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.

for when you’re failing at everything

this morning, before I was actually awake, I scrubbed the bathroom floor where all the mouse poo was. we have a cat, a stupendous hunter, usually.  I don’t know if she’s on break or what, but I had to clean up after she let this little guy slide.  i’m taking it out of her pay.  thank you, cat.  you have failed this city.

then, before the tile was dry, I turned around to witness the fallout of not one but both of the refrigerator door railings coming off, sending all but a couple stoic salad dressing bottles left standing when the 5-year-old went in search of milk.  minutes before, I made the in-house toddler shut the fridge;  no, I didn’t want to unwrap butter or chase his heft of bowling ball cabbages for the forty-seventh time.  it was a little early in the day.  when you are two & mama tells you “no”, you have two choices.  ambivalence or rage.  you can guess which set up the entire contents of the refrigerator door for their bold leap to catastrophe.  by the grace of God (you think i’m joking but I assure I am most certainly not), only the pickle jar met its end.  pickle blood all over the ranch, the milk, the ketchup, the cod liver oil.  gallons of ungodly yellow-green pickle blood.

this was after the mouse poo, remember.
all before breakfast.

as I knelt barking orders at my soldiers children, I thought about how I really had two choices at that point.  (one of them was not vacation.)  I could either carry on as sergeant, or I could draw them in (kids, not pickles) & actually connect with them over this current ridiculousness.  because it truly was ridiculous.  this can’t be what normal people do.  i’d like to tell you I put down my orange bath towel & all the glass shards, pulled someone into my lap, & we all lived happily ever after.

well.
i’ll not start lying to you now.

I managed us through the pickle fiasco, we went on with our day, & at the end of it, we’d wedged in brownies & icecream.  my kids would call this a win.  I, on the other hand, sat at the piano (where I’ve always done honest thinking) tinkering around & dragging myself yet again through the triggered landmines of our day.

most days are like that.  good, bad, ridiculous.  but at least some part of every day, i’m muddling around in my own, well-cooked vat of failure.  like tonight, after the brownies were brushed off teeth & the toddler was asleep (halle-freaking-lujah.), the five-year-old asked if he could fall asleep in my bed.  baahhhh.  I was just. so. tired.  so I told him he could lay with his big brother, that really mommy’s bed was just too crowded.  he lobbied.  I resisted.  because, please honey.

after he was tucked in beside big brother, both of them little burritos under their turquoise checkered comforter, & he’d actually forgotten about falling asleep beside me, I duked it out with yet another failure:  I could’ve just let him.  what’s the big deal?  why can’t I make it past 9 pm?  how long have I been doing this mothering gig?  you’d think by this stage in the game i’d have come up with some better methods of bedtime, of conserving a little energy, & not being a train wreck at the end of every day.

see?  it doesn’t really matter what it is.
failure’s waiting to drag me under.  mouse poo, pickle juice, barking, bedtime.
it doesn’t matter.
& these are just the minor ones.

so what’s left, then?  well, some days I get dragged down & I stay down.  some days I eat all the popcorn in the bowl.  some days i just do more things:  work harder, push down the failure into the laundry basket or the dirty dishes or the crumb trail leading under the couch.  sometimes I go to bed early & cry for awhile.

but some days, I let Jesus get a word in edgewise, tell me how it actually is.  that i’m not meant for perfection, not yet.
that He gets my failure, & He’ll raise me a whole boatload of joy anyway.
that we’re in this together, this crazy, messed-up, ridiculous set of days.
that there’s an end in sight, even if I can’t see it myself.
We’re in this together, & it’s okay, whatever it is.  He doesn’t care.

& that’s the Voice I have to scrabble to hear.  every day.  because failure is loud.  & insistent.  there will always be thirty seven thousands ways in which I’ve come up short yet again.

but Jesus, He’s quiet.  persistent.  calming.
He’ll love me, give me a hand with my messes, turn them into something better than pickle juice all over the kitchen floor.
& that, I need a whole lot of that these days.

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.

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!}