Monday, November 15, 2010

If You Want to Know Why I Got Divorced....

"So what does your husband do?"

It is a question I should be used to. Along with all its varieties. Since I wear a wedding ring and have three kids that are usually with me, it's a reasonable query I can't fault anyone for asking.

But I haven't gotten used to it.

Or to the inevitable reactions. They are subtle. The questions in the eyes that most are too polite to ask. The slight shift in the way people relate to me. In some cases, a certain wariness.

It wouldn't happen as much if I was out in the general American population, but my circles of contacts consists pretty much of conservative Christians, usually intact families, in either a church or a homeschooling or a missionary setting. And that's by choice, because, in spite of my single/divorced demographic, that's still where I fit in the best.

But because that's where I am, the unspoken questions tend to pile up. People find out I am a missionary to Africa. And they find out I USED to be a missionary with my husband in Nepal and India. They hear me say my daughter went to India with her dad. They find out I homeschool, and the kids do part of their school work on their days with their dad. They find out he is still in mission work.

Nothing quite matches up.

Some people do assume the best. The wise ones. The ones that know life can get weird, even for Christians. And I sense that too, when it happens, and appreciate it.

Then there are the ones who are the way I used to be. Me at 16, 19, 20, 25, that had all the answers and was fairly narrow in my views. The me that knew if I just followed all the rules of moral Christian living that things would turn out right for me. And if someone's life didn't turn out right- specifically, if someone got a divorce, well, they had obviously messed up somewhere and not followed the rules. All divorced people were at fault somehow in my mind. And not fully trustworthy as a result. They must not have "been good" or they wouldn't have gotten a divorce, and so they probably still weren't "good" and should be avoided. Or at least, silently judged in my mind.

And now, I'm on the other end of that, and I see people looking at me with the same eyes that I used to have.

Doubt not that sowing and reaping are real.

I'm fortunate enough to have an awesome and impressive collection of life-friends who know me for who I am, and not by my demographic. It's when I meet new people, who don't have any history with me that I struggle. Or when I have to get up and give a talk about what I am currently doing in Liberia. Recently I was in the middle of a such a talk in front of a group of new people before I suddenly and awkwardly realized I really didn't know how to segue from "I was a midwife for four years, then I stopped practicing when I got married, had three kids, lived in Hong Kong and did full time missions in Nepal" to "Now that my kids are older I'm getting back into midwifery, and oh, yeah, did I mention I got divorced? and never mind that, I'm going off to Liberia to help build a clinic."

I mean, there were kids in the room. Not to mention MY kids. As they usually are. Which means I can't give any explanation other than, "Unfortunately, after almost 13 years of marriage I became a single mom." On the day of this particular talk, I felt so awkward and unprepared I even skipped that, which led to more awkward stuff later when we were sitting around talking.

I try to put a good face on it. And accept others' reservations when they show them, because I understand so well where they are coming from.

But sometimes I get tired of carrying this particular cross.

Would you like to make it easier for me?

Let me tell you how.

If you are one of those newer people in my life, (or even if you have been around a while) take the time to get to know me as a person. If you want to, ask me those awkward questions. As long as I don't feel any hostility, I really don't mind. And as long as my kids aren't around, I am happy to answer any questions you have about how I got where I am today. And then when I tell you, consider having me for a friend anyway.

I'm a pretty decent person under the big red D on my life. The best thing about me is, now that I have no righteousness of my own left (it was filthy rags anyway, not sure why I was so proud of it), being a recipient of God's grace, I know how to extend that grace to others, regardless of their circumstances and struggles.

It may not be divorce in your case, but there are other situations that are equally painful, not to mention the every day issues that everyone on the planet has, if they are honest. Whatever it is, I now make a point of sowing grace into it, instead of judgment. It's way more fun, not to mention Biblical.

So if you need some grace, look me up.

I'm sowing as much of it as I can.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Clean and Dead

Yesterday I got the carpets cleaned in my apartment.

The prelude to this was having to get everything off the floor. Books, papers, toys, small furniture, stuff found lurking under the books, papers, toys and small furniture, and more stuff under the stuff lurking....yeah.

So I get all the junk somewhat moved and put away. And I see my baseboards. Ew. Time to wash those. Then I glance up at my windows. Fingerprint city. Ugh. And randomly up at the ceiling fan where there is enough dust on the blades to plant a garden. Sigh. And the walls, now uncovered are totally in need of a paint touch up.

It's kind of like my life. Every time I think I'm making progress on a project, or getting one area of my life cleaned up and in order, or somewhat disciplined and moving forward, I look around and there's another mess. And something else to clean up. Or something else that comes to light I need to work on.

It would be easy to get discouraged. As discouraging as it can be to note that my living space never quite lives up to my desire and expectations of cleanliness and organization.

But then, the reason this apartment has stuff, fingerprints, papers, toys, books and blankets is because people LIVE here. And the reason my life is sometime a mess is because, well, because I'm alive. A corpse doesn't make messes. Or even if I sat with my hands folded 24/7 I wouldn't make as many mistakes(trust me, even sitting still I could still wreak some mayhem), but I wouldn't accomplish much of anything either. Or have much of a life.

Dirty dishes in the kitchen mean I cooked a meal. Books everywhere mean my kids studied and read. Toys mean my kids played. Jackets, shoes, and bags scattered randomly mean we went somewhere. Papers on my desk, and the coffee table, and the floor, and the counter top could indicate any number of projects were being worked on that have implications for helping people all over the world. Or they could be my daughter's Manga drawings. Or a grocery list. You never know.

I know it's better to give up my impossible vision of clean perfection and accept the messes that goes with daily trying. After all, it's a sign of life and progress that there is something going on around here to clean up after.

'Cause the alternative is.....clean and dead. ;-)

Now wouldn't that be boring.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why I let my daughter go to India

Many people were surprised when a homeschooling mom who wouldn't even think of dropping her kids off at the mall actually let her 13 year old daughter go to India for a month with her ex.

So, you want to know why I did it? This is one of the reasons.

This is my daughter with her cousin, Victor. He is thirteen years older than she is. Before this trip, they hadn't seen each other for nine years. And not a week of that nine years has gone by that Cassandra hasn't mentioned Victor with longing.

How well I remember. I, too, was once a 13 year old girl child and the oldest. I too wanted a big brother desperately at that age. Not having one either, I also fixed that longing on older male cousins. Mine weren't quite as far away as India, but sometimes it felt like it.

I would have given anything on the planet to have this moment with any of them.

Or this one.

This is Victor on his wedding day. Cassandra had expressed concern almost to the point of tears before the trip that Victor might be so preoccupied by getting married that she wouldn't have any quality time with him. I didn't want to see her get hurt, but I confess, I also wondered.

And this, my friends, is where I made a mistake. You see, I was thinking like an American, not like an Indian. Victor not only paid attention to Cassandra before, during and after the wedding, he asked her to ride with the two of them in the wedding car. I don't think I have to tell you, this wouldn't have happened with an American couple. It was a five hour drive. Cassandra said Nitu fell asleep on Victor, but just before she did, she pulled Cassandra over so she could fall asleep on her. And the three of them slept together in the back of the car on the long road from Calcutta on Victor and Nitu's wedding day.

And then, there were other beautiful Indian things.

The traditional reception:


The bride and groom getting a blessing from Victor and Cassandra's grandfather when they arrived at Victor's parents' house.

The impromptu dance party in the street on the wedding night. The bride came out from getting henna to join in the fun.

But for Cassandra, her time with Victor outweighed everything else. When I heard this, I was satisfied. It doesn't matter that I am not technically a part of that family any more. Cassandra is. She belongs. She has her cousin's love and shared a moment of time with him that will last forever.