for when you don’t really believe God

i don’t even know where to begin.  we just got house showing number four thousand & eighty six lined up (it feels like.).  friday morning at 11:30.  i’m not excited;  i’m not not excited.  i’m not even tired of this yet.  there are such heaping benefits to this insane-o system we’ve got going here:  it seems like every time i make the kids sweep the bathroom floor, every time i organize the chaos on top of the fridge, every time i straighten the towels in the hall closet (someone may look.  it’s possible.), some shard of possession sloughs off & we are more ready than the last time.  more ready rocks.  (as does the kids doing housework.  huzzah.)

& at the very same time, i am tired of this.  

not the showing part but the waiting part.  & not just this time but all the other times we’ve had a house listed & have been moving.  do you know how much of our marriage we’ve spent moving?  yeah, me neither.  a lot.  more than most.  the ministry can do that to you.  it’s like the army.  only more churchy.  (wink wink.)

i do know, actually.  i did the simple math the other day, sitting in my sister-in-law’s backyard eating potato salad.  6 years.  in 6 days, we’ll have been married 14 years. we’ve spent nearly half of our life together going some place else.  putting our hopes & dreams in the basket of someday.

so much for living in the present.

so, it’s not this move that’s got me strung out.  no, it’s more the collective pace.  like a marathon runner who doesn’t know to pace herself.  i keep sprinting around when i should be stopping for water.  i have blisters on my soul.  (sorry.  it’s late & i just ate chocolate.) & i can’t help wondering why God is so slow.  which is such sacrelig.  i know that He isn’t, that everything is pacing with or without me, but i keep running ahead to make sure He’s doing it right.
& the nut i cracked open the other day, in the middle of a sunny afternoon mixing up chocolate chip cookies?  i trust God, but i don’t really.  i don’t honestly believe deep down in the most tender part of my belly that what He’s got going on for us is what i most need.  i figure He’s got a good plan, but i’m not really gonna like it.  it’s going to somehow be terrible, as if He doesn’t know me or truly love me in the way i say i believe.  how’s that for a game changer? & where did it come from?  oy, vey.  

it’s not like my core faith is shaken, but i’m tangled up in a whole of mess of not-my-business.  i’m not in charge here, but i’m acting like it.  rearranging, micromanaging, second- & third- & fourth-guessing.  that’s what’s got me worn out.  (that & the toddler.  who is POTTY-TRAINED.  just had to throw that in there.  woot woot.)

so tonight, i’ve got this on repeat.  because i need a little balm for ye ol’ soul.

& if i have to play this until my ears fall off, until i can dig down into that hollowed out place just beneath the bottom crust of my faith, i will.  because now i know we’ve got work to do.

& i don’t just mean cleaning the bathrooms.
come on, my soul.  it’s time to let go.

limbo like this

yesterday was the day.  or, it was supposed to be.  they were coming, the nice retired couple who had walked through my bedroom, who had seen my row of skirts hanging from a wide wooden dowel in my closet.  they wanted to talk about how deep our well is, how much money we pay for electricity in january.

one o’clock came, the children were shooed outside, we were ready.  & then. . . nothing.  no nice retirement car pulling onto the end of our asphalt driveway.  we called, trying not to be pushy but yet. . . how long until a perfectly coiffed house is blown to the wind under the tutelage of a two-year-old?  really.

turns out the nice retired couple had car trouble.  they were at the toyota dealership.

they would get back to us.
“we’ll get back to you” is an odd place to live.  our entire world is suspended with this small pledge, breathed out without a second thought to the bearers’ mental state.  with that single phrase, we are everywhere at once:  scouring craigslist & zillo for house & land, sizing up andy’s t-shirt equipment to see if it would fit it in x-square feet, thawing out the last chicken for dinner tomorrow.  & with that same phrase, we are nowhere:  boy, they hated it.  our house is too “cabiny” (actual quote).  maybe we should have hacked out that huge juniper in the middle of the yard to make more lawn.  we should have, should have, should have.

truly, an exercise in skin-thickening.

to say nothing of what perpectual show mode does for the psyche.  our house isn’t perfect for most people walking across the wood floors andy tapped down himself.  of course it isn’t.  most people aren’t us.  & those most-people don’t mind telling us they don’t care for the toilet seats or the blue paint in the bathroom.  entry to a house-for-sale hands out clipboard & score sheet & giant red pen.  it’s like holding yourself out on a glass slide under a microscope for ever & ever.

kinda makes you wanna pitch a teepee in the woods & call it good.

what i’ve noticed about this constant state of limbo is that i can’t live any more than this one single day, really.  when i don’t know if we’ll be here next month, i can’t hammer down the squares of my calendar.  i have to stay loose.  like a boxer.  i can cast gentle nets into tomorrow, but there’ll be no sharp tugging to secure anything for sure one hundred & ten percent.

which is really how we ought to live anyway, isn’t it?  i mean, how many hours, days, would  i gladly take back that i’ve frittered away in obsessive planning or rearranging, trying to eek out an agenda i approve of instead of trusting what comes to me is what i need.

all i have, all i’m a hundred percent on is just today.  like my kids.  tomorrow is javin’s birthday, the big 11, & he’s leaving all the planning to me.  he hasn’t even put in a request unless i’ve asked it of him.  dessert, honey?  cheesecake.  plans?  he doesn’t even care.  he knows it’s going to be good, that we’ll take care of it.  we love him, that’s what we do.
he rests in that.

so, i’m putting a bead on javin.  i have today.  tomorrow?  that nice retired couple might come back, or it might be somebody else who will love my toilet seats & light blue bathroom.  but if it isn’t?  & if they don’t?

well, there’ll still be cheesecake.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.  –isaiah 26:3.

i put him to bed two

we got back last night from our longest roadtrip ever:  18 days smeared over 3 states in a 1970’s camper with 4 kids.  sounds like a bad word problem.  anyway.

yesterday, our last leg of this epic family adventure, was the baby’s birthday.  yesterday, our little guy turned two.
the lips!  for the love.  [andy's photo, across the breakfast table.]

i’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, & i have to admit, i’ve been dreading this day for a really long time.  like, nearly 11 years.  the day my littlest one was no longer really a baby.  this might seem a little up hill, a little dramatic, but there’s something tidy & secure about a tiny one all tucked up against you all the time.  the universe feels safe, the world spins on kilter.
but now that i’m here, leif-as-two, i’m kind of relieved.  is that weird?
lake superior, baby.  bam-o.

as in, wow!  we did it!!  we’ve brought four tiny, helpless creatures into the world & through babyhood!  hooray, we might get a full night sleep sometime in the next year!  i can almost reason with this new 2-year-old (just kidding.)!

i’m surprised at myself, & really that’s a pansy way of saying i’m surprised at God.  because Who’s doing the untangling?  credit where credit. . . .  yes.  i’ve been planning for YEARS, people, to be sad when i hit this landmark.  [how depressing is planning ahead to be sad?  come ON.]  & i know i’ve got hoards of time ahead of me, so-help-me-God, especially since my kids are all still technically “little”.  plenty more growing up to be done in this here household, yessir.  but babies-aren’t-us anymore.

& that’s okay.
happy birthday, big guy.  it just gets better & better.

on being bald

i should have seen it coming, but i didn’t.
we were checking out books at the library, at the nifty self-service kiosk, all four kids & i. libraries are notoriously kid-friendly, so, being one of the few places i’ll venture by myself, my guard was down.  & self-service kiosks, really.  freaking brilliant.  unless you’re attempting to maneuver one with an ambitious toddler & three other children, noses embedded in books.

my fatal mistake:  not letting leif check out his own book.
without thinking, i whipped his picture book “we’re going on a bear hunt” through the bleeper & handed it to him, setting him down beside us so he could sit quietly & look at his book while i herded the other three kids through, their mountainous stacks too much for their small arms.  you caught that, didn’t you?  sit.  quietly.  you’d think i’d never met my own son.  hello.

you can imagine the rest, but i don’t know if you’d get the part where leif was digging his fingernails into the back of kieran’s calves, trying to dismount him from the stool.  & you might not picture the fit he threw, both in my arms & in the entryway after i abandoned thalia at the kiosk completely so i wouldn’t make such. a. scene.

i wanted you to have the full picture.
you’re welcome.

because the full picture also includes my total inability to keep track of all four of my kids in the library (or anywhere, who are we kidding?), get them out without at least two of them straggling, & my unbelievable concern of what the librarians, those sweet & genteel ladies, thought of me jumping ship on my 8-year-old & bear-hugging my toddler to prevent (anymore) physical harm to any by-standing siblings.

whenever i recount these stories to andy, he ALWAYS begins humming, quietly at first, the circus theme song.

if the shoe fits. . . .

the funny thing is, i’m surprised how much i care.
i mean, a long time ago i lost all my hair, & with it, i had to shed a whole heap of what people thought of me.  i went from young woman with insanely long, straight, blonde hair to prickly bear who buzzes her scalp clean every other thursday.
this, from my coaching days.  i’m holding a BULLDOG.  with a CHAIN.  you’re not even noticing my hair, are you. . . . 

anyway, losing all my hair was the fear i was most afraid of in my life.  i remember sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table when i was little, nervously stealing glimpses at my aunt in her red bandana.  she also had alopecia (the latin name for “you have no hair & we can’t figure out why”.), which was really unusual, because we weren’t blood-related.  (alopecia is sort of genetic.) i remember thinking, “if i ever lost all my hair like her, i would die.”

i had already started losing my hair then, but all of it didn’t fall out until 10 years ago, after i started having kids.  i remember crying & crying in the shower as huge globs of hair just came out in my hands.  it was really, really terrible.  i had a little boy, & my whole life seemed to be imploding.

but it didn’t.  & i didn’t.

& when the worst thing you can possibly imagine from the time you are very young happens, well, you don’t just cease to exist.  you don’t.  you live through it, so help you God, & when you start to see the other side, you realize going through that horrible valley sloughed a lot of other stuff, too.

which is why i’m so surprised i still care so very much what some anonymous (though kindly) librarians think of me.  i mean, really.  i may have 4 children mildly out of control, but they’re probably more concerned with my baldness & my nose ring.  let’s be honest.
my attempt at a selfie a few weeks ago, to show you the shiner leif gave me with a  head-butt first thing in the morning.  thank you, honey.  mommy loves you.

anyway, i’ve been wanting to crack open this cavern about being bald since i started writing in this space.  i guess tonight was it.
one of a gazillion cartoons andy used to draw of us.  we used to look like this.  as cartoons, anyway.  

sitting on the bus

this is supposed to be a post about why north dakota doesn’t suck.  we were there a couple weeks ago, in that place i grew up, on that farm.  we had just a few days to drive up a trailer of wares to store with my folks who graciously didn’t balk at our offerings but instead fed us steak & took the kids in the tractor.  ’tis planting season, ya know.
i would tell you about running out of gas because the gas gauge in the van broke the week before, & i’d tell you about finding a gigantic wad of gum in leif’s hair & andy’s emergency, rest stop haircut.  because he is that man.
then i’d tell you about the Lake, capital “L”.  that place is a balm to my toddler-weary soul.
but instead, i have to tell you that right now, i’m a little bit at a loss.  i mean, the road ahead is foggy, the noise inside the proverbial car is loud.

i am officially in the place i detest.  waiting.

as dr. seuss would say, “i’m in that most dreadful place, the waiting place.”  

the house is listed, shown, decluttered, repainted, touched-up.  we are mostly organized (we still have children, you’ll remember.).  we are ready.

& what do we have? a big ol’ white space of quiet.  God is completely & utterly quiet.  no whisper.  no inkling.  people ask me all the time what we’ll do when the house sells.

we really have no idea.

it’s easy to talk about a bus, or renting, or building, or buying land.  but really, we’re just sitting around waiting.  as in, 39 weeks kind of waiting.  something’s on the horizon, certainly.  but right now, the Lord is asking us to sit down & wait.  we’re sitting on the bus idea.

meanwhile, i’m busy spinning my wheels.  

you see, when i stop spinning, i have to take a good hard look at uncertainty.  when i stop busying myself with answering the great looming “what if’s,” there is nothing left to do but to sit & wait with my harried self.  (that, & clean up whatever the toddler just spilled on my shoe.)  & frankly, i’d rather keep sorting keepsakes or mounting piles of clothes to donate than to be still.

stillness makes me feel unworthy.

stillness is like unproductivity, in my mind.  at least when i’m spinning my wheels, i can see dirt being kicked up.  that’s something.  & unproductivity is that big horrible tattle-tale that says, “you. are. not. good. enough.”

which, i’m realizing, is just another half-sister to shame.

& we all know how i feel about shame.  (hate, hate, hatey hate hate.)

BUT.  all the spinning, all the producing & churning is starting to wear me out.  & with a toddler-boy in the house, i need to conserve all the energy i have.

{you’re welcome.}

in my kitchen, andy has painted the walls around the sink & over the countertops with chalkboard paint.  on one of them i have this:

“smile.  breathe.  go slowly.”  –thach nhat hanh.

when i go slowly, as opposed to when i spin, i can see.
i can feel the tiny hand that holds my index finger & pulls me down the driveway.
i can smile at the little fists that bring me “american” paint brushes.  (as opposed to the “indian” ones, common in these parts.
i can take naps instead of fret over ———–  (choose one:  the unweeded garden.  the heap of dishes.  the 34 projects i’ve started & left unfinished in various stages & places in the house.)

when i go slowly, i am living, not just shooting up dust.
i have this little gem on a necklace above my kitchen sink:

“may you live all the days of your life.”  –j. swift.

& living, more than anything, is what this is all about, yes?

slow down, breathe, live.  yes.


{p.s. — i’m giving “just a minute” fridays a break:  it’s been a lesser read post, so instead of keeping it on, which just feels like another form of spinning my wheels, i’m going to bench it just now.  if i gather a dam of music, i’ll keep you informed, though.  no worries!}





this is not a toy

after our garage sale a couple weeks ago, our basement took a deep breath & relaxed, finally feeling spacious enough for kid-play.  i think it even smiled a little.

when leif & i went down to play a few days later, my ring finger in his hand all the way down the stairs, we found a hundred-odd t-shirt bags from one of andy’s shipments in a heap, ready for the garbage.

or maybe not quite yet.

the kids played, happily!, together! for the entire morning with their not-a-toys.  rain showers.  boxing gloves.  wrestling matches.

which makes me think: maybe not everything we’re told & have come to believe is exactly the truth.

i don’t know.  i’m open for suggestions.

just a minute. summer’s on, yes?

cheeks pinking, bronzing by morning,
after sleep’s medicine.
the magic of dreams.

sunshine, always the sunshine producing
shorts & bare little-boy chests,
pigtails & sundresses for the sweet miss.

bare feet, dirty feet, little tiny toes in dirt.
sand box as playpen,
sand dumped on the door step,
leif’s gift hauled to share with mama.

roadtrips with windows down,
audiobooks & library books.
a good novel.
drawing paper & endless miles
to think it out.
the creativity of mobility.

sprinklers & the first trip to the pool.
popscicles dripping off chins,
washed off in sunshiny waves of chlorine.
swimsuits hung to dry.
beach towels back in circulation.

windows open at night,
falling asleep as the world whispers.
birdsong to wake.

the season’s first watermelon
& even the ants that wander
that sticky trail
across the wood floor.

we are all here,
happy inside our long-awaited summer.

[“just a minute” is a friday post in which a quietly offer you a bit of my favorite things: usually photography & music.  but, with the cacophony of four small children in summer, i’m turning down the music just a bit, to better hear the summer itself.  i’m certain to have an accompanying theme song soon enough, though.  i hope you don’t mind.}