Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The next thing on my to-do list is to write lesson plans for the first week back at school in January. I am having a hard time with that. I keep trying, but I can't even think about what I'll do with those class hours. I just can't seem to write "January" on the planning sheet. I look at the plans I wrote for the first week of school last January, and I can't remember teaching them. And then I think about the second week of school, and that Tuesday that shattered Haiti and all of our lives: January 12th, the earthquake that destroyed the city where I live and killed 300,000 people in 35 seconds.

A friend suggested writing "Day 1," "Day 2," "Day 3," and so on, instead of those scary January dates leading up to January 12th. It's a good suggestion, but still, I can't start the planning sheet. I just can't.

So I was doing what I do: distracting myself with something, anything. I cleaned my board really really well. I made a bunch of extra copies of my Reading Log form. I looked at my schedule for next semester. I even got out planning sheets. And then I decided to read some blogs.

And I read this post, where Jonalyn Fincher writes about an accident her dad had, and how God met her family during their time of crisis, in big and small ways, in very personal ways that mattered to her.

Here's a quote from the post:
During house church this last Sunday, Andrew asked about what I do when I feel under the weight of a blues week – as last week was – what comforts me? I told him that I know I’m under Mighty Wings. I’m covered, I’m protected and if I’m under God’s shadow then he must be near. Even when I don’t see him.

Thousands of years ago a Jewish musical artist and king wrote,

“How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Ps 36:7). (Thank you to Robin Cox for sharing this meaningful verse with me!)

I’ve meditated on that verse for months and months now. Lynn, a pastor’s wife in town, shared a quote about lovingkindness at Finn’s baby shower months ago.

Giving a child a piece of bread with butter is love; spreading jam on it is lovingkindness.

Ah, God's lovingkindness. It brings tears to my eyes to think of how He has met me in the past year, like He met Jonalyn, in ways that mattered to me. In March I wrote this post about how God was showing me how much He loves me. I know that now in a way I have never known it before: God loves me.

Some of the ways God has spread jam on my bread in the past year:

Family. He let me spend months with my parents unexpectedly. And both my brothers were in the same state, with their wives and children. The three of us live in three different countries and who knows when we will ever be able to spend so much time together again? I got to go to Pigeon Forge with my parents and my kids, drink tea and talk with my sisters-in-law, who are like sisters to me, enjoy my nephews and nieces, share in family dinners where we all ate and laughed until we hurt. And in spite of the forced separation my family suffered, with my husband in Haiti and the kids and me in the States, God brought us closer together than we have ever been. We appreciate each other much more now than before, and treasure our time together.

Friends. God showed me how many wonderful people He has put in my life. Old friends and new ones blessed me in more ways than I can even count. I'm crying now as I write this, remembering how very, very good God was to me, and continues to be, through my friends. I've written often about this before. I needed people, and they were there. They loved me so well, and they continue to do that. As Haitians say, m'pap janm suspann di Bondye mesi: I'll never stop thanking God.

Writing. For years, my writing has been more a source of guilt to me than anything else. I should be writing more. Why can't I get anything published? What I write just isn't good enough. Now I'm writing more than I ever have (or at least since, as a teenager, I filled notebook after notebook with angst that I find excruciating to read now), and I'm experiencing, maybe for the first time since the inhibiting effect of graduate school, that compulsion to just write it down. Who cares if it's good or bad? Who cares if anyone reads it? If I don't write I'll explode. And it feels so good to be writing like that again.

Oh, and that's not all. I've written it before, how God blessed me this year with music, meaningful work to do, exercise, and so much more.

What does all of this have to do with planning for January? It's still going to be hard to do it. I'm still avoiding it, sitting here in my classroom typing away while the planning sheets lie, blank, on my desk. No matter what, January is going to be traumatic, and not just for me. I know it's normal to be afraid and anxious and sick to my stomach as that terrible anniversary approaches.

But I can trust Him. I know I can. I can trust Him not just for the bread but for the jam. No matter what happens, I know He will be with me. No matter what January brings, and the rest of 2011, and the rest of my life, however long or short that is.

How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.


Andy Bowen said...

We did laugh till we hurt, didn't we?

Ruth said...

We sure did.

Laura Jones said...

Thanks for this post, Ruth, and for all that you've posted this year. What you've written has given me strength and courage time and again, and I'm so glad you've chosen not just to write but to share your writing. Have a blessed Christmas! I'll be praying for you especially in January. xx

Janet said...

I love that distinction between mere butter, and butter + jam.

I think mere butter was something you were very thankful for this year. But to get butter plus jam... That's amazing.

Thanks to this post, I'll have lovingkindness in my thoughts now.