"Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble." Psalm 90: 12-15
My blogging hands have been quiet of late. The weeks of Beve's vacation were both restful and disquieting for me. I love having him home. He throws off the weight of his intense job and is lit up with the wit and goofiness that we know as "Vacation-Beve." Our kids and I look forward to this version of him as much as any other part of vacation. The older our kids get, the more they understood why his job brings so much intensity. He works with so many troubled kids and their families, sees and hears things I can't even imagine. He talks about putting his big ol' size 15s into the shoes of those kids' lives and walking around with them as they struggle. "He's a really good kid," I've heard him say over and over, about even the most difficult and hostile kids around. And much of what he deals with, he cannot share with us. Beyond this, he gets buried in paperwork that leaves his ADD, random-abstract self always feeling behind the eight-ball looking for which pocket he's trying to the billiard ball into. So you can see how throwing off such things, even for a week or two, can be like taking off a coat of nails. Not that he stops thinking about those kids altogether. Not in this life-time.
And there were our kids, running in and out of the house to their lives, like adult children do. Making us laugh with their antics, loving hearing what God is doing in their lives, having conversations deep and rich with each of them. Hard, painful ones, ones full of dreams and joy. Like the story of life itself. Like the story of the Incarnation itself--God born among us, but born to suffer and die for us. And die to give us life eternal. It's joy and pain and joy again. This is the story of every life, because it is His story, even as the Psalmist wrote hundreds of years before Christ was born.
There was time with my brother between his trips east to my sisters' home and south to see friends, as we have so often now it's like our home is also his home (and his home ours?). And I love this. Honestly, I think I might have prayed for it in one corner of my heart when I was also praying for something else for the years he lived across the country. At least I know how glad I am we are home together now.
We had our yearly "Cousins" dinner at my aunt's home last week. It was a Louisa May Alcott bunch of us that night, "Eight Cousins." That may sound like a lot to some of you. It would be just short of a full quiver for my children on each side of their families. But the eight of us represented just over a third of the cousins on my paternal side (My mother was an only child, so these are my only cousins). We ate, laughed, talked, photographed ourselves, spilled cranberry juice (that was me!), and lived to tell the stories. Again. Because I only see some of these folks once a year, I always look forward to this night.
And there were friends who found sanctuary here for moments along the way, whose lives are full of chemo and radiation and marked by trips to oncologists to hear whether any of that suffering has prolonged their lives on this planet. And each of these is really, really in the end game, having fought too long, or with too few results to feel much hope in the season we might spell HOPE itself.
It is more than a little narcissistic of me to write of my own struggles after such profound suffering as those of our friends, but there it is. Unfortunately, lately I've been wrapped up in very-me, if that makes sense. The physical pain in which I live has been creeping up to strangle me in the last few months. There are good days, but they are fewer than the bad ones. And as the pain increases, my ability to put together a coherent word decreases proportionally. It hit me one night what a mess I am. One hot mess of a body, put together with shot nerve, arthritis, limps and migraines. This isn't merely a complaint today. It's an all-out scream. That's what I've been doing lately. I've been lamenting with the best of them, shouting my complaints before God, wondering if He's listening or if they're just bouncing off the ceiling as one more thing goes wrong. I have a husband who is strong and stoic, even with a cocktail of ailments himself. He's a man who can do and do and do all day long, while I can barely get off my couch without falling. It worries me, the creeping difference in our abilities.This, too, is part of my lament. Then my life stretches out before me and I try to imagine how much worse all this pain can get. What more will be required before the pain and suffering is lifted by heaven itself. Ten years? Twenty? Thirty? Oh, imagine thirty more years of this...no, don't think of it. Please God, don't think of it. Tell me that you won't.
This is the raw truth of my 'holiday.'
Lament. Sunk into depression, brought on by self. "Who am I?" I ask, that I should suffer so. "Relent, Lord. How long will it be?" asks the Psalmist. It's a cry for compassion to the Lord. A cry for His mercy. But Psalm 90 is also a plea for joy in the midst of whatever is given, for gladness in suffering as well as ease. I have always known that THIS is how He intends me/us to live: with joy IN our struggle. Even as we pray for mercy, we thank God for what He gives. TODAY. This year.
My lament must end with praise and it does. On this frosty morning, at the dawn of this new year, I thank God for my life. This very life. For what my life is made of, for what He's making of me through it. And pray that HE grants me the heart of wisdom for which the Psalmist also longs. Through it. And, of course, beyond it. Whenever that day dawns.