Monday, September 20, 2010

Lost and Finding

I began to lose sight of myself on an early summer evening five years ago when God dropped a boulder in my path. I had one foot on the threshold of the next phase of my life, just waiting for autumn when my youngest son would step on the school bus for the first time. I had plans, vague to be sure, but plans nonetheless. God had plans, too. They involved one last child and turning my clock back six years. I could have refused, but I know better than to invite the consequences of resisting divine will. So I reluctantly, angrily even, opened a door I had locked tightly behind me some years earlier.

Born eight weeks early, our daughter captured all of our hearts immediately. I fell in love with her, as I did with all of my children. But still I struggled with God’s timing, fought against the direction my life had taken, and longed for the self I had intended to become. Before I regained my footing, troubled adolescence and ghosts from the past ripped the fabric of our family life. I found myself caught in a crossfire of struggling souls. Hurting for my son, my husband, and myself, one dark night I lashed out in desperation, dragging my fingernails across my face.

Before the wounds healed, when my bangs half-hid a red cross, my daughter stroked my forehead, trying to soothe the hurt. She never questioned, just comforted, and the heavens I once thought cold began gently to instruct. In my mind’s eye, I replayed an oft-repeated scene.

In the midst of the crossfire, oblivious to the bullets, a little girl cries out in the pre-dawn hours. That early in the morning, her crib no longer satisfies her, but neither is she ready to tumble open-eyed into her day. Still weary myself, both from the early hour and the household tension, I lift her out of her crib and snuggle with her in the nursery bed. At first she lays her head on my shoulder and nuzzles deeply into my neck, melting into me. I wrap my arms around her in a tight hug, feeling her heartbeat slow as she settles back into sleep. I let the fuzzy top of her head caress my chin and cheek as I relax into the pillows, breathing in the faint scent of lavender left over from the previous night’s bath.

After a time, my daughter begins to reach for wiggle room. I shift her out of my arms and place her cheek on the pillow next to mine. We lie there, foreheads touching and arms intertwined. I shift my head slightly to breathe in the air she exhales. Her breath smells sweet, innocent. I drift with my daughter into simple morning dreams, drops of healing elixir.

The elixir of innocent childhood healed all of us at times. The tension eased and changed form, but continued, exacerbated by Brad's new, out-of-state job and a house that refused to sell. I read somewhere that God tests us by asking us to surrender the very things we are most loath to hand over. I suspect my performance on that test failed to impress any casually watching angels. God asked for my time, my patience, and my willingness to stumble along in the dark, unable to direct my own course. I fumed, pleaded, despaired, gloried in epiphanies, occasionally wept in gratitude for tiny miracles, fumed again, and found hope in chance conversations and the wisdom of a patient husband.

Finally, the house sold, and we headed West to new adventures and space for deep, cleansing breaths. Caught up in the relief of calm vistas and peaceful nights, it took a few months for me to realize I had lost myself along the way. I began to feel the absence of identity and a need for goals to anchor me and provide me purpose. This time, I look upward and outward for cues, waiting a little more patiently and trusting a little more completely. Gradually, a new self begins to emerge, still slightly blurry around the edges but gathering clarity and strength.

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