Monday, October 21, 2013

Redefining "Home"

As well as the transition has gone, as much as we are enjoying our new life here in Texas, it still doesn't feel like home. I told Josh a few night ago that this still sometimes feels like a strange, extended vacation. Josh, the breadwinner among us, said, "I'm not sure I'd go as far as a vacation." Fair enough, but he did get what I was saying.

I suppose it's not entirely surprising. We're living in a 2-bedroom apartment without any of our regular furniture. We've made it a functional space with enough decor to keep it from feeling sterile, but it doesn't quite feel like ours, or us. We are making wonderful memories together in this makeshift residence, but it just isn't "home."

Is this a function of our privilege? I've thought about this, how so many people live their entire lives in spaces they don't own, in apartments smaller, in conditions dire. Here, we simply don't have our "stuff" or a place to call "ours" completely. Does that say something about us? That we could live our lives fully without most of our household? That we feel adrift because we don't have walls we can drill at will?

Our situation is a function of the fact that our house in Colorado still hasn't sold. It's been at once embarrassing and infuriating. It has made me feel both dumb for not figuring out the secret to selling it and out of control, because all reason says it should have sold by now, so the fact that it hasn't means something, Someone, greater is at work.

For months, this tension left me feeling every duality possible: anxiety and peace, claustrophobia and freedom, responsibility and surrender, exposure and security, suspicion and wild faith, impatience and gratitude. And it all hinged on whether, in any given moment, I believed I was in charge or God is in charge. The plot changes dramatically depending on the narrator.

In the first months of selling the house, I would be seized by moments of intense panic. It would grab my chest, wrap its fingers around my mind, and squeeze until the pressure felt unbearable. During these moments, I would greatly question the benevolence of God and then call Josh or my sister to make crazy suggestions like maybe we should cut the price in half and throw our furniture in with the deal. Then I'd email my precious group of friends and say, "I feel like God's out to get us," and they'd email back prayers and assurances of God's goodness, they'd remind me of all the reasons I could trust Him, they'd help me believe The Plan is for our good, not for our demise. And for a few weeks, I'd be able to breathe again.

Most of the time, I believed The Plan. But still, there were moments.

Once we arrived in Texas, there was a permanent shift, though. I started reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts, and I felt the anxiety release. Completely. It was a miraculous transformation of perspective, thanks in part to Voskamp's beautiful prose but largely to her assertion that gratitude--the act of noticing the thousands of tiny gifts in our seemingly unremarkable day-to-day--changes our heart and mind to see the miracle. That "eucaharisteo," thanksgiving, in every moment, even the disastrous ones, trains the eye to "see" accurately, that we are not forsaken, that we are not lost, that we and those around us and our circumstances are not hopeless, that in every time and place, God is working the miracles of mercy and grace and redemption. Right now is not the end of the story, and yet right now, we can notice the signs of what's to come.

My journal is full of insights, hers and others. She writes, "My human experience is the sum of what the soul sees and I see precisely what I attend to and what the eyes focus on is what the life is" (p. 133).

What will I attend to? What will my eyes focus on?

Our apartment doesn't feel like "home" in the same way our mountain house of 11 years did, but...

I look out these windows, and I still get to see trees, huge oaks and pecans reaching higher than the three-story rooftop,

And the kids and I get to ride our bikes or walk to school each day, ten-minutes of time precious for its slower pace, its space for conversation or easy quiet, its opportunity to greet the other neighbors who walk to and fro, its reprieve from the next task,

And we have less to clean and put away,

And the kids share a room and giggle with each other in the morning and make forts and spend the last five minutes of their day talking with each other,

And I have time to read and write and learn and recharge because I am not unpacking and decorating and settling in, nor am I overcommitted because I am new and get to make new decisions about where to spend my time,

And Josh gets to learn about other cultures and perspectives over lunch with coworkers who come from every continent,

And the kids are perfectly content riding bikes in the parking lot and throwing the baseball near the garages,

And they get to do this most days because it's rarely cold outside,

And Merlot is learning to let dogs walk by outside the windows without issuing a huge, echoing bark,

And we are happy, together, in our simplicity that is still an abundance,

And, and, and...

In truth, this place may not feel like our physical home yet, but in some ways, I've never felt as at-home in my own skin.

This season untethered by square feet is a gift, so as long as the time lasts, I will continue to focus on what is in front of me: Josh, the kids, new friends and old, this page. I will trust that this timing is a blessing, not a curse.

And I will be grateful.

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