Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Living Well

I sat outside the other night. (Rare for a mom in Houston-- namely because of the aforementioned terms "mom" and "Houston.") Lee had taken Avery to the bath-- I was supposed to clear the dishes and begin cleaning up, but instead I sat, listened to a few more songs on the playlist, and looked up.

I hardly ever look up in Houston. (Mostly because of light pollution-- I couldn't really see the stars, so I watched blinking airplanes & thought about the stars instead.) But, the other night, I looked up and remembered that I am small.

I am a small person with small influence-- in the grand scheme of the universe (airplanes and all), I am a speck; in the grand scheme of history, I am a speck. But, I want to live a life of purpose.

My grandmother just celebrated her 80th birthday-- let's say I make it to that age, and I have a great, wild birthday blow-out with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What do I want? I want to be living a full life; I want to be learning and teaching and laughing and writing and traveling. Until the day I meet my maker, I long to live as a woman of influence, of purpose. But, as a speck, how do I truly live well?

As David penned Psalm 8, I imagine he, too, sat outside and looked up. He writes:
"When I observe Your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?"

I don't have all the answers, but here's what I know-- I am most fulfilled when I am working for something bigger than myself. And, as I look up and think about the cosmic vastness that my God holds in the palm of His hand, my perspective shifts. No longer can I focus inward.

David continues:
"You made him little less than angels
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You put everything under his feet."

The lovely truth is this: my God is glory itself, yet he gives me a role to play in His story. For now, I am mommy to a sticky, determined, laughing little girl. The world dismisses me, tells me I do nothing meaningful. But, my King tells me I am crowned with glory and honor regardless of whether I choose to work at home or outside of it.

At the end of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Levin (one of my favorite characters in all of literature) also looks up. Levin goes out and listens "not so much to his thoughts... as to the state of his soul." To make several chapters short, he comes to this conclusion: "live for God, for the soul."

There are many things to live for, to work towards. But, when I listen to the state of my soul, I realize that nothing satisfies like enjoying my God and working for His kingdom.

And so, I think that this what I must do: Look up. Live for God, for the soul.

Friday, September 7, 2012


It's strange-- tragedy is usually the best of instructors. I guess this is why Hamlet is so much more interesting to study than Much Ado About Nothing. And why every narrative told in the history of the world sends its hero or heroine through some dark period.

A year or so ago, I started to pray earnestly for wisdom. I believe fiercely in a God who answers prayer, and I take very literally the words of Solomon in Proverbs 4: "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding." So, I'm not sure why I was so blindsided by my miscarriage-- though, I guess like the camper who comes prepared with a flashlight cannot truly understand the frightening nature of the dark, one cannot truly experience the depth of tragedy if one is prepared for it.

So, about four months ago, I lost a baby. You can call it a fetus if you'd like, an embryo even, but to me-- it was a life. I had started to think of names, to envision how this new little one would fit into our world. I even bought a Big Sister t-shirt for Avery. (It came in the mail four days after the miscarriage.) And then. And then. And then. I will spare you all the gruesome details-- suffice it to say that, despite my having zero risk factors and already having had one perfectly average pregnancy, it turned out that my little baby, my little life, was growing where it could not possibly thrive.

At the time, I was reading Genesis and an old story struck me anew-- the story of Jacob as he wrestles with God. (Genesis 32:24-32) The story begins with Jacob being left alone. He began with 15 other people, and that night as he stands on the threshhold of the Promised Land, he is alone. In the dark. While I personally was surrounded by plenty of loving, supportive people, I felt like Jacob. Alone. And simply because, as the only person who could physically feel the life inside of me die, no one else could fully share my grief. And, just as Jacob had to face God alone, I think sometimes we must individually deal with God so as to be like Job when he says, "My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You" (Job 42:5).

Now, I find verses 30-31 especially beautiful: "Jacob then named the place Peniel, 'For,' he said, 'I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.' The sun shone on him as he passed by Peniel-- limping on his hip."

The sun is beginning to rise, and while I still limp, I have seen my living God work. C.S. Lewis says, "But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” When I should have been eaten alive with grief, I felt supernatural peace. When I felt alone, God used others to encourage and fortify me. As I wrestled with God over the past few months, He has spoken to my soul. I know He IS.

"But You, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One
who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the LORD,
and He answers me
from His holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the LORD sustains me."
Psalm 3:3-5