Friday, December 30, 2005

Speaking of Deuteronomy...

Of all the books of the Bible in which to find a personal theme verse, Deuteronomy would be the last one I'd expect to be The One. With all the dietary, social, and religious laws, with all the accounts of past travails, and promises of future battles for the land the Lord had promised the Israelites, Deuteronomy offers few upbeat, twenty-first century insights. Or so I thought...

The children and I were reading the second chapter when I found it. In plain language, in clear prose, Moses composed the verse that elevated my 40th birthday to Biblical import.

Here it is, Deut. 2:7 -

The Lord your God has blessed you
in all the work of your hands. He has
watched over your journey through this
vast desert. These forty years the Lord
your God has been with you, and
you have not lacked anything.

I am a forty year old woman who spent only six years "working outside the home" before making the decision to be a full-time, at home, homeschooling mother. During the few years I worked, I interviewed for five jobs. I was offered all five of them. I worked in college admissions and alumni relations at Williams College for two years. I taught junior high and high school Spanish and did college counseling at Poly Prep, my alma mater in Brooklyn, New York. Then I taught Spanish and did college counseling again at The Taft School in Watertown, CT. During the spring of my second year at Taft, I "found myself with child" and resigned my position at the end of that academic term.

Carrying two children through full term pregnancies, giving birth to two healthy children (without the aid of any pain medication, I add with great pride), raising them to the best of my ability, and now teaching them to be noble, hard-working, fun-loving, God-honoring people gives me both pleasure and pain that are nearly indescribable. Nothing I accomplished, wrote, taught, counseled, or advised during my brief tenure as a teacher or college counselor compares to what I have learned, written, or come to the believe in the years since becoming a mother. And in all these situations, in my travels as a teacher and counselor, in my travels as a wife and mother, in my armchair journeys as a reader and writer, I know that God has blessed me in all the work of my hands.

We live a life here in Charlotte that is beyond all we could have asked or imagined for ourselves and our children. God has blessed us with faithful friends, with generous neighbors, with beautiful homes, with active churches, and with great prospects for much more of the same in the months and years to come. We have been able to support needy family memebers and friends, causes that matter to us, and missions groups that serve people here and in other parts of the world because God has blessed the work of our hands with financial gain. I have befriended immigrants, translated documents into English and Spanish, served as an interpreter in legal matters, and God has blessed the work of my mouth. I have listened to people in crisis, laughed at humorous episodes, and written countless notes and postcards, and God has blessed me with numerous and treasured friends.

But this life of ours hasn't always been easy. Many days feel like treks in the vast desert with no oasis in sight, not even on the most distant horizon. Death in our families. Serious illness. Health scares. Nightmares. War. Job loss. Job changes. Dryness of spirit. Dryness in our marriage. Longing for days when I could put the children on a school bus and sink into a long morning of talk shows and mugs of coffee. Churches fall apart, as do relationships. Some nights I lay in bed, sleepless, fearful, wondering how and when the empty places will be filled. Wondering how and when the anger will subside. Wondering how and when the many irresponsible and unresponsive people in my life will get their comeuppance. Wondering when I will stop feeling guilty for the anger, the wishes for revenge, and the unrelenting lust to leave all this behind and live a life for which I must give absolutely no accountability to anyone.

It is through this vast desert that God has watched over me. On this long journey, His hand has kept me safe. On the back and side streets of cities like Milan, Barcelona, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Boston, Rome, Madrid, Salamanca, Savannah, Charleston, Stamford, Norwalk, Florence, Bologna, Paris, Waterford, Amsterdam, London, York, Bath, and so many more, I am never truly been alone, for the Lord my God has been with me. On the back and side streets of fear, desperation, depression, loneliness, disappointment, resentment, and abandonment, the Lord my God has been with me. No, I cannot explain it. Nor can I prove it. But I know that I know that I know that He has watched over me on this journey, this my life's journey.

During these forty years I have lacked nothing. I have never missed a meal - except by choice. I have never missed paying a bill - except when I have forgotten to send it in on time. I have never been without love, support, encouragement, and the presence of people who love me. My closet, my pantry, my sock drawers, my shoe shelves, my book shelves, my pen holders, my cosmetic baskets, and right now, my eyes are full to overflowing.

So you see, there is personal wisdom and application even in Deuteronomy.

Here is a favorite stanza from a poem by Ruth Forman called "The Journey."

"Let the journey continue
let us speak the same language in our many tongues
may the path lead us home may the journey lead us home...

"The journey long y'all the journey long
but we got company
pray we find it
know it like our hands..."

Thank you all for being my company on this journey.
May the path lead us home.
May the journey lead us home.

Blessings on your journey,

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