Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Deep


Two years ago I wrote a post about our potential new neighbors. Every night the kids and I would pray for the people who would soon move into two houses on our street, “Lord, help us to bless our new neighbors, and help them to be a blessing to us.” Those empty houses held the promise of play dates, friendships, and casual pizza dinners in the cul de sac. Maybe even future prom dates. They were ideals, pristine-- not yet marred by the hurt feelings, awkwardness or conflicts that often arise when living in community. You can read that post here.

The houses made me think a lot about myself as a friend. I realized that while I wanted to roll out the welcome mat and be an ultra- friendly neighbor, I had grown accustomed to being more of a drive-by friend than a steadfast one. I leaned away from people whom I considered “needy” or who pushed intimacy on me.  I also think I put unspoken, internal limits on how long it should take for people to “get over” things, and how much of myself I’d offer up to them if they needed me.

I realized I might be an okay friend to have during a sprained ankle, but chronic depression? Probably not.  Ouch. You could have described my friendship style as wide, but not really deep. I think, with the exception of a small group of friends, I kept myself a little closed off from others. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to let them see the times when our family was annoying, ungracious, and our lives were… messy.

 Less intimacy = less mess.

Seven months after the new families moved in, 3 young friends knocked on our door, and Jack and Margaret went out to play with them, huge smiles on their faces.

Jack never came back.

One new neighbor, Jane, whose daughter had been playing with my kids in the rain, held my hand as I knelt in the wet grass, cursing and praying as rescue workers tried to find our son. And the other new neighbor’s son, Joe, was the one who called out, “Let’s go look at the creek!” and led the kids into his back yard.

I can and do wonder about the way God chose to answer our sincere prayers about our new neighbors. He’s the same God I prayed to for guidance on buying this house 10 years ago.  What’s up with that? Jack is dead! This is not a blessing! I ask Him, “Why did you lead us to this neighborhood in the first place?” Why? Wouldn’t any other f’ing town, neighborhood, or even street have been a better call? I don’t have the answers.

But I do think it is interesting that the woman who avoided conflict and intimacy, and sometimes missed out on true community, the woman who wrote these words on her blog, Of course in my shallowness, I must admit I want to be needed in the "Where's the grocery store? or "Let's hang out on my porch" kind of way, not in the walk with me through a major life crisis sort of way,”  is now immersed in a messy struggle for survival that is truly long-term and has left few in the neighborhood,  town, or our internet circles untouched. There is no clear-cut end date or exit strategy, and no evaluation form to complete when the healing is “complete!”

And I have been cared for by people who have bravely rejected the idea that surface level friendship is enough, including my friend Jane, who hasn’t quit holding my hand.

It’s all so very interesting.

I now need what I was reluctant to give, and that is humbling.

And I can’t wash off or run away from the mess, even if I try.

 

66 comments:

Rach said...

Isn't it amazing that God knows what we need even when it's not what we want--neighbors and friends who just wouldn't settle for that "shallow" relationship.

I had to come to terms with the fact God answers prayers HIS way, not the way I *thought/think* he should answer them. That was hard. Really hard.

Hugs to you.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

Your paragraph at how God answers prayers really got me. It is His way, which is not always our way. That is hard. Sending you a big squeeze.

A Speckled Trout said...

I learned from my mom that showing up is what counts. She has been at the bedside of more sick or dying people than I could count. I could never be like her is what I've always thought, but as I've gotten older I realized that she knew no more what to do than anybody else. She just didn't run away.

The Empress said...

This is so real, it's as if I'm standing in side you.

I am here, Anna, for all your holy spirit filled revelations. I am bearing witness to the deconstruction.

I love you.

Cindy McMillion said...

I am so so sorry for the terrible loss of your precious son. It hurts so much.

Diane said...

I totally get it. Except of course that I don't. Thank God for the people who come into our lives who dive deep anyway. Girls like us need friends too.

Maggie May said...

I am completely grateful that you let these words come out. The famous writing quote ' Write the truest sentence you know ' lives and breathes in every sentence you put down.

I am so sorry Jack was taken, I am so sorry I am so sorry I am so sorry. I could never use words to express the kind of agonizing love I feel for you as a mother- as a stranger.

I am not a believer that God answers prayers. I think something- 'God'- gives us spiritual energy, love, but that God does not alter and create events on Earth. I don't believe that some people get their prayers answered the way they want and others don't, in other words. I would more imagine it as God had listened to your prayers about the neighbors with the empathy and love beyond imagining, knowing that he could not protect you from what was to come, but only that you could be provided with 'sharpening your soul on the sword' that CS Lewis talks about.

Christy said...

Oh wow. This left me feeling like I had the wind sucked out of me. I remember all those posts so well. I love you so much. xo

Meredith Self said...

Another breath taking post, beautiful friend.

When I recently went through one of the toughest challenges I've had to face in a long time - all while being almost dangerously depleted physically - there you were, on my door step, with yummy chicken soup in hand.

And you nourished so much more than my body that day. With a rawness, you just witnessed that what I am going through is hard. And. I'm not alone. I appreciate your act of kindness all the time.

Sometimes I wonder if life's experiences are just what they are, and if we are paying attention each of us will notice whatever it is that we need at the moment. Show up.

Arnebya said...

I often tell you how much I think of you, of Jack. But I don't think I've ever said how much I think of the other families as well, parents of Jack's friends, the family behind whose home the creek is. I think about them too. And I'm glad that so many in your community are still there, willing to offer what you THINK you weren't willing to give. I don't doubt, that had the situation been different, you wouldn't have walked away or been as surface-friend as you think.

Lisa C said...

Oh Anna...I hate the unanswerable "what if" question. What if you hadn't moved into that neighborhood or they hadn't...I'm so sorry for your loss of Jack. I can't say that enough.

Thank you for your honesty. This forces some introspection of my life, my friendships and my expectations of myself and my friends.

Thank you.

Lady Jennie said...

*crying*

I am very similar - I'm great in the immediate crisis, but don't like the messy long-term, and I HATE to be the needy one.

But I wish I could be there with you, to sit in the mess on a more regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Long-time lurker here, but I think of you all the time. My sister died when she was young, and as the oldest, I had to watch my mom struggle with watching my sister's friends graduate, go to college, get married, etc. I prayed every night, and the night before my sister died, I remember thinking I was too tired and I didn't pray. For a long time, I blamed myself that if I had prayed that night, maybe she wouldn't have had a seizure - maybe she would still be here. Then I started to think about the kind of God I believed in, and I now simply believe that no kind, loving God would inflict that sort of punishment on any one. I read the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", and it helped my perspective and how I deal with tragedy. I am at the point in my life now where I look to God for strength to deal with life's hardships, but I have resolved myself to the belief that maybe God just doesn't have the power we all like to think He does. I say this because if He did, and He would allow the atrocities we see on earth every day, I would have to believe in an unjust God - and I don't believe God is unjust. I think when life is hard at times like these, God cries with us and mourns as we do. God comforts you in sending you family and friends to try and provide some comfort or solace during your dark days. I remember my mom thinking she would never laugh again, be happy again or enjoy life any more. I am happy to tell you that despite the fact that she still has her moments, she laughs and thoroughly enjoys life today. I wish this for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

You must have some pretty good fences, Anna, to have all of those good and caring neighbors. Even if you turned into THAT neighbor. I'm glad they are there for you.

I am reading The Still Point of the Turning World, and thinking of you throughout. The author, who lost her baby to Tay-Sachs, and who graduated from Harvard Divinity School, has a lot of interesting things to say about grief, circumstance, poetry, luck, life and death. It's beautifully written, and is making me at once extremely emotionally fragile and as if I am growing stronger and wiser. Your words have this effect on me and others too.

love,
jbhat

Katy said...

I have been pondering tragedy a lot lately - not just yours but everyone's around me too.
And I was thinking to myself that the book of Job can't be accurate. Because no matter what God gave him in the end (more children, more animals, more everything) -- how could Job ever be happy again? How could he ever be mentally stable again? I don't think I could ever recover, no matter what God gave me afterward.
And that's been a difficult thing to ponder this week.

A Morning Grouch said...

I think about your story a lot. Don't be embarassed to need support that you might have scoffed at or avoided before. It's hard to really understand things, sometimes, until you are faced with experiences that make you question what you used to think. I hope you are able to find bits of peace and happiness as you struggle through this difficult journey.

Anonymous said...

Anna,
I relate to particular post of yours so much. I often desire community, fun/easy relationships, and feeling embraced and liked by others.
I can also relate to life unfolding in such a way that it answers yet defies prayers all at the same time.
Your blog is beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Stay strong, I am not sure how much time it takes to mend wounds that never really heal, but I know it takes longer than you've had. Give yourself all the time you need.
Much love

Chimmy said...

I think The Empress said it best. Reading this post was as if I'm standing inside you.

I have been culturally wired to stand inside people, especially when they are in a difficult place. To seek out intimacy in every relationship. I often find myself fighting my penchant for intimacy because it makes people uncomfortable... even me sometimes.

But I've grown to learn that it has been well worth any level of discomfort.

Sending you lots of love, Anna.

Anonymous said...

<3

Anonymous said...

As I know you know, the Bible tells us that He wants the *best* for us, and that He will be glorified in this broken world. He didn't break it, but he permitted it to be broken. This doesn't seem very loving, or even very wise, and many people turn away from God because of this idea. I think C.S. Lewis addresses this issue well in "The Problem of Pain," and "A Grief Observed," but I digress.

Everything with God is so opposite of what we naturally think, isn't it?. The way up, is down? "are you sure about that, God?" Suffering and pain lead to joy? People --children! --die in unnatural ways and this is a good thing that we're supposed to embrace? "Ummm... pardon me, God, but are you for real? It's hard to tell." But He loves me, and He lets me have my moment, and then we move onward.

The thing that's hard to see is that God is concerned about *you* and about *me* --the individual, even when it seems like He's only interested in being sadistic. The plan of God for every Christian is for them to become Christ-like, no matter how that comes about. My thinking used to be something like, "I'm not particularly interested in pain, God. Thanks all the same. I've got me under control. Those Christians in China are much more eager to embrace this sort of thing. Now, shew. Go away."

I can recall crying out more than once, "God, this! THIS! THIS? Really? Is THIS your best for me? I don't see it and I don't like it and I don't WANT IT!" But I couldn't get away from "it," no matter how hard I tried. But, I was a believer in Christ the Person, not in religion, and there was no getting away from His immeasurable love which would not leave me in the pit.

Safe community --not all people are safe --is how He begins to heal us, and how He begins to be glorified in this earth, and How His love is made manifest in this hurting world, and how one seed falling to the ground turns into many more being healed and finding hope.

I eventually, begrudgingly, accepted that I could not fix this situation. Some things, like death, are not fixable, at least not in the way we would like. At this point I started accepting the grace which was offered to me, by God and by the few people I opened up to, and I also started accepting on some level that what He said in his Word was true; He did indeed love me, though the evidence pointed in a different direction. The thing was, I could feel His love, even in the despair, and I could sense the wooing.

And with that wee bit of acceptance of the situation, I began to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. In time my focus began to shift onto myself, *not* the wretched situation in which I found myself. More letting go. More unraveling. More fear. More healing.

The more I've healed and surrendered, the more I've trusted this crazy plan of His for "my betterment." Layer upon layer, I go deeper with Him, and layer upon layer He digs me --the real me --out. I still cry out often and ask Him to just "do something" --kind of like we do at Mardi Gras "Hey, throw me something', Mister!"... and He does. I'm far from being "healed," and I suppose that won't really happen until I meet Him face-to-face.

He has Anna's best interest in His mind, too. Even in your anger, despair, and frustration He loves you so much. You know that, right? Accept His grace, most esp. in those times when you are ticked off, or exhausted, or triggered by seeing the other boys living a life that Jack never will live on this earth. The purpose of all of this grief is already being manifest in amazing ways. I do know this is of little consolation to you when you just want your boy back. But God has a way of redeeming things and healing us in the most unexpected ways. I know that sounds like flowery language, but it's true nonetheless. You are a blessing, Anna, and you and your family are loved.

Adrienne said...

I hear you question your participation in friendships and community ... yet you've created a wide and deep friendship, and a supportive and loving community right here. I think that what you weren't comfortable showing in person, you made up for in spades in the gathering place you've supported and maintained for all these years. You're touching hundreds and hundreds of lives and hopefully we're helping you in return. Isn't that the definition of friendship and community?

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since you've written about the day that Jack died. You wrote some time ago about the idea of a "chain reaction," and thinking over and over about how so many choices or events interacted, leading to that terrible loss. If you're choosing to write again about his death, maybe you're understanding the idea of a chain reaction in a new or different way.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Yes, YES. I understand this kind of reversal, completely. I think it's what life is made of.
Erica in VT

Deb Werrlein said...

i like Adrienne's point about the wide community you've created here. it seems you have gotten "in deep" with a lot of people who come here for comfort, inspiration, or just to know they're not alone. That's pretty "messy" - and beautiful.

btw - my captcha challenge is the word "grateful" :)

heather blair said...

Oh, honey...my stomach flipped at this post. I feel you - the questioning, the odd way your prayers were reversed, or answered in a way you didn't quite plan.

I remember praying for friends, even a friend, a short while before we lost Austin. Never did I imagine the "friends" that would come pouring out as a result of that tragedy. And yet of other friends we lost because our pain was just too much for them. I've played the what if I didn't pray that too... Hugs.

Carol said...

I have lurked long enough. This post took my breath away.

I like to be a hermit. The house next door has been empty for over a month, even though a woman has bought it - she just hasn't moved in yet. I feel resistance to having someone next door after this lovely time of quiet where there's been no need to deal with a neighbor. But the intense grabbing at my stomach that came when I read of your friend, Jane, holding you on that rainy night and still today, and your words, "I now need what I was reluctant to give, and that is humbling." have me thinking - and feeling. How would we ever move again if we didn't have others to hold us up when the ground is knocked out from under us? Maybe your words have made a little crack in my resistance to being open to our new neighbor, once she has moved in - or maybe even before she moves in.

Since I haven't written before, I won't feel complete until I tell you that I am so sorry that Jack was taken from you and this world. These things are more than a mind can wrap itself around. I honor your journey, and I send you hugs from Colorado.

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Anonymous said...

I read your your blog all the time and can't imagine your pain. It makes me sad but I always look forward to the next post and can't stop reading it. Jack's picture is on my frig with his magnet, he is part of my family. Everyone who comes over says who is that cute boy? I tell them Jack's story. Love to you and your family!

Geri said...

Beautiful post Anna. Your words always cut to the heart of the matter.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I've said it before but your honesty stops me from breathing. I wish I could make some sense out of it for you, but it just doesn't make any, there is no sense of Jack being gone. My prayer has always been that those surrounding you hold and keep you. There is so much comfort in knowing that they are!

anymommy said...

I have struggled with this SO much, Anna, how to be a friend through a long-term crisis ... and (embarrassingly) whether I wanted to be. You put it so well.

In the end, I've had to come to peace with the knowledge that for a few people, I have been the rock they needed and for others I have been one of the ones that faded away and "forgot" how grief goes on.

You remind me to dig deeper and think harder while admitting to your own struggles and I love it.

Anonymous said...

I want You To Go Away.

Anonymous said...

I hope that this will continue to be a safe place. Everyone here, without exception, has something worthwhile to contribute, whether they are sharing and commenting, or even just "lurking." (I don't personally care for the term "lurking" because there can be much value in silent reflection, too.)

mollysmith222 said...

I admire you so much and love how you write so openly and honestly. I've often wondered bout your neighbors and Joe's mom. I can imagine placing blame and being furious with the mom and even the other boys. I didn't say it was right to feel that way but I would be so angry. I'm glad you have Jane and you have us. I drive by your neighborhood everyday and everyday I pray you have some peace and are doing OK. Much love to you.

Kim said...

This was so very, very brave. and beautiful. Just like you.

longtodolist said...

HUG

Kiri said...

So beautifully said, that really hits home. I also struggle to be more than a twisted ankle friend. Maybe everyone does, but some just push through it - and maybe we need to have experienced receiving that kind of friendship to give it.
And like your anonymous reader here, I too found When Bad Things Happen to Good People has very much influenced my thoughts about the "whys" in this life.

Kim P. said...

Talking a long hard look at myself on this drizzly afternoon. Thank you for being brave enough to post such thought provoking words....again. Hugs from Purcellville.

I also thought of your Jack this morning as I put on a certain piece of jewelry. I never met Jack but oh, how often I think about him and your family.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

We never ever know what God has planned for us. Great post Anna.
I am so sorry for that day when Jack never came back. Your posts are always amazing and I am thankful to have you in my life. ((HUGS))

Heidi said...

What an incredible post. You took my breath away.
I'm with you and for you.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me how deep you look at things and how willing you are to face the pain. My friend is in her 13th year of grieving her only child and has blocked it behind alcohol. So bitter, no one can say anything right, and her outlook on life has become so negative. It is heartbreaking when I remember who she is down deep. Her circle of friends and family feel so helpless. Anyway....I just admire how you face all parts of this puzzle and share your feelings. You are a gift.

theworldaccordingtojean said...

This is such a thoughtful post, as always, and I can completely relate - to the degrees of friendship I offer others. But actually, as I read it what finally drove me to comment was the opportunity to tell you that your writing is just getting better and better with every post. My only credentials to judge are from being a voracious "reader" from a very young age, and I "think" I'm a fairly good judge of good writing (but who knows?) - and as I read this post, by the time I finished this is what went through my head, "Her writing has improved SO much in the year or less that I've been reading this blog - she is a really good writer and this is an excellent piece". For what it's worth. But I'm proud of you. I don't know you, but I'm proud of how you've kept going and how you continue to try to be a good mother, writer, wife, person.

mrscravitz said...

This post gave cause for me to reflect. I feel that I am "more" of that friend, than just the drive by, "good morning" greeting kind. I go out of my way to welcome neighbors, help a stranger, (made good friends this way) and try to look for ways to help my friends. Sometimes, I don't know what to do. But following your blog, I know that just holding someones hand in a crisis is enough for the moment. THANK YOU!

Salvimom said...

Dearest Anna,

as usual, thank you for sharing, thank you for your wonderful ability with words. You could right about drywall and I would think its interesting. I am often the kind that is so nosy, I tend to get involved quite quickly with people. Problem is, as a mom of four and a full-time employee, I am spread a bit thin...and I end up being the fast-food of friends. I end up not being available (literally) because I simply cannot stop. My 'window' of friendship tends to fall in the 930-11pm range...this is my free time, but usually sleep overtakes me. At any rate, I do go above and beyond, and I do this because I think constantly about how I would enjoy being treated and/or blessed by others. Unfortunately, most times this is just a hope, not a reality, but we've gotta do it anyway in our pursuit of the pleasure of God. Thanks again for sharing, prayers to you and yours.

Ury

helenasc said...

I hope you know that you have made me so much more compassionate and willing to reach out to those in grief, despite my fears of saying or doing the wrong thing. I have thought back many times to your poste at the end of last March when you encouraged us to reach out beyond out comfort zone. Just today I e-mailed a friend and made lunch plans since she just lost her mom. I am sure that I am not the only one to whom you have given the courage to reach out. I know that Jack would have been so proud that you have loved others so well to carry on his legacy of love and caring, not to mention his desire to be a missionary, if I remember that correctly. You have reached so many with the love of our Lord.

Princess Kate said...

Your posts always getting me thinking about life and changes (both in a good and scary way). I appreciate your writing and think of you and your family daily. Peace my friend.

home remodeling madison said...

Incredible posts that keeps me reading your blog. May the lord bless you always.

Jenn Marshall said...

I remember thinking that I wanted to find a church where there was such a sense of community that if something tragic ever happened to a member, the rest of the congregation would wrap their hands around that family. And yet, since joining our new church last year I have not gone beyond becoming involved in the preschool functions. I'm surface there.

Thank you for opening my eyes on something we don't take enough time to truly appreciate: the value of a neighbor's friendship. I want to be there, when I'm needed and when I'm not. I just know it's important to be there for each other.

So glad I got to give you a hug on Sunday. I love getting to hang out with you. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Peace to you Anna.

Marta said...

You never what the future brings. You can never know how things will change and meld through time. You don't know what you don't have. So happy that you have so many people in your life, to hold your hand, to walk with you.

Cheryl said...

Incredible how you can speak out so beautifully and honestly in the midst of your own pain. Your walk through this life got really hard but know that your words touch and comfort so many. I wish you peace.

Anonymous said...

I get it. As an introvert in her late 30s, it's easy to avoid social interactions that require me to put myself out there. Even w/ good friends. It's partly my personality (Talking to people outside my close circle = scary), my insecurities (Someone rejecting my offer to help could be hurtful) and my stage in life (I'm a busy mom. Who has time to help? Terrible attitude, I know). I frustrate myself when I want to do better and don't. Knowing these flaws is useful, though. I keep trying to be a better person all the time.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be as openly honest as you. I do talk to myself about very similar kinds of issues but I don't have the courage to same them out loud to anyone. Makes me feel too vulnerable. I admire you tons for that. (I also love it when you're bawdy -- hee hee.) Erica in VT

AmyMak said...

You are a fantastic writer; what a gift. This is hard for me to read because I think you have just described ME. I am that person too - I want to offer to help, but I don't really want you to say yes. I'll drop off a casserole, but I'm really busy so please don't call me and ask to sit on my couch and talk. Wow, you really turned that around. I want to try harder and go deep. Thank you for your blog. I don't know the answers either. Love to you and your family, though we've never met...I've been very touched by your story.

Katie Bug said...

I don't even know what to say so I'll just say thank you. I really needed to read that today. So insightful!

Anonymous said...

Anna, I'm so sorry about that terrible terrible comment someone made above. I am a distant reader of your blog -- and occasional commenter -- so I have less than no idea who made it but that comment is itself obscene. I do not know you personally (or even anyone you know ) but I do know FOR SURE you did not deserve that. No way. That commenter has made a judgement on him/herself, not on you. I'm not going to cast the aspersions on that commenter that I would like to. Instead I will just say to that person: BE KIND -- AS EVERYONE YOU KNOW IS FIGHTING A HARD BATTLE. e. in vt.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to put yourself out there Anna. It takes courage to write so openly and honestly. I know Jack is so proud of his mom.

Anonymous said...

@e in vt. Thank you for taking a stand. That comment is verbal abuse. There's no reason for that.

Anonymous said...

whatever you did, Anna -- and maybe you did nothing at all! -- it was not nearly as bad as the way that person (above) chose to respond it.

there's nothing worse than deliberate cruelty and that's what you see in the comment above. it's the difference between manslaughter and premeditated homicide. one is not just a little bit worse. it's INFINITELY worse. because it's deliberate, planned, and designed to inflict maximum damage.

i just really don't want you to suffer over that comment. but I'll shut up now.

hugs e.in vt.

Anonymous said...

Anna-may God give you strength, I know your precious son Jack is looking over you with so much love. It is amazing how much your son has impacted all of our lives. God bless you Jack.

Linked to your posting I have been reading a book by Pope John Paul II which makes a reference to suffering. In it he says how the sick and suffering offer a "space for mercy". He doesn't mean to explain away suffering, its too profound a mystery for any of us, but I do believe that our greatest achievement as humanity is our desire to reach out to those in need. You and your family are always in all our prayers.

My God bless you and your family.

Falls Church neighbor

afourytale.com said...

Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself with your readers. I have read and shared your blog with all the people I love the most. You are a beautiful writer. I hold space for you and your family.

ferraoli said...

This was difficult to read because I saw a lot of myself in it. I can imagine how hard it was to write and to share. Thank you - there is much here that bears thought.

Laura said...

Just . . .
. . . thinking of you.
xo

Kerry S. said...

I put on a T-shirt that has birds flying on it and I thought of you and your Jack and those beach photo prints that you shared with us once.

Hugs to you on a cloudy Monday.

You are stronger than you know and an inspiration and helper to so many.

Jessica Watson said...

I have had a really hard time with my faith and understanding how this whole world is supposed to work since losing Hadley. I just can't quite find the reasons the way I used to. I also was never a deep friendship holder but now those are the only ones I have.

Tricia said...

Love reading your stories. It is strange how God works, but we must believe it is all His plan and will work out in the long run. Losing a child is so hard and friends are such a blessing at that time. Hang in there.