Friday, February 1, 2008

Before and After

We all have markers in our lives - days so pivotal they become our means of recording time. One we all share is September 11th. Almost everything in American life in this generation can be defined as being before or after that date - for many people, 9-11 has become a defining element.

September 11th was a significant turning point in our family. As I sat beside Mark that evening in our suburban Denver home, the Lord made it clear to me that soon Mark would be going into the Air Force. Ten months later we sold our home, left our well paying Denver jobs and entered the military world. In our marriage, we have "before Air Force" life and "Air Force" life. But the date that defines it for me is Sept 11.

Now we have a new date in our life - November 23rd. Prior to that date, we were a typical family - 2 girls with another on the way. And despite the hardships of military life, we felt that life was relatively smooth and normal. We were in the baby stage of life - late sleepless nights and cold dinners were expected and we anticipated another 2 years of them. But with a silent ultrasound on November 23rd, everything changed. Plans made prior to November 23rd, plans that included 3 girls, plans that made room for a little baby, were now all void and even seemed foolish to have ever been made. It is as if I have walked through a one way door that slammed shut behind me, into a dark strange room filled with puzzles and mysteries. Every hope and expectation I had is locked away on the other side, now forever out of reach, behind a door labeled: Before.

In the first 2 months following Sept 11, everything seemed out of sorts and surreal. We lived near Denver International Airport and were used to plans flying low over our house on approach. But no plans flew overhead except for the occasional fighter jet high in the sky on patrol. Policies and plans were pouring out of DC to make sense of the new era, and the news each day was constantly filled with updates on the fledging war in Afghanistan. Even my work felt different - going to work each day as a teacher and dealing with the petty complaints on teenagers seemed so futile.

The time since November 23rd can also be described as surreal. Nothing is as it was supposed to be and each day is full of choices, sounds, activities that would not have been before. Each day is now filled with discussions of how to make sense of this new place we find ourselves - questions we never planned to discuss so soon...what do we do with the extra bedroom, will Mark start grad school this spring, do we want to have more kids. Stranded in the middle of this strange new room I am often overwhelmed by all the new decisions to be made. But even more overwhelming is a sense of futility knowing that this room, this new place, this season of life only exists because we walked through the one way door of tragedy.

It has been 7 years since Sept 11. The first year of "after" was the toughest. We suffered broken relationships with those who did not agree that Mark should enter the service. We suffered lost friendships in leaving behind our church and life in Denver. We struggled with many decisions that seemed to take too long to come to fruition. But once we got our bearing and began to move forward, I fully embraced our new life. I have loved Air Force life and would not wish to be anywhere else - but my joy is sometimes tempered when I remember that this new life exists because of the tragedy of 9-11.

It has only been 2 months since November 23rd and I am still waiting to get my bearings in this new season of "after". I wonder when I will feel like I have a grip on this new life. I wonder when I will stop being bothered or amazed when I find myself in a place I didn't expect to be. I wonder when I will stop banging and kicking on the door of "before" in attempt to open it and run back to what I knew. I wonder when I will embrace this season and say okay.

Oh Lord, you are above all things, even time, yet You grant us the time to heal and be restored. Lord You know that I am fighting this place in which You have set me. You know the silent anger with which I beat against the door trying to return to before. But Lord Jesus, You are the creator of all things - even seasons of time. This place, this season of life, was created by You. Lord it is dark and frightening and confusing here - nothing is as it ought to be. So Lord, shine Your light into this darkness. Show me around, guide me. Show me the wonderful things you have created for me in this place. Show me what makes this room unique and special. Lord, cause me to love this place as I have come to love the other unexpected seasons of life. Lord I do not want to spend this season with my eyes shut tight cowering in the corner and waiting for it to pass. Show me the beauty of this place - a unique beauty found nowhere else.

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