I am sure that I missed it. But I am not sure what it was because I wasn’t looking for it. Oh, yes, I caught some of it, but I diminished it by grumbling, complaining, and wishing for something other.
Although, I know I miss much of God’s presence every day of my life, this blog is a reflection on my failures before we moved to the farm.
We lived in California temporarily for eleven years, and I was always looking for the escape clause.
I was seven months pregnant with my second child when I had my first introduction to the San Fernando Valley. Barb, one of my lifetime friends from college had picked us up from the airport, and we were headed to the home where she and her husband would host us until Judd arrived. Judd was making the trek by car from North Carolina bringing our meager life possessions with him. With my one year old on my lap (no seat belts and no child restraints then) we descended the hill between Los Angeles and the Valley.
Barb was cheerfully chatting, but I had stopped listening. I was in a state of panic. “Oh, my dear Lord, so many people; so much concrete, so many buildings, and . . . the smog. I am going to be lost in this place.” I had grown up on the East Coast. I loved the green, the open fields, and the farms. Open spaces spoke to me of a loving and caring God. Here I was descending into a man-made concrete world, speeding traffic, blaring horns, millions of people, and an arid land that was green only if irrigated by the human inhabitants. I felt I was losing my soul.
I missed the gift of seeing with God’s eyes.
I missed the fact that He was inviting me to walk this new walk with Him.
I missed the gift of anticipating what this adventure with God would bring.
Maybe part of my uneasiness that day was the hormonal imbalance of a very pregnant woman, or the fact that I had just traveled across the country with a toddler and without the aid of my dear husband. But I was definitely not experiencing the thrill of an adventure with God, and I was not anticipating His presence in this new life. I was scared, homesick, overwhelmed. The days that followed seemed to fulfill my initial reaction. In many ways I became wooden, bracing myself for what I was going to have to do and who I was to become in this new, strange world.
I missed the chance to flourish.
I did grow. Now that I look back on those eleven years, I see that all of my struggles kept leading me, inch by inch, into a grown-up relationship with my Father. But flourish? To flourish you need to be working with God. I was being dragged, almost unaware that He was involved in what was happening.
That first year we struggled to get our feet under us. Judd worked three part-time jobs until he was hired full time with the mega church where we served. Three part-time jobs meant he was gone . . . a lot.
I missed the gift of peace that passes all understanding.
We had settled into our new home about three months when fire surrounded the San Fernando Valley. Panic! I had a toddler at home, Judd was at work, my laundry was hanging on the line being dusted with black ashes that floated down from the skies, and I was without a car. The fire trucks flew past the house. Although Judd helped to fight the fires that surrounded his brother’s home, our home was far from the danger of burning. But I was not becoming any more enthralled with my adopted environment.
I missed the gift of security that God was offering. I lived more in fear of a life out of control than the peaceful confidence that God was covering me with His presence.
As if the fires were not enough, we were to become more closely acquainted with another of California’s environmental offerings. Our new baby, Dan, was three months old, and Derrick was a year and a half when we experienced the 6.8 earth quake centered in the San Fernando Valley. Judd and I were sound asleep in our front bedroom when the house began to shake violently. My first thought was of my babies down the hall from us, and I jumped up to go to them. But I could not walk. The floor was rolling like solid waves. I fell back into bed and prayed. Our friends in the east had warned us about this. California was going to fall into the ocean. This prediction was in the front of the news those days, and everyone was sure it would be soon. When the shaking stopped, I went directly to the nursery. Both babies were sleeping soundly. No trauma there.
Our house had a little damage, dishes had fallen out of the cupboards, bookcases knocked down, but nothing that could not be fixed. My psyche was another story. Concrete walls had fallen. Bridges had collapsed. People had died. I, as the mother of two helpless babies, had been given a new mantle. I must, at all times, be aware of where my babies were, ready to grab them and take them to safety when the earth which had always been my terra firma should begin to threaten our lives again.
A low-level anxiety filled my heart because I felt God had abandoned me. I missed the peace that passes all understanding.
Our rough introduction to California slowly faded into a routine, less dramatic lifestyle. We attended the mega church where Judd worked and we learned how to relate to others on Sunday, and how to develop some relationships. The redeeming aspects of those years for both of us were the friendships we forged through Judd’s counseling center and a women’s group that I led. We shared community in those groups. They became the “home” for our souls.
Through the years in the Valley, two of our children were born, our extended families surrounded us; we shared holidays and created many, many wonderful memories. But my heart was never at home. I was discontent with the “foreign” feel of my surroundings. I disliked the emphasis that I saw on materialism that seemed to pervade everything, even the church. I longed for a yard that would survive without constant watering (such a little thing). I wanted to go somewhere and not have to stand in a line, or fight all the traffic every time I left the house. I felt like a prisoner during the smog alerts when the children were advised to stay indoors for the day, or when we could no longer allow our children to go alone to the park two blocks away because of the murders there.
Some people thrived on the California lifestyle. Even good people, people whom I admired and loved. I, on the other hand, pled with God to remove us from this strange foreign land.
The last three years of our California experience we stepped away from the mega church and joined an unusual church family that met at a restaurant and welcomed those who would not darken the doors of a church. It was a mission church. We flourished in our new environment. This group with its understanding of church, its practice of community, its desire to grow as disciples of Jesus, gave us a model that we would pursue when we moved to Kansas. This experience inspired us to pursue something similar, something that would grow deep into true spiritual community when we moved away from our California home.
And we did move. We did leave that California home. But as I reflect on those years I have a sense of remorse. I missed so much because of my discontentment.
In Acceptance Lieth Peace
In acceptance lieth peace,
O my heart be still;
Let thy restless worries cease
And accept His will.
Though this test be not thy choice,
It is His—therefore rejoice.
In His plan there cannot be
Aught to make thee sad:
If this is His choice for thee,
Take it and be glad.
Make from it some lovely thing
To the glory of thy King.
Cease from sighs and murmuring,
Sing His loving grace,
This thing means thy furthering
To a a wealthy place.
From thy fears He’ll give release
In acceptance lieth peace.