Monday, September 15, 2014

The Invisible House

While I wait for our new house to close and have already said a tearful goodbye to our little home over on 19th, it seems like a lifetime has passed. Really it's only been three weeks.

I was hoping the next time I wrote it would be an exuberant entry filled with little details about our new house, the beauty of the process, the joy in my kids' laughter and how all the puzzle pieces fell into place at the exact right time.

I'd throw in some words like "so blessed" and "God is good." It would be smug and comfortable. I would be certain we'd made the right decision, because it just went too perfectly for it not to be.

Conversely, this transition has been rough on us as a family. I've been sleeping in bed with my four year old and my husband has had to sleep on the guest house couch because of his pet allergies. However, much like my children who like to point out their invisible "ouchies" to me so that I will kiss and fawn over them, I've been collecting cuts to lay before God.

It was quite the house hunt, with a heartbreak or two along the way and we ended up buying the very first home I saw. No sparkle dust or magic moments to be had, the house just felt like home to us and it didn't to anyone else. Eventually, they lowered the price to our price.

However, we are still waiting while living with my parents in the lurch called limbo.

But now we just have two days to go.

And I've been asking myself, does the start and stall of our move make us any less blessed or does it make God any less good? Not hardly.

It seems somewhere along the way I fell back into believing the ludicrous lie that perfect and God go together. Like if he was really at the helm then things would always be easy to handle. This isn't the gospel. The gospel is gory and ugly and blood spattered and splinter ridden. The idea of easy is meant to deceive. And it does, daily.

Alas–once again–God decided to use my little ideas of perfection and twist them into sanctification. He took my storyline that I lifted from a line of Hallmark cards I saw somewhere–scrapped it and handed me a wrinkled, worn version that looks distinctly similar to the shirt that I've had to recycle over the last three weeks.

In his poetic way, I can't help but notice that the seasons are changing. I'm still dressing in remnants from my summer wardrobe that just don't suit the new bite in the air that signals the return of Autumn. Neither does my heart. It has undergone a small reshaping in these last weeks. One that has opened my eyes to my idol of self-invovled introspection.

And as we enter into the final stages of Operation Who's House Is It Anyway? my heart is beginning to cool. I'm emerging from this season flared with frustration and inconvenience, but I don't want the cool to become hard clay, I want it to glow with gratitude. I want to be softened. I want this invisible house to reveal the visible flaws in my beliefs about Christ. And it has.

He still gives good gifts to his greedy kids. Like the luxurious gift of a new Autumn. Her hot afternoons are birthed from crisp and chilly mornings and there's a quiet about late September that just doesn't occur any other time of the year. It's as if we're all just so tuckered from the summer that we sit. And talk. And live out more quiet versions of the remaining summer days.

It's true that I haven't been able to enjoy the blended days of impending Autumn like I would like–that's not the bigger issue. Sadly, I haven't been able to enjoy my husband or my children like I would like either. I have found I don't do well in transition and I don't do well out of my routine. I am like my four-year old.

And so, instead of thriving in the anticipation of our new house I've been a little loose around the corners spraying gravel in sputtered rage and wading in inconvenience with my lip in a defiant pout while watching birds circle overhead and envying their freedom.

It hasn't been that pretty. But it has caused some growth, I think. I pray it has. It has forced the envelope on a few important conversations. It has shed light on where I still need to grow and where I need to be even more scandalous with grace.

The books I've been reading during this transition has all said the same thing in one way or another: "Find the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." That is where your "post" will be, as C.S. Lewis refers to our call. I'm still trying to figure out what my call may be in specifics, but in general, my deepest gladness is found in making a house a home and making my heart an open book for those who are also trying to write their stories with intentionality.

I've always wanted greatness for my giftings, and it has blinded me to this simple truth: I am not great, nor is what I can offer. Greatness develops from the days when the gears get jammed and I have to pull off the highway to admit that I can't get myself unstuck. I am not late to some big party where my passions were supposed to play out on the world's stage. I have not missed the big picture that God had for my life.

I am in wait. I will always be in wait. In wait for the lessons. In wait for the wonder. In wait for the purpose. He created me with short circuits in my patience center, but it is only because of this defect that I am able to run to him for peace. I am absolutely nothing on my own. I run to him for reassurance like a teenage girl with acne. I'm so thin around the skin. I need a heaven-to-earth hug from his Word every day. It is a good thing I worship and love a God who embraces the forgetful and the fearful.

I don't know what it will feel like when we finally are settled into our new place. I do hope there are pockets of oh-my-slow-down-I'm-going-to-get-sick happy and overwhelming thankfulness for the gift that is called a house. But I know it will still be life when we get into the groove of living there. Four little broken people with one incredible God is the only hope we have during the hiccups of life when our heart and our breath are out of step.

I am in process. So is our life. I thank Jesus. That's all I got.

We're in this together,
M

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Happiness Hunter

I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Revelations 3:8)

That familiar saying: When God shuts a door he opens a window. Well, it bothers me today. There have been other days when those words have probably felt encouraging, but today, they ruffle my feathers. 

You see, you can't walk through a window. Instead, you have to find a chair, hoist yourself up, shimmy your behind through an opening that wasn't meant for human passage and then fall into a heap on the other side. 

To me this window business seems human-bound; like something we tried to fashion out of disappointment. It seems to say that a closed door should be an excuse for cutting a window into whatever wall we can't break through and forcing our own way in. That's just how I feel today anyway. 

Because in this moment I'm okay with standing behind a closed door. I am okay with waiting for the next green light. In any other time of my life, I would have forced a window open and hurled myself into the street. But not today.  

Ever since I recently left my job at a local magazine, I have felt more plugged into life and more content with less.

This doesn't mean that I've downsized my shoe collection or somehow stopped putting way too much dressing on my greens–it just means that I have the excess time to allow the beautiful ordinariness of dust bunnies and toddler ringlets to grab me tightly by the hand. I'm much more present.

There are of course the dog days when feeling more plugged in doesn't feel enlightening. Instead, it can feel like an ungrounded light socket that shocks and sputters–but mostly, I am provided with just enough light to truly see where I am and how I am spending my time wisely, and unwisely.

Life is more fragmented nowadays too. Yes, I have more time to wipe runny noses, appease fruit snack cravings and stray from strict nap schedules, but every hour is cross-hatched with countless interruptions. And it always has been, but before I wasn't available. I was emotionally spent somewhere else. And that's a tiny tragedy, because I would miss connections like the ones I made today.

My son has recently learned to put words to his emotions. He will come to me with crumpled shoulders, and furrowed eyebrows and thickly say, "Mommy, I'm sad." Other times, when he used to resort to solely throwing temper tantrums he will now announce through gravel and grit, "I'm mad." But the most troubling to me is when my son gets something he wants. Especially when it revolves around some kind of plastic nothingness, and he will beam, "Mommy, I'm happy now."

And again I see myself in my son. The place where the happy hurts. When the infatuation fades and we become fidgety with the very thing we were desperate to have.

One of my favorite books is The Jesus Storybook Bible, I read it to my son as I put him down for his nap today. It was the part when Jesus was putting together his team of helpers to accomplish the Great Rescue.

Who would make good helpers, do you think? Clever ones? Rich ones? Strong, important ones? Some people might think so, but I'm sure by now you don't need me to tell you they'd be wrong. Because the people God uses don't have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things–they just have to need him a lot. 

Cue the tears.

I need him a lot right now. So much it hurts. The happy hurts. The sad hurts. The I-totally-blew-it-again hurts. The Lord, I-think-I-may-be-getting-it hurts. The fulfilling and the wasteful; they both hurt. Just like my husband's favorite karaoke song, Hurts So Good; none of us can avoid what C.S. Lewis identifies as the 'pang' of life.

Today, I am at peace with the door that is momentarily shut. I am content to live loudly inside the small spaces. Clanging pots and pans loud. Singing Mary Poppins loud. Splattering paint loud. (Washable paint of course, I'm not a masochist.)

And I've realized that until I can be satisfied without the stuff–the paycheck, the deadlines that make me feel important, the emails that I absolutely have to answer–happiness will be a flightless falcon that I keep looking to the sky to find. It will be a earthbound root that I keep trying to pluck from the top of the trees.

We don't hunt for happiness, it hunts for us. And it can warp our ideals slowly and completely, if we allow our hearts to soar on every whim of want.

All this to say, I've decided to change my job title. The Happiness Hunter has resigned. The Closed-Door Contented classes are now in session.

We're in this together,
M

Monday, August 11, 2014

Panic at the Disco

Mt. Adams. Photo Courtesy of Life is a Mountain, John's Hiking Blogspot
I lost it.

You know, that thing that I never had.

This house selling-and-buying business has me breathing into bags in the evening and trying to calm my wild heart beat with sweet and sour indulgences. This does not seem like something a person who has peace should be doing.

Cue the crinkle of a Salt & Vinegar chip bag. Shameless.

The dream house. That's the thing I lost. The one that would make leaving behind the house we've made a home, easier. It would have happened on my perfect time line. No overlapping, no double moving, no more breathing into bags. And here's where I struggle with quantifying this whole process through the lens of my faith: do I believe that God is good?

My husband is at the base of the second tallest peak in Washington state as this very moment getting ready to summit 12,000 feet on top of a snow-covered "potentially active" volcano–which Wikipedia was so kind to point out. He isn't climbing for the heck of it, although I do think he would climb any mountain on any day over most things. He is climbing it with a team of 26 guys who have raised almost $70,000 to rescue girls out of forced prostitution in India. In a kilt no less.

And here I am. On the edge of reason, doubting that God will rescue me from the predicament that I created. Wrongly assuming that He, the creator and orchestrator of the greatest rescue in existence, is someone who will sit back and let us move into a home that will be worse for us.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give good things to those who ask. 

He is a God of means. He isn't just a fluffy fellow in the sky. He holds us. He rocks us. He shh's us when we've gone on for far too long on something he has already taken care of.

My husband is a part of something meaningful. I think that's really what is at the heart of this ache I feel. I want this move to move me towards a deeper understanding of family, community and Christ. I want the next address to be a reflection of where we've been. I need to kill the idea that it needs to be flashy, impressive, something people will approve of. I need to kill that same thing in myself–that a house is separate from God. I am the house of God.

I need to banish the idea that God is too busy guiding the feet of the climbers on Mt. Adams to reach their incredibly noble and glorious goal, to meet me in the ash.

The ash: where I doubt God's goodness for the bajillionth time while He is literally lifting young girls out of a life of slavery on the backs of men I love and dearly respect.

There will be another house. That's what keeps being said. And in this moment of disbelief and distrust I am not entirely certain there will be. So far I've just seen homes that wither my heart, and cause me to doubt this whole crazy ridiculous Life Relocation Program thing I've begun.

These last few months for me have been a 'tearing down' era. A process of "letting it crumble", so that  something better can be built. I'm still sifting through the rubble. I'm still completely clueless as to where we are going. To some, that's called adventure. But for me, I need a script; A rough outline of what's coming next.

So I've decided to prayerfully create a list of what I want this next era of life to be like. What I want the stage to rise up for: a hammock where everyday life can sway, steady and sweet.

1. A refuge

A place that breathes us all to life, Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

2. A place big enough to gather comfortably. I will not pay more for something smaller or the same size as what we have. I am not interested in "tiny home" living. Not at this point in my life, anyway. I want to throw parties. Loud and big ones, with magic shows and wine and late talks into the night as the moon rises.

3. Close to our community and my family. I've lived in Los Angeles and Nashville. I know the longing of missing home. I don't want to make those people and places any harder to get to or to spend time with. I want to be closer to them and more available to them.

4. No old windows, doors or popcorn ceilings. (Sorry, I've been there and paid my dues.)

5. A writer's view.  This doesn't need to be mountains or ocean-though we've got both up here. It can be something like an old growth lilac tree outside my window, or a place where I can see a sliver of the sunrise from the kitchen table. It needs to be profound and simple. Something I can count on when the ideas run dry and when the heart questions everything, all over again. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. 

6. Joy. I need to feel gratitude. It needs to feel miraculous. Like I stumbled upon a bramble-covered lock. A secret garden with a lost key and God handed it to me just in time. It needs to be gift. Not something I could give to myself, only something he could provide. I have to relinquish control. (Yuck.)

As my husband's boots crunch snow and his muscles ache from his pack; I imagine the August sun toasting the places around his eyes where the squint lines will become white. He just called me for a quick check in, "This is the last time I'll be able to talk to you until we come back from the summit. I love you."

And for some reason, now I know: God doesn't lead us to the treacherous places to make our life there. He leads us up and guides us back down. And when the climb is over-we are changed and have helped instigate change. We may be in the exact same place we began, but we are different.

And that's it. That's my home right now. A man on a mountain.

I wonder what the HOA's are?

We're in this together,
M

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Small Changes

There is a painting that hangs over my fireplace mantle. It reads, There is no Such Thing As Small Change.

When I first saw this piece of art I was drawn to it. And every time I read it, it speaks something new into my life. Whatever I am dealing with one thing is constant: change.

And in the middle of change we can lose our bearings. And this is when I fall prey to my heart's tendency to obsess.

Once I exited the glorious Monet of childhood and tip-toed into the abrupt edges of adolescence, I discovered a black box inside my mind that gave me the power of preoccupation.

This "gift" allows me to see things from every possible angle; to analyze and experience; to interject and often times, exaggerate. A big blob of tightly-wound worry–I am able to manipulate the shapeless matter with an artist's hand. I can twist and turn something over enough times that it spontaneously spins on it's own. It becomes alive.

When I was younger it may have been schoolwork or a boy I liked, whatever the "it" was I intensified it's place in my mind by feeding it copious amount of brain food. I over indulged. I entertained ghosts. I circled and circled.

Obsessing gives my creative mind a place to land; anywhere or any situation that needs over-thinking–I'm the girl for the job.

This has it's benefits and drawbacks.

When I want something very much, I have dogged determination. When I fear something very much, it can swallow me whole. When I have what I've been obsessing over, I cling to it with a clenched grasp. It makes me fiercely loyal, but just as fiercely flippant.

Our house sold in two days. Pending inspection and appraisal and all that fun stuff that makes me sweat behind the knees.

Answered prayer wrapped in linen layers of terrifying reality.

We are momentarily homeless. Displaced. 

God knows what He is doing. I do not. I think that is called faith. But I can't be quite sure, because it would be a lie to say I am walking in it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

I have prayed my supplication and thanksgiving prayers. I have been waiting for the peace which surpasses all understanding, but there's a road block. It's my obsession. She is standing in the middle of the road and I can't tackle her to the ground. She is determined to steal my peace. She is determined to make me crazy with distraction. She stands between me and where God wants to move us. 

These walls that used to be my home are now closing in on me, and so I comb the MLS listings for new place to lay our heads. Maybe it's the one with the yellow door, or the one with the sagging porch but glorious master, or the one that doesn't have a yard but has a dog house (wait, we don't have a dog) or the depressing discovery of a gut job in the top of our price range? All of these potential homes have now become companions.

I hold hands with these stacks of bricks promising forever and then turn my back on them, slam the door and run into the arms of another address. And this story isn't unlike my romance with Jesus.

And I realize that my fear shouldn't be that we'll never find another home: My fear should be that I will miss the peace that surpasses all understanding while on the hunt. That I will forget to drink from the river that runs underneath the foundations I am standing on.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

I am far from being in a wasteland. This is a beautiful time. This is a fruitful time. There is no reason to allow obsession to overtake me. And for anyone in the middle of a large, big, beautiful and unrealized change–don't let the Unknown overshadow the upcoming. Wrestle with her. Accept her. Invite her in.

My family and I are on the edge of something exciting. Something new that God is going to do. And so as always I look to Jesus. He was homeless. And yet He was always at home.

I've got a lot to learn. 

We're in this together,
M

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Life Relocation Program


"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it... Yet." - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I don't deserve a fresh start. And yet I get one.

Every. Single. Sunrise. 

Every morning–I get to start over. 

That's the insane infatuation that God has with us. He forgives us before we even bite into the apple. He kisses our mouths with the juice of the forbidden fruit streaming down our chins. He pursues us while we are running in the other direction. He pulls us close when we arch our backs like infants during a midnight wail. 

His mercies are new every morning. Even when we are failures. Which if we are human, we are. We fail. All the time. And even when we've let him down time and time again, He still chooses to write us as principal players into the greatest romance of life. The only romance that fulfills. The one between the Creator and His created.

Mercy is the magic.

What a miracle. In an age of criticism and chronic opinion, Jesus is a safe place. To know that the God of the universe–the one who knitted your bones together; bent over with furrowed brows; exercising the utmost concentration–knew we would fall apart at the seams.

He created us fully knowing we would throw ourselves to the ground. Shattering the art. Breaking the beauty. And he broke himself for that very fact. 

And as I sit in my kitchen, where I've written every word since I've been a parent, I realize I will soon be saying goodbye to this place. 

We are selling our house.

Soon this home–where I saw my babies take their first steps, throw their first temper tantrums, witness a bubble for the first time, utter their first words and take their first falls–will be someone else's address. Soon, this home will be a memory. A yesterday that I can't redo. A fuzzy recollection that will keep me company when my son is off to college and my daughter is studying for her high school finals.

And as I look back on the first four years I have been a parent: It's bittersweet.

I spoke too harshly too often. And yet, I exchanged I'm sorry's and I forgive you's richly. I cried too much over things that inconvenienced me, and yet I embraced the unexpected. I complained over the stains on the carpet, but really I was just discontent with imperfection. And still, there's a side of me that loved watching my daughter eat tomato soup with gusto while splattering the walls and staining her dress. I loved having uncooked spaghetti fights in the kitchen with my baby boy even when I surveyed the damage; dozens of snapped sticks of imagination scattered to high heaven all across the floor.

I am a contradiction. My wills are at war within me. I loved chaos as much as I loathed it. 

All in all, we became a family here. In this place. The one that I wasn't sure I even wanted when we bought it. And as we prepare to plop a 'for sale' sign in the front lawn, it reminds me of early parenthood: it wasn't what I thought I was looking for but it was exactly what I needed.

As we look for a new home, I won't be looking for something perfect. I will be looking for a place big enough to invite strangers, new friends, old friends, the lost, the found, the happy and the despaired from all walks of life to drink wine and smell my favorite candles over a large table.

I want a place that will symobilize the growth we've experienced as we have become a family of four. I want a place that will be a safe haven and yet an open door for anyone who knocks. I am excited to recreate our new normal. I suspect it will be something we won't expect; but it will be place to shape the formative years; where we emerge from the thicket and begin the ascent.

This new house won't be the change we seek. Because the change has already happened. We are different. Not better. Just better at starting over. Better at admitting we need a fresh start. 

And so as we embark on the process of finding a new place to lay our heads, I am tired in the best way possible. With heart muscles sore from use and mind muscles sore from faith.

I have no idea where we are going, but we're going together-as a family. Be looking for the house warming invite. I'll be pouring Sauvignon Blanc. Naturally.

We're in this together,
M

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Extra Raft


Extra. 

Such a glorious word. A gospel word, even. It suggests that we have more than we need. That the work has been done. That we can rest in the overflow. I have come to learn a thing or two about this word in the last few months. 

I had an audition for a national commercial last week. It was the first one I had gone to in over a year. I got a callback from that audition. I waited for four days, which felt like forever, all the while hoping and praying that I would get it. A fragile ego I nursed, hoping for a win.  

I got the call yesterday that I didn't get the part. But I wasn't left empty handed, I was asked to be a union job extra. In the acting world, an extra is basically a body. Someone who shows up without a name and without a  single line and just does what they are told. It was the smallest role I have ever accepted. 

And yet, I took it with thankfulness and joy. Because I am learning the true meaning of what it means to be and have, extra. 

After recently walking away from a job that consumed every ounce of extra time I had on my hands, I was squeezing essentials like bathroom breaks and even meals into the margins of my day. I was scurrying around like a squirrel with cheeks full of nuts who had a bounding black lab chasing my tail.

Days faded into one another with nothing but deadlines, criticisms, diapers, naps, mess making, mess cleaning, writing until my eyes burned, waking with my eyes still burning, coffee that never stayed in my cup long enough, and frayed nerves that snapped at the littlest detour in my daily, rigid schedule. All the while I prayed for God to make clear to me if I wasn't doing what I should. I can't help but laugh. The Spirit within was telling me what I didn't want to hear.

But now? It has stopped. The spin cycle has subsided.

I jumped off the merry go round mid-twirl, stood up on wobbly legs marked by scraped knees, and I carried my bruised heart and broken will, home.

There are still the diapers, the laundry, the endless snack fetching, mess making and mess cleaning. But I've been breathing. I've been feeling space in ways I wasn't able to before. I've been exposed to extra. And it feels so freeing. Except for when it feels frightening. (Of course.)

I am a planner. This is the first time in my life where I have stepped out onto nothing. Well, maybe not the first time. My wedding day I walked down the aisle into a white page of unwritten script. When I held my firstborn in my arms I couldn't see past the moment. I didn't have an inkling of what was to come. And it cradled me just as much as I cradled him.

Sometimes not knowing is the most beautiful part of painful endings that roll into new beginnings. It's that sliver of time that suspends itself between what we thought we knew and what we are completely clueless about. And no matter how much we try to see beyond–no level of guessing or strategy exists. We are forced to walk in the dark holding the hand of God. We have to feel with our hands along the walls and take timid steps that snap sticks and rustle fallen leaves.

In these dim moments we are tempted to live in fear of an opportunity-less life–like nothing good will ever come our way again.

But when we begin this blind journey, our eyes begin seeing things that were hidden before. Things about our dreams, our passions–who God created us to be. For so long my biggest fear in life was being ordinary, someone that just lived life quietly, simply. As I've matured in my baby-like faith, I have come to realize that God tells us to "aspire to live quietly" in 1 Thessalonians because he realizes the gift to be found in the extra.

Not extra stuff. Extra whitespace.

And it is in this most recent "whitespace" (which I have learned so much about from Bonnie Gray and her delightful book), I have discovered something amazing: My life road, like so many of ours, is a river.

I left home at 17 to pursue an acting career. That ran upstream into pursuing a music career. Which twisted into pursuing a book deal and a writing career. Then it ran over the smooth rocks and dropped off a jagged edge into a freelance photojournalism career. But through it all, these streams have all confirmed that I am made for all matters of creating, performing and artistic expression and I've even found that I can make a mean jam sandwich and slay dragons. Who knew?

The highs and lows of each pursuit pale in comparison to how God used each to patch together a life raft that I have needed time and time again. One that is fashioned from planks of trust built upon the rotten-turned-repourposed soft spots of my sin. One that is tied down and reinforced with strong ropes of forgiveness and embrace. One that is propelled by the wind of his will, and I'm just along for the ride.

It twists and turns, dips and dries out, floods and forges. It is exhilarating like a waterfall and quiet like a glassy lagoon. If we surrender to the river mentality of life we may come to a new understanding of our own gifting in the light of where God is leading.

Tethering ourselves to the "foundation of God" isn't enough if all we plan to do is to leave it in the foreground while we fly, accomplish and check off to-do's. Jesus isn't interested in safe distance from our real needs and desires. Jesus wants to wipe the tears when we think we are crying alone. He wants to clink glasses full of rich, ruby-red wine when something needs to be celebrated. He wants to kiss your eyelids while you dream. He is that personal. He is that in love with you.

Only calling on him when our balloon deflates or we hit the bottom, cheats us out of the small, quiet rivers we ignore with sights set on the ocean.

For so long I looked at my career, motherhood and my "calling" as a bridge I was building to get from somewhere I didn't want to be to somewhere better. And that isn't the way God designed our life to be.

Instead, if we let ourselves flow freely through the hands of his will we will embark on an adventure fashioned from his strengths to offset our weaknesses so we can accomplished those God-sized goals he's placed inside of us.

Take time to drink in the beauty of every day ordinariness. The symphony of sparrows in the early morning; the tight hug of your child when he whispers, "I love you so much mommy." These are the ordinary moments that are potently poetic. Don't miss them–like I have so many times–to blaze a trail across a ravine that God never intended for us to have to cross.

Jump into the cool river. The water is nice.

We're in this together,
M

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Pool of Envy

Kids squeal. Water splashes. The smell of coconut oil and chlorine drift on the breeze. To a child, we have reached paradise. A swimming pool in the summer.

Plastic toys spill out of beach bags and float around like time bombs in the water. Parents drift alongside their offspring wading fast and slow in hopes to head off a meltdown by distracting them from a new toy that has been momentarily abandoned; seemingly available for the snatching.

Conversations rise and fall as kids come and go for naps, lunches and bathroom breaks. "But he has a green squirt gun dad! I have a red one. I want a GREEN ONE!" And we try and explain: they are the exact same squirt gun. Just a different color. But logic falls with a dull thud. Our soft voices and gentle, but urgent, pleading become echoes in the canyon of that's-way-cooler-than-what-I-have. They can not hear us. They will not hear us. They are entranced by the unattainable.

And here I am bobbing like a cork next to my daughter and watching my own son literally run back and forth from content to discontent as new balls, water guns and float toys enter the scene. His little three-year-old brain spins; trying to process emotions and longings that he can't name–anger and awe and envy. Grown up issues that he is absolutely defenseless against.

And I realize that we are not born with the innate understanding on how to be happy. We have no clue what it is that will satisfy us and what will leave us empty and itching to get our hands on what someone else has. We are born full of want.

On this particular sunny day in paradise, it started and ended with rocket ships. My son's new friend Carson had brought in two "rocket ships"–actually airplanes. One was red and one was yellow. I saw the storm swirling overhead. Thunder clapped. Lightning struck down. Envy unleashed. "Mom! He has rocket ships. I want a rocket ship!"

Carson was not about to share the rocket ships. My son begins explaining that he needs to share. Carson disagrees. The combination of too much sun not enough breakfast and the teetering insanity of toddler reasoning culminated into chaos. The tears begin. The scene is made. It is time to go. NOW.

As I am trying to navigate an escape route with hand signals to my husband across the pool we begin hastily gathering our wits. Our son continues to melt down. This triggers rapid spelling, "He just needs a N-A-P," I yell. My husband grabs our daughter and begins gathering our stuff, shooting back, "I know, and F-O-O-D." I nod incessantly, "Yes, and he needs to go P-O-T-T-Y." And it continues that way for a minute or two as I try to coerce my son into leaving the rocket ship battlefield.

He sees us moving toward the exit and panic ensues. "No mom!" I don't want to go!" Tears begin forging into waterfalls. His chin quivers. "I'm happy mom! I'm happy!" Wails and arm slapping enter the negotiations. "Mom, see I'm happy!" Tears running in thick streams. He truly thinks I will believe that he is happy by telling me that, even though his blotchy and exasperated face tells the real story.

My face flushes red. Half-embarrassed by the scene we're making over Carson's inability to share (as if my son has never withheld a toy from someone for the sheer joy of it) and half-embarrassed by my own reflection that I am beginning to see in my son's broken little heart. His brokenness over the stuff. The sense of loss. The fear of missing out.

And I suddenly feel bad for him. He can't identify envy. He doesn't understand why it is twisting his heart in knots. He doesn't understand that this behavior is going to cost him what he already had. A fun afternoon in the pool.

And more than all of that, my sad little son is letting the idea of losing something he never had become more important than trusting that mom and dad knows what he needs most. Rest. And sustenance. A cool, calm dry place out of the hot sun.

We successfully completed Operation Escape the Pool of Envy after a couple of failed attempts. But I made it out alive and with enough composure that I am able to detail the encounter with some clarity in this blog.

As I was finally tucking my son into his bed. I felt it.

Whether we are three or thirty-three, the hunt for happiness will never end well when we don't trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Rest for the restless.
Rest for the brokenhearted.
Rest for the unloved.
Rest for the overworked.
Rest for the unemployed.
Rest for the disliked.
Rest for the ordinary.
Rest for the overlooked.

Rest. Not relaxation. Not something that we dream of during toil filled weeks. Not a vacation. Not a break from reality.

Soul rest. The kind that we will find when we close our eyes to the distractions and temptations of want and we open our eyes to what we have right in front of us. Empty space. Open hands. Ready to accept the good news of grace. It is more than enough.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Rest in that.

We're in this together,
M