Have you ever been given a gift that was so fabulous, so wonderful, so over the top that it took your breath away? Something that you certainly didn't deserve and didn't ever see yourself calling your own? There's a feeling of utter awe and thankfulness that washes over you when you realize that you're loved that deeply. I can't put my finger on the English word for that kind of emotion, but in Greek it is stergo--the love that only a family can conjure, the love that warms and protects and surpasses logic.
I have been wrapped in stergo for the past few weeks, and I have found myself struggling to unwind its tentacles from my heart and free myself from its nest.
The truth is that I am a person who has a hard time being loved. I can go on and on about how I grew to be this way but really, it's not important. What is important is that I am learning, bit by bit, to accept stergo on the terms it is offered and not super-impose my own expectations or desires on the bearer of this precious gift.
Especially when the bearer is YAHWEH.
I fully admit that there are times when I have boxes I want God to check. I have a list of wants (not needs) that I selfishly keep hidden in that hard spot at the back of my heart. I sing when God throws me a bone and blesses me with one of them. I pine secretly over the ones He chooses not to satisfy. I strive for contentment at all times and come up short just like everyone else. I can admit that.
But God has this funny habit of blessing me with things that I never asked for. It's stergo in action: Here, Mary Grace, my beloved daughter. Take this. Trust me. You'll like it. Like a child who has learned obedience but not fully soaked in the heart of compliance, I take the gift. I move on. And I always, always learn to love it eventually.
But those first weeks, months and even years can have the pallor of forced optimism written all over them. I am the child posing with the new sweater at Christmas and eyeing the box of Lincoln Logs my brother just opened.
Seven years ago I found myself bathed in this unasked-for stergo. This was in the month immediately after 9/11 and long before I embraced the concept of "the more the merrier" in regards to my family size. I found myself pregnant just a few short months after regaining my equilibrium from an incredibly harsh bout of post-partum depression. The world was falling apart, it seemed ... and so was any sense of balance that I'd ever hoped to have in my life.
People around me congratulated me on the enormity of the blessing I was receiving. Another child! How good was God, they asked, to gift me in this way as the whole world reeled from the devastation of September 11? It must seem, a woman told me, like God had his finger of healing on me even as everyone else wept.
But I didn't feel it at all. What I wanted--what I had asked for--was a season, just a season, Lord, of quiet. A season of peace. Not this. Not another screaming newborn and months of sadness and a house even more cluttered with the acrruements of infancy.
How did the message get confused? Wasn't I clear in what I wanted? This isn't what I asked for, Lord!
But it's what He gave me, praise God. I wouldn't trade a single second of life with Logan for the peace and quiet I craved all those years ago. The blessing God gave me was far greater and in His mercy and wisdom, He gave me the better thing.
Right now, God is in the process of leading me to the thing that He wants for me yet again. Not the thing I would have chosen. Not even the thing I can see in my future. But the thing that is best. The thing I will look back on and say yes, that was a blessing. That was stergo.
This thing is a brand-new, nearly 3,200 square foot house.
How a woman can be conflicted over such a gift is a matter of shock for a great many people, but let me assure you that the kind of home I always saw myself raising my family in is smaller by half and older by a century or so. I am not a new house person. I am not a big house person.
I find newly constructed homes in cookie-cutter neighborhoods to be devoid of character, poorly planned for real living (master suite, anyone?) and havoc with green standards in all kinds of unpleasant ways.
Not for me, thanks.
But I am the child who unwrapped the gift of Lindt chocolates when all I really wanted was a Hershey's bar. My cup, it seems, runneth over.
I have no doubt that the possibility of this home is a gift straight from the hand of the Lord. There are many reasons, not the least of which is Mr. Blanding's absolute confidence that God is going to do amazing things to get our family under that as-yet-to-be constructed roof. And I believe him. I'm already seeing it at work; we originally expressed an interest in a 2,500 sq. ft. model and were instead steered to the 3,200 sq. ft. house ... for the same price. We did the finances and came out ahead, somehow--even if we make a measly $10,000 profit on what we paid for our townhome six years ago.
Sounds like my God.
God is using this exercise in blooming where you're planted to grow me in amazingly unexpected ways. First and foremost, I am submitting myself, yet again, to the sovereignty of a God whose plans are far beyond anything I could imagine. Second, I am trying to embrace a blessing I feel more than a little sheepish about. And third, I am wondering over God's vision for my family and my own.
I am waiting on the Lord. Trying not to disparage His gift in the presence of others (a hard one, because I feel incredibly guilty about the notion of even living in a house this big). And waiting for my heart to let the outrageous stergo of a fatherly God seep into my heart.
So please be patient with me as I grow comfortable in the spot I find myself occupying. I never meant to be here. I never meant to be that woman--the one who has a line of beautiful children, a handsome, witty husband, the gas-guzzling SUV and the big house. But here I am. Blooming where I'm planted, and watered with stergo.