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He left this morning, this oldest boy of mine. I should have been zipping him into a bright red snowsuit, kissing him on the nose, and sending him outside to play with his brothers. Instead, early in the morning, I stood in an airport, tiptoed up to kiss his bearded cheek and whispered I love you into his ear. Time really does fly.

I had him for three wonderfully ordinary weeks, full of the glory of doing nothing special. Yesterday, though, I felt the temptation to make the last day meaningful. I’ve made this mistake before.

Nothing ruins precious time more than the pressure to BE MEANINGFUL.

I’ve learned it’s better to spend the days with open hands, letting the time run freely through my fingers until there isn’t any left, and I am gentle with myself and my few tears, because I’m his mom and I love him and it’s all so very precious without me having to make it so.

 

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Today I was supposed to go shopping.

It’s my last day in India, and I had planned to spend it in the markets in Delhi. I’d thought I’d buy a cashmere shawl, maybe, or some earrings for myself, and maybe snap a few more photographs of this ridiculous, frantic city.

Instead, I am in the hotel. My son is sick, so I’m a mom instead of a tourist, and my last chance to see India before going home is a bust.

I’ve been a bit concerned about going home, to be honest. After seven weeks in India, the thought of landing back home just as the Christmas season is gearing up is daunting. I’ve been wearying myself with the thought of trying to put together a short-order Christmas in a borrowed house in a new town.

But, today, my child is sick, and I find myself immediately okay with stepping out of my India shoes and slipping on my taking-care-of-my-family ones. It’s time.

Soon, I will hug my dears and sleep in my bed and drink real coffee. I will put on some Christmas music, then, and bake pecan tarts and decorate the tree and watch corny holiday shows with my husband.

India is over, and home is calling.

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I was one of those who drank the Tiny House kool-aide. Do you know what I’m talking about? Those websites and links with words like off-grid and financial freedom and eco-friendly and how to build a house out of a shipping container for $2000. I drank a tiny glass of all that tiny wonderful-ness and I imagined an amazing tiny life and I thought:

How cute. How adorable are those tiny sinks and tiny toilets. How wonderful to pare your home down to such a basic level. What freedom! What an awesome way to disconnect from consumerism and materialism.  How lovely to miniaturize everything. How easy it would be to clean and organize.

Then, without really planning for it, tiny living happened to me, and it looks like two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an itty-bitty multi-purpose space in the basement of our friend’s home. (He is so sweet. He could not be sweeter.) We share his upstairs area (kitchen and living room) while trying to give him the space he needs for his own busy life. We’re paying him a tiny amount of rent and in return we have the gift of time. A year or so to settle in and live in this town and figure out what *it* will look like for us.

Reality is often less adorable than the dream, isn’t it? Reality right now is an ugly second-hand couch (ugly couches are my lot in life, it seems) and a lot of close-quarters navigating. Reality is tolerance and accommodating each other and sharing. Reality is crowded.

It’s kind of a fun challenge. It’s not the tiny home of my dreams, maybe, but life is not a dream. Life is real and complicated and requires grace and flexibility, and if you embrace all of that, it can be a tiny bit wonderful.

May we live all kinds of tiny graces today, friends, no matter the sizes of our homes or the expanses of our lives. May we find polite ways to share our spaces, whether at home or in the grocery store queue or online. May we use our words in healing, supporting ways. May we share coffees and cookies and rub elbows instead of throwing them. May our close quarters invite intimacy, friendship, and cooperation.

May we experience all the unexpected crowded blessings life offers.

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Ask me a question these days and chances are good my answer will be “I don’t know.”

Where will you live after you move?

I don’t know.

Will you buy a house or rent?

I don’t know.

Will you keep fostering?

I don’t know.

What will the kids do?

I don’t know.

Do you think your foster daughter will be okay?

I don’t know.

Why aren’t you stressed out?

I don’t know.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about how life will work over the next few months. Honestly, I’m not sure why I haven’t felt more stressed and anxious about that. I’ve felt so many other things about this move: happy, sad, excited, lonely, uncertain, melancholy, rushed, tired, joyful. But I haven’t felt much stress and I haven’t been much worried.

I wonder if all the things I don’t know have helped me focus on what I do know? Maybe. I don’t know much about the future, but I know these two things…

I know I want a smaller life. I want a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny yard to care for. I want less stuff and less busy and less unnecessary, because I have other ways I want to live before my living is done.

Now, if you are someone who seeks the egg-gathering, gardening, canning, or whatever-ing kind of life, that’s great! I did that and I loved it for many years. The goats and the chickens and the butchering and all the gritty beauty of life and death that country living has offered our family has been wonderful.

I’m glad the kids grew up on our little farm and we’ve been blessed by so many country experiences. But I’ve learned to let go of things, even when they’ve been precious and lovely things, when the time is right. And for us, now, the time is right right right. It’s bittersweet, of course. There’s some loss and that means there is some grief. But there’s beauty and freedom and healing in a good goodbye said well at the right time.

I know I want a “funner” life. Okay, it’s not a word. Whatever. A funner life is what I want. I’m not saying I want a more leisurely life or more money or more holidays. I think (and I’m figuring this out as I go, you guys) it means I want to engage in better ways with the things that make me who I am, deep deep down in my soul. Or maybe in my gut. You know?

Simply, I hope to spend the next years of my life doing what I’ve always encouraged in my kids: to be true to who they were created to be and to live out of the confidence that who they are is enough.

Who I am is enough. That takes a certain amount of courage to say when you’ve spent most of your life trying to be good, be better, be more, be seen. But it’s truth. And I think it’s the key to having fun.

A smaller life and a funner life. It’s a start.

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I’m packing a box of memories – stuff the kids have made over the years – and I realize all of a sudden, like the calendar just up and slapped me on the back, that in just over a month I will be homeless. It sounds more dramatic than it is, but still my heart quicks its beating for a minute or two as I let that realization and all of its complicated associated feelings travel from my brain to my heart.

And then, just like that, I’m excited. Finally, I’m excited. After being by times fearful and sad and confused and grieving, all mixed in with tentative anticipation, I’m plain old excited.

If you’ve been following along, we are moving. We’re selling the stuff and packing up what’s left and heading west, all the way to British Columbia. For lots of reasons that I’ll probably write about when I have more time, this move has been as much a heart process as a physical one.

A lot of things have changed since we began this new adventure. The original plan, back when we first talked about doing something else for a year, has been completely revised. That’s the nature of adventures, though, isn’t it? They take on a life of their own.

The one thing about that original dream that I want to protect, though, is it’s smallness. The simple, teeny tiny, cozy, delightful essence of what this whole thing was about when we started, in spite of how the details have changed, is still what is most important to me. In four words, this is my dream.

Less stuff. More fun.

More later…

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You know, there’s something glorious about having a playground to yourself.

You can twirl on the swing without anyone complaining. You can run up the slide or pour sand down it, and no one will say a thing. You can holler and sing and pretend you have a gun to shoot bad guys with, without any social pressure to be quieter or play nicer.

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, it is easy to be who you are and do what you want when you’re alone. It’s harder when people are watching.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I suppose it’s important to learn social acceptability. But maybe there’s also value in learning to be brave enough to be willing to be socially less-acceptable once in a while.

This has been the conundrum that has challenged me for my entire parenting career.

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I watch her roll the ball from her hands. She pushes it with all her tiny strength and it leisurely makes its way down the lane, slowly slowly slowly, and my eyes follow the journey.

I understand goodbyes. I understand watching as the vehicle drives away or the casket is lowered. I’ve blown kisses to their backs as they’ve turned and walked away from me. There’s no getting around goodbyes. No shortcut, really.

I find myself watching her now with memorizing eyes. She’s leaving soon and there’s a part of me that is jealous of all her time in other places or with other people. I scramble to hold the hours even as they slip from my hands.

Then my mom gets sick and I have to go, of course.

I’m gone for a week and my husband sends me texts with pictures of them all, and her. Pictures of normal family stuff and he sends updates of their days and I realize it’s good for them to have their time, too. Time without me as the defining cornerstone in their relationships.

She’s different when you aren’t here, he says. And I’m glad they’ve had their chance to hold and spend their own hours, without me.

I’m learning to share the goodbyes.

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I read Matthew all through Lent. Fifty-ish days of Matthew and a little N.T. Wright and some stuff on vulnerability and a fair bit about the Kingdom. Funny how the threads of all these different words have been weaving their ways into some kind of garment I’ve been wearing for a while. Like a loose, flowing summer dress, these words have been sitting on my shoulders and falling across my breasts and belly and floating around my legs as I walk through my days.

This is how I read words now. Wearing them instead of studying them.

I wore them through my mom’s heart attack and bypass surgery, through hard and happy family days, through challenging and exciting life-change days, and through heartbreaking and sweet foster parenting days. I’ve dressed myself morning after morning in their comfort and security and they fit perfectly. They make the hard days less hard. They make me feel beautiful.

The days rush me toward change – as my husband heads west for work and the house gets packed up and the children near the finish line of another year of math – and even as I feel the wind of all the rushing blow through my hair, I wrap the comfort of all the good-fitting words around me and I know I am well-dressed for the weather of this changing life.

If clothes make the woman, then these are the clothes I want to wear.

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Is it just me, or is there an unrealistic expectation of excitement out there? Like, life should constantly provide me with EXPERIENCES that challenge and motivate and entertain and occupy me. Especially, maybe, among the children, but increasingly among the rest of us. I wonder if it’s because we are losing our ability to navigate boredom well?

Every kid needs to learn how to be successfully bored. Seriously, boredom is an important skill that must be resurrected.

It’s important to understand that “I’m so bored” is actually code for I am feeling an emptiness that I want you to fill for me. Or, I don’t want to do the work of figuring out how to spend my time so I would like you to allow me to watch television or play with my electronics.

Honestly, I’ve tried to not let my kids get away with the whole I’m so bored thing. The very whine of those words makes my skin shiver in almost exactly the same way it does when I hear people filing their fingernails. I adamantly (usually, almost always, when I’m not too tired) refuse to rescue my children from their boredom. In fact, they rarely say it anymore because they know my response will be…

Good. You’ll be motivated to find something to do. Or,

Good. You’ll have time to think about stuff. Or,

Good. I have some things I could use some help with.

Honestly, boredom has led to some of the most imaginative of days around here. Boredom has initiated all kinds of learning, from how to play a musical instrument to how to build a musical instrument to researching all the things there are to know about the musical styles of said instrument.

Boredom has led to entrepreneurial adventures, book-reading or internet-searching adventures, vacation-planning adventures, and all manner of construction adventures. Boredom has been the beginning of so much that would have been lost had the easy distraction-road of entertainment been taken.

(You guys know that sometimes, because we’re an imperfect little family just doing our best, the easy distraction-road of entertainment has indeed been taken from time to time, right? <smile and nod>)

But mainly, being bored is simply not indulged in these parts, because bored kids who never develop the ability to transition from boredom to self-motivation become bored, unsatisfied adults. I mean, I don’t have any scientific studies or anything, but that’s what I think.

Boredom might just be the most important and undervalued source of motivation for personal development and creativity there is. Don’t deny your kids! Let them be bored and then stand back and watch how they grow.

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I have a little girl who lives with me. She’s three and she knows I’m not her mom. She calls me Gubba. I pick her up from daycare on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:00, and we drive home. Every trip, we have the same conversation.

Home, Gubba?

Yes.

Your home?

Yes.

My home?

Yes.

I’m not sure what internal stuff she is processing as we repeat this ritual, but I know home is an important place.

I think its significant that after God created the world, the first thing he did was make a home. And not just any old home. A beautiful home, filled with love and possibility and friendship and Him. And, because every good story needs it, the tiniest potential for things to go wrong.

This is the thing about homes. As beautiful and comfortable and safe as we make them – and let’s make them as beautiful and as comfortable and as safe as we can – things go wrong. Always.

People fight or pets die or jobs are lost or children walk away. Just ask the prodigal son’s dad about children leaving nice homes. Stuff happens in homes, no matter the furnishings or the landscaping or even the love.

This is the other thing about homes, though. As much as things go wrong in them, homes are meant to be places of beauty. Sometimes, beauty is tears in the night or puppy poo on the living room floor or children sharing fears. Sometimes, beauty is hanging in there when it’s tough. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing is the hardest or the most challenging or the messiest.

Homes are meant to be beautiful and clean and safe. I wonder, though, if that means beauty over time, instead of beauty every time. I hope so.

My home isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. I can’t seem to keep up with the dusting and the furniture is ancient and the living room needs repainting and once in a while I lose my patience with the people I love and, to be honest, I’m not the best cook in the world. I can focus on any or all of those things, in the moment.

Over time, though, my hope is that people who spend time here will find some beauty in spite of it all.

If they do, it will be because of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

He made a beautiful home, way back then, and He says he’s making us another one, so I think beautiful homes must be important.