I’m going to Ukraine next week and find myself searching for words like Imelda Marcos with an American Express logged onto Zappos. I’m drowning in words, and none of them fit together to form a kick board, much less a life raft. And I’ll warn you now, this is a long post.
10 days until we get on a plane which means it’s in my two-week scope. I’ve been ignoring this blog because I haven’t been able to capture my feelings and mold them into words. Dove Promises, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, that extra glass of wine, a day at the pool, nuuu-Hu-thing has been able to soothe my soul and coax the words into existence.
Last weekend I practically jumped for joy when my son was unexpectedly asked to play in a tournament. If you’ve had the decided privilege of listening to me whine about baseball for the last six years, you’d understand that this implies utter desperation. I needed something, anything, to distract my steady stream of erratic ruminating.
My son enjoyed the extra time on the field and we had a fabulous weekend, but my thoughts were still all over the place like an under-the-cutoff-line child on a tilt-a-whirl. My thoughts were as clear as curdled milk. Can you hear the despondency? Tilt-A-Whirl+ Curdled Milk=Maniacal.
It wasn’t a fear I could name or anxiety I could categorize, but a hovering unsettledness. The list of gotta-get-it-done went all oops I didn’t do it again.
The children I’m going to meet. Traveling with virtual strangers. What if I get sick? They tell me I snore for heavens’ sake! All of these random worries that I’d like to have settled, and fixed of course, before I leave because I can’t possibly fall apart in front of my 13 year old son and slop my neurosis all over him.
I finally went for a drive tonight.
I’ll have to tell you the van story sometime, it’s amazing. But the short of it is. I lo-Hu-ve my town and country minivan. It has comfy heated seats that were made for summer days with the windows down and the air conditioner blasting. And the sound system is TDF!!!
When the words are confined in the deep dark, music can usually find them and coax them to the surface. But sometimes the music alone isn’t enough, it takes the music and the van to bring order to my frayed thoughts. There’s something about the wind and the motion that soothes me.
I turn at the corner where I get my cokes and drive past the private school I attended as a child, the high school where I graduated and the street we lived on when we were first married. At the corner in the west village (because we are trying desperately to bring come culture to our town) I hang a left and head past the house where one of my dearest friends brought home babies. By the time I pass the pool where I spent summers as a child, another hard left and four miles with no neon signs and my thoughts begin to order.
After four trips and about 28 miles on my paved treadmill, the fear of being unprepared emerged.
Once you stalk a feeling and give it a name, it brings a measure of relief.
I can deal with being unprepared as long as it has a name. It’s when I’m unprepared and don’t know I’m unprepared that I get a little wiggy.
I’m getting on a plane and going to a place I’ve never been and all the words floating around in my head won’t mean a thing to the people I’m going to serve. And in all reality my words are a barricade that protect my heart, like an invisible electric fence.
They arced sharp blue an hour ago. All defensive and combative zapping my husband because he came too close to my maximum security area. And I drove away and thought I should be committed.
I think I could pack and prepare well for being committed.
Packing and preparing to spend time with children locked inside their bodies and their minds. Calculating the way I can help bring respite and compassion to moms and babushkas that live a life I cannot comprehend in all my suburban comfort? Not so much.
I like to be prepared for things. There’s a story about me dragging mittens and hats to the kids in my kindergarten who were cold at recess. I keep too much on my garage shelves, and carry too much in my car and stuff too much in my purse.
Being unprepared is my worst nightmare. And I’ve made every provision I can think of for this trip. I have scripts for stomach issues and possible sinus infections. I have my epi-pen for those deadly Ukrainian cats and chapstick and sunscreen and bug spray and dental floss. I have my portable fan and swim shoes. There are stickers and tattoos for the children and gifts for the caregivers, travel Lysol and breath mints for a year.
Gage and I have read books on Ukraine and children with special needs and I read A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs. We’ve learned hello (pree-vee-it) and goodbye (do-po-BACH-een-ya) in Ukrainian and are compiling our Itunes playlists, but there’s no way to prepare for what I imagine will happen to my heart. And my son is going and he’s 13 and I don’t know if I’m ready for him to see how messy and selfish it is.
I want to have some idea about the ending of the story and this is a story yet unwritten.
Several months ago, I found myself in Les Mis with two friends and no earthly idea what the movie was about. In the opening scenes I really had to focus to understand what was happening. I just kept waiting for the Valjean to die. It was so stressful I wished I’d snuck in some wine in a coffee mug. I didn’t know the characters or the plot and couldn’t appreciate it fully until I saw it the second time. Two of us hadn’t seen it before and we were completely exhausted by the time it was over.
This movie is called The Camp in Ukraine. The previews have rolled and we’ve been schooled on minion movie theatre etiquette, I’ve got my popcorn and the lights have dimmed. I can feel the bass as the soundtrack starts to play, but I’m in the dark. I don’t know the storyline. I only know there is one and I didn’t write it. And I’m certainly not the director.
I have an extemporaneous supporting role. And it feels terrifying to know that I may blubber like a fool as we board the plane. Let the record show that I am perfectly fine with losing it in front of total strangers. I’ve starred in many of these mini-productions and it’s fine with me if complete strangers see me act a fool. I’m terrified by the people who know my name but not all of my story.
God whispered a reminder this morning that he’s doing all things new. And new kind of implies, not old. And new means, not tried. And new means, not familiar. And new equals dreadful for a preparedness freak. But new breathes freshness.
And as much as I despise new, I long for fresh.
It’s a fresh chapter that I’m surrendering to. One in which I can’t possibly anticipate the feelings that may crop up in the next 10 days for me or for Gage. One in which I may or may not completely fall apart as I say good-bye to my children for 12 days. And one where I’m all but certain that the plot will take twists and turns and sport a spectacular ending.
A comedy, tragedy and contemplative piece all rolled into one. And the ashes will transform into the most radiant purples and blues and all that was not will be called into being.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3
The sound track is beginning (click here to hear the song) and the rhythm of the bass is pounding. I can feel it in my heart and it’s loosening the captive words. When the credits roll on this show, it’s going to be all God doing what He does best and when I get home, I can’t wait to share the miracle with you.