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The Keeper of the Peace

March 30, 2014

peace

There are all sorts of opportunities to doubt God’s faithfulness and His sustaining goodness to us. Financial difficulties, marriage or roommate difficulties, church difficulties—everywhere we look in life we can see reasons the world would give us for not trusting God in the midst of difficult circumstances or fearful endeavors.

In my life right now it seems in every direction there are opportunities for the enemy to whisper or shout, “You will not have peace!” Our home bears the weight of that threat, my relationships bear the weight of it, my mind bears the weight of it, even my heart bears it. It has been a hard year. I’m not complaining, I’m just confessing that I look around me right now and say with Job, ”I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes (Job 3:26).”

When I feel the lack of peace I tend to go hunting for it. I’ll turn over every rock and stone until I find it, but Isaiah 26:3 says that it is GOD who keeps me in peace. In all my grappling and grasping for it, He’s the keeper of it. All I do is keep my eyes fixed on Him, the author and finisher of my faith (Heb. 12:2).

Choosing today to fix my eyes on Him, not my circumstances or fears. Trusting today that He’ll keep me in perfect peace, like a good father keeps his children in clothing and food, keeps his home in order—this is the way God keeps me clothed and sustained in peace.

If you came here looking for gossip, this is not where you’ll find it. I alluded to a few things in my recent post on Same Sex Attraction and Delaying Marriage, so consider these thoughts just a continuation of that post.

First, I want to say that I bear no ill will toward my parents in any way. Hebrews 12:10 says, “Your fathers disciplined you as it seemed best,” and whatever that verse means for you, for me it means I can trust my parents did what they thought best. They did not intend harm toward me or my siblings in the schooling or spiritual choices they made for our family. That does not mean we were not harmed, only that I know they were doing what they thought best.

Second, I want to say that God is not a wasteful God. He does not pile up the scraps of our lives and bemoan the loss. He is a careful artist and potter, shaping and shifting, knitting and building, crafting those made in His image to be more and more like Him. He is careful and attentive. He does not waste experiences or difficulties or joys or pains. Every single moment of my life has been held in His capable hands. I see that more today than I ever have before and I trust Him.

Now, let’s talk about homeschooling and sex scandals

If you were a part of the homeschooling revolution of the 80s and 90s, then you were most likely a child of someone who came of age in the 60s and 70s. These were the hypnotic, drug hazed years of rock n roll, hippies, bra-burning, Woodstock, and the Jesus Movement. These were people who knew how to sin big—and who came to Jesus big. For most of our parents, even if they were not part of those movements, they were influenced by them—for better or worse.

As any parent, and especially ones new to faith, would do, they protected their young often to the point of over-protecting. They banned rock music, R rated movies (or PG13 if you were my parents); they monitored clothing choices not only for modesty, but also for looking too much like the world; they monitored friendships—especially friendships between boys and girls (more on that in the aforementioned post).

Folks, I have stories I find laughable now, but then? In the moment? Rage inducing stories. It was tough to be a child in that atmosphere. We were ruled by the fear of what might become of us. There was little grace in our communities—in fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that the word grace ever entered my vocabulary as something other than a girl’s name.

These parents intended to protect, and they did, but drawing boundary lines close around your daughter still does not protect her from herself. Naming things as off limits to your son does not keep him from delving into the darkness in his own heart.

You can monitor modesty and measure hemlines, but you cannot moderate the temperature of your child’s heart. You can eliminate songs with beats, but you cannot temper the beating of your child’s heart for artistry. You can talk about not defrauding the hearts of boys or girls, but you cannot control the trigger in their hearts that jumps when they feel chemistry.

The problem is, for many and most of these homeschooling parents, they tried to do just that.

Full disclosure for a moment here

I was not simply a homeschooled kid. My family brushed shoulders with some of the upper echelon of the homeschool movement of the 90s. My parents produced an award winning book for homeschoolers and I spent most of my youth surrounded by the most deeply entrenched in the movement. We were taking over the world, one homeschool convention at a time.

Within these homeschool circles, because there was much protection, there was much trust with likeminded individuals (I remember being disciplined and rebuked often by other parents in my family’s circle), and kids were free to roam among their likeminded peers. There was a common habit of putting the older children in charge of the younger children—but all of us still just children. And all of us bit with the curiosity that forbidden fruit offers. I had my first encounter with sexuality when I was 10 years old. I cannot even remember all the times my peers were either accused of sexual curiosity, abuse, or simply “going too far.” It was epidemic—and still never talked about.

Natural curiosity lies abed in everyone. We all want to know about things. All sorts of things. How they work, if they work, who knows how to make them work, and if they’ll work for us. For many of these homeschoolers though, the questions about sex and relationships were squelched—even the good ones.

You can protect your kids from almost anything, but if you don’t teach them that their greatest threat is self and the sinfulness that lies inside them, they’ll be surprised by it every time.

Curiosity kills the cat—and sometimes the mouse too.

In the past few years more and more allegations of sexual abuse or assault within conservative movements has come to light (SGM, ATI, BJU, PHC, and far more).

Friends, we should not be surprised.

I believe that much of the sexual abuse and scandal that’s coming to light these days is directly related to the sin of legalism. It was Eve telling the serpent, “God said we could not eat or touch.” There was so much fear surrounding the other things in life (music, clothing, doctrine, even food), that to broach the subject of sex just seemed almost other-worldly.

We added to the gospel, to the truest things God ever said. We got knowledge of good and evil, but for many in the homeschooling movement, we prided ourselves on keeping the knowledge inside and the evil locked safely out. We never let ourselves realize the heart contains all the knowledge and evil it needs to have things go very, very badly indeed.

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Note: These are just my thoughts and commentary on a bit of my own experience. I believe most parents who spearheaded these movements realize their error at this point—and most of us, the product of these movements, certainly realize it.

The solution is the whole gospel—and to flee whenever you catch even a drift of another gospel. There are “other” gospels everywhere—pet theologies, dogmatic arguments, dramatic treatises on any subject offering the real truth and real life, but Christ alone is it. Christ alone.

If you find yourself heading into a belief system that places more emphasis on any outworking of the gospel, than it does on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, flee.

God Saves Little Boys

February 21, 2014 — 5 Comments

My family had just moved from an affluent Bucks County five acre lot in Pennsylvania to 120 acres in the middle of seeming nowhere New York state. I was 18 and my two youngest brothers were attached to my hip. They snuck into my bed at night, or just slept on a mattress beside my bed. I read them stories all day long and every night, and they are in every one of my life’s favorite memories.

The Little Boys, we called them, one tow-headed and green-eyed, and the other just like me, brown haired and startling blue eyes. They were my right and left hands, my favorite people, and my joy.

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When death snuck in one rainy April morning and then a fractured family followed shortly after, I clung to those boys—if not in body, in soul. They who were a part of my every favorite memory, were also the ones caught in the crosshairs of a court system who rarely has the child’s best interest in mind—even if they say they do.

Through all of that, one memory stands above them all. It was right after the move to New York state, the walls not yet painted and the boxes not yet unpacked. My best friend and I took those two Little Boys to the top of a hill across the street. We had no way of knowing that a year later we would bury my 14 year old brother on that same hill. The sun was setting and the sky streaked blue and orange and black.

We sat in the tall grass and those boys ran circles around us while we sat on the grass and talked about Best Friends things. When that tow-headed three year old stopped and fell into best friend’s lap, the one who looked like me stood tall, raised his hands to the sky, and with the bold confidence of a five-year old, said, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a pastor so I can worship God all the time.”

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That five year old is a grown man now, has tumbled back and forth through the angst of a broken family along with his two younger brothers for the entirety of his life. There were many times in the past 15 years where I have held onto those hilltop words, praying them to even be a fraction prophetic—if only that their salvation would be secure, that their faith in God would not break.

In December I spent some time with that young man, who is now the age I was on that hilltop. He studies graphic design at a local university and keeps a blog; he works hard at everything he does and yet knows his salvation is not worked for or earned; he is so very far ahead of where I was at his age.

And every time I think of him, I think of that hilltop and those words and all the brokenness that followed, and how God does not let one thing out of His sight, not one thing.

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Friends, I’m weeping as I write this, not only because I love that boy and his gentle heart and big fierce love for his family and God. But also because for a lot of years I asked for fruit that I didn’t see. All I saw was the brokenness, the courtrooms, the wooden casket lowered into the ground, the arguments, the shuffling back and forth of their young bodies and souls. It is still ongoing, even now, with the two youngest of my family. But God saves. He saves.

He plants seeds and covers over and for a long time there is just deep, earthy darkness, but then one day, a decade and a half later, there is a strong branch grown bearing good fruit.

Because God saves.

What feels dark and covered over to you today? Where are you waiting for something broken to come untrue? He is with you in those moments, and He is working in you a better prize, a more lasting one. Just you wait.

Makerness

February 17, 2014 — 2 Comments

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I’m a first generation college graduate, and the only one of my seven siblings to have completed secondary or tertiary education. Growing up, neither of my parents had college degrees. My mother put herself through a degree in early childhood education for the past several years—the irony being is she is the last person who I think needs it. She’s now working on her graduate degree.

The reason I say that is because my hard-working parents taught me the value of using my hands from my early childhood. Laziness was not permitted in our home and using the word “bored” was as near to cursing as any of us would ever get.

From the moment we woke up until the dinner dishes were done, and the candles lit for evening read-aloud, our hands were kept busy.

My father is a gifted artist, talented writer, and has been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, working hard, long and late hours. He has always been inventing some new gadget or brainstorming some crazy idea. We never went hungry.

My mother quilted, baked, created lesson plans, gardened, refinished furniture, and always encouraged us to work hard at the things that gave us joy. Since my parents divorce, she has built her own successful business—while putting herself through school.

I’m grateful for my college degrees. I worked hard for them, paid for them myself, supplemented with scholarships. In no way am I discouraging a college education, but I know my best education came from watching my parents work hard. Start businesses. Give homemade gifts. Make things from scratch. Look at what others had done and decide to make it themselves—only better.

Whenever people ask me how I learned to sew or write or design or crochet or cook or make flower arrangements or make a home or anything, I tell them I taught myself, which is true. But not entirely.

The whole truth is my parents taught me to value hard work.

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Paul encourages the Thessalonians like this,

“[We urge you] to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
I Thessalonians 4:11-12

Don’t under value the work of the hands. Teach your kids to work hard when they are young, let them puzzle their way through diagrams and difficult words, give them tasks that are too difficult for them, encourage them in the work that gives them joy. But don’t let them simply value work because it gives them or you joy, teach them to value it because it gives the original Maker joy. Teach your children they are literally imaging God when they work hard, carefully, with attention to detail.

All of life is a muscle waiting to be worked. We bring glory to our Maker when we reflect His Makerness. His creativity. His near constant work.

600574_880963006576_124042678_nI’m beginning work on a project that will require having many, many meals in my home over the next year. The meals will not be for entertainment sake, but something of a deeper nature. My hope is to have different people over each time, with perhaps a bit of an overlap sometimes. This isn’t a community group or a way to build community (unless you do that on your own!). The purpose is selfish in that way—it’s for my own study and the project.

If you want to invite yourself over to my house, here’s what I can promise you:

1. Each meal will have a distinct purpose and an underlying message through what is served and how we interact over that meal—I will need people who will be willing to engage that purpose.

2. You may not like the taste, consistency, or content of the meal—but I can promise you that you will have the taste of something much more lasting in your mouth when you leave. (Also, I won’t poison you. I’m a good cook.)

3. This is not for one demographic. I don’t just want singles or women. I’d like families, older folks, seasoned believers, new believers, and unbelievers, men and women. You may be the only one of your demographic at that particular dinner, but I promise you won’t be the only odd one out. My goal is to make it as diverse as possible. If you’re a couple, or you have kids, or you’re a grandparent, or a divorcee, or a single—I want you!

4. Depending on which meal you’re asked to come to, it might require you to bring something. I would give you a heads up about that.

5. You get to be a part of a cool project and I’ll fill you in on more details when you come over!

If this sounds in the slightest bit interesting to you, or your curiosity is piqued just a bit, please fill out this survey (all results are private). I will be in touch with you about the first meal.

This project will span most of 2014 and my hope is to have between five and seven people per meal. There are a few meals that require a specific demographic, and if you fit into that demographic in any way, I will ask for you specifically (hence the survey). Otherwise, I’ll just send out an email when I have a dinner coming up and you can let me know you’d like to be included (first come, first serve). I’m also open to guests bringing guests, but we can talk about that nearer to the dinner.

If you’re from out of the area, but you’ll be in the DFW area over a certain period of time and you’d like to be included, OR you would like to host a meal in your own town and pay for me to get there, that would be AWESOME Sign up!

Thanks and looking forward to meeting many of you!

Four years ago, on February 11th, 2010, I lifted my head from the snot soaked carpet, turned David Bazan off my iTunes, and reread a blog-post written by a guy who pastored a church a few hours from me. I was in the middle of not the driest season of my life, or the valley, or whatever metaphor the church folk like to give to people who have swallowed another gospel. I was weak, acquainted with sorrows.

Each of us has felt the aching weakness and realization that what we are believing (about God, salvation, suffering, the cross, blessing) is a crude misappropriation of the real thing. God help you if you don’t sometimes question what you think you believe. We need that kind of desperation just as much as we need the comfort of security. Those months of weakness led to years of weakness—a weakness I hope I never recover from.

The blog author had uprooted his family from the bible belt where he’d been on staff at a few churches and moved to central Vermont to work the ground of a small local church. Faithfully God worked in him as he worked that land. He penned a book called Gospel Wakefulness and that book led to more nights of snot soaked carpet in my house. This guy left the land of church-growth-opportunity, embraced his weakness, and woke up to the gospel. For the past four years Jared Wilson has discipled me from afar in what I think, ironically, may be the most undernourished area of Christianity: weakness.

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The churches dotting the countryside of the northeast are sometimes only 20 or 30 faithful people. People who day in, day out, deliver crockpots and shovel driveways, sing robustly from an overhead projector or a hymnal. It’s not that they’re legalistic fundamentalists, they’re not. They just don’t have the trappings of most modern churches. They don’t use Twitter and barely use Facebook. The concept of a celebrity Christianity is as foreign to them as a pastor who wears skinny jeans on their single Sunday morning service.

Belief, though, in the northeast is not rare, as the pundits will have you believe from their polls and surveys. I think belief may actually be strongest in the northeast, so deeply rooted in history and the birthplace of many of America’s richest belief systems. The ground is not hard up there. A deep sense of belief is the soil tilled for hundreds of years. Trust me when I say the ground there is ripe, the best kind of ground for the gospel to take root in. I am biased, I know, but the northeast has had her years of soil rest—it is time for planting.

It will take humble, humble men and women to do that work. Northeasterners see through genteel platitudes permeating the Church these days and will raise you an honest reply. The northeast will not revive on mega-churches, but small steeple dotted hills full of saints led by men and women who aren’t seeking a platform, but offering a haven. We know what it is to need shelter and if the northeastern church is to thrive it will be because it is filled with leaders who are unafraid to be weak, to need a crockpot or a shoveled driveway.

To his parishioners, Jared is simply their pastor, but Jared is pastoring thousands of rural pastors all over the world. He is modeling the long, slow work of church work. It is inglorious, it is messy, and it takes a long, long time with very little financial gain.

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Are you a weak Christian? Not riddled with false or partial gospels, but weak. Acquainted with sorrow? Have you suffered? Are you more impressed by hard work than by a quick rise to fame? Are you willing to farm, to get your hands dirty in rich, rich soil, to dig below the historical layers of the upper east coast? Are you okay with not being okay and are you okay with that knowledge, day after day after day?

Are you swallowed up by the grandeur of God, so much so that your success matters little to you? Do you know how to count the days and the sheep who come home, one by one by one by one? Do you know how to rest in the winter and toil in the summer; to truly work and truly sabbath?

If you do, if you are a weak Christian, than I beg you to consider rural church ministry. I think all churches need weak Christians, but I think you’ll be especially suited to the rural church—the long obedience in the same direction, as Eugene Peterson says. You cannot go in there planning changes, ways in which you will revolutionize the “simple people.” You really just have to farm.

But if you will farm alongside those people, you will see a harvest. Trust me, we plan for the seasons up there, and we’ve planned for this one for a long time.

Jared is offering a Pastoral Residency for his church in Middleton Springs Vermont. If he can’t grab your attention with the amazing photos (yes, it really does look like that up there), then maybe this blog post will convince you of the need. I hope you’ll check out this residency

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*I say “we” because you can take the girl out of the northeast, but you can’t take the northeast out of the girl. As for why I’m not up there? I don’t know. It’s my near constant prayer, though.

Make Myself at Home

February 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

For reasons better left to your imagination, I have never felt at home in this house. Moving away from my last house was wrought with too many lasts to count. Every meal felt like mourning and I cried, hard, when I went back alone one last time to close every cabinet door and sweep every corner. So much living happened in that house, so much loving.

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We moved into this house in the dead of summer, sweat pooling down our backs, and a piano to make space for. No one thinks they have that much stuff, but when every worldly possession (and a few of your old roommates ‘to store’) is jengaed inside a UHaul, you realize how tied to earth you are. Books, tablecloths, chairs, and that piano. I stopped counting boxes.

All our living stacked in a UHaul and hauled thirty-five minutes north.

I spent a day at my old workplace this week, driving on familiar roads to get there, greeted by hugs and exclamations when I walked in the door. Thirty-five minutes north doesn’t feel far until you haven’t driven it in two months.

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I have never settled into this place. There are many reasons for it and I have no regrets, but the fact remains that when I wake up, I wake up to strange walls and strange sounds. I am homesick for something that doesn’t exist anymore. My three roommates are building new homes with their husbands. Three years is the longest I’ve lived with anyone and they three are the deepest I’ve loved anyone yet.

Six months later may seem a pregnant amount of time for me to just be mourning it now, to just be settling into this home now, but I have my reasons, I do. And those reasons aren’t really important to most of you.

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This morning I made breakfast and coffee, washed a few dishes, lit candles while we ate. These are the exact motions of our every days, and I hope someday soon they will be the motions of one who loves her home. For now, though, they are the work of love—the tilling, the sowing, the planting that comes before the reaping.

All it really takes to love a home is to live in it, to work in it, and to do it well. All of love is work. It is piling every energy, resource, and belonging into one place, counting it with joy, and unpacking it, box by box until the work of love is natural and full.

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The Long Way Home

December 15, 2013 — 2 Comments

I drive home tonight with the snow coming full at me, like swimming in the solar system. You know it if you’ve driven in it, coming down fast, coming down full, laying thick. It’s so beautiful it takes my breath away, I get dizzy at its beauty. But the road is ahead and it slinks long and dark and the snow lays thicker and my tires take me home to the stone house over the bridge on the hill by the river.

I grew up driving on these roads.

Not really. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. That’s where first steps and lost teeth and history tests and high school graduation happened. But it was on these roads that I grew up, that I came into my adulthood, that I lost faith in everyone and God, Him too. And it is these roads that I find myself back on, so at home, so full of faith in God and still not in everyone, or anyone.

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A friend and I drove on these roads for so many hours today. Heated seats in a snow ready Suburu made the drive more than bearable, almost enjoyable. We talked about the kingdom and the gospel and faith and planting churches and love and life and hard conversations and good ones. He dropped me off at my car in Potsdam tonight and hugged me tight and I nearly cried and I’m nearly crying now.

This place is so known to me and I am so known here. I know its cracks and crevices, its hills and valleys, real and metaphorical. I know its roads and turns and I anticipate them by rote. The anatomy of here is home and my anatomy is home here.

I am not homesick for here anymore than I am homesick right now for my very own bed or home in Texas, or anymore than I am homesick for heaven, really. Heaven is just the place where we are surrounded by those who love most—and it is not us that they love most, but this is why it is the safest place of all. That kind of love transcends this horizontal home.

But I leave my friend and weep on the way home, diving headfirst into the Milky Way of snow, gulping up the north country air that smells of woodsmoke and cold and snow—which is a scent I cannot describe even if I try. I weep because coming here reminds me to set my sights on something better than the flurries in front of me, but on the long road before me.

It is a long way home and we are all so far away still.

Maranatha.

The Love of Laundry

October 1, 2013

I used to dream of canning peaches and hanging laundry on lines, letting it billow in the northern breeze. I was set on a life of simplicity, kneading bread dough by hand, peeling apples at a wooden table marked and scarred by time and use. Reading storybooks aloud to calico-clad babies and lighting candles every night on the dinner table. This was the life of which I dreamed and felt within my grasp. It never materialized and I felt the ache of that deep in my gut years over and over. Sand slips more easily through fingers than through an hourglass and it is so very hard to hold time for long.

I signed leases and moved houses and states and tables. I forgot those dreams or buried them beneath convenience and the fear of missing out on real life while I waited for dream life to happen.

I spent years placing my hand over the ache of want, stilling my heart of its desires, trying to live well in today. Aren’t we such foolish creatures? To think we can capture a vapor and own it for any measure of time?

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No bridal showers would bring me the things that made a home so I dove deep into thrift stores and bargain bins, my home made of second-hands and hand-me-downs. It feels lived in but I wonder how well I have lived in it? Someone else marred my table-top, someone else chipped my favorite bowl, someone else created my art.

But this is the life I love. This reusable life. It reminds me life is a vapor and time is short and things are falling apart and I am too.

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Richard Wilbur wrote,

The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

I have never forgotten that poem or the autumn day in college when I first read it. Love Calls Us to the Things of This World and it means we must love the vapor too because it is the stuff of life—the laundry, the rising steam, the clear dances done only in the sight of heaven. We love the marred table and the calico clothes and the lit candles because these are not the meaning of life, but they help us remember the work, the dirt, the mess, the grit of life.

Convenience is not our friend, my brother and my sister, ease is not our aim.

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A threshold waits in front of me, a coming home of sorts. Marriage and life with a man so wholly different than me and so wholly loving to me, it makes me wonder how you start fresh with so many years behind you. So many scars and mars, chips and cracks—how do you make new with so much old?

I don’t have an answer to that friends, but I know love does call me to the things of this world. It is an angst I wrestle with daily in these months. How to be distracted, my attentions divided by good things? Without love I am a clanging symbol, a noisy gong. And love is work. All of love is work. Beautiful work, like canned peaches and billowing laundry, rising steam, lit candles, but still work.

Let there be nothing on earth but the work of love, even if some days it looks only like laundry.

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I moved here with all my worldly possessions in a two door Honda Civic, sight unseen save for a week spent with a friend. No plan, no job, no home, and He made a way for me. Wherever I have gone, whoever speaks strongly into my life, they speak this verse, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings Him before kings.” But the gift I have known here more than anything is the Gospel and the King I am before is the King of Kings. I know that’s not what that verse means, though, so forgive my interpretation.

I have lived in this home for two years, and the one next door for one year before. Three years on Meadow Lane and it is the longest I have lived anywhere in more than a dozen years. I had forgotten how to live in a place long. Now I am afraid I have forgotten how to leave a place.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

This spring I quietly checked my options—almost all taking me back to the motherland of the northeast. I also considered a move south to our new church campus. In the end, over coffee with a friend who admonished me to let myself love Texas, even if that meant suburbs, I begrudgingly agreed I hadn’t. To love these acres of homes, all identical, all brick, all trying their best to be different, to make a statement—meant somehow that I would lose mine.

I am not a suburbanite. I have lived in farmhouses and stone houses, brick houses and bungalows, cottages and apartments, but never the suburbs. I have felt my heart come alive with the gospel in this home and my soul wilt every time I walk out my front door.

A home is what you make of it, isn’t it?

In this home, behind these doors, we have seen three girls fall in love, all in the span of one summer. We have planned weddings and showers. We have piled so many of us on my bed I fear for its life every time. We have warmed ourselves around the fire with mugs of tea and good books. We have had conversations deep about Jesus and God and whether He is who He says He is. We have strung two hammocks and made a raised bed garden. We have painted walls and gotten jobs and quit jobs and this week, one will finish graduate school. We have fully lived here and this gift of a home has brought us before one another, kings of a kind.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka (the place of tears),
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

Last weekend I packed all of our artwork and our kitchen. My books were next. We’re sorting through belongings and trying to figure out who belongs to what and it feels like a divorce of my soul. These girls and this home. Even as they’ve made their exit with pomp and circumstance and wedding festivities, parts of them remain here and leaving this house feels like leaving this gift. Three years is nothing to most people, but three years of the same people has been God’s best grace to me.

Sometimes my strength is my strength—and I know home is a place of strength to me. But sometimes my weakness is my strength and I don’t fully know what that means except that God brings us through places of tears and makes them places of life, and surprises us by doing it.

We’re leaving this house, and it’s with the new roommates I’ll take the next season. It feels like weakness and fear today, but God is the strength of my heart and brings me before Him.

They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Psalm 84

When I first met my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend we were six of us sharing a hotel room for a Thanksgiving wedding. I hugged her hard and I meant it. “Welcome to the Makeshift Family,” I said, and I hoped she would be forever. And then she was.

This morning I am lying on my hammock, my glasses pushed up on my head, staring up at the trees above me, an oak and one I don’t know its name.

In the Impressionist era they would make paintings of small dots of color and this is what someone with less than twenty/twenty vision sees. I wonder if the Impressionists were really just suffering of poor eyesight, but nothing about my view looks poor. I am talking to one of my closest friends on the phone. We are talking about serious things and I stop and tell her about pointillism and Seurat, and how no matter how well I can explain what I see—small circles of color, all the same size, but different shades and lightness of color and sky—I cannot explain this to her. It is beautiful and tragic at the same time. Beautiful because it is, and tragic because my eyesight is poorer than 80% of the population and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Tonight at church one of our pastors shared about the Israelites complaining in the wilderness, “Take us back to Egypt!” they fussed and we all laughed but who of us doesn’t wish ourselves back in what seemed sore but good enough for now?

I rolled over and hugged my pillow tight tonight, wishing for homes. College years with the best friends I’ve ever known. People who know me and who I know even though we’re nearing a decade out. They all married one another, except me and one other. He lives in Colorado and is smart enough to find a girl to marry and get his PhD in bio-chemistry all at the same time. I haven’t talked to him in a few months and it feels like longer. The rest—thank God for Facebook. They are having kids and moving houses and being family together and I am in Texas and Texas feels very far away from what I love and what is still not best for me today.

I have wished for their lives sometimes, the homes, the husbands and wives, the babies growing and toddling and talking. I know they’re not perfect, but there is a togetherness they all have that I do not. I have wished myself back into that season. I have wished myself sick. I squint my eyes to see it clearly, but oh, what I see with my tilted vision, my clouded eyes. It is beautiful and tragic, this world. Beuchner said, “Here is the world; beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid,” and I love it because it is true.

Here is the world, and it will mess you over in a myriad of ways. Beautifully and tragically and back again for good measure. Welcome to the family, it isn’t perfect, but it’s home, in a strange distorted way. You can’t go back, you can’t ever go back, your eyesight has failed you and still it’s beautiful here. But I can’t describe it to you, even if I try.

Hindsight is only 20/20 if you have perfect sight and I never will but it still looks like home from here.

387103_669705533246_1123382129_nThe last time we were all together under one roof. I don’t even know how many bodies are asleep in this picture. But I love every one of ‘em. 

threeSomewhere along the way I forgot I had a story.

It is more accurate to say somewhere along the way I forgot I was living a story.

There’s so much noise these days and I don’t know how to shut it out and down and over and out. Our home is a quiet place, filled with simple things, but it is a small place, and there is no hiding from life’s noise. The coming and going, the phone calls with family, the boyfriends, the dishes piling, and the laundry. Some have said the single life is simple, but I dare anyone to say that to me who has had 32 roommates in a dozen years. As soon as I learn the rhythms and graces of one, she marries or moves and I plunge into another lesson with another girl. I cannot complain and do not: these girls have been family to me, each one of them slipping into her new life while I mourn her leaving, she has been family to me.

One and I are walking yesterday and the sun is setting, “You’re going to move with me?” I ask her, because we will close up shop on this house soon I think. She tells me she doesn’t know how to process the invitation that I would want her to meld her life with mine. I feel a sense of Naomi in that moment and she my Ruth: where you go, I’ll go; only I am the one saying to her: where I go, you come. (Ruth 1:16)

It is foreign to us both, the togethering that happens with strange people in a strange land. And we are all strangers, I think, we just haven’t awakened to its reality yet. Or life has been kinder to you than to me. Or perhaps, after all, it has been kinder to me than to you. We shouldn’t bother ourselves with such things.

two

I am scrubbing the laundry room floor tonight and I know I ought to feel at home in this place, but it feels more a placeholder to me, a dog-eared page, a bookmark: Don’t Forget What God Has Done Here. And I don’t know if He means this house or Texas or this world, but it could be any and is all. We are all so enamored with making a place for ourselves when it is He who has made a place for all of us. His thumbnail is the sliver of moon, heaven is His home, the earth is His footstool, dare we even imagine we could build a place for Him? (Isaiah 66:1)

The air catches beneath the tablecloth as it settles centered, dust particles float, and I put the broom in the corner. The dishwasher and the washer both run, their steady hum sounding steady with the air-conditioner. It smells like lemon furniture polish and maybe the grapefruit in the bowl on the table. We have made a home here, placed ourselves in the center of our story. The doors revolve around us, the world revolves around us, and I wonder sometimes how little idea we have of His grandness and this home a vapor, our lives a breath, our whole story His.

one

Shelf Life

February 4, 2013

shelf

I have a shelf life of two years, three years max. Once I overheard someone say of me, “She’s obviously wife material, my only fear is her aversion to commitment,” and the words replay in my mind.

A friend told me last week the lies she tells herself the most are always in second person: you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t enough. I tell myself the truth, though, when I use the second person: you won’t stick around long enough.

A man put his hand on my head many years ago and spoke these words: “He has given you a flexibility of spirit and there are those who will see you as a flitting butterfly, going from one thing to the next, but remember this: He has given that flexibility to you, He has made you adaptable and transient.” I looked up from under his hand into the eyes of someone who knows my soul well, knows its propensity to fly the coop. I smiled; she smiled. But she still cried when I last left her house on my trek back to Texas.

The blessing of my singleness has been flexibility. It is moving quickly and easily, changing careers every few years, worrying little about accumulation of things or resources. It can be a selfish existence, but it can also be the quickest way to remember every single day this place isn’t home and ought not feel like it.

The curse of singleness is the same curse on everyone—for man it is to work, to toil, and to commit; for me it is to birth, to nurture, and to commit. A pregnant friend told me once it wasn’t until after the shock of knowing a child grew within her wore off, that she realized she had to be committed to this. Nine months of her body shifting and shaping, with an alien thing in her that would come out—the labor process terrified her. But she was committed not because she chose to be every second of every minute, but because the blessing is also the curse: it’s a long painful commitment and there is no going back.

Though no child grows in me, and perhaps never will, I understand the angst of long, painful commitments, of nurturing when I feel like running, of entering in when I long to draw back. At times I feel unwilling to do this, to stay, to prolong my shelf life—I just want to go home. This week I want to go home to the northeast corner, some weeks I want to go home to my hometown, most days I just want to go home.

This morning I stopped on Romans 8 and stayed there, committed to it:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

I rarely think of corruption in the way I think Paul meant it here. To me corruption is Wall Street businessmen and the Russian mob, politics and big government. But it also means to crumble, to rot, to fall apart. This is what we’re doing, friends, all of us. Our shelf life is crumbling, rotting, and falling apart. We’re bound to do it, all of us.

But.

But the redemption of our bodies is not long off, not at all. And this, oh this, I can count on and commit to—it’s coming. If we’re His children, it’s coming. He’s coming.

And He has no shelf life or homesickness or fear of commitment—He’s in, all in, forever and ever.

 

The Remembering Room

December 20, 2012

8 (1)

In Texas they build homes with north facing windows, which is the exact opposite of the North (where we build homes with south facing windows), but which is a very sensible thing to do here. The only window in our home that gets any sunlight at all is the laundry room and so I have found my morning coffee tastes best in here, so long as I can keep lint dust from getting in it.

I sit on top of the dryer, my feet spread across to the washer. The sunlight falls on my fingers and I wish we didn’t need appliances and that this could be a sitting room, or a quiet room. At the very least it is a sunlit room, and for that I am grateful. Even if I am surrounded by detergent bottles, tool boxes, and ironing boards, and it smells a little like Downy Fresh and less like line-dried clothes.

A laundry room is a catch-all and I think that must be written in the bylaws of laundry-room-dom. We have a garage and I suppose that is a better place for hedge- clippers and drills and toolboxes. We have a pantry where, if we moved things around a bit, we could stock the plastic cups and spoons, and paper plates that we only use when there are too many people over, which is rarely, and so they go mostly unused. There are two baskets of laundry in here, both filled with towels because towels are an orphan thing in a home where nothing belongs to everybody.

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