Friday, September 26, 2014
Free and unmerited favor- GRACE. Something given for free that you haven't worked for. I have a hard time with the idea of grace. I'm always trying to wrap my brain around what it actually means. So often people say that God gives us grace, but what is grace and do I care that I have it, or that I don't have it? That is difficult for me at times. So I look up the definition frequently (okay, so I have twice in the past two year, but that's frequent to look up a word that really does have a simple definition isn't is)?
I don't accept things well that I haven't worked to earn. I'm hard worker. My parents raised me to be a hard worker and that's what I take pride in. I have a “strong work ethic” as my father would say. When you work hard you get paid. You put in, you get out. That's the way my brain works. So this idea of getting something for nothing is really foreign to me. Why would I get more pay than the hours I've worked and why would I get me love and forgiveness than I deserve. I'm working on this concept of grace in my life.
The other day I was listening to a Podcast about marriage and they were talking about extending grace to your spouse. Extend grace to your spouse?? I thought, why? I have expectations of my spouse, hes knows that I have these expectations, and he has his so why change anything. Why let them off the hook? I have a 50/50 mentality in my marriage and in life in general. I give you take; you take I give. That's the way it works. I'm expected to stay thin, take care of the house, have patience with the kids and my husband is expected to talk to me when I feel upset, fix things when they break and, drive on long trips. If he goes out with his friends, then I get a girls night out too. If I'm working really hard on a Saturday then he should work hard also. If I give the kids a bath he should wash the dishes. When he watches his shows on TV the next night I watch my shows. It's 50/50 give and take. So this idea of expending grace to my husband just felt really foreign to me. I don't want to extend grace to my husband. I want him to be who I think he should be and we'll all be happy. What does showing grace to your husband even really mean I thought as I listened. No one has the capability of really doing that, that's God's job not mine.
My husband is suppose to be my all. My husband is the end of the line. When people fail me, my friends or my family or the checker at the grocery store, my husband is suppose to be there for me. He's suppose to understand me inside and out at least 90% of the time. He should be able to take a look at me and know if I'm feeling sad, depressed, angry, unappreciated, anxious, jealous. He should know. That's his job, he's my husband. And when he doesn't understand me to my core I think, I've got the wrong husband. I must have made a mistake. Why isn't he “getting me?” He's suppose to be my soul mate. Right? Wrong.
As all of these thoughts culminated in my mind there was a brief thought of, he should change, not me. As that thought past and I drew back to knowledge that was a bit buried. He isn't my everything. He's my lover, my friend, my life adventure partner, but he's just a person, just a man. He can't be my everything. No one can. Only God has the ability to fill that role for me. God is my everything. And God extended me grace. He extends me so much grace. Why then shouldn't I extend grace to the wonderful caring, loving creature I call my husband? Is he right all of the time, of course not and neither am I. I'm wrong, and insensitive. Not understand and demanding. I'm judgmental and critical. Angry and anxious and I'm human. He deserves my grace. He tries, I know he does. And sometimes, some days he just doesn't make the mark and that's okay, because so many times he does. And I know he's trying. He's trying really hard to be the husband that I want him to be. To be the father that he'd like to have and to explore this life with his eyes wide open to the possibilities it can offer.
So when he comes home later than I expect, or early than I'd like (this is my time at home and I'm not ready for you), when he doesn't say the right things, or lets the kids watch three hours of TV while I'm away (three hours, do you know how bad that is for them?!?!), or when he says the wrong things just before we have sex which seems to happen more often than I'd like, or even when his eyes follow a nearly naked girl walking down the street I try to extend grace. I know I'm not perfect, but I am aware. I know that more than anything he needs my love and support. He needs me to say he's doing alright and that he's the best husband in the world. And he is. He's the best husband in the world.
When I finished listening to the podcast I thought (no joke) that it would be so great if I had something that reminded me to offer my husband grace. I had this thought that wouldn't it be great if I had a piece of jewelry, like maybe a ring that said grace and every time I looked at it I'd remember to extend grace to my husband. Then it hit me, hello! I have a wedding ring and I never take it off. Every time I look at it shouldn't it remind me that I've got a wonderful husband, an awesome man that I love that I should be gracious with. So now when I look at my wedding ring I think of my husband, how's he's trying and I need to be supportive. I need to care more than he cares to allow for imperfections in who he is, to give him the grace that I've been given.
Monday, September 1, 2014
We live on the coast; the beach is just minutes away and we’re blessed to look out our living room window and see the Pacific Ocean stretching from one side of the world to the next. Our climate here along the coast is damp and chilly. Sometimes we like that damp coolness and on other days we wish we had just a few more nice hot days. Here in our home, our cocoon from the world we live trying our best to insulate our children and ourselves from the harshness of the real world.
Our trip this weekend took us due east of our cool beach cocoon to a desert not far away. Winding roads lined with oaks and the occasional pine tree led the way. The landscape accented with the soft pale tan brown grass that the drought has brought. The further east we went the higher the temperature gage in the car climbed. And the dryness set in. The houses became fewer and farther between, the occasional large wine estate dotted the narrow curvy road. And then there was nothing, nothing but dry grass, trees and turkey vultures. We were headed for a valley but the rolling hills created an illusion that we were headed for the mountains. As we rounded a turn we looked down and there the valley lay, not a vast expanses of land, but a valley all the same not just a mere meadow. As we ventured down into the valley small houses came into view, most dilapidated, run down, falling over and crowded by junk. It is a desert area, a naturally dry region but the severity of the drought has pulled out all moisture, dryness was evident in all that surrounded us. A small school equipped with a solar field, along with a fire station and community services district office were the contents of the small community. No post office or convenience store. No gas station or restaurant, just land and houses. These houses are the cheapest of the cheap. California known for high priced real estate, sun and palm trees didn't seem to fit the description of this valley community. Bordered by bare rolling hills and accented with a sprinkling of tumble weeds it was obvious this was a desert. The water available in these homes is so mineral ridden that it isn't safe for consumption and advise is given not to drink the water while bathing. Many of the residents have criminal backgrounds or are up to illegal activities because law enforcement is so far way. Sounds like paradise, doesn't it? But a strangely there is beauty here. It is found in the relative solitude, deserted roads and quiet stillness.
As we traveled down the narrow well maintained road we came to street signs that marked unknown roads. I've seen roads with no signs, but never have I seen signs with no roads. The road used so infrequently that time and the environment have reclaimed them. As we turned down a dirt road I knew that we were nearing our destination. The instructions clearly stated we were looking for the little tan house on the right. Turning down the road that held this little tan house, it was clear we didn't need to know the color of the house, or even that it was on the right. It was the only house down this stretch of road for quite a ways. The typical house search of checking house numbers, and check the color was entirely unnecessary. As we turned down the road there it was the little tan house. The little house that had taken my father’s attention over the past six months, his project and everything that he’d said he’d wanted. The house was much cleaner now than it was when he brought it, I’m sure. Sitting on 2.5 acres of dirt really just dirt.
The house was uninhabitable, the plumping long since deteriorated. Cracks splintered through most of the windows and the bathroom wasn't usable. Pulling the carpeting and old flooring out and cleaning the house of the mouse and rat infestation was a big job I was told. When you’re working on an old house progress can be hard to track. When you start at below zero getting to a hundred can seem like a steep climb and even though hours and hours of effort have been exerted it’s difficult not to see all that still needs to be done. I must say this is a talent that I was given by my mother, the ability to focus on the uncompleted opposed to the completed.
So there it sat the little tan house and the powdery dry dirt where we’d spend our weekend. Somewhere in the acquisition process someone asked my dad on a social media site if he was farming beans. He answered with an elaborate bean farm tale and that’s how it became the Bean Farm. No bean farming will happen on that land I’m quite sure, but ironically my two year old son found of a baggie of harvested bean seeds in the house. My dad made a sign to mark the Bean Farm, I’m sure the occasional passer by is curious why on earth you’d plant a bean farm in this dry God forsaken place. The weekend was to be a family gathering a tradition of sorts, grandpa’s camp. The kids were so excited, the adults not quite so enthusiast. We were the first to arrive and then one by one the family was assembled. We’re not a large family, but certainly not small either, totaling 14 in all. The activities at this camping weekend were to consist of pool play in the 8’ wide kiddie pool, kite flying, rocket launches and eating of course. The challenge of the weekend was the location to be true. It was dry and flat and hot. The dilapidated house while a work in progress wasn't equip with the amenities of a functioning house, or even the amenities and comforts most American’s are accustomed, as I've mentioned running water, flushing toilets or air conditioning. While many, many people in the world live without these comforts daily we are spoiled and we as adults don’t choose to spend our time without these necessities as we see them.
I was blessed with two sisters, sisters close to me in age. And so for nearly 40 years we've been the three daughters or the family of five. We've always been a family of five. My older sister now has a family of five and I too have a family of five. We've always been a family of five that is until last year when our family became a family of four. My father became a widower and we girls became a mess. A mess of grief and sadness, not really knowing how or when to feel this overwhelm grief that grips. And now when we get together it is hard. It’s hard to miss my mom and it’s hard to be together without her where her absence just feels so out of place.
The weekend unfolded just as I expected it would. With tension and laughter and many quietly spoken snide comments about what in the world my father was thinking when he bought this fixer upper in the middle of hell. Has the first day came to a close it was obvious that my nephew who’s had medical issue was going to require a trip to the hospital, just icing on the cake right? We were all in our places, playing the roles that we always play just as all families do, but this place, being in this place was so hard. And all I could do was ask why? Why is this so hard? Why do we all seem to have a problem with it? There are the obvious, it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s hot and dry and there’s nothing to do out here. We all had a problem with it because if mom was alive there wouldn't be this house in this valley surrounded by nothing but dirt and shady characters. There wouldn't be a house with no running water, or a sign adorned with glass bottles she’d be saving forever. This just wouldn't be. None of this would be, but it is. It’s a trip to a dirt farm in the heat of the summer.
As the sun set on the first night splashes of bright orange, yellow and pink filled the sky. The shadows on the rolling hills grew long and the crickets began to chirp. The heat of the day receded into a warmth that wrapped around you and held you; warmth that only hot days can bring. Black tarantulas crawled from their holes and a crescent moon rose high in the evening sky. Peace was all around and I wondered was this so bad, so bad to have a dad that really loved his family? Was it so bad to be in the dirt and the heat with family issues lingering all around? Probably not, it was just one step in the healing process, one more realization that life as we knew it is gone and won’t be returning. And this God forsaken house, in this God forsaken land is just part of my dad’s healing process too, part of his return to wholeness. He needs this distraction, this bigger than life project. He needs to believe that he can put all his energy into this house and flip it for a profit. He needs to have the ability to realize his dreams independent of my mother and what she would want. He needs this house. He needs this project. And we, we need to support him in this project. We need to come alongside him to prop him up and let him know that life will not ever be the same, but that’s okay, life will still be good.
This weekend would have marked their 40th wedding anniversary and as the sun set on that beautiful evening I knew that God had sent a special present to my dad. He may not have had the wife of his youth, the wife that he’d spent his life with, but he did have a sunset and a God that loved him and his family around him. I’m so glad to be home, to have returned to the damp coolness of the ocean breeze and the running water and flushing toilets. That little tan house in that dry dusty valley and this weekend was painful because it accentuated the death of my mother; brought it to life. It was another first without her, but as each day passes and each first without her passes we heal and life becomes the new real. Our reality shows us that we do have each other and we love one another and today that is more than enough.