Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hope, and Emptiness for God

I have wanted to write so much here, but have been too "busy" to do so. I have saved lots of daily devotionals in my email "inbox" so that I could go back and reflect and write about them...but feel too overwhelmed right now with "things to do" to go back. Just know that I've been thinking of you, and longing to share it with you.

I've been preparing for tomorrow, when I will speak (briefly!) at The Moyer Foundation's Annual Giving Luncheon. It's their 10th anniversary, and they are celebrating the community that has supported them, and helped them to raise $19 million to give to charities that aid children in crisis. I will speak about how their giving has directly impacted our family through Ronald McDonald House, The Hutch School, Seattle Children's Hospital Childlife, Advanced Care, Hospice care and the American Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes West. (If you are a praying person, I welcome your prayers!)

It felt awesome to be capable of juggling all that I had to do while Zoe was here, but as soon as she and her group left, I "crashed." Just started to feel ill and tired, and had to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. I'm still moving slowly. To those of you with full-time jobs, I bow in humilty; I am not you. I am accustomed to a slower pace, and must admit that I can't multi-task for any length of time with any degree of grace, fluidity or success. I just can't do it now. Whether or not that will change, I have no idea.

Why fill the heart with hopes? Leave it empty for God. -Robert Mertens

This quote was in my inbox today. It was funny, how it hit me.
The first thing I thought was, In the old days, that would have seemed quite depressing to me.
The second thing I thought was, That's a very Buddhist way of looking at things. Having done a bit of Buddhist reading, I could see how it is actually a very positive statement. They look at hopelessness differently than I was taught to look at it. (For example, look at "When Things Fall Apart," by Pema Chodron)

Once a month, I write for a website called "Hopeful Parents." And without hope, I don't think I'd get up in the morning. But hope can mean many things. Here is why I say that:

I had great hope for our family, including our daughter.
I had great hope for our retirement savings.
I had great hope for growing in excellence myself.

All of these hopes have been derailed, or at least, are not going to be fulfilled the way I had hoped they would be. Let me say that again: NOT GOING TO BE FULFILLED THE WAY I HAD HOPED THEY WOULD BE.

I had hopes and dreams, and I had hope for my dreams to be fulfilled in a certain way. You could say I had visions of my hopes coming true - attachments to "how" they would happen, as well as to the outcome. This is a kind of "controlling" thinking.

I thought our daughter would grow up, graduate from high school and college, get married and possibly have children. She won't.
I thought our savings would multiply by the "rule of 7." They haven't.
I thought our savings would take us sailing into retirement, even - possibly - an early retirement. They won't.
I thought our savings would keep me as a stay-at-home wife and mother until Gregg retired. They probably won't.
I thought with study and prayer, I'd eventually outgrow my character flaws. I haven't.
I thought I'd be a good, giving church member, continuing as a deacon and a Stephen Minister. As far as I can tell, I won't.
I thought that God would teach me to be a better person through prayer and study and practice. Prayer and study are good and useful, but He is teaching me the most through life's events. And I don't think that my becoming a better person necessarily glorifies God; it would make ME feel better about me. He may be able to use my flaws in His own way, to His glory. I am trying to accept that!

We have very little control at all in this life. Just when I think I've learned that in one area, it pops up in another. And another. And another. It's a continual, humbling process of surrender. 

So I love this quote because, rather than hopelessness, it is reminding me to place my hopes in God, not in my dreams. Dreams are fine and good - they are natural to us as humans, and we need them - but we can get so attached to them that we have struggles when we have to let them go.
If my heart belongs to God, I can leave it - at least a little bit - "empty" for Him to fill it.  Moment by moment, He can help me.

My best hope is in the love and goodness of God and His creation.


Elizabeth said...

This post is so necessary for me this morning, and I am grateful for it, Karen. You are a dear and a wonder to many of us. Hugs and peace and hope and emptiness to you.

Gabriele said...

This really hit home for me. We've been home almost 3 weeks now since my son finished treatment for his cancer. And I find myself wanting to take the plans (pre-diagnosis) I had for our family and make them happen right now, somehow. I think I'm afraid if they don't happen now, they won't happen at all. Reading your blog made me realize how much additional stress I'm creating for myself as we deal with the return to some sort of "normal" life. I lost sight of taking life one day at a time, especially right now.

I'm sitting here, crying as I type, feeling a huge sense of relief and peace. I pray all the time for Jack. But I forget to pray for myself, for peace and calm, for the ability to "to place my hopes in God" as you said. So, thank you!

Elizabeth said...

By the way, the word verification for that last comment was OM BACK -- sort of cool, right?

Allegra Smith said...

"Fall seven times. Get up eight". That is a proverb that at first sounded to me as your email's one did to you this morning. Then I realized that it was both faith and determination to believe that makes it possible for me to get up eight and nine and as many as it may take.

Isn't faith all about hope anyway?
If we didn't believe, could it be hope? And by the way, like you, running fueled by adrenaline and others' needs always leaves me totally exhausted when the "party" is over. Take some time for Karen, without laundry or errands. Time to be, that is all.

Tomorrow I am sure your speech will reach the heart of those listening to you. So break a leg and make it an evening for you and Greg as well. Hugs from here.

karen gerstenberger said...

Elizabeth, I always notice when word verification is apt or funny - so glad you are a kindred spirit there, too!
Allegra, thank you for the sound advice. That's exactly what I need to do.
Gabriele, I hope Allegra's input will encourage you to do the same.

God bless all of you!

Kay said...

I prayed you would hold fast to the end of your visit.. but wondered if you would crash when it was over. I know I certainly would. Being 'on' all the time is hard work. I know exactly what you mean.

So thankful you're seeing Hope in the midst of things.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh my friend. I am sorry about the crashing and the slow pace you are in now...I understand this all too well also.
I really don't know how anyone works full time and takes care of a family and home. It is beyond me.
I hope you get some time to rest up...get back to your pace.
you have a lot going on. Good luck with your upcoming event.
And your words...they always ring true to me. You are wonderful.
hugs, Suz

Karen said...

That said it all ---perfectly. I loved what you said about your own character flaws, and wanting them to change so you feel better. Me too. So much. But God seems quite content with our weaknesses and working in us in spite of them. I love the humility! hah!
You gave me a lot of hope with your words. Thank you again.

Angela said...

Ah sweet friend...thanks again for sharing, and your ability to process and then is inspiring. I will be praying with you as you speak today! Wish I could be there with you!!

Dawn ~ BJSMomma said...

My HEART in YOUR WORDS! I guess it would be logical to think...same journey to walk...same heart thoughts!

Thank you for sharing, it gives me HOPE, and room to leave empty for God to fully fulfil!

Enjoy your spring day!

Anonymous said...

this is so good Karen....i love the ways you get it out and express every part of your spoke directly to my heart. i love you and am proud to call you friend. xox


deb said...

Oh , this is just beautiful hard truth.
You share and encourage so well.

I sometimes shy away from living in the moments of the days, terrified that my life is going to get ripped right out from me. And yet, lately , I've come to the realization that I just might be okay. That I just might stay empty enough.

love this dear far away friend

Daisy said...

Thanks for this, Karen. Not many words here but know that I'm quietly nodding my head in agreement.