Monthly Archives: December 2012
Various drafts of this blog have been rolling around in my mind since Friday afternoon when I began to hear the devastating news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How to express in words a response to such a deeply dark and painful day? Should I even attempt to do so?My first response was to shed tears of great sorrow. I wept as I heard the news and later listened to President Obama speak from his father’s heart on this matter. In my mind’s eye and as news rolled out, I saw the beloved teachers, school counselor and principal’s faces at our daughters’ elementary school. Our 3rd and 4th grade girls are past the days of running and jumping into mom’s arms at the bus stop, but I could not restrain myself from meeting them at the bottom of the bus stairs and giving them a deep, heartfelt hug. I knew that difficult conversations were in our near future about this event. In time, they each separately made the connection to this event and the lockdown drills at their own schools. How did we get here? After a period of great sadness, my emotions would then cycle around to an overwhelming anger – toward powerful gun lobbies, the unnamed gunman, media circuses, mental health care failures and the violent screens that our children are filling their minds with daily. My emotions were up and down and all around. When the sadness got too heavy, I’d focus back on the anger. Anger is a simpler, easier place to dwell for a time. As a long time assault weapon ban supporter, I was all ready to blast out a blog on this topic on Saturday morning.
But as I went about life, waited and prayed, I heard a different voice and my heart was pricked to consider a different first public response. I had a text exchange with a young and wise friend, read an amazing blog called Vigil, and my heart began to crack open a bit. In my Sunday school class, a friend said in a broken voice, “remember the names”. I held onto that and as I was going through the newspaper last night, I cut out the names of 26 victims and tucked them away in my Bible.
This morning was spent at Better Together, an amazing cross section of women who come together for a time of silence, listening and seeking God’s face. It was difficult to keep my mind on the lesson. During our brief small group sharing time, I expressed my distraction and confusion. I mentioned the list in my Bible and a desire to focus on just one name each day. As we wrapped up, one of the other beautiful women said, “can you read the names out loud?”. I did so in the midst of brokenness and tears. There is something utterly crushing about seeing the ages of 6 and 7 listed after so many of the names. I added the names of the shooter and of his mom. Much anger is directed at them, but I am certain that for a 20 year old to take those actions, there is a very evil, dark and painful backstory. There was power in speaking those names, holding out hands to God and acknowledging that this is too big for us.
In church yesterday, our minister addressed this massacre and reminded us that comfort is not demonstrated in mere words but also comes with action. For me, that time will be soon. But I think that until I was able to remember the names and release them and their families to God, all action would have been fueled primarily by anger rather than by courage and love.
Soon after September 11, 2001, our then 11 year old son drew a beautiful picture. It was a portrait of God with eyes looking down on us. There was one tear that rolled down the face of God. There are no quick and easy explanations or answers for such complex tragedies in our midst. Witnessing such suffering initially calls me to experience a wrecked heart and a quiet awe for such tremendous pain. I, like my son, imagine that God looks upon us and tears flow. Soon, for me, it will be time to add action to these words and tears.
This past week we lived three consecutive days that were the calmest and most peaceful family days that we have shared in a long time. I relished these moments and fought the temptation to waste them in anticipation of the next wave of tension. Life is certainly full of peaks and valleys of calm and stress, and what causes the tension to either slowly hike or journey with rocket speed up the mountain of challenge is not always predictable or known. There was much to be grateful for during this 72 hours, not least of all, the internal peace and gratitude I experienced.
Toward the end of this time, our girls bounded off of the school bus as they regularly do. But when they entered the car, I knew that SOMETHING had happened on that 15 minute ride. Our typically quiet, more low key daughter was in a highly charged emotional state. Though her sister is more familiar with this territory, for daughter #1 this is a rare and unusual space. She was like a volcano ready to blow; and then she did – complete with hurtful names and words, screams and tears.
At this point, I got the opportunity to practice something that I sometimes read about in books and my husband has patiently said and mentored for years. Don’t try to deal with everything in the moment when emotions are high and hot. Be patient and wait. There will be a proper time and season to re-visit all that has gone down. I remembered to breathe, quickly reminded the girls to do the same, and then let everyone go and emote in the ways that are most comfortable and safe for them. For one, that was in the driveway doing physical activities; for the other, that was prostrate on her bed; for me, it was deep breath praying “grace received, grace released” with periodic check ins with the injured parties.
After a time, daughter #1 independently and happily joined daughter #2 in tree climbing as mom tended to some inside tasks. Thankfully my internal state was still tranquil as dinner time rolled around. And here is my very favorite part of this story. As we ate, laughed and talked, I realized that now was the time to revisit the bus incident. . I said something like, “you girls both had some pretty big feelings as you came off the bus. Does anyone have anything they want to say about that?” My sweet, quiet, sometimes reticent girl turned to me with great confidence and said, “Mom, we already worked that out without you.” Not too sure, as emotional dealings and apologies don’t come easily to this child, I kind of sheepishly said, “is there anything you need to say to your sister?”. She boldly replied, “I already said I was sorry – up in the tree”. Be still my heart . This is the goal after all – that they will one day be able to navigate all kinds of situations and life itself without me. A sacred moment.
Abiding in a calm and peaceful valley for moments and seasons is both necessary and healing. It gives us the strength to move along. Yet it is during the hike up the mountain of challenge that we experience the most growth. There are many Wilson family stories that don’t go the way of this one. Gratefully this tale represents growth for all three of us and the “we figured this out without you” message is music to my ears. Lots of hard work has gone into making such a moment possible. I still don’t know the full story of that bus ride, but the good news is this. It isn’t necessary. They handled it.
The Wikipedia definition of advent begins like this: a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. My childhood tradition did not emphasize this period of time. I just remember that the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to go in slow motion and take forever – oh, how things have changed!
On Sunday mornings, my husband and I join together with fellow seekers and believers to discuss matters of faith. This past Sunday, the focus word was “anticipation”. The question asked was when had we anticipated something in life and what was that like? Tales of babies coming, holidays and special trips were shared. My mind immediately settled on this past Thanksgiving.
Two of our grown sons were journeying a far distance toward our home. The four of us living in this house were also packing up and traveling to a beautiful mountain destination. Guests were joining us. One of our daughters had recently made some major diet changes. Our Thanksgiving traditions involve a lot of food and fun. Turkey bowl football game, three mainstay casserole dishes, pies and making sure there are enough leftovers for at least a day or two are family culture. I was genuinely excited and in a state of anticipation around this time together.
I expressed on Sunday morning that anticipation during that time looked something like this. Aside from the emotional bounce, there was much advance planning and preparation. Because we all desired to enjoy down time and space to talk, play games and interact, much of the food preparation was collaborative or done well in advance. The duties of shopping, cooking, cleaning and tending to everyday needs were divided up and shared amongst all of us. No one person was responsible for all – we shared life together. All of the preparation and planning gifted a great benefit. It created space to relax, exercise and truly enjoy many moments all together. Time expanded and room was made for various combinations to experience laughter, conversation and common interests.
The carryover into advent is profound. Saying no to some of the myriad of holiday opportunities creates space and calm in a season that can be so full of busyness and hype. Taking time to be mindful and thoughtful about gifts reduces the impulse buying temptation. Simplifying in the area of decoration invites us to savor the beauty. Dividing up tasks that we deem important allows us to share the load. Less truly is more. All of this makes room for our family to focus on and anticipate the birth of a baby king. I wish you peace and joy during advent as we prepare and wait expectantly.