this is not authenticity.

i know.
it’s as though this blog died.
it did not, & hello.

it did not, but i’ve been sitting on my hands for all of the months, wondering if i had anything left to say.  the internets are so full of gorgeous, flowery words;  mine had gotten lost inside my own head.  but i read something tonight, after a lovely evening on a hillside listening to music with friends, after an encouraging, supportive phone call in the afternoon from my bestie & then my mom, after snuggling the squishy baby & chatting with the husband.

after reading this,

authenticity is not the watering down of your message to help someone accept your words.  authenticity, i think, is simply trying to find the kindest way to tell the whole truth.
~erin loechner, “chasing slow”


yes, yes, that’s it.  i heard it there, my heartbeat, in those words of authenticity, a faint bumpity-bump in the middle of me.  my fire burns for the authenticity in me, in you, in all of us & our children, God bless them.  we are a special lot, you know, each one of us, with a marvelous, wondrous story we ought to be busy telling.  we are all so very important.

i hope you are telling your story.
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so, there is no grand banner announcing my return to the blogosphere.
i just needed to say “hello”.
also, i’ve missed you.

XO.

Merry Christmas, then. (or, How I’m Failing Everything & It Doesn’t Even Matter.

Puke through the ceiling.  I am certain my family is alone in the category of puke through the ceiling on Christmas day.  This is what happened. . . .

“Mom!  He spilled a glass of water & it’s coming through the ceiling!” one of the kids hollered, as i’m eating my leg of lamb surrounded by extended family, Christmas music playing, a lovely day tucked in behind us.

But then i began thinking, realizing, “But. . . he didn’t have a glass of water. . . .”

oh. crap. ohhhhhhhhhhh, c.r.a.p.
(if you can see where this is going, you are getting our family drift these days.)

We had the stomach flu last week, 5 of the 6 non-infants here.  We had one man standing.  We thought we were in the clear.  We gave the grands the go-ahead to come.  We finished wrapping the gifts, we cooked the ribs & the lamb.  Then the 4th kid went down in the afternoon Christmas day, yet everything was still on schedule for a truly lovely holiday.  Quarantine the sicko, swab the doorknobs.  Until the above exchange happened in which said child threw up from the top bunk upstairs onto the floor, bypassing all containment vessels.  Which is gross enough.  But when you’re house is a fixer-upper, there’s a slim chance the vomit coming down from the rafters will literally fall through the unfinished floor into the dining room below.  During Christmas dinner.

& this, my friends, is how this season is going for us.

Also:  we took a Christmas picture weeks ago, realizing afterward the rosy pink in the 4-year-old’s cheeks was actually blood smears after he fell & slammed his mouth on the floor, cleaning it up himself by rubbing his cheeks & arms with the drip.  I missed the annual Christmas tree hunt, on the couch with mastitis & a fever.  We skipped the Christmas parade, i gave up on getting a Christmas letter out, & this blog post is days later than i intended.  & we literally forgot to get anything for the baby until late Christmas Eve (not that she needs anything, but still.  Thank you, Walgreens’.)

but, there’s this.
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You see, none of my foibles matter.  i “failed” so much of what i’ve done in the past:  making Christmas cookies with the kids, buying gifts for less fortunate kids, giving to a local charity, conjuring a rousing list of beautiful Christmas activities to do with the kids to make all the memories to insure all the happiness.

What Advent looked like this year was a whole lot of sitting on the couch watching Netflix under Christmas lights holding a baby.  Bonus if we actually found a Christmas movie.

& this was the best Advent we’ve ever had.

When you have to let go of all the fancy just to keep the wheels on the cart, you realize how much of the fluff is unnecessary.  How intentions are fine, but let them go & get on with it.  How the whole season (life, actually) is about being present & tuning in to the people who matter.  No one will remember what we ate for dinner, no one will remember if we went to 1 or 7 Christmas activities.  But they will remember how we felt together, watching the snowflakes fall outside with Christmas pandora playing in the kitchen.  (& i’m pretty sure they’ll remember the Christmas when puke rained through the ceiling from on high.  if i wanted to make memories, well.  done & done.)

So, though i love paper & pen & stamps & enevelopes, this year our Christmas card is not only not sent, it’s also late.  Just like me, just like my life right now.

& though it may look like failure, it absolutely isn’t.
we’re absolutely, 100% fine.  just like always.
(notice the slight pink in the 4-year-old cheeks.)

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Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace.  ~2 Cor 4:16

That is the Truth i’m holding onto with both hands this season.

Merry (late) Christmas, my friends.
With all our love,
the Britzs
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(Leif holding the wrapping paper down so it would stop rolling up on him.  Not sure what his end game was. . . .)

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.

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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.