Saturday, July 30, 2011

Upon Moving In

We took possession of our new home a week ago.
First, we rented a carpet cleaner for those carpets we were keeping.
We walked in, and the smell was strong.
Someone Else's Dog.
A Very Old Cat.

Open the window!
It needs Light.
And the Breath of Wind.
And Clean Water.

Tear down this plastic -- it's suffocating the home.
The walls are dirty, but let's find the smell first.

My sisters came to help us.
My husband went upstairs to sweat and work.
We women stood and looked at the living room carpet, and the stair hall.
Is this the first thing?
Do we rip it out now, while there is no furniture on it?
Or do we do it 'later' -- after life parks itself there and won't move?
I think this should go first.
Obviously owner after owner neglected this one vital undo.
And it's a testament to their bad taste and bad hygiene.
Let's see how easy it will come out.

We began pulling.
Between us three women, we had a hammer, a Wonder Bar, pliers, and a razor blade.
It was sufficient.
The pad underneath was powder.
We thought we saw hardwood under it at first,
but realized in a minute it was laminate
which had been sparingly used around only the edge of the room,
so a rug could trick you into believing it was in the room.
We were thankful again for their poor installation,
as it made fairly easy work of ripping it all up.
The powdered pad puffed into our faces and we threw open more windows.

Encouraged by the ease of the living room, I tackled the hall.
That iniquitous hall.
It was much harder.
When my husband walked through, I accosted him for a little muscle around the doors,
where I had stood on the Wonder Bar for leverage,
and had still been unable to pry up the staple.
I was afraid I would snap it.
He was successful.

It wasn't until the very last section that I thought, "This feels... wet."
I thought it was my imagination.
The house had been empty for several weeks, to our knowledge.
But when my sister came to help me gather it up and get it out, she confirmed it.
It was saturated in dog urine.
The odor was overpowering.
We began mopping.
There were nails and staples catching the mops.
Jeff ran the carpet cleaner over the spot.
Better... but still not gone.

When it comes to restoration, the first part is the grossest, usually.
As with us, I think.
The fifty years of dirty kitchen grease ground into old linoleum.
The dog hair clogging the bathroom sink.
The rodent droppings.
The horrible paneling. 

Throw open the windows!
We need His Light.
His Breath of Wind.
The Water of His Word to scrub us clean.
He knows which the worst thing is -- where to start tearing to bring you to glory. 

And He can see the Tornado Watch porch paint and Granite Dust walls
which will compliment your seven living room windows and divided-light pocket doors.
And the hope of built-in bookshelves ceiling-high.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Hurry

"And when the funeral director and grave digger open up the back of the hearse and slide the coffin out,
in that stark moment of earth-finality,
a question once asked of a pastor haunts through the rows of headstones and I hear it sure again.

"What was the pastor's most profound regret in life?

"...'Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.
I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry.
But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands,
lie in the wake of all the rushing...
Through all that haste I thought I was making up time.
It turns out I was throwing it away.'"

"...Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow."

~more from Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts

One of my teachers once said, "If the devil can't get in front of you to slow you down, he'll get behind you and push you faster." 

"But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you,
for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 
and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. 
But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 
that you aspire to lead a quiet life, 
to mind your own business, 
and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 
that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, 
and that you may lack nothing."

~1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Friday, July 22, 2011

No Longer Do We See

"Standing before that tree, laden with fruit withheld, we listen to Evil's murmur, 'In the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened...' But in the beginning, our eyes were already open. Our sight was perfect. Our vision let us see a world spilling with goodness. Our eyes fell on nothing but the glory of God. We saw God as He truly is: good. But we were lured by the deception that there was more to a full life, there was more to see. And, true, there was more to see: the ugliness we hadn't beheld, the sinfulness we hadn't witnessed, the loss we hadn't known.

"We eat. And, in an instant, we are blind. No longer do we see God as one we can trust. No longer do we perceive Him as wholly good. No longer do we observe all of the remaining paradise.

"We eat. And, in an instant, we see. Everywhere we look, we see a world of lack, a universe of loss, a cosmos of scarcity and injustice.

"We are hungry. We eat. We are filled... and emptied.

"And still, we look at the fruit and see only the material means to fill our emptiness. We don't see the material world for what it is meant to be: as the means to communion with God.

"We look and swell with the ache of a broken, battered planet, what we ascribe as the negligent work of an indifferent Creator (if we even think there is one). Do we ever think of this busted-up place as the result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite? The fruit's poison has infected the whole of humanity. Me. I say no to what He's given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I've believed: God isn't good. God doesn't love me."

~From One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

My sisters recently mentioned this book to me, which I am only one chapter into.
But, as you can see in this excerpt, the first chapter is real.
As far as I can tell, the point of the book is
'to let the losses that puncture our world... become places to see. To see through to God.'
And I appreciate that.
I'm sure you'll be hearing a little more of this book as I work my way through it.
It isn't sugary Christianity, I'm thinking.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not With Haste

"For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight:
for the Lord will go before you
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."
~Isaiah 52:12

I have been asked what the verse was. That's it.
The Lord brought it to our attention a number of times.
In fact, one day, I sat down next to a lady who was talking to someone else
about what the Lord had been using in her life to give her family direction,
and she began quoting this same verse.
I smiled, because I knew He sat me next to her just to hear her tell the story.

Sometimes the enemy tries to drive you.
To make you flee. 
But the Lord wants you to wait.
To trust Him.
To let Him lead, so you can follow,
and He will be your rear guard.

I think about Elijah and the dwindling brook.
How he waited until the Lord told him where to go.
He did not flee, though the brook ran dry.
He followed.
Water from the Rock in a rainless desert.
Manna laid down on the dew of heaven where no grain grows.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hither By Thy Grace I'm Come

(This is not Ebenezer.)
This has been a year of upheaval. 
Jeff has been at a new job for four months, 
and was recently promoted. 
He spent a couple of months without a job, 
and then from September until February 
working part time for very low wages.

God has been good to us.  
Friends we had not seen or spoken to in over a dozen years 
found us and sent money which miraculously 
always arrived in the nick of time. 
Thousands of dollars were mailed to us, handed to us, 
refunded to us, or snuck into our mailbox. 
Roughly $13,641 over the last year, as best I can tell. 
Food arrived on our doorstep. 
Friends invited us over to gather from their gardens. 
We expected a sparse Christmas. 
But on Christmas day, the tree was surrounded with gifts. 
There was never a surplus, but we had enough. 
Just as the spontaneous gifts dwindled 
(from multiple sources all over the country), 
and the part time work was about to end, 
he got a phone call asking him 
to come to work for a company 
two and a half hours south of our home. 
We had been praying and waiting for some time 
for the Lord to give us direction.

Jeff began this season of commuting, 
living with my sister's family during the week, 
and coming back to us on weekends.  
The day before Jeff began his commuting we had to junk his car, 
so I had no transportation if I stayed in our house.  
The kids and I moved into my parents' house 
so we could finish the work on our house 
and put it on the market. 
The stagnant buyers' market. 
The market no one can sell in. 

One week after we put it on the market, 
our house sold in a bidding war 
(which I might add, my mother, sister, and children were praying for). 
And we got full price. 
Our realtor was stunned. 
(Actually, both our realtors -- we had one down south already 
who hadn't seemed to believe us when we told her 
we would be selling our home shortly 
and wanted to start looking down there.) 
On April 15th, we closed. 
We paid off the mortgage, the home equity loan, 
our auto loan, and everything else in sight.

When we talked to our loan officer and he pulled our credit report, 
we laughed out loud. 
Our credit score was extraordinarily high. 
Higher than we are capable of generating 
in a year where our income was less than half of what we've had 
for many years past. 
Higher than it was when Jeff had a steady job with a regular income.

The bank has decided we are a good risk. 
The love of God is a good risk. 
Our realtor observed that, 
"It's obvious Someone is looking out for you." 
Our loan officer wrote to me, 
"He’s watching over all of this to make sure it’s happening."

About the time that we gave up on finding a livable home 
large enough for us, in our small price range, 
in a location we could bear to live in, 
Jeff noticed a new listing. 
I was not in the area at the time, 
and asked him to photograph it well so I could see it. 
We made an offer via cell phones and email. 
I hadn't seen it yet. 
About the same time we were submitting the offer, 
a dear friend of ours sent Jeff a text 
that referenced the verse we had on the chalkboard 
in our bathroom for a long time. 
It was a verse the Lord used with Jeff in the middle of the night 
when we needed direction. 
I don't think our friend knew its significance to us, 
and I know he was not yet aware that we were offering on the house.

It has four bedrooms. 
Five if you count the one without a closet. 
Two bathrooms (a rarity among old New England homes -- 
the only ones we can afford to buy). 
Curved walls. 
Ceiling fans. 
And a lot of painting and floor replacements in our future. 
And it needs new wiring and a new furnace, 
and replacement windows. 
But it is livable after we mop. 
And it was shockingly priced 
considering the others we have seen in that price range. 
And we have it under contract. 
At lower than the listing price. 
And it will have a craft/guest room off the dining room. 
The BIG dining room.  
And a bay window. 
And lots of closet space. 
And good light. 
And it is within walking distance of two of my sisters. 
We are scheduled to close on it Friday morning.
I think I am going to name it Ebenezer. 

Through the Dark

Jesus is beautiful
And Jesus makes beautiful things of my life
Touching me
Causing my eyes to see
That Jesus makes beautiful things of my life

Fourteen years ago, this is the song our wedding party walked down the aisle to.

In fourteen years, there has been a lot of unbeautiful.
And we have seen the Lord's hand working with ugliness to make it beautiful.
Working in pain to bring joy.
Transforming sickness to healing.
Restoring brokenness into function.
Walking us through the dark in the light of His Son.

Our children are some of those things that were not --
called into being by His mercy and love.
Our two beings joined into four individuals --
each one me, each one him, and none of them alike.
How many different ways He makes the two become one.

So many memories now.
When we married, it was almost all hopes.
Hopes for children and home.
Hopes for experiences together.
And now, here they are... dreams made flesh.
Different than I imagined.

Finding their own joys, and sharing them with us.
Drawing their own pictures of their own hopes.
Walking through their own confusions,
fumbling out their own prayers.

He makes all things beautiful in His time.