I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up a couple months ago and decided to go through all my stuff because we're downsizing. Then I got sick and couldn’t get well. That was back in February.
People prayed, I hurt. I didn’t really lose much hope. Most days the discouragement didn’t fully take over, just a hazy weariness that it wasn’t done and the buzz of anxiety that time was running out for me. That my insurance would end in July and that if faced with more CT scans and surgery I would be stranded without care in the meantime. I just kept praying for relief. Some days it came, most days it didn’t. Still I believed God was good and near and faithful. Still I heard God in the agony.
We'll move soon so my garage is stocked with cardboard boxes and packing tape. I went through all of our clothes and hauled four huge black garbage bags big enough for a carcass out to my trunk. Clothes weren’t hard. I have one dress I've worn and it's almost sheer from the love. I'll be wearing grasping bare threads soon, but it gives me joy.
But next was books and oh if there were a thing I love more than just about anything it's those. I'm a sucker for a beautiful sentence, an enchanting story, some place to sink back in a hammock and lift a worn and dog eared paperback up to shade my eyes. I love to learn stuff, sometimes I hoard information and let it ping around in my mind for a bit, bumping up against things I used to think, sometimes knocking things around and letting them resettle. Plus, I'm a homeschool mom. I buy curriculum here and there but a maxed out library card and our bookshelves fill our kitchen table classroom.
When I think of home, I think of my childhood books. I read the first chapter of my friend Amber Haines new bookWild in the Hollow this morning and she speaks of home. I cried through most of it and then I came here and wrote this.
My mom saved the books of my childhood, even when we moved continents and only had suitcases, she brought them. So the best parts of my childhood, the memories of home, live into those pages. Some barely holding together, but they give me joy.
I ravage the loved things with use. Book spines and favorite t-shirts and white cotton sheets so soft and cool it’s like slipping into baby skin.
I don’t save the good stuff. I uncork the good wine and burn the candles, I spray perfume liberally and wear red lipstick on a Tuesday. If I owned pearls I’d wear them to vacuum. If I vacuumed, that is.
Some people save the good stuff for a special occasion but I’ve seen moths eat out the wool trench and truffle oil tinge and spoil straight through without the jar every being cracked open. I don’t know about my tomorrows so I try to enjoy my todays. But the truth is there haven’t always been a lot of extravagant things. Just the necessities.
My parents had nomadic hearts, the worst times of our lives were settled. The times when we tried to put down roots and collect things. We always came up short next door to the doctor’s kid with their brand new 10 speed and our secondhand Huffy with the cracked vinyl banana seat that couldn’t keep up.
Being a secondhand kid can make you start to believe that God has only scraps for you. It’ll teach you envy and bitterness if you let it. Add that to a God who looks the other way when your underpants get pulled down and you’re touched all over by a boy when you’re only just a tiny girl, small as a bird and just as frail, not barely past a toddler but with enough memory so as you can’t forget and you let it. You let it spoil all the secondhand things God has for you. Nothing will ever be shiny and new and unspoiled. Like purity and innocence and the ability to say my God is good. You get secondhand things.
I’ve never wished for a patch of land to call my own. I've always had a restless soul, itching to get away from something more than longing to be somewhere. But I've made a sort of peace these past few years. Maybe less with a place and more with the person I am. I’ve come to know God didn’t look away. He sees me. Maybe sometimes He sees me too well.
We need to move. Our rental house of the last 5 years is being sold at the end of our lease in July. And in the midst of all that, I’m scanning Craigslist for rentals we can afford. Something big enough for all six of us, including my widowed mother. I see a listing for the exact 2 bedroom duplex Josh and I lived in when Judah was belly high and not six foot one like he is now. It is renting for $1,250.00. The same amount we pay for the four bedroom home we currently rent. Homes are renting for double and triple what they were last year.
The construction boom rebounded, hitting full force and the sluggish economy lurched on while driving home prices out of the range where workers can afford them.
My husband is a painter. He comes home baptized in eggshell custard and mahogany blaze. He’s met the rising sun in painter’s whites every workday for the last 17 years. He paints million dollar homes in gated communities. But the winters have often bled our resources when the days end cold and harsh and tight. We’ve often tried to catch up from months when work was non-existent and every cent was wrangled and managed and prayed for.
We're trying to buy a home right now. I don't even know how. It scares me to even type it. It feels such an adult thing to do. I feel like I'm faking, like a kid playing dress up. But there you go.
It's nothing short of miraculous: the way this house came about and we knew we couldn’t afford it. Knew it was too much to hope for and everything I wanted.
I prayed, prayed so hard for a place to call home. A place for my mom to plant her flowers and grow her zucchini. A place for the kids to ride bikes in loops and pull out the blow up pool to splash around on the hot days. A place for my husband to build snowmen with the kids and gather them to the fireplace with their pink noses and frosted fingers.
And then we were seated at their kitchen table where I had already imagined I’d put my hutch with my Asian dishes and they had been praying too and we worked out a price that we could afford and I almost cried right there but I choked back the tears because closing is a ways off and anything can happen and answered prayers aren’t always answered how we think.
I am afraid to dream of abundance. I have learned to look for it in lack.
I still believe in miracles. Mostly for other people.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to hope. How much I hedge my prayers in case God’s provision means a duplex we can’t afford and a commute and 6 people crammed into rooms too small to contain our dreams.
You have not because you ask not. I don’t even know how to live into that. It seems all I do is ask. And then I accept God’s no. No, you will not be healed now. My strength is sufficient. No, you will not get that job, My grace is sufficient. No, you will not get that house, be content in any and every situation.
I am a student of contentment and surrender but somewhere along the line I stop expecting and find myself bracing for disappointment and acceptance. Because God says He will provide and I know it to be true but sometimes I’ve had to look so hard for it.
I came to know Christ in my teens when God’s provision had us living in a boxy rental with no furniture miles away from anything useful. I slept on a rolled out length of eggshell foam, a whisper of softness not thick enough to keep my hips from falling asleep and aching through the night. It rained for 42 days straight and I considered taking my own life right there on the chipped and cracking bathroom linoleum. I remember hitchhiking as a teen not because I was rebellious enough to take rides from strangers but because our family car had broken down and there was no other way for us to get home.
I could not reconcile my years with a loving and merciful God. I could not believe in a God who abandoned us.
I hurt everywhere. I fit nowhere. Home wasn’t a place I could feel anymore. And I met God there. Or God met me. In our home that wasn’t a home.
This is how God reveals the fault lines in our faith. This is mine: My God will provide.
This is the place where my words are tested and faith crashes into reality. This is the place I battle anxiety and find myself opening the fridge over and over looking for answers. The place where I spend nights wrestling with God and balancing our checkbook.
I walk with a limp. I haven’t come unscathed to this place. I carry the bruises of those restless nights, of a too thin mat and no one to tear the roof off and lower me to Jesus. I carry the scars of all the lost things along the way.
But I think sometimes He’s the God of lost things. He must be. He has to be.
Somewhere along the pages of my life, I lost faith that God was good. It took despair to bring me home. To see His goodness.
I can praise him when my body breaks, when my mind scatters, when the world around seems so violent and vulgar. I trust him with the broken years, when the shame bloomed on my body as my hips spread and my breasts grew and I wondered how a dirty girl could ever be beloved. These past months when health issues piled up, I didn’t fear for my body. I feared for the insurance that was on the cusp of running out and the bills we’d have to face. I feared seconhand things.
I trust He makes all things new. This God of lost things. I still see beauty. I’ve learned to look for it.
But in this. My God will provide. I’m scared. Terrified really. I learn to believe again and again. Hope is hard.
I walk with that limp, a rattle in my hip retrieved like a misplaced set of keys. But I keep losing them. Over and over. The rattle that haunts me.