords of curiosity in my heart.  

Over the course of our relationship, Randy's mom would talk to me about God; sharing her faith, sending books, emailing and texting scripture.  And to be honest, I received each of them with a slightly clouded mind.  Randy and I didn't have a lot of in-depth discussions about faith and our beliefs in the beginning parts of our relationship, nor did we really engage in such once we were married.  In hindsight, it would have befit us to do so, however I do know that we're on the right course despite our earlier ignorance {or, more accurately, our 'ignore'-ance} to such fundamental relationship building blocks.

I was a ship sailing the seas with three different maps.  I had an old map, showing well-worn traditional routes of travel that were used ritually by countless people over the years.  I carried a new map, filled with routes that were random and individual, yet all seemed relational to one another.  The interesting thing about these routes is they all centered around one specific focal point.  And I also carried a self-made map.  I had tried diligently to make sense of the new map but was so familiar with that old map that I tried blending the two together into a creation that seemed to be working, but I often found myself lost in murky or turbulent waters, having traveled around and around in circles, or completely off course all together.  Turns out my map was getting me no where fast.

Seven years and three kids.  That's how long I traveled with that hybrid map, lost and confused on an open ocean with no land in sight.  My resources were running about as low as my sanity and energy and inner-soul happiness.  I needed to figure it out.

September, 2012.  

An opportunity my husband had been waiting for at work had unfortunately been on the back burner, causing a bit of frustration, while simultaneously an entirely new opportunity that offered an alternative direction, a new state, and new possibilities became available.  Without a whole lot of time to prepare mentally, emotionally, or physically {thank you, God, for providing professional movers}, we were heading down the dusty trail with the Rockies in our rear view, and a whole lot of...well...not much ahead of us.  

one of our last moments with the Rocky Mountains in our sight
pretty much the *opposite* of the Rocky Mountains...
And it was hard.  'So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye' wasn't what I wanted to say {Or sing.  Because now I totally am singing it.  And will totally have to watch the movie after writing this.}.  I wanted to keep on teaching, keep on experiencing life on a Rocky Mountain high {not that kind of high}, and keep geographically close to the friends with whom I had come to know and love over the past seven and a half years.

But God had other plans.
deep in the heart...
"Are you an American?"
"Nah...I'm a Texan."
State pride runs deep here.
And oh my goodness, has it been hard, y'all.  It was one thing when Randy and I moved to Colorado right after we were married.  We were kicking off our life together with a fun adventure, a fresh start, and two new jobs from which we found lifelong friendships.  We learned how to be married there, we became parents there, we built our family there.  Our roots were deep.

Or so I thought.  

While I still have strong ties to my 'home state', many connections with sweet people with whom I love to keep in contact, and years worth of memories {and photos} to cherish from that season in our life, the truth is the root of me isn't tied to a particular geographic location.  The root of me is in my family.  And it's in The One with whom I've come to know, come to love, come to follow.

When I first met Randy and got to know his family, I was introduced to God and faith from a whole different perspective.  I was intrigued, yet confused.  I was struggling to find my own way, but was so adamant that I didn't really need anyone to help me, that I ignored the One who was planning my way for me, regardless of what I thought I could control.  I mean really.  Who would have imagined me, living life as a stay at home mom in Texas?  For a girl who, from age 5, dreamed of and dedicated her life to becoming a teacher, to utter the words "I don't know if I'll go back to the classroom"?  I can tell you things in my life have changed.

In late April of 2013, while Randy was travelling out of the country, I woke up one Sunday morning feeling a pull on my heart.  I did a little schedule checking online and said to the kids, "get dressed guys, we're going to go to church this morning".  Much to my surprise, all three kids happily ran upstairs to get changed.  Fast forward a few hours {and a few goosebumps and [happy] tears--all mine}, and the kids were reluctantly walking away from their church classrooms, asking me when they got to go back.  Wow.  

It's been just about nine months since we joined our church.  Nine months of growing and changing and developing and learning and taking it all in and making it personal and recognizing the type of relationship I was needing and craving and wanting when I spent those years dangling my feet from the pew counting minutes or pages of the hymnal or hairs on the head of the balding man ahead of me.  

The difference between these nine months and the nine months I spent during my first pregnancy {and second and third}, trying to prepare for the unknown is that these nine months I know who God is, rather than just having 'heard of him' as I half-tuned in to a droning sermon.  This time around, I found my sense of worry diminishing.  I felt the fear of the unknown and the potential changes and struggles and adjustments coming down the pike someday less daunting and all-consuming.  During these nine months, my physical body didn't change {...much...I guess.  I am a bit partial to some good ole Texas BBQ though *wink, wink*}.  But instead, my soul changed.  My heart softened and my sense of gratitude grew.  All good kinds of growing.  No treadmills required for maintenance {*praise hands*}.

And yes, there are similarities between the spans of time as well.  I crave.  Just as I craved Oreos or pastrami, or ice, I crave that pocket of time each day when I can spend some time with Him.  I dream.  Just as I dreamed of the amazing day I'd get to hold my sweet little baby for the first time, I dream of the amazing things that He has planned for me and for my family.  I pray.  Of course I prayed for the health and well-being of our son, our family, our marriage...but now I pray differently.  Gone are the days of what seemed like a Christmas wish list.  I now live in a world where my prayers sound different, feel different, and are more like a conversation between two friends.  

Don't get me wrong.  I still have a lot to learn.  A lot.  And that's okay.  Because I don't feel pressure from anyone.  I find what works for me, and what I've found in doing this is that He gives me just what I need, when I need it.  He's provided the places and people and resources all of which help me make sense of that new map.  I love the relational aspect of that map, the central focus toward which we are all sailing, and the support system I have come to find as I navigate my course.

The truth is I've changed.  More accurately, the Truth has changed me.  Back in 2006, when I sat and prayed those words with my mother-in-law, with tears in my eyes, I was reaching out.  I was searching for a lighthouse I had an innate desire to find, but at the time, my maps had me veering off course and even in the wrong direction.  The years I spent half-entertaining the ideas and truths my MIL would discuss with me were years I now wish I had not lost in my own ignorance and dismissal.  However today I can say that without her love, without her support, without her trust in Him, I would not be in the place I am today.  Physically?  Possibly.  I know God knew all along that I we needed Texas and all it has to offer in our lives.  But I'm talking in my soul.  My heart would not be softened, my mind would not be opened, my life would not be as purposeful.  God brought Randy to me, and for that, my gratitudes are eternal.  But additionally with my husband came an influence in my life for which I didn't even realize I needed.  And through her influence, my curiosity became piqued enough that I found the courage to walk through the doors of what I proudly call 'our church'.  

I'm so grateful for God and his other plans.

April, 2010

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