Friday, April 27, 2012

Heaven breaking through

I'm listening to a lot of songs by Audrey Assad lately.  They're so comforting, so full of hope, and so real.  Right now, the words to this song I love start off, "I am a blind man trying to find a way..."

Yep, I can relate to that.

I'm trying to be positive.  Believe me, I get it.  I know things could be so much worse, and that, theoretically, I have the "rest of my life" with Ricardo to enjoy.  I have had the privilege of seeing to a greater depth these past two days what a gift I am receiving in marrying this man, in the love that he so freely gives, in the love that we share.  I know when we stand together, look into each other's eyes and say our vows, they will be more than best intentions, because we've already begun to experience what it means and what it looks like to live them out.  A sneak preview, if you will.

However, being the honest person I am, I'd not be human if I didn't confess that this is hard.  There is joy here, but not without some mourning.  

I've looked forward to this day since I was at least a young teenager.  I'm thirty-one years old, and I've saved myself for Ricardo alone.  And while I know I'll still enjoy the day, absolutely; and while I know I'll still be a beautiful bride, there's not one woman I know who wouldn't be sad in my shoe (and boot) on her wedding day.  No one wants to cancel their honeymoon and have surgery instead.  We may be able to reschedule a vacation at a later date, and we'd enjoy it, but you don't get a honeymoon back.   

And it's not only that.  There's so much more.  No running, biking, dancing, hiking, triathlons, half marathons, all the activities that I love - nada.  Not this summer or this fall.   Nothing strenuous for at least six months.  Try telling an extremely active person who lives in a beautiful place that she can't even go for a walk without crutches or hobbling on a robotic boot for six weeks.  I'm crying as it sinks in.  I had hopes and plans for this summer and beyond, with my new husband, and they aren't going to happen.  I'll be in rehab trying to learn how to walk properly with my achilles tendon fused back together with my calf muscle. 

I've got to allow myself to grieve these losses.  Being positive doesn't mean we pretend everything is ok.  For me, it means acknowledging what's real - the good and the painful - and choosing in the midst to be thankful for the many gifts of grace in each day I'm alive.  

There is much to be thankful for.  I could rattle off a long list here, of family and friends and coworkers and customers that have shown us such great love and support.  Of strangers who have prayed for me.  We are rich indeed.  If you ask me, I will also be honest and say that I have hope that there's something special that will come of this.  And maybe not just for Ricardo and I alone, but something greater even, that will showcase the goodness of God and bless someone else.  I have no clue what, but I have faith for it.  Not because the universe is good or I've got good karma, but because I am convinced God is good, and this is no surprise to him.  If I truly believe he is good and doesn't play dirty, I've got to believe there's something I don't see yet that is more beautiful than I can imagine.  It's consistent with his character.  My emotions and circumstances may fluctuate immensely, but he remains constant.  Whether I feel this or not, I've learned through the death of my dad that God doesn't change even when circumstances are painful and confusing.

So please know, I'm still looking forward to my wedding, but not without some sadness.  It will be a beautiful, memorable day, and I imagine in several years I'll look back on this all with a different perspective and greater appreciation than I'm capable of in this moment.  

This same Audrey Assad song builds to the most powerful bridge: "Heaven is breaking, heaven is breaking, heaven is breaking through."  And it fills my soul with hope.  May heaven break through these clouds of unexpected circumstances and surprise us with overwhelming joy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A twist in the plot

This is not the story I had envisioned for my wedding, or my honeymoon.  A ruptured achilles tendon and probable surgery to follow.  From where I sit on mine and Ricardo's new bed, with my leg propped in a splint on a big pillow, quite frankly, it just looks like rubbish.  What in the world...?  My fried mind wants to jolt in a million directions but is anchored to one spot: shock.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  What is going to happen?  All these questions but the only answer at the moment is stark and simple: it just... happened.   I can't undo it.  I can only accept it.  

If only it were that easy.

But, I protest, I wanted the fairytale.  At least for a day.  Not to be hobbling down the aisle on crutches.  Not to have my leg in a cast.  Not to miss out on dancing with my new husband at our wedding.  Not to possibly cancel our honeymoon plans.  

 I thought the "for better or for worse" challenges would come later.  

Deep down,  I think I know that this will make for a great story, someday.  For now, I just pray for the grace to see through this rubbish, for the faith to see the beauty that is tucked away, even here in this heap of disappointment.  I don't want to miss the joy here.

I sit in the chair with three physicians surrounding me, in the room at urgent care, twisting my foot this way and that, feeling around pressure points for pain.  And I hear the words from the mouth of one lady physician: "Ruptured achilles."  And I can't contain my tears any longer.  My husband-to-be crosses the room in a flash, pressing next to me, squeezing my hand.  

"I'm with you."  He repeats this all throughout the night.  "Don't worry, Ita.  Everything happens for a reason.  We have each other.  I love you so much."

I'm marrying the most wonderful man in three days, and thankfully, I can see enough at this moment to know that is the greatest, most priceless gift.  The rest will follow in time.  But how we'd love your prayers.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Under the smile of both Papas

I'm remembering a wedding almost twelve years ago, when we were four.  My Papa, the minister, escorting my glowing sister down the aisle.  In eight days, I'll walk down the aisle of a church in my bridal gown toward my groom, and I'll travel it alone.   

As a little girl and then a girl growing up into a woman, I never envisioned making that journey down the aisle without my hand resting on Papa's arm.  After he passed from this world to the next, I stared out for months into what seemed like darkness, bleakness.  The total severing of my life from his.   Thankfully, the night gradually gave way to light swallowing dark, hope swallowing heaviness, life swallowing death. 

Sometimes, I even think I catch a whiff of him, of his smile, his life, his heart, beaming down from heaven.  

The sketch of us in embrace, drawn from a photo taken of us at my grad school graduation, finally finds a home in a frame on the wall above my writing desk.  Papa's smile is here, and I feel it as real as the warm tears streaking down my cheeks.  For a moment, eternity and the present limitations of time on earth come close, as if to kiss.  A mirror held up, I peer through, reach out and touch dim glass where I see him.  

I whisper his name.  I'm not alone.

In eight days, his arm won't be there to prop my hand, but the ring he wore for nearly thirty-six years as a promise to love my mom for as long as they both shall live will be tucked into my bouquet.  And before God, my true Papa, I'll stand with the man I love and vow to love him for as long as we both shall live.  I know both my Papas will be there smiling.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All writing aside

Life isn't fair, we know.  In tremendous, tragic ways this is true, but I'm referring here to the common, petty breed of unfairness.  As in that six months of vigorous working out to get in shape that can be lost in a mere two or three weeks. And what happened to that year I devoted to developing a disciplined writing life?  It seems to have disappeared in the smoky poof of engagement fireworks.  I consented to this, of course, preferring not to relegate my writing to the ever-growing list of things to do in the life of an engaged person.  But now, nearly four months later, I wonder, what am I missing by not writing?  Perhaps the real question is, am I a better person when writing is woven into my everyday? 

The question nags, and the answer delays.  In fact, it pulls one of those annoying Socratic moves on me: Why do you think that? And I pause, a dim light growing brighter within.

Ahhhh, here it is.  I think I'm a better person, not for the writing itself, but for the way writing trains my eyes to see in vivid detail the things I normally rush past.  Writing slows me down - my body, my schedule, my thoughts, my heart - and focuses me.  At first, my need to see life in order to write drives me, as if to jumpstart my engine.  But then, my newfound vision gradually takes over, until my writing is merely an overflow of a life lived more fully alive.  This is the thing I miss, the ache that begs the question in the first place.  

Have I lost my ability to see in this season of setting aside my writing?

In all fairness, the answer is yes - and no.  It's not that my eyesight is lost, as much as it's grown a bit flabby.  Lazy.  Distracted.  Thankfully, the year of disciplined writing was much more than an academic practice.  It was the year of disciplined gratitude.  What opened my eyes and fueled my writing was the practice of gratitude, and this has lived on inside me, even as my writing life is on sabbatical.  I simply didn't realize how much the two are linked.  How easy it is to drift away from the intentional way of seeing the world in daily living that slows my pace, beckons me to kneel down to a child's view of life in perpetual wonder and trust.  No, I haven't lost it; I just have to work harder at seeing.  Thankfully each day, with or without writing, the gift of sight is mine for the taking - if I so choose.