Okay, first 2008: I must acknowledge that you provided me ample opportunities to test my spiritual mettle. Whisking back and forth between hospital visits to my parents at various points this year gave me lots of time to reflect and pray. My having back surgery followed by a prolonged (and ongoing) between-jobs situation for Tim? Brilliant, 2008! We have chosen to grow closer as a result of the extra time spent together, me flat on my back physically, Tim flat on his back emotionally. I’m sure our deepened relationship is what you intended for us all the time.

And I must offer thanks, 2008, for how well Abby’s transition to a new school has gone. And for Rob and Dan having such wonderful friends. And for the fact that both my parents are still with us, no matter how dicey that looked at times.

And of course, 2008, you realized that truly being needy (emotionally and financially) would show Tim and me how very wonderful the people in our lives are. So thank you for that lesson.

But of course, we’ve managed to slip in a couple of less challenging moments, you taskmaster 2008! We did cruise and snorkel. We’ve eaten at some great places. We’ve laughed riotously with friends. We even watched some good TV behind your back, 2008. Sneaky little buggers, aren’t we?

But I must take issue, dear 2008, that you’re being a bit petty during these waning days of your empire. Despite the fact that the kids have a bazillion toys/games/books etc. could you have them do something else (ANYTHING else) other than pick, pick, pick at one another? And *must* two of my offspring have attitudes, or should I say ASSitudes that make me want to sell them on ebay? Is there some kind of hormonal surge in our family? And are you going to pass this information on to 2009? Because, really, I don’t think that’s fair play.

But I quibble, 2008. I can sit here on your last day and enumerate the many blessings that have come from the difficulties you brought me. So I think that’s an overall win for us both. But I won’t be sorry to see you go, dude. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but I think we’re well past facades at this point, don’t you think? I will toast you tonight, friend, but I think it will be healthy for us to each move on. Put in a good word for me with 2009, won’t you?

Edited to add: Oh, 2008, how could have I doubted your tenacity?  How could I have thought that you wouldn’t give that last kick me in the crotch hurrah?  You remember the tooth?  The one that I had filled yesterday?  You know how my gum got increasingly swollen overnight to the point that people noticed my lower jaw was actually looking, well, huge-ish?  And the pain?  I went to the emergency dentist today (another whole post’s worth of material).   And…I need a root canal, which is just ducky from both a dental and financial perspective…it’s your last gift to me, isn’t it?  And since I can’t get the root canal done until 2009, it’s really the gift that keeps on giving.  I swear, if you and 2009 are in collusion — I know where you live, man, I know where you live!

…so this is just to quickly say…that I’m realizing that yes, God does provide in unexpected and even pretty wonderful ways.  Tim and I are not holding out tons of hope for any employment opportunities before Christmas or New Years at this point…but I am beginning to get to the place where I am hoping less in the job itself and more in God in the midst of this time of our lives.  And in God’s people who love us.  And while I’m weary of circumstances out the wazoo, I’m grateful to God at the same time.

Every difficult situation has the potential to do one of two things to a relationship:  strengthen it or shred it.  And right now I think we’re getting stronger.  That’s a pretty sizable Christmas gift right there.

And while I might not have the most enormous spontaneous Christmas spirit at this point — I’m excited about it for my kids’ sake and I know God to be good.  And I’m grateful that both my parents are here, since there were any number of times over 2008 that I doubted one or both would be.  So.  Onward.  And Merry Christmas.  Because, truly, if Jesus hadn’t chosen to come to this world to fulfill all that God the Father had for Him — well, then we’d be…a whole lot worse off than we are right now.  So thank you, God.  Must go to break up an argument between children!  Ah, the joys of Christmas break!

Hail Mary?

December 17, 2008

So, to catch up or recap: My dad is home from the hospital, his heart finally being “cardioverted” into sinus rhythm on Monday by a shock the heart procedure (sort of sounds like shock the monkey, doesn’t it?). He is expecting to have double valve repair/replacement surgery in January. My mom and I got him sprung yesterday, and then I went to two pharmacies to obtain his various prescriptions, and then helped my mom sort out which drugs needed to be taken when and at what dosages. He is reacting to the Lovenox (basically heparin, a blood thinner) shots he must give himself for a bit, by bruising and swelling, so he is expected to consult his family doctor this morning to make sure that he can keep taking these injections. He needs the Lovenox until the coumadin (another blood thinning medication) level in his blood reaches a certain sweet spot…my parents are exhausted, emotionally and physically, and now must brace themselves for the holidays which will be followed by major surgery. I think that my mom is trying mightily and valiantly to stay well enough to handle all this — and if sheer force of will matters in one’s health (which clearly it does), hopefully she will be strong enough to get through my dad’s recovery. Chance is a good thing, at least.

Tim…well, he has had some interviews, good ones he believes, but so far, nothing has broken. We talked this morning (despite the fact that Abby had a two hour delay for what appeared to me to be nonexistent snow and ice). Painfully talked. With tears and all. And came to the inescapable conclusion that he will probably need to be willing to travel. By not putting his hat in the ring for jobs all over the country, he has severely limited his employment options. We had not wanted to get to the point where he would have to travel, because we did it for two years, and it’s no great way to run a marriage or family. But then, neither is being broke. So it appears — that unless something breaks in the immediate few days — Tim will be looking into travel, at least for a time. I mean, my daughter needs to go to the eye doctor, and my sons need to go to the dentist. And there’s that pesky feeding the family thing…sure, Tim traveling at the same time as my dad has surgery will suck. Big time.

It’s funny — my last post where I was trying to figure out God’s character seems like an eon ago. In the intervening few days I have been reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, a sometimes impenetrable but often incredibly wise devotion. He writes, “My questions come whenever I cease to obey. When I have obeyed God, the problems never come between me and God, they come as probes to keep the mind going on with amazement at the revelation of God. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.”

Well. There might be a reason that my own devotion book could be entitled, My Half-Assedness for His Mediocrity. ‘Cause, dudes? I am so not there right now. I’m trying, really really really trying to obey God. To believe in His goodness. His mercy and love. His complete understanding of circumstances about which I am stuck in my tiny postage stamp sized perspective. But here’s the thing: I feel like I’m dying inside right now. Like I can barely take a whole breath without collapsing in on myself. There’s so much hopelessness in me right now, not just about the job situation, but god, about so much else that has been so terribly painful of late. Still, I am seeking Him, and right now, it feels as though He won’t be found my me. I know that my feelings don’t represent truth, but right now, that doesn’t make my feelings any easier.

I so want to believe, I even choose to believe in the God who loves us and wants to bless us with good gifts. And I know that doesn’t mean that He erases all suffering or all difficult decisions. But frankly, I fail to see (again, think postage stamp perspective) how Tim’s traveling could be the best thing for our family. Oh, it may be the best we can do right now I guess, but the best best thing? Really?

So today, to reference the title of this post (which proves that Dan’s football mania has permeated every aspect of my being!), I feel like it’s the last few seconds of Some Big Game that can only be won by a successful touchdown pass. I’m the quarterback and quite possibly the wide receiver (control freak much, Beth?), and I am lofting the ball in the air while gigantic defensive players swarm me, having broken through my offensive line and trying to get the sack. So the ball is in the air and I’m about to be knocked down hard. But I will attempt to peer through the rubble of players atop me to see if maybe, just maybe, the ball is caught in the endzone. And then I’m there in the endzone with the ball coming toward me, too high and with a bit too much spin. But that won’t stop me from jumping for it, from trying to feel it reach my cold fingertips so that I can bring it close in to my chest. I still want to believe that the win I desperately desire is within reach somehow.

Oh, but I fear going in to the locker room, broken and bruised, having lost. The consolation of that loss would be that if in some way, some way that is stupid clear to me, I could find God in all this. Not just God who will help me survive, to put one foot in front of the other (though mind you, I really need that God), but God who will give me hope for the future, God who will comfort, God who knows and still has a plan for goodness here in my life. I need to see and feel that God right about now. I need a reminder (remember, stupid clear) that faith in Him is never in vain. Please, please, I need Him right now to penetrate my frustration and sadness, to show me Himself.

Shit Meet Fan

December 12, 2008

Oh wait, I’m sorry, you two have already become well acquainted in calendar year 2008. But hey, look upon this as an opportunity to deepen your relationship, to spend some quality time together, to learn each other’s measure a bit more.

I could rewind and post some of last year’s writings to remind you of some of your earlier meetings when you two created quite a well, you know, a shitstorm?

Short version: A 3:30 am Thursday morning phone call from my mom — my dad’s in the hospital in A-fib again, which basically means that his heart is out of regular rhythm, and underscores the immediate need for the double valve replacement surgery about which I wrote last year. But life, being life, and my father being my father — the surgery didn’t happen last year. And so it is upon us again. The doctor wants my dad to stay in the hospital while all the experts work on getting his heart back in sinus rhythm (first by trying to chemically fix the A-fib with medicine and if that doesn’t work, by essentially shocking his heart with the little paddles), stay in the hospital until the surgeon returns from vacation on Monday, and have the surgery as soon as the schedule permits. My dad debates whether to follow this advice or to wait until the New Year, both because of the holidays and his business, which is ridiculously busy during these last weeks of the year.

Tim has had some interviews, some good ones, but nothing yet on the job front.

Somewhere in this time frame, the washing machine croaked and my computer is dying a slow and agonizing death, where every day it loses just a little bit more of what it should do (like scrolling with the touch pad feature or recharging with the power cord or you know, having the space bar workconsistentlyyouseewhatImean).

And I’m tired. I hadn’t been able to fall asleep Wednesday night, so when my mom called, I had only been sleeping for an hour. I’m not trying to whine, really. But ick.

I was praying yesterday, as I’ve been praying of late, for strength, for hope, for more of Jesus. And I started to think about Christmas and money and stress and how maybe we should have told the kids that they couldn’t get much this year due to finances. But Tim and I opted to buy them the items they really want (I-pods for the boys and a portable DVD player for Abby), as well as some other smaller-priced stuff for the sake of having packages to open. And yesterday I thought about how people might judge us for that — I mean we’re in seriously crummy financial straits and spending must be careful, so I can picture people muttering to themselves, “God, why would they buy that stuff for the kids? What’s wrong with them?”

While we can all argue that kids today, mine included or especially, are spoiled — it’s more than that. I find such joy in giving my kids what they really want. I want to see their faces, I want to feel their happiness. As a parent, it’s my heart toward my children to love, love, love blessing them in all sorts of ways, large and small.

After I left the hospital yesterday, I was begging God about a lot of things: health for my dad of course, as well as my mom, for me to feel more strength and less exhaustion post surgery, and especially for Tim’s job situation. Honestly, it wasn’t an eloquent prayer — more like, “Dude, really? My dad in the hospital now? Oh God, I can’t do it right now. I really can’t.” And I felt like he told me to listen, which frankly, I didn’t feel much like doing. I was still back at “Dude, really? Really?” But I shut up for a moment and I felt like God brought to mind this issue of gift giving. “Oh great,” I thought to myself. “God’s going to remind me of how much I really suck by confirming that we never should have spent that money on the kids.” (Luckily, of course, God can’t, you know, read my mind or anything, so He had no idea whatsoever that my attitude might have been a tad lacking.) But instead He brought to mind the truth that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and that the Bible says that if we, as flawed and sinful humans, can give our kids good gifts, how much better can He do so, what with the Holy Spirit and all.

And okay, I confess that my first thought was, “Well, that’s nice God. Whatevs. But what are you going to do about all of these circumstances that hurt so damn much?” But then He said to me, “Why are you so afraid that I don’t desire to bless you? That I don’t want to see your joy when I give you whatever it is you want?” And wow, it’s a good question. Why do I live my life in such fear? Kids, by and large unless we’ve really screwed up repeatedly, don’t fear their parents. They live in (a sometimes even selfish) expectation that we will bless them. Not just that we’ll get them what they want for Christmas, but that of course, we’ll make their lunches; of course, we’ll listen to their problems; of course, we will love and take care of them. And we’re supposed to approach God like children. I think this is kind of big (at least to me): I am supposed to live in expectation not of perfection and ease and everything I want exactly when I want it — but in expectation of His blessing. I am supposed to live in the knowledge that He does give good gifts solely because He wants to. Suffering is part of this life, but wouldn’t it be mitigated, wouldn’t it be transformed even, if I could stop being so afraid and start being expectant of His goodness?

Man, I don’t have this figured out yet. I don’t really know, despite being a Christian for a number of years, how really to approach Him like a child. I’m still pretty wrapped up in worrying about the aforementioned shit and fan and who’s going to have to clean up all that mess…but God’s onto something here (imagine that) in my life. Something big that could change my whole approach to Him.