Monday, September 27, 2010

Strangely familiar . . .

Daddy's last day of work, 2010

... getting ready for his new job, 2010

Our past five years:

Baby~Move~Baby~Career change~Move~Move~Baby~New Job~Move (hopefully soon?)

I used to say that I didn't want to get married because I thought it would be boring . ..  I have not been bored yet!

Jim is at his first day of work today and we are wishing him well and thanking God . . . we do not take employment of any kind for granted, and for Jim to be in a career that he loves is truly a blessing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Take Me Back to Florida

Florida was so good for us.  It was a good time as a family, good to be away and functioning just us, nowhere else to go.  Strange how seldom that happens.   I could become an evangelist for vacations, for getting away.  I need the space to think, to gain a new perspective, to step out of the routine long enough to notice where I am and to ask myself whether it is the place I want to be.

Every family needs a vacation.  In my humble opinion: cancel your cable, sell the dog, do anything you possibly can find to do short of going into debt to disconnect, get away as a family.  Pitch a tent, swap your house, rent a cabin.  It really doesn't matter where, only that you are away.  (Stay-at-home vacations don't work, you're still too distracted with the ordinary- we have tried plenty of those).  Rest, think, read, laugh, eat well, e-x-h-a-l-e . . . get your soul back.

I came home feeling healthier and more balanced, and before I begin the next Stieg Larson book life becomes too busy or I forget, I wanted to record here a few of the things that made vacation so magical, how I am attempting to keep a little of that magic in my pocket . . . unfortunately, I lost the moment. You know how it is, there is this certain urgency with blogging, with all writing, that needs to be captured before it fades . . . sorta like manna or something spiritual like that . . . like my friend Becky said so well, 
"One reason I blog is because of the way that it feels so good to me when I have written a piece for the day….brings ownership to the day and the moment.  It’s captured.  Recorded." 

So I guess I missed the vacation-blog moment, but here are a few highlights:

I LOVE being in-transit.  Love it.  It is addictive. 

No schedule.

Eating healthy.

Realizing on the last day that we'd never bothered to set the clocks.

Packing our favorite summertime clothes but then only wearing our bathing suits and the same t-shirt all week.

Being so worn-out from swimming and playing, coming home for long late-afternoon naps and heading back to the beach for the evening.

No internet.

A great book.
One night Jim was gone with a friend and we had ourselves a {girls night}.  The girls still want to wear only dresses of any kind (I am still hoping this is a phase), and there is a fabulous thrift store near the home where we stay where I always go to stock-up on skirts and dresses for them.  I found several super-cute little dresses, washed them up, and we had bubble baths, fancy shampoo, dresses, a chick flick and popcorn.  Such a fun night!

(I found a great H&M sweater dress, a corduroy skirt, and a trench coat at the same thrift shop!)

Completely forgetting what day it is, what season it is at home.

My independent Annie who never wants to cuddle woke up from her nap one day, came out to the living room, crawled onto my lap and fell asleep.  This may have been the highlight of our trip for me.

There were many more but these are some of the best things about vacation.  If only I could capture that laid-back, bare-footing, free-spirit and bring it home . . . no fighting, no whining, everyone so happy . . . Oh, well.  And now I might be just the teeniest bit grumpy thinking about the change ahead and all of the work that needs to be done before we can get there.  Take me back to Florida.

Two good links:
How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is Joy Who saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does.  the hard hallelujah

And Ruth's post, Broken Shoes reminded me of how quick I am to think I need something new rather than fixing what I've got.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I apologize, I sincerely did not mean to leave this blog at some kind of cliffhanger: we are moving . . . and the music swells and a week later you tune in only to find that the climax isn't all that climactic . . . well, maybe it is . . .

and to be honest I haven't wanted to publish where we are going because I first needed to tell my Grandma . . . but I was too sad.  I just couldn't tell her.

Today I did.

And now I can tell you . . . we are moving to Cleveland!  Hooray!

I also haven't been around this blog the past few days because I've had things to do, places to go . . .
ice cream to eat  . . .

We had the best. time. EVER. in Florida, and now we are home and Jim is getting ready to begin his new job on Monday!

I can't wait to blog about our trip, our move, so many things . . . but first I can't wait finish the vacation thriller I can not. put. down. . . .

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

around the bend- some final thoughts on joy

When I say that I am learning joy I do not mean that I am always happy, but that I am learning to trust the process.

Obviously, my experiences are on such a vastly smaller scale than those who have truly suffered.  But I am experiencing a place of clarity, of looking back and seeing my dark, impossible places, the places where I most did not want to go as a necessary part of the journey, and  my sandals aren't even worn out.

Jesus was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,"
God called Jesus Christ to what seemed unmitigated disaster. Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death; He led every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. Jesus Christ's life was an absolute failure from every standpoint but God's. But what seemed failure from man's standpoint was a tremendous triumph from God's, because God's purpose is never man's purpose.  -Oswald Chambers
Just about everyone I know has experienced a Jesus that they do not recognize- a place where they believed surely God would come through for them and He didn't.  "He led every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken."   I am beginning to see the redemption in my broken places, to believe that there is a purpose in it.

Trust- Surrender- Acceptance- Joy . . . these are the things God has taught me in this chapter of my life, it is what makes me look forward with joy to what's around the next bend for our family.
God almost always asks the impossible.  If it is possible, if it is easy, we can almost always be sure that it is the Tempter asking, not God.  God asked Abraham to leave his comfortable home, long after retirement age, go to a strange land with his wife, who was long past childbearing years, and start a family.  He asked Gideon to free his captured people from a vast enemy, far more powerful than the little group of Jews hiding in the mountains. . . .  And Jesus?  What did God ask of Jesus . . .?  Jesus was God, for starters . .. We believe that Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, left the Godhead to come to us.   -Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, September 13, 2010

around the bend- home

This summer I sat on our back porch and for the first time I thought, I am HOME.

I've been back in the area for eight years, married for nearly seven, and it's taken me this long to really have this sense of place, this feeling of being settled and at rest.

So many years were restless, and we just always felt like we were waiting for something, but every direction we pushed only pushed us right back and finally, we bought a house smack in the middle of my hometown, set up our nest and I looked around and said, "In all the world, this nest is the best."
I love this house.  It is small, simple, and it fits us perfectly.

I have the perfect kitchen in this house.  It is big enough to hold no less than fifteen pieces of furniture,* big enough for the kids to play here while I cook, big enough for company, big enough for art projects

 and for making a really big mess.

It makes me want to do home-ey things like making really distorted loaves of baguette and demanding that I be kissed.

I love our front porch.
I love our back porch.
I love the row of trees that we call our Hundred Acre Wood
I love my clothesline,
our little garden, our yard, our quiet street with approximately 1.5 cars driving by daily.

I love my neighbors, the kind who pop in and I don't care if my house is a mess, we just sit and gab while the kids go wild . . . the kind who just today brought me homemade muffins.

I love my friends . . . the friends who I can sit and laugh with and who inspire me every single time we get a Girl's Night . . . who one day deserve their own post.

I love that it takes us eleven minutes to get to my parents' house, and it's driving on roads like this:

(my parent's farm)

I love that my mom stops by nearly every morning, love the relationship we have, and the relationship my kids have with my parents.

I love our church, our friends, our community.

I love the ways that I have grown here, the grace that I have found, the way that this turned out to be exactly the right place for us . . .

But today, our house is all clean and starry as Annie would say, there are candles burning and it's all ready to show tonight, because we are selling our house and moving . . .

(to be continued).

I did not say that our kitchen should hold this much furniture, or that my husband is happy about all of the furniture I insist should be here.

around the bend- a small town

I grew up in the kind of storybook hometown where nobody locks their doors and everybody knows your name.  People travel to visit our rolling hills and when I was a waitress they always said how lucky I was to live here, and what I didn't tell them was how scary small towns can be, how this place was, for me, the most unsafe place on earth.

It was a town with smiling faces and religion, but underneath there were sharp edges, and a certain coldness that was hard to place- you just felt slightly uncomfortable, a little bit judged, and you walked away with the vague sense of being talked about.

I know now that High School is a form of purgatory for everyone.  I was painfully overly sensitive, excruciatingly self-conscious, awkward and shy, and I had this problem of liking everyone- really liking them, so that when they hurt me I'd never see it coming.

I have very few memories of High School, but I do remember the teacher who said I was ditzy, and the one who said that I was just another pretty face, the one who rolled her eyes at me so that the whole class laughed.  I remember how cruel kids can be and how alone I felt, and now when I look back I think that probably most kids felt that way and I wish I hadn't been so afraid.

Nothing was safe.  School wasn't safe and friends weren't safe and eventually even the things I thought were safe- churches and marriages and especially small towns- aren't safe.

It's all part of growing up, part of learning how imperfect the world is and how imperfect I am.  But my story is my own, and when I look back I see God's hand in every part, can see Him so lovingly, carefully breaking me.  I see now how gently He was cutting away every last part so that I could fall completely on Him.  None of that pain was wasted, because it was all about Him drawing me to Himself, for my learning, 
"There is none but Thee, my God, there is none but Thee."

That was the place where I began to find joy.  It brought me to the end of myself, to the end of everything I could rely on apart from Christ, and in my teenage brokenness, in the early dark mornings before school with my Bible I began to learn what it means to be accepted and beloved in Christ.

I couldn't wait to flee my small town, and years later I found myself back, felt God telling me wait . .. and then I stayed and became a pastor's wife . . . and I have never been more afraid.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Half Birthday Josie, your birth story . . .

Dear Josie,

You are SIX months old today! 

Oh how I have loved these six months with you! 

Sometimes I wake up with you tucked under my arm and I think what a perfect composition we are.  I love the space you fill next to me, the way you fit so right on my hip and how comfortable we both are when you're there, how strange it feels when you aren't.

I love holding you when you are sleepy and cuddly, and I lay you down saying to God "Thank-you Thank-you Thank-you."  Thank-you for this sweet surprise, this wild and precious life.  What a gift you are!

So Josie, this is the story of the day you were born.

On the day you were born I woke up and knew, today would be the day. 

The day was a Thursday, and I have always loved Thursdays.  I love them for the way that they anticipate the weekend, so that we already feel lighter, already beginning to shrug off the routine and prepare for the fun ahead, just like the day that you were born. 

On the day you were born the sun was shining and we wore jackets and the whole world exhaled, as though spring had arrived even though it was really only a Thursday in March, still a few weeks and one last snowstorm away from true Spring.  But on this day we all lived Springtime, and you Josie, will always be my first day of Spring.

Your dad was going out of town on the weekend and I hoped and hoped that you would arrive on that day and you agreed.  I wasn't experiencing hard contractions yet, but I called the doctor anyway because I really just knew and I went and she said "It's Time" (the most beautiful two words any pregnant woman has ever heard).

I went out to the car where your Nana and your sisters were waiting, and I told them It's Baby Time!, and your sisters couldn't yet imagine what that would mean, how they were about to get their favorite gift ever.

The really fun part of this story is that my good friend Summer was also expecting a baby, and just an hour after we arrived at the hospital to have you, she arrived in the room next door to deliver your friend Colton! 

I don't remember a lot about the labor, only that I was so happy and excited to be there, and how quickly I was ready to push . . . you came too fast and the doctor wasn't there yet, and I said I'MGONNAPUSH! and the nurse said, Don't. and I said IHAVETOPUSH! and the nurse said Don't. and I said IWILLDELIVERTHISBABYMYSELF! and that may have been the longest fifteen minutes of my life and the Docter arrived and she said PUSH and there you were- a GIRL! (and I admit, I was so happy that you were a girl!) and you were perfect- exactly eight pounds of wonderful.

The part about childbirth that I remember the most is the how open I feel, in that most difficult place, to receive love; and after you were born there is this LOVE, just streaming, everywhere, there is LOVE; a moment of pulsing, enormous LOVE, and in that moment it is all so clear, that there is nothing but LOVE, nothing matters but LOVE, that the only thing to do in life is to give everything to LOVING.

And on the days when I am absolutely spent in mothering . .. when all of my days and all of my nights are spent giving to someone and I think I have nothing left . . . I think about that Love, how wide and long and high and deep it is, how there is nothing I would rather be than worn-out from loving.

Josie you will always be proof to me of God's perfect surprises and His goodness, and especially of how He loves and loves and loves us.  I hope I can teach you to trust that love too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

around the bend- where it began

I do hope to keep spilling out here a little of what joy means to me . .. 
my lack of joy and search for joy, getting to know joy and finding that she is a quiet and steady friend, not temperamental like I thought, not only arriving with roses and chocolate but steady and a little slow and carrying a pocketbook with tissues and wisdom and those pink mints my grandma used to pass me in church.

 I admit that I do not know true suffering.  I don't know it like my brothers and sisters know it, like those who have gone before me knew it.  I don't know it in the form of earthquakes or persecution or death.
I do not know what true suffering would do (will do?) to my joy, how I will withstand it.  
I don't know how to explain suffering, how to describe joy without addressing suffering, how to make sense of it all.

I only know my own dark night, my own small small suffering that in some gentle, painful way led me to joy.

  I can only tell the way that my journey began, waking up, every day thinking,
 "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."
And those words were so dull and heavy on my lips, so awkward like a language I could not speak . . . and a prayer once, prayed with small faith and even smaller hope . . . 

that my life would be characterized by joy,

and how that small prayer would lead me to joy . . .

and this is where it took me . . .

May all your expectations be frustrated,
May all your plans be thwarted,
May all your desires be withered into nothingness,
that you may experience the paralysis and poverty of a child,
and sing and dance in the compassion of God
who is Father, Son and Spirit,
Amen and Amen.

-Brennan Manning

Sunday, September 5, 2010

what's around the bend- marriage

When I began this blog two years ago I described it something like this:

Strong-willed, optimistic Christ-follower artist falls in love with strong-willed, logical, Christ-follower civil engineer . . . think, Dharma and Greg, otter/golden retriever meets lion/beaver, Bert and Ernie . . .

I described myself as a Wrinkled Mess and Jim as the King of Starch, and made fun of his obsession with ironing.

We are, truly, very different.

My favorite artist is Matisse.
Jim's favorite artist is Andrew Wyeth.

On my nightstand:

On his:

When I was single I spent some time in Haiti where I rode tap-taps and danced kompa.
During the same time Jim lived in Belarus where he learned to speak Russian and was very cold.

He dreams of drinking coffee in a cafe in Denmark.

I dream of sleeping under a mosquito net in Africa.

I have a crush on Brian Williams.

He has a crush on Ramona Robinson.

(The six o'clock hour is pretty exciting at our house).

To me, the glass isn't just half full, it's miraculous.

To Jim, the glass isn't just half empty, it is unjust.

In nearly seven years of marriage our differences have both helped each other and driven each other crazy.

We tend to live in a state of agreeable disagreement.

Usually it's agreeable.

There is a verse about iron sharpening iron, and what the verse doesn't mention is the fact that when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly.

It is possible that there are times in our marriage when sparks fly.

He also makes me laugh so hard that water sprays out my nose.

In nearly seven years we have never given up on working to understand, to accept and value each other.

He hardly ever irons his clothes anymore.
I've stopped leaving them in the drier for days.

There are two times in the early years of our marriage when I remember feeling like we were completely on the same page, both working together and going in the same direction.

One was a spontaneous trip to the East Coast, the summer before our first child was born.  The other was snaking a sink.

One day in July we looked at the calendar and realized if we didn't go on vacation that week, we wouldn't get to . . . and so we packed and just like that we left, sleeping in the car on our way.  We bought a Lonely Planet Road Trip guide and for ten days we followed it faithfully along every single sleepy town from Cape Cod to Bar Harbor, eating a lot of fish and chips along the way.  We plotted our trip according to art museums, I drove and he read the map, our brakes went out in rush hour in Boston, we stayed in every form of cheap hotel from a frilly bed and breakfast to a creepy truck stop.  We ran out of cash and had no ATM and made it home with two bucks and some change, and THAT is the trip we still talk about, our own version of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The second time was much less pleasant, during a particularly hard time in our marriage.  Our kitchen sink was plugged, and Jim had to snake it and needed me to hold the cable.  It was as glamorous as that. But in that moment, I felt God say to me that He was going to teach us how to work together, to be united and that I needed to just follow Jim, hold on and wait.

And God kept working on the stuck, plugged places in us.

It wasn't always pretty or easy or fun, but after seven years we are so much better at this marriage thing.   Finally we really are on the same page, going in the same direction and excited about what's around the bend . . . glad to be on the journey together.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

what's around the bend

All the paths of the Lord are stedfast love and faithfulness for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.  Psalm 25:10

I love life.
It only keeps getting better.
When I turned 33 last week I thought, there is no age I would rather be, no stage of life I would rather be living.

Why do I say I love life, and then I duck, like I've just been caught saying something offensive?

Why do I say I love life, and immediately think about martyrs, refugees, people who are suffering for Christ and think that I must not be really following Christ because I should be much more miserable?

Why do I feel the need to doctrinally justify this statement?

Why do I expect any opportunity that sounds appealing to surely be a temptation, but anything that sounds slightly awful is clearly God's will?

Life is hard, but with the exception of High School it doesn't have to be miserable.

Sure, it is difficult and bad things happen and yes, following Christ means hating your life . . . so that you can find life. . .  life that is truly life. . . and that is when life becomes also joyous.  And satisfying.  And juicy and hilarious and good.  Really, really good.  Even when it's heartbreaking.  Even when it's hard.

Because when you are following Christ, you can know what's really lurking round the next bend .

Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.

(this is going somewhere, I promise) . . . to be continued.