18 January 2014

Thank you, Debbie...

Debbie and I did not really become friends until maybe eighth grade or so. While she was always part of my greater circle of friends (really, all the missionary kid girls my age, since our class was so small), I didn't get to know her at all until then. She lived thirty minutes out of town in the opposite direction from my home, so doing anything outside of school time was never easy. But eventually, she did come into town more often, especially once her older brother Peter was in high school activities, and I did see more of her and become friends.

My earliest impressions of Debbie--way back from the first time we met in 4th grade--were that of a quiet, compassionate, humble little girl who didn't know she was pretty but who would never have flaunted it even if she had known. She was shy, blushed easily, and hardly ever spoke (to me, anyway). I loved watching her grow as we got older--seeing her develop her talents and become aware of her strengths.

Amy, Jessica, & Debbie - 1999

While I can't say anyone I know, including Debbie, is perfect or ideal, I have to admit that I wanted to be her so many times in high school. She was pretty, smart, kind and thoughtful, had a lovely voice, and seemed to me to be the closest to God. I know that you can't really judge others' closeness to God, but if her lifestyle and words were any indication, she knew God in a way I have never known Him. I may have been smart, but she was beautiful--as much on the inside as on the outside. I so envied her. She learned to play the guitar, led worship at chapel and on Sunday mornings, taught us several beautiful songs, one of which is now one of my all-time favorites, "How Deep the Father's Love For Us."

Debbie and me - 2000

Everyone loves Debbie. I can't imagine not liking Debbie. What's not to like? But she has experienced heartbreak in her life, and I've never felt more indignant toward someone as I have toward the people who I know have hurt Debbie. And yet she is so amazingly strong and has overcome so much to just blossom and grow more beautiful.

Laura, Debbie, Linda & baby Jake (our coach's baby--not any of ours!) - May 2002

My Bible pockets have several bits and pieces of my past, but there are two notes from Debbie in there that characterize her better than I can. Both of them are from 9th grade, which was a particularly difficult year for me. The first note includes excerpts from a book titled Faith Is by Pamela Reeve. Then Debbie writes,
"I hope this will help you. It did me good. Remember God loves you. He wrote his love letter to us. He does not change, even when everything around seems messed up.
"Mrs. L--- told me this one time: It's like being in a valley, a valley with a small, old village that is falling apart. All around you are the hills, beautiful scenery. Now, sometimes it gets misty, and all you can see is the horrible things around you. You don't look to the hills. But are they gone? No. They never change. God never changes. But the things of this world, the people of this world change. So chin up, Sara. Lots of love, Debbie"
The other note begins, "I know you are feeling a little down, so I thought this might cheer you up (a poem I found." She went on to copy a love note from Jesus, which at the time brought me to tears. At the end of her note, she writes, "P.S. Read Zephaniah 3:17." This was my first introduction to this verse, and the words in Zephaniah have never left me.

Laura, Linda, Debbie, and me  - 2005

Maybe you can see why I still keep these notes in my Bible, almost 20 years later.

And also why I treasure Debbie. I haven't seen her in several years, and I don't know when I might see her again, since she lives on a different continent, but I think of her often and am especially mindful of the joy she has brought me (and so many others) on her birthday.

Thank you, Debbie, for helping to carry me through some rough times, for your encouragement and kindness, for your love, and for showing me that God's love encompassed me in every situation. You have brought much light into my life--and much music. I thank God for you, and wish you a wonderful birthday.

Debbie and her beautiful family - 2013

16 January 2014

4 months

I have been a single mom for four months today.

No, that’s not exactly true. I have been a single mom–for all practical purposes—for a couple years.

But it was four months ago today that I got a phone call from the kids’ dad saying that he had moved out.

Four months.

I can hardly believe it’s been that long. Days just seem to go by, and life has just had to continue, regardless. People have told me I need to take time to grieve.

Like, when?

Seriously, I know it’s important in the healing process, but when do I possibly have time to sit down and process this alone? Ha. Very funny. It’s no wonder people have a hard time doing the grieving process. It takes intense time and alone-ness, which most people can’t afford or just don’t have.  I have a full-time job and two kids to care for. I already have guilt complexes about my eating habits, lack of exercise, and the state of my house. So now I need to guilt myself that I’m not finding time to grieve.

Wait, what? Really?

So anyway, four months.

Yes, four months down. If I live to be 80, that’s only 579 months to go.

Lord, have mercy.

07 January 2014

Solitary confinement

I think I have mentioned before that perhaps my greatest fear is of being alone.

Not alone as in not having anyone around at all.

Alone as in not having any deep relationships with people in close proximity.
Alone as in you’re at a party but aren’t talking to anyone.
Alone as in you go to the same church every week but never carry on a conversation with anyone.
Alone as in there’s no one around who can answer a simple ten-question survey about you and get more than a couple right answers.
Alone as in you don’t talk to anyone about anything meaningful. Ever.

That kind of alone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an introvert. I need alone time. But as most introverts, I also need deep relationships. Not many. Just one is usually enough. But deep is non-negotiable. Without that one close friend, you could drop me into a throng of 10,000, and I would still feel lonely; or equally invite me to a small party with five people, and I would still feel lonely.

It’s just the way I am, have always been.

Much of my adult life, I have been alone.  There are pockets in my past of good friendships that I still treasure. Some friendships I thought were deep but ended up disintegrating when friends found better candidates than I am. Though there have been times when those close friends have been male, usually I’ve had at one close female friend. But when I was married, although I craved women friends, at least I did have someone to talk to, someone with whom to discuss real life with, someone with whom to delve into theology or history.

Now my greatest fear is being realized. I have been the only adult in my home for almost four months, and there is no end in sight. My contact with other grown-ups is strictly limited to work and church. No one-on-one real conversations. No deep relationships. People I love and care about, and admittedly people I know genuinely care about my kids and me, yes, but deep? No. I know that takes time and effort, neither of which I have put in. And it’s really tricky with kids… and working full-time. For heaven’s sake, I’m not blaming anyone—myself or others.

But the fact remains that the loneliness closes in on me many days, many nights. And I realize I may be alone the rest of my life. I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never had my own apartment or even dorm room. I have always lived with other people, peers.

Until now.

And while I am pressing on, doing the things that need to be done, raising beautiful and kind children (by no virtue of my own!), attending church functions, going to work, and generally managing my life, I am growing just a little colder inside every day, a little darker.