Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I Remember

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if she would forget that child, I would not forget you!

See, I have carved your name on the palms of my hands.

(God, in Isaiah 49:15-16a)

In high school, my friend Glen (who stood in awe of my prodigious memory for detail) commended my ability with this pronouncement: “Mind like a Steel TRAP!”

In college, my roommate Sondra wore a T-shirt with a pixilated cartoon of a 30-something woman lamenting to herself: “I can’t believe I forgot to have children!” We roared over the idea of overlooking something so monumental.  

In my 30s and early 40s, I became multi-tasker extraordinaire (this is required of all moms, right?): organizing field trips, leading women’s meetings, keeping up with friends and family, homeschooling, and (obviously) parenting and “wife”-ing, cooking and cleaning. (Ummm, the cleaning, maybe not so much. But that was due to intentional neglect, not early dementia.)

Now I’m in my early 50s. I’m convinced Glen would hide his head in shame. I can relate to that spacy girl on the T-shirt. And when I attempt to juggle more than a few things, I inevitably drop and break a couple of them. Here’s the evidence:

I forgot to grocery shop. Last week, the boys cried out, “Mom! We need food TODAY! You can see the back of the fridge!!” This is a major calamity for them. And for the life of me, I couldn’t conjure up what on earth I was supposed to buy to fill that fridge.  When I asked what they wanted me to buy, they looked stunned, and a little terrified. “But Mom,” they protested,” you always know what to buy for us. Right, Mom?” My poor starving children. 

I forgot to make dinner for my family one night last week. It just didn’t occur to me. Somehow, they survived, if only by scraping from the (empty) fridge whatever leftovers they could find.

I forgot about Ben’s school books. When I finally remembered to look for the texts he needed to read before classes start, they were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t even recall if I’d loaned them out, or if they’d been borrowed in the first place and we’d already returned them. (There are likely other options regarding their whereabouts, but they have not yet occurred to me.)

I forgot the time of a field trip I’d scheduled. So when I posted a “helpful“ reminder to those participating, I posted the wrong time! Thankfully, only two families took me at my last-minute word and showed up three hours early.

I used to tell myself “Well, if I can’t remember it, it must not be that important.” 
I don’t say that any more.

When I look at all I’ve forgotten in the course of a week (I’m assuming I’ve forgotten a lot of things that I don’t remember forgetting, if that makes any sense at all), I just laugh out loud. Perhaps I should take it a little more seriously, but I don’t really see the point. I haven’t seriously harmed anyone (to my knowledge) unless you count the repeated wounds to my pride.

Years ago, I thought I had to keep every duck in its proper row, so that life would run smoothly. The women I most admired did just that, and I always imagined that my house and family and life should look more like theirs anyways. But I’ve learned in the past decade that my life has a lot of random ducks flying and splashing and swimming every which way but loose. And that I have far less control over all the noise and commotion than I once believed I did. That’s okay with me; I know more completely that God's in charge of each and every duck, and that He has never once dropped anything while juggling.

Anyways, I’m convinced I really do remember the important stuff:

. . . Talking and laughing with my sons, enjoying their company

. . . Appreciating my husband, even on days when I’m in no mood to do so   

. . . To watch for and celebrate God’s fingerprints in the ordinary and extraordinary moments, the best times and the worst times of life  

. . . To set up my percolator the night before, so I don't have to think in the morning 

. . . The blessing of wise friends who are also fun

. . . Hundreds of one-of-a-kind memories from my sons’ childhoods

. . . My favorite songs and Scripture passages, which point me to Jesus again and again

. . . Our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Chinese Restaurant!)

. . . To daily inhale the beauty of shadowed mountains and an ever-shifting sky in my own backyard, all made by the God who also made me, and who never forgets a solitary thing.

That steel trap has long since given way to years of rust, but I’m fine with that (although I don’t know that my teenagers are). There’s an ocean of peace in knowing that God is the manager of all those scrambling ducks. Even back in my more coherent days, when I thought I was manager of my life, He was. 

Always has been, always will be, no matter what I remember or forget.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Favorite Hiding Place

I loved playing hide-and-seek as a child. Especially when we had friends over: they didn’t know about my best hiding spots! The empty shelf waaay in the back of the closet in Dad’s study, behind all the outdated coats and jackets. If I curled up in the fetal position, I fit perfectly.

Or the upstairs crawlspace, with the secret door behind my sister’s bed, which led like a tunnel into the study.

Or the Narnia-like wardrobe in the back corner of the basement, colossal enough to imagine it really could transport you into other worlds, complete with friendly fauns and white witches.

As I hit my teens, the game of hide-and-seek lost its thrill, but I still had a knack for finding good hiding spots. I don’t mean dim crawlspaces and oversized closets.

If the human race is divided into two categories - those who fight and those who take flight - then my temperament definitely puts me in the latter. When conflict rears its head, it takes every last nerve I have to step forward, instead of scanning the horizon for someplace to hide until the coast is clear.

I’ve learned the tricks to hiding in plain sight: in a good book, in silence, in Zumba class, in turning off my phone. Of course, reading and exercise are good things! Except when I use them to escape what I don’t want to feel or do or face.

There are things that God has clearly told me to flee: sexual immorality, idolatry, greed, youthful lusts (see 1 Cor. 6:18, 1 Cor. 10:14, 1 Tim. 6:9-11, 2 Tim. 2:22). Not once does He tell me to flee challenging circumstances, trying relationships, frustrating conversations, my own stressful thoughts and emotions.

As God has gently revealed my tendency toward this flight reaction, He has also graciously shown me something surprising in His Word: He has already provided a hiding place for me, safer and more certain than any I could ever discover myself. 

He is my hiding place.

He is: 

… a shield surrounding me. ~ Psalm 5:12 

… my rock/fortress/defender, saving me from my enemies. ~ Psalm 18:1-3, 31:3, 62:6-7 

… my defense and refuge. ~ Psalm 59:16-17

… my rescuer. When I’m in trouble, he hides me in Himself. ~ Psalm 27:5

… my hiding place and protector. ~ Psalm 32:7

… like a mother bird, sheltering me close beneath her wing.  ~ Psalm 57:1 61:4

In fact, “[my] life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

So when that flight instinct kicks in? 

I turn to God, the most secure, most comforting, best hiding place that I have ever known. Whatever hard conversation or person or event I face, I know that I do so from beneath His sheltering wing, from behind His shield which surrounds me, from within the strong refuge of God Himself.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield...

(from Psalm 91)