Thursday, January 20, 2011

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you.” ~1 Peter 5:6-7

Last night I dreamed I was a missionary to the Ghenges River. Only it looked more like the Amazon. Trees that stretched into heaven, silent, verdant, yet holding hidden stories. I kept asking my guides about piranhas as we canoed, barefoot, with our pants rolled up to the knees to keep them dry.

I awoke this morning to a grievous discovery. First it rained. Then it snowed. At breakfast, Papa volunteered to help me as I rescued my clothes from the line, shook out myriads of perfect, unique snowflakes and loaded them into the dryer.

He’s been so tender lately, even as he holds my hand during meal-time prayer, so careful to thank me frequently, telling me “I love you, baby,” every night, and gently saying “Abigail, wake up” when I struggle miserably to stay awake during Bible time. It’s been driving me crazy for months now. It doesn’t seem to matter—little sleep, or plenty—I fall asleep any time I am not going. I’ll be wriggling, trying to keep myself awake, changing positions, sitting up, shifting my gaze. Slowly my body begins to relax. The strength simply slides down from my face and drains out my little toe. My eyes cross, my vision blurs and suddenly I am being called back from a blissful slumber. Not only is it infuriating, it’s embarrassing.

I waded through six telephone book pages of attorneys today, searching, not for legal representation, but for an office cleaning job. Obviously, attorneys are the right kind of people to target with this kind of service. They all already had a cleaning lady. Next I called florist, looking for extra contracting as a delivery girl for holidays. After several of them kindly told me they already had a pool to draw from, I was startled to hear one say, “Actually, yes we do that sometimes. Are you familiar with RussVegas?” Swiftly, I retrieved my jaw from the floor and answered. He quizzed me a little—asked my age, where I lived, if I had another job and told me he did indeed need a “jumper” for Valentine’s Day. And that he would probably call me—and seemed pleased by my offer to come in next week. A very small possibility, but still, after a host of “nos” it’s always nice to hear a “yes.”

Papa was very quiet, pensive as we drove through the slush into a soggy RussVegas. The radio told tales of the sexual trafficking of children at the Super Bowl. Inwardly, I raged against the demons who would dare to destroy what God has made. Papa whistled through his teeth and seemed almost about to speak. That little knot of not knowing twisted inside my stomach, until I asked if he was tired. “No,” came his answer, “Just thinking.” We picked up applications from a fitness center—and then from a few less glamorous places. “I ought to have you apply to some of these places a few days after I do and see if they discriminate based on my age.” His blue eyes stood out, crisply highlighted by his white goatee and golden skin. Handsome. Trim. Strong. But something else. “Are you discouraged?” I ventured. “A little bit,” he admitted, and I began to see more clearly. “Mostly just because I might not be able to finish the PTA program and have to go back to corporate work.” He looked weary. In all my past longings to be a man, I never really grasped how much pressure is really on a man. Sure, when times are good, he can thrive and flourish and grow strong like a cedar in Lebanon. But when times are lean, he not only grows lean, but he watches his family grow lean, as well. Sure, Papa can always find a job—with some heartless corporation that just wants to own him and drive him into the ground with hours and counter-productive activities. That’s what he’s staring at. The possibility of going back to something that slowly sucks out his life. He’s too old for up-and-coming jobs. Too experienced to out-bid the young guys. And too independent to sell his life for stability.

I do think he’d be a good PTA. He’s been good at everything he’s done. I think he would enjoy it. Once upon a time, he began his college career in physical fitness. And he eats up medical information like a caterpillar about to change forms.

I want him to make his goals.

A tiny flame sprang up deep inside me. Where I’ve been blindly stumbling, just trying to help out, battling discouragement and disillusionment, I see. Not a path. Just an attitude.

Kelley at Homeland Realty hadn’t offered much hope when I’d propositioned her about “alternative” routes to selling our home. SharpMLS didn’t seem too promising when I finally got ahold of Mr. Jude T. Smith—a month after my original messages to him. Somehow in all this crumbling economy jargon there must be at least one more little thing I can do to push a little harder. Bingo. I can proposition all the rest of the local realtors. Maybe one will bite, but at least they will all know about our home, have access to our website and know we are willing to pay a finder’s fee. I think I sent a dozen e-mails this afternoon. Tonight I already had two responses. A very pleasant one from Ms. Tabatha at Remax, offering all she could. And a bite. Another, smaller realtor saying, “I’m willing to negotiate. Call me.” Sent from his iPhone.

I couldn’t help grinning as I read the messages to Mom and Papa. It’s like we’re back in the game again. Maybe we can score a touchdown yet.

When your Papa says to you, “I’m so glad you’re not giving up,” you want to keep fighting. At least, if you’re me. I noticed, while working in the barn the other day, that the fighter is reawakening in me. “You don’t have to carry that if it’s too heavy,” Papa told me as I hoisted a rugged, blue-sprayed pallet. So I carried it.

Papa is hoping we can sell the house before his heavy load of classes starts in June.

While cuing up a BBC “Life” episode, he turned to me and began, “I don’t really just want you to get a job to get a job.” Agreed. I was browsing at a snail’s pace. “I would want it to be something that would be good skills for you to have—things that could serve your family. And maybe some orphans.” He smiled as he began to tell me about a CNA training program in Little Rock—two weeks prep for the state boards. It would be a first step toward any medical goal. That could be followed by some work in a nursing home, perhaps. Practical training that would never go to waste, plus some income. Better income than scrapping up odd jobs. I am certain I wouldn’t actually enjoy working in a nursing home. Just walking into the place turns my stomach with the lingering stench of decaying lives. Have you ever smelled hopelessness? Visit a nursing home. Perhaps I could administer hope. And it could be service. And it could prepare me for service. Service often includes stomach turning.

My mind felt numb at the thought of taking training and studying for boards and taking a job. It’s so foreign.

It would be one more tool in my toolbox.

Perhaps my life isn’t as old and stale as it seemed. In this hardest year of my life, past now by three weeks, I can see God carefully laboring and fashioning, while I cried and complained and demanded answers. What He is fashioning, I don’t know. I know the tumult of desires that rages below the surface of my supposedly analytical mind. To be a helper, a wife and mother. I was unaware how distinctly I desired that until this year past. To pour life and energy into lives that God can shape and mold, hoping, praying, trusting that they will join their parents in service to the King. To throw the rope of God’s good news to the lost, to wrap my arms around the lonely, to depend on God for daily life. Somewhere in that mixture is an intense interest in the human heart, mind and body. A desire to relieve suffering, to hold, to help, to heal.

I pray that the Lord would grant wisdom. Is this, too, part of the preparation?

Preparation, I whisper. Preparation for what?

I look at life and I see, all that I have been was preparation for who I am now. All that I am now, must be preparation for what I will become. What is it? I don’t know. Probably someday a wife. Because I stare at my clients at the clinic and I think, “These young women need an older woman to train them to be sensible, pure workers at home.” I am not yet that older woman. I want to walk that path to gain the wisdom and maturity to be that older woman. Probably someday, I will be a widow. Because most of the older women I know are. I am not afraid of widowhood. In it lies rare potential. I hope someday to open heart and home, married or single, to the Fatherless of the world. I hope to be strong enough to help the faint. I hope to have courage to rescue the captives, following in the footsteps of my Lord. To heal the broken. To bind up wounds. Medical training is never wasted. Could this be preparation for what I am to be? But it is not so much preparation for what I will become here—on earth—as what I will become at the glorious appearing of Jesus, when I am forever revealed as I was intended to be. Blameless through Christ Jesus. Glorified through the power of His resurrection.

In mercy, the Lord is carrying me, through a maze of life where I might be lost or destroyed. In mercy, He will carry me to the end. And through the end. To the beginning.

Yahweh, You stretched the heaven above,

The stars tell stories of Your love.

In distant suns the tale I’ve read

Of how You crushed the serpent’s head.

These flaming worlds fell from Your hand

To show that nothing halts Your plan

And You will reign as Lord supreme,

Beginning and the End, and King.

I think I understand the stars.

You’ve named them all, both near and far

And set them as a sign for me

To measure my infirmity.

And yet, I gaze at heaven above—

It is not stars, but me, You love.

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