Yesterday, we had a crew here all day long, removing all the old insulation from the attic and replacing it with newer, better, bug-resistant stuff. We won't be satisfied until Oyster Haven is in tip-top shape--from the basement, right through its two stories, and on up into the attic. We're getting there. Bit by bit, we're getting there.
Today, I have lots of touch-up painting to do. Moldings and trims and doors and such. But here's the problem, as far as me and getting a move-on goes: this is what I'm seeing as I sit at my computer this morning, in my make-shift office at the kitchen table.
So yes, my husband and I are very blessed--very, very blessed indeed--to have been able to figure out a way to make this beautiful lake house, and the fabulous piece of property on which it sits, our own (thanks to the future VRBO renters whom we are counting on to help us pay for it, before we end up in the poor house!).
But with every life, no matter how blessed and happy, there are challenges and difficulties. Crosses are a given. (Jesus told us how we would be sanctified by these crosses when He said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily.") So sometimes my husband and I have wondered if we've suffered enough. We have been exceedingly fortunate, almost ridiculously so; for in our 35 years of marriage, we have carried fewer crosses than most, and those crosses have seemed to be lighter than the ones others are often asked to carry. We have remarked on this over and over in the course of our life together; if it's true that God sends the toughest trials to those He loves most (remember that St. Teresa of Avila once jokingly complained, "Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few!"), then should we surmise that we are not among His favorites, His chosen friends? Does He know how weak we are, and how incapable of handing anything too difficult? Do we have the "right stuff" to become saints?
Here's the thing I'm beginning to understand about crosses, though: just as each and every human soul is unique and different, so will be his or her crosses. And just because right at this very moment, your life seems charmed and easy, you can never know what might be waiting for you down the road. So to try to manufacture ways to suffer "enough" is pointless, and even wrong. We are made for joy, and should rejoice about each and every blessing we receive, each gift from God that makes our lives so profoundly happy (our spouses, our children, and our grandchildren, to name the most important of these). But we should also be ever-ready to handle whatever curve ball God throws into our lives, trusting that His game plan is so much better than any we could come up with on our own--even when it seems like the worst thing that could possibly happen is happening to us.
God knows each and every one of us, better than any other human being can (even a beloved spouse who's been my best friend and confidant, the other half that makes me whole, for 43 years so far): "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5). So if anyone knows what we can and cannot handle, and what unique crosses we must carry in our lives here on earth in order to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, it's God, our Father and Creator.
So...is it possible that He has given me heavy enough burdens to carry, at least for now--because maybe carrying them will make me stronger? And then when I'm further down the road of my life, and I'm faced with a cross that seems much, much too heavy for me, perhaps--because of the muscles I've developed from carrying just as much weight as God thought I could handle at the time--I'll be able to lift it onto my shoulders after all?
Last night, my husband and I got together with my parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters for dinner. This brother and sister both became grandparents for the first time this past year, and they both live close enough to their grandchildren to see them on a daily or almost daily basis. My sister commented that she hadn't gone more than two weeks without seeing her granddaughter since she'd been born, and that she couldn't bear it if she wasn't close by.
And it hit me: people like my sister might look at me, a grandmother whose darling grandchildren all live a plane trip (or an all-day car ride) away and think, "Well, obviously she can bear it; but I couldn't." But here's the thing, though: I can't bear it. It is a situation that is unbearable to me. Having to go even months sometimes without seeing my sons--those five wonderful boys-turned-men who are absolultely my heart's delight--or their children--whom I adore fiercely and completely--is torture to me. But somehow I bear it. That is the cross, the uniquely painful, tailor-made burden, that God has asked me to carry--for now, anyway.
It might not seem like much, this burden, when you consider all the alternatives. There is so much suffering in the world that would have to be considered far more devastating than missing your kids and grandkids. But knowing how hard this particular cross is for this particular mom/Grammy to carry must be the reason God has chosen it for me. If I can carry this cross with courage and strength, with acceptance and grace--and allow it to develop my spiritual muscles for whatever might lie ahead--then it could be the best thing that ever happened to me.
But of course it's the best thing! God only wants what's best for His children, and we just have to trust that He knows what that is better than we do.
Wow...I did not expect to get so philosophical today. I blame it on the extremely distracting, truly heavenly lake view from the kitchen window, because it got me thinking about Paradise and what that must be like. And I also blame it on an early morning visit with Buddy, our across-the-street "horse neighbor" (as my horse-crazy three oldest granddaughters call him), because it got me thinking of and missing my grandkids.