Friday, September 25, 2009

The Status Quo

The status quo...the way things are. We go to extreme lengths to preserve it, or at least the appearance of it. What I find interesting, though, is that over periods of time, the status quo can shift pretty dramatically. Then we may find ourselves preserving an image that is no longer real because it's what a given person may expect of us. I never would have thought about this had it not been for the magical world of social networking...Facebook.

It's a funny thing about my Facebook friend list: there are people there that represent some very different phases and areas of interest in my life. High school, college, married life; marching band, choir, church; former teachers and former students; knew me when, know me's almost surreal to see these different circles meet and cross in one place. People who knew me as a mixed-up, rebellious, distrustful teenager might be surprised to see a friend's comment about faith or religion. People who knew me as an unapologetic Pentecostal with no plans for married life might be utterly shocked to see me as a married, Catholic mother of six. People from college might be startled to learn that I've set aside all my career plans, and those who only know me from my writing might not recognize me in "real life." It's almost enough to inspire an identity crisis!

As I've reflected over this, one simple reality draws it all together: it's all been steps on a journey. In the course of the journey, there have been some pretty dramatic shifts in my opinions, my philosophies, my priorities.... What is sometimes frustrating is that a dramatic shift in the mind only produces incremental shifts in the behavior. It can take a long time for a seed to really take root and bear fruit. And in the meantime, I maintain the status quo...a predictable pattern for a given relationship.

I suppose it is the way of things. In any given relationship, you at least start with the common ground. And I suppose there are no apologies to be made for growth -- for moving forward in the flow of our lives. Chances are that my high school math teacher will never meet my college music history professor, and my friends from church growing up will never cross paths with my current group of mommy friends. My half sister in Florida won't meet my youth ministers and Sunday school teachers from way back when, and my writing partner from English class won't meet the crazy girl from college. That's the status quo -- the way it is. It will grow and change through the years until it hardly looks the same, but it will be the same. It will be my path, graced by friends and family, teachers and students, knew me whens and know me nows. I will pray to be content with the status quo if it is but an honest picture of the journey, if not the destination.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Refresher Course on Grace

The summer days are waning. The kids are back in school, DH has returned to a “normal” work schedule, as crazy as that is, and I’m settling into life at home with just my littlest boy during the day. This summer, like all others, came with its familiar challenges. Financial matters are trickier in the summer, and life with all of us here brings more bickering, more chores to be done, and fewer willing hands (“but it’s summer vacation, Mom!”). I’ve also found that I am unsettled – there are principles I absolutely desire to live, but they are at odds with my tendency to be distracted and to avoid facing difficult situations. It puts me in mind of a cat chasing its tail – not actually achieving the goal, but creating a bigger mess in the chase.

When I stop to evaluate these times in my life, a common theme always emerges. My prayer life has become less consistent, and the stress I’m feeling comes from believing that I need to fix, juggle, figure out, and manage everything. There’s always the sense that the disorder in our home can only be put right if I can suddenly don my magic "SuperMom" cape and be what I have never managed to be: able to rise early and stay up late, single-minded and ever diligent in keeping peace and order, able to easily step aside to tend to children and visitors, always temperate and modest, always keeping my attitudes in check, always keeping the deadly poison from the “restless evil” in my mouth…. Funny. That magic bullet hasn’t yet struck.

Somewhere in the harried madness of life, there’s a lesson that I have to revisit over and over: His grace is sufficient. It takes courage and strength to face my fear and my weakness and let God be God. It requires a daily choice – daily submission to grace – choosing my bridegroom and the choosing the willing surrender of the bride. I need to take time to reconnect with the truest longings of my heart rather than the loudest clamorings of my world. I need to take a refresher course on grace from the author of grace. And then we’ll do it again tomorrow….