Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Thanks a lot" and also, Thanksgiving

Just before Thanksgiving, a friend of mine called to ask if I could fill in for her capricious nanny until Christmas break, while they look for a more permanent replacement. I said sure! I always want to help a friend; I could use a paying gig.

Sunday after Thanksgiving, we made our budget for December, proud of the success of November's frugal, cash-only budgeting and laid December on the altar for the holes that paychecks won't fill, knowing God is always providing for us in crazy ways. And this doesn't even take Christmas Consumerism into consideration...just the basics. Maybe a little less than the basics, but we're alright.

Monday morning comes too early, but there I am, with my own toddler in tow, ready to serve. My friend answers the door, gaunt and slouched, eyes drooping, barely standing, barely breathing.

"Are you okay?" I quickly begin to realize something is very wrong.

No, she is not. Her husband has left her. He told her--on Thanksgiving-- that he wanted out of their almost-20-year marriage, and then sat down with their three kids to feast on the meal she'd been cooking all day, while she went to an out-of-town friend's house to crumble into a pile of rubble, a ruined city. Alone.

My friend is the heartbroken, heart of ashes, languid spirit. Mourning has it's place and I try not to bombard her with messages of hope, and I do my best to know the pain with her, share hugs and tears and to be hands and feet in her home for what seems the trivial daily grind next to remembering to breathe.

I am feeling disappointed (understatement) in yet another spouse giving up, making a conscious choice to be discontent and withdrawing from relationship, instead of playing through. NEWSFLASH: there is no perfect relationship. You will never find that person who never bugs you, whom you have everything in common with forever. REALLY-- You want your life to look like a sit-com, with strings of disposable relationships based on your own comfort and entertainment? Life is not like TV and movies, duh! This guy says he's "not leaving the kids" but what kind of dad will he be if he's just in relationship for convenience? I have a 12-year old know-it-all daughter battling to the death of wills every day and let me tell you, it's not comfortable, entertaining or convenient in the least! There are days when I look at my husband and wonder what alien has taken his place and I'm horrified that I'm set up to grow old with this dork... but I play through and things iron out. God is always moving, we are always growing, there are ups and downs. This stuff requires grace and patience and second chances over and over.

Dude: you are leaving your kids by leaving your relationship with the wife of your youth. And they will probably know it before you do.

This guy has a problem, and I feel sorry for him, too. He's totally unhappy, and has been for a while and I think it has little if anything to do with his wife. I am just sick of this magical thinking. I am sick of the struggle with it in my own brain. It's an evil lie. But I am really sick of watching my friends and their children suffer the fallout. It might be "normal" but it is not okay. STOP ABANDONING EACH OTHER. That's what I'd spray-paint on a stop sign if I could.

But this is not the only thing I wanted to write about. Off the tirade, back to our budget.

Now I don't think my friend here is walking with the Lord. I think that is a thing of the distant past for her (we met through a church group). But little does she know it, God is using her. The money she set aside to pay her nanny is now going to fill in the holes in our budget! We might be able to pay all the bills! Buy the food we need (the end of the month is always slim pickins around here)! Maybe fill some Christmas stockings! What a blessing, albeit a mixed bag of emotions...God works all things, you know? It's just weird, maybe enlightening to be on the other side of this.

The other thing is that being able to be there, present for my friend in this dark night of hers is a gift of redemption for me. It gives the dark times I've been through purpose. It wasn't all for nothing. Now I get to be, once more, Grace to the Brokenhearted. And I know this is only one small way God will redeem my own Ruined City. Like a giant oak next to a sprouting acorn, the evidence of God's grace in my life is so very apparent. It's been a while since I read the manifesto of that first year when truth and recovery began, the Year of His Favor, so I'm reading it aloud to you now. My story is in here:

Isaiah 61 (the message)

Announce Freedom to All Captives
 1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, 
   heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, 
   pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace— 
   a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— 
   and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, 
   give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom, 
   a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" 
   planted by God to display his glory.
They'll rebuild the old ruins, 
   raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities, 
   take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks 
   and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God," 
   honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations, 
   you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble 
   and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled 
   and your joy go on forever.
 8-9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
   and hate thievery and crime,
I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
   and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
   Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
   as the people I have blessed."
 10-11I will sing for joy in God,
   explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
   he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
   and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
   and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
   and puts praise on display before the nations.