Becca was the last to leave this morning. As she drove off, headed for her Senior year at Baylor University, tears stung my eyes. Not because I’m sad she is leaving, but because I could see that look on her face. Like a reflection in the mirror, I remember the day when I had that look.
In fact while packing yesterday, Becca went in search of old photos. She and her roomies plan to decorate their Waco house with baby pictures. Helping Becca, I managed to get sidetracked. Remember the old days when we actually developed pictures instead of just scrolling through facebook memories? I paged through album after album of the yellowed photos, pausing to remember.
Without warning, nostalgia set in. I thought back to the time when life seemed more full of possibilities and less full of real life experiences. I remembered what used to be, before marriage or kids or brain bleeds or why God moments. I thought about when I, like Becca, was idealistic and confident that I could and would be something great.
It turns out I didn’t accomplish half the things I imagined when I was the naive young woman in this picture with her permed hair and the 80s red turtleneck, oblivious to what the next thirty-five years would look like.
The World was my Oyster
I can’t help but mourn what used to be or what might have been. The world was my oyster. And I believed it to be true.
Instead, I am a wife and a mother and a daughter. I figure out what’s for dinner and pay the mortgage. I call my mom, clean out the litter box, run to the grocery store and wake up every day to do it all again. Life is oh so ordinary.
Becca believes it too
As she drove off, I saw the look on Becca’s face. She believes it to be true too. She thinks the world is her oyster. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
And yet, the hard reality of life is that the world is no one’s oyster. And there is only ONE WAY to learn that inevitable truth.
…by LIVING !
No short cuts
Once again there are no short cuts. Just like that childhood song Going on a Bear Hunt… you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, You gotta go through it.
When I saw Becca’s “look” tears came as I anticipated my capable, independent, responsible, fearless, but also naive daughter going through it. She will go through it too. And it will hurt.
I’m not sad or hopeless or cynical. But I wrestle with the notion that life could be so much better if only things weren’t so ordinary, so hard, so not what I expected.
Back then I was so sure
It’s easy to get stuck in another time and place. Sometimes I wish I was as sure about things now as I was in my twenties. Then, everything was black or white. I dealt with the gentle blows of life with a quick certainty that the right faith could easily deflect. If I followed the rules of course I’d pass go and collect $200. But as time passed and life happened I landed on the wrong spaces again and again and again.
In truth, I don’t want to start the game over. Those were the years when I was so sure of myself, of my own mind, my own strength and my own will. But I was so very unsure of God. And what a vulnerable place to be.
I was going to change the world, but really it was me that needed changing.
My Small Faith
Back then my faith was small, the kind of faith that sits quietly in the corner so as not to make a scene. My timid faith stayed tucked in the closet because well, I had things under control.
A Bigger Faith
But these more recent years, while living in the present, my faith and I have become familiar friends. We have wrestled. I don’t have things under control and I realize that I never did. I’ve prayed prostrate with wringing hands and learned that the faith God fortifies happens in realtime, in the reality of hard, ordinary life.
People say they want extraordinary faith, but do they really? Extraordinary faith is forged in the crucible of life, where marriages fall apart, tumors grow and prodigals don’t return.
An Empty Nest
I go inside. With only two sleeping cats at home, the house is freakishly calm and quiet.
I’ve tried to imagine this day — a real legitimate empty nest. While other moms are pining for their kids who have flown off, I want to do cartwheels. I love my kids, of course I do… but an empty nest represents normal, typical, expected. And that elusive empty nest I was promised two years ago, back when I had ambitious plans, was cruelly snatched from me after only five days. Now two years later, I’m a different person.
Now what, God? MY plans have evaporated. Pinching myself given this new gift that I now hold carefully with an open hand, it’s tempting to go right back to thinking it’s time to change the world. I pour a cup of coffee and force myself to sit down and just Be.
Not My Will
And for me honestly, that’s the hardest thing of all. Being. The truth is my obedience will trump my effectiveness Every. Single. Time. The way I see it, my life of BEING His requires a disciplined release — not my will but Yours.
So now what? I haven’t figured it out yet. But my pace is slow and deliberate yielding to Him. The way I see it, my day-to-day opportunity is to bear witness to the living God — right where I am in my mundane ordinary, sometimes hard, day to day, uncertain life. Period.
That “Look” has Changed
That look, that invincible look back when I had permed hair and was so sure of myself is most definitely gone. It has been replaced with a look that is less sure of me, but confident in Him, His mind, His strength and His will. You’re likely to find me contentedly sheltered under His mighty wings. BEING.
Psalm 91:4. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Glenda Demmie says
In February, when we were doing the Lenten Devotional, the first message God gave me was “BE” and PRAY. I was so glad because I thought that meant “REST” and it did for a few months. Then, over the next five months, He brought my beautiful, talented, twelve year old granddaughter into our home to pursue her dream to become a ballet dancer. I am to simply and lovingly support and watch and chauffeur as she and her mom (by Skype from Japan) try to launch her into a very demanding, and precarious career path at such a very young age. Yes, it will be another test of my faith to continue to just “BE” and Pray and Love, for this year and allow God to do the “parenting” that I would ordinarily do while trying to develop the relationship He designs for us to have. My only hope is PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! as I claim Psalm 91:4 and many other promises from His Word. Thank you Debbie, for once again allowing God to give me His Word through You.
BE BE BE…. I love that Glenda. What a blessing you are to take on this new demanding role. I look forward to meeting your granddaughter. I’m thankful to know you sense God’s word to you through me!
Tanna Cullen says
Another excellent and 100% relate-able message. I value your honesty so much, Deb and it does speak to me. Some things are getting harder, as we get closer to the day of victory, as you so eloquently put it and I find myself praying to age gracefully, as I have been a caregiver for much of the past year. Without my devotionals (including yours), faith and worship, I would be lost.
Blessings to you and your family,
Amen Tanna. Aging gracefully is indeed a worthy goal. Blessings to your family as well. Debbie
Anne Kole says
Sometimes I get nostalgic for the time when life was new and exciting. But I wouldn’t go back to that time of self-centeredness! God has shown me that he loves me in spite of my selfishness , rebellion, and failures. He has redeemed what I’ve messed up. He’s taught me more about who he is and who I am. I am so thankful! And thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom once again.
I agree Anne! He redeems our messes. Love that picture. And love you. Debbie
Deb. It’s difficult for me to find the quiet time to sit still and reflect on all that God has done in my life. But today I am on the quiet patio reading and listening. The years also have been filled with a faithful God in spite of battling seasons of anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, losing a dearly loved sister to cancer( but not before seeing her youngest teen killed in a tragic car accident ) , now dealing with the aches of pains of the result of being a type A personality ,( never knowing when to stop !) but God continually shows up , stretching me , teaching me to enjoy the gift of raising wonderful now adult children , taking care of homes that others can find rest in and hopefully shine a light in the daily lives that cross my path. I couldn’t have survived any of this alone and I was reminded today once again from your honest devotional that He has been seeing me through all along the way. One day at a time. My friend and help in time of need.
Amen Sandy! Amen. Type A’s unite. ❤️
John Reith says
Great article Debbie! Quite timely for me as I prepare to go to my 50th HS class reunion and speak to the assembled crowd as their former class president. Time flies and my, how things change. I thought I was going to conquer the world back then. Many life challenges, trials and bumps in the road have a way of bringing reality of life before us. There have been a few times when I felt like I was in the middle of a tornado. But the funny thing was while everything was spinning around uncontrollably in my life, I somehow experienced peace in the eye of the tornado, which I know was the presence of God. Though my life has not turned out “as I planned”, I know that I have landed right where God wanted me to be at this point in my life. Praise Him.
Love this John! In the Eye of the storm is one of my favorite songs! Not sure if I got the title right, but being a music guy I know you know the one I mean. Amen to God working all things together …
Paula Koy says
I would not choose to go back in time…to when problems seemed much more elusive than they are today. My faith & strength in God was much weaker back then. Today, as new problems develop & old problems resurface (a product of growing older)…I am so thankful for the wisdom & discernment God has blessed me with in this time of my life, and for the increase in my faith in Jesus. I like you & others have voiced…am waiting for my Day of Victory. But until that day comes…I rely on His strength to keep me going. I so enjoy your blogs & the honesty you share with your brothers & sisters in Christ. May God bless you as you have blessed others.
Thx for chiming in Paula! Leaning on Him as He escorts you home is indeed the best way to go.
Kerry Harmon says
Beautifully stated, Debbie. Have been there with the empty nest syndrome and the mix of emotions that accompany that time of my life. There is happiness that you have successfully raised children but also sadness at times. I tend to question, what is next? There is always a “next” sometimes good and sometimes not. You never stop being a parent no matter what age or circumstance. I think that faith helps lessen the regrets of what could have been or should have been so we can focus on what is and take comfort in that reality.
Thanks Kerry for your comment. Parenting… the gift that keeps on giving. 🙂
Diane Newswander says
I love this reflection! It is so true with looking back as your children hit their mile markers and have that enthusiasm and excitement about their life and direction. I think more about that as I get older and think how I could have done things differently but then I also think how blessed I already am and thankful to God for his faithfulness and patience with me. I realize I am right where HE wants me to be. ☺️
It’s easy to wonder how you could have rewritten history. I totally agree. But yes… God is patient and faithful to take us exactly where He wants us. Thanks for your comment Diane.
Martha Nail says
“Instead”!!!! Instead of what?, we will never know and thank God for that. Instead we know that you have become more than you could have imagined. A strong Christian woman, sure with foibles, but a blessing to your family, your church, your friends and those you will never meet in person.
How exciting and God is not done with you yet….as they say “The Beat Goes On.”
Just now seeing this sweet friend. I blinked to be sure I read it correctly. I’m humbled. Thank you for that kind observation. I don’t typically see it that way and that gives the enemy a foothold. Thank you Martha.