Wednesday, February 23, 2011

a house is just a house

It always takes me a while.  One year at least.  I shift, and stack.  Pull apart and reorganize.  I move this here, and move it back.  My husband can never find anything because it is always being moved.  It has taken me a year and a half to find the right place for the vitamins.
But eventually, things start to find a place.  We reach for the pancake mix, or oregano, or Mylanta, and it's there.  Right where it's supposed to be.  Everything finally fits.  And then it is all disrupted again.

A house is a big deal to a mom.  It is where I live and where I work.  There are days when I do not leave the house.  This move has me reevaluating what it takes to make a house-- of all the boxes and boxes of stuff to move, all of the houses we looked at-- what is really necessary after all?

Every morning I turn on one soft light, and the baby squints and buries her head in my neck.  One soft light is added to my list.

Three times a day there are two little chairs drug across the floor and banged into cupboards, entirely in my way.  It takes twice as long to prepare the meal and a hundred times longer to clean-up, but I find myself thinking that this is necessary: a kitchen counter with room for two small chairs, when the baby is old enough, three.

I need a table.

A house doesn’t have to be big.  I prefer cozy. It doesn't need to be new. I have no need for Corian. I do like clean. I like windows. I love built-ins. Good kitchens are nice.

From where I sit rocking the baby through the crack in the door there is a map of the world on the wall, and something about this to me seems necessary.  As I rock to sleep one small, wild, precious life- in a world of precious lives; wondering what it all means, how to love her in such a way that she will in turn love the world.
Books matter, and enough toys but not too many, and a place to put it all away.  We need windows that let in lots of sunshine.  The kids need a small, private spot to curl up when they feel like being alone, and a place to play outside.  We need to feel safe.

Annie needs her magic chair.
This change seems less scary than I expected because this time, the essentials won't change.  Our daily rhythms, our together, won't change.  The parts that make life really meaningful, the pieces of a home that I cannot live without are going with me.  Our new house will be older, bigger, snowier, urban, far from here.  But, familiar.  It is only new walls around the home that is already us.  A house is just a house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


My mind, that is.

Spinning.  Spinning.  I can't get off.  I can't make it stoooooooop.
I don't do well with spinning anymore.  I must be getting old.

Today I tried to take Sami to preschool but the roads were too bad, so we stopped for doughnuts and groceries instead and on the way home some spinning part of my mind was mumbling, Please Lord, I need to think today.  I just need a few minutes so I can think.  Please.  We pulled in the drive still piled with six inches of snow, I got everyone out and strapped the baby in her stroller, asked Sam to push her around and for thirty- no kidding- thirty blessed minutes everyone even the baby was happy and I shoveled heavy piles of grace.

Now it is later and there is a train on it's way to Mexico running through our house today.  Our house is in such disarray, stacks of boxes piles against bare walls, feeling both so crowded and so empty . .. I hate it, this feeling of transition, being neither here nor there . . . so anyway I drug all of the furniture into a line that weaves from room to room and if you're really good and can really stretch you can jump from car to car all the way from the train station to Mexico.  Or you can just sit on a chair and wait for the snack lady to bring you a drink.

The baby is napping, I sent the other two to quiet time, so here is a completely random re-cap . ..

House-hunting.  I never imagined what an ordeal this would be.  We are renting for now, and our standards were pretty simple:  affordable, clean, safe, good schools.  I'll spare you the details, but four days before we are scheduled to move we finally found a house with three out of the four.  Like Jim says, He is rarely early but He is never late.

The one criteria this house doesn't have is a good school, (and yes we have worked through whether we are just being over-protective and no, it is a legitimate concern) and this is actually an answer to prayer because I have been thinking that I'd like to homeschool Sami, at least kindergarten, but we couldn't decide and this makes that decision pretty clear.   Now my mind is whirling with homeschool ideas.  Add that to the list.

Change brings so many emotions.  I can't stop now to think about not seeing all of these beautiful familiar faces every day . . . I won't think about that yet . . . and there is fear, too, and apprehension, and this nagging worry and all of these uncomfortable emotions that I don't care to deal with right now . . . and then there is this deep quiet place that believes and is hopeful and content . . . and so I am thinking about how we'll organize the craft supplies, and where to put the toys, and what to do about the colorless kitchen . . . and I am thinking that I am taking my favorite people with me, and how simple and clear that makes everything else.  And I am thinking about this window in the bedroom upstairs, and that this window is just calling for a desk, and there are bookshelves already built in and I think it will be just the place for an office, and how maybe, just maybe I will look out that window and find there is art to be made in Cleveland.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I am admittedly not a very trendy person.

I take very slowly to fads- generally assuming that they'll go out of style soon, and it was better the way that it was anyway, and so I hold out until, at the exact moment that the trend does go out of style (and therefore on sale), I cave.  Fashion I can resist, bargains I cannot.

It's the Amish in me.

And so I find myself in turmoil over the Kindle.

But this isn't just a in-style or out-of style point of tension.  No, this is a deep-rooted ethical resistance.

The Kindle is going to change reading as we know it forever.

I love this description of G.K.Chesterton's approach to books:
Reading a book was for Chesterton rather a physical than an intellectual act.  Father John O'Conner . . . said that when Chesterton read a book "he turned it inside out, dog-eared it, pencilled it, sat on it, took it to bed and rolled on it, and got up again and spilled tea on it- if he were sufficiently interested. (Alberto Manguel)
This is how I read.  I need to hold a book in my hands, bend the pages, underline, write notes in the margins.  And most importantly, I want to pass books on to my friends.  I love sharing my favorite books, it is a good enough reason to purchase them.

My dad loves to read, and he and I have always traded books.  Until this year.  This year, he got a Kindle.

Most recently he read Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and Cutting for Stone but can I borrow them?  Nope they're on his Kindle.

This is where I become jealous and irritated and begin to mutter something about books in the hands of the people . ..

This week I began to pack our books to get ready to move them.
For the fifth time.
Most of these books I haven't looked at, other than to pack them into and then out of a box five times.
We'll need to find a place to store all of these books.

Do I wish I had a Kindle?

Thus, my ambivalence.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the best mess

I am still slowly crawling out of being sick. It's not the severity of this virus so much as the duration that gets you. I knew what to expect because I caught it from Sami (Hand, foot and mouth- generally a childhood illness but I guess I am extra lucky), and all I could think was this:
Lord, I can handle being a single mom (during the week while Jim is away). 
I can handle three kids who don't sleep.  
I can handle moving for the fifth time in seven years.  
I cannot handle a 7-10 day fever!
Well, apparently I not only could handle it but in fact it was good for me to be down for a few days. There were two baskets of clean laundry that sat unfolded in the middle of our living room since Tuesday. I don't tend to let things like that go, in fact I'm rather fanatic about picking up and this week made me realize how much time I waste keeping my house clean.
I hate that it takes me getting sick before I will finally stop and sit and be. Be with my kids, not doing a craft with them or letting them help me in the kitchen . . . just be with them, at their level, on their terms.
I am really bad at stopping for any length of time. I'll pause on the floor for a few minutes, and then I get anxious. I start making lists. Or decide that we should do something educational. Or I shift into Idea Mode and come up with some project to do.
This week there was nothing to do but sit, and roll the ball, or build a tent, or cuddle on the couch. This week I didn't feel well, but I laughed more than I usually do. And I noticed a new growing up in her, and an expression that I had never seen in her. And she and I had some good talks.  
This week there wasn't anywhere to hurry to be.  
I didn't say "just a minute" five thousand times a day.
I kept asking myself, if I weren't sick, what would I be doing? Because it seems I am always doing something- but what is it? I probably would have cooked better meals, ran a few errands, maybe had a playdate, kept the house cleaner- all good things- but surprisingly, not as crucial as I think. And I would have spent a lot of time obsessing over packing, and would have started sorting and wrapping and convinced myself that what I was doing was more important.
Because there is always something more important.
I need to learn to live with the clutter, the grimy counter, the sticky floor.
I need to learn how to leave things unfinished,
and be present.
Because these three daughters of mine?
They are so far more important.
I love this time of life.
I don't want to miss any of it.
(So thankful for my mom for helping me out and Jim for taking an extra day off work to be home with us.)
We still don’t have a place to live.  In fact, the two places we thought we could make work have been taken, so now we are back to square one.  It will all work out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where Shall We Then Live??

Well we are moving . . . somewhere . .. by the end of the month, or sooner, the only tiny problem being that we still don't have a place to move to.  No big deal.

Honestly, I'm not worried.  These things always work out.

Two things that God is pressing on me lately:

1.  Trust, trust, trust.  So much about enjoyment of life comes down to this most basic element.   (Another great Tim Keller message is Your Plans: God's Plans.)  This morning I picked up a page from My Utmost For His Highest, Jan.2, that Josie must have ripped out of my tattered book . . .
You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely.  It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder- you do not know what God is going to do next. . . . Have you been asking God what He is going to do?  He will never tell you.  God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.
2.  Safety should not be my ultimate purpose and goal in life.  As a person prone to fear, especially when it involves my children, I need to be reminded of this.  Of course we want to find a home that we will feel safe in, but avoiding any form of risk is not the life we are called to.
(building Daddy's Cleveland . . . in their pilgrim dresses.  
We are going to fit right in in the big city.)

In other news . . . someone in this house has been sick for the past two weeks and today it is my turn, and Josie was chewing on my phone charger (don't ask) and now my phone won't charge and the phone company couldn't access our account because who the hell can remember all of those passwords and so I couldn't get a phone and they said Jim would have to come into the store but excuse me he is in Cleveland and should this really be so difficult and Josie won't take a nap and just wants to chew on things like phone chargers and yesterday was the whiniest day ever I know because they all aren't feeling great but I thought my head would explode and one child just told me she doesn't like me and there is yogurt all down my shirt and I haven't even started packing because I've started reading The Pillars of the Earth instead and they all still don't sleep at night and we thought it was a great idea to get them both kid-mp3 players for Christmas but now they both sit in the same room and play different songs at the same time LOUDLY and my plan today was to be very intentional and very focused and just give my kids all of my attention but look here I sit blogging while they watch t.v. with both players still playing.  I hate the televison.  

I can handle the big things- it's the little ones . ..

p.s.  could somebody tell me if The Pillars of the Earth is worth the 973 pages?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

January Reading

1.  Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder is the first book I read this year, and I really should have reviewed it sooner because it made such a great impact on me.  This is one of the most inspiring and convicting books I have ever read.  It is a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist and specialist in infectious diseases. It begins with his work in Haiti, where he founded a hospital and health center called Zanmi Lasante.   From there he went on to work to cure multi-drug resistant tuberculosis all over the world, as well as lobbying for reforms with the World Health Organization and many, many other accomplishments.  This book is what inspired the word "Plow" as my word of the year, because I was so struck by how tenacious he was in his work, refusing to back down or give up- really, I don't say this lightly- amazing.  This is the book that I would press into your hands and say that you Must Read This Book!

2.  Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan  Definitely challenged by this book,  completely agree and am convicted by the higher call of following Christ . . . however, although he does his best to clarify that it is grace that saves us and that we serve a God of love whom we don't have to serve out of fear, I had a hard time not feeling a little bit hopeless.

3.  A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick   A quick read.  I heard about this book on npr, and though it has an interesting plot the story was lurid and every character completely driven by sex.  Some redemption at the end.

4.  The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God by Mark Buchanan  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Buchanan.  He has the heart of an artist.  Here is an interesting comparison to the comment on the arts from Crazy Love that I blogged about earlier:
One of the strongest evidences that we are not resting much in God or risking much for God is the lowly state of the arts among Christians.  The Spirit brooded over the formless void and conjured living things, intricate and exotic things, from a poem.  If that same Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, also lives in you and me, why aren't we more creative?  Lovers of God should, by osmosis, know an irrepressible urge to be poets, artists, artisans.  We should make things and make them well.  Canadian writer Michael St. George was asked when he first became a poet.  He thought a moment, then said, "When did most of us stop being poets?"
. . . One thing that stifles the artistic impulse in us is we try to hard. . . .  We want what we do to have a meaning, a moral, a message. . . . But just walking from the front door to the sidewalk, I get the impression that God isn't overburdened with the same impulse.  He just likes making things . .. 
Tell me- what book must I read this year?  I would love some suggestions!

Friday, February 4, 2011

My One-Sentence Journal

I have tried many different techniques for recording our days and the funny or memorable things the kids do and say.  For a couple years I've kept a slim calendar notebook, and tried writing one thing at the end of each day, but I often forgot.  I have debated about making this blog more personal, or possibly starting a second blog for recording the daily, ordinary moments that only the grandmas would care about.  Today I ran across this idea for a one-sentence journal at the Happiness Project, and I have decided to include this on my sidebar.  Maybe I'll be able to keep better track this way of some of the precious little things that I don't want to forget, without writing an entire post about it.

it is what it is

Everything is all over the place lately- scattered, random, murky and then, for a moment, lucid.  A gap of blue surrounded by rolling fog.  A thousand words form in my mind and evaporate before I can put fingers to keys.

Last week I stood in the Tampa airport watching the kids play, waiting for a plane, a lady nearby talking loudly on her cellphone kept repeating, over and over, "It is what it is,". . . "It is what it is," she'd say on and on, one subject and the next, the words ringing all the way from the Sunshine Skyway north into the icy grey where we put on grey sweaters and came back to life frozen in it's place.  

It is what it is.  

And for one week everyone, everywhere, was repeating the lady.  The snow, the ice, the cancellations.  It is what it is.  It is what it is.  Over and over, until I despise the words, the expression, the implication; the words ringing in my mind until one murky morning while bringing the cup to my lips I discover that this really isn't a statement-

it's a question.

It is what it is?

Every time we have moved, I have found, a question.  

Three years ago while pulling linens out of closets the question came:  What will you do with your one wild and precious life?  I wrote it on a post-it and stuck it on the mirror, the last item removed from the church parsonage that summer.  I began to write. 

A year and a half later, pregnant, carrying boxes out of our apartment.  The question then was in the form of the Examen.  What gives me life?  What drains life?  At 32, I began to learn.  

The baby is nearly one year old, and we are moving again.   

It is what it is.

It is what it is?

This is the question I am moving into, apparently.  

In case this has made no sense whatsoever (I'm not sure it does for me yet, either), enjoy these few moments of clarity from my week . . .

I am really enjoying learning about Godly Play at this blog.

 I am realizing that for my words to be bathed in stillness, I have to be. My home needs to be. My heart needs to be. That what I read, watch, listen to, think about, talk about, include - it all comes out under pressure. It has produced an expectation in me. An expectation that when I fill my heart with the kindness and beauty of who God is, that what (I pray) will come out of my mouth when the pressure is on will be the same.
To live fearlessly, I have to be consumed - filled  - with the fearless one.
Tim Keller podcast Does God Control Everything?