Callouses on the Soul

When I was 24 I spent a short time in Amsterdam as a missionary. The city is beautiful, and I loved walking along the canals and sightseeing. As I would walk back to the YWAM base in the evenings I would look in the homes that faced the canal. Almost all would have their drapes drawn back and the lights on and I could see the activities of dinners being made and families going about their business.

 

There was something comforting about watching these little pictures of life as I walked along, and I always enjoyed the changing scenery.

 

Facebook seems to be a virtual walk, looking in on the lives of friends, and even of strangers, as they draw back their drapes and live life in front of us. Status updates paint the picture of dinners being and families going about their activities.

The struggle for me is that mixed in with the mundane and the humorous are the many stories of deep suffering.

Stories of babies who are struggling to live when their bodies are not cooperating. Babies who do not survive just after birth. Marriages that are struggling. People who are filled with fear in the face of job losses and struggle. Deaths of acquaintances. Deep griefs and struggles posted in snippets.

 

I watch from the street, as it were, and wait to see how the story will unfold. I watched along with thousands the story of Lane Goodwin unfold, praying for God’s mercy and grieving with this family I have never met for the loss of a child I never saw in person.

 

There is enough grief in our “real” life to weigh us down. As I watch my mother continue to lose more of her mind to dementia I am sometimes overwhelmed with grief that she is not able to rejoice in the amazing life of Madeleine…even though she is physically present. I think it is actually more painful that she is physically here…I can hear her voice and talk with her and see her hold my little girl, and yet she is not here. The mourning is not given over to the comfort that comes after because she is not healed or at peace yet.

 

We live in a broken world, and broken things hurt. 

Sometimes I feel the need to have callouses on my soul to protect from the pain of suffering around me. I cannot fathom the depth of grief in losing a child…so I watch and pray, but I strengthen the callous that keeps it at arms length. I invest myself in the pain of those I will never rub shoulders with because I can grieve with restraint, while keeping the grief over those close to me in check with these callouses. 

A friend posted this the other day on her Facebook status:

“i am just sick of users. i often want to say to the people that see the beautiful things that God does for me, and want to steal those things: ” do you want to pay the price? it is extremely high. did you have parents, safety? have you been spared the rage of others? have you been Loved deeply? do you have a little child? have you been hugged lately? do you know what it is to feel safe? do you walk without trouble? great. i’ll trade places with you. you can have my life.”

 

and yet, i say this only to make a point: everything beautiful has a cost. the beauty comes through fire” Gianna Jessen

If we give in to being calloused, we miss the beauty in ourselves and in others. There is beauty in the pain, but oh it hurts to find it sometimes. There is not beauty in callouses. We have to be willing to allow ourselves the freedom to embrace the suffering of others and allow it to impact us because we are on this journey together. God works through our suffering to change us, to soften us and to give us wisdom. Suffering slows us down and filters the inconsequential things out of the way so we can hear differently and we can feel differently and we can see differently.

 

The wonders of life…the laughter of children, the sound of music, the colors of art and nature…are more vibrant when we’ve been through suffering and grief. I say this knowing that I have suffered very little and my pain is far less than most. I watch through the windows and am drawn into the lives of those around me who walk through great suffering and find that God is in the midst of it and has not forgotten them. That He hears and that our pain and our brokenness hurts because we know that we will be made whole and we long for that day.

 

We are not made to carry the pain and the suffering alone. We are made to rely on the strength of another:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls aroundlike a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:6-11

We are  able to remain vital and present in suffering because we know that God is present and he will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will be changed by the suffering…either we will build up callouses to protect ourselves and in the end become hardened, or we will be changed into something more through the suffering…a beauty that can only come through pain. Amen?

 

Advertisements

It’s In My Blood….

I’ve been thinking lately about adventures, and about the life that my kids have before them. I am aware that the adventures are simply different now than they were a generation ago, and that has always been true. Things change, and the changes mean that kids grow up differently than we did.

The fact is that my kids life will be dominated by electronics and information, more so than my life was, and much more so than my parents. They understand computers instinctively and easily because they have grown up with them.

Where we live there are still lots of trails and wide open spaces and areas for exploring, but most of the conquering of the land has been done.

I have relatives who did conquer the land. 

That is my grandfather on the far left, and his brothers. They were in Nebraska, growing up on a farm with their father who was an immigrant from Switzerland. They worked hard and they conquered the land in that area…they were creative and had imaginations that spurred them. There was a river that ran right by the property, and in the winter it would freeze.  Of course, they would skate on this….but I think they did that with more style than I would:

They would take chunks of this ice and put in in their ice house…a building dug deep into the ground to stay cold, and they would insulate it with sawdust saved from cutting the wood to burn through the winter. Then, in the summer when no one had ice, the Mossman family would have a big barn dance on July 4th, complete with ice cream.

They worked hard, and from the stories they played hard as well. They danced and the skated and, if listening to my dad is a lesson…they told stories. They were adventurous souls and strong. One of my uncles bought a bi-plane so he could fly around and collect honey from different places around Nebraska. He ended up being a supplier for SueBee Honey, and I would write how much he delivered but I can’t remember and you would just think I was exaggerating.

Here’s the thing though…they had a sense of humor. It comes through in the pictures. There is a smile there in spite of…or maybe because of the…the harsh life they faced.

And their blood runs in my veins and my children’s veins.

I don’t know how the challenges my children face will form their strength and their humor. The fact is, they don’t face that many challenges right now…they have a pretty easy life. I like that in some ways, but I also am deeply aware that suffering forms us in ways that ease cannot.

Suffering, hardship, struggle…they bring out a character in us, and a humor, that is unique. There may not be lands to be conquered around us, but there ist still life to be conquered. There are fears and struggles around them that they will face that will give them the opportunity to conquer…to stand in the midst of difficulty and see that God works there.

I wonder how I would have fared on the farm in Nebraska…I wonder what those relatives would think of how I carry myself in the challenges I face. It may just be loads of laundry and keeping growing boys (and girl!) fed and cared for, and now also to educate them. I may not have fields to plow or things to invent, but even this easy life has its momentary challenges. I hope that the humor I see in the pictures of my father’s family will appear in the pictures of my family. I hope that it will tell that the adventurous spirit still is evident and that we still are able to stand strong in the midst of this life.  I hope my children carry on the strength of their fathers. They will face challenges and suffering and hardship, and that strength is there…it is part of them. It is in their blood.

Messy Monday

Today truly feels like a Messy Monday. And only one kiddo is up so far.

I’m unsettled this morning. One of those days that are difficult to stay focused or to get thoughts together well.  It is not just the need for more coffee…it’s that unsettled, frustrated, foggy feeling. That feeling where it is hard to sit still in the chair, hard to keep my eyes on the page as I read…the kind of feeling where I seem to jump from activity to activity.

Actually, yesterday was a really good day…spent with family, spent sering in the nursery, and just a generally good day.

It ended with me doing something stupid…backed into someone at McDonald’s. Yes, in the car.

I haven’t had a car accident of any kind in 10 years, and that one was because someone turned illegally across traffic and hit me…before that I think I was 16 when I had the last accident. That’s part of what irritated me so much about last night…it was just an accident and I messed up. But, it frustrated me and it messed up someone else’s night. No major damage, and the insurance will take care of it, but this morning it has me irritated with myself.

We all do stupid things, of varying degrees of significance. It should unsettle us a little…it spotlights our inadequacies, our areas where we need growth.

It sets us up for Messy Mondays.

I can tell I’m on edge, and that could set up for a miserable day of homeschool. So, instead of getting all the lesson plans out and organized…I’m going to read. Reading some in Scripture, and reading some in Bonhoeffer’s biography. That settles me…it shows me that every single one of us humans do stupid things. We sometimes do more than stupid…we sin, we rebel, we fall short. And yet, God is not surprised, and He is able to take our inadequate abilities and lives and make something remarkable. The stories of what He does are amazing…thus, reading the stories of those who have walked with Him is vital in my life. It tells His Gospel again and again.

Messy Monday. Nope. I’m not going to let it be…it is going to be a bit more humble Monday, but it is going to be laced with Gospel and with grace.

Reading and Conversation

I took the name of this Blog from one of my favorite books. Books have always, and will always, play an important part in my life. Lately I’ve been longing for that space to have conversations about what I’m reading…and as busy as life is, it is difficult to find the space and time to carve out those conversations. I have been for some time wanting to have a book club again. I have been part of a few, and have tried having some online, but they have all come and gone, so I’m looking for a different format. I have not done a book club since starting the blog…so, I thought it might be worth giving a try here.

Here’s the thought for the moment…stolen from a Reading Contest group on FB. We could start with simply listing what we’ve been reading. We’ll see if there is any overlap, and maybe in a month or so we’ll see if there might be a book we would want to read more or less as a group and have some conversation.

At this start, though, I’m hoping just to pull some of my friends in from various places. Everyone I sent an invitation to are people I would love to sit and talk with…and they represent a pretty wide spectrum of thought. We could have some fun with discussion! Everyone on the list, however, are able to carry on a conversation with respect.

So…lemme know what you think. More than anything it would be a page devoted to popping in and talking about what we are being moved by, challenged by, comforted by….what is impacting us through our reading.