Lot’s wife

In Genesis 19, we read about Sodom and Gomorrah, and about Lot and his family fleeing from Sodom after being commanded to do so by angels in their midst. Verse 26 states “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” For this post, I’m not interested in debating why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed; I want to focus on Lot’s wife.

There are various hypotheses of why she was turned into a pillar of salt. Was it because she longed for the evil way of life that was being destroyed? Because she saw God sending his wrath on Sodom? Looking back to see if her sons-in-law were coming? Was it because she didn’t trust God’s goodness in his directive to have her leave?

We move in one month and four days. I want to go, because I believe we are supposed to move. Doors opened and closed in such a way that it is clear that California is our next step. And I am convinced that God is good, all the time. So why am I struggling to find the positive emotions for the steps ahead? Instead, I find myself longing for evergreens, gazing at lakes and Seattle sights and sighing. Tears come unbidden too often for my comfort and can be conjured up on a moment’s notice.

I feel like I’m in this awful multi-pronged limbo:

  • I find myself starting to pull away from some of my friendships here so the goodbye won’t be as emotional
  • The “research” side of the peninsula is done: we have a place to rent, schools for the kids, and at least one of the extracurriculars ready to go
  • House prep is never-ending, but now I need to balance “making memories!” with getting it all done. And now we need to find renters to start in (ideally) less than 1.5 months.
  • I think I’m a little (not clinically) depressed and am developing really good avoidance techniques: lots of reading, sometimes running, and just frittering time away with anything and everything to avoid the lists

It just feels hard and sad and bad. And then I layer on guilt. “If God wants us to go and He sees the whole picture, who am I to be sad? How are my kids supposed to be positive about this if I am so sad?” (In my defense, I let the kids know I am sad, but I don’t dwell in that space with them. I go there when they need to talk, etc, but try to help point out the truth of God’s presence, etc to them.) So today I feel like Lot’s wife. Perhaps not for the same reasons, but I find myself wanting to look back on this life I love. Lord, for any sin that I harbor in this, forgive me. Change me. May I own my emotions but also truly trust through the tears.

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pangs

My husband stepped into being an entrepreneur two and a half years ago. Having worked at very stable jobs, at very stable companies, my sense of what start-up life would be was nothing close to reality. There are lots of ups and downs; I cannot begin to express the rollercoaster ride we’ve both enjoyed and endured at various times. I’ve watched as stress mounts, as questions about the future unfold, and shared the times of joy and accomplishment. But even at the highs, when all feels well, there is a brevity, an ephemeral quality, a gnawing realization that this will pass more quickly than we want it to. So we choose to embrace the moment and laugh, a respite from an unknown future.

Prior to this I never much paid attention to the posts of comings and goings of businesses. I might walk past a store, recognize that it was gone, and quickly shrug and move along my way. Friends were self-employed and I never understood how challenging that could be. But now, it feels different. I hear of a closing, I read a poster in a window, and I gulp a little bit. Because I’ve watched the passion that it takes to start a new business, to step beyond the big company stability into something that springs from inside you. It’s a vulnerable place. It’s scary, and it requires sacrifice. My pace slows and I wish a blessing on those that put themselves on the line, my heart bursting both with pride and sadness for what could have been, for tears shed when the dream dissipates, leaving memories of bravery and loss.

memorial services and the fragility of life

It has been a rough few weeks here. The end of the year tends to be a bit crazy; this was my fourth such year and I’m accepting that this is part of the end-of-school season. Tom traveled more than normal, and my hat goes off to single parents, because it’s a rough gig. I’m so grateful for friends who took my children at 7am so I could dash to work. But really, what threw me for a loop was the tragic death of a friend and realizing the severity of another friend’s cancer.

I knew Mandy (not her real name) had cancer. I knew it was Stage IV. I even made the mistake of reading about it on Wikipedia and looked at prognosis. But it wasn’t until I met up with her, saw her with her tiny newborn, and listened to details about making agonizing choices regarding her treatment while pregnant that I got how terribly sick she was. That the fact that she was still here to care for her baby was a miracle in and of itself. I held (and hold) tightly to the fact that the tumor has stabilized and that she’s doing some really hopeful-sounding treatments now. I pray for her and her baby, that they would both grow and be strengthened and healed by the God who can heal anything.

Heal anything.

Echoes of that prayer linger as I think about Emily (not her real name, either). The same week I visited Mandy, Emily ended up in critical care after a freak bicycle accident. My heart is still too heavy to go into details, but suffice to say that Emily never woke up. At 40 years old she passed into the arms of her savior. Many in our school community are mourning the loss of this vibrant light.

I went to Emily’s memorial service. There were parts I loved. Here’s what I would add to what was said:

I know that there are lots of people in mourning right now, and it makes sense. When God made this world He never intended death to be a part of it. We mourn death partly because we don’t see a bigger picture, sure, but mostly because there’s something amazing and wonderful about life. There’s magic and beauty and laughter and love and music and art and relationships–why wouldn’t we cry when someone is removed from that? And even if we believe in heaven, where we’ve been told it will be even better than it is here, it’s hard to let go of our people, who make this world all the more amazing.

There’s a tension I want to acknowledge right now. I believe God is sovereign over all things, that he knows the number of hairs on our heads, that he loves us more deeply than we can imagine. I also believe that we live in a broken world, where awful things happen and tragedies occur. I can’t explain why it seems like God intervenes in some situations and not others. So I grasp both realities, knowing that they at times feel in opposition to one another.

In the midst of that tension, here’s the promise I claim and that I offer: God promises to never leave nor forsake us. Never. Ever. In the midst of tragedy or in the midst of triumph, God is with us. Emmanuel means “God with us”; Jesus came into this world and paid the ransom for all of us. Because of Jesus there is hope, there is reconciliation with God, there is grace for all who want it. It’s in times like these that I tightly grip these promises and lean my weary head (and heart) on him. Feel free to join me.

 

becoming an angry white woman

I had an uncomfortable realization last week. As I was reading about another unarmed black man being killed by police, I got angry. Really, Lord? Why is this happening again? Why does justice feel so far away sometimes? Why? Why? Why?

It took me a long time to realize my own preconceptions: my experience with police officers and authority figures in general has always been positive. Frankly, my experience with people in general has been positive. My overwhelming tendency is to trust people and to take what they say at face value. Call me naive, but it’s really a reflection of my experiences in life. It didn’t occur to me that others’ experiences were different and therefore would lead them to alternate starting points, lenses to see the world far different from my own.

Many people get frustrated when people of color talk about discrimination. The voices they hear sound strident, harsh, angry to their ears. Honestly, it sounds that way to me, too. I back away. I don’t want to engage. But I shifted in my seat when I got upset. Because what I heard myself think was this: “If I start speaking out about these injustices, time and again, people will consider me a downer. I’ll sound angry all the time.” Gulp. I’m not an angry person, and anyone who knows me knows that. Could it be, I thought, that those “angry” people I’ve shirked in the past are actually just trying to speak truth into darkness? Could it be that they have seen too much, felt too much and really just want a better place for all of us?

I remember learning in one psychology class that anger is a secondary emotion. There’s a deeper emotion that presents as anger. I suspect that many times pain sounds an awful lot like anger. When sharing your heart gets shut down, it creates a scar. When we say we value justice, hear others questioning if a breach occurred, and blithely disregard their concerns without due process, hot coals sear people’s hearts and they cry out.

For those of you opening your mouths in protest, wait just a minute. I am still wary to jump to conclusions when there are altercations anywhere that I didn’t see. I do think that whatever lens we wear can lead us to first impressions that are wrong. But are any of us willing to step back from our own viewpoint long enough to say that the world is a wholly just place? That we are free from the brokenness of this world? Friends, in this week after our Easter celebrations let us be reminded that Jesus came because we are broken and in need of a Savior. Jesus redeemed us and is making all things new. But the world still groans. Sin is conquered but not removed.

I believe that God broke the dividing wall–between both us and him and each other. I believe that when we hear from others different from ourselves–be it race, gender, age, life experience, culture, etc.–that we see a fuller image of God. Let us listen, let us remove our lenses, let us cry out…even if it sounds angry to others.

speaking out

There’s an interesting line one treads when one decides to enter the inter webs. It’s not “real life” in the sense that anyone can read or comment, regardless of their knowledge of you. This is not a, “hey, come over and let’s have coffee” sort of gig. I weigh that (probably too) heavily when I think about writing. Because I have this penchant for nuance I struggle with the idea that my thoughts could be twisted or taken out of context. So I tend to sit on the sidelines. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but sometimes I wish I could throw caution a to the wind a bit more. It’s not like I’m running for political office or have some grand platform I’m trying to protect; no one really needs to make soundbites out of my writing. I’m ok with that; I started writing because I like to write and it helps me organize and process my thoughts.

Speaking of politics…boy, where do I start? Long ago I established that I’m “purple”–a mixture of democrat and republican. I generally agonize at every election cycle, trying to decide which candidate espouses more of my perspectives on policies. But this year I’m flabbergasted. I’ve never voted against someone; that’s not how I work. “Tell me what you’re for!” is my mantra. But I want to add my voice to those frustrated, concerned, scared, and otherwise shocked that a candidate like Donald Trump is not only still running, but is winning, state after state. My friends at both ends of the political spectrum (yes, it’s both possible and helpful to have both in your life!) are in agreement: this man does not represent anything for which we stand.

I have friends who think we really need to up the screening process for any refugees we allow to enter; I have friends who think it is rigorous enough as is, but none of us believe that we need to track Muslims or their neighborhoods.

We all agree that everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect–even when we disagree vehemently with each other. Someone is not “stupid” because they have a different perspective.

We agree that one does NOT make America great again by belittling people.

We agree that women should not be objectified. We do not go around talking about women’s bodies.

We agree that we all make mistakes. However, we don’t brag about them, and we show remorse. Mr. Trump, the fact that you brag about having affairs with married women in your book disgusts me.

We agree that to be a Christian one must confess that they are a sinner in need of a savior. There are lots and lots of things that we disagree about, but that’s a safe topic of consensus. Mr. Trump, I would strongly encourage you to read your bible.

I actually don’t believe that all of Trump’s supporters actually think through everything Trump says. I think that there is a large group of people who feel rejected and misunderstood by those that fit well into the political arena today. They are voting against a group they feel have rejected or ignored them–they’ve lost jobs, they’ve seen their quality of life go down, they are scared about the terrorism in the world and want it to stop before it reaches their hometown. I wish I could talk to them, because there is no doubt in my mind that Trump is not the solution to their prayers. So, for them and for everyone else, if (God forbid) he actually gets the nomination, I will most assuredly be in the #nevertrump camp.

 

life as vacation

I don’t even want to look at the last time I posted, all. It was eons, and I do mean eons, ago. (Eon now equals a few months. Didn’t you know? But in this age of  instantaneous information, it might as well be forever.) It isn’t that I haven’t had anything to say. I’ve mentally started many posts–posts about the sermons I need to hear, posts about the bleakness of the world, posts about how my son’s face lights up when he smiles (and how that tempers the aforementioned bleakness), posts about freedom and hope in Christ, posts about racial reconciliation. But, honestly? I get about a paragraph into the post…and then I don’t want to think about it anymore. I can’t quite pull it together to focus and get it on (virtual) paper. So I move on, sweep the floor, surf the web, distract, distract, distract.

The quote wasn’t totally new to me, but it hit a chord today. Of course, I didn’t copy it at the time and now I can’t find it–fb isn’t helping me just now–but the gist of it is a quote from Seth Godin: “Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” I don’t buy this hook, line, and sinker, as I think vacations aren’t always an escape. Vacations can be a chance to explore someplace different, to shake up the normal, to do something just because you can. But I like its essence: set up your life in a fashion you love, that you aren’t itching to leave, that uses your passions and inspires you to do your best. I let that sink into my soul a bit today, and it helped me clarify my thoughts about my next steps for work. You see, the kids are both in full-day school now, so I could get a more involved job. And I do miss physical therapy. My hourly gig doesn’t need me this fall, so, for the first time in almost nine years I have chunks of time. I’m no longer dashing from place to place, cramming as many errands as I can in before racing to pick up my kid on time. I feel like I can breathe, drink a cup of tea and even (gasp) read a book. I finished _Ready Player One_ today; I read 98 pages in one fell swoop. And it was glorious. That was today, and it’s not meant to be an everyday activity (I think). But what does God have for me in this new season? What makes me want to make sure the schedule is clear? Here’s what I think today:

  • I don’t want to work full-time unless our family situation dictates it. Yes, I realize that even making that statement is a huge luxury. I am grateful (ever so grateful) for that option. I would, however, like to work about two days a week.
  • Making time for friends is key.
  • That goal of running a half marathon? Make.it.happen
  • I’d like to write more, which is why there’s a blog post out of my brain and in your line of vision.
  • I want to dig down deep and figure out what God has created me for. I don’t mean in the general sense. I’m with the Westminster catechism on that one: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But what does that look like given how God made me? How does his fingerprint on my life play itself out? There’s some vulnerability there that I’m not totally sure I’m comfortable with. But I’ve heard good things about Jennie Allen’s book _Restless_ (and I even own it), so it might be a good tool to help me walk through some of this.
  • There are other details that don’t bear mentioning at this point.

I wish there were a way to wrap this up tidily, to give you and me a five step path to keep us headed forward. However, if there is anything I’ve learned in my months away, it is that the best thing I can do is to seek God. How trite, how cliché, I know. But life doesn’t work according to my timeline (are we still trying to figure out church?). Staying centered on Jesus allows me to move through this curvy path of life with peace. So, whether I’m back here soon or not, greetings to you. May you slow down to figure out what brings you joy, what makes you light up inside, what moves you closer to living out your life’s purpose. I can’t wait to see what it is for both of us.

echoes

echo:

a repetition of sound produced by the reflection of sound waves from a wall, mountain, or other obstructing surface.

any repetition or close imitation, as of the ideas or opinions of another.

I generally think of echoes as the first definition above. I’m in a place, a bird sings, someone yells, waves crash, and there is a reverberation of that sound a short time later. Sometimes you have to strain to hear it.  But yesterday, I experienced the latter. I had coffee with a woman I met recently. That doesn’t sound terribly momentous, does it? Lots of people chat over coffee and the world remains the same when you walk outdoors again. But as we spoke a bit of our stories, something shifted, because I heard echoes of my story in her. As we spoke of church and good times and hard ones, there was an acknowledgement that something was shared.

Something shared. No, it wasn’t that we grew up in Southern California, or that we had both lived in the Bay Area for some time. It was something deeper inside. It was the faith that shapes our lives and actions. We both chose to engage in ways God called us–and it wasn’t always easy. There were push-backs, questions, and times of isolation, feeling like you are swimming upstream in a place that shouldn’t require it. So you make hard choices, not without prayers, tears, and reservations.

In those times of feeling alone, this echo feels precious. It reminds me that while the details are different, I have company. There is a great band of believers around me. And I repeat this to myself: faithfulness is not about achieving a certain outcome, but doing what you are called to do.

I am thankful for echoes that reverberate deeply in my soul, and thankful to a God whose timing for them is perfect.