It’s been on my mind lately, this notion of The Promise Land. No matter how ugly your marriage or drug addiction, your future can be washed clean. You, too, can be happy. You, too, can be beautiful. You, too, can live inside of a Pottery Barn catalog. It’s all waiting, right around that street, around the bend, someday shining in the land of promise.
If you believe this, you obviously haven’t seen the prices of Pottery Barn couches.
When I went through a divorce, it wasn’t just a difficult time in a charmed life. It was a family that had forged together after years of comradery, years of fighting cancer and birthing babies and in some ways growing up together. And when it ended, it was as if lightening ripped through my home and lit everything on fire. It was so unexpected and painful. My gut ached from a deep inner place. This, my friends, was not at all what I expected. Where was the storybook ending I longed for? Where was the milk and honey that flowed from a life lived with purpose?
And yet I survived. I picked myself up and made lots of pumpkin bread and managed to get a job, get dates, get a paycheck, get over it. I was beaten, but not broken. But things were never the same. There was an ex and a schedule and a loss. There were times away from my children and alienation from a family. There were good memories I didn’t know what to do with and bad ones I didn’t know how to forget. And my dream of an intact nuclear unit was forever shattered. That’s a loss I had to truly grieve. Maybe I was lactose intolerant. Maybe honey had too many points on Weight Watchers. Maybe this was just my new normal.
But what happened was the most unexpected. Instead of trying to replace what was lost, I was given a new path to follow. So with one working eye and cavity-laden teeth and a body soft from bearing children and breastfeeding, I started walking. I formed my own law firm, and took control of my finances, and I started my second book. I began to see myself as strong and desirable instead of someone cast aside. I bought locally-sourced organic honey from bees who ate wild clover. I am a grown woman and I can handle myself, thank-you-very-much.
But there was God, still. He just told me to keep walking. And while I’m in no way comparing myself to the Biblical figure of Abraham, the themes are evident. God instructed Abraham in the Bible to leave the land and family he knew and travel to a land he would reveal. So Abraham did as instructed, and traveled to the faraway land near Canaan. But lo-and-behold there was a famine in this very land God told him to go. Did Abraham doubt? Was he like “I ain’t staying in this craphole full of pestulent flies?”
Yeah. Kinda. He headed to Egypt, and lied about his wife Sarah, and ended up having sex with his maid. That didn’t sound very biblical. He made a lot of mistakes on his journey. But he did end up in the Promise Land. Because the funny thing about God’s covenants is that it’s not dependent on us to be good, or always do the right thing, or smile in the perfect dress. Thank heavens because this past weekend I ate an entire bowl of greasy popcorn and three glasses of wine and used up all my weight watchers points for the week in one stint. We are not perfect people.
And yet God remains clearly unaffected by my popcorn eating or food shame.
The day I met Mark, something shifted in life’s balance. It was a flicker, like the television station needed adjusting, and life changed in an instant. This man was nothing like I expected. He was from Pennsylvania. He went to boarding school. He didn’t own a pair of boots or a truck and didn’t know any Meryl Haggard songs. But I was so intrigued and fascinated by him, and very soon I felt I was dying of thirst and only he could quench it. I thought of him, adored him, argued with him, wrote to him, debated with him, shared my heart with him. And year upon year he soaked into the very fabric of me until I was completely saturated in love. This was an unexpected blessing. One I didn’t plan for or predict. And so I prayed very hard about this union, this pathway, this new direction. And it was revealed to me in a unique way that while I did not understand the specific end, the direction was clear.
Keep walking. This guy will be joining you.
We now are now facing a blended family. Sometimes I clash with this new world of teenagers and devices. Nobody wakes up and thinks “Oh yay! Let’s throw two families together with completely different backgrounds and traditions and see how that works out!” This new stepfamily has its own language and a soul that I was not previously acquainted with. And sometimes I wonder why this particular life was set before me when I expected a different, more quiet, certainly more predictable one. And yet the desires of our hearts are met in ways we don’t always expect. And we live inside the life we’ve been given, the journey set before us, the job we’ve been given. Sometimes it just feels like I’m outstretching my arms and all I see around me are wild animals I cannot catch.
And yet I love. I cook. I will continue to endure what is set before me, because I do not live for my current circumstances. I am walking toward a higher calling, and following a voice that is more deeply entrenched. I look up, and realize. God’s grace is sufficient, and in my weakness I must rely on a strength greater than myself.
I have to continue to work at this new journey, to lean into my weaknesses instead of pretend they are not there. I’ll be honest: it’s hard. It’s also at times brilliant and awe-inspiring and beautiful. I don’t know how it will all work when we are under one roof, when I’m the step mother to some and mother to others. I cannot control this. And it terrifies me. I have to learn to let go, pray for wisdom, and sometimes accept that which I cannot change.
Most of the time I am not good at this. I get edgy and preachy and think I have all the answers. I want to roll up my sleeves and handle things. WHY CAN’T I JUST HANDLE ALL THE THINGS? And yet to love well is to surrender, not to control. To be a servant, not a master. I have to learn patience, which I hate, and be open minded to other opinions, which is like asking me to burn my own toast. I just realized today that I might not have complete control over my elegant, non-colored, burlap-laced, minimalist Christmas decor. The kids will revolt and will want to put up tacky things. I wanted to cry. Because the birth of a Savior really is all about a good stylish mantle. SHUT UP IT IS.
I believe this is why I’m in this place. To allow God to take over, to guide my heart, steady my hand. I will keep walking, slow and steady, toward the path set out for me. I will continue to cook too many side dishes, try and hug wild animals, and sing loudly. I will endure eye rolling and screaming and many nights of being told by various family members that I ruined their life. And I will hold hands with the one I love, the man I will covenant with God to be married to, and we will take this journey together.
God help me, since I alone am not able.
“Fear not,” the Lord said to Abraham when he doubted. “I am your shield.” And I see it now, as I walk toward this land of milk and honey, flowing with spiritual gifts, fruits that will only build a greater heart in me and for my children, and a union stronger as a result.
This land is indeed promised. And I’m heading straight for it, one small step at a time. Which means exercise points (whoop!), which translates to popcorn. Which is better than milk. So yeah. WINNING.