Monthly Archives: March 2011

Waiting to Begin

My kids love Camellia trees. The way they burst forth with a million blooms and drop them generously to the ground for little hands to gather in abundance entices my children every time they come across one. Seeing their joy and their beautiful bowls of blossoms throughout the house, I have told them “in our next house we will have a Camellia tree.”

When our real life begins.

Knowing we want to sell soon has kept us on hold. I don’t hang many pictures, keep things somewhat staged and worry about wall holes and the inevitable wear and tear that a young family brings to a home. I am ready to settle in, for a long time, hang the vacation pictures that only we care to see everyday, plant perennials and trees and look forward to how they will look next Spring, not care about those knicks and flaws of an energetic family life. I know how to paint and spackle, and will worry about that again when they are grown, as it will come too fast and the perfect looking house is not my goal.

The hope is to sell our house soon, to move further north, near the new church where ministry would feel more whole, closer to my elementary aged children’s school and with all the hopes that go along with change and possibility. We of course would like more; more space for our growing family, friends and guests to gather and play and be. We live on 40 acres for 3 months of the year and find it a nice balance to our postage stamp city yard. It is in our souls to crave space inside and out. We love to see our kids roam and run and explore and all of us absolutely love to host a house full of people.

So that is our hope, be it “grass is greener” and possibly covetous, we pray, and aim to be pure in out desires, are generous in our giving and seek to follow the unpredictable formula of our faith, knowing we don’t deserve and can’t plan such a thing. Still we believe God loves us and has good for us, not that we can begin to claim to know what that might be. At this stage of life I do know some of the ways in which God has given me to be in this world. Planning, organizing, hosting and giving to large gatherings is one of my things, dare I say gifts. God has always given us the ability and desire to do that, even in our 750 square foot first home where we would shove every piece of our living room furniture into the kitchen in order to host a whole group of high school kids and mayhem for Young Life. We know it can be done anywhere and by many means, but space is on our hearts.

The perfect house hit the market this week. An amazing huge house for our growing family, on a huge piece of property complete with rock patio, play structure, sport court and creek running through the back of the big grass expanse. Exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for, but all that we could hope for. There were faults to be sure, much work to do to make it the envisioned dream home, a few broken windows, no insulation, old crumbling bathrooms. We’d done this work before and despite one member of the couple dyad claiming he’d never do it again, he wasn’t deterred and spoke excitedly of all the potential.

We imagined preschoolers on bikes, and high schoolers shooting baskets, muddy boots stomping in the stream and our very own slide to whiz down over and over and over again. So many daydreams of craft projects in the unfinished attic, family dinners around the table that overlooked the patio and “very own rooms” for my oldest girl and boy who have always shared. From the kitchen window I saw a blue heron poised out by the stream and it felt like an omen. We see them so rarely, the presence of this peaceful beast of a bird was telling of the safe expanse of space tucked into a city we’d grown to love. As my daughter launched her umbrella upside down in the creek like a bobbing boat to my son waiting near a small foot bridge to rescue it, we oohed and awed over the landscaped yard, lovely trees and quaint old shed complete with fireplace, I saw it in the corner of the yard near the back of the living room window. A long-lived abundantly bloomed camellia tree. I took it as a sign this was meant to be.

It was seemingly so of God how I found the house, only a few days on the market and I happened to take a look at what was out there on a bit of whim. It had been many months since our house was last on the market and I had felt it worthwhile to search. We can’t buy until we sell, so it is not a good practice and really is a time waster to look. But I did, felt led to, and the timing was phenomenal since it would only be on the market for a few days before it would go into foreclosure. Being a short sale we could safely make an offer pull out at any time, and have many months to sell our house. The circumstances were just perfect, signs all along the way it seemed. We were told there would be one other offer but it wouldn’t be strong so we wrote ours full priced and with gusto. The house was worth so much more, but full price was right in our budget and had good stewardship in mind. “When we move into our new house…” was how we’d all started to talk. The signs were everywhere and the circumstances too perfect to not believe God was in this.

Just before we got the news, after a parenting seminar on how to raise boys, where advice about space and activity and adventure were the themes, we talked of how God might be at work. The realist of us said “I am not so sure God wants this for us, maybe His best for us is smaller, missionary work, less stuff, more about the eye of the needle than the life of abundance.”

The optimist theologian said “I was just thinking about how much God loves us, how much He has always blessed us with more than we could imagine, so why not now. again, even after we know how tragedy works?”

The call came at 9:30 that evening. The other offer was stronger and they’d accepted it. That was it. No counter offers. No second chances. The house was not going to be ours.

We were disappointed to be sure, and each had a few hours of funk over the course of the next day. We thought of all the possibility was gone, but, and not too soon to have been disappointed for a genuine bit of time, we realized that possibility also meant alot of work. We remembered the hours and hours we put into other houses when we’d rather have been enjoying fun and down time of from the already full work-week. We saw our kids getting older and all of us playing together outside but realized we’d be inside tediously replacing old plumbing and broken windows, or we wait years and years to afford help with it and live with the run down energy efficientlessness of the place. That can be wearisome too. Much as we were excited, much as we were disappointed and much as we saw God in all of it and therefore felt it was meant to be, we still could see God’s hand at work. This is really all I can ask for. For God to be in control is of course the given, but for God to let us have some awareness of that is a blessing. I can get on board with that.

Today I was at a gardening store where new plants were being brought in and a few winter plants were on clearance. The ever thrifty shopper that I am perused the winter plants rather aimlessly, knowing there was no good purpose in plant shopping in our impermanent state. Until I saw a just one Camellia tree, small enough for a good sized pot and still with a few large blooms waiting to burst. That felt like a sign too. I bought it.

Life in between can be lived well regardless of our circumstances. I will praise Him in all things and trust the days to come.


Unrest

On this Sabbath Sunday, so soon after my restful Saturday, I fall into bed exhausted, no rather weary. It was a long day, marked by goodness to be sure: I celebrated the life of my oldest, watched with pure joy as she was celebrated by dear friends, laughed and skated with her, talked long after her early bedtime about the day’s events and some deeper things between a mother and a daughter. I looked endearingly upon my son as he talked up a storm with a younger sister of my daughter’s friend, barely an acquaintance to him, and yet he chats easily and laughs and makes silly faces as if they go way back. He’s just the best thing ever, a charmer who is charming because he genuinely loves. And lest we forget the littlest, drug around all day to church and errands and party, no place to nap or have peace for a little one who relies on it, but for a few precious minutes fell deeply to sleep in my arms like she used to when brand new and I pulled her heavily breathing face near to mine to breath her in. I felt goodness and peace in the velvet smooth of her sweet cheek. I needed her slumber to force stillness upon me for just those few moments today.

I began reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp weeks ago and can’t get past the first few chapters as each time I pick it back up and get caught back up I get stuck re-reading the beginning chapters.

“The end will come.
Doctor’s warning or not the end will come, and this life of the bare toes across grass, the sky raining spring down on eyelashes, the skin spread close under sheets, blink of the fireflies on dusky June nights – all this will all end…

“Which road through this brief land? What is all most important? How to live the fullest life here that delivers into the full life after?…

How does one live ready, and always?…But, someone, please give me – who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew – give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?…

How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?”

Does anyone else live tormented by these questions?

She details unrest and longing and deep awareness of beauty and goodness that so resonates with my soul. The book begins with a vivid scene of her great loss, she gets it, and she goes on to write of the longing for meaning in the everyday-ness of life. I get that.

I will never be carefree to the reality of death and great loss ever again in this lifetime. Fearfulness which took residence years before great loss even hit me personally (but surely to those I dearly love, a trauma of it’s own), when I only held the awareness of the possibility, now takes a permanent place in my lense on life. I see the range of color, the bright, the beautiful, the rare, the true, but always there is the possibility of black, always there is awareness of what might never be ever more.

“Perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18) I know, I have that one memorized, along with all the other verses on fear. Made myself a bookmark once. Diligently wrote scripture on my heart. But I am not perfect and still I get scared. I know the verse refers to God’s perfectness but what does that really mean to me when I know that bad things can still happen under his perfect watch? I can trust, (I know, I know) his perfect plan, (yes, yes) but sometimes that perfect plan hurts so damn bad that it is impossible to view life without the knowledge of what might be, both the glorious and horrendous. In full awareness of all that is awesome and beautiful, searing, gut wrenching, and life altering, pain can happen, is happening now, everywhere. My awareness of this, does not weaken my faith but brings me closer to my God who knows this pain even greater than I. Everywhere He is aware of it, and still He is good. I choose to believe. I hope to let go.

I don’t live dark or leary in the day to day and my faith can hold the mindset that I am safe if I just think I am because it is He who is keeping me safe. I know there is a plan. On some level that is comforting, sometimes. Call me Peter, ye is me.

In the wake of loss, the pressure is on to live purposefully even more so, as the stark reality of an un-promised tomorrow always lingers, for me, my children (God no!), my soul-mate. So as I pursue things of purpose, parenting as if it was essential as oxygen, always, always aiming to please God, acting as if His pursuit of me is my uphill climb, much that feels purposeful can also ring hollow, feel “busy”, nothing like the mountain top high seemingly promised. And lucky for me, one who blames so easily, most profusely myself, I then take the burden upon myself – not spiritual enough, discerning enough, self-aware enough, hard-working enough, enough, enough.

I could end with verses that are hopeful, stay true to my title and the undercurrents that carry me along and buoy me to full breath, but the raging surface of the deep waters tonight is tumultuous, and that is where I am. This too true pieces of my humanity. Not at all what I would assign hope to, and yet there is my most favored book of Ecclesiastes that speaks of those times, those times for everything. I feel them all, everything.


Instant Gratification

I took a nap this morning, as my baby napped. After a late night and a few wakings, I was exhausted. I have a whole day ahead of me, and a hand full of to-do’s, household, ministry and professional and I laid there waking slowly from one of those deep long dream filled naps, wondering if I would even have the energy to rise again for the day ahead. My big kids are off to ski with their dad and it is just me and the babe. I have loved these slow Saturdays with her. The house more quiet than any other day, she is the sole focus of my attention, we get to play on her level, and her nap times become sweet indulgent down time for me. But today there are a few things to get done before church tomorrow and my big 7 year old girl’s birthday party.

I believe God has put things on my heart to do, I recognize His voice, His call, and I feel moved to act. I am motivated, excited, moved, willing, believing this purposeful thing will honor God, whether it be in how I live out my day to day life as a mom, wife or friend, or if it is tackling the Mount Everest of accomplishments. If it is God’s voice, and/or I am clear that what is placed on my heart will honor God, I am in and I will obey. And not to overspiritualize everything, I know too there are simply things I just want to do that sound fun or interesting or exciting to me. I have learned over and over again that here too God smiles at the freedom He has given me to choose these ways of spending my time, much as I fret over discerning His call and His will. These become His will (read The Will of God as a Way of Life by Gerald Sittser, my mentor and friend who taught and counseled me through this years ago and yet I still need to learn these lessons).

In addition to my day to day willingness to honor and obey him with my spirit and character in love of Him and others, the honoring of Him with my mind and body in willingess to act and do can sometimes leave me feeling perplexed, shall I say stressed? After the initial excited, purposeful “yes” I begin to think of the how and wonder about the when. The problem lies in the timeline. I don’t doubt God’s voice or purpose, I begin to doubt my abilities and wonder why I say yes to anything at all. I feel like I need to hurry, get it done now, to the best of my ability and be efficient and work hard to be faithful. There is an essence of truth to these concepts in being faithful, but mostly they are false. If I look at the bible many of the purposes God places on people’s lives take years, lifetimes. How unexciting eh? How wonderful though. God is honored. The people are ok.

Our world is increasingly instant. It used to be that I had some time before people knew if I got an e-mail or not. My lengthy average rate of return was understandable then. I had little ones, no time to sit in front of a computer. This made sense. That nagging feeling of having e-mails to get back to somewhat reminded me of the constant pressure felt in getting a college education. Always something ahead to do, no time to sit and read anything for fun, there were books to read and papers to write. I always loved my breaks and indulged heavily in “light” reading, as in I would read my favorite magazine, like Real Simple or Martha Stewart or Country Living, cover to cover, every word, from the editors letter to the last meaningless ads in the end. I love doing that! It is the ultimate down time indulgence. Such a relished time-waster, so much more fun than TV to me.

Now people know there is a good chance I see my e-mails near to when they come to me on my phone, that goofy gadget that I swear my children must think is my 3rd robotic eyeball. I kind of hate that (I can hear my mockingbird children’s voices in my head saying “we don’t say hate in our house mama”). It is almost always near, though I do manage to forget it upstairs or in my purse sometimes (I need to to that more often actually) but with the loud sounds of children in my midst or quiet ones whom I do not want to disturb, I rarely answer it at a moment’s notice. I do check it often though, for efficiency sake right? Get that e-mail read and out of the way and on to processing what I can DO about it. I still don’t get back very efficiently, takes too long to type on my phone anyway, but it is in my head all the time, and I kind of hate that too. I digress.

The point is the instantaneousness of the world, and how counterintuitive that is for how God would work in our lives, how he has historically worked in others lives. In fact, in stories like Abraham and Sarah (Genesis Chapters 15 to 21), the length of time He takes to respond after making His promises very clear that Abraham would father many is aggravatingly laughable to them. I often feel like that, complain to God that I want things to happen now and pine away wondering why they are not. He does not place instant gratification on His call.

Thank you God, now please help me to do the same; to slow down, take things step by step, rest when I need to, even when I don’t need to but after a good 6 days or so of hard work have passed.

Now off to read my fun book about slowing down and relishing mom-life before my baby wakes up and we get to play.


Who has time?

Who has time to write anything when there are sick kids to care for? (in addition to everything else…) Who has time to write when there are healthy kids to care for?

An acquaintance of mine, a newlywed with no kids, once said “you have all the time you need” as a mantra for me to embrace. I liked it, I come back to it often, but on a day like today, or week like this week, with so much more than sick kids to take care of, I may have all the time I need but I don’t have all the time I want. Probably means my faith and/or contentment is lacking in some way, but it doesn’t make me feel better or do better to think that way.

Where is God in our ambitions, goals, hopes and dreams? Are we not to be trusted or is it the voice of God? I have a lot of theological and intellectual knowledge on the subject, but still, I really wonder…

I do appreciate the slow sweet nature of sick days for a bit, it’s just hard for me to let everything else fall apart. Can anyone else relate?