Thursday, January 5, 2012

When The Year Doesn't Turn Out The Way You Expected

Forgive the silence. 

It's been awhile.

It has taken sometime to find the words to make sense of the emotional roller-coaster that we as a family have experienced in the last year.

A post at the start of the new year seems fitting: a marker for myself; a symbolic statement that I am ready to engage again.

It has been over five years since I've experienced a northern hemisphere winter. Christmas' have been tropical affairs for us these last few years - barbecues, outdoor dining, shorts and T-shirts, and air-conditioning. It has been lovely to breathe in the frosty air and toast our toes by open fires for a change. I love the turning of the seasons and find it always speaks to me profoundly. 

I am a fascinated observer, watching as Winter strips the trees bare-naked, sharp twigs piercing blue-grey overcast skies, branches twisting and turning as bitter winds force them to bend and bow. I marvel as they remain unbroken, flexible, strong despite the unrelenting brute force of the windy gales. Occasionally, the skies break and rays of luminous light warm the cold; the sunlight painting landscapes in glittering shades of copper bronze and yellow gold - lifting spirits and turning the drab and dull into moments of eye-watering beauty. 

I find this a particularly apt symbol of my life as we leave 2011 behind and turn our eyes to a new year. I wish I could say that I have embraced the coming year full and excited at all that lies ahead. The truth is the rapid approach of the close of the year filled me with a dread that the no-man's land of  uncertainty we were in was no more likely to change as a new year began. I felt stripped bare - bereft of faith, of certainty and strength; I felt buffeted by the winds of circumstance with no clear compass or road map of what God was doing. I felt bent over and bowed down. But even in my frustration - I knew inside that I should be grateful, thankful for my many blessings; I should be thankful for the deep unshakeable knowledge that God is in control. Like the light that breaks in the midst of the grey and momentarily reminds us of the glory of nature - that felt knowledge of His unchanging nature  and the beauty of His perfect plan kept me and still keeps me going. I do believe the exquisite perfection of His timing and His purpose will eventually be revealed - but I must bend willingly and not fight and resist what He is doing.

2011 started with a decision to move countries - the timing was right and decisions were made. Our certainty and plans vanished when family illness forced us - almost immediately after our upheaval to a new country  - to abandon our plans and head to the UK for medical treatment. We left most of our personal possessions in storage because we didn't know where we'd be and for how long. All those shiny new homeschooling books I bought waiting to be unpacked, the kids bikes and scooters, the crates of gluten-free flours and products (bought because they were not easily available where we were settling), computers and precious photos....left behind. We had just what we could fit in a suitcase. To be honest, we didn't think we'd be gone this long - 4 months and counting with no definite idea of the whens and wheres. Had we heard wrong? What was God doing? How do we cope with this?

I'll have to admit to patchy sporadic bouts of homeschooling - with moving countries and medical emergencies, it was hard to carry on as normal. All this would, ever so occasionally, give rise to nights of panic and tears. Will my husband get better? How can I school my kids under these circumstances with no books, no fixed abode, constant displacement? Where are we supposed to settle now with no home of our own in any country? What is God's plan?

I'd love to say I met all this with serene grace and perfect trust in God's purpose and plan and to some extent, I think I can look back and say "Yes, I did meet every crazy twist and turn with equanimity and I did trust that all this will come to some greater purpose that would become clear to me - eventually."  But there were moments, no, more than moments, stretches of despondency, frustration and disappointment. Questions rising up ceaselessly - how long Lord?  All our plans put aside - for how long? The children's disrupted education - for how long? My husband's illness - how much longer? Living in a home that is not ours - for how long Lord? 

It was clear we wanted to make decisions that were wise and led by God but it was hard to hear and hard to be sure. Nothing seemed clear and clarity has not come with time - not yet. It seems that one-day-at a-time and trust are the themes of our new year. It is, I realise, the first year ever, where I literally have no plan for the year to come. No schedule for school, no plans for ministry, no important dates and appointments, no classes, nothing. This is because we can't plan - decisions have to be made around ever-changing health issues and we have no idea for now where the Lord wants us to be based in the medium term, let alone the long term.  We pray, answers tarry.

As I wake in the new year, it occurs to me - there is a lesson to be learnt. For the first time in my life, I can pray "Lord I have no plan (really) so show me yours." I have never ever been in this place - without an agenda. As a child - each school year was mapped out, maybe with vacations to look forward to, then came the years of work, weddings, marriage, children. When have I ever had a year where I had no plan?  This is not to say I have no desires. I have desires aplenty.

I want my husband well. I want him to be free of pain and strong.

I want a home, I want to be settled.
I want my stuff in storage.  
I want to homeschool.
I want to know EXACTLY where we are supposed to live and what we are supposed to do.
I want you to tell me straight Lord. I want certainty.

However, the
"I wants" fall to the ground as easily as autumn leaves are snatched off their boughs and tumble to the soil. 

The "
I wants" have nothing to hold onto. There is no certainty without Christ and I don't want to make mistakes by going my own way. I've spent so much of the last few months stating my "I wants" to God and finding myself crushed under the weight of my frustration and disappointment. I know He has a plan and a good purpose and maybe my "I wants" don't fit into those plans - not yet anyway. By His grace, He answered my feeble pleas to rescue me from my despondency and disappointment because I awoke to the new year with a desire to lay it all down and just seek Him. I know that desire comes only by His grace and not from me. I woke to the realisation that I was blessed - to enter this year unencumbered by expectation and plans and freed to choose Him. To choose the way of trust. What more did I have? But I saw I was blessed.  I would lay down my 'wants' and listen.

So begins the year of listening. The year of laying down. The year that I learn truly to trust. 

I would dearly love to go back to blogging about our homeschool adventures but it seems this pilgrim has another journey to make for now. 

The bible exhorts us in all things "GIve thanks." so I will give thanks, grateful for my many blessings of the last year:

1. for improvements in my husband's health 

2. prayers prayed to uphold us in our trials
3. for help from unexpected quarters
4. for financial stability
5. for cold weather to enjoy Christmas in
6. the joy of watching my children's faces as they saw snow for the first time
7. our first real bonfire in the garden
8. for family and opportunities to spend time with loved ones
9. for being together at Christmas 
10. friends made in the countries we have moved around in11. for a roof over our heads
12. for my favourite English desserts! and Custard!
13. for nature walks in autumnal weather
14. for the knowledge that God - you never let go of us.

Colossians 3:1-2 (The Message)

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. 

Pursue the things over which Christ presides. 

Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.

Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. 

See things from his perspective.


Grace said...

Beautiful post. Praying for you!

HL said...

Though we have met only once (at my place, if you remember), I have been keeping updated with your news until your long silence. I didn't know you are going through so much! Anyhow, I was in tears reading your post. Your words gave me strength to face my own circumstances (no where near yours), and encouragement to lay them all at His feet. Take heart, my dear. My prayers for you and your family.....

Jo Royal said...

Beautifully written and honest post - glad I hopped over on the UK blog hop this morning.

Although your circumstances led you to pray "Lord I have no plan (really) so show me yours." - what an awesome prayer to be able to say - and mean! I would love to be able to let go of 'me' and give it all to God - but I suspect the control freak in me would have a bit of a tough time at this!!

Thank you for sharing your story, may God bless you this year as you endeavour to see things from God's perspective.



Caroline said...

Praying for you. SO much disruption, in a human sense, but what a peace to know that it is GOD'S PERFECT PLAN!
As an aside, I use Tapestry of Grace, too! :-) x

Shirley Ann said...

I popped over from UK blog hop. This post moved my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Life can often seem so hard. We too moved countries in 2011 and then to a new home (still UK) in December. That disruption alone has felt overwhelming at times. But you have been dealing with so much more, and to see Gods beautiful grace and mercy at work in your heart is just amazing! Praying for you and your family, may you continue to feel God close to your heart and see His healing hand over your husband.

Blessings in Christ

MamaChi said...

Thank you for your prayers and I'm so glad my story might encourage you. I'm hanging in there - hope you are too!

MamaChi said...

Hi Jo, I so understand the need for control and that's probably why it has been such a struggle for me. I'm pretty sure some people could be very laid-back about this but I'm learning (very slowly!) Here's to us control-freaks learning to let go. :)

MamaChi said...

Thank you for your prayers! Why year are you in with Tapestry of Grace? Nice to meet another TOG-ster! :)

MamaChi said...

I appreciate the prayers so much!

MamaChi said...

Hi Shirley thank you for your prayers and kind kind words. It is a journey isn't it? Sometimes wonderful, sometimes hard...but good to know that it will always be worth it! I'm struggling along and I still have moments of panic but I'm hanging in there by His sheer mercy!

Rhoda said...

Thank you for linking up :) This year must have been so hard for you. Moving house is bad enough, but moving country, and twice, must be really overwhelming! Thank you for your honesty in sharing. Though I don't think what I've been through is anything like what you have, not that long ago I had a revelation amongst all my exhaustion from small kids and busyness, that we can be conquerors in the midst of our circumstances, and not just when we come out of them. It really helped me to find a way of escape, and I blogged about it here, in case it might help you to read it.


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