Monthly Archives: June 2022

Gravity

Last night’s concert with my sister went well. We saw Colbie Caillat at The Pageant in St. Louis, which is a smaller venue and more intimate setting than say a Soldier Field concert which holds multiple tens of thousands of people. She looked absolutely beautiful and her songs were familiar and beautiful as well. She’s doing a 15-year anniversary tour of her debut album Coco, which is one of my sister and I’s favorite albums.

One of my favorite things about singers is when they share some of the background on what inspired them to write their songs. As I’ve continued to be bothered, especially more so lately, that so much of what I write is about myself and my own personal experiences, I was reminded that the songs and words coming out of a person are commonly and rightly autobiographical. Even the Bible is a book God writes about himself.

The rules wouldn’t let me bring a blanket inside. I had two sweaters, one to wear in order to muffle the vibrations and another to ball up and hold against my chest. Once the music started I thought I ought to have brought a helmet. Right away I moved to the back to a line of lone bar stools. As long as I wasn’t leaning against the vibrating wall, the condition of being in the room was tolerable. I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more.

My Dad called this morning to see how things had gone, specifically how I had held up during the evening. I told him mostly what I just wrote here and that I’d also taken two xanax ahead of time to have it already there in my system. The xanax relaxes the tightness in the chest and eases the buzzing in my limbs that comes with overstimulation or more activity. He thought all that sounded like a good report, even as inwardly I was slower to arrive at that conclusion so quickly.

Colbie mostly writes songs about breaking up and falling in love, along with the feelings, hurts, and insecurities that come with relationships. As she mentioned the different relationships in her life that inspired her songs, beginning with her earlier Coco songwriting days when she was between the ages of 19-20, to her present day life at 37, I thought, “My Lord, how many times can a person go through that in their life?” It was slightly a judgement but even more a perplexed amazement.

Coco was the album my husband and I once enjoyed together and the music by which I met him intensely on the floor of our rent-free 4th-year house living room. Her music didn’t just tap into my sensual side, it freed it. Having never before been drunk in my life, that was also the night I learned that alcohol, while good for dissolving inhibitions, also unfortunately numbed most pleasure. The first time I remember hearing one of her songs was in the hospital, in a slower moment on the evening shift, when I was pregnant with my daughter and charting at the nurse’s desk.

During the concert I didn’t really have much reaction to the songs, nor did they stir up too many thoughts or feelings, good or bad. Much of that was due to being distracted by the need to protect my energy and be comfortable. I’m also just a little less moved or enamored with such experiences, like there are other things in life that are remarkable and good. Realize was still beautiful but hard to hear, serving anymore as just an interesting relic, rather than the once played and dedicated song of my heart. I pray that anymore I would just sing him the song myself.

~~~~~

(I was going through my Google docs today, sorting through files and titling others so I didn’t have quite as many Untitled Documents. Colbie’s background stories kind of inspired me to also see things I’ve written as “songs” and to let an imperfect song be sung. Therapy sessions have also taught me and helped me feel a little more comfortable with how the memories and themes we return to most are the ones we repeatedly need to work with to process and are in some way the body calling out to be healed.)

There wasn’t always something to tidy then. What I had instead was an ample amount of inspiration and freedom to do what I longed to do most, to spend time with my kids. I was still working part-time at the hospital. My husband was a 4th-year seminary student helping with our vicarage church’s new vacancy. He’d arranged his classes so that he only had to drive into St. Louis two days a week. This allowed him to be with our kids while I worked my 4 or 8-hr shifts. I had a motto which motivated me to rarely go to bed with dishes in the sink. The motto was something like “I don’t want to start today dealing with the work from yesterday.” Our house was clean.

Strangely enough, from that point on, my house was never clean again. Perhaps I should clarify to say that when I say my house was never clean again, I mean it has never again been easily maintained and organized like it was in the days of my cleaning schedules and refrigerator charts. I can tell you the truth that it hasn’t been for my lack of trying, or those years of blurred mornings spent sorting clothes in front of the kids’ dresser.

There are these things called the natural laws of the universe. Without looking it up first, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the specific scientific details regarding Newton’s laws of physics or how gravity officially keeps us tied to the earth. But the natural laws I’m referring to I can tell you plenty about, the first one being, there are limits to what a human being can do, even a full-time stay-at-home mom. Especially a full-time stay-at-home mom.  

This isn’t to discount any other woman or ignore the realities or complications of other work/life combinations. My adult life as a stay-at-home mother is simply the place I’ve been able to encounter, bump up against, and at times painfully crash into the natural law of our human limitations. As women, by nature, we are all in some way care-givers, home-makers, creatures tending, and like gravity, tied to the most regular and intimate human needs of others. And in all this we ourselves never cease to be human.

In never ceasing to be human, by nature, we never cease to be in need. That we are frequently responsible for making meals does not disqualify us from the need for nourishment. That we wake in the night to nurse a newborn, does not remove our need for sleep. That we often are the ones washing socks and underwear, does not shield us from needing covering, warmth, and a cozy robe of our own. In never ceasing to be human, we never outgrow the human need to be cared for. 

To be cared for is a physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual need. Far from trying to foster any sense of entitlement, I do not think it a far-fetched assessment that every woman needs to occasionally get out of her own house. She needs the much needed relief of eating a meal that she did not cook, of sitting in a room that someone else has made beautiful, of using the bathroom and experiencing the joy, miracle, and surprise of toilet paper she did not have to pull herself together and covertly go fetch.

It’s true we spend decades training our children to eventually put away their own clothes and sort their own drawers. We have common conversations and work things out with our husbands about what we need from them and how they can help us. But this is where we as women are gifted to intuitively help one another. The hospitality of another might inspire us to clean our tea kettles, to wipe up the grease behind the stove, to finally hang that picture, to persist in the homemaking work of love and care.

We traditionally talk about men holding open the doors for women. Whether he’s a husband, son, brother, friend, or stranger, I do appreciate and feel cared for any time a man does that for me. Perhaps we might also talk about the particular loveliness of women opening doors for one another, the acknowledgement and care of inviting each other into our lives and homes. These covid days have delayed our keeping in touch with one another, while greatly amplifying our very real need for human touch, interaction, and comfort of somebody else’s clean house. Through the open doors of hospitality, who knows what breath we might return to a person?

In this current season of family life, if our house is clean, it’s not a result of my gradually learned discipline and home management skills that allow me to stay on top of the mess. It’s not because I planted my kids in front of four different movies and spent an entire day doing absolutely nothing else but mopping floors, folding laundry, decluttering and cleaning. Our home is never completely clean, but if it reaches that “basically tidied and picked up” point, it’s because every able person living here pitched in and helped.  

It has not been an easy thing for me to accept the limits of my vocations. And yet, the Christian life was never about our standards, but God’s. The words of Jesus from the cross, the declaration, “It is finished” take on an entirely new meaning after years of not being able to do it all and realizing I’ll never be able to get everything done. “It is finished” is not a faux grace we preach to ourselves or to the world. It is the daily loving care and mercy of God. It doesn’t mean we don’t try. It doesn’t mean we give up. It means our standards have changed. Now love is the goal.

Doors

I took the week off camp to stay home and rest more. This continues to be an up and down journey for me of learning to live within my limits along with discovering and rediscovering what those limits even are. As time goes on, I’m feeling more and more convicted to stop with the comparing of my current body and self to my previous body and self. The point of where I am now is not to return to some former state of health. God, instead, is moving all of us forward.

My friend Gretchen passed away this week. I’d asked for prayers for her earlier this year, so thanks to anyone who did say a prayer for her. She truly was a wonderful person and I’m thankful for the years of fellowship we had and that God gave to our group of circuit wives. Her husband wrote that she was finally with Jesus, which for as long as he’d known her was the place she’d wanted to be most. I’ve never had the kind of faith where I regularly long to be with Jesus. I do long for the coming world free of pain, death, and sorrow.

My sister and I have plans to go to a concert tomorrow evening in St. Louis. I was hoping to feel better again enough to go, which after resting again I have been feeling better. I enjoy these weekend times when the kids are all home and we’re able to catch our breath between camp weeks. The summers always go by fast, even as they run in a different standard of time. I’m reminded again of God’s good gifts and the wonderful places we’ve lived by his blessing.

Today

Josh and the kids went today to the waterpark. For Christmas my mother-in-law bought tickets for us all to go together when my sister-in-law’s family would be back this summer. She and her husband and two girls come up every summer for a week or two. After them being out at camp all week, I’d been a little concerned about the kids being out in the heat again all day. Thankfully today was a cooler day, with temperatures only reaching into the lower 80’s. Everybody is exhausted and sunburned, but they had a good time.

I didn’t feel well enough to go along. I’m currently in one of my bodily relapses where I hardly have energy for anything but to rest. I felt it starting on Thursday evening, was in bed most of yesterday, rested on the couch or in bed most of today, while occasionally getting up to switch the laundry. I actually haven’t felt right since the week of getting ready for camp, in that I haven’t felt like I ever completely had a chance to recover from the rock projects. I don’t even really feel like I’m doing much, yet I’m drained and depleted.

For my family this is normal now. I can’t do what I can’t do. I personally tend to grapple at times with how far I still am from my previous capacities. My dad made a comment last summer when he and my mom were visiting one weekend. It was an accomplishment that I had walked there to their camper, and I curled up on their couch and cried. He said, “Rebekah, it could take two years (emphasis his)”, and I thought, “Dear Lord, surely not.” My husband and daughter had figured a few weeks. Months had already been more like it.

But years were beyond my comprehension. He said something along the lines of not worrying about what other people think, or trying to explain it to people, but that this was going to be between me and God. Thinking about it today I hoped he was right, with no answers on when or what healing will be. “How long” is the age old question of the sufferer. One of the phrases that came back to me often in the beginning was “patient in affliction”, with the whole verse saying, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Light

“Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you, since the day your heard it and understood…”
~Philippians 1:5-6~

I sometimes joke that one of my spiritual gifts is inviting other people over to eat a meal I didn’t cook. At least during camp season, one of the things I like to do is invite people to join us for meals in the dining hall. This week one of the camper moms is coming out daily to give her son an allergy treatment and then staying for a while to monitor the results. Moms have this thing we do sometimes where we don’t want to seem like we’re burdening people or over-mothering.

It’s been wonderful to visit with her this week. Yesterday I also had the chance to visit with a girl I knew from camp. She was a junior counselor in my cabin several times and a regular camper during high school week. We’ve kept in touch off and on through the years, and continue to share in the kindness of mutual respect and affection. Her kids are old enough now to come to camp. After lunch we came back to the house and caught up on life’s doings while her youngest two played.

Four of our five kids are at camp this week, two as workers as two as campers. I was happy to play the laundry-doer, when my working son, in the heat of summer, sweat through most of his clothes in two days. Another had only brought three pairs of socks, and when I looked in his drawer, saw there were none more anywhere to be found. I texted Dad who was out running camp errands, and soon there were enough socks again to deliver to two. I do enjoy the perks of living here.

My daily summer checklist has been holding up well. It’s nothing I obsess over if I don’t get everything done, but it does seem to help me to stay on track and provides the satisfaction of completing a task. I still need to add a box on there for looking at my calendar, as I recently missed a scheduled chiropractor appointment. I would’ve missed an afternoon church meeting, had it not been for a text from one of the attendees saying she’d be a few minutes late.

I’ve written a lot over the past several days, but couldn’t seem to wrap any of it up to a place where I felt okay enough to publish. There’s a line I read last year in Bessel van der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score that says, “Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.” I’ve found this in so many ways to be true. Thanks be to God the light of the world who comes down, as we continue to practice love’s unsung motion of receiving the moment and passing through it.

All

Joyful Hearts week is over and so is the Generations camp that was here from Friday to this evening. During Generations, campers who are too young for the regular weeks can come with a parent or grandparent. There is one in June and another in July. Seven summers in since moving here, I feel like I’ve adjusted to camp as it is now. Ministries go through seasons as well, and God has carried camp through many of its own. When we worked here during our high school and college years, there were at least eight adults who contributed toward the daily operations of keeping camp running. We had summers of over 1,000 kids back then. Last year it was a big deal to pass 400.

I kept busy around the house today, at least in the morning. The kids who were home helped me weed in the upper backyard. I’ve long stared at this section of land and felt like it needed something, but didn’t have the drive or inspiration to do it. Whereas in the past I’ve used summer time for the never-ending possibilities of inside projects, this year I’ve paid more attention to the outside. I’ve kind of made it my goal to revive it. People talk about the therapeutic benefits of gardening, and I can see how that’s true. It’s never been a top five favorite for me, but this year I’m craving a more physical outlet to also balance out the head occupations of reading or writing.

I selected two books to work on over the summer: Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. With neither am I promising to make much progress, not because they haven’t been interesting, but because the goal might be too ambitious. Truth breaks through in these little moments, where I realize contentment loves work in progress. Ecclesiastes talks about how there is a time for everything under heaven. As much as I tend toward ascribing personal fault for all the visible incompletion, working toward finishing things isn’t necessarily the highest goal. Christ’s most important work has already been accomplished, and even as I’m surrounded by floors once more dirty, there is a time to see and thank God for his fruit.

Clear

“Learning to listen relationally, listen with cool heads and clear boundaries, listen with the quietness of the heart and the gentleness of the body, means having a self so developed it can afford to yield.”
~Terrence Real, How Can I Get Through To You~

To my heart you once came
and knocked on love’s door
I pretended not to see you
trying to be a better man

You spoke for our peace
but I was already broken
I had already prayed aloud
my now repented of prayers

I was opened by the thanks
for bringing home supper
It was you I meant to thank
when I first came home

Glow

The boys are situated with their summer school. They aren’t thrilled, but besides their normal school time banter, aren’t putting up much fight about it either. They each have a paper with their name and checklist for the week. This week they have boxes for four language arts lessons, three Bible lessons, two math lessons, three typing lessons, and three piano practice sessions. They can complete their list in any order they’d like with whatever combination they chose (I’m probably going to add that typing and piano have to spread out across the days) as long as their work is completed by Friday.

We’re currently in the middle of Joyful Hearts week at camp. This used to be and probably still is my favorite week of the summer. It’s the week when adult handicapped campers come for a week and are paired with a high school aged volunteer. Something about these campers opens up the part of our hearts that were made by God to love and serve. It’s funny to hear the stories my nurse friend tells about how for ten years she suffered through heat, mosquitos, hunger, and tackleboxes full of meds stacked halfway up the wall. After that this experience was transformed into a yearly blessing.

We had a good visit with Mom and Dad today. Mom brought several plants with her that she didn’t have room for in her garden. It made me happy to see my parents getting to talk with our old neighbors. They figured out the last time they’d seen each other was 2003. We ate with the rest of the camp, having baked potato bar for supper. They spent suppertime talking, and were there for the evening activities of making puppets and having a puppet show. It was a blessing to see my kids all in one room.

Told

Two things occasionally come back to bother me about last year. The first is that most people do not have an understanding or awareness of how awful it was. The second is that I can’t seem to talk about it without sounding like a crazy person.

So I’m sitting with these two things for a minute. I’m not afraid of looking like a crazy person if that’s what it takes to communicate with you. But I’m also retiring the outgrowing desire to be heard and understood that drives me to insanity.

I actually do have control over myself. And in this way, more affinity for smiles, for peace, for hugs and letting go of the past. Remaining contained, composing, being known in the quiet feels better to me than any amount of losing control ever did.

Learned

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
~2 Corinthians 4:15~

Mom and Dad are all moved in. It’s been hard for me to not be more involved in their move, though I’m thankful that one of my sisters and my two brothers could be there to help. I haven’t been down to see them yet, but did send out a text to Mom yesterday to see if they’d want to come visit next week for supper sometime. The woman coming down as camp nurse next week used to be our next door neighbor in Lexington. This was during the time when my family had started attending the LCMS church there. Our neighbors were also a part of this church. She and her husband have come to camp for close to twenty years if I’m remembering correctly. It is always such a blessing to see and hang out with them.

With school being currently over for me, I’ve been working on how to best plan out my summer time. Yesterday I typed out a tentative checklist or guideline of things I either need to do or would like to make sure I do. I still am pretty limited in terms of physical stamina for more laborious tasks, and am still pretty tired after last week’s extra getting ready for camp. I’m imagining keeping things pretty low-key, but with interludes of more activity, followed by rest. On my list includes spaces for two daily outside tasks such as weeding or lighter yardwork. Then I have spots for three indoor activities, such as tidying a space or cleaning a bathroom. Also included is a place for a home management activity such as getting important mail out or sorting through papers.

Our Spiritual Nurture board is meeting this Monday. With school out I finally feel like I can give more attention to this board. Our church continues to be in a time of transition. The biggest focus with this board has been assessing what our church’s current needs are. For example, in the past, our church had a thriving youth group for many years. As we have tried to bring back some of the youth or family events, I have struggled with feeling like there is too much pressure on me to show up. It discourages me too much to be part of something that is a fading remnant of a bygone era. I end up feeling sad and merely obligated to populate the youth group which is made up of one other child besides pastor’s kids. The other assistant pastor is moving, so there’ll be even less kids after that.

None of this is to say that all churches need youth groups, or even that there is anything wrong with the way our church does things. I do, however, think something needs to change, and that we are at a good time to work toward what those changes might be. There is just an unnecessary kind of exhaustion that occurs when the purpose of doing something is simply because that’s what’s always been done, which is not an exhaustion I have energy to spend on. I have longed for so long for a place in church that excites me. It’s different for everyone, but I’ve long believed that the work we are especially put on this earth to do is the work we could do forever and not get paid. The first time I discovered that kind of work was at camp.

In addition to my various motherhood seasons, something about the blocks that have been in my life, whether in myself or in my personal relationships, have kept me from being more fully part of our church life. As those blocks are dissolving God is slowly opening space where I can be more involved. When I was growing up, church fellowship for me was one of highlights of living. During years that were a highly formative part of my life, I saw church as the storehouse of spiritual vibrancy, the place where I loved to be, and was most inspired to make Christ known to his world. It’s tempting at times to be mad at myself that it has taken so long to get over certain things, though I continue to trust in the way God moves and returns us to our spiritual rest. I have learned too much from the Lutherans to lose. It was the Lutherans who taught me to love neighbors too.