• Ebenezer,  facing grief

    In the small places…

    beach

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

    ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    This weekend always feels a little holy and a bit hollowed out at the same time. It’s the knowing and the not knowing. My sweet baby would be four years old now, on the cusp of leaving toddlerhood altogether. It’s the realization that life was never the same. It is the remembrance of how life nearly slipped from my fingers.

    And yet, with each of turn of the sun, the day becomes more sweet and less bitter. The raw gaping wound is now soft and white about the edges, time’s stamp. I can breathe now. The waves crash over my feet and not over my head. A peaceful place. Its become my touchstone in the year…my way of turning my eyes to the horizon and heavens…fresh clarity. Sometimes it amazes me how much I’ve forgotten how I nearly died; and yet other days it hits me fresh, gratitude coursing through my veins that I have this moment of laughter with a freshly bathed kiddo on my lap or that beautiful sunset or those flowers on the table. When it first happened everything seemed bathed with technicolor, almost so beautiful and so clear that it hurt to look at it. That feeling fades over time, and yet it doesn’t. The veil slips for a moment and suddenly you are caught breathless by the miracle of life all around you.

    It always happens on this weekend. Always I see the mosaic jewel-toned light of day and the twinkle stars of night and I remember. How the Father of all lights bent close and held me. How love lifted me from the water. The skillful hands of my surgeon and friend. The prayers that echo still.

    Although the grief never leaves entirely, it is a gentle friend now. Another year given to me, another year to pray, to praise, to love. It is enough. It is more than enough.

  • Ebenezer,  Orthodoxy

    Forging a new path…

    tangles I’ve been feeling a bit introspective the last few days. The honeymoon feeling has worn off and the still left-unpacked boxes are starting to make me feel a bit squirrel-y and a teensy frazzled. It was enough to move in. The kitchen, especially, needs more organization. While it was one of the first things to be unpacked, the cabinet space is strange and tall and narrow, and every time you open a cabinet there is a very real fear that something will come crashing down on your head.

    If I was totally honest, my life feels a bit like that kitchen.

    The move was an answer to a desperate prayer, a laying out of fleece, a begging for direction. Our life had begun to feel like suspension bridge spinning in a hurricane. The tension was so fraught that the tiniest thing could have sent our little cars of life flying hard into the ether. Spun up, strung tight. Trapped. Beleaguered. Stuck. These are the words that ring true to me as I consider how things felt before the new job and move became a reality.

    We had struggled for ten years to form a community around us. James loved the people he worked with and what he did in his job, but the pay and benefits were locking us into continual poverty, with no chance of pay increases or advancement. It was dead end. Our housing situation felt similarly dead-ended. We were barely making ends meet in a house that, while large, couldn’t provide for our needs properly and was falling apart around our ears with a landlord that wasn’t listening. But where else were we to go? We had looked and looked for a place that would work for us within the area and would return back to our current rental with dejected mein, realizing that this was it. Our locked-in finances barely covered the basics like groceries and gas; there was no way we were ever going to be able to save enough to buy a house again.  The reality of it all was very difficult to deal with.  Dejection courted us in the shadows. The marriage began to show the cracks and strain of all we were trying to hold together.

    It snapped.

    Someone caught us.

    We were caught up into safe refuge and harbor by steadied arms who pulled us in. Even thinking of it now, I try not to sob outright. Someone cared about us so much that he fought for us when we could not fight for ourselves, prayed over us and for us, and helped us back to our feet in ways both spiritual and practical.

    It was during this time of renewal and repair that we realized that, as much as we loved the area, we needed to cast our nets farther afield. Three cities were chosen, each for different reasons, and applications were filed. The prayerful waiting began. I don’t think we were particularly hoping for one outcome over the other- more than anything, I think we both had a very real fear that nothing would return. Nearly a month and a half passed, and we both began to struggle with doubt. A week to the day after we had a particularly rough day and given it all up for lost, things began to happen rapidly. First one interview, and then another, a phone call, inquiries made. Just like that, a job. Less than twenty four hours later, and at the head of a list that included three other families, a house.

    You will believe me when I say that everything fit together in ways we could not have even begun to conceive of. It practically seems made to order. The thing is? I think it was. We had to let go of everything before it could happen, surrender everything we are and wanted, to come to the end of ourselves and let it all go, release it. Here is the truth, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message: “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing.” (Luke 6:38) The delight will overwhelm you at times like drinking from a fire-hose, and yet you couldn’t realize how very thirsty you were till someone turned the thing on.

    All that said, there’s still a lot of things to unpack. There were patterns and choices that let to the virtual prison we had made for ourselves. There was a reason things felt so spun-tight. We must, must, must forge a new path here, with the Lord’s help. What that is and what the looks like, what new choices and rhythms must be made- these are the things filling my thoughts these days. I snapped this picture yesterday, of the boys untangling math problems and my knitting ball that had become hopelessly entwined…it took me most of the day that day to straighten it all out, but this is the thing that I love- it was able to be untangled. The light bulb comes on in the math lesson and we stretch forward to the next idea. I treasure the photograph because it reminds me that life moves forward, even when it all looks messy.

  • celebrations,  Ebenezer

    A big transition…

    We’re here! Today was Daddy’s first day of work at his new job. What a whirlwind move it has been! In-town moves are eventful enough. Cross-state moves are a whole ‘nother breed, especially if you only have three weeks to make it happen. Fhew. vanpackedOne of the ladies from church gave them Easter buckets full of snacks and activities to do in the car. We were packed to the gills! It definitely helped. movingonupThis move would not have happened without our friends and family in both states. I’m not sure which side I feel sorrier for- the group that had to play Tetris with the furniture to get it all in the truck, or the guys who had to carry box after heavy box of books to the third story in the new house. So grateful for everyone who was involved. newhouse Our new house is located in a historic neighborhood. We didn’t really know what this meant at first- the house itself almost seemed too good to be true. The other options in our price range seemed absolutely unbearable- not located in good area or too small or too far from where James worked. When we found this one and had close friends check it out, they were unanimous in their recommendation that we rent it. It’s a beautiful old duplex house built in 1918. It has plaster walls and nooks and crannies- all which have been named already by the children and friends (the Harry Potter closet, the Cinderella room).  And it’s huge. The whole neighborhood brings to mind the Sound of Music set, and has the friendliness to match. It’s full of young families and older couples and so very walkable. We see all sorts of people walking by with their dogs or children. Kids ride their bikes unsupervised around the block. It’s that kind of neighborhood. afterdinnerwalk We’ve already begun a new family tradition- an after dinner walk. We’ll probably add in a morning walk soon. It’s like a veritable treasure hunt. We’ve found a tiny park and a fishing pier behind the elementary school, and half a dozen houses to have fairytale imaginings about. One day we walked the opposite direction and discovered to our delight the village shops- because this neighborhood is one of those historic neighborhoods. It has a bakery and coffee shop, a few restaurants, and perhaps most importantly- a scrap booking shop. I can’t decide if that is a good thing or a very dangerous thing or a bit of both…librarydayFar and away our favoritest favorite favorite part of the neighborhood? The library that we can walk to. Yes, you read that right. For a family that up until this point had to drive thirty to forty five minutes to find a library (a family of voracious readers at that), this is almost unbelievable, pinch-yourself amazingness. It also has a lovely children’s section. Did I mention that this is only one of eighteen libraries in the area and it’s the same size as the one library in our old town? Bookworm heaven. I really try not to gush about the library but I can’t help it. What a gift! thevillageshopsWe’re still adjusting. The house is mostly unpacked save the master bedroom and office. The children and I are back in the books after a month off for moving. (And somehow third and first grader have forgotten everything they ever knew about math. Sigh.) We’ve gotten lost a few times, as is proper for any new adventure. (Apple Maps are not your friend in metro areas, just saying.)  Its a huge, beautiful, wonderful transition.

     

  • celebrations,  Ebenezer

    Quiet here…

    (Photo by jdcdc)

    It isn’t getting any easier.

    I have friends that came home in flag-draped honor.

    My sons and daughters have never known a life without war.

    When I wake, and when I sleep,

    I pray for a man, a mama, and four sweet girls.

    I pray he comes home alive.

    I pray for his strength.

    I pray for her.

    I pray for the men who walk with him.

    I pray for the men who won’t ever walk again.

    I pray for the men who have stood their last watch.

    For the men that never came back.

    I pray for peace.

    I pray for our fallen.

    I pray for our living.

    It’s not about barbecues.

    It’s not about swimming pools.

    It’s not about corn on the cob.

    It’s about the greatest sacrifice a man can make,

    the echo of another Man who gave His life that I might live free.

    Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:23)

    Rest in peace.

    We will never forget.

  • Ebenezer

    When desperation blinds you…

    I want to say this, before I forget…before it slips into mist and memory…

    It wasn’t the job. It was me. And I would never call into question or judge a mother who pursues employment. That is not what is at issue for me here, at this way station in seasons.

    Beware desperation.

    I’ve whispered of it here and there, but we’ve faced a mighty battle with debt- particularly student loans. It was precipitated by two years of unemployment. All in all, our nightmare has lasted just about three and a half years. It began not four weeks after losing our fifth child to miscarriage. I have known the darkness, the inky black night, the shadowy whispers of pain that blind.

    But He promised us that He was mighty to save. And He has. And He will.  Yet- somewhere in the middle, I kept company with Sarai and Hagar, Abram and Ishmael. I lost confidence in my Lord’s will, and I thought I could fix things. And so, as Sarai sent Hagar to Abram, I sent ‘a promising email’ to my husband, a job, a work from home position. My beloved had reservations. Many. And I, in my desperation, shoved past the red flags of wisdom crying out for attention. This is not to say that some sort of employment was ahead for me, or that He had provisions waiting for us if we had trusted His timing…but I can tell you even then, we knew this job was not the wisest course of action for our family. I ignored it.

    I would spend the next year and a half trying to find a balance that could not be found. I lost perspective, lost purpose- I would care for our family from dawn until dusk, and then would work from dusk near to dawn again, each precious hour of sleep and clarity slipping into the darkness, never to be retrieved. Chronic exhaustion takes its toll; depression soon became my constant handmaiden and companion.

    I cannot emphasize this enough, dear friends. I don’t care what vocation you pursue, but if you sacrifice the rest our wise and gracious God has ordained for us, something is not as it should be. If it’s a constant, instead of an occasional, occurrence, check your heart-call. I have serious doubts that the Lord would call you to a task that includes such a thing. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. In Christ’s ministry, there was always a balance between rest and action. Always. If things are ridiculously hard, if you’re making decisions that are totally contrary to your heart, maybe the Lord is creating the friction to call you back to His purpose.

    I speak from my life. I should have heard Him clearly when I fell so ill last year. It’s almost laughably obvious. I fell so ill quite simply because my body could not run on fumes—and yet—I would go on to work for the company for another year. A year. And I could not understand why I could not heal, why I could not get well. But I wouldn’t stop. For another year. I have paid the price. I will probably never be as healthy as I was before I began this job, unless the Lord sees fit to restore what the locusts have eaten. I will spend the rest of my life caring for my body because I nearly destroyed it in desperation.

    Oh, that I were not so stubborn! The Lord needed a two by four to smack me across the back of the head, and so, late at night on a family outing to a local Christmas light show, I missed the (rather obvious) hitch point protruding from the back of my fifteen passenger van, tripped…and shattered my wrist. My right wrist, my dominant hand. I could no longer work in any capacity- I could not type. I could barely dress myself, comb my hair. And then—I finally heard Him. I submitted my resignation within days. I will always see my deformed wrist now, and think of Jacob and the angel of the Lord and Jacob’s thigh… I will bear the mark of stubbornness the rest of my days.

    I beg you, dear friends, to trust in the Lord and lean on His understanding, and acknowledge Him in all your ways. Don’t ever get to the point of desperation that you feel that you must trade your heart and body. Debt is awful, but it is never worth that. It’s never worth running ahead of God. But- if you have found yourself right-tangled, as I have, know that He is might to save, and He will not forsake you. Confess, repent, and trust. The storm will still rage, perhaps even for a long time- but He will be with you.

    Here I stack these stones, mark an Ebenezer. May the Lord in His grace lead me away from this place of sorrow.