Recently I saw a picture of Albert Einstein. He was seated at his desk; his very large and very cluttered desk. The quote beneath it read, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” (A.Einstein)
I take comfort in this image now as I try to find a resting place on my desk for my forearms as I type this. I have many, many items of various sorts and of various levels of importance waiting their turn for my attention. I choose instead to type. I have learned to write when the wave of inspiration floods my mind.
In going through our photographs to sort them into creative scrapbooks I have found an interesting series of images of me throughout the years. As I lay them in chronological order, I see the story of my life.
I am wearing the borrowed and terribly coveted bridal ensemble from Mrs. Fortunato’s Pre-school classroom. My mother brought me to the quaint and beautiful Bucks County stone home in the mornings and deposited me in the red barn-turned-classroom to play and to learn. I learned the “A Tisket a Tasket a Green and Yellow Basket” song here. It was here I had my debut as “Vixen” the reindeer in the Christmas play, and I always played the bride at dress up time. The dear Mrs. Fortunato, with her snow white straight chin-length hair and dark rimmed glasses, sweetly allowed me to take the outfit home on this particular day; a small but endearing act on her part. Here I stand in my bedroom, which I dearly loved, with its pink and green theme, ball-fringed curtain tie-backs and pink shag rug. I was a terribly happy child with only grand expectations for the wonderful and accepting world waiting to hand me my future. I smiled at the world and the world smiled back at me.
It is my first day of community college. My car, my fashionable wide belt, my fluffy hair and my smile; I’m sure that’s all I’ll need. I’ve put on some weight over the last year as life begins to spin out of control. The white van in the background is the one my mother bought for her dried flower business. She is trying to earn money for the Great Departure. In one year, everything will change. I had already met my future husband two years prior to this image, but alas, in my 16 year old wisdom I moved him from “first boyfriend” status to “just a friend”. At this point in my life he is a dear friend to me.
Honeymoon breakfast in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Ron stops to take a picture as we prepare to leave in our borrowed sports car. I take a picture of him just before this one. I have shed my weight. I have also shed weights and plans in exchange for the rest that I trust will come from being with my friend for always. I trust all will work out. We rushed to plan a wedding in 6 weeks’ time. We are both 22 years old. In three short months I will become pregnant. I am unprepared. I keep smiling, looking hard for the world to smile back at me.
Reality has come hard and in three years from this image I will battle fiercely with depression. The first years of marriage have had its trials and they seem to continue without sign of easing. Our normal life doesn’t seem to fit at all the one I ordered from the “This was Your Life” catalog. I’ve come to know the Lord and this has been a great help in anchoring my soul and in giving me purpose in my position as wife and mother, but I persist in trying to force my expectations of life onto the persistent circumstances and this tension produces an incredible strain. Four children came in 7 years’ time. In this picture I am sitting on a stone wall at Fonthill, the location of our wedding reception. The four children are playing around a small pond in front of me just out of the lens’ view. This world couldn’t be more different and unfamiliar from the one just 11 years prior when I stood as a bride on this very spot. The Lord is using this time to break me and mold me into something I had never conceived. I know in my head and even in my heart that I am a blessed woman and these children that have been given to my husband and to me are gifts of incredible worth. I know that God will work it all out. I just can’t quite align my seemingly contrary circumstances to His apparent plan of good. I smile on the outside as I die on the inside.
Thirteen years later. An event at church allows the girls and I to don our chapeaux. Grace takes this picture of me in the early morning light as we depart. I see a settledness in my features. In the years now past I have seen the perseverance of my husband and the consistent, faithful and benevolent care of my dear Lord. Though, at the time of this picture, the future is as unclear as it has ever been, I don’t seem to mind. I have seen how the Lord has led and I am content to walk by His side and not run ahead. I have seen one child married now, and at this point I am thinking it won’t be long until another flies, too. Little did I know how right I was. I love that I am dressed up and wearing a hat and that my sweet daughters are also decorated in their finery. Our children make us laugh and they make us proud. We have weathered the early storms and they have formed us.
We have built a home. We have sought to dispense love and wisdom to our children. We long for them to stand on their own with their eyes fixed on God and their hand in the hand of their very own loved ones. There is less, “I wonder…” now and more, “I see.” I worry sometimes how a quick burst into laughter at something poignant or sentimental melts right into a brief tearful fit of sobbing. Joy and sadness seem to dwell so closely now, but I’m okay with this. Love and loss, laughter and tears, victories and struggles all seem to be a part of this life and without the blessed mixture of them all we really wouldn’t be living.
At 22, when I was a new bride, I knew nothing of life, of determination, and of true wealth that is measured in that which has no price. I am as wealthy as can be. This reality, God’s economy, is the true reality and impoverished not am I. His custom made path for each person is right and true and just. I have, Lord willing, more miles to journey and am sure that more treacherous paths await me, but fearful not I choose to be. For He walks with me, carrying me when necessary, and teaches me, always teaches me, that His way is the blessed way.
Silly me, I was looking to the world to be so kind and benevolent. When I called out to Him, He accepted me and handed me my future. Now, I smile at Him and He smiles back at me. And His is the only smile I need.