Sunday, December 21, 2008

It’s cold and dark and rapidly approaching midnight, back in my empty bedroom in Arkansas. Lydia’s already sound asleep. I should be as well, but I’m sitting down like a good girl in a desperate attempt to make a whirlwind retelling of the weekend in Kansas. The very cold weekend in Kansas.

Our trip was punctuated by a couple of half-stops at the Day and Willis residence. Deliveries, you know. I brought Tabby several pairs of shoes and several pieces of jewelry I’d been given, which might prove suitable for her wedding day attire. We pored over wedding dress pictures from an online site she’d discovered and I took her measurements for her, so she could have a dress made to perfection. How could I ever explain exactly what went through my mind as I stood in the bathroom, wrapping a cloth tape-measure around Tabby’s waist and scribbling down numbers on a print-out of a wedding dress. It couldn’t have been that long ago that we impishly told the church kids we’d made a pact to be old maids together. They were so upset they begged Jon Day to give us a thorough lecture. Another time we insisted we were already married to twin princes of Rugalia and only came home for the weekends on flying carpets. They’d run distraught to Jon Day that time, too. Each time, he confronted us with laughing eyes and twitching lips. Those kiddos pestered us so incessantly about marriage that I never felt the least remorse for my rather imaginative retaliation. But the night I sat on the dryer and listened as Tabby tried to defend herself for being scared of Cliff and for trying to avoid talking to him, I knew what would happen next. And as I quietly told her, “If he’s worth being friends with, just be his friend and see what happens next,” she knew it, too. Now Cliff plans a house and Tabby plans a wedding and they’ve already bumped the date up and up and up to sometime in March. The formal announcement came after church on Sunday and the resounding answer was “It’s about time!” Miss Bethany whispered to Damaris, “Why are Tabby and Cliff sitting together?” Damaris responded, “Because they’re in love,” to which Bethany exclaimed aghast, “What? They’re in love and they’re not even married?!” We had to cancel the picture shoot for the happy couple. With a wind chill far below freezing, Tabby and I were sure we couldn’t manage any good shots. Instead, we snapped a few indoors, just to have. I’ll admit to tormenting the two of them. “Okay, look at each other…no…don’t giggle!” There they sat, struggling to maintain eye contact without giggling while I pretended to be adjusting and framing pictures. Finally Tabby groaned, “Abigail! What’s taking so long!” Ah, the perfect ending for the secret video I’d been shooting.

Then on to Grandma’s, where we ate tons, as usual, and refused to eat more than tons.

We made a quick visit to the Knox household Saturday morning. Rachel arrived a short time after we did, Hannah was home for the holidays and Abigail and Shane were present with little Sofia. So much has changed since the days when we were little kids, crawling through Forrest’s engineered hay mazes or swinging on the ragged rope in the barn or swimming in the Baker’s pond. Sometimes I am grieved to see the distance between us growing. My “shadow”, Rachel seems little more than a distant acquaintance. Our paths are so divergent these days. We talked about her long-time desire to become a missionary nurse. “I’m hoping to go to India this summer,” she confided in a hushed voice. “I can’t stand the thought of being stuck here all summer. I’m ready to go somewhere.” It’s something I’ve heard each of the girls say frequently—and Whitney, too. Wanderlust. Dissatisfaction. The desire to go places—far away and exciting. But sudden confusion overwhelmed me. She wants to go be a missionary nurse…why? She didn’t even say a word about the Lord. Every once in a while she mentions God, but rarely Jesus and never much depth about the Word or what the Lord is teaching her or a strong desire just to serve Him—wherever. I tried to push the uneasiness from my heart, but it lingered. I want my buddy, my “shadow” to be all that the Lord has for her. I want her to learn from Him and grow in Him and become conformed to His image. I believe she desires the same, but still, how does it look and sound so different from what the Lord has been teaching me? Hannah was also eager to share the events of her life. Now she’s in an official relationship with Seth (shall I mention I predicted this?), with her parents blessing, still drifting a bit and unsure of the next step, but her spirit is so different—so much gentler and more humble. I loved hearing her share from her heart, but one phrase set my heart racing. “I know this is a God-thing,” she said several times. Every time I hear that confident assertion falling from someone's lips, my chest tightens and I don’t know what to say. I can’t keep nodding and smiling. But do I have any real reason to protest? What is God? How does He lead? Is it possible that He leads in ways so different from how I have learned to seek His will? I know the Lord works with individuals in individual ways. I know He works in situations that are less than perfect. What situation isn’t? But when is God the driving force and when are we forcing God? How do we know what God wants from us? I’ve been over the topic of God’s will so many times—seeking my father’s counsel on so many issues, yet still I second-guess. Who am I to think I know what is a God-thing and what is a Me-thing? Is the Lord in every circumstance that surprises me? Delights me? Wows me? He sent the lightening and the thunder and the violent wind to the mountain where Elijah sat waiting, but He wasn’t in the theatrics. He wasn’t giving guidance through the fascinating displays. It was after the theatrics that the Lord appeared in the quiet, steady voice of truth telling Elijah to just do the next thing. God’s will is revealed one tiny step of obedience at a time.

Good ol’ steady Mandy joined us in the evening and taught us to Speed—with a deck of cards. Josiah’s mind must have been elsewhere since it failed to grasp the concept. Each round left him with a negative score. Then we discovered he’d been inadvertently cheating. His score dropped further. As we were just about to pack up the cards for the night, he suddenly asked, “Wait. You mean I was supposed to be subtracting these points, too?” Mandy and I stared at each other before collapsing in laughter. It seems to me it must take a special flair to be able to play a game and lose so badly in spite of accidentally only recording half your true loss!

The quiet hours at Grandma’s house left me with plenty of time for the character study of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Why did the Lord choose Mary? I used to wonder. What about her caught the eye of Almighty God? My question reveals my ignorance. Mary was chosen because she was available. It is true that her heart was resigned to service to Yahweh, as evidenced by her words, “Behold, I am the Lord’s slave. Do to me whatever.” Her life proved that the Lord had accepted her declaration. She hardly had a happily ever after, but the Lord used her, teaching her true submission to His will and plan through trying circumstances and even reminders from her own Divine Son. In the end, she had to learn what each of us must learn—to trust Jesus. For her it must have been especially difficult. Once upon a time He had depended on her, but His destiny and the will of the Father called Him to be the suffering servant, and in service to Him, she too was called to suffer. Available. She was there when the Lord needed her to carry His Son. She was there when He gave up His last breath on the cross. Ready. Willing. This is true service to the Master—availability to His needs, willingness to obey. “Do to me whatever.”

Lord, make Thy bond-maid ready, willing
To receive Thy Spirit’s filling
Be it done to me whatever
Thou hast planned ere time began.

Teach me to accept as from Thee
Guidance from those placed above me
Trusting Thou to do whatever
Seemest good in Thy great plan.

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