Friday, March 16, 2012

What is your testimony?

Earlier this week, I got a raise. We (my friend who is also my boss and I) got a new client. Great work and a lot of it. Although, our family mostly lives within our means, the additional income was going to afford us many opportunities. To pay off debt. To come close to our EFC--for those of you who haven't sent a child to college, that is the ridiculously exhorbitant amount of money the government figures you have stashed under your mattress to contribute to your child's college expenses. But with this additional income, oh the things we would be able to do.

But, I considered this raise a gift from God, so before I started spending it in my mind, I started praying. God was giving us this additional income, so He must have a plan for it. Whatever He put on my heart, that is what I would do with it. Well, after cutting down that tree, and paying off some bills, and a few other things that were top of mind.

Unfortunately, before I got an answer from God or cut down a tree or even got a check, the client chose a different direction, and the raise vanished. I don't consider myself a particularly materialistic or superficial person, but I'm not gonna lie: I was devastated. I cried. And cried. And questioned and reasoned and grieved this money I never had. I prayed that God would take away the disappointment and anger I felt, and I listened to my husband as he reassured me that we were fine without the money, and we would continue to be fine. Grieving money. Crazy, right?

An hour after receiving this news, in that frame of mind, I trotted off to my growth group, anxious to be around people from my church. Positive, encouraging, good Christian people. I wanted to soak up their faith as I sulked in my own disappointment. As it turned out, most were missing, but I was grateful for the small group environment. It was calming, reassuring, and nourishing. Until one member asked me, "What is your testimony, Mary?" I don't know. I wasn't sure how to answer. I have listened to many people talk about the day, the hour, the moment they were saved. I have heard amazing stories of Jesus' entering people's hearts and completely transforming them. I don't have a testimony.

Does that make me not a Christian? I don't really know. I've prayed many prayers. I've read lots of books. I've given my heart and my life to Jesus, and I continue to do so on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis. But I don't have a testimony. I don't have a date or a time. I have never really bought that you could just pray a prayer and ensure yourself eternal life anymore than I bought that you could go to confession on Sunday, treat people poorly the other six days, and spend eternity basking in God's splendor. I don't judge people who believe that; I just cannot wrap my brain around it. I believe that you have to try hard to follow Jesus as well as accepting the gift He gave us. That's what I like so much about our church; I feel people there are really trying to follow Jesus. I feel like a better person after spending time with them. And I want to be a better person to spend time with them.

Plus one of the pastors, my brother in law, is my role model as a Christian. He is one of the best people I know. Literally. Kind, caring, generous, loving, fun, non-judgemental. He knows more about the Bible than anyone I know, but he doesn't Bible-thump people. He's a goof ball and a cut-up, but a good person in every way. So, I have to ask him about this whole testimony thing. I'm feeling really inadequate about not having one. And I'm feeling pretty bad about the fact that money knocked me off my feet the way it did.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dream a Little Dream

It has been a year, more than a year now, since my dad died. The week before the anniversary of his death, I started praying for a dream. To see him, to talk to him, to hug him. A friend of mine posted on facebook that she had dreamt about her dad, who recently passed. I was simutaneously thrilled for her and envious. I wanted a dream.

After each of my brothers and my dear friend died, within a short time, I dreamed about them. The dreams were so real and so clear. They were comforting visits. They answered questions. They told me they were okay and at peace. They hugged me. So of course, I wanted a dream about my dad. I wanted to hug him again. To sit on his lap and tell him about life in the year since he left. He knows, I'm sure. But I wanted to tell him myself.

The anniversary of his death came and went with no dream. Unstoppable tears, binge-eating, curling into the fetal position and shutting out the world, but no dreams. Yesterday, we watched the movie Hugo. Well, Brad and Peyton watched the movie, and Lily and I fell asleep. If you haven't watched the movie, you really should. It's breathtakingly beautiful, both aesthetically and thematically. The whole movie looks like an Instagram photo.

Anyway, today, I finished watching it--Lily fell asleep again--and I realized something. While I was waiting for a dream, I have dismissed many other signs from my dad. Right after he died, whenever we found a coin, I would tell the kids that they were from Papa. I, however, shrugged it off. Whenever we saw a rainbow, I would tell Lily that Papa sent it to us. Again, I shrugged it off. Once at Christmas time, I missed him so much, that I drove down the road sobbing and begging for him to send me some kind of sign that everything would be okay. I turned on the radio to hear Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Canon--my absolute favorite Christmas song. At the time, I felt relieved and comforted, but that was short-lived. It wasn't a dream. The tomatoes lasted me for a good while, but summer ended, and they died too.

Today, on my way to church, I drove past the largest hawk I have ever seen. That is significant because all my life, my dad told me that when he saw a hawk, he believed it was his own dad saying hello from beyond. I never met his dad, so I didn't have much emotional attachment to hawks, only that I always noticed them, and pointed them out to my dad. Today, when I drove past that hawk, I almost scoffed thinking, "Great. Hello, Grandpa Swan. Where the hell's your son?" But I looked at him, and it seemed as if he turned his head and watched us pass. Then, on the way back, on the other side of the road, the same giant hawk stared at us as we passed.

Could it be? Could that be my dad? He admired his own father so much, it would make sense that he would take the same form, if he could. And I'm sure he knows that I would remember his telling me about the hawks. So, it wasn't a dream. It wasn't the sign I was looking for, but perhaps it was a sign. And I guess for today, that can be enough.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The sweetest boy in the world...

This morning, when I dropped Peyton off at school, he leaped out of the car with a, "See ya!" As the door shut, I sadly mused, "He must be getting too big to kiss me goodbye." Chloe, always ready to cheer me up, grumbled, "Well, yeah, he's like 20!" Chloe has issues with the whole mother/son relationship after having dated someone who had an awkwardly close relationship with his mom. Lily, actually trying to cheer me up, suggested, "Maybe he just forgot, Mama?"

He didn't forget. It's been coming for awhile. First, he stopped climbing into bed with us every night. At first, I was a little relieved, since it was getting crowded in there with Brad, me, occasionally Lily, and often P. But Lily quickly decided that bed-sharing wasn't for her, and then I missed my little nocturnal visitor, who would quietly climb in and snuggle up in the curve my body created. The curve that was just the right size for him.

Then, there were the head kisses. Each time I went to kiss him, instead of kissing me back, he would lean his head in toward me, beckoning me to kiss the top of his head. For awhile, I simply cupped his cheeks and tipped his head up to kiss his face. But then, I started to think maybe that was an invasion of his personal space. I was kissing his face because I wanted to when he really just wanted me to kiss his head. So, begrudgingly, I have started kissing the top of his head.

He has always been my little boy. He would go shopping with me, we shared an enjoyment of trashy reality shows, which we would snuggle up and watch together. Anytime I asked him to go somewhere, he always wanted to go. But lately that has transitioned to, "No thanks; I'm just gonna stay home." Lately, he has more in common with his dad. And I absolutely love that they have a great relationship. I love that they bond over sports on tv, on the field, in the back yard, and so forth. I love that he would now rather go shoot stuff in the back yard with his dad than go shopping with me. But I miss my little boy.

Chloe chastises me, "Ew. Don't be that mom." But she doesn't understand. Chloe, though loved and cherished beyond anything she could fathom, came into our life by surprise. Lily, also came by surprise. Peyton, however, was planned, dreamed about, prayed for, and hoped for. Obviously, I don't love him more than my girls. But I think while you feel the same amount of love for each of your children, they each hold special parts of your heart. From the moment I got pregnant with him, he fulfilled some need deep in me. From the moment he was born, his sweet face, his blond curls, his precious dimple...he was just, as my mom always says, "the sweetest boy in the world."

When he was a toddler, he used to rub my ear to fall asleep. He would say, "Mama, take your eawwings out." He always wanted me to sleep in his bed, once advising me, "You fit good in my bed!" Even as he's gotten bigger, he always snuggles in the chair with me in the evenings. He always wants to wait up for me, if I happen to be out past his bedtime. He always looks at me when he makes a good play in whatever sport he's playing, so that I can smile at him, give him a thumbs up, and watch his face break into that sweet dimpled smile. He's such a good boy. He's going to make some lucky girl a great husband some day.

I knew he was gonna grow up. I guess I just wasn't prepared for him to grow up today.