Monthly Archives: August 2010

Jack and the Zucchini

This is a picture of Jackson and a homegrown zucchini.  Josh’s second attempt at a vegetable garden was certainly a successful one, which came from a greater desire of ours to simplify, better, and strengthen our life.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but before Jackson was born, we weren’t grownups.  Many necessary things were in tact–our goals, ambitions, jobs, our relationship–but the things we value now are completely different than what they used to be.  People lovingly warn young couples that having a child changes life so drastically and to be prepared for the shift; but, for us, we didn’t just shift in a particular direction, we created almost an entirely different life.  We have a whole different perspective on God, on responsibility, on purpose, on truth, on food and money and boundaries and dreams and friends and church…and everything that’s changed (and it still changing) has enriched our lives, strengthened our marriage, and made us better suited for parenting and for the big, big world.

The thing is, I beat myself up constantly at not being as “together” as others, not having a budget down to the penny, not knowing when I’m going to work, not having every piece to the puzzle in it’s precise place.  I always want to be the Tupperware mom, which is to say that every detail is so effortlessly organized–from Tupperware cabinets to weekly menus to spiritual formation–that life feels like gliding rather than a start-n-stop race.  Unrealistic, I know.  But I often feel that way nonetheless.

But this zucchini picture was a huge wake-up call for me.  The little boy in the picture is mine.  He is alive and happy and healthy.  He is bright and smart.  He has a mom that knows how to cook now.   He eats a variety of pureed vegetables in his diet and his parents read to him every night.  His doctor tells me how much she admires our relationship, that our bond fills the little white room during his check-ups.  Why do I pick apart the things I want to improve, when I should sit back and see not only how far I’ve come, but also what a great job Josh and I are doing?

In Colorado, just four years ago, I had an unused kitchen and probably got out my spatchula ten times in two years.  I didn’t know how to sew, couldn’t keep an apartment clean (much less a whole house), and didn’t write except for the occasional burst of poetry inspiration.  I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself, and I considered that a full time job.  The thought of maintaining a home, raising a child, growing vegetables, weeding a garden, partnering with a church, and having a freezer stocked full of purees and a sewing machine would have intimidated me beyond belief.  Maybe even scared me. I can’t believe I’m part of it now. I’ve put in the time and the sweat to create a better life and version of myself, and I’d like to carve out a little moment for myself to be proud of it.  I’m proud that Josh uses a push mower instead of an electric one, that he wants to start shopping at Goodwill to save money and resources.  I’m proud that he grows vegetables, and I’m proud that I hunt down antique fabrics for sewing projects.  I’m proud that Jack knows his animals, colors, and numbers.  I’m proud that we completed our partnership studies to join our church, and that I grated that huge zucchini to make loaves of bread.  This all means so much to me, and it’s a beautiful moment when you realize that your efforts have produced results.

There’s still a heaviness that can hang over our home because we haven’t arrived at where we want to be, we haven’t implemented all of our new strategies to be the best adult version of ourselves yet.  We stumble, fail, revise.  But, overall, I’m pretty darn proud of the little man in the chair, of the life that is being built beneath and around him, and of the huge zucchini that came from his backyard.

Traverse City

After four years of doing the “oh yeah, it’s our anniversary”-thing, Josh decided to surprise me with a celebratory escape to Traverse City, MI.

If you didn’t know this about me, 7 years ago I wasn’t aware that there were cities in the U.P.  I remember asking a friend in college, “People live up there??”  I was serious, and her deadpan expression of shock was serious too. I couldn’t blame her for thinking I was unintelligent and uncultured. But, at that time, I used the excuse that I was from Texas.  Texans don’t even know what the direction “North” is, much less what is actually farther than Dallas.  Josh has spent years and years trying to get me to appreciate the beauty of Michigan, but I only thought of highways, Detroit, and deer. Not beautiful to me. He used to tell me stories of family vacations in Baldwin and canoeing and camping, and I thought “it’s a good thing my parents took me to California.”  I never thought I’d see Michigan for what it truly is: awe-inspiring, breath-taking beauty.

The last time I headed up north with Josh, it was to the U.P. for a week when I was 8 months pregnant.  Considering my pregnancy was LESS than easy for me, especially at the end, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed a trip to Maui if it meant spending the majority of the time in the stuffy, uncomfortable, limited car.  No music or scenery could make me not-pregnant, so the trip was a challenge by nature.  I saw the water, smelled the pine, but missed the big picture. In Traverse City, I finally got it.

First of all, the beauty of Lake Michigan takes on a new meaning up North.  Down here in Southwest Michigan, the lake is wide like an ocean with beaches are vast and stretch out between lighthouses.  I loved spending college summers in bikinis with Diet Cokes and magazines on the beach, and now I love taking Jackson to the same beach with pales, beach balls, and plastic boats in tow.  There’s always activity around, waves crashing, music playing.  The dune grass whistles in the wind, but there’s usually too much going on to really notice. Up north, it’s different.  The water is just a bit clearer, the beaches are closer to the towns (if not in the middle), and hum of activity is low enough to where you can tune it out in order to notice the lapping baby-waves.  The homes are spectacular, the boardwalks are nearly empty, and the food is so good I’m still thinking about it a week later.

I don’t know if 10 years is enough residency to declare myself a Michigander, but I can say I’m getting closer and closer to claiming my homeland.  I’m thrilled our son will grow up in a state with thousands of lakes to make memories in, two peninsulas, coastal camp sites, and stretches of highway so vibrantly colorful in the fall you’d think you were in a painting.

So, thanks Josh, for moving to Colorado with me, asking me to marry you there, and loving both me and Michigan enough to bring us home. Thanks for a wonderful get-a-way to celebrate our love, our marriage, our friendship, and all that is in store for our life together.  And just like Michigan, we haven’t even seen the best, most beautiful parts yet.  I love you.

Deliverance

The roads of south Holland should recognize me by now.  I’ve been running them, pounding on them, for nearly 10 years.  I know my routes better than the lines on my own hands.  I don’t run like I used to.   I used to run at least 20 miles on the sidewalks of Holland per week, letting my emotions and stress turn into the sweat beads that escaped me.  I ran through career choices, breakups, failed friendships, crises of faith, homework overload, directionlessness, and even celebrations.  I ran for clarity. I ran for worship. I ran for thinking and solitude and asking questions.  Even though we lived in Colorado when we got married, our wedding was at Dimnet Chapel at Hope. I spent the morning of my wedding with my tennis shoes and my familiar 8 mile route, jumping over the same familiar cracks in the sidewalks, detours, and road signs.

I ran this morning only because I have a helpful neighbor who was willing to watch Jackson.  I went to her, explained my deepest need to get outside and allow my mind to work its magic when I run.  Perhaps this only make sense to other runners, but, nevertheless, she did me the favor.

Today was a run for clarity, but I also tried to offer some prayers of gratitude as well. If you know Holland well, it’s not a surprise that I run by 10 churches on my 8 mile run.  Ministry is alive here, and sometimes the simplest of church signs can connect me to God. Without my ipod (and even, sometimes, with it), my mind finds a rhythm right along with my steps, and I sink into a particular issue in my life and knead it like a giant lump of bread dough.  Today I needed to process the number 28 (my new age), the critical years I find myself in, the connotations that come along with approaching 30, the questions I have about my direction, and the reason behind my ever-present fight for purpose.

It’s noteworthy to mention that just before I set off, I was doing a favor for a friend-of-a-friend which required me to look into my old email account, scrolling down through emails from 3 to 4 years ago.  I found emails to people that are no longer in my life.  I found emails to someone to has gone to Heaven to be with God forever.  I found soul-searching emails, job-search emails, old love emails. And even though I came across touching memories, looking at these was like looking through a window into my past and realizing that even though circumstances have drastically changed since then, my struggles are much the same.  The things that are deeply embedded in me that I’ve wanted to change for years are still not rooted out completely.  They were there in my emails, they were with me in my 20 mile/week runs, getting jumbled and sorted, massaged and processed. And they were with me today, in 2010, running with me down the same sidewalks in a totally different place in my life.

The restlessness of my life, which is the blood and guts of my search for purpose, is a generational sin that I inherited.  I don’t say this to blame; I don’t have an interest in digging up family issues and throwing you-should-haves at my parents or grandparents.  The reality, though, is that I struggle with the same things my dad does, my grandmother did, her parents did…and I’m sure it goes back farther than I can even comprehend.  This idea of doing instead of being, of searching instead of having faith, of becoming instead of existing….it all results in restlessness for me.  In every season of my life so far, I’ve been responding daily to a system of internal pressure, involving more self-doubt than my body can carry in it.  I want to do, search, become, strive, grow…but I rarely do these things for the beauty of the thing itself, or the timely necessity of it.  I do it because of deadline I created for myself, some comparison I have of me and another-better-version-of-me, or some check on a never ending to-do list which contains my own self worth. In short, I don’t do it for the right reasons, and therefore I am robbed of the joy and life that comes along with the wonderful things I do in my life.

Right now, I feel a season is ending.  This probably because my son is two and my husband and I talk about potty training and toddler beds when we’re in bed reading.  The isolating and beautiful days of young motherhood have gone, and I’m sure they will return again someday.  But for now, it’s over. In one sense, I have loved this time, and spent it getting to know my home, learning the purpose of baking soda and the importance of that dash of cinnamon.  I’ve expanded my creative outlets, learned new skills, met amazing new friends.  I’ve supported my husband as he published a book and we’ve ventured out spiritually to find a new church home.  During this time, though, my son absorbed my energy like a little sponge, and although I would find little clips of my former self, on the deepest levels and at the darkest hours, I’ve been lost and restless.

Things are changing.  Jack is becoming a little self-sufficient and reliant on activity with other kids more than playtime with me.  I have time to write while my cornbread is in the oven instead of change a diaper, prepare a bottle, or clean up a mess.  I can even think throughout the day because my emotional space isn’t sucked up by an infant.  I’m headed toward a new season, and I’ve spent a lot of tears and stress over what that new season is supposed to be like.  I’m on a bridge, but I’m not sure what it’s between.  On my run, the image came to me of Jackson carrying around stress inside his little self, worried about whether or not I would feed him, or rock him, or whether or not he would be read to that night. I imagined his heart palpitating like mine does, and his small world spinning with confusion and angst. As his mother, I couldn’t logically explain to him that the pantry is stocked, that I even have a treat for him, and that his clothes are clean and folded and I bought him a NEW book for bedtime.  His worrying about it would be useless. And I can only imagine that God believes the same thing about me.  He knows the right job for me and when I’m supposed to take it.  He already has met my next child, and will bring it in His timing.  He constantly takes care of me, and my restlessness is useless both to me and to Him.

So, here’s to the unknown, new season.  Here’s to you, friends and family, for bearing with me.  Here’s to God’s provision and faithfulness that is a steady current in my life, regardless of how much I splash around.  Here’s to deliverance into a new season where wonderful things are waiting…