all in.

we’ve been waiting loads of ages to tell you, storing up the stories & the kinks, the myriad bumps in the road to lay it out clean & cut:  WE. ARE. IN.
we held on to hope with loose, ragged fingers, trusting.  waiting.
change & hope & all things progressing is like being pregnant. this is going to last for-freaking-ever, you think in your finite mind, as you roll over & feel the creak in your hips, spreading to make room.  it is the same with this growing into ourselves, the selves we’re meant to be:  we harbor the pains of wondering, & waiting, & planning the steps we can’t control.
oy vey.  we’ve done all these things.

but now:  it’s happening.  & like magic, hindsight clears vision & we see what we hoped was coming all along:  we are moving in to our small house in the woods the end of this week.

& we couldn’t be more thrilled.
thank you for waiting with us, for staying steadfast in prayer & hope & sincere concern.
we feel ever so loved.

BUT.
as God would have it, this is not the only beginning of a very new story.
in the thick of the boxes & the decluttering, the filtering through the existence of the britz six, we discovered:  soon we will be 7.

i don’t know if i can say this loud enough, or excited enough.
we had planned to be done, so pleased with our six-pack.  we didn’t know we needed another until that ‘nother was on his (or her) way.  ETA: aug 15.  a new passenger joining our ship.

someone suggested, at the pronouncement of this news, perhaps the timing was bad.
i don’t know if a better meteor could’ve hit our small planet.
getting to carry another teeny folk, to be mama to 5 (did i tell you i’ve long dreamed of 5?  a tucked-in-deep dream i thought was greedy.  apparently, fortunately, God did not agree with me.) has been the most grounding thing.  i feel unimportant things peeling off me like old paint.  who cares how much c.r.a.p. we’re putting in boxes — WE’RE INVENTING A PERSON.  the timing of God is pristine.

so not only will jill in the box take on a new curve of homesteading & smaller living, children tossed into the woods & left alone, but also we will mention from time to time the new human being landing in our laps.

& truthfully, we couldn’t be happier.
if you’re going to overhaul your way in the world, may as well do it in one fell swoop, yes?

GOSH, WE COULDN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU.  (all the smileys.)

much love,
~j.  

 

hope is hard.

after the housing crash of last week, i’ve been turning Hope over, like a rock in my palm. we’re working with a second lender, have emailed our reems of financial stats in for speculation.  & now we’re waiting.  hope, yes.  hope, no.  hope, well, how DO we hope?

the thing is, i want to hope we will be allowed to buy the small cabin.  but there’s war in me:  if i hope & then we’re denied again, doesn’t that train wreck me?  again?  isn’t it easier to keep the bar low?  to work on my contentment instead?  contentment is spiritual, right?

hope is scary, it’s uncomfortable, & i don’t like it.

& yet.

we went to church, a couple days after our damning verdict, & I SWEAR the message was for exactly me.  Bob talked about building their 18.something million dollar campus 10 years ago, how they had a hard time getting a bank to mortgage them.  then he said this & i got chills,

nothing is ever easy.  you think if it’s God’s plan it’s going to be easy.  it’s not easy.  nothing is ever easy following God.

aha!  yes, that’s it.  there is nothing easy about this.  the sheer amount of time we’ve put into thinking about what’s going on, grief.  it all feels so dark & mysterious.  like we’re writing up our dreams in a dark closet at midnight.

but then there’s all of you, climbing out of the fray to encourage us, offer us housing, even volunteer to babysit our chickens.  i cannot tell you how loved we feel.  how supported & surrounded.  i may have cried a little.

maybe Jesus gives us the gift of crisis so we can know with more than our heads how loved we are.  how we are never, ever alone.  how we are so much more alike in our differences than we thought we were.

& somehow, andy & i have wandered into a waiting place that isn’t uncomfortable.  as he showed me the four thousandth craigslist house today, he said to me, “i’m almost excited.”  i am, too, & for once, it’s not bound up in a solitary destination.  that’s kind of a relief.

so, we don’t know a thing more, except everything that truly matters:
we are loved.
we are on a right path (even if we can’t see it.)
& we will be okay.
IMG_6922thank you for helping us know that.
much love,
~j.

if you need some medicine, you can share some of mine.

if you want to give Wise Bob a listen, go here.

when all feels lost.

IMG_6884
the phone rang, a routine call from our lender, that gentile wand-waver for the purchase of our cabin.  I handed Andy the phone, headed back up the stairs to manage children.  but then i heard his voice edge up.  i went back downstairs. Andy listened, I watched his face.  his voice edged up again, a more dangerous pitch.  I felt my skin go cold.

we weren’t buying the house anymore.

in some great fluke, our loan had been disqualified.  before Andy printed t-shirts, before he was a youth pastor the last time, he started a carpentry business.  last year, in a t-shirt lull, Andy picked up a painting job, which he got paid for.  but it was that check, deposited into the old AB Carpentry account, that disqualified us.  it was a second business, they said.  it looks like you’re first business is failing, they said, that you’ve started another.

“you’re not buying the house, anymore,” they said.  “we’re sorry.”

when you are sucker-punched in your dreams, what do you do?
do you cry like a thunderstorm, or do you head right into fix-it mode?
do you firm your stiff upper lip, or do you sidle under the banner OF COURSE THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME hoisted above you in your favorite colors?

i did all of these.  i couldn’t stop crying, thinking of what i wanted for my little ones being ripped away from us.

i began to assign meaning to it:  “maybe this is the way God has for us.  we say we trust Him, want to know what direction we’re supposed to go.  maybe this is the door-closing/window-opening thing.”
to which Andy commented on how terribly difficult it is to crawl out a window.  right.

we rolled all of this around between us.  Andy began looking for rentals on craigslist.  {you’ll remember our house is sold;  we are moving (somewhere) in 7 weeks.}  we looked at buses.  we thought about selling the chickens, or eating them.  we reorganized & edited our life goals, our hopes & dreams for the kids.

we laid everything out on the table.
& alongside all of it, we laid out our fleece, like Gideon.

we are laying everything we want, everything we hope for for these small children in our stead, all our dreams & passions & leanings.
we’re going to try other avenues,
& we’re going to ask the Lord to make happen what He has in His head.
& we’re going to wait, stepping into that frightening forest in the dark.

my friend Heather sent this to me in an email a couple days ago, a quote she’d read recently, as we were wrestling with this new news:

you can wait in worry or in rest, the choice is yours.

& then she said this, “i hope you choose rest, friend.  i know the weariness all too well.”

don’t we, though?  waiting sucks on so many levels.  we have to keep folding the laundry when we’d rather tear up the universe for answers.  we have to tuck in tiny children when we’d rather stay up weeping in self-pity or fear or depression.  all the while the worry races around on a hamster wheel in our heads.  we have to enter the possibility that our plans may not be the way we were meant to go, in all our convoluted planning.  that maybe our GPS was wonky.

& so, here we are, holding loose ends & holding on.  we have no definite answers, but we’re going to try another bank, another avenue.  we have a smidge of direction, a few drops of hope, a last hail mary to loft into the heavens.

will you wait with us?  will you say a word for us, lifting it up to the One who knows the answer to every single question before we ask it?  will you help us wait without trying to fix it?

Jesus isn’t asking for our help;  He’s only asking for our hearts.  & because of that, we know that whatever happens, we’ll be okay.

we’ll be okay.

so, this happened.

it all began with the chickens.
of course it did.

our pretty little girls had begun to free-range.  or most accurately, the fence we put up was too short, so the chickens hopped it & proceeded to roam into both neighbors’ yards.  excellent for protein, not so sustainable.  (obviously.)  slightly frantic with this new conundrum, i threw up a word for help.

around the same time, andy, who is a man for houses, began to wander craigslist for opportunity.  he does this often.  it scares me.  when he pulled up a pole barn on a hill for me one morning on zillow, reintroducing (for the gazillionith time) the topic of moving, i threw down my gauntlet.

“IF we were to move, i would need to have maples trees.  i would need apple trees.  &,” i added, throwing a hail mary, “i would want a water feature for the kids.”  i thought the last was a little over the top, but, well.  throw it high; throw it long.

the third cog in this bizarre wheel was the sermon series pastor bob started at our church.  it was on prayer, which i planned to be bored through.  i was not.  in fact, i realized how little & how vaguely i speak to Jesus.  so, given my new chicken problem, i started to ask specific questions.  i started to detail what i wanted.  i started to speak frankly.

a smidge later & late one evening, andy discovered a small cabin a few miles from our stead.  it had acres.  it had a chicken coop.  it required far less money than we are paying now.  andy almost skipped over it, but something caught in his belly, & he showed it to me anyway.  it had apple trees.  it had a stream.  don’t you tell me God isn’t into details.  i’ve got details, friends.  (we discovered the maple trees later.)

i said “yes.  that’s it.”

but this plan, though well & good, stood on the impossibility of selling our current castle.  and you know WE HAVE TRIED.  for five years we have been dancing around this fire, waving sticks in the air.  we have done our fool-darnedest to move.   & then we had come back to contentment.

on a monday night a couple weeks ago, after andy & i finished our nightly netflix episode post-kid-bedtime, he said, “should we re-list the house (on craigslist)?”

what the heck, we thought.  one more hail mary.

“yeah,” i said.  “let’s do it.”

by mid-afternoon the next day, the man who would soon sign a purchase agreement on this house called to say he was interested.  we even liked him.  he coached basketball.

so, all this to say, come january’s end, we are moving.  we signed the papers this afternoon finalizing the purchase of that wee cabin, just a few miles from here.

& my friends, let me tell you, this will be an adventure.
did i mention it was quite the fixer-upper?
did i say it was half the size of this house?
did i tell you this is our shot at a tiny house for 6?
did i mention i have no qualms about child labor?  (wink, wink.)

oh, yes.  this will be an adventure.

the extraordinary ordinary.


as i put child three to bed tonight, as i returned fort-built couch cushions to the couch & stepped through the toy strew, i thought over our very ordinary day.  i had had high hopes, & basically, i fed children & slogged heavily through a few math problems with young, frustrated minds.  important things, true, but i had hoped for so much more.

some days, all you can hope for is to finish.

let’s be honest:  a great deal of our precious time in this one wild & precious life is spent on the mundane.  every day, we have very everyday things to do.  the dog needs to eat, & the children, the bills need paying & the car fixing.  there are thank you’s to write, & the bathrooms.  for the love, the bathrooms.  & if you are like us, every light bulb hit its timer & has now blown out.  it’s like girls with their time of the month or something.

& yet, we have this cultural dogma circling us, taunting, even:  you have one life!  live it!  chase your dreams & live big & make the most!!  just this morning i was trolling facebook, er, making breakfast when i tripped into this mantra again:

just one.  you have just one life.

& why aren’t we chasing our dreams like we’re on fire.
because i feel like i’m actually on fire, for crying out loud.

frankly, there are plenty of days my big-ticket dreams aren’t on the radar.  i don’t hold a bus & a farm & glorious roadtrips always before my eyes, carefully plotting & goal-achieving.  & to be even more frank, there are plenty of days when slogging through a fog of depression is all i can do to keep my head above water, whispering a prayer for grace.  because, as much as life is beautiful, it’s also brutal.  we both know this is true.

so how do we rectify the ordinary that needs to be done & dealt with with the extraordinary we long for in the deepest parts of us?
i’m convinced we don’t have to live in the muck.  i refuse, actually.

maybe this will help:

hope begins in the dark,
the stubborn hope that if we just show up
& try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come.
–anne lamott

as i thought about the ordinary, everyday mess of my life & the dreams i carry in my belly, it occurred to me that an extraordinary life is built on very ordinary bricks.  if we will just show up, again & again & again, striving to just do the next right thing, those things will sprout & grow into something bigger than we are, especially in the hand of God.  & if we can train our eyes to seek out the good, the right, the beautiful, we will see it, & that is the beginning of everything.

we are art, you & i, & we need to keep reminding ourselves.
we were made for greatness.
& i have a feeling all these couch cushions strewn about have something to do with it, even if it doesn’t look like it just now.

all the words we say.


i was jotting down my nephew’s birthday in a blank square of my planner tonight, with little boys running through the kitchen, when i noticed today was the last day of summer.  OH NO.  i am not ready for this kind friend who has stayed long to be packing & riding off. we’ve had such a nice time, you & i, Summer!  must you go?  i mean, there was the garden & the chickens & the pool & the kids outside.  so much loveliness.

i know it’s just a day, & tomorrow will be like today, but i felt a bit of grief.
sometimes i am the girl who would like everything & everyone to stay exactly the same, please & thank you.

on the backside of that sinking feeling was this thought, dredging up a quote i had scrawled awhile back:

there shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.
~celia thaxter.

i’m not going to lie to you:  i feel like a dog chasing her tail, bringing up gratitude again.  my life keeps circling around this, & maybe it’s so that i wear a groove into my days.

gratitude is slippery isn’t it?  so much water through fingers unaware of what they hold.  gratitude is a precious commodity, & when we hold it carefully, not letting it go, we are transformed closer to who we were meant to be.  if we realized our lives depended on gratitude, maybe we’d try a little harder.  i feel like i might.

: : : :

i was putting the kids to bed tonight, after story & teeth & kisses & hugs & doors closed to a just-so crack.  when i am my best self, i play music for the kids to fall asleep to.  i love music to death, & to fall asleep to it is a warm hug at the end of a long day.

you will laugh at this:  my favorite bedtime band these days is Sleeping at Last.  i don’t only like them because they give me hope the kids will finally sleep.  they are grown-up lullabyes with smart lyrics.  tonight i played their song “Saturn” & heard these words roll through our quiet dark:

with shortness of breath i’ll explain the infinite
how rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.

as i lay there between my little boys, one down & one to go, with the window open to this last summer evening, i thought, wouldn’t it be extraordinary if we could live like it was rare & beautiful that we existed?  isn’t it a gift, just to be here at all?  i know there is so much wrong with the world, with our lives, but i think maybe if we could get a handle on this, we would walk into our days radiating & expectant.  i am here!  hello, & let’s do this!

or maybe i’m smoking something.

all i know is when i remember to say “thank you,” i am better.  which makes everyone around me better, & everything glows a bit brighter.  it’s like a super power i can wield any ol’ time & it works.  that’s the trick of it.  gratitude never doesn’t work.

we say a lot of words.  i think some of them should be “thank you.”

(p.s. — i’m going to try to be more regular in this place.  i like it here, with you.
& thanks for reading here & commenting.  so, so good to have you.)

unclench.

maybe it was the red wine.
i’m not altogether sure.
for some reason, that evening i noticed.

years ago, i used to look for reasons to give up on people.  that looks so brutal in black & white.  our underbellies aren’t always so fancy, are they?  it’s true though, the judgment i would wear like a uniform.  when i got together with people, my mind would do a mental catscan for differences in other women, those lovely half-a-species i was supposed to be befriending.  i knew i needed people, but not these people.  when i (inevitably) found a discrepancy between her & me:  she has a job!/i don’t, she likes women’s groups!/i hate them, she has disposable income!/i don’t:  i’d move on.  just like that.  straight forward & super mature.

i’m having a hard time believing this is what my innards want to say tonight.

&, understandably, i had a shallow friend pool.  i believe there are two kinds of people in the world:  those who build walls, & those who knock them down.  for a lot of years, i was the kind of girl who came to every party with bricks in her pocket.  i’d start setting my foundation as soon as you opened your mouth.  by the time the night was through, well.  i couldn’t see you over the ramparts.

obviously, behind a wall is a lonely space.

but for some reason, along the way, i bumped into certain people & realized, “hey!  you’re not so different than i am.”  & i’d set the brick down.

i hadn’t really noticed this shift, this beginning to drop bricks, until a nothing-in-particular monday night.  with a glass of red wine in my hand, i looked around at the women in my book club & thought, “huh.  we’re all kind of the same here.  kids, husbands, jobs, houses.  we all have the same junk.  we’re so much more the same than we are different.”  the pile of bricks were down at my feet, strewn across the lawn.

so i started to wonder about the brick building.  i mean, when did i decide i wasn’t so odd in my oddity?  that my differences weren’t so different?
i may be a homeschooling hippie mama of four gardening my front yard, but really, i have the same sort of skin as my friends who work actual jobs or send their kids to school or don’t like to grow things.  i think they’re all strange & a little confused, but not so different than me.  (winkety-wink.)

this is what i’ve come up with.  somewhere a while back, i began telling the truth about myself, & when i did, some interior catch released.  i unclenched.  i exhaled. i let you in.  & somehow when i could be okay with me, i was way more okay with you.  as if all those bricks i’d been heaving around weren’t to keep you out but to keep me in.

now i understand this is true:  the more we tell our truths to each other, the closer we can be.  the walls began to come down & we become people who take them down.  we set our bricks down & let ourselves be authentic.  vulnerable.  hella messy.

because none of us has life a hundred percent figured out.  the more i know the more i really actually don’t.  & that’s good news.  it lets me off the hook of being captain of the world.

i can relax & set my brick down.