Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Thanksgiving -- all in one go!

Some people are skeptical of being thankful just in November, but I think it's helpful and valuable to write down even 30 blessings as a prayer of thankfulness to God and a reminder to myself of his gracious gifts. May my heart be encouraged by these blessings everyday...

1- a God who is bigger and more loving than I can ever imagine
2- a family who loves me, extended and immediate
3- good health that I've enjoyed for a lifetime -- I do not take it for granted!
4- my 5 senses, with which I greatly enjoy the world and people around me
5- music "God gave us music, that we might pray without words"
6- color -- the world is so vibrant!
7- diversity -- so thankful the world is not all the same!
8- ethnic food (related to #7) My tongue delights in Ethiopian, Chinese, Italian, Nigerian, Peruvian, etc.
9- laughter
10- my heritage, both good and bad, that impacts who I am
11- that I'm not bound to my heritage, but have a new future lying before me
12- old friends who have stuck by me for years on end
13- new friends who have been willing to get to know me quickly, for whatever short time they have with me
14- books: fiction and non-fiction, children's and adult, beautifully illustrated and interestingly worded
15- movement -- frisbee and long walks, wave-jumping and dancing -- thankful that my body works
16- forgiveness
17- my childhood home of California, its beauty and people and all the memories it holds
18- the years I've had to live in so many diverse homes: Nigeria, Scotland, Illinois, England, Virginia, Jordan, D.C.
19- games, especially fast ones, rowdy ones or get-to-know-each-other ones
20- nature, and all its incredible splendor and minute intricacies
21- animals -- learning about them will never cease to amaze me
22- fast travel - when family's as spread out as it is, fast highways and airplanes become so valuable!
23- communication gizmos, that allow me to keep up with family & friends in far-flung countries and states
24- quiet
25- sleep, though I don't get enough of it. At least when I do sleep, it's restful and rejuvenating
25- provision -- through many ups and downs, we've never been on the street or in serious debt
26- my husband, who has not given up on me even though if I were he, *I* would have given up on me!!
27- my children, who daily forgive, love, annoy and delight me, unspeakable treasures I have on loan!
28- memories
29- my brain - this sounds funny, but I'm so thankful I can think and process and learn.
30- Jesus, who died for me & conquered death, who loves the 'least of these' & whose Spirit never leaves me

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Just Keep Breathing

"How many times have you heard me cry out, 'God, please take this'?
How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?
Oh I need you.
God I need you now." (Plumb)

The past 7 years have been the loneliest of my life (except for a brief respite in 2009-10), and there have been many moments when I felt like all I could do was cry out to God and hope to "just keep breathing." How many years can one sustain such a basic hope, though? "Just breathing" is not how life is meant to be lived. I feel like I've reached the end of what I can handle.

I'm not intentionally isolating myself or my family, though home-schooling naturally keeps us more insulated than most. I'm part of an informal 'support group' and a more formal 'co-op,' but no relationships have developed from either of those. I'd hoped that neighbors would be a natural source of friendship, but even 5 months after living in our new home, I hardly know any names. And the worst thing is that we are back to having no church home.

We lived our first 8 months in Washington, D.C. with no church and that was truly the loneliest I've been in 7 years. To be brand new in a huge place and have no neighbor friends and no church friends is almost unbearable. We finally did settle on a church and attended it for 12 months, but as of July 1, we've been looking for a new church.

Most of the time, this loneliness has settled in the pit of my stomach, in the depth of my brain, crouching like a hidden dragon. I've ignored it, on the surface pretending that I'm hardy, that I don't need close friends. My husband has tried to encourage me, reminding me of all the good friends I "still have" from my past. These are friends who were close at one time, but they don't call or visit or write. I don't know how that's supposed to encourage me: absent friends aren't the friends I need right now.

The other day, though, I received a phone call from someone I'd known at Wheaton College, been in touch with over the years, and had re-connected with since moving to D.C. This person needed to talk about a heart-breaking situation they're in the middle of, and I listened and chatted for over 2 hours. It happened on a day when I was hard-hit with a bad cold and was desperate for a nap, and my husband later asked, "Why on earth did you talk so long instead of just saying you needed to sleep?"

It hit me hard: I could count on one hand the number of talks I've had with friends in the past couple months, and my heart *needed* that conversation. Even though I was mostly listening (and I still have a heart full of burdens I'd love to share with someone else who can listen to me), I was still interacting with another adult who was actually appreciative of my presence. Such a rare occurrence these days...

I don't know how much longer I can 'just keep breathing.' I know I have my kids who depend on me right now. But I also need to be a friend. I need to talk to friends. And my kids need the same. They are almost as lonely as I am. Without friends, this life seems so purposeless and I don't know how to keep going...