The ants, ticks, and snakes will soon be making their appearances. I prefer those appearances remain low as far as my own human eyes are concerned. In other words, I like it better when I don’t see them–not, God forbid, as the result of being blind, but rather because our paths do not cross. I already found ants in the garbage this afternoon. This morning we started giving the indoor/outdoor cats their tick treatments. It seems sufficient to give it to them 1-2 times in the spring, and often once in the fall.
I’ve taken five naps in the past three days. One on Monday before lunch, then another before I had to leave for class. One yesterday morning, and then another before leaving for the track meet which I went to while the others went to the baseball game. And then again today, this afternoon, before walking down to the lake where the boys were picking up sticks to clear the grass for the mower. I honestly can’t say whether or not these naps are something my body needs or if they’re just something I’m giving in to.
It feels needed anyway, and I do feel better and more awake when I get up. We’re starting our Grief Share group tonight at church, which I am looking forward to, but haven’t really processed. I don’t have a clear idea yet of what exactly my role is, but am comfortable with showing up and discovering it. Each session last two hours, with announcements and weekly review on the front end, a 40-45 minute video in the middle, followed by additional group discussion along with any closing thoughts and prayers.
Time continues to pass. On Friday afternoon I met up with a dear friend for lunch, one who I haven’t seen in over a year. We enjoyed a meal by the window, catching up on each other’s lives through the exchanging of words and the sharing of pictures. We’d met almost halfway between her home and mine, and decided again we needed to do this more often. Friday evening brought more food and fellowship. A man from church had bought the pastors and their wives tickets to attend the Lutheran High School auction. I bid on a succulent plant that I originally thought was fake, thinking I could put it on my living room bookshelf. When I found out the plant was real, I decided to bring up to my mom for her birthday.
My cousin was having a baby shower up north. Without the presence of my dad’s parents holding us together, I feel more pulled toward the opportunities to see relatives. I originally wasn’t going to go, as the kids had a track meet and a baseball game that day and I thought the accomodation of the schedules would be simpler without the added element of me going away. We ended up only having a track meet, which Josh had the boys for along with my mother-in-law who usually attends the sporting events with us. My father-in-law, entering planting season, took one of the boys to the field with him.
We had a wonderful visit. I was able to see cousins, two aunts, my parents, all the siblings except for two including my sister-in-law, and my grandma. Our family is entering into another transition, with more spreading out into different directions. My parents have plans to move closer down here, about an hour south to where we live now. My brother and his wife are moving back to Iowa, where her parents live, and where he recently found a new, salaried job with full benefits. My littlest sister is transferring colleges to attend in Michigan. I’m going to miss the house where my parents are currently living.
The landlord they rent from is needing to sell. They looked around for houses closer to my two sisters in the northern part of the state. The prices however were more affordable down here, once you got into the more southern portion. This move is hitting some of my siblings hard, as it’s taking my parents farther away from the shorter drive that’s allowed for some more accessible years. I haven’t really had too many feelings about things. My grandma is still living with them, and the house they found already had a beautiful built-in ramp that leads up to a deck and into the back door. My grandma told me earlier this month that she thinks she’s on a countdown to go see Jesus and Dad.
I left earlier this morning to meet Josh and the kids a little more than halfway back home. He was filling in for one of the local pastors. We met back up at a restaurant and enjoyed a mid-morning breakfast catching up on the weekend. It brought me joy to pull into the parking lot and see them standing under the overhang out of the rain. I asked if they wanted to come sit in the cars until a table opened up and it was time to go in. One of the kids said it was more adventurous this way, and for brief times like this one, I can see that it is. The weekend was a good combination of enjoying the time away then being glad to come home.
Yesterday’s post inspired me to make supper before I left. I had plans to meet up with a church friend at a restaurant in town, something we’ve been making an effort to do once a month. I’ve known of women who before they go away have to write out detailed lists of what to feed the baby and where to find the food. They leave instructions on how long to thaw and bake the frozen casserole she already had made up in the freezer. My personality and marriage partnering has not required this of me.
I washed the sweet potatoes and took two more white potatoes from the pantry. My plan was to have the potatoes baking and the leftover ham from Easter dinner warming in the oven when I walked out the door. Before I could get the potatoes loaded, my husband came into the kitchen and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was making supper. This behavior of me making supper before I left undoubtedly was not the norm, was not what he or I had gotten used to over the past 18+ years of living in such close proximity to another person. We’re aware of the truths that marriage can bring.
Sometimes when I write here, I get this feeling like I haven’t said the right thing. I fear something I say is going to be misinterpreted to mean something I wasn’t intending to mean. For example, when I think more about my “heavenly” version of studying, I fear that might be taken to mean I’m somehow not happy with the ridiculously beautiful life and lifestyle I currently have. I cherish every day I have with my boys, and they are in no way hindering me or giving me any frustration in regards to my own responsibilities with school. My heavenly version of studying happens right here in my living room.
I don’t know where I developed my obsession with change, but something I’m discovering and becoming more at peace with is that when we’re ready to change, we make those changes. With the exception of God almighty, you absolutely cannot force change on a person, including yourself. My friend and I were talking about this over supper last night. She had her things. I had my things. There’s simply no sense in beating yourself up or anybody else for that matter. If something within the realm of my personal control bothers me enough, I can make the choice to do something about it.
Another thing we wondered is why it takes us so long to learn these life lessons. So much suffering and heartbreak, how much could’ve been avoided if we’d simply known the ways and had the wisdom beforehand? This is another area of life I’ve been having to make peace with. Are there things I would go back and change about my choices, behaviors, and beliefs that would’ve made life better or easier on myself and my loved ones? Yes and no. Obviously we can’t go back in time and change things. The world is screwed up, and the people who live here are screwed up along with it. There’s an element of sin and dysfunction that’s simply unavoidable due to living in a fallen world. I can take knowledge with me into the future, but God is the one who redeems our past.
If I could fix it myself, then I wouldn’t need God. I’d be missing out on the stunning ways in which he works to restore his beloved creation, including the children of man. Even my eager and headstrong attempts to redeem myself yesterday fell short. He had no idea I’d just written about my heartfelt desire to do him good, but the words were still very fresh in my mind. As I stumbled through my explanation of what I was doing, as my confidence began to sink among the invisible air waves of his apparent confusion and suspected displeasure, he responded in a way that brought back the old pain. I knew they’d be fine and could do it without me…I knew not everyone is a fan of sweet potatoes, that’s why I’d gone back and gotten the…I barely attempted it.
I left before he could see my tears. I went into the bathroom and starting picking up the crumpled pieces of toilet paper overflowing from the garbage can. Of all the things in marriage that are essential for the promotion the two partners long-term safety, security, and happiness, the needed way for their whole life long is the holy act of speaking to one another in a tender and respectful tone of voice. He came back to the bathroom and asked what I was doing in a way that helped me know he knew he’d done something that unintentionally or not, had hurt me. I stood up and told him I was cleaning the bathroom.
“Hey,” he said, in a way he does that now signals to me that this is my time to not not forgive.
“‘Stop!’, shouted Kirk with a suddenness that made me jump. ‘What do you mean by wildness and what grounds had you for not expecting it?'” ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~
The past few weeks in my Bible class we’ve been studying the New Testament. We’ve covered the gospels written by Matthew and Luke, the books of Acts and Romans, along with the additional letters of Paul. I use the word studying loosely. In my mind, studying means thinking deep and long about something. I’m surrounded by multiple open books, turning pages and taking notes. The hot drink that miraculously never gets cold sits close enough to be reached for and sipped. I reread the instruction for one of this week’s assignments, which is to write 300-500 words answering the question, “Who is Jesus?”
How much time do you have, because I could tell you some stories. When I go in for these counseling appointments, lately happening every two weeks on Tuesdays, we have fifty minutes to talk about whatever direction the wind is blowing that day. Only once have we ever accidently gone fifteen minutes over. One can adapt to molding themselves around other people’s requirements, to staying within the bounds set forth. In this semester’s Bible class, as long as you complete and turn in your work, full credit is given for the assignments. This means that even though I enjoy the class and find it to be enriching, I haven’t been putting in as much time and effort towards it, because I don’t have to.
And that bothers me. Especially with a subject as infinitely minable as the Bible, there is always more to be revealed. The fear of missing out on a new or particularly divine tidbit or takeaway takes up more space in my mind than the content of the pages I lightly read or skimmed. She and I have talked before about the reality that you can’t read it all, that our actual lives typically do not allow us to sit for hours uninterrupted with our books, as heavenly as this version of studying sounds. And yet, the screen time report that pops up every Sunday preaches to me weekly, that clearly, I could’ve done more.
There is a balance to be found, but only after I have voiced the true expressions of my soul. Could I be thankful for a class that I found to be easy, that was not overly stressful, that challenged me to write more, and was also on a subject I loved? Absolutely yes. I want to be the mom who leaves warm crock-pot meals all ready to come home to when I walk out the door for class Monday evenings. I want to be the wife who does her husband good and not harm all the days of her life, whether I ever inspire love songs again or not. And I am still to remain this muddled non-illusion of who I am and who he is.
The past few weeks in my Bible class we’ve been reading about Matthew, Luke, Jesus, Paul and his letters of the New Testament. I wish I could say I’ve been taking the time for diving in deep and drinking this class up for all it’s worth. Instead it’s been more like enjoying a lazy river ride from the surface. This class is the kind where as long as you are doing the work that is asked, then you’re going to get credit for the assignments.
Over the next two weeks, in addition to our normal readings, we’re supposed to read through Hebrews and Revelation. Our final exam is a six page essay on Finding Our Place in God’s Story using the readings we’ve covered through the semester. I don’t know what I’m going to say for that yet, but the idea of finding my place in God’s story resonates with me, particularly as I consider what it means in regards to church life.
If you spend enough time with the older women in church, you’ll hear questions wondering how to get more of the younger women involved. The reality gaps between the generations frustrated me. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see that with everything else younger women had going on with their families, showing up for a meeting and dessert at 9PM was like the last of their desires and priorities. The older ladies, having put in their years, were ready to retire their service to the more able-bodied.
Meanwhile, the younger women are feeling good most nights to get supper on their own tables, dreaming of the day when they’ll have time for such trifles (I’ve talked to another pastor’s wife about this so I know it wasn’t just me). For a long time I have felt cut-off when it comes to church. One of the things I had to grieve last year was the way church involvement had ended up looking in my life. The day my baby rolled down the handicap ramp and tipped over in his stroller while we were finishing up our VBS meeting, I was done. When I felt like I had richer fellowship with the ladies’ Bible study than I did with my own husband, I stopped going to be home on those evenings.
I can’t say any of that made anything better. One of the things I’d go back and do over if I could is to not cut myself off completely from the outside things that I was doing and enjoying. I remember last year around this time praying that God would bring back my strength with the return of the leaves. That’s not exactly how it happened. Even a year later my leaves have not completely returned. Sometimes it feels like I can see what God is doing in my life in a more personal way, and I do think we can see more in retrospect. In real time, however, we really don’t know, other than turning to the promises he’s made to us. I think sometimes it’s good to come back to the truth of simply trusting God, without the attachment to an earthly outcome or story. Being with God is enough to grow into the story we are daily living.
The kids won their conference track meet on Tuesday. Today we split up as there was a baseball game and track meet in different directions. Dad took the baseball game and I had the track meet, which we each left in time to meet back up for the evening service. The wind was horrendous, enough to be a main topic of conversation with even the parents you knew well. The baseball game ended with another third inning mercy rule.
We are nearing the end of the Lenten season. I think I am actually going to miss it, though with the soothed and lighter missing that brings joy and not sorrow. It’s a time for us all, to look forward to the weekly services culminating in Holy Week, and finally, the risen Lord. It’s become a kind of comfort almost, this remembrance of our Lord and yearly walk to the cross. I love that it happens here in the warmth and closeness of extended winter.
These little moments keep passing without the chance to stop and process them all. The boys at the track meet asked me for money. I had three dollars. When I went to give them the money, one of the dollar bills blew out of my hand. One of the dads momentarily tried to chase it, before it whipped behind the concession stand. I certainly wasn’t going to run after it. The boys took off around the corner and came back with the dollar.
Jesus, Thy boundless love to me No thought can reach, no tongue declare Unite my thankful heart to Thee And reign without a rival there Thine wholly, Thine alone I am Be Thou alone my constant flame ~Paul Gerhardt, LSB 683~
Back in 2020, I wrote out my funeral choices for hymns and Bible readings. I put the paper on my husband’s dresser and texted it to two of my sisters. I’d at least thought about the songs before, but had never taken the time to write them down. When my kids were younger, I wanted to make sure they played Jesus Loves Me. I wanted a comforting and familiar song that they’d know. Another song was Amazing Grace.
But the number one song I wanted was one I first heard at a chapel service in Seward. It was around the time of 9-11, and we sang it out of the paperback Lutheran Hymnal Supplement. I fell as one with the words, as they were passionate and extracting, yet allowed the fire to stay inside me. At church again I chose it, this hymn as my life-prayer, calling from the heavens every energy and power back to the place from where I came.
I ended up throwing the paper away. I didn’t like how it was sideways sitting there, collecting dust. The superstitious part of me thought I might be also jinxing myself, not that I believe in superstitions anymore. I’d written it down when I was spent from the pains and trials of sinning. Everybody knows you don’t pray for patience, and I dare not do it either, indeed, I didn’t. But for mercy, I will pray, and did pray, and received it.
Sometimes it feels like I’m still hiding behind words, like I’m not showing up in the simplest, truest, clearest way for people to see me. I don’t want to be seen and don’t care to be seen, which I feel somewhere as the angry truth, like I’m avoiding the hard work of sitting down and figuring out what it is I’m trying to say. It’s like I’m lighting the fireworks then running away as to continuously keep the reader’s attention over there.
Sometimes the firework goes off, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time, I don’t care what you think, “you” being the person who is outside of me, the person not in my circle, not in my world, not in the space where you can light the fire with me. “You” is the one who has no idea I’m even out here. “You” are forever the multitudes of regulars, who are not behind the barn beseeching the mountains, horses, and electric fences.
Suit yourself, I don’t care what you do, as long as you’re not telling me I should be more like you. Call me a hypocrite if you want, I don’t care, because a hypocrite is exactly what I am, sometimes. But call me a name that isn’t true, and you’ll be the one with hell to pay, not because you so righteously hit the nail on the head, but because you missed it again, again, again, and again. Not that I can truly stand to hold this flame against you. I won’t lie.