Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tender Grace

This has been a rough week for me. My doctor has been out of town for nearly a month, and my pain level has been between an 8-9 most of that time. I've spent the last three days in bed (except for Monday's trip to the doctor), and last night I actually had to have Jesse help me wash my hair in the shower. I tend to get really down on myself when I am unable to take care of my family and my house when I'm sick like this. I get depressed and cranky as I tell myself that I'm not a good mom, wife, daughter, friend, or Christian. Yesterday in the midst of my frustration and pain, God spoke directly to me in a way I can't deny. In three very different books, I found messages about being a perfectionist and/or people-pleaser. I am very guilty of both. I like things to be just so, and I have a hard time delegating tasks, because I don't think that anyone else can do the job to my exacting standards. I also look for validation from people, and when I'm not doing good things for others, I have a hard time believing that I am worthy of their love. In all three of these books (Leading Women Who Wound, Defeating Depression, and I'm Not Good Enough), I received the message that I don't have to be perfect and I am worthy of love without constantly working for it. Those are really tough messages for me to hear and then process, and if I had read it in just one book, I would have nodded my head and dismissed it. In two books, I may have stopped for a moment at the serendipity of finding it in both. But finding it in three books in less than two hours made me sit up and take notice. Okay Lord, message received! I woke up this morning still hurting, but with less weight on my shoulders and just a bit of a smile on my face. Isn't it amazing how God seeks out the deepest desires of our hearts, even if they haven't been expressed?

Tender Grace by Jackina Stark is a poignant story about a woman's quest to reclaim her voice and her life after the death of her husband. Audrey Eaton has isolated herself after the sudden death of her husband Tom just a few months into their early retirement. She stopped substitute teaching, seeing friends, and doing any reading, including her Bible. Her life revolves around watching lots of television to numb her pain; she's even stopped speaking except when absolutely necessary to keep up the illusion of normalcy. After two years of mourning, Audrey decides to take a road trip in hopes that it will reawaken her love for life. Road trip stories are one of my favorite genres. I love stories that involves a physical journey that mimics a spiritual one as well, and Stark's is a wonderful example of just how it should be. Her writing is lyrical and moving. In the opening chapters, Audrey's journal entries are terse and unemotional, but as she meets new people and sees the world around her, they start to flow with feelings and depth. Her writing sings on every page: I'm not brain dead, but I'm sure my heart in precariously close to a kind of death, because anything I do is such a chore. My life is one long sigh. I love that not every encounter Audrey has is full of meaning, but she chooses to learn from each one. I was reluctant to turn the final page on this book, and I look forward to reading more from the author.

There's an explanation behind today's video. Last May, Doogie and some other kids were working on the camera angles and preparing to videotape the graduation ceremony. Doogie had fun putting on a show for them to get everything just right. He can actually sing very well, he's just goofing around, but I find it rather hilarious, especially because he does.