Fight Club

fight club

Like Fight Club, the first rule of dysfunctional families? There is no dysfunction. It’s all fine here. Nothing to see.  Move along. Ask any veteran of a family with issues and you’ll hear the familiar echo. Someone called DSS? Nothing to see here. A neighbor called the cops? We’re all fine here, officer. Again and again in the stories of survivors of abuse, chaos, and brokenness is the idea that no matter how bad it was, it was better than foster care.

In the sequel to The Broken Trail a character will consider becoming a foster parent. In all honesty, it’s something I deeply desire to do, but know is not the right time for my family at this moment. My kids are too young.  My youngest needs to be at least a middle-schooler before we open our home. I know this, but the longing remains.

Our house isn’t ready either. I’d like to take in multiple kids so we need dedicated bedrooms that currently we don’t have.  Our house is a converted barn so we have a loft that the kids all share and that’s not gonna fly with the commonwealth of Massachusetts. We’ll have to partition the space into real bedrooms or we won’t be able to be foster parents.

So we wait. I pack my hopes away and try not to look at the web sites full of children needing homes. Ideally I’d like to buy a whole new house with six bedrooms and take in a whole mess of kids, but God has not said yes to that dream. I don’t know why and I know better than to rail at Him for it. His Providence has saved our souls so many times over the years that I have learned to trust Him. I can’t tell you how many times something has gone seriously wrong and suddenly, just as we need it, a solution appears. God provides.

Since it’s God that has placed this deep desire in my heart to minister to foster children I can only assume it’s for some work he has planned. So I wait in hope.  Hope that He will use us to minister to His children.

Our youngest has been on us to adopt. He’s noticed that his big sister and brother are close in age (he thinks of them as twins) and he doesn’t have a sibling that’s close in age. He wants us to rectify this by adopting a brother or sister. He’s graciously offered half his bed. We’ve tried explaining the complexities of his request, but he’s not having it.  This morning as he was munching his granola, he again advocated for a brother “I could give him my toys. He’d like to live with us.  You should go get him.” If only we could. If only it was that easy.

God has blessed us with four babies, three living on this earth. That alone taught us that parenthood is some serious stuff. It’s life and death, really. I remember being in the delivery room when they handed me my firstborn. I stared down at him as he looked up at me and I thought “Dear God, please don’t let me blow this.” And I remember being in the doctor’s office after they couldn’t find a heartbeat during my third pregnancy and being told “We don’t know why this happens. It just does.”

Life and death. It just happens. But it doesn’t just happen. It’s God’s Providence. Even if you don’t believe in God. I like to think of the lives we live as being strands of thread in a great tapestry we never see until we reach heaven where it’s revealed in all its complicated wonder. Every struggle you’ve had, every trial you endured, every joy, every pain went into this story – this tale beyond your own understanding.

God is the author. I hope he’s written a chapter where Steve and I get to be foster parents, but even if he hasn’t I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being his actor on the stage. I long to be used for some greater purpose because it’s a privilege to be one of his actors, his characters, his chessmen on the board. Another author recently said God doesn’t use us, he partners with us and I have to admit I bristled at that. I’m not God’s equal, I am his instrument. It’s an honor to be used as I was created to be.

I now have the privilege to be an author myself. Last night I got to see the cover for The Broken Trail. I’m ridiculously excited about it. But I want to say openly that God is the author of that book. Even if it was my fingers that typed it and my life experiences that informed it, and my brain that thought it up, it was still God who authored it through his instrument who is happy to be employed by Him.

A Love Like That

The love story of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe told through the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my all-time favorites. Gilbert’s steadfast affection and then sacrificial love for Anne is a beautiful thing in both it’s simplicity and faith. Sure he has his weak moments, but overall the reader understands that he wants what’s best for Anne even if it’s not him and that’s downright swoon-worthy.

My daughter, E, was assigned Anne of Green Gables as a 7th grade homeschool project and she was not thrilled. She likes distopians, SF, and fantasy. A book based in an earlier time-period that doesn’t involve steampunk was not likely to spark her interest and it didn’t.  I was disappointed because of the similarities between my unique, imaginative, and willful daughter and Anne. I thought for sure she’d see herself in the main character, but I should have known better.  My daughter is not keen on having her flaws reflected back at her from media of any sort. Once she realized that Tinker Bell exhibited her exact same temper and tendency to over-react she quit her.  Like, that day.  She was O.V.E.R. the Disney Fairies.  Completely.

Today E came into my office to ask me for help on the paper she is writing on Anne.  She wanted me to help her with theme. It’s one of her areas of struggle. We started talking about what Anne was like, what she wanted most, and how her imagination and temper keep her from getting it. We talked about the different ways Marilla and Mathew love Anne and how that love affects both her and them. But E was adamantly against discussing Gilbert in any way other than her appreciation of Anne’s ability to hold a grudge.  My girl is not into romance.  This is a good thing since she’s 12. But I was surprised with her flair for the dramatic that she also rejects any sentimentality and Romance with the big R.

What’s Romance with the big R? That feeling of mystique, glamour, and excitement that can be found in a Gothic novel, or your Aunt Betty’s description of that high school dance she went to in ’57.  Everything’s covered in fairy dust or the filmy mist of nostalgia. It’s a kind of sentimentality that’s not sensible, but sure is fun.

Marilla warns Anne about this in what is one of my favorite quotes from the Anne of Green gables movie and it’s sequel (I only consider one and two as actual Anne movies. I saw the third. The less said about that one the better.) “You have tricked something into that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me. He picked you up everyday in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don’t toss it away Anne for some ridiculous ideal that doesn’t exist.”

And in the book, Anne of the Island, Anne’s friend Phil is even harder on her when the quote is hers “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” (Side note- I love Phil. One of the best supporting characters ever written.)

One of the dangers of reading romantic fiction is getting caught up in the idea that love is like fiction with it’s adventure, sweeping declarations, amazing highs, and deepest lows. It makes you think “I want a love like that.” But real love, the best kind, is far quieter. Whether it sneaks up on you over time or hits you over the head on your second date – it’s a slower pace, a steadier march from infatuation to commitment to the kind of steadfast beauty an old couple exudes when they look at each other and you can see that bond they have.

Love stories as roller-coaster rides make for great fiction, but they rip you apart emotionally and rarely end well.  The highs are never worth the lows. Dramatic tension in a novel is absolutely necessary. Probably best not to aim for it in love.

My own path to love early-on was one big roller-coaster. It was the Behemoth.

Behemoth
Nope

I became addicted to the drama. I tricked myself into believing that real love meant suffering because when it was good, it was so good, it fed my soul in a way nothing else ever had. But it never lasted. Every high was chased by a devastating low. One day I’d finally had enough and I stepped off the coaster. After spending some time learning a few hard truths about myself I prayed for God to take over. If He wanted me to marry, He was going to have to find the guy Himself. Well, He did. God sent me my own version of Gilbert. My husband is one of the most steadfast, loving, and patient human beings on the planet. I didn’t make it easy on him since I had some stuff I was still working through, but he showed me in everything he did, large and small, that his faithfulness wasn’t for the moment, it was for eternity.

In the amusement ride analogy the four months it took me to realize this was love was a ride on ‘Soarin. A few months later he proposed and we’ve been married 17 years as of a week from today. The roller coaster is long gone and I don’t miss it a bit.  🙂

SoarinGrandCanyon
Don’t skip this if you have a fear of heights or inner-ear issues (like me, got ’em both) that keep you off other rides. This is like hang-gliding without the plummeting to your death part and the scenery is gorgeous.

So my lovely readers I suggest aiming for a love like that, one that’s constant. All that drama looks good in a BBC mini-series or a novel, but in real life, it just gives you heartburn.