Monday, October 3, 2016

My Sad & Lonely Life (a.k.a Holy Ground)

 I have lost count of the number of times I was on an airplane this summer.  It was a lot, but I didn't really mind. A change of scenery is always refreshing. New places, new faces - I love it. The airport is one of the best places for people watching, too, and I even kind of enjoy/dread seeing who will be seated next to me on the flight. I've had some memorable seat-mates to be sure, the most recent of which was the older lady in the aisle seat on a flight from Dallas to Austin.
I considered stealing those eyelashes for the upcoming wedding.
"Are you from Austin? I'm a pet sitter there." she asked/told me immediately upon buckling in. No "Hello," just a firm question and statement.

(I never know quite how to answer this question.  Where exactly am I from? The window seat girl was off the hook by saying she lived in Marble Falls and quickly putting in her ear buds.)

"No ma'am, I don't live in Austin."

"Well, do you have pets?" she asked. Again, focused and firm. No niceties.
Hanging out in the waiting room while Daddy gets his staples out.
 "No, I don't have any pets." I said, feeling bad for not mentioning Kayla's Betta fish, Buckaroo.

"Oh! What a sad and lonely life you must be living!" she exclaimed in all earnestness.

A bit shocked by her sweeping conclusion regarding my life, I couldn't speak for a moment, but then my summer flashed before my eyes. Things just passed, and things still to come whirled through my mind, and all I could say was...

"Definitely not lonely."

"Well, you just don't know what you're missing," was her sharp reply before promptly securing her eye mask and falling asleep before we were even in the air. And though it is a very short flight from Dallas to Austin, she never said another word to me.
It rattled me a bit. 

I noticed that she had been reading some sort of a Christian novel, and even had a bookmark with "Jesus" written on it. A Christian? No wonder we often get a bad rap. She cares more about her business and a pet-less life than the living, breathing soul sitting next to her? Why not ask the occasion for visiting Austin? Or if I had any human family? Or why I had found myself in Dallas? Her eye mask sent the message that she wasn't interested in further conversation, or I may have gotten past my shock and frustration to inquire about her pet-sitting career.

But any anger or frustration quickly turned to pity.
My sister and niece preparing to host a bridal brunch and tea party.
And the phrase that had been on repeat in my brain for the last couple of weeks started again: Holy Ground. 

No, I don't have any pets, but I have a lot of humans. Like, A LOT. And no, they are not really mine, but we belong to each other in community in a way. Many of those humans had recently allowed me to be an intimate part of their lives, and to me it felt not sad and lonely, but like I was on holy ground.

Not the literal burning bush, take off your shoes, God is speaking audibly kind of holy ground, but a privileged position from which He allowed me to participate in some of the things He is up to in the lives of human beings. Things involving great fear, deep pain, and long term suffering, and also times of gladness and celebration.  Places of strife, raw emotions, of surrender and weariness, and also places of great faith and much joy.

Holy, sacred ground. That's the way I was seeing it.
The bride gave us all Kendra Scott necklaces ~ floral robes, too!
A last-minute, nine-day trip to Tulsa allowed me to care for two little boys (one adopted and one about to be), their dad who had recently spent about 35 days in the hospital due to complications from Crohn's Disease sporting a scar down the middle of his belly, which has now been opened up about seven times, and their mom who is working full time and trying to maintain hope and strength in the midst of it all.

I got to change diapers, read books, play outside, buckle carseat straps, do the naptime routine, drive to doctor visits, and cook a couple of things. I got to see and feel the tensions of marriage and parenting in the midst of great trial. I got to have fun conversations and hard ones. I had to be bold and walk on egg shells. I got to have deep fellowship with two friends who are steadfast believers and watch them walk a path of long term stress and suffering with great faith.

It was holy ground.
Mr. and Mrs.!
Being in Tulsa also allowed for a girls' night out with a couple of other dear friends and a stop-by-the-house visit from another. These nights were not filled with laughing and chick flicks and junk food, but were laden with each woman's battle scars and filled with stories of fear and grief. One whose own parents are already (and too early) gone, now facing the brain tumor of her father-in-law. One working, homeschooling, and raising 3 biological children and one adopted - all of whom require unique care in a family who advocates daily for the orphan and widow. And another who lost her dad suddenly and unexpectedly in January, who now has to care for her mother in many ways, who works full time, raises two boys and now faces the recurring stage three melanoma of her own husband who is not even 40 years old. (Major surgery this week. Please pray.)

There were updates, and tears, and shared pain, but even still, hearts full of faith.

My own faith grew from their example. Our 4 hour dinner at IHOP was holy ground for me.

My siblings minus the bride.
(I'm not even telling you about my day trip to Stillwater where I saw two other dear friends and spent the day laughing and crying and catching up. Mexico Joe's and a back porch with an iced tea and a warm fall breeze. Holy ground, both.)
The California brother and family! (Coop's surrogate parents from last year!)
 Got to hang with the little guys at the pool and give Mom, Dad
and soon to be little sister a break!
The reason I was flying from Dallas to Austin (really Tulsa to Dallas to Austin) was because I needed to meet up with the rest of my family for my littlest sister's wedding. Robert performed the ceremony, my other sister and I were bridesmaids, my brother was a groomsman, and my boys were ushers. There were rehearsals, and bridal brunches. There was immediate and extended family. There was drama. There were prayers and fights and teary poolside conversations. There was laughter and reminiscing. There was a beautiful bride starting a brand new life.

It was privileged and holy ground.
After party - Comfy clothes and french fries!
We returned to a church overflowing with students back in town for a new semester.  This is always holy ground. People seeking, people growing, people hurting, people worshipping. I've met with at least six different women since being home. They've entrusted me with their passion for Christ and desire to serve Him on their campuses. They've shared their darkest, most sinful and rebellious moments. They've cried tears of deep shame and regret. They've reached out for help and hope. They've told me their life stories, their salvation stories. I feel privileged each time.
Second Service the Sunday we returned.
If I ever write a book on life as a pastor's wife, a friend, a mom, it might be called Front Row Seat: The View From Up Close or something like that. A long time ago I took my kids to see the theater production of The Music Man at UMass. We were only three rows back from the stage. We could see the tiny microphones and the sweat running down the actors' faces as they sang and danced. My kids were mesmerized.

That's kind of how I feel. I'm mesmerized by the people in my life who take up their crosses and follow Him moment by moment. I'm in awe of the ones who continually deny themselves the option of anger and bitterness and selfishness and embrace His call, no matter how painful it is. I'm struck by the sweat of their service.
First we did brunch after the first service, and then we did a taco bar for lunch after the second.
Long shopping list and a half day trip to Costco. Also, cracking about 200 eggs!
It's like the Lord always buys me the best tickets to the show. The ones where you can see for sure that those folks are really human. The ones where you see all the tiny flaws and tools for presentation and have your own heart strengthened by their performance.

So, I guess my life is sometimes sad as I watch loved ones walk through trial and loss. But it's definitely not lonely. It's filled with privilege and perspective and people truly in Christ.

Maybe my pet-sitting seat-mate doesn't realize what she's missing.

I, for one, am thankful for a summer of walking on holy (and human) ground.

5 comments:

kkrum said...

This is one of my favorites.

Lindsey Roberts said...

Thank you for this, Melanie. I completely agree. I'm only 7 years into this pastor's wife thing, and then only really 4? or 5? but I have said for years that being so close to the heart of the church makes for the greatest heartbreak and greatest joys. I wept bitter, bitter tears for a women my age, 5 months married and 5 months pregnant, who died in a car accident (baby died, too.) But then I rejoiced when her husband married again, and married one of my best friend's sisters. Now they have two children. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and he gives those in leadership front row seats. Holy ground, indeed!

Betsy said...

Beautiful! Truly your blog is always what I need when I need to read it.

Melanie said...

Thank you, Kory, Lindsey, and Betsy! I appreciate your encouragement so much.

Lindsey, you are so right - being close to the heart of the church means being close to the highest joys and worst tragedies. I'm so sorry about your friend, but so amazed to hear the redemption that occurred. Wow. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

You just made me cry, again.
Beautiful, simply beautiful
Izckra