Footprints and Sand and Friendship and Restless Emptiness

Ever have those days (or nights) when your soul just seems to be crying out for more?  You aren’t exactly sure what is going on inside, but you know there’s something deeper going on…you pray, you dig, you try to wipe away the cobwebs of your mind and inner being…but you just know you can’t sleep…tears run freely and you are sad but you aren’t…you are happy but you aren’t…your soul is …searching.

Allen and I had the wonderful privilege of a few days off in Myrtle Beach this past weekend through Tuesday.  I think this may have started it.  I had the “week from hell” at work just before we went.  Things are extremely busy.  No one is happy in their job.  Everyone is finding fault and blaming and there are many smiles and surface conversations…but no true friendship…no meeting of the souls.

We met friends there.  In Myrtle Beach.  They are from Vermont.  We were from Vermont.  We used to call each other up, go to dinner, tour cheese factories, go sailing, go boondocking, share moments.  This past weekend was a re-entering into that friendship that seemed to be put on hold when we left Vermont for North Carolina to find work and be near children.  As we walked down the beach …step, slide, step, slide…our footprints left dents soon filled in by water and sand…we passed there, but only moments later you could not tell it.  In many ways I feel that way about life.  I am so grateful that I am on this side of the inner turmoil of even a year or two ago…but there are still many questions.  Life is so friend-less now.  We have people here who love us and enjoy time with us…but we have no one who seeks to be with us like Brett and Amy did.  In many of our new homes I would pray for friendship….should you have to do that?  Shouldn’t people want to be your friend?  Life is lonely on this side …

At work I watch as other ladies go to lunch together…or go shopping or antiquing…I’ve always been on this side of it…watching.  I always thought it was me.  There must be something wrong with me.  I’ve been to counseling this year…I’m learning that it’s not me.  I am a good person.  I love people.  I am pleasant and good company.  But I think sometimes people don’t know what to do with me.  I don’t crab a lot (just to Allen…poor man) so when they crab to me I am silent.  Not because I don’t expect them to crab…but because rarely does crabbing help and I often don’t know what to say.  I’m not a good empathizer, I think.  I need to say, “I’m sorry you are having a rough day.  I understand.  I’m here for you.”  But I don’t.  So maybe my silence is misconstrued as judgment…maybe I come off as too good to be true.

My friend crabbed to me this weekend and ended with “Okay, I’m done venting.”  I did tell her it was okay to vent to me.  Sometimes we just need to vent.  Often I don’t feel I have anyone to vent to…except Allen…again poor man.  I wonder sometimes if he thinks I don’t like any of life.  I do.  I loved loved loved this weekend.  I should have been rich.  We talked about that.  What happened?  (smile)  I love being busy at work when no one else is around.  I love doing a good job in my work even though I could care less if another cleanroom wiper were manufactured or sold when all is said and done for the day.

I love my garden.  I love my roses and flowers.  I love my children and grandchildren.  I love love my church at The Summit.  I love counseling.  I love Jesus…my Savior, my God, my best friend Who loves me in spite of me and because of Who He is.

So see, soul….we have a lot to be thankful for.  Don’t be in turmoil.  Even if your footprints on this earth never amount to much…Jesus’ footprints did and have meant everything in your life.  Friends like Brett and Amy have meant the world to you.  Your children and grandchildren continue to speak to you even though you desire for more of them.  You have had some wonderful times with each of them…they have given in to your growth and abundance over the years…the tender times…the hoopla times of rowdy abandon…the quiet times…the dancing in the kitchen times.  Even if you never have another time like those…you have had a lifetime of memories with each one to fill you in the dark recesses of you and get you through those nights of no sleep and restlessness.

Yes, that’s it…it is a restlessness of my soul tonight.  There must be more.  There must be friendships out there like we had this weekend…somewhere….someone to speak life into us…someone to speak life into.

Be still my soul and trust in God.The Lord is on our side.  He will prevail.  He will not let you be consumed with this life…but will fill you and give you purpose and strengthen and give you peace.

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Meaningless

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The wisest man in the world (other than Jesus) once said, “Meaningless.  Meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.”  I think I know which time of life he was in.  If anyone had told me when I was 20 something or 30 something or even 40 something that in my 50’s I would be trying to wrap my head around so many things…I would have laughed.  I knew at the time that I didn’t know everything; but I certainly felt I at least was going in a direction…the right direction.  I’m not really sure of that anymore.  The only way I can describe this period in my life is like another adolescence.  I remember feeling pretty lost then…I lost my dad at 16 and to lose one’s security and stability at that age really sets your world in a tailspin.  

A year and half ago I moved for the 23rd time since I was married, but this time it wasn’t for ministry or finances…more to find a job and be closer to two of my six children.  I have to say that this Ecclesiastes experience started before our move to NC…so it’s not the move’s fault…just a puzzle piece in the mix of emotions.  

In our last church I had more “close friends” than I thought I had had at any other time in my life. Now I sit wondering if everything is meaningless and to be honest am coming to the conclusion that it is. I had two REALLY close friends in VT….kind of my James and John…maybe I was Peter. I don’t hear from either one anymore.  I guess if I were to write first again I might hear from John…but James gave up on me before I even left.  I had others…my Thomas who begged me not to go and said things like, “Do you really have to go?”  There was no job…no ministry to speak of anymore…so yes, we had to come here.  I’ve never heard from her again…I’ve texted, sent messages and nothing.  Another lady is sick…I keep giving her that out..but again I’ve texted and wrote…but nothing in return.  A pastor’s wife who wrote for many months..we used to meet to pray as fellow servants and wanderers…is now gone, too.  

My daughter tells me, “Why don’t you do things with your friends?”  How do you say, “I have no friends, sweetie.??  You are the only one who ever wants to do something with me from time to time and when you do I drop everything to come to you.’  You don’t.  Because your children really can’t handle their mom being so needy.  They can’t handle being needed so much…it is a terrible burden.  

So I go on …trying to wrap my head and my heart around this life.  I pray, “Is this all there is and ever will be for the rest of our lives, Lord?”  There is silence.  I can hear Him weeping with me…He has the answers and knows the pain of having no friends when it comes down to the wire…hanging on a cross.  This is my cross.  It makes me yearn for Heaven.  If we are so quickly forgotten anyway then why do what we do?  Why pour yourself into someone who is going to so quickly not care if you are even on this earth?  Because I’m not God or even a god to decide when I leave.  I stick around for the hope that someday there may be someone who decides they would like to have me for a friend.  Maybe someone will ask me to meet them for a cup of coffee or to come when they need a friend.  I think I’ve always waited on the side of life for the next need to fill.  I thrive in being needed…but I wish I was wanted….maybe that’s at the source or root of all this meaninglessness.  I’m here to meet other’s needs…not their desire to have a friend and be close.  

I miss my friends.  I know some of them probably think of me from time to time…I did have a lady message me the other day that she misses my wisdom and encouragement…I had to laugh at the wisdom part…but I know she meant how I would always point her back to Jesus and to His Word…she misses His wisdom.  I’m thankful.  I did have one of my youth group girls from 30 years ago (she’s now a grandma!) thank me for all I did to encourage her all those years ago.  It reminds me of how ten lepers were healed and one returned to thank Jesus.  

We went to the Billy Graham Museum a couple of weeks ago.  As we were talking with the host at the desk he asked what we did.  My husband told him we had been in ministry for many years and he now was an AFLAC salesman.  The man said something simple like “Thank you for your service to the Lord.”  It brought instantaneous tears to my eyes.  And I was a basketcase in my soul.  How could this one man who didn’t know us give us more honor in one moment than the hundreds who we’ve poured our lives into?  

I have a daughter who’s been trying to tell me that ministry is where we are and that “full time” ministry isn’t any better or more glorious or more holy than sweeping floors or being a customer service representative for a cleanroom wiper company.  In my head I can agree to that to a certain extent…but my heart cries for ministry…it cries for meaning, it cries for relationship, it cries for community.

Ever since I was young I was drawn to full time Christian work.  I never doubted it.  I don’t doubt it now…but I sit wondering if we will ever be there again.  Allen is tired.  He’s broken and doesn’t have the desire I have.  Or doesn’t seem to.  He hates his job a good deal of the time…but not enough to send our resume’s or go back into ministry or leave our children we hardly see even though we are five minutes away from them.  I don’t see the point.  From this side the tapestry is pretty messy…it’s full of very dark colors…it is hanging with threads that haven’t been tied back and made neat…there is no picture…it is all meaningless.