Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Life's Railroad

When I was younger, I believed that life cycles through good times and bad times.  Sometimes we are on the mountaintop of joy, while at other times, we are in the pit of despair--ups and downs, mountains and valleys--the predictability of life's pattern.  But recently, I have come to believe that at any given moment in our lives, we are experiencing both good and bad, both bitter and sweet, both joy and despair.  It's not an either-or pattern but rather a parallel pattern, like the tracks that trains move upon.

So I find myself walking between the rails of great joy and happiness and those of deep sorrow and despair.  Sometimes I balance on one rail, ignoring the other, but more often than not, I meander through life conscious of both rails.  This is such a time.  Earlier this year, I named the year "Provision" because I sensed that God was going to provide what I could not provide for myself--financial stability, a job, home, etc.  In an act of faith and very weak trust, I dared to believe that He could and would provide for me.  And He has.  I have a job, health insurance and am beginning to climb out of the deep financial crisis that my ex-husband's arrest and subsequent termination from employment imposed upon me.

A little over a month ago, I moved into my very own home!  I cannot express the absolute delight and thrill that I feel each time I put the key in the door and walk into my home.  I have painted, cleaned, and repaired the tub that I broke (crazy idea to put a ladder in a fiberglass tub and try to stand on the ladder, by the way).  I have thoroughly enjoyed home ownership and have tackled tasks that in my previous life I would have asked my spouse to do and I have done them successfully.  Tomorrow, two of my children, their partners and my sweet granddaughter will join me around my small table for our first Thanksgiving in my house.  I can't wait to smell the aromas of our meal and to watch my sweet Gracie walk/run through the house.  I have been provided for in ways that I could not even imagine a mere eleven months ago.

But, while I am quite happy, I also sense a well of deep despair and sorrow.  My ex-husband is facing his criminal sentencing in a few days and I find myself overwhelmed once more with the magnitude of what has happened in my family during the past two years.  A recent letter from him just underscored the depth of his denial and minimization of the crime he has pled guilty to and those that he was able to plea-bargain away.  I feel tremendous compassion for him and what he is potentially facing but also fierce anger for the pain his choices have caused for those that I care deeply about.  Anger and sorrow--two competing emotions on the rail called despair.

So during this season of gratitude, I am trying to embrace both the good and the bad and to offer
thanks for both.  For the good things I have received, it is easy to say a heartfelt and exuberant "thank you."  For the difficult things, I am learning to whisper "thank you" through my tears.  Both the good and the bad are part of this beautiful mess called life.  Both rails--the rail of joy and the rail of sorrow--provide the infrastructure for movement through life and for transformation.  Both offer an opportunity for gratitude and growth and both are absolutely essential for fully experiencing the human condition.  I wouldn't trade one tear I have cried for the lessons that sorrow has taught me.  As brutal as it has been, the growth and changes inside of me are far too valuable to wish away.  And I have actually found that the joys of life have become sweeter because of the pain that life has presented.

So rather than resent the sorrow that seems to perpetually intrude upon my joy, I am learning to expect both and to receive both--to keep my hands and my heart open to all that life is offering.  Because both realities are important teachers, if we are open to learning their lessons.  To all of life, I say "yes" and "thank you."