It’s Not Fair

One student makes straight A’s without trying, and another does everything she can to pull a C.

One sister has stair-step babies, and the other can’t conceive in twenty years.

One friend’s parents thoughtfully encourage their children’s strengths. Another set of parents disregards or disapproves.

One lady has a husband and a respected degree by age thirty. Another has neither at sixty.

One girl is wooed by the man of her dreams. Another girl is invisible except to a mental patient.

One friend has money to vacation in Italy while another can’t afford a $20 concert ticket.

One couple celebrates one year of marriage and pronounces the year fun. Another couple fights three kinds of deadly cancer in their first year.

It’s not fair.

You shake your head at the balance scales. You whisper the words to a friend because for some reason you’re not supposed to say them. Or you sob into your pillow until you snort, and the universe keeps on humming, and friends never mention the disparity, and  the scenario keeps on not being fair.

To the one with a grim diagnosis. To the single bridesmaid at the eleventeenth wedding. To the bereaved and wrecked and poor: it’s not fair.

This is reality when the sun shines or when the rain blows. The Almighty and Omnipotent Father sits on His beautiful hands and does nothing to level the balance scales. There is no justice. You can do everything right and be a good girl and do what you were always told to do but there are no guarantees and it’s a fallacy to believe that everything will turn out like it should.

Part of my journey to wholeness includes being honest about the injustices I observe and experience. It seems much more wholesome to be able to call a spade a spade than to act as if it’s something else.

So: it’s not fair.

There are things I weep and howl over, dreams I ache for, friends I hurt with, prayers I beg God with the most persuasive words I can find.  To do otherwise would be to deny reality and be a flippant, chirpy, hollow, obnoxious voice in a cavern of unanswerable questions.

While maturity acknowledges that things aren’t fair, wisdom doesn’t stay there. It’s a child who mopes and sits outside the game and whines that it’s not fair. An adult who does that for days and weeks and months is pretty ugly, in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no easy way to do this, but when that forty-leventh bride has been whisked into the sunset, you sometimes have to take yourself by the scruff of the neck and turn yourself 180 degrees toward the east and make a list of other things that aren’t fair.

This is part of my list:

  • I sleep on a dry, thick, super-comfy Tuft and Needle mattress while refugees sleep on blankets that hang out of their tiny, squished-together tents.
  • I have a job that enabled me to buy a car, while a friend can only afford to drive a borrowed car.
  • I’m lonely and long for companionship but it’s not fair that another woman’s loneliness is infinitely, agonizingly greater after her husband abandoned her and their three little children, the baby with Down Syndrome.
  • I had major surgery in a foreign country and had the best of care and no complications and have been given a new life but my friend battles incurable illness and huge medical costs.

It’s not fair.

I’m stupendously, staggeringly, unreasonably rich and spoiled and comfortable, and it’s not a bit fair. It’s not fair that my friends and the rest of humanity walk through crazy amounts of pain and tears that I never do. I’m not being glib or flippant about this. I cry often about sad things and injustice and longings on my behalf and others’. I experience hard, hard, things about each of my list entries.

But the great and grand and shining reality is that the present injustice is not all there is. It takes the long view to see more than is apparent to the naked eye. The long view is the truest view.

It’s ok to say it’s not fair, but it’s not ok to stay there. Because at some point–after about an hour or a day or a week–wisdom and grace and the presence of Jesus are waiting to turn us to the east and see light and hope and a far green country under a swift sunrise.*

*That last phrase is what Gandalph said.

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What a Woman Needs

Last year in psychology class, our teacher spoke briefly one day of gender differences. We girls all looked knowingly at each other when we listed the stereotypical things about us: emotional, verbal, soft-hearted, quick to cry.

Then the teacher shared a vignette of a marriage counselling session. He was encouraging a couple to understand their differences and be aware of what the other needs. (Live with your wife in an understanding way, the Bible puts it.) The husband could love her best if she could talk and feel heard. He doesn’t have to explain it away or find solutions for her, just hear her out.

In typical human fashion, I only heard what I wanted to hear from the teacher’s lecture. (I didn’t hear what the wife should do!) I heard an acknowledgment that women function best when they can talk. I did two things with that: 1) winced because I don’t have a husband to talk to and 2) took it as permission to knock on someone’s door to talk when I need it.

Those of us with opinions and fears and ideas and wishes and falterings need a place to get outside our own heads, have someone else look at what is jiggeting around in there, and sift through the stuff. Untangle the spaghetti. Bring to mind what’s been forgotten.

So this morning I was troubled about something I heard yesterday. I was out of my depth and didn’t know how to think about it. I needed perspective and it suited my mentor to meet over lunch. We met, I talked, and she talked. She gave balance and wise perspective and encouragement, and when my scalloped potatoes and salad was finished, I was good to go. I thanked her soundly, and hardly thought about the troubling issue again.

I’m saying this for any woman out there with spaghetti muddling her tired, clever brain: you need to talk with someone.

I don’t mean that you tell someone EVERY time you’re bothered, because that could be every five minutes or every five hours. Life gives bumps and questions and riddles. That’s normal, and we have to roll with the punches. But when there’s a niggling that won’t go away, a worry that festers, an unrest that simmers, find someone who can hear you talk about it, and then you can go on.

No one can do life on her own. Not even the independent ones who know their own minds. (And most of them are independent only because they have to be. But I digress.) We function best in teams, families, communities, small groups. The sum of the whole is worth more than the individual parts, and each gives to and benefits from the others, and we lose more than we realize when we isolate ourselves and try to push through on our own.

Bouncing ideas off someone or sifting through the things that simmer inside is a big part of staying emotionally whole and healthy. It isn’t a right to demand or be selfish about, but something to be honest enough and weak enough to admit need. I think there are a lot of women walking around who are slowly withering inside because they haven’t found a safe confidante or mentor or counselor. And that saddens me because bottling things up is not how we were designed to live, and there are options and better ways of living.

Some options:

  • journal
  • go on a brisk walk around the block
  • email someone if you can’t talk
  • curl into a ball and cry and talk to God for a long time
  • text or call someone to ask if they have time to meet

Burrowing into a book or scrolling through Facebook are not good options for a bothered brain, usually.

I’m unutterably grateful to be writing from a place of wealth, not want. I know loneliness. I know the ache of friends far away and confidantes too busy. I also know the little bit of courage that it takes to ask to talk gives huge payback in equilibrium and peace.

The tissues and tea help too.

Image result for willow tree heart and soul My Willow Tree figurine: “Heart and Soul”

 

 

Newest News

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In the spirit of things today, Cyber Monday, my book is available in e-format!

While I will always love the tactile experience of paper and ink, there is much to love about this e-book.

  • It’s cheaper than the printed version. (1/3 of the price)
  • You get it instantly.
  • You get a preview of it while you decide you want it.
  • It adds no bulk or weight to your purse or book bag.
  • You can buy a copy for your friend and have it emailed to her. (Think easy, thoughtful, inexpensive Christmas gift.)

I wrote the book for single women, but am often surprised and overwhelmed at how warmly other women–mothers and pastor’s wives– speak of it. The book focuses on living well in Plan B. That’s not only for singles. Turns out most of us everyone is in some form of Plan B and we all need input, encouragement, companionship in that situation.

Today, that voice just got more accessible!

An Epic Search

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Note to the stranger sitting across from me at a social function: After you ask my name, pleeeeeeeease don’t ask me where I’m from. You can ask where I live, how old I am, what I like to do for fun–that’s all fair game, but I am still fractured enough in the present transition that I can’t believe how easily I fall apart when I’m asked where I’m from.

Honestly, I get all shaky and whimpery at the simple question.

Today it’s twenty years that my family landed in Ireland–my parents and me and my five siblings. All but two of us still live there.

Twenty years is a good long time to find a place and call it home. But am I from Ireland? I wasn’t born there, and now it’s six years since I’ve lived there.

I don’t even like to write this all out; it wants to overwhelm me.

Meanwhile, I’ve just finished reading The Odyssey and completely fell in love with the lyrical words. Now when I open the blinds to see the morning, I have words to describe it. It’s “rosy-fingered” or “golden-haired.” In addition to the poetic prose (it was epic poetry in its original Greek form, after all) was its theme: nostos, the deep longing to return home. Odysseus has been gone from home for ten years, fighting battles, and his wife, Penelope is waiting for him while audacious suitors take advantage of the palace and try to win her favor.  (Another beautiful theme woven throughout was xenia, the honoring of guests, giving them piles of food and honeyed wine and making them comfortable before ever even asking their names and where they’re from.)

So since literature is an on-going conversation about what it means to be human, in reading The Odyssey, I entered a teeny tiny bit into the story of another human’s nostos, because I know what it’s like to not have a home. Well, I do and I don’t. I go back to my parents who now live in a house I never did, and my family gives me huge deference and mom cooks all my favorite food (always chicken curry and always chocolate mousse) and I go to all my old haunts, but in many ways and for many reasons, I feel I don’t have a place there now. And every time I’m with relatives and/or friends in the US, I’m overwhelmed with their love and inclusion, and I don’t feel homeless but actually home-full: I have many homes. I am very rich. It feels like my story will be many interesting, fascinating things, even its own kind of epic, but not nostos.

Extended singlehood is one layer in the story of having no home. Extended foreign service is another. I have no place to go back to and slot in, like the place Odysseus wanted. I’m still in media res–in the middle of the story. This plot line hasn’t resolved yet. Hence, the rabbit-in-the-headlights feelings when someone asks where I’m from. I hope that some day I can come to some kind of peace about it and have a sensible answer, but somehow the current answer feels like an idiot is talking: “I don’t  know where I’m from.”

Trust the resourceful Germans to have a suitable word for my current state: Sehnsucht. It’s the intense longing for a place I’ve never been to; raw homesickness for a place I’ve never seen. It’s the search for Eden, the place we were created for, and life is constantly bumping us against the reality that we can never go back. There’s an angel barring the entrance. Deep inside every human is that cavernous hole that wants to be filled, satisfied, rested in the comfort of home.  For those for whom nostos will never be reality, as well as for those who enjoy the deep, satisfying sense of home now already, Sehnsucht beckons all of us farther in and farther on.

Let’s go!

 

What You Really Want, part V

pixabay/IsaacFryxelius

pixabay/IsaacFryxelius

Continued from Part IV:

Admitting and acknowledging loss is healthy, but staying in the place of endlessly verbalizing everything that’s wrong in your life will make you ugly. Guaranteed. You’ve got a choice, no matter where you are, to wither into bitterness, or bloom into joy. Emotional honesty is one step in the journey. Choice is another.

Choose Joy

In every season, life is going to be cruel and relentless and you will cry your eyes out over a myriad things, but you can choose joy. Things won’t ever be fair and your friends will have privileges you don’t, but you can choose joy. Could it be possible that you have gifts they’d like to have?

There is glory and beauty in the darkness, could we but see! And to see, we have only to look. (Giovanni, 1513)

In every life stage, we will need to choose joy and live with purpose in order to live fully. Technically, it’s the same for everyone: be thankful here and now, and carry the posture of living with open hands to accept whatever is given. Practically, it’s going to look different for different people with different giftings.

For you now, when you read stories to children who aren’t your own, can you try to delight in their shining eyes and pudgy fingers? When the tenth friend loses her heart to a wonderful man and you feel left behind, can you find just two things today to put on your Thanks List? Can you intentionally plan a way to serve someone beside you, choosing to be less princess and more servant even if everything in you screams against it?

Probably the most insidious temptation is to believe the lie that even God has forgotten you, left you behind, and thus you’ll have to cope on your own forever. This lie is absolutely toxic. Please don’t swallow it!

God, in His endless faithfulness, will give you reasons to believe the truth, but you need to keep your eyes open to see it. The changeless truth is that He’s intimately acquainted with everything that makes you ache and smile. He’s never turned His face away from you—not even for a second—and even when you feel like despairing, He’s up to something good. It’s true!

Joy is far more than positive thinking or collecting cute sayings on Pinterest* or posing with a Starbucks cup. Joy comes from knowing your designer’s heart and knowing His intentions for you are good, good, good. Always. You can hang your heart on that and you will have joy that bubbles out often, and even if no man notices it, that joy will make you beautiful!

Which is really what you want, isn’t it?

 

This was an article I wrote for Daughters of Promise, a beautiful magazine for young women. Maybe you want to subscribe to it for the year, or give it for a gift?

*Relax–I LOVE Pinterest! And Starbucks. =)

What You Really Want, IV

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Continued from Part III:

When you start looking for things to be thankful for, you’ll be surprised at what emerges. Try it!

Self-pity equals wrinkles

Think of the most beautiful lady you know. I’m going to guess that she doesn’t spend much time pitying herself, but that her face is turned toward the light, and that she shines even when she’s honest about hard things.

There’s very little virtue in chirping “I’m alright—everything’s fine—who needs a man anyway?” I’m always on a search for emotional honesty because it’s at that point that truth can start soaking in, change us, and bring us to freedom. It’s ok to tell God that you’re tired of waking up alone and that it stinks to go to weddings alone. God’s big enough to take any rants you have. I hope that you also have a few friends with whom you can be honest. It’s ok to cry. You’re allowed to admit that you grieve a love that has no name or face.

Being honest (Jesus can take it off you!) means being vulnerable but also knowing the truest, most loyal love you will ever know.

You will not know the comfort and companionship of Jesus if you always insist that you’re ok, don’t need any help, and are never lonely.

While I was writing this article, I was drinking coffee in a darling café in Warsaw. (The café’s name was “Między Słowami” which means “among words.” Yes, it was as idyllic as it sounds. I’m very, very rich!) I looked up suddenly, and across the room, a tall, dark man was watching me. He was so handsome, I stopped breathing for a minute. He was too far away for me to see any emotion in his face, (Interest? Curiosity?) but a wave of something washed over me because suddenly I wanted to be noticed, delighted in, seen as beautiful, because no man does that for me.

Being honest about the voids I feel is ok, but I couldn’t stay there, and left the café when my coffee was finished.

Admitting and acknowledging loss is healthy, but staying in the place of endlessly verbalizing everything that’s wrong in your life will make you ugly. Guaranteed. You’ve got a choice, no matter where you are, to wither into bitterness, or bloom into joy. Emotional honesty is one step in the journey. Choice is another.

What You Really Want, III

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Continued from Part II:

Because—and this is something to face squarely—you’re not a princess. As the Polish say so smoothly: you’re not the bellybutton of the world! Less princess and more servant will make your life richer than you can imagine.

Thanks multiplies joy

Being intentionally thankful for specific things makes your life blossom. One day I was pitying myself about being far away from my friends and my friend Jenny said, “Anita, you HAVE to give thanks NOW for THIS. If you don’t, you’re going to become a bitter, miserable person.” I burst into tears and said I don’t want to be bitter and miserable. So later that day, even though I felt everything was gray and dismal, I heard a CD playing beautiful songs and I made myself thank God that I could hear. I was washing dishes and looked out the window and saw bright blue sky and made myself thank God that I could see.

It was a baby step, but it was in the right direction, and I started thinking about how overwhelmingly rich I am, just by acknowledging two senses.

My friend Sarah says being thankful is life-changing. She was burning out by working full time and going to college and pulling all-nighters for brutal classes. She found a little hide-out in a stairwell at college that became her refuge. Here she could sit on the carpet and cry and list the things she was thankful for, despite her extreme exhaustion. One day as she sat there, she heard another student in the stairwell on his phone, talking for ten minutes, telling his friend that prayer makes a difference and that he should keep praying because God hears. Sarah put that conversation on her list. When you start looking for things to be thankful for, you’ll be surprised at what emerges. Try it!