Long Division

I didn’t gain the clichéd Freshman 10 during my first year in college, I gained the Newlywed 15.

Carl and I spent our first two years of marriage in Minnesota as I attending physical therapy school. Carl was a medical technologist at the time and we envisioned endless employment opportunities when we traveled to the land of the Mayo Clinic. However we hadn’t anticipated the level of specificity of the medical community. It took Carl nearly a year to obtain full-time employment.

Godfather Pizza entered our story. Carl became a manager until finding part-time work in a virology laboratory. I attended 8 hours of classes, established library residency and spent evenings leaning over cadavers while Carl worked the late shift. We deemed our apartment the wedding cake. From living room, kitchen, bedroom to bathroom, each layer was smaller than the one preceding. Upon returning home from class and studying, I would often find a slightly warm cast iron skillet of Hamburger Helper atop our itty bitty stove. We seemed to always miss laying eyes on one another. Our days ended during the wee hours of the next day each smelling of formaldehyde and tomato sauce. We shared a Godfather pizza at the close of exhausting days and Carl always insisted we each eat half. We were equal partners in this ships passing life.

The dearest and generous of gestures helped pad my figure.

I wanted to decorate our apartment and pour over cookbooks. Carl wanted to do the work he loved and take his new wife out to a dinner using utensils.

I wanted to snuggle on the couch and be dreamy and I am sure Carl wondered if moving away from familiarity and family was foolish.

For two movie buffs, our first two years of marriage didn’t resemble any romantic comedy we had ever seen.

+++++

We moved to Portland, Oregon exactly 2 years from when we arrived in Rochester, Minnesota. During our final months, we experienced a record snowfall of 12 inches on the last day of April and on July 31st, we attended a wedding of a classmate in St. Cloud and were greeted with golf ball sized hail. It was time to leave!

After a few years we were able to buy a house. Not everyone in this life will own a home.
Not everyone will live in a home 26 years. I think we are an oddity. We are grateful. There are aspects of this house we would have loved to change but our children never wanted to leave this house. This house has been a persistent teacher. Five people and one shower, that will teach and provide endless lessons in patience. We have grown deep roots in our neighborhood.

One of the first summers we spent in this house, we would have conversations with neighbors. As we were at the beginning stages of learning to manage a home and yard, I would frequently ask neighbors with yards I admired tips to keeping weeds out of their flower beds. Without fail, the neighbor would pause, chuckle and not answer the question.

It was seriously annoying.

I wanted to know the secret but no one would offer the hidden knowledge.

+++++

Several years ago, I was asked to be one of a few speakers during the Mother’s Day service at church. I don’t particular enjoy public speaking. But after a little chat with God and telling him I hate feeling nervous, He countered my argument with asking if I could endure 5 minutes of jitters for Him?

I spoke about the 5 different colored and sized wooden ducks adorning our mantle at the time. A created visual reminder of my deepest desire for my ducks to be all in a row but the reality of life rarely allowing this scenario. I spoke of dreams deferred and the importance of being present in our lives even when, especially when, the arrows of trials land like a bullseye on your back.

I witnessed nods and exhales during those five minutes. I lived by those words.

Until I wanted the duck line formation reinstated.

+++++

 A few weeks ago, I saw couples walking by our house and pausing to scan the flower beds.

When the coast was clear, I walked down our front steps and looked for myself.

Disclaimer or reality check needed, our yard will never be featured in Better Homes and Garden.

Our yard has never seemed to get its act together at the same time, maybe it’s the owners.
Perhaps this explains the walkers staring in wonder.
Usually squirrels dig up tulip bulbs, the camelias start to bloom earlier than usual and bare spots abound where flowers never returned.

But this year, the tulips and daffodils are tall and proud before opening, the grape hyacinth planted nearly 25 years ago has leapt over or under brick in bunches, the daphne is waking up. The wall flowers never stopped putting out orange flowers despite snow and ice and as I round a corner shoots of lily of the valley are emerging.

It has taken over 25 years for this garden to grow and bloom in season.

However, the flower bed on the other side of the steps is a different story. It’s anemic. The tulips look bedraggled and the daffodils spindly. Similar flowers and grasses flourishing to the south are sparse in the north bed. Our maple tree, planted the year after we moved in, has made a part sun and shade north bed . The butterfly bush with deep and expansive roots is a playground and feeding stop for birds and appears to dominate the terrain.

+++++

In my 54th year, I know and admit:

I have wanted my life to resemble my own imagining and visions.

I have believed the sum of my days would be two perfect halves.

I thought the long division of my life would never yield a remainder.

My days will be composed of inclement weather in  seasons not of my choosing.

Weeds grow quickly and silently and must be pulled. There is not a lofty weed removal secret other than consistently doing the work.

For ducks to remain in a static row, someone or something must hold them in place. I am not this powerful or that someone. It takes strength to admit weakness and let go.

I have cycled in and out of times of wilderness most of my life. Wilderness is not an uncommon place to inhabit.

My yard has created a visual of my favorite wilderness definition.

 a part of a garden devoted to wild growth

My garden reminds me of the temptation to focus on barren places and block the view of the ground flourishing with growth and beauty. I am encouraged by the years preceding this vision when every glimpse seemed fruitless, empty and my thoughts were laced with the whisper of when? The whispered response beckoned me to risk waiting more than 5 minutes.

I thought God was pausing and chuckling at my expense.

Now I think He paused, considered His child, handiwork, masterpiece, then chuckled.

He chuckled because He could see completion, the hidden work I could never cook or dream up in my itty bitty kitchen of a mind. He knew the terrain of my life would one day make people stop and admire the view.

+++++

Dearests, if your life is filled with weeds and barrenness. If your life appears foreign in contrast to the dream reel in your head, I am sorry for the rocky and hard patches. A few people passed my dwelling place and allowed me to gaze in wonder at spring arriving in a small section of my chosen soil.

May these words help you see beauty in your life from a fresh vantage point.

stability

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I want every single portion of God’s inspired word to have a chance at my heart.
I don’t want a single issue in my soul to remain unmoved because I wasn’t
careful to expose myself to the full breadth of His wisdom and revelation.
I expect God to surprise me with insight from what I might have thought to
be the most unlikely portions of His words.
I want the full package, so I read the full package.

—from Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge

This weekend contained what I affectionately call Super Saturday.

For most of the nearly 21 years we have lived in our home, Carl has summoned his

work weary body to play early morning basketball.

He is a superhero in my book on the court as well as in winning the dark morning battle

against the comforter.

I call these Saturday mornings “super” because I am able to

rise a little a lot later than Carl and bask in the quiet of the house.

I spend time in the Word, perhaps catch up on a Bible study I am

doing with friends and can joyfully linger longer than on normal rushed mornings.

I pray and sometimes read a book.

I am recovered.

On Super Saturdays, I can luxuriate for an hour or more in the silence.

The curve of my soul longs for space, time and solitude.

Over the years there have been any number of combinations of slumbering

children pressed into beds on Saturday morning.

The youngest member of our tribe is made in the image of his hoops playing dad and

rarely sleeps long enough to my liking.

Super Saturdays are a gift I spread my arms

wider to greedily receive.

I resist the pull of extended slumber.

I don’t mind seeing my dog waiting at the bottom of our

steps.

We both are looking for an open door.

I fill a glass of water and prepare the kettle for tea.

I slide into my chair and exhale.

I breath out because I don’t want to inhale the chatterbox telling me,

I don’t have enough time, 

someone will wake up any moment,

aren’t you still tired.

I simply keep breathing and dive in that very second.

I write out a Psalm, read and pray through passages of scripture.

Upon reflection, I discover I have spent time in

old and new,

poetry, letters and history.

When the last verse is consumed I feel

flooded by the synergy of the passages.

I have one more day of reading in  Deuteronomy.

There has been an undulating rhythm in reading this time,

God, your God seems to open each verse.

There in the silence I whisper as well,

God, my God,

you are the one who ties each

verse from beginning to finale.

You are the one who invites me along despite my failings. 

You have intertwined me with your plans, purposes and promises.

Every plea I utter falls on open and affectionate ears.

As if the spell is broken I hear feet sliding

down carpeted stairs.

This sacred sequestered morning with my

Maker has informed my heart deep enough

to offer welcome to my semi-conscious son

instead of feeling interrupted. (Progress!)

Later in the kitchen over hot mugs of weekend fortitude,

I chat with Carl about my Super Saturday.

He says,

“This must feel like stability since you have been reading
the last couple of days.”

I respond with a grin,

Oh I like that word Carl.
Stability.
Thank you for saying that.

I’m going to hold onto
that word for a while.”

This response actually came an hour later, when I was finishing

a book and Carl was performing more heroic feats over

our bills.

What I immediately said to Carl was reflexive,

my default

steeped in

the school of perfection

and performance.

I have come to see them as twin idols flanking my mantle.

“Well, yeah, but I have been reading everyday.”

I voice my deep wonder about God and without

missing a breath, I feel the need to point out my “spotless” record.

Stability is found hanging out with the one who holds

the substance of my life in His hands.

Showing up is a discipline and doesn’t add tally marks to my worth.

I am stabilized when I exchange my horizontal posture

for a vertical position before Him.

Some days I am fortified by allowing Him to love me while

my head continues to dent my pillow.

God is all parts stability and this is a beautiful blessed reality.

A welcome relief to my soul.

I can find Him in 5-minute segments or occasional

Super Saturdays.

God in all His awe-inspiring stability makes every day super.