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Monday, May 15, 2017

My Life is Different than Yours

So a little reflection is in order today. Doug and I share a wonderful life with many experiences that most only dream of having. We have been very lucky to have the exposure to traveling, people, and cultures that we have. And we are enjoying a season of interim ministry opportunities that we could not have planned in our wildest dreams. And we have the unique opportunity to take sabbatical rest, to dream about what's next without worrying too much about what is next. We could never have predicted a year ago that we'd be living in Paris, France doing youth ministry for goodness sakes, and soaking in all of the grace of being part of a strong, vibrant ministry that gives us back in spades whatever small contribution we are making. It is pure gift and we are grateful.
But here's the thing. When you feel envious of us, as I'm sure many of you do (I would), you have to remember what we don't have and that hardly any of us have everything in this life that we want or dream of having. So for all of you who celebrated Mother's Day yesterday with your mom, kids and grandkids, I don't have that anymore. I'm thankful for my mother-in-law's presence in our lives, but our choice to live abroad means not being present with her on Mother's Day. Mother's Day doesn't sting quite like it has in the past, in part because it wasn't Mother's Day here in France yesterday so we weren't smothered with reminders and the deification of motherhood that happens in the US. In part too because the wounds of my infertility and the loss of my mother 4 years ago are healing. In fact, I'd say this season of life that we are in right now is probably the easiest season to be without kids. Our financial life is not pressed, our worries are not great, and we don't need help from others to care for us just yet. In some ways, it's the sweet spot of not having kids. No college to pay for, no one else's future to worry about, no expenses beyond our own. Yes, that part is pretty sweet. Life is plentiful for us and the future is simple. This part of not being a parent is lovely.
But for those of you who will say that you want our life consider this. Our life comes without birthdays to celebrate, without graduations to feel proud at, without grandkids down the road. So in some ways I want your life too. Not all the time mind you, just some of the time! At one point I told a mother of 4 that we traded kids for great vacations! She replied, "Would you judge me if at times I wanted the same?!" No judgement ever, for anyone. Because here's the deal.
The life that you've been given, that you often don't choose. And you have to work at not envying another's road because there are always hidden potholes that the glitz and glamour of Facebook or Christmas photos or blogs never really show. In every life are joys that we'd never trade and hurts so deep that we can hardly articulate them. Loss is sprinkled throughout everyone's journey, be they big, like deaths or unexpected realities like a child born severely disabled, or never conceived, or miscarried. Or they could be smallish, like money trouble, and siblings who fight all the time, or in-laws who meddle, or mothers who live in the past and never really let you grow up into the adult you are. Or they could be the loss of dreams when you realize that certain realities will just never come about because of circumstances that just won't yield to your hopes. We all have losses that we have to contend with. I'm content right now without kids or grandkids and yet, when I consider the honor it was to sit by my parents' bedsides as they passed from this life to the next, I worry a bit about dying alone in a trailer in the desert with no one to come and hold my hand. (To be fair, some of our friends with kids have the same concern.) But I can't live my life impaired by that concern. I can only live the life that I have been given today and for now, I'm thankful for the sweet season we are enjoying. It's not perfect. I still hurt and long for my parents to be alive to share our joy but I'm quite OK with not being a mom at this juncture. Maybe being called back into youth ministry is the special grace that God knew I needed as one headed for the "senior season". 🤣
But I guess my point is this...don't long for another's life. Long to enjoy the life you've been given. Embrace the now. Love what is joyful and seek to contend, with grace and perspective, that which is challenging. Each advantage that we have in life has likely come about because another opportunity closed. We're a bit footloose and fancy free right now because we don't have kids. And I need to remember that when I feel lonely or lost because I don't have parents or children and can begin to feel a bit like an island in this world, untethered to people who need me. And when those of you with kids, long for simplier days, or better vacations, squeeze your kids, revel in their accomplishments, take delight that when you're my age, they might give you a grandkid or two and be thankful. Be thankful for the life you've been given instead of longing for a life that was never intended to be yours.
Live your own life with joy, intention and grace. Good words for me to remember when life feels sad or hollow or lonely, which, even in the midst of my wonderful opportunities, still happens now and again.