God does some of His best work in the unseen – Lysa Terkeurst
There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. – Matthew 10:26
You’re the best song I’ll ever write. – Bethany Dillon
I’m considering re-naming this blog Christmas Mishaps with the Merediths.
Earlier this month, our youngest performed with her choir
at an classical venue downtown.
We heard about the concert in late September.
We discovered the lengthy practice times in early October.
Since the better part of Elliana’s first weekend in December would be spent in the city, we thought it best tag along and have a fun family weekend downtown.
Everything seemed to be clicking:
I found a great deal at a fancy hotel. Concert tickets were affordable. Our other daughter was into the idea.
It would be a perfect kick-off to the holiday season.
But based on the bodies that jammed around us as we shuffled the streets, everyone else thought it a great idea too.
And by everyone,
I mean literally every single person in the Greater Vancouver area.
You know what else happens the first weekend in December?
The Santa Claus Parade.
Americans, let me give you a brief Canadian Christmas lesson here:
We don’t start decorating for Christmas on Black Friday.
We’re still learning what Black Friday IS, because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in November.
Its the only time, you think.
How else would we know when to start the Christmas season?
When would you have your Macy’s Day Parade?
Well, there’s the hitch.
Anytime in the first weekend of December is acceptable.
But because we’re not fixed on a particular day, its hard to know when to plan for, or in our case, plan around.
Annnd our hotel was on the parade route.
We had noticed signs the night before, something to the effect that
these two streets will be closed from 11-4.
We were going the opposite direction, so we didn’t give it much thought.
But Vancouver did.
Vancouver gave it so much thought, in fact, that they didn’t just close those two streets.
They didn’t close a line, or a cross-section.
They closed an ever-growing, unwieldy rectangle subject to the crowd’s ever-growing madness.
We drove in a square at least three times before my husband jumped out at the fifteenth intersection we were redirected at
to ask the traffic director how in the name of
that we could cross an ever-loving bridge out of the downtown core to where she would have (already begun) singing.
oh yeah, you gotta go waaaaaayy east.
It was ten minutes to showtime. We had left our hotel an hour and ten minutes before, certain it would be enough time to cross the normal twenty minute drive and find parking.
Instead, we arrived a half-hour late.
By this time, there were tears. And by tears, I mean mine.
I know these classical concerts. If you’re late, you get the judgy-mc-judgers look from every one you see. And not even the melodramatic, first-world-sob-story of
it took two hours to get here from downtown
would be enough to quell the scrutiny.
Fast forward to the three of us being shoved in the door in the middle of a break to discover we were facing the entire venue, because the tickets I bought were in literally front and centre.
I wasn’t planning on being late, of course. I was going to stay downtown, for crying out loud.
That meant I would be less stressed.
And yet, it took me longer to get there than the people who came from where we live.
It’s so funny.
Of course, once we saw the incredibly awkward position of our seats, when we asked the people at the end of our row to let us in, they just raised an eyebrow, glanced at the seats, turned to me and shook their heads.
I went back to the usher, tears spilling over.
So, they’re not letting us in, and currently the conductor is directly addressing the audience not two and a half feet in front of those seats.
Can we sneak into the back?
After a dramatic lesson on the importance of assigned seating and being on time, the clearly uncomfortable but resolute usher march over to our row and direct everyone in our way to get up.
About half of them do.
The other half just turn their knees semi-sideways and give us a very pointed once-over.
Since the rows were extremely tight, we accidentally stepped on several toes, in more ways than one, while the whole venue looked on.
See, it’s not always the best thing to stand out.
Another weekend, another recital – this one very much on time, thank you very much – we watched our youngest muster all her courage to introduce herself with a microphone in front of an audience before she played her new instrument in public.
The older ladies behind us called out complements and corrections in joyful-but-emphatic voices far too loud for the setting.
oh, isnt this lovely!
Too bad the piano’s too loud to hear her.
I leaned over to Noelle: You have full permission to shush me when I get like that. She giggled.
I’ve been terrified of growing older for awhile now. I thought that chronic leukemia bit had beaten it out of me – after all, every birthday is a victory of sorts – but there’s a fear lurking still.
A few years ago I asked some older friends for advice.
They told me the future all depends on what happens right now, that growing older was not so much about changing as it was about shedding our covers.
We don’t become someone different; we just reveal who we always were.
But if that’s true, there’s hope. All it takes is ruthlessly weeding, pruning, plucking, and planting the seeds we want to sow today, tomorrow, and the day after that.
This thought came rushing back to me in the middle of a long drive with a friend several weeks ago. Somewhere in the middle of laughing about the latest escapades of our kids, one of us said out loud,
How do we even do this?
A mother’s job is often indefinable.
I see it every day I go to work. I’m not one who chooses to work because I get some sense of personal satisfaction from it. It’s what my family needs me to do. But every time I come home, I remember that I can’t fully relax just because my shift is over.
The second shift has just started.
Those first few moments in the door are so crucial.
My family knows this. They are often so understanding of where my mind and heart are at post twelve-and-a-half-hours of ER-esque maternity madness. But there are other times I come home to a post-tornado-appearing kitchen and hear nothing but complaints of all the things they’ve stored up to tell me. I see sniffles instead of smiles and discover projects that have yet to be done within the hour of when I’m first home.
Its those moments that the idea of cultivating a home seems insurmountable.
How do I even do this?
But in the weeks that have passed since my friend and I mulled over the question, a light has emerged.
I cultivate my home by cultivating my heart.
And when I don’t know where to begin, I start scanning for weeds.
Take this weekend, for example.
My techie-talented husband discovered an out-of-the-blue problem in our newer laptop. All his usual genius tricks failed to save it, so we took it to the repair shop.
Halfway through the depressing conversation with the less-than-helpful repairman, my newly-antibiotic-charged brain came to life.
I know why its not working.
The techie turned towards me, suspicious.
There was a … root beer incident yesterday, I said, and nodded towards our kids.
Immediately the repairman jumped in with the most depressing news to date.
Yeah, that’s going to be at least (insert astronomical sum here). You’re better off buying a new one.
Imagine a zoom-in on my heart.
Fear that we won’t be able to afford it.
Anger that the money can’t go somewhere more productive.
Bitterness that my children have failed to listen to the millions of warnings about liquids and electronics.
Envy of those for whom this would be no big deal.
Frustration that I was in this place at all.
Old, weedy, unkempt Lana would give into those emotions and let them drive her, all without being aware that they were. She would think the weeds were necessary parts of her sprawling mush of a garden – either simply unavoidable or too difficult to yank out.
New, sharper-pruned, routinely-gardened Lana paused, recognized those reactions for what they were:
Weed… yep, weed, and my goodness, totally-overgrown and outdated weed.
Pluck, pluck, pluck.
The tweezers’ work stings. My heart recoils from the surprise absence of things I once considered necessary.
But I know now that the prick that accompanies the pluck isn’t my enemy.
And while I know this quiet, diligent hard work over a long period of time is rarely ever seen for what it is while its going on, any well-tended garden reminds me that the current invisibility of my efforts will one day be worth it.
Not for what it looks like.
But for the space it provides others to come, sit, and breathe.
Gardening – physical or otherwise – is not my strength; but I’m ultimately governed by a Master Gardener Who’s not content until each heart that’s His is a masterpiece.
He directs the work; He provides the power; He shows us our part.
On January 1, 2019, it will have been ten years I have had chronic leukemia.
That’s a quarter of my life that, ten years ago, I didn’t think I’d have.
Even my oncologist smiled when he realized it’d been that long.
Usually this guy doesn’t smile, but this past November, as he did his exam and looked at my numbers he (almost) grinned.
It’s amazing what happens when my patients follow directions, he said.
– You told me to take a pill every day. That’s easy.
– Oh, you’d be surprised.
He laughed for a moment, and continued.
We’ll need to arrange different follow-up for you – I’m retiring in January.
I hid the tears that day and chose to grin right back.
It was a genuine smile, for all of the years he’d been provided to watch over a very rare condition, over an unusually young patient, from the time I left my three-year-old and eight-month-old at home,
to this last visit, where my now thirteen and ten year old sit in the office with us and laugh as we realize how far we’ve all come.
While there have been frustrations, tears, fears, and questions, including why have You let me stay within a hair’s breath of remission but not quite in remission for five years?
-for that is where I still am –
I learned that day that my oncologist was the only current practitioner who treated my very rare condition
between New Westminster and Kelowna.
He says he’s found a colleague who will take on my case at RCH, but it will be a definite shift.
And yet, I’m not afraid.
The unforeseen isn’t a weed to be plucked, after all. Just a tool to be wielded.
I wish I could impress this on the hearts of first time mothers.
Each year that passes I witness a growing number of women who, out of fear, plan and analyze and read every book and take every class, or worse, just let Google do it for them,
all with the hope of experiencing childbirth without pain or the unexpected.
While I empathize with them, I wish I could give them a lens into the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years of their lives.
Labour’s just a trial run to prepare you for what’s coming.
I know its terrifying to think your life might get completely upended by this little creature, and the prospect of your only tool being adapting seems too shaky to step into.
But, if you’ll go with me for a moment:
I attended a funeral recently.
It was standing room only.
With each minute that passed, I became more sure that the number present wasn’t representative of the dramatic way in which the woman whose life we were celebrating passed.
Rather it was the number of lives she touched
and the relationships she nurtured
with all those hidden things.
She was a talented professional, yes, but her resume wouldn’t make the world take notice.
She knew a lot of people well, but she didn’t have a lot of titles.
Unless you count friend.
But that room was so packed even the overflow was full.
So I’m starting to think that maybe the things we consider visible here – aren’t really.
I asked my husband about this last week, and he shoved a thin little book in my hands.
Read this, he said.
In the final pages of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, the narrator finds himself observing the entrance into heaven of a stunningly beautiful woman with a rather large entourage.
‘Is it?… is it?’ I whispered to my guide.
‘Not at all,’ said he. ‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on Earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’
‘She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?’
‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.’
When we pass, friends, all the things that were considered ‘important’ about us here will be confined to about two hundred words.
And I’m starting to think that maybe we’re spending far too much time on things that will make up two or three of those words,
instead of the things that can’t be expressed in words at all.
My unorthodox advice to you this Christmas:
Pursue the hidden things.
It sounds backwards.
It seems fruitless.
Many of you may already be in a position where you’re frustratingly forced into having your best efforts held far back from the eyes you hoped would see them,
or where you wish that what was hidden was more public and what was public was more hidden.
I get that.
But what if we lived as though each of those hidden things would one day be made oh-so-public?
Because I think they will.
As a wise friend recently told us,
There’s nothing truly private. At some point, all things become known. In some way, all the moments of our lives are carried out before an audience.
through a turn of circumstance here,
or a veil-removal there,
all of those things we thought were done in secret
will be shown for what they were –
It shouldn’t really surprise us this time of year. Each time we run across a nativity scene, it should remind us that the long-awaited Baby in a manger
was first seen by
a constant reminder that some of the best Things are at first hidden.
If your next week includes visits with those you dearly love, soak them up.
If it includes moments with those more difficult to love, embrace those too.
And if it includes space to rest and hunker down, don’t let a single moment go wasted.
Live each one as if one day they’ll be shown before millions.
You might never see the results here.
But they will be seen.
Much like the way we were seen when we shuffled in late to Elliana’s concert.
In the end,
the two hours of traffic
and the failed plans to eliminate inconvenience
allowed our daughter to see us the exact moment we arrived.
She said it gave her courage.
At intermission, the people sitting on the other side of us empathized with laughter and compassion about our unfortunate day.
We already had a lot in common with them and just hadn’t figured it out yet.
In light of things like these,
the guilt-ridden looks fade away
to something far more lasting.
I don’t have a word for it yet.
But that’s okay.
All the best things are first hidden.