Keep Singing

Last night I tuned into The Voice finale just as the reposts of the bombing in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert were flooding my twitter feed. (Yes, I am guilty of looking at my phone while watching tv, I have many bad habits, this is not that post where I list them all.) I can’t say I am familiar with her music or even really know where Manchester is located specifically, but I understand the power of music. I was struck by the young artists on this show who were striving to get their literal voices heard, who had dreams and aspirations and felt the music clear into their souls and absolutely needed to express their gifts. Ms. Grande seems to be just such a young woman, now forever connected to a horrific act and the loss of lives. Her concert attendees seemed to be mostly other young people, many really young, accompanied by their mothers. I watched the tv and saw hopes looking for a chance as others were extinguished all as the music played.

When my children were adolescents, I took them to just such concerts, Avril Lavigne and some boy band my daughter loved that I can’t recall right now. I earned “best mom ever” credit for sitting through loud concerts with screaming girls, buying t-shirts and letting kids stay up way beyond bedtime in order to feed the need for music that spoke to where they were. I even took them to a Christian music Woodstockish festival where we camped out and got muddy and went from venue to venue for several days. The kids ran freely among other early teens who were searching for identity and safe rebellion and rap music that didn’t make their parents ground them. Toby Mac introduced us to a new way to worship, a new way to let them express some angst while still within the boundaries of our faith. It was bliss and too much laundry and terrible camp food and unexpected cold and rain and amazing memories. I understood that music was integral to shaping their choices, I wanted to help them make positive ones. I can only imagine the same was true for all of those moms at that concert last night, for those who purchased tickets for their children to go and waited outside in coffee shops reading a book, feeling so confident in the parenting choice they had made. I can only imagine the horror that they all feel now, those who ran screaming, searching, begging to find their children safe, those who did and my God, those who didn’t.

I sat in the sanctuary this Sunday while our praise band, certainly not concert level material as we are Methodist, slayed me. The music, the songs, something holy happens sometimes and I just have no ability to maintain the defenses that I walked in with. These people share the gifts they have and God takes over, my soul is broken open and real work is begun. I believe that is what happened to my children at all those concerts, even with angsty teen music. Whether they were learning to trust their mom durning the rough years ahead or they were learning to lean into their faith, those concerts undergirded them during critical times. The bombing at this concert makes it all the more horrific to me, all the more personal to me. Terrifying people at a time their souls are being opened, truly an actor evil.

Today I am hearing that the bomber was a young person as well. I can’t help but wonder about what has taken place in his life, who broke his soul to allow him to carry out this atrocity. How does one look at the joy and celebration in such an environment and decide you must kill? When I am in such places, I want more of that joy, I want more of the happiness, it is energizing and catching and electric. Only a deadened soul wouldn’t  feel the beat and want to tap toes and raise arms and begin swaying, at the very least. Who didn’t sing to this child, who didn’t tell him he could play an instrument of peace? Who perverted any of those messages his mother gave him to turn what were songs of love and hope into screams of horror?

As more information comes out, maybe we will have answers about this bombing but I know for sure that music will live on. I know someone will win The Voice, but really they all did already. I know my praise band speaks Jesus every week.  I know more songs will be written and more little kids will pick up flutes and tubas and learn to play the piano. I know moms will take teens to concerts and we will sing in our churches and temples and mosques and wherever we worship. Music is holy. The way through this horror is not more guns or wars or hate but more love and peace and prayer. I’m reminded of the old Coke commercial , oh I wish we could all sing together today. Still, we will keep singing wherever we are because music is absolutely bigger than hate.

Let our souls join with those who are mourning and fearful, let us join in prayer and song for those who are aching. Let us lift up those who are being broken right now into the ways of evil, that they may be invited back into songs of joy. Let the music of peace always win.


Real Pastors

I just read a piece by Anne Lamott in which she describes with total humility how she picked up the wrong passport and missed her flight for an incredibly important speaking engagement. Having shared awhile back how I did the same with my drivers license on a trip to NYC, I felt more bonded than ever to her. Her words were beautiful and real and they led me back into relationship with God like only a true pastor can. The key is that she doesn’t strive to be like God with all His power and knowledge and wisdom and super abilities that win every contest, she shows with each foray into the public that she is that part of Jesus that was human, the pieces that we recognize that are messy, that cause us to ignore parents and wander off in a crowd. She pastors us with us, not from above us, not at us, not to us. She is one of us and we follow.

I am drawn to leaders like her, folks that are not only unafraid to show that they are defective in getting to the airport fully in possession of all appropriate identification but also who know that in doing so, we are better able to find ourselves in each other. The very act of exposing our own weakness is holy, it requires such great trust and vulnerability, it can only come from a place of real faith. Social media posts showing our best moments may make us feel better and portray a beautiful story of our lives to our followers, but is it the true story? I love the Pinterest fail pictures, the real stories of folks who cannot make the cookies look like the easy 1,2,3 instructions, the “do this with your kids on a rainy afternoon” craft projects that turn into utter disasters of glue and feathers and tears. I get those people, I am those people. I can’t relate to the perfect family reunions, the birthday parties where no one gets hit with the pinata bat. I always feel less than, like I have failed before I even begin in those settings. I know I am not ever going to have a Pinterest post of my glorious DIY project, I know I will never preach from my successes. My brokenness is too great, I can’t hide all the scars. I can never compete with the ones who always win the races, why even try?

It isn’t that I am looking for all the wrong, the bad, the dirt on anyone. I am just drawn to the real. I can’t learn from a pastor who preaches above me, at me, who pretends to or even worse, really believes he has all the answers. That really just undermines the message to me, I know he isn’t God and therefore, isn’t perfect and must at some point trip and spill his drink or shout at his children or not win the first prize in every race. These are the stories I need, because that is where I live and where I can be guided out from, into a deeper relationship with God. What do we do when we find ourselves in those very human spots, every day, some days we even spend the whole day there? How do we find God in the messes we make, how do we hear the Holy Sprit in those moments?  I need that roadmap when I am especially covered in dirt and sin, not to see someone sparkling clean who seemingly has never fallen off the path into the ditch.

During this political and social season of screaming and hating and fear and anxiety, I think it is ever more critical that we are able to embrace each other as broken vulnerable humans who “are all just walking each other home” in the words of Ram Dass. It is imperative that we lose any sense of superiority and ego, those are not virtues listed anywhere in the Bible, certainly not characteristics of Jesus. Learning to listen, though, really listen to just one more person each day who has a story that makes them real, ways that may be different from our own realness, like being a bit smellier or unable to keep their kids in their pew at church or obviously eating all the wrong foods (you know the ones, those who eat too much candy and drive-thru hamburgers and rarely have vegetables), listening to their struggles may just put us in touch with our own challenges which we have been tucking away from view. Together we may find we have more in common than we knew, we might begin to heal ourselves and a tiny piece of the world. I love the new Heineken ad that brings people together who believe on the surface that they strongly disagree. What happens is holy, the kind that even includes beer, the kind of holy that allows people to see each other as real for the first time as they become vulnerable. This is pastoring from a most unlikely source and it is glorious.

Ultimately, I have come to see that my Catholic upbringing has left some ideas that just don’t work anymore. Well, many I have cast aside already, but the main issue that has stuck in my mind is that the person who stands before me each Sunday is speaking with a louder voice  because that comes from God. Their message carried more weight because of a divine calling. This may be true, I certainly have a pastor now who speaks Jesus to me like I have never experienced before. And I have to give a shout out to the Pope who is doing the most amazing God work ever, acting out of humility that makes me less anguished about my childhood religious roots. Still, I know more and more that the pastors who lead me are the ones who I find around me in unlikely places, the ones who can reach me where I am. They join me in the muck and then we both can climb out. They are all around me, next to me, speaking and listening and forgetting their important papers. These are my pastors, the ones who are broken and chipped and are listening for the whispers of the Holy Spirit as well. Together, we will all make it home, passports in hand.

Finding Stella

Four years ago I was on my way to South Korea, carrying only my new tightly packed huge backpack and enough excitement to fuel the multiple modes of transport that would take me to my daughter. I was bringing her home from her year of teaching but first we were traveling to Cambodia and Thailand. Many weeks of traveling, just us and our backpacks. Mine was pink, I sent her a green one. A constant flow of information between us as we selected our routes, planned our hostel stays, determined how little money we could get by on, and especially the detailed plan for me to reach her apartment once I landed at Incheon International and then found the correct subway and then the all important right stop to disembark. I was traveling across the world to see my girl, all alone, Chef dropping me at the local site to catch the shuttle to take me to the airport 3 hours away. Many transfers, many opportunities for me to get mixed up, turned around, lost. I always get lost. This time, though I found my Stella, I was at her apartment when she returned from work, a testament to her preparation and determination to get me there, a story of just how badly I wanted to see my daughter.

I can point to many life events that have shaped and changed me, set my path on a new course. Some are awful, just so horrific they left me wandering in the dark lost and searching for too long. Other events opened me to new lights and greater glorious fields, new ideas and realizations of my more. This trip was the good kind. The very best kind. I saw my daughter as a woman on this trip, no longer my little girl. I loved who she was, who she had grown into. Sure and confident, living in a foreign country, alone and mastering it. She took me to favorite restaurants where owners hugged her as she walked in. She showed me her classrooms where children asked us to take them back to America because they loved her so much. I met her supervisors who said she always had a place there, she was a wonderful teacher. Then we began to travel and she showed me the world. She taught me how to navigate, how to find our way when English is no where to be found. She showed me her soul as we cried over the Killing Fields in Cambodia. She showed me how to play as we laughed with the elephants in Thailand. She taught me to eat  street food that I will never be able to replicate or name. We slept in places we agreed to never tell Chef about, we rode in vehicles we weren’t sure we would survive in. We talked into the sweaty nights and laughed every sweltering day.

I think my daughter is lost now, maybe I am. We can’t find each other. God knows that I would travel on any tuktuk or midnight bus with sketchy hipsters who haven’t showered in forever if it meant I could reach her. A constant flow of apologies, beseeching, anger, crying out to remember who we are, nothing I do seems to cross the divide. My God I miss that laugh, those eyes, that beautiful woman who teaches me things. I miss how her soul, always an old soul, uses creative ways to explore and explain her insides. Her art, oh Lord, her art. I miss how she loved so fiercely that it often broke her, she loved so loyally that she had no understanding of those who left others behind. I can’t find my daughter in this big world, maybe she has lost herself.

Four years ago today I was leaving for the trip that would forever change how I travel and why I travel. It forever altered how I see those around me, those in the places I visit. I seek out their stories, I want to know them and learn how my life is connected to theirs. Because we ARE all connected, that’s what she showed me most of all. She showed me that the water we waste, the clothing we take for granted, the extra food we throw out, the stories of suffering we don’t care to learn as we buy trinkets and bargain for the lowest price, we are connected to others who suffer. Today as I look back on that trip 4 years ago, I am reminded that Stella and I are still, forever connected, once through joy, today through heartache. She knows I will travel the world to reach her, she knows I will stop at nothing once she says she wants to be found. I feel her some days, so close she could be a shadow, a hazy bit of fog, I reach out but cannot touch her.  I trust that God is with her, near her, hovering over, listening to her soul. I know that God celebrates our connections, God loves our reconciliations and seeks restoration in our broken world. One day God will draw the map that will bring us back together. Today, we remember our past travels and keep walking in the light. Soon, Stella, we will meet again and my God won’t we laugh?



More Than One Dress

I bought this dress on a whim while on a trip about a year ago, full of expectation and brimming with the hope that I would be the kind of person who wore that dress. It was a vacation kind of dress, bright fun colors, a bit shorter in cut. It required some sass, a bit of pizzazz to wear. I intended to have those, I wanted to have enough confidence to wear this dress. I purchased it, packed it in my suitcase, brought it home and hung it in my closet where it has stayed all this time. The dress began to mock me recently, laughing as I walked by, knowing it was not for me and I was not for it. I wanted to be that person but the dress just did not fit my vision of me. Oddly though, every time I looked at it fully, I saw not my shortcomings but a vision of my friend. I could not get her out of my head with each pass through the closet. She has sass, she has pizzazz, she routinely wears dresses.  She has been allowing her hair to go gray and has the exact right coloring for this dress. I knew this dress was not me, but surely it was her. Finally, the dress was removed from my closet and now resides in hers. I don’t know if my vision really matches her reality, this could be just a  traveling clothing item that is searching for the right home. Still, I am sure this dress was not for me, the real me. It felt good to let it go, to walk peacefully through my closet and not feel mocked at who I am not, but rather to see my big sweaters and longer, darker dresses, also to see the t-shirts from marches and issues I support sprawled around my shelves. The closet reflects me.

When I was younger, I wanted to heal the world. I was an activist social worker, I wanted to make a difference. I was on track but messages from childhood competed with the education I was receiving in college. I can see now that I was scared, afraid of being on my own, not married, not sure I was capable of protecting myself. My desire to be a mother erupted and overtook my personhood. My life trajectory was forever altered. I don’t regret those years, still it is only with hindsight that I see I gave all to only one aspect of me. I only ever wore one dress at a time. When my children left to begin their own lives, their own relationships and choices with consequences that severed our ability to stay connected, I was left naked. My one dress was gone. I can hear myself tell Chef repeatedly through angry hurtful tears, “But I am a mom, that is who I am.” The sound of my own voice crying out that plea to let me go back, put on my old identity, begging God to just let us all go back, it still breaks my heart as it reverberates in my mind. Like the children of Israel who followed Moses out of slavery, I didn’t understand I was being freed. I didn’t see that while walking in the wilderness, God was leading me by day with the clouds and at night in my fiery dreams. I could only complain about wanting more, what to go back to the known. Yet, God had more for me, wanted more for me, knew that I am more. I didn’t know I was shedding. I did know it was horrible and painful. I didn’t know if there was anything after, if there would be any me left when all that had been was scrapped away.

Wearing roles as my identity is much like that dress, I wanted them to fit. I wanted to be enough for them, them enough for me. Shedding those roles that once defined me has been an excruciating process, not one I would have chosen any more than giving up on this pretty dress. Pain in the peeling, the leaving behind, fear of the resulting emptiness. If I take away “mom” will I disappear?  I did for a bit. I sat in the nothingness, my skin raw as the last vestiges of who I thought I was slid away, unable to expose the fresh tender me to the sunlight. The hiding time was healing time, though. God was growing me into my new skin, from the inside out, not allowing me to don another role of caregiver as my new dress. Hindsight allows me to see that my year of seclusion looks much like a time of wrestling that old skin away, much like my beasts hurling themselves against the huge trees outside, rubbing their bodies from nose to butt against the rough bark to help remove their winter hair. Clumps fall away, get caught in the wind, beasts run with abandon feeling lighter and less itchy. Many trips to the tree, much hurling and tossing about, barks and yips breaking the quiet. Growing into the new is hard, is a process.

I am new. I am becoming more of me. The struggle to assert my personhood even causes friction in my marriage as we establish room, more space for a bigger me. Like the dress that doesn’t fit, not just a size up is needed, an entirely different style. Communication, assertiveness, determination, skills required as Chef realizes he wed one woman and is living with another. We are sweeping up the clumps of hair, wrestling with our evolving selves and how God wants us to stand together to be new and united. I can see that Chef is in the beginning stages of the peeling away, the horrible painful time of losing it all to find what is underneath, to find his more. I have cleaned out his closet to remove those clothes that mock him as well. Now he sits in the nothingness, losing clumps of himself and wondering what will remain, will anything remain. I know, I want to shout with joy, I know so surely, that God is leading him out of this wilderness and into his own time of growth and new identity that is pleasing to God and in fulfillment of His plans. It is okay that Chef doesn’t know, doesn’t always believe, I do.

My raw skin has healed, I am free and new. I am a person of God. I will always be a mom, be grandma. But I am more. My closet is a mixed mess of colors and styles, ready to take me anywhere from the back of my brother’s Harley to Sunday morning church. It takes me to meetings for all the ministries I am involved in and out to the dirt to play. There are comfy clothes for writing time and Tom’s shoes to make my statements.  I pray I never get stuck wearing one dress again, as beautiful and tempting as it may be. I am more.






Mental Health March

Chef describes depression as bean bag chairs that rest on him, laying on his shoulders and covering his head. A bit comfy at first, molding to his body, providing shelter, blocking the harsh light from his eyes. (Well, he said the bean bag part.) The longer the bean bags, light as they are, stay in place, though, they become heavy, too awkward to carry around. Easier to sit still and not explain to onlookers why you are carrying beanbag chairs on your shoulder, simpler to not move and mess with the weight of them, jostling the little beans inside until they push even further onto your body, obstructing more of your view. Shoulders become weary, begin to sag. Neck muscles grow exhausted, head begins to droop. A slow gentle process of depression,  sinking under the bean bag chairs until you are covered and can no longer see, no longer lift them alone. I think fear is the same, worry is the same, anxiety, the same. All begin with just little bean bag on our shoulder, one becomes two, more sneak on top until we are stuck in the darkness. Or maybe like tiny seeds that get watered and nurtured and tended until they grow so great around our souls we are imprisoned in a garden of our making. We lose sight of the fact that we CAN lift those damn bean bags, we CAN chop down the weeds of worry. Getting up, moving into the light of community, we can find our way out of the darkness.

I have spent most of every day since election night consumed with worry and fear and disbelief that our country really wanted someone so filled with hate speech, so blatantly dangerous to women,  to lead us, to be the person our children learn about in school. To be honest, there was a time I was completely behind Hillary but that wasn’t this election until it was him or her. I know the weaknesses of choosing her, I knew better the danger of choosing him. So I too have felt the garden of fear growing around me, requiring every bit of my attention to chop down new growth and avoid fertilizing existing sprouts. When I realized the march was happening, I saw a chance to wack the entire greedy garden away. I invited the one person I wanted to march with, my niece who is a young woman on the cusp of political awareness, waking up to her voice, finding her beliefs. I knew her passion would provide some strength to do necessary gardening.

We planned the trip on the cheap. We drove ourselves overnight,  a cooler filled with sandwiches and snacks, scheduled naps in hotel parking lots. We listened to political podcasts to stay awake, drank too much coffee and consumed the miles separating us from Washington D.C. as if our lives depended on it. Because sort of, they did. We had to go and be in the crowd of others who were vanquishing fear and worry and depression, a mass of people who were together clearing away whatever weight or weeds were holding them down or back. Our family at home were concerned about safety, Chef had serious reservations about my health. We arrived to find the largest crowd of protesters ever recorded and experienced not a single moment of concern. Women are just intrinsically nurturing beings, we want to foster each other and the earth and our children, put 500,000 of us together and we still say please and thank you, we still smile and make space for one more. Yes, we were angry, but we were not hateful. Yes, we were motivated but not destructive. Yes, we were loud but we listened also. We found power in the collective by making space for many concerns without the requirement to signoff on every concern. Fear and worry and depression turned away, hope and passion lifted us all.

I heard it described as a group of whiners, a bunch of women who needed the therapy of being together to recover from Hillary losing. As if therapy is a bad thing, a shameful thing. It WAS therapeutic, it did restore my mental health. I was able to sit on the “couch” of D.C. and pour out my emotions and let the crowd counselor make sense of them, tell me I am not alone, wash them away. But more than that, I was given an action plan, a call to keep moving once I returned home and the weeds looked scraggly and exhaustion set in. Once my body began to truly ache and my feet were on fire, I could choose to descend back into hopelessness but make no mistake, that would be my choice now. I have tools, I have a community, I have work that needs to be done. So, yes, excellent therapy, money well spent. No shaming me or my movement for this label. We already know the benefit of mental health services, the stigma won’t stick.

For those who have yet to embrace the causes of the march, for those who think it doesn’t reflect their interests, no worries. We will march and act and get louder for you. When we are growing weary, we will need your backup for the next wave. By then, I am confident you will see yourself in the faces of women and men and children who just want to be respected and heard by our leader. To all who marched in D.C. and around the world, thanks for clearing away the weight of depression’s bean bags, thanks for chopping out the weeds of worry in my soul garden. President Obama told us, “Yes, we can.”  I say, “Yes, we will.” We have already begun, together. For today, I will be propping my feet up on the bean bags, enjoying the flowers that are blooming in my soul.

Open For Visitors

I swear it was not planned, at least not by me. I just wrote about my new office, described my sanctuary. I didn’t get into the nitty-gritty of each item that made the cut, the thoughtful decisions of final resting places either on my window sill, the bookcase or a shelf, the absolute tyranny I wield over this space because I arranged it and it is filled with my stuff and it is mine! The less attractive details that give a peek into my ache for some bit of determination into just a bit of something, a tiny piece of control over where I at least put my own basket or cup of pencils. I have been working on letting go of what is not mine, the “give it all to God” plan that I battle with so often. That work doesn’t include my office.  The pottery that sits on my desk, I want that just off to the right where my eye catches it every time I reach for my coffee. It reminds me of Janet who brings honesty and grace into my life, sees my brokenness and has never shied away. The picture of my brother and I when we reached Colorado, I want to see it each morning and remember I can do hard and uncomfortable things and be rewarded with amazing insights into God’s creation. The pieces of twine, fraying snips of string, those are my reminders of connections to friends from back home, back when, who stand with me and for me with love, women far away  but who can be reached with just a tug. Another picture is off to the left, where my politics and a deep friendship from college have settled, a drawing from an art fair that captures my faith and this friendship. It reminds me the artist knew my daughter, back when. No random objects here, nothing buried under a hoarding mess. My office is an exquiste time capsule, not fancy surely, but all a reflection of me and my life travels.

Then Plum came to visit. He didn’t know he was intruding, he didn’t know he was supposed to stay out or knock first on the slightly opened door, he didn’t know that the books were arranged on shelves by topic and size. He only knew this room was most recently his play area and his gran was now in it and his gran delights in all that he does and … can you see that it really wasn’t his fault? Yet I grew tense, I suggested we play out in the living room, I offered that maybe Grandpa wanted to play a game with him. Even more appalling, he brought a laundry basket overflowing with several of his closest stuffed friends, dumped them out on my floor then proceeded to develop an elaborate storyline of how each one was finding this space welcoming. Certainly not the vibe I was putting out. Introductions were made at his insistence then animals read books, colored pictures, climbed the ladder in the corner, scoured the globe, two rather shy ones joined up for a game of hide and seek on the shelves. I am ashamed to admit that at first I was quite twitchy, I only noticed that MY stuff was invaded and jostled and messed up. I left for a minute, screamed in a whisper to Chef, returned with a resigned attitude, ready to ride it out while I tried not to keep checking the time. I sat on my hands while I plastered a smile on to avoid grabbing each toy and throwing them back into the basket and right out the door. How long before I could shut this playdate down?

I almost missed it. So very close to clenching my teeth right over the joy of this child sharing his stories in my writing room, realizing that he was arranging his specials as he created his words as well. Oh dear God help me break out of my rigidity!  This world belongs to our Father first, we claim it as our own with lines drawn on paper, we erect our shelves, arrange our specials and create our stories in the space God created, as if we really did something, forgetting just like Plum in my office space, He was here first. I almost missed that my Plum was copying me, he was setting up a space to then share his words. How could I hold so tightly to my room that I didn’t want to nurture his storytelling?

Thankfully I got the nudge that comes with being open to God first thing in the morning, He reminded me that this room is not really mine, that these objects are memories of my own nurturance and empowerment. He reminded me that the most importance room in my world is the one in my heart for this child. I took some deep breaths, I allowed an elephant to tromp across my desk and a rabbit to frolic on my shelves. A giraffe read a book, a frog climbed the ladder while a dog and a bear shyly found each other and played hide and seek. The moose gardened and the panda explored the globe. Soon they all packed up and left, except the shy friends. Plum decided they were most comfortable now with me and were choosing to stay. He said they enjoyed how I shared with them and felt more at home here rather than up with all the other animals.

I have two new objects in my office, hints to be softer, more inviting, ready to cuddle when the rare chance comes. Two blue scuffed up toys that remind me I wasn’t here first no matter how much I try to claim this space. I am a visitor also, I have to knock first too. God opened the door for me to see His world, the real perfect garden He created in my soul. All of this belongs to God, all of me is His. Will I shut the door, arrange my stuff and sit quietly to reminisce or open myself up to new stories and visitors and the charming sounds of a six year old who teaches me about flexibility and finding new friends?

I like my stuff just how it is, I bet God arranged His garden just as He wanted as well. We are all guilty of making a mess of it,  yet He keeps the door open for us, allows us to enter freely and with forgiveness, we get to bring our scruffy friends and tell our stories and rearrange His people and move His creatures. It seems the further I run into my own space, the more I realize the journey is where I see God, not in the destination of my own little territory. Surely I can follow His example and open my heart room for a few more visitors. Some may even choose to stay.


The Temptation of More

As we made the hour trip to visit family my Plum had questions about houses. He wanted to know what was the very first house ever made. I described the abode Adam and Eve must have created as they left the ultimate shelter. He wanted to see it, wondered why it wouldn’t still be around. As we passed houses we considered how many people lived in each, how many and what kind of pets they might have. Room for beasts like us, cats or maybe a bowl of goldfish? He asked about the smallest house ever and then of course the largest. He was into extremes, sometimes that is how we start, working our way from outer edges back to us. We talked about his old apartment, perfect for just him and Mama but as his family grew they needed more. This apartment has enough space for a stepdad and a new baby sister. We showed him images of the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina, a reminder of a trip Chef and I took many years ago. Shocked at learning such places existed, imagining getting lost inside, he asked if we would ever have a mansion. I told him we did. We described out home, too much space now for just us but perfect many times throughout the years for all who have needed a dwelling place. We talked about having too much, losing each other in all that house, and about those who have so little that our home is a mansion to them.

We focus often on what we don’t have, the missing pieces, the broken parts or compare to others who have newer bigger shinier versions. With one conversation with my Plum, I gained perspective again, remembering that first home that was filled with everything, all needs met. Still wasn’t enough, temptation to have more, the extra that was out of the budget, the lure of that comes with taking our eyes off of the beauty surrounding us. That is when we lose it all. Lose all perspective and are cast out of goodness and understanding that God is providing. What we have is our enough. Regardless of the beauty of someone else’s enough, regardless of the size of their garden, our enough is from God. We are not called to seek more, we are called to SHARE more. What if Eve had invited that serpent in to share in her garden, to find peace and sanctuary in there? Maybe she had many times, maybe she was broken down by the temptation. Imagining what could possibly have not been enough for her, that she wanted more, with no job loss, with no aging parents, without addiction, with estrangement, without any other worries, what in God’s name could have been so bad that she just had to want more? But that is just it, my list is no one else’s, the things that tempt my sinful nature. Hers were different and show that regardless of how easy life is, still we are broken, we are human. So we compare what we have with others and think we should have bigger, better, newer.

When I traveled to South East Asia, my heart was changed forever. I cannot look at our home with all of its needs and not see how rich we are. I cannot un-know the poverty I witnessed. I am not a saint, I still want to buy way too many Lego sets, especially the new Batman mini figs coming out. It may kill me not to be able to collect those with my Plum. We have reached the place in our financial state where I dare not buy even one packet, I must resist the temptation. Yet every trip down the hallway I pass a toy room filled with Lego, I know he has enough. I find pieces in my purse, on my desk, on the dining room table. Scattered bits of toys that would be precious to those who have not even one. We have enough, our enough is plenty.

The new year brings many ads to organize all the stuff that came in for Christmas, ways to stow away and sort all the things we accumulate. Buying more to clean up what we just bought. The temptations are endless, the lure to forget that what we have is enough beyond the belief to so many. Considering that Jesus carried nothing with him, amassed no wealth, built no homes with attached garages and extra sheds to store his extra robes, how can I as a follower think I need more? If I truly believe that every single thing in my home is gifted from God, how can I question if it is enough, can I really go to Him and say I need more?

Houses are structures. Temporary dwellings that can be filled with people, creatures, love, turned into gardens of Eden. Used to satisfy the needs of all who wander, all who need shelter, places for us to rest as we do the work of God. Conversely they can be the casting out places without us even realizing it, brimming with evidence of temptation engaged, apples bitten. May your home reflect your love of God, may it feel like enough. May your home be a refuge for the lost, may you find peace in your dwelling place.  I live in a mansion built by God. May I look around and see not all that is broken, not what is missing, but see just how very blessed I am. And then share it. This mansion has plenty of room for those in need.

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