I don’t write nearly enough any more, and when I do, all these ends and bunches of things come together, and I fear I am trying to sound profound when really, I am just trying to comprehend it all.
Sunday I finished reading this book called Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, written by Immaculée Ilibagiza, who survived the Rwandan holocaust in the 90s. No, she didn’t just survive. During the three months she hid in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women, she also taught herself English, forgave the murderers who had taken most of her family and friends much of her village, and discovered God in a more real way than most of us have imagined.
I feel what I read, so this story has affected me deeply. I cried the rest of the day not just for Immaculée’s story and those she was able to share, but for the unnamed masses who suffered the horrors she described. Imagine all those millions of deaths, and each one having a story that can break your heart in pieces. It’s too much.
But it keeps happening… even just in the last few years. Imagine the lives destroyed by September 11, 2001, by the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the ongoing wars. We hear numbers on the news and we shudder at their tally, but to try and comprehend each individual life involved would be too much.
I don’t know how this ties in to what happened today, except that Immaculée’s story is serving as a reminder to me that in the great whole mass of things, I have no problems. I don’t expect this mindset to last (it was about not to last through Sunday night, when Rod said to me as I was “preparing” dinner: “I bet the people hiding in the bathroom didn’t have Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos.” Thanks, hon), but I hope it will at least in part.
It helped me today when a tough blow came to our family. As most of my friends and ‘readers’ know, my brother has been embroiled in a custody trial for a year and a half. My nephew is 9, and my brother was never married to his mother. There is all sorts of history involved, but basically, Jerry felt it was time to pursue full custody based on what his son was telling him, what the family of his son’s mother was telling him, and his own gut that Andrew would be better off.
I suppose even though the end of the trial seemed to nod a bit in Jerry’s favor, today’s news wasn’t a surprise. Jerry lost. Andrew’s mom will retain full custody with Jerry having the standard every-other-weekend type of visitation. To add pretty major insult to injury, the judge removed the guardian ad litem from the case and is making Jerry pay the opposing attorney fees, which are thousands.
Most people who know me but not my brother know him as “the one who is so conservative he makes Kelly look like a flaming hippie.” Let me tell you a little more about him. Jerry is an army vet and a police officer, a guy who sees things pretty black and white (which is the basis of nearly all of our sibling rivalries!) but who would be there for you the second you called and will play with your kids and help you clean up the kitchen, too. When he was in his young 20s, he got a phone call saying he might have a son who was almost one year old. The day, July 3, 2000, that this news was confirmed, changed him forever. The day Jerry met his son, July 8, changed him more. Jerry is a great dad. He pays his support, he takes Andrew to church and is involved in his schooling and sports and health, he wants to be with him as much as possible and always has. Furthermore, Jerry’s wife, Gina, loves Andrew as if he were her own. Being a fellow stepmom, I can attest that this is not a simple thing nor it is a given. There is a difference between marrying someone with kids and marrying someone and his kids. Jerry and Gina provide a safe and loving home for Andrew, and at the very least, they should have him whenever he wants to be there. What happened today, in elementary terms and in the sting of Auntie Kelly’s raw emotions… was not fair.
Even so, today I heard something in my brother’s voice that made me so, so proud. It was resolve. Of course he is upset and angry and resentful and possibly second guessing himself. But he has not lost his faith at all. We discussed what might be “the bigger picture,” what plans God might have in store for Andrew that are bigger than him changing residency right now. Andrew has a new baby sister, and maybe he needs to be with her to help her out when things are tense or confusing. Maybe Andrew is simply going through refiner’s fire – he is already a strong and brave child with equally strong feelings about the Lord and what he is supposed to do with his life.
Another little snippet… I sent out a text message to some family and friends after I got the news. Three of those people (including my own dear teenagers) responded to the phrase I used: “Jerry lost”) with panic that Jerry was losing all of his access to Andrew. So when I clarified that no, things were staying the same, they answered with relief. I had to call Jerry back and tell him that. Sometimes we need to see our situation through the eyes of others to appreciate what is good about it. He still gets Andrew every other weekend, one day after school, and half of summers and holidays. He still gets to see his Little League games and talk to him on the phone and watch him grow healthy and smart and aware of how much his family loves him.
Some people would give almost anything for that, and I leave you with three more reminders:
– a woman whom I only know from her blog had a baby girl the same day I had Kaity. Sadie only lived 5 weeks. On February 20 I was fretting about transporting everyone to Rainforest Cafe for a worthy celebration; Sadie’s mom had empty arms and grief I can only begin to imagine.
– another family whom I only know from their public reputation lost their youngest child in a random accident last May 21. I “keep in touch” with them also through their blogs and Twitters and still cry every time I think of the hole left in their family by the loss of their sweet Maria. They have a son who is Josh’s age who was involved in the accident and who has, out of tragic necessity, had to grow up quickly in the past 9 months. Lord knows I want Josh to do some growing right now, but if I have to choose between waiting it out through his teenage drama and what this family has suffered, the choice is quite clear.
– yet one more family who was giving an interview on Moody Radio today lost two of their four daughters in a church shooting in December 2007. I can’t even expound on that. They had four, and then suddenly two. They had no say, they had no recourse; in fact, they met with the parents of the person who shot their daughters to offer their forgiveness. Do we really have to be reminded that God is so much bigger than we are? Can you imagine such loss or such forgiveness?
We’re having our own family dramas and squabbles right now, but really, that’s all they are.
This afternoon I had my first of what I hope are many tea parties with Miranda (it involved guacamole, but whatever). I baked bread and worked on recipes. I talked on the phone way too much to so many great people and had a great conversation with Rod’s aunt in Kentucky. I let Kaity and Randa jump on the bed and invited Paige along. I had a non-dramatic text conversation with Josh. I hope in a little while I will have time with my husband that doesn’t involve Branson, recording, or even kids. And incidentally, I will probably be up most of the night because Miranda seems to be getting a cold or something that won’t let her sleep well… but thankfully, she will be warm and alive in my arms.
I don’t even have a way to end this. I know times are tough. I know people who have lost jobs and even some who might lose things they’ve worked for. I know a young man right now who might be losing a lifelong battle with a debilitating disease. I know another man whose last hope of living a pain-free life might be failing. I know a man fighting his third cancer diagnosis in less than three years. I know a family who might be losing a matriarch and a patriarch in one small stretch of time. I know sometimes things just suck… but I am promising myself that I will hug whom I can and be as loving as I can be and try to be simpler because I really do focus on a lot of trivial crap that just doesn’t matter (like, you know, is anyone going to read this?).
To answer the question of the subject: Yes.. when it makes you try harder to do better.
The whole song: (recorded by Phillips, Craig, & Dean):
I read about a man of God who gloried in his weakness
And I wish that I could be more like Him and less like me
Am I to blame for what I’m not or is pain the way God teaches me to grow
I need to know
When does the thorn become a blessing?
When does the pain become a friend?
When does the weakness make me stronger?
When does my faith make me whole again?
I want to feel His arms around me In the middle of my raging storm
So that I can see the blessing in the thorn
I’ve heard it said the strength of Christ is perfect in my weakness
And the more that I go through the more I prove the promise true
His love will go to any length and reaches even now to where I am
But tell me once again
Lord, I have to ask You on the cross You suffered through:
Was there a time You ever doubted what You already knew?