Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Worldly Woes

I have birthday posts and photos to upload and share...but for now, this is what I'm thinking about today.

The Lord has been teaching me something for a long time now.  I've only recently come to be aware of it.  Isn't it frustrating how dumb we humans can be?  If I could only see the Lord's purpose more clearly, I feel like I would be alot better off.  But obviously that's not true, as His ways are perfect and his plans were established long ago.

Anyway.  The lesson is (has been) letting go, more and more, of my own pride in my self-image, as attested to by my nice things,  And, oh, how hard my sinful little soul holds onto my pretty things.  I relate completely to the "My precioussss" of Gollum.  Sadly.

These are out of order, but the way I became aware of them as lessons.

First, the couch.  Oh, the couch.  We had a lovely couch and chair set, bought with money from my grandparents, when we were first married.  Brown leather, expensive looking.  They were kind of sealed with this great top layer thing that made them super tight and slippery.  And we thought, "Hey, someday these will just shed the drinks/food/messes that kids make.  Great choice!"  They were very impressive. Then. About a year ago, they began to...slough.  To peel.  To...lose the top layer of their shiny brown leather.  Underneath, I kid you not, was a layer akin to....raw cow skin.  Pinky-pale and the texture of suede.  Hid.e.ous.  They almost hurt to look at.  There was this human, painful aspect to their underskin.  Ugh.

Second, clothes.  I love clothes.  Dearly, with an affection that would do any style icon credit.  I have an extraordinarily lovely grandmother, with the most classic and beautiful taste.  Over the years, she taught me to dress and to buy clothes in a way that I am very proud of.  She still--always--looks flawless.  Her favorite designers are Ralph Lauren and such.  Think the styles of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly.  She's amazing.

Also over the years, she bought me things.  Quality, lovely, classic things that are still as perfect for wear today as they were when she bought them--some of them 15 years ago.  So I have a literal wardrobe full of gorgeous, expensive things that I could never afford to buy myself these days.  Which was the point of her (and of course, my parents, who added to her purchases) buying them: develop a classic wardrobe that will always serve you well.

Except that was a good 30-40 pounds ago, and I cannot wear a single stitch of that clothing.  I haven't for years.  I honestly can't even believe I am confessing this to you.  It's so awful.  I can hear you thinking, "Hellloooo, Abbie.  Go on a diet (another one).  Get outside and go running, etc. "  I know.  I'll get to that (in another post), but stick with me for a minute on the lesson that this baby-and-all-that-follows weight has helped me learn.  Because, like my couch, those lovely clothes sit in my house, unable to make me look good.  Unable to be produced as an indication of our personal success in awesomeness.  In fact, they do the opposite: that couch made us (and the whole living room) look like what we were: a struggling family, unable to replace the raw-skinned monster.  And the zippers on those clothes are constant, unchanging testament to my failure to revamp myself and Get My Body Back (although it is very much still here, in excess!).  It's also evidence that I can't replace those clothes.  I go to Target instead.  And believe me, THAT is a humbling thing: wearing fat, Target jeans with a closet full of skinny designer clothes.

Another clothes-oriented occurrence:  laundry disasters.  I asked for and received several items of clothing for my birthday last week.  I spent waaaay too long on Pinterest and the internet, deciding what things I needed to spruce up my fall wardrobe, where to get them least expensively, etc.  Like I said, I love clothes.  So.  The first time I wore the cute, navy-and-white striped long sleeved tee from Gap that I LOVED, I splattered bleach all over it.  Now it is striped and also spotted.  Then Mom bought me a light-blue chambray blouse from Gap.  Which I washed according to directions (CAREFULLY keeping away from the bleach!).  There was a green crayon--just the tiniest tip of the point--in one of Caleb's pockets.  All over my new shirt.  Soooooo very frustrating.  I may have used some colorful language, slammed some dryer doors and generally thunked around in a bit of a fit when that happened.

So even my new, nice clothes are unable to make me look good.

And now, The Car.  Actually, it doesn't deserve capitol letters.  It's bad.

Simon bought a Honda Accord when we were dating.  It replaced a really, truly awful car, far worse than the one I am about to describe, but that's another story for a different day.  Anyway, we've had it since; it's now the kid car, and I drive it.  It has acquired a very distinct flavor over the past 8 years.  First, a year into our marriage, a tree hit Simon on a camping trip.  Three days after our car insurance expired (unbeknownst to me!).  The large dent in the back driver's side door has never been repaired.  Then, the car sat out in the Insane Sun in Wichita Falls, and instead of remaining a respectable black shiny color, the paint has sort of faded away on all the corners, so it's got these large silver splotches all over.  But why repaint a car with a dent?  Silly.

Then, the car began to make this...noise.  I noticed it when I pulled up to drive-throughs.  It's not super loud but it's a revolving sort of ksss-ksss-KSSS-ksss noise that has something to do with belts but isn't an actual problem.  It's worst when idling.

And finally, the spoiler.  THIS is kind of awesome, in a redneck way:  One day, I was driving along and I heard a knocking, banging noise every time I went over a bump.  I could see in the rearview that one side of the spoiler had disconnected and was kind of flapping in the wind and bumping the trunk.  I called Simon and asked what I should do--I think I was on a road trip to meet my mom and I was worried it would blow off and go through someone's windshield and decapitate them.  Conversation as follows:

Me:  So...what should I do?

Simon:  Just get out and pull it off.

Me:  A piece of the car?  Just...pull it off?

Simon:  Well, yeah.

Me:  Can I DO that?

Simon: If you pull hard enough.

Me:  That's not what I meant.

Simon then basically used his kind, wife-appropriate words to tell me to Man Up and get it done. So I did.  I pulled over, I kid you not, onto a dirt road off the highway.  I got out.  I approached the spoiler.  I inspected the situation.  I put my hands on the spoiler.  And I basically pulled and twisted and yanked on the thing in a very ungraceful and mostly out-of-control manner, which resulted in me suddenly freeing the thing, finding it up over my head as a result of the over-pull that finally wrenched it off, and taking a rapid succession of steps backward to maintain a standing position.  Then, perhaps, a victorious yell of accomplishment while brandishing it midair.

At that point, I had an unexpected quandary.  What to do with this thing?  My first instinct (Lord knows why) was to throw it into the abundant brush nearby and drive away.  That, I reasoned with myself, was not a good idea.  So...I put the spoiler in the trunk.  A sentence I never thought I'd write.

By the way, it's still there.  Where else am I gonna put it?  It...belongs with the rest of the car, right?

Okay so all this car discussion to give you context for the first time I pulled up and stopped (ksss-kssss-KSSS-ksss) in the carpool line.

This is a very nice private school.

There were alot of very nice vehicles in line.  Actually, only very nice vehicles. (kssss-kssss-KSSSS-ksss) And I opened the door and got out to meet my son (that's how they do it there, and all the other mothers got out, too).  And it sounded like this:  kssss-kssss-KSSSSS-kssssss, kssss-ksssss-KSSSS-kssss.... 

And, sigh, there I was again, unable to be perfect or show off.  In fact, just the opposite: my little, paid-for, low-gas, low-maintenance, perfectly good and actually a wise financial choice car, was attesting to my own inability to replace it.  To have something better than anyone else.  Or even equal to everyone else.

I mentioned we're new there, right?  That I know almost no one, and that I'm pretty much depending on the school to provide friends and community.  And, luckily for me, I was able to laugh in that moment.  And to reason through my situation, which is that, were we NOT attending this lovely school, we would probably be able to afford a new car.  But that I wouldn't--really, truly wouldn't--make that trade for anything.  And that it's worth it, so worth it.  Even if it's not just the price of a car, but also my pride.

There are more of these kind of stories.  Lots more.  Money we don't have, a rental home that I can't change or fix up (good grief does it NEED it, though), kids' fits that happen in front of the wrong people)...all of it, to me, making me look bad.

And that's exactly why God gives it to me.  Because I care way, way too much about the way I am perceived by others.  If you're a people-pleaser like me, you get it.  It's a motivating factor in my life.  But...it shouldn't be.  My purpose, as beautifully worded by the Westminster Catechism Caleb is so awesomely learning at his school (brag!), is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him.  Not to glorify myself and enjoy myself, which is my natural tendency.  To get gloried up and then enjoy the showoff.

He's teaching me, by means of rust and bleach and bad leather, to step back, set my eyes on him and pull them away from my mirror.  Not to worry about what others see; only to worry about where my gaze is trained.

And here's the other part.  The reason I can write this--is that, now, I get it. And getting it means I can (try to!) react differently to these losses of self.  It's still a terrible shame to ruin a new shirt (I colored in the bleach spots with Sharpie...just so you know), but is it truly meaningful?  Is it an occasion to sin?  Nope.  Easy come, easy go.  This world is not what matters.  These people, the people of this world, their high opinion...not my "end," my audience, my reason.

My end is to obey, love and thereby glorify the Lord.  And so I struggle to--and to keep myself from these other distractions.

Headed out to my God-glorifying car to get the kiddo from his awesome school.

See you soon!

4 comments:

Katie said...

Abbie, you are a great writer, and I am right there with you. Being on a tight budget really stinks sometimes, but I have learned a lot too. (I miss cute clothes and my pre- baby body too! Ha!)

Wendy Howard said...

Abbie
thank you for baring your heart! You are such a great writer. YOu've got to look up Jen Hatmaker and her book SEVEN. It is life changing! Your writing reminds me so much of her--funny, insightful and thought-provoking! You've got to read it!

Love
Wendy

Abbie James said...

Thanks, Wendy, I shall!

Katie Norwood said...

Your writing is AMAZING. Really, really amazing! I kept thinking you should send this to Mr. Wood!!! haha...Seriously... awesome. I was smiling the whole time. These are beautiful lessons to learn, and I'm right there with you. I wear yoga pants and a ponytail every.single.day. I tried to wear my hair down one solitary day, and Ava pulled out a giant chunk. Every time I put on real clothes to go to church, Ava spits up all over them. (truly - every time) It's so hard to remember that all of these worldly things are temporary. I forget daily. Hugs!!