Monday, April 18, 2011

Murphy's Oil Soap

My house smells like Murphy's Oil Soap.

It's a smell of my childhood...of spring mornings and scrubbing and dusty jean knees and fighting and finding fun old toys beneath the couch that you just forgot you loved.  It's a smell of arguments and giving in because you know Mom is right and it really is dirty.  It's a smell of the family I grew up in, which is different than the one I have now.  Neither better or worse, but just different.  It's a smell that's tied to not just one emotion, but many. 

And today, it's a smell of uncertainty.

I'm sure, if you asked my mom, she'd disagree with this statement, but when I am upset, confused, disappointed, or distraught, I turn to cleaning.  It's not always cleaning by her definition, but it's something.  I take on a new project, something I can control the outcome of - something that lies solely in my determination, ability, and commitment.  (Mom, if you ever read this, you can stop laughing now.)

Today, my house smells like Murphy's Oil Soap.  For those of you who don't know, Murphy's is used on wood.  I have a lot of wood trim in my house - baseboards, chair rails, doors, cabinets, etc.  The Murphy's only comes out once a year...and honestly, sometimes not even that much.  It's a rare occasion for sure.  My house smells like Murphy's because I don't know the future.

What will my life be like a month from now? At Christmas?  A year from now?  Five years from now?  Where will I be and what will I be doing and with whom will I be doing it?

Though it pains me to admit this, I haven't got a flipping clue.

Today, I feel very much untied.  Not just in the "I'm not tied down and I can do what I want" kind of way, but in the "Nothing and no one is keeping me from floating away" kind of way.  I'm disappointed.  I'm downtrodden.  I'm a little anxious and a lot envious.  In short, I'm failing miserably at all the things that I thought my life would have.

I'm nearly 25, and while I understand that 25 is hardly old and decrepit, it is late.  Ten years ago, had you asked me what my life would be like by 25, I'd have said that I would be well traveled by now, probably working for a human rights organization, and fluent in at least 3 languages.  Five years ago, had you asked me what my life would be like by 25, I'd have told you that I'd be married, possibly with a child, and probably involved in a full-time ministry.  Today, I can tell you that by 25, all of my wooden trim will be spotless and shiny. 

I know that there's grace for this.  I know, because I've felt it before, but right now, I'm still finding my way to it.  Right now, I'm wiping the self-pitying tears from my faith and trying to remember that some people have legitimate problems, and mine hardly counts.

Right now, I'm also worrying - will the job I have continue to be fulfilling as it has been or will it peter out into a mindless, robotic paycheck to me?  And if it does, will I have the guts to leave it for something greater...perhaps without a paycheck?  Will I always live in a big apartment and have no one to share it with?  Will I ever figure out what it is that I'm good at and passionate enough about to make it my life?  Will I ever have those kids who will fight over the cool toys from under the couch on spring cleaning day?  And if I can't...if none of these things will ever become apparent to me and the status quo doesn't ever change...will I ever find the way to grace for these moments?

I'm frustrated because I don't have the answers to any of these questions.  But in the meantime - almost as a consolation prize, I think - I will have really clean baseboards.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grievous Grace

Sometimes, all I can think is "God, what are you doing?!"

Today I heard that a new but very dear friend miscarried her first pregnancy.  I know that she and her husband (also a new, but dear friend) were very excited about this, and to be honest, I was too.  They're the kind of people who NEED to be parents - the ones whose faith, knowledge, personalities, and genes desperately need to be passed on to the next generation, and with their pregnancy, not only they and their family rejoiced, but I did too.  And today, when I heard that the tiny, much loved person in her womb wouldn't make it to meet all who await him/her, I was devastated, as I can only imagine my friends and their loved ones are even more. 

"God," I thought, "What are you doing?!"

I know this will not shake their faith, though I'm sure it will be a trial as all loss is.  And it will not shake the faiths of their loved ones, I would guess, but there's always that question when you're in the grey areas, the dark nights that seem forever:  "God, why?"

And I know that God isn't afraid of those questions.  Cognitively, I know that there's a purpose to this experience for all who are involved and that, like Scripture promises, all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (a group in which this couple definitely is included!).  But why the heartbreak?  Why the surprise, the excitement, the blessing?  Why them, God, with their health and responsibility, when irresponsible, unhealthy pregnancies come to term?  Why them, when they have blessed so many others and would do so much more as a family?  Why that baby, why this day, why that way?

So far, all I have are questions, and today I'm struggling with grace in the grievous moments of life.  While praying, begging almost, for peace for them, I'm also praying for understanding, or for grace in my ignorance, so that I can stop questioning and start trusting.  And I'm praying for their future, that they would have confidence, that they would trust the God who made and sustains them, and beg for His grace as I do, and that they would know love more fully because of this.  Even as I pray it, I wonder if it even can happen, let alone will, but then again...that's just the questions talking and I'm waiting for the grace.