Monday, December 24, 2012

Empty Arms

My arms were empty tonight.  As they have been for several years now.

We went to Candlelight service at our church tonight and I was surrounded by new moms, all with their arms full.  Full with babies.  Some were cradled, some on hips, some making eyes at those lucky enough to be behind them.  Full arms.  One of my favorite seasons of being a mom.  

I'm out of that season now.  I know people told me to enjoy it, and I did. But I don't truly remember the last full-arm-moment.  I wish I had remembered to treasure that moment.  To remember the why, the smell, the feel, and the moment.  Those moments lasted for a long time.  But it went fast.  

I stood there tonight surrounded by my "babies."  And empty arms.  I miss my full arms but as I looked at the little young men and women around me, I am enjoying my empty arms.  I still glance a little long at the women around me with full arms, but I know that if I focus on times past, I will miss the moments of now.  So I welcome my empty arms.  Proverbs 31:25 "....and she smiles at the future."

As we sang those old hymns, so rich in picture of that night so long ago, I couldn't help but think of Mary.  That night, her arms full, full of joy. She not only cradled her baby, but she cradled God Himself, the sweet Savior.  I know she treasured those moments, "But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." Matthew 2:19     I imagine her savoring his smell, his sweet face, his sounds. Unlike so many countless mothers, Mary wasn't told to enjoy it.  It goes fast.  No.  She was told He would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.  Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her own soul.  He was to be the Salvation for all people.  Mary had reason to be fearful of the future.  But I don't imagine her to be that way.  I believe she smiled at the future.  Standing on the promises of God.  In that season, in that moment, she had full arms.  She treasured those moments when He was cradled, safe in her arms.

She was purposeful in her teaching and as her arms became empty, she watched the young Man she helped to teach and train.  I am sure as she watched His life unfold, she missed her full arms but she saw the purpose of her empty ones.  He was put here for a purpose, for all people....for her.  I can't imagine her season of empty arms.  I can't even fathom the heartache she faced.  But I do know how thankful she was for empty arms. His empty arms.  Stretched out for her.  For me.  

Tonight, my house is quiet.  I am thankful for empty arms.  Mine, because I am in a season of mothering that is so wonderfullly fulfilling.  I am watching personalities grow and purposes more clear.  I am thankful for Mary's empty arms. She cradled and held and loved, full arms, until it was time to let Him go.  I am thankful beyond words for my Lord's empty arms, stretched out on a cross to be my substitute.  He had nothing from this world to give.  His arms empty. But wholly mine.  

I pray for empty arms this year.  Arms with nothing of this world to give, only myself.  Arms willing to take whatever the Lord has purposed for me.  Arms raised in total surrender to His Will for me.  I smile at the future.  And at empty arms.      

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Last First Date Part 4

Neon Moon


We never "officially" made it official, but it was.  We were a couple.  Everyone knew it by then.  We were kind of the last to know, the last to realize how "unofficially" we had become "official."  The transition to him being a friend, to him being my "official," was sort of strange.  The same guy I had been hanging out with for so long, laughing, joking, was now the guy I got nervous 10 minutes before he was suppose to pick me up.  The guy I got excited to see walking through the Quad toward me. The guy I thought about a whole lot more than I ever had.  It was as if my feelings changed overnight. 


I still remember the moment that change was glaringly obvious.  We had gone to Houston to go ice skating.  I had never been and he was going up there to sign papers for his Marine Corps commitment.  At the time it was just a convenient excuse for us to make the quick trip to Houston to go on a very cool date.  Looking back now, that signature would change the entire "look" of my future. 

Looking back now, that signature was my everything in a sense.  

In the moment,however, I was going ice skating with a guy I really liked. Arriving in Houston, we both smelled a smell.  Not being hard-of-smelling, I kept mentioning how bad it smelled.  By the time we reached the city limits, his car was a peace pipe.  We barely pulled into a Pizza Hut and stopped the car.  Deciding it just needed to cool off, we stayed, ordered dinner, and enjoyed our conversation.  It was obvious trying to leave, the car was not going with us.  And thus began our adventure that night in Houston.  So many things happened that night and yet I don't remember much of the details.  I do remember was now very dark and we were very stranded in a very bad area of Houston (pre-cell phones), the car was completely dead and yet, Patrick was completely calm,  and the very sweet Hispanic family, who barely spoke English, staying with us in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut the entire time.  At some point, I remember Patrick saying he was going to get help.  I remember him being gone for a long time and I remember the family staying with me being very worried.  I remember crying and the elderly Mom sitting there hugging me.  I remember feeling completely scared and completely worried about Patrick.  Then the cop car showed up.  Patrick's smiling face in the backseat.  I don't remember the details of that night so much but I do remember how I felt seeing his face.  I still get teared up even as I type remembering that moment.  He climbed out and scooped me into big hug.  He kept telling me over and over through my tears, "I told you I would take care of you. You have to believe me from now on."  He has never gone back on that promise.


So my days at A&M quickly became so very sweet.  He was a perfect fit for me in every way. 




In everyway but one.  He still couldn't dance.  He tried.  He knew how much I loved it and he tried.  We went almost every weekend.  We spent so many nights in the neon lights.  I loved him.  I loved being with him.  But I didn't love dancing with him.  I would have to learn to love to hunt, or fish, or watch the Cowboys.  I guess. 


"Let's take Aggie Wranglers," were the second sweetest words he has ever said to me.  "Really?"  I couldn't believe he was agreeing.  I had asked many times before, but taking lessons was not his thing.  But he agreed.  We stood in line, signed up, and were on our way to making this a win-win.  I knew how much he would learn; I just didn't realize how much I would.  


We took our first set of lessons with great friends, Erica and Brian, the summer we all stayed at A&M for summer school.  It was so much fun and I was beyond tickled at how quickly he picked it up.  The first night, they split us up into groups of guys and girls to give us the "low down" on two-stepping.  Of course I had taken the class twice already, so I was thinking I had nothing to learn.  It's funny what you learn most when you are the least teachable.


She began.  And I listened.  Two stepping is like a language she was telling us.  It is spoken by the dancers in subtle ways and you must learn to "listen" to your partner.  You must learn to anticipate what he will "say."  She continued on about how the longer you dance with someone the more subtle the language will be until it will almost be a seamless dance of subtle motions known only to the two of you.  She was telling us how we had to be willing to let the guys mess up or otherwise, they really wouldn't be leading and we would be the ones making all of the moves.  She explained how it made for an awkward dance and it would never "feel" quite right.  She was also demonstrating how we had to be strong in our motions but not so strong that we stopped him from leading but not so weak that we wouldn't follow.  And so on.


When we finally got back as couples, it was awkward.  The steps were awkward.  We were stepping on toes.  Our knees were hitting.  Everything in me wanted to take over.  I had done this before.  I had to fight my reaction when his "subtle" movements to lead were forced and unnatural.  He was learning, but I was learning too.  Even though this was not technically my first class, this was in the sense that I wanted to make this work.  I wanted to see him succeed.  Our first complete night of Wranglers was good for both of us.  So much to learn but going in the right direction.  


Our nights at the Hall under those neon lights, soon became dreamy.  He was a terrific dancer, and by God's Grace, I had learned to follow.  She had been right; I could anticipate his movement before he would lead.  We took two more classes after that, and each time I learned that for the dance to be better, I had to learn his ways.  I had to anticipate his movements and I had to constantly have my focus on him.  As the years passed, dancing with him came so natural, so second nature.  We could jump in at any song and move around the dance floor under those neon lights like we had been dancing forever.  Just like our friendship had been and our relationship had become, it was easy.  It was fun. 


Now looking back almost 18 years later, I realized how much the dance is so much like our life.  Like those lessons so long ago, I finally learned to let him lead.  I learned, albeit the hard way, to follow.   I have learned to be strong enough to follow his lead but not so strong that I am the one leading.  I have learned to anticipate his movements. Just like that dance, with time, the movements have become seamless between the two of us, movements only the two of us know.  At first in our early marriage, it was awkward and never quite "felt" right, I stepped all over his toes and he messed up at times, but after many of God's lessons, our life is sweet.  After those dance lessons, I fell in love under that neon moon ...and still so thankful for the Dance.