Roller coasters aren’t my place; a canoe on a shallow, sandy-bottomed Michigan river is. For more than an hour this weekend, the Grand River lazily carried us from a drop-off point upstream back to the park. A few leaves in trees along the banks were hinting at turning red, but we spied cardinal flowers, a Great Blue Heron, and goldenrod — summer’s last bold flower.
Ah. Thank you, God for these glories: easy, companionable people; a little quiet; birds, still water.
A canoe’s a perfect place for a lesson in faith, of course: the current directs; we paddle ourselves aground. Cooperation. Yawn.
But this has me thinking of Phil and rum cake.
One of the most boisterous men I knew shared in a small group his unbridled joy over us younger adults — and these were his words, spoken while balancing a slice of the best rum cake on his knee and his arms in the air: “Life is just PREGnant with possibilities — PREGnant with Gawd’s glory.” I’d watched the rum cake on my own plate disappear by forkfuls as I uneasily shifted in my seat. My shirt was taut over my heavily pregnant middle. I wanted him not to use that word. He was so joyful at this PREGnant world. I was tired, anxious, resentful and — most of all — fiercely restless. I could hardly sit still. The space between heaven and earth was really thin that year. Every murmur from the Spirit registered loudly.
Three years ago: Disillusioned with my career, disillusioned by our vanilla existence — I wanted delivery, and not just for the baby, which I feared would anchor us further (more bills, diapers, day care; more, more). I wanted an escape hatch. I wanted it at that very moment. God’s glory wasn’t on my mind: deliverance was, and it was in that room, by a degree or two, that I shifted from my boring story to wanting a part in God’s story. I was only beginning to recognize that holy restlessness; I still am. (And I still crave that rum cake.)
I just: Ugh. I wanted to put myself in places where we would be more likely to see deliveries on the pregnancies that had Phil so joyful, instead of all these false starts. I still want that.
I’ll forever be learning there are parts of these pregnant expectations for which we’ll always, on earth, be waiting. There’s no textbook germination period, no idea how long the wait will be, or for what we’re waiting. We have hopes — but there’s no “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Something/ Someone/ Some Decision/ Some Feeling/ Some Change).”
That canoe ride underlined the other side of Phil’s outburst: The world’s not pregnant with dread. Trees don’t dread. Leaves’ deaths are the most beautiful, temporary parts of their brief lives. I should dread less about the changes I sense coming; about seasons changing and depression weaving in and out of the story.
I’m grateful for the glories. For one, we started school in mid August because I needed the rhythm to carry us through this changing seasons. Today as I prepared for the week, I felt comfort in the narratives. So much perspective and enjoyment comes from this. But even in this I’m opening my hands: it’s not mine. First grade, week three, is fun. But I don’t have a plan to homeschool forever; maybe, but probably not. I do wonder what all this Charlotte Mason stuff will lead to. I do wonder … And even/ especially in that not-knowing, I desire joy.
Do you know how hard that is?
I think you might, or else God wouldn’t have put all that joy and trust stuff in the Bible. He didn’t write it just for me.
So. Back to the canoe.
What’s most beautiful? We paid for our canoes and loaded into the transport van to be dropped off upstream. Not a minute into our transport, rain poured. We all wondered: can we back out? I think I would have, if my aunt wouldn’t have gotten out of the van first. I think she would have, if the rest of us wouldn’t have followed. But we got in the river. We didn’t do it because we wanted a really special blog post. We didn’t do it because we’re really spiritual and trusting.
We just did because, well, we said we’d canoe, dammit.
And before we five were bobbing in the water, the rain stopped. The sun came out.
Of course, people who’d gotten in their boats at another time were drenched on the river. That’s their story. Others missed the rain entirely. That’s theirs.
But for our story, we said yes in a downpour. I like to think we’re just that kind of people. But actually, we’re not. I don’t like being cold and wet. It’s only tonight that I see the value in having other people get out of the van and grab a paddle.
PREGnant with Gawd’s glory, with possibilities: I was thinking of Phil’s joy and where we’d all be in a year (and rum cake) while we paddled. I was thinking about possibilities and courage and health insurance and weaknesses. And God, who’s good, always. I have to make myself focus on Gawd’s glory now, as we all let the current take us.