Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Under Pressure

Chemical Weathering of Limestone
Inside this mason jar a limestone rock is soaking in vinegar and is slowly disintegrating.  The rock started out much larger and very smooth.  (This is an example of "chemical weathering" for those of you who don't have a student in general science this year;)  I have been observing this rock disintegrate for several weeks now because it is sitting on the windowsill above my kitchen sink.

On the other end of the windowsill is a different mason jar filled with dirt, sand, gravel, and water.  After jostling the mess around for a day or so, the contents of the jar were left to settle and over time they settled into distinct layers.  Most of the sand is on the bottom, then a layer of gravel and dirt, then a layer of light sediment, with fairly clear water on top.
The Laying Down of Sediments
Sitting nearby on the counter is a bowl, which used to contain a big square of pristine steel wool. The steel wool has been transformed into its current state by nothing more dramatic than soaking in household vinegar for a few weeks (just like the limestone rock, a victim of "chemical weathering").
Chemical Weathering of Steel Wool
There was a time I tried to keep fresh flowers on my windowsill, and hopefully that time will come again.  But right now science experiments surround me, and in some sense they serve as metaphors for what is going on internally as well.  A lot of weathering, a lot of rubbing away of sharp points, a lot of transforming.

This fall has been a time of pressure in my home.  Five teenagers/young adults in the house is a lot of food and laundry to keep up with, but just as importantly, it is a lot of conversations.  Conflict resolution conversations, talking-someone-off-the-cliff conversations, listening-to-venting conversations, reassuring conversations, attempts-to-motivate conversations, crisis-avoiding conversations, temper-cooling conversations, faith-building conversations, asking-(and hearing)-questions conversations, late-late-night conversations, late-late-night-waiting-for-the-last-person-to-make-it-home praying conversations.

This has also been a time of increased academic pressure as everyone has more homework, more papers to get done, more decisions about the future to make, etc.  And some students are more motivated than others.....

Financial pressure has also increased this year, a combination of poor planning with some unforeseen and unavoidable expenses.

Plus, I am at the age where I am starting to have health pressures, both my husband and I have parental (our parents) worries, and there is not any one standing in line to buffer any of it's just us.  I have felt very squeeeeeezed.......why?  Well, I need a lot more wisdom, discernment, patience, hope, discipline, authority, energy, frugality, creativity, encouragement, perspective, endurance and love than I've got.

I think I have unconsciously been living my life under the delusion that things will get easier when (substitute whatever) happens, when a new decade arrives. That is not how it works (at least so far as I can tell).  Every season has its good  parts and every season has its hard parts.  Also, everybody's story is different; we don't all have the same burdens, nor the same joys.  It does me no good to compare my story to yours -- I am called to live MY story, and it may require different things from me than yours does from you.

Which brings me back to the limestone rock.  There is another way that limestone rock can change.  If, deep in the earth, it is subjected to intense heat and pressure over a long period of time, it can be transformed, or metamorphosed,  into marble, through a process called 'recrystallization.'  I am hoping that all this pressure will have this good result in me (and everyone else in my family), that the character of Christ is being formed in us.  It is certainly not something that can be seen on a day-to-day basis, but I hope to one day look back and think wow...the Lord has done something beautiful with all of these messy lives.

On my windowsill is one more science experiment:  a bowl of crystals that were formed by dissolving alum powder in water (you can get directions here).  Not quite diamonds and not quite marble, they still are incredibly beautiful. The same God who has power to change things on a molecular level has the power to change people on a spiritual level, bringing forth beauty and order and love and peace and perseverance -- all the fruits of the Spirit -- from people who once walked in darkness.
Alum Crystals
Squished behind all the science experiments on my windowsill is an index-card stand.  For a long, long time the only verse written there has been John 16:33.  Every time I would think about changing it, I would think No, I still need that verse.  I finally feel like I can add another verse, one that has been hanging around my thoughts for awhile, to remind me that God is able to do so much MORE than all that we ask or think:

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen" -- Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)


  1. The trials and tribulations of a parent, an adult child, a friend and a citizen of Earth. Your comment about things being better when xxxx happens is an interesting one and one that a lot of people live by. I wish you luck and better times ahead.

  2. Angela I send you a hug across the sea. Your post rang so many resonant bells with me. I find myself longing for my life a decade ago when everything seemed so much simpler and the pressures that now crowd in weren't there although of course I may be editing them out with hindsight! I think one of the hardest things about the Christian faith is that God is always wanting us to journey and travel rather than remain static. As with your science experiments, it isn't always a comfortable or easy experience. I don't think it's an accident that God chose a nomadic people to be the chosen people. The divine plan is always for dynamic transformation. But if we can stay with that, God promises us he will always be with us and will prevent us from falling flat on our faces. A possible additional text for your kitchen windowsill index card might be Isaiah 43:1-2. Hold on in there, you're not alone in any sense and you seem to me to have inspirational wells of love and patience that I wish I had myself! E xx

  3. Lovely post. You've brought back so many memories of the time when my own home was full of the children and me and all we brought to it. So much changes and so much remains a variation of the is wonderful.

  4. We walk with each other through life. Thanks for a heartfelt post this morning.

  5. What an amazing post! Our stories are not all the same, but we all experience pressure. Thank you for writing this piece! God is going to see us all the way through as we trust in Him. Many blessings to you...

  6. Thank you for sharing your life just now in such an open way. I think that those married couples with teenage children and ageing parents are often referred to as the squeezed middle. Although our four children are in their 20s and 30s now and there is only my father left of the older generation we have felt very much part of the 'middle generation for years now. At times you just want to shout 'when is MY time going to come' It's tough but as someone who is almost through the wood and glimpsing the sunny uplands (still with health and energy to enjoy it) all I can say is, yes it takes time but it does get better. There are lovely times ahead enjoying your adult children and grandchildren but also, just sometimes you will miss the noise, chaos and debate that comes from a house full of teenagers (and you will want to tell your parents all about their achievements) Lots of love (and fellow feeling)

  7. What wonderful words! One word you used really jumped out at me: "messy." That's how those years felt to me too, when we had three high-schoolers (plus an elem. kid) at home at once. Life in all its forms was messy, and it was impossible to see what (if anything) lastingly good was being formed. Time reveals it, esp. in those teens. They are absolutely, 100% inscrutable to "read" during those years ... more "unfinished" perhaps than they even are in earlier years. God does give us so many natural examples to show us how the work of the Spirit happens in our lives. Your science experiments are excellent samples of this!

  8. An excellent post. Maybe I'm being can only hope.


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