Contemplation, Contentment, and Closure

Today is April 21, 2011. 
Tomorrow, April 22, 2011 would have been my friend Amanda’s 36th birthday.

Tuesday night, April 19, I spent three hours at Adrian’s house going through and sorting Amanda’s jewelry while Adrian attempted to catalog Amanda’s Alice In Wonderland collection.

Adrian messaged me on April 14 to ask me if I would be willing to assist him in this task.  I agreed without hesitation, hit send, and burst into tears.  March 25, 2011 was the two-year anniversary of Amanda’s death.  It is a day that I dread as it approaches as it fills me with regret that I hadn’t booked plane tickets to Houston the moment she asked me to come earlier that week.
I was with Amanda’s mother on March 25 this year.  I tried to avoid admitting the significance of the day, but we were among friends (ladies from our church) and when Leigh broke down, I had to leave the room.  So much for the supportive friend, right?

You see, I get to live in a world where I don’t live with losing Amanda in an every-day-tangible way.  I have moments where I completely lose it… moments where I desperately need her advice or to share some “mom” type of thing.  We had great plans for being moms together – if I would only get pregnant.
I think I’ve posted this previously, but the day I had my first ultrasound Amanda was in the hospital.  I took the little picture home, scanned it in, printed it as an 8×10, and headed to the hospital to tell her.  I knew it would lift her spirits.  Within 30 minutes of me letting her open the envelope to reveal the picture of Ella, the doctor came in to tell Amanda she had cancer.  Adrian wasn’t even there… I was wrecked.  I left the hospital at breakneck speed to get to their house and send Adrian to the hospital while I stayed with Alastair.
We still had hope for being moms together.  We still had plans.  She was going to beat that cancer and we were going to raise Alastair and Ella to be buddies.

The despair that I don’t have to feel every day flooded over me when I read Adrian’s message.
I cried big heaving sobs that shock me (because I don’t cry that way often).
I contacted a friend not remotely connected to the situation and asked her to pray for me.

As I pulled up to Adrian’s house Tuesday night I texted Amanda & my old youth minister, Scot, and asked him to pray right then if he could including my prayer request in less than 160 characters.  I got a text back within minutes telling me he’d prayed.  I was sick to my stomach walking up to the door of the house where I had spent hours with my friend…  I don’t go to the house very often.  I think I am scared of what emotions will grip me when I do… but sitting in the floor and sorting more jewelry than I could count, I felt such peace.

As I laughed at Adrian (the Alice collection was a bit more than either of us had bargained for… instead of finding empty boxes for items in Manda’s curio we found tubs full of boxes with Alice items STILL IN THEM), I separated the jewelry into types (rings, bracelets, earrings, etc) and showed anything to Adrian I thought might mean something to him or Alastair.  By the end, he had pared down what he was keeping for Alastair into a small pewter jewelry box and I had more jewelry than a jewelry store… all sorted and organized.  I was able to pick pieces that were meaningful to me to add to my own (very tiny by comparison) jewelry collection.  I wore one of her big flower rings out to dinner with girlfriends last night and it was quite a conversation piece.  It made me feel great to be carrying her with me.

I had some closure.  No matter what else (or someday, whom else) God brings into my life through Adrian & Alastair it will be okay.  I may even grow to adore that person.

Anyway… this all brought me back to a conversation I had with Neal Alligood at MACU‘s Gospel Rally.
I ran into Neal before the Gala on Friday night of the Rally.  Knowing he’d recently moved back to Elizabeth City from Atlanta (gosh I love Atlanta) I wanted to know what was going on with him; what he was getting involved in; and how he was feeling being back “home”.  He expressed with a chuckle that he hadn’t really expected to be living back in Elizabeth City at the current point in his life, but that he was happy and finding many ways to serve God.  So I posed this question to him: “If you could be anywhere in the world right now, serving, where would you be?”  It’s an innocent question, right?  In fact, it is a common question… We all dream about where we want to go. Point in fact, we consistently ask young people (children – college kids), “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Neal’s answer BLEW MY MIND… He said, “You know, I don’t really think that way. 
If I did, I would never be content where God currently has me.”

I’ve been contemplating that ever since.  Am I content where God has me?  If you read my blog post prior to this one your answer would be “NO!” (and you’d shout it at me just like that).
So now I’m thinking… Why am I not content?  What do I think I’m missing out on?
Aha!  I think I’m missing out on something… and therein lies the rub.

I do spend a lot of my time thinking about the “what ifs”.  I always have – as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved the What If Game.  Ever played that with your friends?  I had a friend my freshman year of college who was dating a guy who had perfected that game.  “What if I had a compulsion to lick roadkill… would you still love me?”  (No lie – that is my favorite question he ever asked her in my presence.)

What if I married so-and-so… how many kids would we really have? (We were saying 5 at the time we were dating – this was NOT Jeff)
What if la-dee-dah showed up today… would I still love la-dee-dah?
What if I had chosen option A over option B… would I be happier with the life I’d be living?
What if I had majored in English instead of Math… would I actually want to work? (Of course, I’d be paying off student loans since my scholarship was offered by a math grant and not one in English)
What if I had gotten pregnant younger… would it be easier?  would I still want 5 kids?

I watched a movie recently (The Bad Mother’s Handbook) in which the main character is playing the “What if” game.  She finds out she was adopted and ends up getting in touch with her birth mother as she is about to become a grandmother herself.  It was moving to see her receive the answer to her “What if” questions.

Have I learned a lesson somewhere along this path of contemplating contentment?  Not fully… yet.
I’m still playing the “What if” game every single day… but I’m trying to catch myself and remind myself of what Neal said.  I need to be content where God has me – even if I’m where I am because of decisions I made that may not have been what God wanted for me.  That is a thought I’ve really been praying over in the last five weeks since that conversation with Neal.  I shared what he said with my Bible Study groups the following week.  I was excited to have recognized a fault a failure in myself.  I wanted to embrace the recognition of this and pursue God in a new way.  But as mountain top experiences occur, so do the valleys between the mountains.  And the valleys get me down quicker than I can climb back up the mountain of God (see previous post).  But I’m determined to face my place in life with a new hope – a hope through which I look for what God is saying to me.  I want to be content where I am… and I want to serve God in my contentedness. 

I know this seems like a rambling post… it is certainly a long one.  But it all fits together for me.

While Amanda was at the Massey Cancer Center here in Richmond, she and I talked a lot about the straw she drew in this life.  I don’t think she realized that our conversations were going to scroll through my head for the rest of my life.  When she went to Houston for the trials that were being offered there, we started talking on the phone.  A lot.  In one of our conversations she said to me that she was at peace with death.  She did ask that I always stay involved with Alastair and that if Adrian ever met someone else that he wanted to be serious about that I better stand behind him & support him or she’d come back to haunt me.  She was content with what was coming even though I was not and cried throughout that whole conversation.  It was in that conversation that she asked if I would come to Houston and spend some time hanging out.  The “what ifs” surrounding my decision to wait to buy tickets until I could coordinate all of the minute details eat me up sometimes.

My point – I want to live a witness like Amanda’s. 
I want to live a witness like Neal’s.
I want to be content… and even more,
I want to be joyful serving God right where I am.

Please pray for me.  Pray that all the thoughts swirling around in my head since Gospel Rally will help lead me in the right direction.  Pray that I’ll be content and joyfully serving wherever God leads me.
And pray that if (and probably when) I try to take the lead from God, that He will use my imperfection to bring a perfect result (as He has always done with my stubborn self).

Thanks for reading…

Oh, my first two songs on my playlist are Jars of Clay songs, but not the ones I wanted.  Though “Love Song For A Savior” has been a crucial song in my life.  Their cd, The Shelter, is not available on Playlist yet.  If I could share the three songs impacting my worship right now they would be: (1) The Shelter (2) Small Rebellions and (3) Call My Name.
I rarely try to influence people to listen to or buy specific music, but this CD is GREAT!
The bridge of The Shelter says: If there is any peace, if there is any hope…We must all believe, our lives are not our own. We all belong.  God has given us each other And we will never walk alone
And the chorus says: In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live.  In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live.  Your arms are all around us.

We have to be God’s human form at this stage in the game.  If I am not content where He has me, how can He use me to be a shelter for anyone else.  How can I stage small rebellions of “senseless brutal acts of kindness” for those in need around me? *Small Rebellions also has the words, “We will never walk alone”.  Isn’t that powerful?

And Call My Name has become my theme song:
I’ll go when you call me
I’ll run when you tell me where to go
We are desert walkers under shaded clouds
Your fire shows there’s more of you to know
Let our idols fail
Vanity subside
We will see the beauty in our lives
When I hear you call my name
When I hear you call my name
Send me to the edge of the earth
Show me what a life is worth
When I hear you call my name
I will wait in the darkest hours
For you will be a light on this road
Lead me out to the ground I’ve never walked on
Only to rely on you alone
This is my Father’s world
And to my listening ear
My heart is still at home
When I hear you call my name


© 2010 Bridge Building / Pogostick Music (BMI). All rights for the world on behalf of Pogostick Music administered by Bridge Building.
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