Thus It Pleases God

I leaned back against the bathroom door, the cold from the tile floor below, hot tears running down my face above, my shoulders bowed inward from deep crying.  It was just an argument, an impasse of heated words, and expectations let down.  When I couldn’t cross swords any longer without fear of inflicting deep wounds with my fiery tongue, I retreated.

Like usual a small thing had lain atop a big thing and then both had exploded together, and one could mistake the heat coming from just the small thing.  I hadn’t even gotten out of bed this morning and we were deep into a conversation about finances, the upcoming private school bills, our revenue streams, and we talked ourselves into circles, without a viable exit point, without a hopeful stratagem.  The big thing was:  How do we send our children to their school and not fall into debt?  Is it folly to try to send them at all?  But we feel a peace in our commitment to send them, but we don’t have enough money to pay the bills.  So is God telling us “no”?  Or are we to walk in faith?

We already economize, to the point that I’m accused of living in the wrong century; we garden, preserve our food, keep bees, mend our clothing, make bedding, cook from scratch, buy our clothes and shoes and sports equipment secondhand, we have no tv, no cable bill, I often line dry the wash, I buy at discount grocery stores, we butcher our own deer, make our candles and soap, and on and on.

The school bill went up this year, as school bills tend to do, and tutoring fees heaped on top of that for one of our kids who desperately needs timely help.  Our narrow margin got narrower.  We had to tell our daughter that she wouldn’t likely be able to attend with her friends past eighth grade.  There’s a mountain of grief in that for her, and we hurt for her pain.  It’s hard to see a nearly fourteen year-old girl, just absolutely thriving, surrounded by caring and kind friends, and excellent teachers who have made a good impact on her life, and imagine disrupting that, and sending her into a school where she knows nobody.

Do not say, “this happened by chance, while this came to be of itself.” In all that exists there is nothing disorderly, nothing indefinite, nothing without purpose, nothing by chance … How many hairs are on your head? God will not forget one of them. Do you see how nothing, even the smallest thing, escapes the gaze of God?
(St. Basil the Great)

How can you find out if you are living within the will of God? Here is the sign: If you are troubled about any thing, this means that you have not completely given yourself over to the will of God. A person who lives in the will of God is not concerned over anything. And if he needs anything, he gives both it and himself over to God. And if he does not receive the necessary thing, he remains calm nevertheless, as if he had it. The soul which has been given over to the will of God is afraid of nothing, not of thunder nor of thieves – nothing. But whatever happens, she says, “Thus it pleases God.” If she is sick, she thinks: this means that I need to be sick, or else God would not have given it to me. Thus peace is preserved in both soul and body.
(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VI.4)

Tears have rimmed my eyes the whole day, a whole day of aquarium vision.  There is a baby quilt to make, for this dear son who bumps and jolts about in my womb.  Fabric is another cost, it feels like a step down further into the hole.  I took the bundle of my husband’s worn-out or ill-fitting cotton dress shirts out of the yard sale pile and carefully cut out usable sections of cloth, filling a bowl with buttons for later use as I went.  One was the white shirt he wore as a smiling groom on our wedding day.  I cried as I cut it.  He looked like a prince to me; my breath caught when I saw him vowing his love to me, to me!  IMG_1413

The baby will have a quilt, not one of precisely chosen colors and patterns, put together like a textile symphony, blending in this way and that and harmonizing in this way and that.  But I will tell my son, when I wrap it around him that the quilt was born from hard times, and that each patch is a part of the years of struggle, but also joy.  I will tell him about the joy.  I will tell him how it won.

 

On Depression

bleakApparently I don’t write much when I’m sad.

Which is probably good; too much froth and saltiness, too much visceral angst.  No one need join me in that emotional whirlpool.  Now and then, though, I can peer just above it all and string some words together.

My prayers are so pared down and simple:

“Lord, give me hope.”

Being with friends when you’re depressed is awkward; sort of like sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast while you’re nauseous…everyone is enjoying and exclaiming and you are there trying not to vomit on the china.

The landscape blurs past on another Sunday; Dustin drives and drives.  We go window-shopping for farmettes.  We look them up online and drive past them wistfully.  We look for a new dream to turn it’s sunny face to us.  The motion is cathartic; it makes us feel like we have a destination and are moving toward it.  Maybe just around the corner our dream will be waiting.

bleak2If you’ve got a solution on the tip of your advising tongue for this sorrow, please listen carefully:

1. I do know how blessed I am; with family, friends, beautiful healthy children, and food on the table.  Depression doesn’t mean you forget your blessings, nor that you are inherently ungrateful.  It means that you are in sorrow, even when blessed.

2.  “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” isn’t a helpful thing to say.

3.  Though I love you, I may not be able to spend time with you right now.  Some flock to others when they’re hurting, I withdraw.  I’m not a good faker, so wearing a smile when I’m not happy feels perfectly wretched.

4.  I’m sorry.  I hope soon to be able to raise my eyes from my own pain to again care intentionally for yours.  Right now I’m a bit swamped, but I won’t always be.

5.  Depression isn’t a problem to be fixed, it is a journey of the soul.  It has to be walked-out.  It’s a dark valley, but where there are high sunny peaks, there will always be the shadows they leave.  My life has had it’s share of sunny peaks, it will have it’s share of dark valleys.  I am not confused by this; the Bible tells us to expect as much.  And, astoundingly, I still know deep within that this is for my good in some soul-strengthening, refining way.  Character is costly.

So, dear ones who read these words, I wave to you from my dark valley.  Know that I have not lost my faith nor my mind.  I walk in good company with my God.  He knows these valleys well.