Sunday, November 2, 2008
Here is a micro science fact for you: in the insect world eggs hatch then become larvae, then pupae, then adults. Funny to calls insects adults but that's what they are after they go through their developing stages. Many insects spin themselves into cocoons to protect them during their maturation process. (My friends are freaking out at this point and wondering what's with all this science talk and where has their friend who has coordinating earrings for every outfit gone?!) No fear. That is pretty much all I know.... Oh and it's me, Ginger, writing this one. I guess the earring comment gave that one away. Anyway, we are all most familiar though with the ugly caterpillar who, after spending time in its' cocoon, emerges as a beautiful butterfly. I think most girls hang onto this natural phenomenon in their awkward teenage years. Hoping, they too, will emerge a lovely creature after all the developing is over. That wasn't just me, right?!
In anything you read about the compostion of cocoons, they are referred to as being made of silk or silken threads. Those little guys spin the thread from their own bodies and I even read that the Monarch butterfly eats milkweed (I am not exactly sure what that is - okay this non-science girl only will go so far in her research) and the silk it spins is green and gold! I love how God doesn't make everything ordinary, don't you? The little caterpillars will first attach themselves to a branch, twig, leaf, stone or even a windowsill and then get busy spinning. Some other insects dangling by a thread to its branch but not butterflies. They want a stable environment for their protection and growth.
I can't help but see the obvious comparison to what God does for us. When we are in our most vulnerable stages of life, He often wraps us in our own cocoons. Cocoons made from precious silk The Maker spins from His own hand. Phoenix was our cocoon. It was so obvious to me the second I stepped back into my old life there just a couple of weeks ago. After Troy died and people asked me where would be moving, my answer was always that God had made us a nest for us there and I wasn't going to leave it until He told me to. I loved that nest analogy because it reminded me of the Lord God Himself being the mother bird and we, the kids and I, as His babies were being housed, protected and fed there. This is one of my very favorite scriptures in all of the Word of God:
"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."
Rampart means fortification. I think of the high-walled cities up on the top of those hills in the Italian countryside. God's faithfulness and steadfastness (as opposed to our flakiness) is our fortification; protection when the storms come and the enemy presses in.
Actually, that nest in Phoenix was in existence even well before Troy deployed. I remember he and I used to marvel at the amazing sense of community we felt there that we had never felt before at any assignment. Our group of friends there were not only the kind to lend you a cup of sugar but they would go to the store and buy you sugar so you would be sure and have it for next time. They would happily take a crying baby from your tired arms and not just hold for awhile but take it home with them so you could really have so peace and rest. Troy and I were bracing ourselves for what would have been our move to Kansas in the summer of '07 because we knew how hard it would be to find that again.
I think we were mistaken on that point, though, because we weren't the ones to have "found" it in the first place. God made the nest and He knew I would need it when the sky fell on that November 27th morning. Like that baby bird trying out its new wings on the branch above, when the world turned upside down, that baby bird just plopped right back down into its' nest. Many marveled at my nest in the days after Troy's death. I am not that great of person to have warranted so much love and support. It could have only been given by the hand of God.
But what was once our nest as a family there quickly evolved into a more tight-knit intimate protective covering, a cocoon, for the kids and I. I knew it was happening because I felt safe during the most insecure and uncertain time of my life. Everyday (and I mean EVERYDAY) there was someone at my house either helping us or loving on us in some way. There was not a need the kids and I had that went unmet.
A few months after Troy died, the kids and I left our house full of so many bittersweet memories, and moved a few miles down the road into a bigger house. I only got one last move with the military and did not want to use it to move that short distance away. Friends from church and the base came by everyday all day to help pack. Actually, come to think of it, they did most all of the packing because I was either busy falling apart, still trying to take care of the massive amounts of paperwork associated with and KIA death overseas and digging my way outof the months of neglecting bills, homework and to-do lists. But packing was just a part of it. On moving day I was a mess. I knew my pilot friends were coordinating the move but honestly I just wanted to stay in bed and pray that I would wake up from the nightmare so I wouldn't have to deal with what "moving on" meant or what was actually happening. Every military wife knows what goes into PCS'ing (permanent change of station - which is an oxymoron because in the military NOTHING is permanent) a large family. I did not know how to PCS on my own. Troy had always taken care of everything. And now I didn't even know whether we would be living in this different house for 3 months or 3 years. My head spun. I woke up on that Saturday morning to see TWO U-Hauls, SIX flatbed trailers and FIFTY fighter pilots loading and moving all my crap. Can I say that on a Christian blogsite?! Well, my close friends know I have alot of crap! Some of it is really nice but when you are schlepping it up and down two flights of stairs or trying to find some place to put it that is the best noun for it. I found pilots and their wives and my friends unpacking dishes, setting up kitchens and bathrooms, making beds ready for seven people to sleep in. My friend, Sally, made lunch for everyone. It was more than I could take when I saw all of those guys giving up their Saturday for a woman many of them didn't personally know. I was humbled by the brotherhood these guys showed to Troy.
Though I was rendered almost immobilized at times with grief, after the move I fell back on the thing that came naturally and was a little thearaputic: decorating my house. Gary, Lin, Greg and many other men would show up with a hammer and let me abuse them for hours hanging window treatments, artwork and building Pottery Barn kids furniture with poor directions and not enough screws! They all will never know how this ministered to my bleeding heart and wounded soul. I needed to be in control of what my environment looked like (even more than usual!) because it was the only thing I could control at the time.
The list of people and the tasks they performed for me, like Carey setting up "Team Ginger" (girls who would rotate in shifts of two during the week to help out) or the meals that poured in for 5 straight months. Sniper (he sounds scary but he's a big teddy bear), Robb and Coop taking care of everything from my sprinkler system to my finances and everything in between. The squadron that bought and wrapped all our Christmas presents so the kids would have something normal that first Christmas. Girlfriends that came over to hold crying babies or hold a crying widow at the expense of time with their own families. Aunt Faye, who no matter how her cancer or MS were affecting her that day showed up with a smile, a hug and a heart to do our laundry. The Engram Family adopted us and took us in as their own. Some of the memories I will hold closely to my heart were our every-Sunday-after-church roast and potatoes lunch at Pastor Don and Sharon's or the too-many-to-count dinners at Pastor Steve and Tami's. I often sat at their big dining tables crushed in spirit and unable to eat much but those hours spent with that family were like oxygen breathed into my tired lungs. Becky and Jess, two godly and amazing young women that chose to work for me as nannies yet made it so much more than a mere job. They invested in us and poured their lives into my five children. My thankful list would exceed the number of words this blog would hold. When I gave my testimony there at the church a couple of weeks ago, I asked everyone who had ever helped us during the last two years, whether it was a meal made or the great act of prayer on our behalf, to stand up. I am not kidding, 95% of that congregation stood up. And I think that remaining 5% must have been first-time visitors that Sunday. When I asked Boston what he thought of the tribute to his dad he commented on all the people that stood up. I hope my kids will carry that mental picture with them and if seeds of bitterness ever try to take root in their lives they will stop and remember to be thankful for those people God sent to help us. I won't even begin to mention my parents and Amy and all my other friends and family that flew in to be there for us. The hands and feet of God. Literally the Body of Christ at work. Each time something was done for us or given to us was another silken thread the Master Weaver used.
I will be honest with you. (Do I do anything but that?! ha). It had to be the Lord obviously putting Jim in my life and me knowing that was His will for us that could have made me leave my cocoon there. Though my life is exactly where it is supposed to be and we have a wholeness again with another great husband and father, Jim, it hasn't been easy living outside of the cocoon. Being back in Phoenix and with those people felt comfortable and safe. It was effortless to slip back into our old life there. The kids are so at home there and miss their friends so much. Our church home was a place we could honestly call a home. We were taught and fed and loved and grew there. I can't help but question why can't we have our miraculous life with Jim AND that blanket of external security?
But when I look at through the perspective of an actual cocoon's purpose it makes a little more sense. That time there was my time of covering and healing and growing stronger again. When Jim is at work or gone I hear the silence (okay not literal silence I do have six children!) of a home empty of close-knit friendships and the buzz of friends coming and going day and night. I am a people person and this has been a stretch for me to be so much more withdrawn from people than I ever have. Jim and I are still building the foundation of our new family and that doesn't allow for alot of extra time to make friends or entertain. I do understand this season is for that. Besides the couple of friends we already knew here we are beginning to connect. I know it does take time. And as my other widow friend, Carole, said after she got remarried and moved, "Now, Ginger, we have to go back to making friends slowly." Tragedy definitely sends friendships into hyper-growth mode. We are always so frightened for whatever horrible thing might happen but I can tell you that when it did, for us, we watched the depth of our relationships plunge even deeper to a place I didn't know existed. As I reflect back on my time in Phoenix and among that sea of loved ones, I couldn't help but think that must be a smidgen what heaven's community of Believers must be like.
Now the Lord wants me to go back to solely leaning on Him and serving my new husband and children. I had my time in the cocoon and now I am spreading my wings and allowing the Holy Spirit to carry me in the direction I should be flying. Leaving the nest so to speak.
I feel certain the Lord's main agenda for me doesn't include me always being comfortable. He does call me to be content. There is a difference. We look at Paul's words here:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
He wants us to grow into adults and leave the cocoon. And though He gives us the physical help for a period of time, where we gain on strength for the journey and the stamina for the race can only come from Christ.
Jim and I and another couple just started the Bible Study, Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Just today we looked at a chapter entitled "Returning to our First Love". This study's emphasis is on Christians returning whole-heartedly to God in a revival. Not the kind in the tent but the kind in the soul. This passage struck a cord with me: "God wants us to love Him first and foremost. When we find ourselves trusting in people instead of the Lord, this indicates our hearts focus has shifted from Him. Love for people- friends, family members or even ourselves- can compete with our love for Him."
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord."
Easy to read. Easy to say. Hard to do. Man will disappoint us. Man will desert us. Man will die on us. Man will not deliver us from the pit. Only God will.
"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
That's what my shaky legs needed. A firm place to stand. That place was literally in the deserts of Arizona and in the people He chose that accepted the call to help us in our time of great need. But really, if I dig a little deeper, I see that Christ was the real solid ground I stood on. If it wasn't for Him, there wouldn't have been a them. God Bless you all my Phoenix family!
Posted by Jim Ravella