when love is built on countless failures

Sometimes, when your love has endured through terrible things, you are amazed to find that you could ever bicker over something as trivial as pancakes.

But suddenly, there you are irrationally irritated, both of you. And off you go to the bedroom to “discuss” in loud whispers behind closed doors, leaving the kids in buttery, syrupy wonderment.

Soon a “you always” and a “you never” and a “you are” invade the conversation and someone just needs to end it, because it’s heading to absurdity, so when a boy knocks to ask about chores, you do. No resolution, just full stop.

But the mood is set. And so, she scrubs the shower with the guilty determination of Lady Macbeth, and he cuts down every offensive overgrown shock of grass, and the boys snap-to without complaint because none of them wants that directed at them, and it’s not til much later that you realize the why of it.

The why? She had too much coffee — maybe — before eating anything of substance, consumed by a story and a wish to see the world again. He started the day too early, to watch a soccer game with his boy who is spending a season on the sidelines, broken, and as much as they love to watch together it’s not the same as watching him, and disappointment permeates as his team loses just the very minute she is pouring the pancakes. And so, a simple, “Is this egg for me?” receives a sharp “I just made them. They’re not for anyone in particular.” And he wonders aloud at her rather than quietly conversing in vague metaphors.  Things must be sorted out, hashed out, resolved — now.

But the why remains dormant as the flurry of words takes on tone and expectation and below the flurry lies an unseen, unsaid ache.

These troublesome talking overs and unders and not hearing, knowing, loving perfectly, these are bits of rock and weed that surface no matter how many rocks, weeds you sift from your soil. No matter how well you till your garden, no matter how many rocks have been removed. Remnants of a curse. By the sweat of your brow. Two who are one and yet not — and at times it feels like the ground is opening between you.

But knocking has pulled you away from the abyss. And the work is gift. Here is something that can be made right. Soap scum is no mystery, grass does not ask to be understood.

And yet, there is romance. Even in a Saturday morning spat. Because your love has weathered so much more than pancakes and eggs. Rocks, weeds and thorns are momentary light afflictions, and you will laugh soon — later, over lunch — surprised how sometimes a game and a book can stir sensitive souls. And you know your longing for perfect understanding, perfect peace is merely deep desire to re-enter The Garden where she was once bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh, she, once so perfectly known he had no need for words.

We have laughter. And we have smart, sharp children who interrupt the absurd and are beautiful and daily reminders that our faults, our many grievous faults, can somehow be redeemed and blessed. And we know the silly, selfish spats will come again because we are not in The Garden. We are he and she in imperfection. And she drives the car til the tank is empty, and he breaks a sweat when it dips below half. And he likes to be there early, and she wishes people still determined time by the sun. She’ll snap, he’ll be too lenient, she’ll spend too much, he’ll punish the wrong kid, she’ll be needlessly strict because he suddenly seems to have no boundaries, she’ll swear, and he may even put a hole in the wall. Or she will.

And the truth, the romance, is that we are always learning to make allowance for each other’s faults…and it is glorious to overlook them. 

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — til next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”

Madeleine L’Engle
The Irrational Season

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Make allowance for each other’s faults… Colossians 3:13a

when it’s time to burn the past

There is a bittersweet beauty in burning the past.

Medical bills, credit card statements, unemployment reports, brochures from recovery centers, duplicate checks, collections files . . . stuff we’ve carried for seven years and more and can finally let go.

Neither of us has wanted to do this.

We stuffed non-essentials-that-could-be-important into a few boxes and a four drawer fling cabinet seven years ago and shut it away in storage, in a garage, and in a closet under the stairs.

Now we sift. Through lesson plans — his and mine. Through game plans — his from coaching days. I am surprised to feel no grief over reminders of the good things we once had and lost. We toss papers ruthlessly into the fire.

Files of pay stubs, of copies of forms filled out every three months to keep public assistance, pay stubs from work, handwritten budgets.

We keep a few things . . . Notes and bills helpful to see again as I write. Behavior contracts — evidence of my desperation to get a grip on a life spinning wildly out of control. Our food benefits card — witness to the year we stayed home because we didn’t have gas but at least we had food to eat.

Seven years of getting back up slowly after losing job, home, ministry all on one dreary November afternoon.

* * * * *

The long, steady ascent from the abyss began with decisions to stay.

To stayed married. To stay together. To stay in a small town where everyone connects to everyone eventually . . .

I admire his tenacity. Day after day, earning trust, respect and confidence. I hate having to prove myself again and again; I would have given up a long time ago. But he’s been at it for seven years.

Years of clocking in and marking down every hour, every minute, every place.

Years of increasing responsibility.

Years of keeping every. single. receipt.

Years of weekly meetings with men to encourage each other to keep going.

Years of speaking truth over and over.

Years of paying debts.

Years of taking one day at a time.

Seven years.

* * * * *

Every seven years, a nation celebrated in make-shift dwellings, to remember deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

Remember how I led you when you could not see?

Remember how I fed you when you could not feed yourself?

Remember how I sheltered you when you did not have a home?

At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts . . . because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)

Every seven years, a new start: the Season of Our Joy. 

* * * * *

I don’t readily remember the exact date. I have to look through a journal to find it.

I checked this week, when the weather suddenly turned cold and I felt the time coming.

And I feel the beauty of providence.

This week, we are purging the past, preparing to move from our 18th temporary home into a home of our own.

This week, our church provides meals for a local ministry that gives people a new start. And it turns out we are making dinner together tonight for homeless men exactly seven years from the day we became homeless ourselves.

On this day, we were set free from fifteen years of slavery to addiction and fear. Set free into uncertainty, and wandering and complete dependence on God.

* * * * *

Dear friend, sometimes you are just ready to sort and burn the burdens of the past.

To let go of the piles of guilt you’ve been carrying with you in boxes because you couldn’t bear to look too closely at the done and the undone.

To sift through it all and pull out the things that remind you of how bad it was then and keep a few to remind you how grateful you are for now.

People like to say you need to forget the past to move forward. But I don’t think that’s true.

It’s good to remember what you were rescued from so that you never return to slavery. It’s good to remember who cared for you when you couldn’t take care of yourself. And it’s good to remember the day you lost it all and commemorate it as a new beginning.

Here’s to the Season of Our Joy,

Deb's signature for blog

 

 

 

 

 

when you fall asleep writing a title and hit publish on accident

So, I started recording myself.

Yep.

Because I have thoughts. Many of them. And I can’t write them down legibly fast enough.

I have an app on my phone called “Tape a Talk” which is far better for everyone than the old write and drive. Oh yes, with my eyes on the road . . . and yes, sometimes I couldn’t read it. Thoughts always come to me when I am driving.

Maybe because I used to do so much of it — driving. Hours and hours. For years. But for some beautiful, unselfish reason, my husband does most of the driving now.  He manages to get one to practice on one end of town, take the other two to work out with him on the other end of town, and go back to pick the other one up. Drives them to the bus. Picks them up from football games . . .

I know. I am utterly spoiled.

Anyway, I’m listening to one of my recordings, (which is a whole lot like listening to my sister’s voice messages — our voices are practically twins) and — now remember, I am only talking to myself. There is NO one to interrupt my thoughts — I’m chatting away on the recording and suddenly, for no conceivable reason:

loooooooonggg pause

“There was something I was just now thinking of . . .”

“ummm . . .”

“I can’t remember what it is.”

<<end recording>>

This is a conversation with myself. Out loud. Recorded. 

And there you have it: I get distracted even when I am talking to myself.

But the conversation I had with myself was a good one. I was talking about our kids, and I got a little wistful thinking about how much I loved them from the day they were born, and how love grew as they did, and how now I love them more than I could imagine.

Really.

And when I got home, I browsed the photos on my computer and realized our youngest grew up overnight in spite of my watchful eye.

And tonight, on his tip-toes he was taller than me, and my husband said “no” when I wanted him to look, and I suddenly realized why he drives them everywhere . . .

* * * * *

One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners. And our kids will drive me around when they come home, and I will talk to myself . . .

(I’m guessing that will happen in about six years. Or around Christmas.)

And I was reminded of this verse — children are a gift — and I found it attached to the other one that has been nagging at my mind and I realize maybe my memory is not so very bad after all.

Maybe it just needs a little sleep.

 

* * * * *

It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!

Psalm 127:2-5

Deb's signature for blog

 

 

smallbutton64seasonstree

 

 

 

 

 

because people do change

Spring is trying hard this year to be my friend . . . but it’s failing miserably.

From hermetically-sealed enclosed spaces, I stare out at blue sky and sunshine. We’ve had a lovely Northwest spring tease. But so very, very polleny.

Someday, I will remember I get allergies every spring when the trees begin to blossom and start taking allergy meds the moment I see the tiniest bit of green.

Which reminds me . . . I forgot to plant sweet peas. Again. Actually, I’ve forgotten to plant anything. Because one day it’s winter and the next day it’s spring and there really is no difference between the two because below 40 might as well be 40 below to me.

So here I sit, head full of allergies, exhausted from binge catching up on to-do lists of things that must be done NOW. I always wait till the last minute, and then I bury myself until its done.

Oh, and I also forgot I have a bookshelf style greenhouse. I got it for my birthday last year, and I forgot about it — of course — because it sits on the back porch and is entirely visible through my kitchen window. I think I even told the kids to set it there because otherwise, I’d forget.

Once upon a time, I had gardens. We even planted seeds — in the ground in California, indoors in little soil pods in Washington.

34-year-old me, frustrated with trying to grow tomatoes in Tacoma, is jealous of 44 year-old me in Poulsbo. And she’s slightly mad because she would have had all sorts of seedlings in that green house right now, ready to put in the dirt.

Well, she has one more night to be jealous of 44 year old me. Then she gets to be jealous of 45. And she is desperately jealous. Believe me, I know. She wrote her life in journals. And I’ve been reading them again, writing our story.

If 34 year old me had known it would be ten years before she was flooded and amazed with the realization of how much her life had changed, she wouldn’t have been able to put one foot in front of the other. Ten years is terribly long, long time went you’re waiting for things to be better.

Twelve years ago, we moved to Washington for Dave to go to seminary to become a pastor . . . which happened this year, on January 1.

Two devastating job losses, two stints in rehab, six major relapses, food stamps, homelessness and six years of painstakingly rebuilding life from messy ruins is what 34 year old me has to look forward to.

Best to let her have her garden . . . a tiny piece of serenity in a world spinning violently out of control. 44 year old me does not envy her.

* * * * *

44-year-old-for-one-more-day me has been waking up this week full of gratitude for a husband who takes such good care of me, even when I’m a miserable chore of a hacking crone . . . which sums up how I sound and look today.

Most mornings now, I wake up to fresh coffee and the rattle of keys  . . . Dave, going to drive our oldest boy into town for zero hour. When he returns, we talk about the day and he makes himself eggs for breakfast, makes himself lunch, irons his own clothes (he’s always done that), and prays over me and for all our life and loves before he walks out the door, early — as usual — for work.

After work, he does more driving kids when I can’t — and sometimes even when I can, but he’s just very kind — and an hour at the Y (his only “me” time as far as I can tell). His reward in all this is a great relationship with his daughter and three sons, 45 pounds lost, and the love and trust of his wife.

None of this happened overnight. For six years and five months, he’s taken one step at a time in the right direction — rebuilding our home brick by brick. Faithful in little to faithful in much. And he loves people and often says and does things that are hard but right to say and do, and I am startled at how he is the man 34 year old me wanted so, so badly for him to be.

Oh, and he leaves the boys chore lists.

So I don’t have to think about cleaning today. So I can write.

* * * * *

And so I write hope today instead of being mad at myself for who I was supposed to be when I woke up tomorrow: 20 pounds lighter and at least last year’s “Do it all in 2012 2013″ to-do list-of-things-that-should-have-been-done-a-decade-ago done.

I write this hope for 45 year old me who can take a step each day in the right direction, too.