Motherhood is not the hardest job

Okay, so maybe my inner cynic is showing, but not too long ago I read yet another post affirming motherhood as the hardest job and the highest calling and I think I rolled my eyes. For sure I sighed. I may or may not have sent a snarky text to my friend (who, incidentally, may or may not have replied with a hearty assent urging the authors of such pieces to go ahead and get over themselves).

My friend and I don’t mean to be cynical. I do understand the authors’ intent with such articles. I do. Really, I do. No doubt I’ve written similar sentiments here on the blog. Motherhood is not easy, not by a long shot. It can be overwhelming and confusing and all-encompassing and, well, just plain hard, yes and amen. Not always but sometimes.

And maybe my snark is because I’m nearing the end of my daily responsibility as a mom. My nest is emptying; hence my curmudgeon-ry grows. Could be. Certainly my cynicism may well be closely related to my angst about transitioning out of this stage of life.

Regardless of the motivating factors, it’s not the assertion of the difficulty of the task of motherhood that gives me pause but rather the superlatives. The hardest job ever? The highest and best calling? If that were true, what about my life now as I near “retirement”? Am I to conclude that from here on out whatever my hand finds to do is somehow less important, of a less critical nature? And what about the implications for those who are single or who do not have children? Is our message really that motherhood is highest and best?

Besides, parenthood as we know it, what with medicine and healthcare and preschool and answers to any and all questions available with a few clicks of the google, is it really the hardest job? There are eternal implications to be sure. But I can’t help but think of friends who are laboring in parts of the world openly antagonistic to the gospel, where they do not know any other believers apart from they themselves; surely their job, their calling, their mission is hard, if not impossible.

Why then the repeated assertion of motherhood as highest and noblest? Does saying such really foster encouragement and joy in the task? For me it often had the opposite effect. I would grow depressed and discouraged to know that * this * ought to be the height of what I do and who I am; yet I was so often bored or overwhelmed or a complete failure. Some days, to be frank, seemed devoid of meaning and purpose in what was supposed to be the most important job of my life. Forget highest and hardest, while I knew days full of all that is good and grand about mothering, a lot of days just weren’t. If this was to be the end all, be all of my existence here on earth, shouldn’t I be better at it? Or find more joy in it?

Yes, indeed, dear mother, your task is difficult. It is a high and holy calling to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There are fabulous days and glorious days of sheer joy. There are also dark days and boring days and long days. Rest in the provision of your God no matter which kind of day you find yourself in. Do the best you can in the wisdom and provision of God, knowing your motherhood doesn’t define you. There are hard things and high callings beyond this stage and what matters is not necessarily the task at hand but the glory of God the Father who calls and empowers and sustains.

Goodness undeserved and astonishing

I write this on Good Friday. It is the Friday afternoon at the close of a difficult week. Not difficult because of difficult circumstances but difficult because of a funk and things said and a migraine and failure and sin and, well, you get the picture.

Weeks like this remind me why I need Good Friday. Today Christians remember and commemorate the death of Jesus, which is weird, if you think about it, that we celebrate death but that’s exactly what we do. We celebrate the death of Jesus because without it we come to the end of a difficult week or a difficult day or a difficult phone call or a difficult season or a difficult conversation or a difficult diagnosis and we have no hope.

It is easy and, I think, common to glance over Good Friday to get to the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday becomes incidental to the real show. Of course the Resurrection is the hope and foundation of our faith, yes and amen, glory to God. Paul says that without it, we are pitied because our faith then is in vain.

But today I feel the despair of my sin. I see my weakness and my utter depravity. I know–I know–that my sin is real and my utter insufficiency overwhelms me. I need the truth that Jesus resolutely set His face to His death, that by one sacrifice He paid it all, that here is the love of God demonstrated in that Christ died for sinners. This is the goodness of Good Friday–that Jesus, my Savior, has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows and healed me by His wounds. Yes, please, Lord.

I pulled my copy off The Valley of Vision off the shelf to put word to my need…

EVERLASTING CREATOR-FATHER,
I have destroyed myself,
my nature is defiled,
the powers of my soul are degraded;
I am vile, miserable, strengthless,
but my hope is in thee.

If ever I am saved it will be by goodness undeserved and astonishing,
not by mercy alone but by abundant mercy,
not by grace but by exceeding riches of grace;
And such thou has revealed, promised, exemplified
in thoughts of peace, not of evil.

Thou has devised means
to rescue me from sin’s perdition,
to restore me to happiness, honour, safety.
I bless thee for the everlasting covenant,
for the appointment of a Mediator.

I rejoice that he failed me not, nor was discouraged,
but accomplished the work thou gavest him to do;
and said on the cross, ‘It is finished.’

I exult in the thought that
thy justice is satisfied,
thy truth established,
thy law magnified,
and a foundation is laid for my hope.

I look to a present and personal interest in Christ and say,
Surely he has borne my griefs,
carried my sorrows,
won my peace,
healed my soul.

Justified by his blood I am saved by his life,
Glorying in his cross I bow to his sceptre,
Having his Spirit I possess his mind.

Lord, grant that my religion may not be occasional and partial,
but universal, influential, effective,
and may I always continue in thy words as well as thy works,
so that I may reach my end in peace.

-“The Mediator,” The Valley of Vision

New mercies on January 3 and every day

So it’s 2017. I’ve spent the majority of this new year either sleeping or blowing my nose. Nope, no somber contemplation of the year past, no careful goal setting or one word choosing. No organizational plans undertaken nor health and fitness changes implemented. Instead, the dawn of this new year is marked by a wad of tissues, regular doses of meds, and the occasional death-wish. The worst of it? I’m three days behind in my read the Bible in a year plan. Already.

Though our family had much to celebrate, not the least of which being the joys of a wedding and two graduations, 2016 was an interesting year, am I right? I am glad to put it behind us, if for no other reasons than acute disgust in the political process and profound disappointment in certain so-called evangelical leaders, you know, just keepin’ it real. Politics aside, 2016 was a sad year and not just nationally and globally. I grieved with more than one friend enduring profound and heart-wrenching loss. One of my friends who recently suffered the loss of a loved one told me she was ready for 2017 if just to know that this year of heartache was over.

Of course there is nothing inherently magical about January 1 as opposed to December 31 and my friend admitted as much. However, we tend to see the newly numbered year as representing something deeper–our collective desire for a fresh start, a new beginning, the old gone, the new come, and the chance to become someone different, better, happier, and yes, often more organized and skinnier. We make plans and dream dreams and formulate resolutions all because we are hopeful that something better awaits.

I have often said that New Years is my favorite holiday, not counting of course my current sickbed status. I claim it as a favorite because it is a day free of obligations and materialism, no gifts to buy, no decor to wrestle, no pomp and circumstance to observe, but rather a day of football and rest and general relaxation, a welcome sigh after the craziness of Christmas.

But I also love New Years because of that very desire for a fresh start and new beginning. It is a holiday marked by hope and I am hopeful, not in any resolution I may make nor goal I undertake because, hello, I know come February or even sooner, I will have failed. No, my hope lies in the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ who offers fresh starts and new mercies and lavish grace not just on January 1 but also on January 3 with its wad of tissues and on days of grief and days of frustration and days of happiness and days of exhilaration and all the ordinary, boring days in between. All that New Years promises us–redemption and renewal and hope and the promise of something better–Jesus gives us in Himself.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” -Lam. 3:21-24

Watercolour ponies one day ride away

Earlier this week, my sweet daughter in law texted me a picture of three of my guys sharing a meal around the table at their home. I love the pic so much, not only because I miss all those faces terribly but also because among the many things I have wished for my boys I have wanted them to be friends, to look out for one another, to value the bond of family. She and my son having my other two guys over for a home cooked meal makes me all kinds of happy.

I am sad too, just keepin’ it real. I have not transitioned well to our third son leaving home, to which my husband would probably reply is a vast understatement. I never transition well anyway, no matter the transition at hand, but this particular life change has been all the more difficult for me.

We married off our oldest son on a Saturday and it was sweet and precious and happy and beautiful, a glorious day of friends and family and celebration. I mean, it was exhausting too, don’t get me wrong, but it was altogether lovely and wonderful.

That was a Saturday and the Wednesday following we moved our third son off to school. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I laugh and say that we tried to cram as many big life events in the smallest number of days possible. Not funny, really, but true.

It is quiet around here and much slower of pace. I am learning how to cook for only three of us which means my freezer is filling up with leftovers for future meals. The laundry takes no time at all. I tell my youngest son all the time he’s my favorite, to which he sagely replies, “You only say that because I’m the one still at home.”

Many, many years ago my husband and I were riding in the car with our very dear, very best friends. My oldest was my only and he was just an infant. In fact, if I really want to blow my own mind, I ponder the fact that the age I was then is the age he is now…

Anyway, he was a baby in an infant car seat perched in the middle of the back seat between me and my friend. The menfolk were in the front seat and we were all singing along to a cassette tape of Wayne Watson’s Watercolour Ponies.

I know, I know. I KNOW.

My husband and I, being the experienced parents in the car, you know, having all of a couple of months’ under our belts thus rendering us experts in the field, got into a discussion of our interpretation of the song. I reflected that when Wayne would sing “when it comes back to you and me” he’s meaning the responsibility of parenting lying squarely on us, the parents. You know, the buck stops here and then what will I do? My inadequacy loomed large even then.

My husband interpreted that line as a foreshadowing of the time when it would only be “you and me,” as in the empty nest, just the two of us once more. We could neither of us imagine that day, it seemed so very far in the future it blew our minds just to consider it. Certainly we had no idea at the time that we would welcome three more little ones into our home and hearts! The years of Toy Story and Bible Man and Legos and soccer and basketball and band and choir, all of that was yet to come. And after that, what?

I don’t know which Wayne meant but I do know we were both right in a sense. Motherhood has taught me many things, chiefly my own insufficiency to the task. How much I need the grace and wisdom of the Lord!

And yes, one day, sooner than I ever could have imagined, the nest will empty. My youngest son has two more years and then he will follow his brothers’ footsteps, break his mother’s heart, and leave home. Who knew it would come so quickly? And yet here we are.

I stink at transition, and I grieve change far more than I should, but I do know that one reason this is a bittersweet season for us is because we have known so much joy. So. Much. Joy. The years of the watercolour ponies were good ones.

There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerator door
And the shape of something, I don’t really recognize
Brushed with careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies

Seems an endless mound of laundry and a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence for the Lord

But baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watchin’ the children growin’ is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowin’ the watercolour ponies will one day ride away

And the vision can get so narrow, as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause

-Lyrics by Wayne Watson

In perpetuity

They—the experts, the prognosticators, the watchdogs—warn that what one sends out to the internet remains there forever. Status updates, emails, blog posts, all exist in perpetuity in the world wide web.

This fact fills me with dread and not only because I’ve written things which I hope will be quickly forgotten—indeed I have. There are posts I’ve published that are just bad, others that are just plain embarrassing, and still others that I ought never have written in the first place.

I’m pretending none of you are now searching my archives for any such crimes against the written word.

That is, none of you among the ten or so remaining among my loyal readership.

Yes, those early posts, and no doubt some of the latter, are certainly cause for dread. However, I worry mostly about my children in the distant future dusting off the ancient archives of what we once knew as the internet, pulling up my confessions and conundrums, and reading them. Not that they don’t read them now, they do. But what difference will years, decades even, make?

I think particularly of my younger two children whose dedicated word count here on the blog is decidedly less than that of their older two brothers. Will they understand their mom got tired, the blogging got hard, the words grew elusive, and the comparative silence here in this space wasn’t evidence of a lack of feeling but more likely the complete opposite?

Case in point: our number three son graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago. Can you believe it? I can not. Our contrary child, determined to march to any beat but that of his brothers, graduated and I am so proud. Yet there was no post commemorating the depth of my emotion, no lament over the quick of passage of time, no tribute to grace of the Lord sustaining us thus far; not because I had nothing to say but more that I had no words to say it.

All the beautiful expressions of nostalgia and bittersweet happiness that I’ve described before in relation to numbers one and two sons and their particular milestones; it is the same and more so as we celebrate the accomplishments and future of this son. He remains his own man, full of surprise and the occasional contradiction, and we are grateful to God for him, far more than any mere blog post can express.

So whether or not these words and this blog continue on among relics of internet past, I pray all my guys will know how very much they were loved and how very grateful their parents were for every day and every minute. What love and what joy we have known, in perpetuity.

Two steps behind

I feel as if I stay two steps behind my life. I never can quite catch up and this perplexes me. Years ago I wrote a post lamenting a similar state wherein I compared my life to spinning plates on poles–which plate will fall? That I would feel overwhelmed in that stage of life makes sense to me. None of the children could drive, for instance, and thus I spent much of my time getting in and out of the suburban and shuffling kids to school and home from school, to practice and home from practice, to games and, well, you get the picture. My life and my calendar were crazy, no two ways about it.

Now, however, I am a stay at home mom of nearly grown children. In fact, as I confessed last week, I can only claim the stay at home mom title for two more years. Then I suppose I will be…what, exactly? A housewife? Regardless the fact remains that much, okay most, of my time is as free as it’s ever been. Yet I feel caught in the tension of a constant trade off. If I clean house, that means I do not prepare for Bible study that day. If I run all the necessary and troublesome errands, the laundry suffers. Some days I feel like I have to choose who or what I will be that day: Bible student? Friend? Homemaker? The days seem too short to do and be it all.

I’m frustrated. And I do realize that this kind of freedom to choose how I spend my time is an indicator of wealth and affluence. I daresay only a small percentage of women around the world enjoy such freedom of choice. In other words, I’m privileged and I’m spoiled. Thus I’m not only frustrated I’m also embarrassed by my whining.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I could surely benefit from a well constructed organizational system, a plan to keep me on track and on task. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and all that. I don’t discount the wisdom of timetables and schedules, and I freely confess my lack of eagerness to pursue that kind of help may be somewhat lazy on my part.

I’ve been thinking over my pastor’s recent sermons on prayer. He asserted that one reason why many of us struggle with prayer is not that we need to pray more but that we need to learn to pray rightly. To pray rightly is to pray with an eye to the kingdom, to frame our petitions with the advance of the gospel. Ask your heavenly Father for whatever you wish, He surely invites such petition, but ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done. Pray for healing of your loved ones but pray that they might be healed so that they might serve the Lord in strength. Pray for the new job or the promotion but ask for it so that with greater influence and a greater income you might be able to give more to the work of the kingdom.

When we pray like this we can trust God when He doesn’t give us the things we think we want or need. We can know that either we don’t need it to serve Him and His kingdom or, worse, it would be harmful to us. Praying in this way teaches us to pray after His priorities and according to what He finds delight in. We will ask for greater love for Him for His word and for each other and for the lost and for the spread of the gospel and for all peoples to know Him. We learn that our greatest need and greatest desire become intertwined: the glory of God in Christ.

I want this transformation not only in my  commune with God through prayer but in the craziness of my daily, busy life. Just as I am to pray with an eye to the kingdom, I want to also approach the tasks of my life with a kingdom perspective. I want to understand that efficiency and fruitfulness and productivity in God’s economy may not always look like a completed to do list but will always seek His glory and the good of others. When I am overwhelmed and frustrated, may I remember what’s really important: love of Christ and love for others. Even the seemingly boring and mundane aspects of being a stay at home mom become a holy offering when I see them framed in the gospel.

Why I cannot seem to stay on top of my life and my responsibilities therein may remain a perennial mystery to me. But I want to approach each day, whether I do and be all I think I should, with a heart for the kingdom and for the glory of Christ.

Rest for the weary

I am weary. It is, partly, the usual Monday morning weariness that follows a full weekend. It is also a cumulative weariness resulting from not only a full weekend but a full couple of weeks.

I am weary too from a migraine I’ve had off and on since Thursday, the longest and worst sort of headache I’ve had in quite some time. It is a bad thing to have the pain of a headache wake you in the middle of the night but such has been my experience three times over the last few days. I have meds that work and usually alleviate the pain but they also usually leave me tired and a little woozy. Weary.

In my weary and woozy state, finding proper preparation of a lesson on Jesus as a priest from the order of Melchizedek to be a little beyond me, I paused my Sunday school series on Hebrews and instead revisited a devotion on weariness. As we discussed Jesus’ offer for the heavy laden and the weary and the broken and the overwhelmed to come to Him and find rest, I made the point that we come to Christ by grace and we follow Him by grace. Trying harder in our own strength only fuels our weariness because we are inadequate and insufficient in ourselves. We need Him.

I was thinking of that truth this morning in my weariness. As I said, I had a full and fabulous weekend in the company of a group of godly women. It was my privilege to serve them in a teaching capacity at their retreat and I loved every minute of it.

But today I worry. I fret. I think of all I said that was dumb or stupid or unclear. I’ve come up with a hundred points and illustrations I could have made that would have been way better than whatever it was I said. Did they think me worthy of their investment of time and money? Were they disappointed I really am just a humble Bible teacher and not a suave, skilled orator? I’m driving myself crazy. I’m wearing myself out. No wonder I’m exhausted!

“Good grief, Lisa!” I finally told myself, rather sternly too. “It is not about you!”

Ah, the weariness of self-preoccupation. The fatigue of self-sufficiency. The exhaustion of self-conscious over-analysis. I love the honest truth of Isaiah 40:30, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” Even those in top physical condition will be weary because human strength will inevitably fail. Newsflash: I am not enough. Looking to myself doesn’t make me feel better, only worse! Nothing saps my energy like self-reliance. I am falling exhausted in all my attempts at self-justification.

My offering before the sweet women at the retreat this weekend is over and done. It is now for me to trust the Lord and to rest in Him, to bring before Him my insecurity and my desperation. As I turn to Him in repentance, I know the sweet rest of grace, the only true rest for the weary, found in Jesus alone.

The Lord God Saves His People

I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago. I post it now, well, for a couple of reasons. Some days it feels as if the world has gone crazy and everywhere I turn the news is either sad or bad. I find the book of Judges to be, strangely enough, a comfort.  Though times were certainly sad and bad–and crazy!–the Lord did not and would not abandon His people. Then and now true hope is only found in the mercy of the Lord.

And I don’t speak only of the global news cycle. For my church, it is our privilege to bear one another’s burdens through difficult and devastating circumstances. The book of Judges reminds us the Lord will be faithful; we trust His continued mercy and grace. 

I am currently teaching the book of Judges in the Bible study I lead on Tuesdays. What a fascinating—and sad—book! A few weeks ago we discussed chapters four and five and the two women featured there: Deborah and Jael.

And who can’t be fascinated by Jael? The evil commander Sisera is fleeing the battle and happens by her tent. She beckons him inside and he, knowing her husband to be a sympathizer, accepts her offer of refuge. She, however, has other loyalties, and drives a tent peg through his forehead, thus killing him while he sleeps. Talk about a strong woman of valor!

We discussed why some might find Jael a troubling savior. She lied, for one, and committed murder in cold blood, for two. What do we make of that? I asserted that we must recall the point of this narrative and of the book of Judges as a whole: that the Lord God saves His people. Thus Deborah’s song can exalt Jael as most blessed among women because she was the instrument of the Lord’s deliverance.

We must also trust the Lord when we encounter these seemingly ethical and moral quandaries, Jael not being the only example. As careful Bible students, we must distinguish between what the Bible is reporting and what it is commanding. Not all passages are meant to be prescriptive.

And finally I made the point that in Sisera’s death we see the awful but certain truth that the Lord will defeat His enemies. His wrath is sure. This a terrible truth taught to us in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is clear: the wages of sin is death and all who reject the Lord and persist in rebelling against Him will suffer His punishment.

But there is good news for those who are in Christ Jesus! He bore the punishment for our sins on the cross and we who repent and believe Him are now free! Not only that but we can trust Him with justice against those who have hurt us. I said yesterday that I didn’t know how those in class with me may have suffered at the hands of another—and I didn’t—but that the Lord is faithful and He will repay.

After class I learned that one of the ladies new to our group had indeed suffered horribly and tragically. Her story is hers to tell and I won’t share the details here; it is enough to know that she has endured a tragic loss. It was a difficult lesson for her, she admitted. “Finally, ultimately, I have to trust the sovereignty of God,” she said. “And I love Him more today, I trust Him more, and I know Him better.”

I left Bible study with a sober and heavy heart, saddened by the evil that seeks to devour. I thought over my lesson with its confident assertions; were they merely pat answers, full of the easy, empty ignorance that knows nothing of true suffering? My friend’s faith humbles me. Her story pierces through our (my) comfortable, unchallenged best life now to remind us (me) that evil is real, belief is hard, questions remain, but the Lord is trustworthy and His grace is sufficient.

My friend’s testimony is that of the book of Judges: the Lord God saves His people. This is not only the truth of Judges, but of the whole Bible and of the gospel message. He will have victory over His enemies, among whom we all once were apart from the grace of God. His mercy is our only hope, our only salvation, our only security, our only lasting joy.

 

Where I am now

Why, hello there. I spent the last twenty minutes or so rummaging around the pages of this blog and changing my avatar and whatnot (can anyone say “PROCRASTINATION”?) and thought what’s the point of updating the minor details and neglecting the major, you know, like a real live blog post since this is in fact a blog.

Or so it was at one time if anyone can remember that long ago.

Yes, I am procrastinating. It was a full weekend coming on the heels of a somewhat busy spring break with another busy week to follow this week. So on the one hand it may well be procrastination; on the other it may be a deep breath, a pause, a chance to collect and compose oneself as one transitions from one set of obligations to another.

Or maybe it is just plain old procrastination now that I think on it.

Since I’m procrastinating,  by way of an update on where we are now, my boys are 22, 20, 18, and 16. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? May will bring us two graduations, my oldest from Auburn and my third from high school. This summer will be a whirlwind of wedding (we are finally getting a daughter this July!) and college registration and packing up kids to send them off to school and to married bliss, not to mention my husband and my twenty fifth wedding anniversary! It’s all good. So good.

I am still teaching Bible study on Tuesdays. I just updated the “Teaching” tab above in case you’re interested in following along. I’m also teaching a ladies’ Sunday school class at my church which has been a dream of mine for so long I sometimes forget it is now reality 😉 I continue to volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center on Wednesdays and remain passionate about serving the poor and desperate in our community not only with material items but with the hope of the gospel.

And, for you longtime readers familiar with my laments, the laundry also continues, always and forever, though slightly less so with fewer children at home. We (me) don’t even like to think about the implications of being a family of three this fall. I am beginning to realize my days of referring to myself as a stay at home mom are numbered.

As far as where I am this very minute, I am teaching a retreat this coming weekend and I am super excited about it. Nervous too and if I’m honest, a little overwhelmed. I cannot tell you how way out of my comfort zone I am when I teach. Really. It is only and wholly the Lord. That I would even want the gift or the privilege is mind blowing to me and shows me that not only does the Lord choose the foolish but He also is sufficient for the weak. Who but God?

Anyway, my topic is having a love for God’s Word, yes and amen. There’s so much I want to say that I can’t hardly begin to say it! Which may or may not result in the aforementioned procrastination…

Speaking of procrastination, I really must hit the books. The sun is shining so I’m thinking I may take my prep outside with a cup of coffee. Ten of years of blogging, and some things never change!

So this is my life in a nutshell: teaching and volunteering and transitioning my mommy role. It’s weird. It’s good. It’s bittersweet. It’s full. I’m learning a lot about myself and what I thought I wanted and who I really am. My testimony continues to be: the Lord is indeed faithful.

 

 

The happy and the sad

Prior to my family and I seeing the movie “Inside Out,” my husband remarked to our guys that their mama–me–might be moved to tears because the film features a young girl moving with her family several states away.

“Me, cry?” I scoffed at the thought. It’s an animated movie, for crying out loud, no pun intended.

Yeah. So. Okay, I cried.

In the movie, eleven-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to California and it is an emotional upheaval, which is, as you know, the premise of the movie.

In real life, thirteen-year-old me moved from Alabama to Texas and, like Riley, I found the transition difficult.

Also like Riley I experienced the horror and embarrassment of crying at school.

It was in Mr. Whitlow’s eighth grade history class. Mr. Whitlow was giving a test that day and having joined the class mid-year I was not only ignorant of most of the test material but also overwrought and overwhelmed and I cried.

Interestingly the only student in the class to pay me any mind, to even notice my tears much less offer any sort of comfort, was a boy of brashness and bravado, the kind of guy who seemed destined to be a drop out statistic. “Hey, it will be okay,” he told me. “Don’t cry. You’ll be fine.”

I’m ashamed to admit it but we probably never spoke again. You know as well as I do how the middle school social structure works. Though I have long forgotten his name, his kindness to me I will remember.

However ignorant my classmates may have wanted to appear, Mr. Whitlow noticed my tears and called me outside. He too assured me that I would be fine. Is it the test? Do you miss your friends? Are you okay? Yes, yes, and I didn’t know. He told me I didn’t have to take the test after all. He told me to come by and talk to him anytime. I didn’t but I knew I could.

Call me a martyr but I did take the exam and out of sheer grace Mr. Whitlow gave me a twenty-point bonus so I could have a B. Mr. Whitlow, I do not know where you are now but your kindness to me I will also remember.

Transition is hard. Moving away from friends and all that is familiar is heartbreaking and sad. But, as “Inside Out” attempts to portray, sadness gives weight and perspective to joy. The movie character Joy tries to preserve the happy core memories, not realizing that the sad ones are equally as critical. And this is Biblical, is it not? Paul discovers grace through his thorn in the flesh. Not only that but he reminds us that it is the light and momentary struggles that achieve an eternal weight of glory.

We see this most starkly in the death of Jesus. What greater heartbreak than the cross? But what greater joy than the Resurrection three days later? Sadness may endure for a night, the Psalmist writes, but joy comes in the morning. This is the tension of life as we know it: sadness and joy, heartbreak and hope, struggle and glory.

Though thirteen-year old me surely doubted, I did survive. Forty-seven year old me can see the Lord’s hand at work then and since, weaving a story, yes, a story of both loss and gain, but ultimately a story of grace and redemption. The sad times become as precious to me as the happy because there I see and know the provision and providence of my good and gracious God.