Monday, January 18, 2016

The Impact of Unexpected Joy

I've chosen one word that I want to unpack this year: sustain.

It's not fancy or sexy, and there are parts of me that wish it was.

The very real side of a pre-mommy me wishes it was overcome or victory or promotion.

Because, I can feel something happening in my life; almost a barricade being built. Something is being weaved together in my heart out of knowing; out of being aware of what's to come; the blessing and the bracing.

Another baby will be here soon.

This is a beautiful and terrifying surprise. It's something I know so many of my friends are longing for or grieving loss over. I know and value the gift that is growing inside of me. But I also know there's a cutting away that takes place to make room for another compartment of care. It can cause breakdowns and breakthroughs, exhaustion and exhilaration. It's the type of work that is wonderful and wearing. Which pretty much sums up all good work.

I've had many years in the past where I've sat down and written out goals for my career, my life and my accomplishments–they were shiny capsules of meaning and progress. Most of the time as the year ran down those goals became shackles instead of being buoys. And ultimately, left me feeling underachieved and empty. This could have something to do with the nature of my goals. Most often, they only benefited me.

Sustain is a word the benefits me as well as my entire family and the circle of people that I'm lucky to share my life with. It is obviously not a goal, but more so a surrendering.

Since becoming a mom over five years ago, I've learned something about creating my own goals: if they don't benefit anyone other than myself they sprout quickly and die even faster. Honestly, the word "goal" actually tastes bad in my mouth. This is coming from someone who used to believe in them with all my heart.

I think it's important to have a plan, of course. But goals infer that we have control over the future-we might for a time. Goals imply that we are the only ones who write the script-we don't. Goals can also become gold-plated and take place of the small moments, the less glorifying ones that have something to teach us; something to say when we sit still long enough to hear it.

I've learned something about progress too: it doesn't move in a straight line. It moves in a circle; up and down, back and forth, high and lows. And what better word to learn from and to put to memory than sustain while the dial of my productive progress might take a few ticks back.

Webster defines the word: 1)To keep from falling; to bear; to uphold; to support; as, a foundation sustains the superstructure; comfort, or relieve; to vindicate.

The Bible says a lot about it, but here's a few:

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 

For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Nehemiah 9:21

God promises to do all this for me. For you. 

I've been wired by God to want to create and produce. These are tendencies in my soul that I can't deny, and I don't think I've been asked to. I have tried, believe me.

And it always leads me to wanting it even more. On the desperate days, I incessantly check my email for an opportunity that isn't coming. I can hear the voices in my head that tell me that my gifts are like a body quickly losing its ability to exercise. My mind screams that I am in the process of literary atrophy. And behind that, I see my Wizard-of-Oz-ishness trying to create a stage that isn't mine to star on.

On the at-peace days, I see a dimming of my big dreams. The one that used to suffocate me.

And I am thankful for that.

The burden of having to succeed in ways that are impressive to all people has been lifted. But I still grapple with the person I am becoming: a quieter, less sure version of who I used to  be. Someone who is hungry for learning, teachable and humble. I've gotten here by failing. A lot of failing and a lot of pausing. Waiting. Embarking and retreating.

But as I see each day stretch out in front of me, I know one thing for sure: I don't know anything for sure. Only one person knows what the future holds and I do trust him, even when I drag my dusty heels in getting to the place he's leading me.

Instead of fighting against these realities of how I've been sewn together, I've been trying to work with them; to let them breathe and be silent, to be stretched and to rest.

As I'm preparing to become a mom for the third time I know that I, my husband, and my two other kiddos are going to be changed. Changed for the better. I'm scared of the reality of chaos coming in, but I am at peace because I will be sustained. I will not fall. I will only be lifted up.

A few months ago I went to the grocery before I found out I was pregnant. Before I could even grab a cart, my son had run quickly into the store to gawk at the plastic-crap toy dispensers. As I maneuvered my daughter into the shopping cart, a woman came up to me I had never seen her before. She got very close to my face and said, "It may be hard now, but he is going to bring you so much joy." I stood there and stammered, "Oh I know." She hadn't seen my son, or maybe she had, but either way that was all she said and she walked away.

At first, it was creepy. But when I remembered it a few days later–staring down at the positive pregnancy test, it sent a quickening shiver through my body. I didn't know if we were having a boy or girl until 5 months after that.

It's a boy.

So today I'm holding onto the crazy and the strange; I'm taking an abstract leap of faith and believing that people can be sustained by a God who rules the universe. That there is a person who is at work inside of me creating not only a new person out of nothing but also creating a new person out of who I used to be.

I can't wait to meet Max Kristoffer. I can't wait for the impact of unexpected joy.

We're in this together,

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