Thursday, March 27, 2008

Struggling to be Grateful

It's been a really hard few weeks, with Shannon being so sick with this pregnancy, we're both exhausted and in need of some quiet and calm hours that don't involve nausea and vomiting and saltine crackers. I saw a chance this afternoon when my phone stopped ringing and I'd caught up on email -- and I came home early, thinking that it'd be a good afternoon to sit on the deck and enjoy the small bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds. After Sunday, there won't be as much opportunity to have an afternoon off. One of my colleagues leaves for a 4 1/2 month sabbatical, so my workload and responsibilities increase accordingly while he's away. So I went by the store to buy some beer, even, so I could have one or two while watching basketball tonight.

I walk in the door and Austin (our dog) greets me with a little more anxiety than normal. He's had just as hard a time with Shannon being really sick, worried about her and wondering what is going on. I also know that his greeting means he's done something he knows I'm not going to be happy with. As I walk toward the kitchen to put the beer in the frig, I see broken glass everywhere...and think maybe I should open the beer immediately. Somehow, he's gotten enough of himself up on the kitchen counter to bring down an entire glass dish onto the floor. And then he's taken pieces of it into the living room to lick whatever remnants of food he'd found on it. I don't know how, but he seems unhurt, at least I cannot find any blood on him or on the floor.

I am sitting on the deck, and am glad the sun is shining. I'm drinking a beer, sighing deeply, and praying for a heart of gratitude: this baby has turned all of our lives upside-down, already. Austin's through-the-roof anxiety is only one example. We prayed so hard for this pregnancy to happen. We want so much to be able to raise a family that will add a little more of God's love to the world. Right now, though, I'm thinking a lot about the disciples in Luke's Gospel -- the ones who were walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus was killed and they'd found the empty tomb, in the completely opposite direction of Jerusalem. They were trying to get away from it all - they were exhausted, confused and bewildered as to what to do next, wondering if all that time had been at all worth it.

Somewhere, deep in me, I know it's worth it: all the disruption of routine, the sickness, the exhaustion. If there's anything I know for sure, it's that new life is messy and always hard to birth. Today I'm struggling to be thankful for it, and praying for grace to find me, to remind me that this little bit of sunshine and an afternoon off can sustain me a long way.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Gift of Disappointment

We found out this morning that Shannon's parents, supposed to arrive in California tomorrow afternoon, will not be making the trip. Her mom is sick, and unable to fly. My first reaction? Extreme disappointment...and a startling realization of just what that disappointment means.

Even two years ago, I wasn't sure Shannon's parents would ever really accept us. Our life, as two women married to each other, is way beyond what they've known in the rural life of North Carolina that has shaped each of them for more than 70 years. They are not now, nor have they ever been, the hate-mongers that seem to capture so much of the media's attention. Instead, they are faithful Christian folks whose world hasn't been as diverse or as broad or as open as mine (and Shannon's) has been able to be. Same-sex attraction - much less marriage - is difficult, at best, to come to terms with in their lives and in their community. Shannon's journey with them as she came out to them over the years has been fraught with misunderstanding, deep pain, and even months and weeks of silence.

And now, in the early months of 2008, we are deeply disappointed they will not be arriving tomorrow - and so are they. Our relationship with them is far from perfect nor is it always simple and comfortable. It is, though, real and honest and loving and steadfast. We know now that we're a part of the family, even when it may not be as ideal as we'd like it to be. Prayer does change us, our collective prayers have changed every one of us into this moment: a moment of disappointment that reveals the extraordinary grace of God evident in the gift of this family.