Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Watching the darkness

My word for this year is "watch".  I am watching what God is doing in my life.  "See, I am doing a new thing!"  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Is 43:19 New thing! God is doing a new thing in my life this year and we are watching and following along.

Yesterday we were supposed to close on the sale of our house and were anxiously awaiting word on whether our offer on a new house would be accepted.  2 hours before close I watched as God unraveled the whole thing.  The sale of our house would have to be canceled due to the denied mortgage of our buyer's buyers.  The domino affect in real estate.  I was forced to withdraw our offer on a house we love.

As I relayed the conversation I just had with the buyers realtor to John I watched as God appeared to drop a veil over our entire future.  We were in the process of unloading a trailer full of tools into John's mom's garage so we could rush back home and clear out the last bit of mostly garbage left in our garage.  We had less than 2 hours until the new owners would be moving in.  I realized I didn't have a clue what to do next.  Do we keep emptying the trailer?  Do we still toss the garbage in our garage.  It all seemed pointless now.  And I am supposed to start living at my parents that night because I am homeless but, now I am not homeless, yet I am stuff less because all our furniture and favorite possessions were in a storage container somewhere in the state of Minnesota (at least I assume it is in MN).

And what else?  Do I really have to put the house back on the market?  Find new sellers?  Do we move back in the house?  Do we stay with my parents for what could now be 2 months or more waiting to sell while a perfectly fine house sits empty?  Do I have any energy left to even comprehend what has just happened after a week of packing, loading and grieving leaving this house.  I was exhausted and totally blank, no idea how to go forward, could not see my hand in front of my face our future had gone so dark.

"I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Until this moment I didn't feel like I was living in a desert or wasteland but suddenly my life is feeling like a very, very big mess.  A desert or wasteland, I could see nothing ahead of me, the total unknown darkness of my future.

Last night I went to hang out with my neighbors.  Because when you are down these ladies can always make you feel loved and good.  One of my neighbors told me when things like this happen she looks for the good in them.  She assured me I would discover many ways that this canceled sale is a good thing.  It reminded me of my word of the year Watch.

God is good and He has never failed me.  I have seen him turn many disappointments in my life to joy.  Our failed In-Vitro was devastating and had me feeling lost and directionless for days.   But God had a plan and what followed was many, many blessings, one of which is Isabelle.  Today I can't imagine our life without Isabelle and her birth family but I really don't think we ever would have pursued adoption if we hadn't first pursued and failed to get pregnant with In-Vitro.

So I am back to Watching God in my life.  Watching to see what he does.  How this disappointment is redeemed.  My neighbor indicated that I could probably come up with a few ways that this was good right away.  Honestly last night I really couldn't come up with any.  But this morning I have come up with one good thing.  I did not have to sleep on the hard floor of my house last night, I did not have to move furniture back off a truck that I had only rented for one day.  We were able to just stop what we were doing and come to my parents house where our clothes, toiletries and my favorite chair were waiting for us to relax, recover and begin to figure out what to do next.  Actually that might be more than one.

There is a glimmer of hope that we could still close soon.  Our buyers are going to try to qualify for a mortgage without the sale of their house.  We should know in a day or two.  If not we will be getting our container back and moving back into our house this weekend and resuming our attempts to sell it.

I often think of people who praise God in the midst of a storm.  Stories I hear of strong Christians who will praise God after a diagnosis of cancer.  I always think I want to be that person, I want to be able to sit in a doctors office, hear a bad diagnosis and praise God for a trial that will bring me closer to Him.  I don't always think about praising God in day to day trials but want to be ready to be a big testimony should a big negative like cancer and impending death come to me.

All day yesterday I kept thinking about that and how this feels a little like a cancer diagnosis at the moment.  And frankly, I did not feel a thing like praising God yesterday.  I mostly was just questioning why, WHY, this would happen and what good could possibly come out of this.  I did not feel one bit thankful about a single aspect of this, was not thankful for a trial, did not care to grow in this way, do not want to be a witness to people around me.  Not happy.  Not praising.

Today while I am still confused, still lost and still can only come up with that one positive thing to say about the situation, I know I would rather walk through complete darkness with God at my side than alone down a straight bright path.  So though my heart is torn I will praise God in this storm.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

There is no such thing as an organized move

We have been in our house for 11 years.  And during those 11 years I spent most of them as a homemaker.  I am not a packrat by any stretch of the imagination.  I have a few boxes of sentimental items and admit to having a couple shelves too many of extra dishes but otherwise I would consider myself to be fairly streamlined.  It may sound strange but over the years as I have cleaned, organized and purged a future move was always on the back of my mind.  While I realize we have a lot of stuff in this house I wanted to feel like it could easily be packed up and ready to go.  An organized home would make for an organized move.  Right?


There is no such thing as an organized move.  No matter who you are I can't believe you don't  have a spot or two in your house full of "junk".  That drawer in the kitchen with pens, magnets, screwdrivers, felt pads for the chairs, misc small parts that I know go somewhere but can't quite remember where at the moment, the key to the bike lock, etc.  How do you pack that?  You just pour it into a bag or box and figure out what to do with it on the other side.

I thought I would bring a big load to the good will.  Sort as I go.  And I did put together a pile, but then you are looking at all this stuff and realizing now you have to pack it up anyway and stop the moving process to deal with this pile because it is in the way of further progress.  And suddenly you aren't sure if you are more motivated to purge or just get done with the packing!

When all the big stuff is out of the house and all the organized shelves have been packed up, what you are left with in the house is the chaos that was hiding under all your order.  Extra power cords, pictures you don't know how to pack, blankets, fly swatter, baskets, the food in your pantry, and all those gift bags and small boxes you save for wrapping presents, a random misplaced item or two.  Junk.

I wanted to keep all like items together.  Wanted all my tupperware in the same box with all the lids together.  Just seems like it is going to make my life easier on the other side.  But it turns out boxes need extra filler to make them strong and it is easier to just jam tupperware around fragile items than to give them their own precious container.  And after a long day of moving boxes into the new house I would love to be able to go to the towel box before I shower but there is no towel box.  Instead every box has a towel cushioning something fragile because you can only buy so much paper.

We had a container dropped off at our house last Monday.  My husband worked at a warehouse in his youth and was trained to pack trucks by UPS so I don't even bother to help load.  I have been packing boxes this week and he has been loading when he gets home from work.  The tetris song has been stuck in our heads for days.  And even though they say you can get 3-4 rooms in a container and we have 12, he has insisted we will get the whole house in there.  I didn't think we needed 4 of them by any stretch, John does have mad truck loading skills, but maybe 2?  We knew we would need to put our garage somewhere else, somewhere he could access several times a week to pick up his work tools.  Yet 3 days ago we did not yet know where that location would be.  So I packed and I panicked and I made phone calls.  You would not believe what they charge for storage in the twin cities!  We might as well rent an apartment!  So I called a friend who lives a little outside the twin cities that I knew rented a storage space.  For $37/month he helped me find a 5x10 space.  It's an hour away.  I haven't seen it and suspect it might be a little shed in a field somewhere but for that price I don't care.  Then, when John's mom found out how far away we would be keeping his tools she insisted she could push a few things in her garage aside and fit his tools.  Which is good because yesterday John admitted he might not be able to get quite everything in the container.  No gloating on my part though because he fit in WAY more than I thought he would.

So today I am sitting in my favorite comfy chair looking around my living room as I have done many times over the years.  My desk is packed, the table is packed and the bar stools that reach the counter are packed.  This is the last place to sit.  By the end of the day everything but my mattress, clothes and a few other things I am taking to my parents will be gone.  Packed up.  And when I will next see them is an unknown.  We don't close until Tuesday. John works this week so he wanted to get us out by the end of today.  I get he needs to pack everything up.  The container gets picked up tomorrow morning.   But, this has been my home for 11 years.  I have loved and cared for this home. Cleaned it, organized it.  Welcomed friends, family, strangers to this home.  Celebrated here.  Mourned here.   Raised children here.  And I assured him that if I had to sleep on the hardwood floors he would not get me out of this house one minute before I had to leave.  I will not be rushed!

The mess and disorganization of moving isn't just in our homes it is in our hearts.  While I know this move is right and I look forward to the adventure we are about to undertake, I am a mess.  Leaving behind all I know and love for the unknown.  And while it may seem that my grieving is a result of all the unknowns of our move, I still remember sitting on the stairs in our last house and weeping before getting in the car and driving to our new, bigger and better house.  I put more than stuff into my homes, I put my heart and soul, a little bit of myself into my homes.  And packing that back up to bring somewhere else is by far the hardest and most unorganized part of moving.

No more table

First totally empty room ready for cleaning.

Somehow when you start packing your clothes don't all stay clean until the move is over!

John's office.
Good bye office.

The living room has become the staging area for the rest of the house.
Empty Pantry
OK we may still have a situation in the garage...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Family Bonding

Lately I have been thinking about what makes a bonded family relationship?  As Jake prepares to leave us in the fall and knowing he will likely never return to our home again as a resident, I have been thinking about what bonds a family together.  What causes people children, parents, siblings, to continue to pursue relationships and share each others lives as they move out and move on?

My parents and siblings are at totally different places in their lives than John and me, yet, we are involved and active in each others lives more now than when we actually lived together!  Why?  And while we don't have the same daily interactions with John's family that we have with mine there is a deep sense of connectedness to them, a joy in knowing what is going on in their lives and a comfort when we spend time with them.

I  have been worrying that we are not spending enough time together as a family during these last months with Jake, worry that we don't have enough memories to draw us back together.  But as I look at what has bonded John and I to our families I am begining to think I should just relax and enjoy the time together.

Growing up we weren't a family that was constantly on the move, we didn't do a bunch of activities together, we pretty much sat around, watched tv and stared at each other, at least they might have been staring at each other, I stayed in my room most of the time.  Today when we are together we do pretty much the same thing, hang out, chat, eat, tv on in the background.  I think part of what makes us close is that we are all so comfortable just being together with no expectations.  Family has become that safe place where you don't have to be anything, perform, produce.  Family is the place where you can just be you.  The good, bad and sometimes ugly can all come peaking out and we will still be here, still take you in, always forgive you, always love you.

These are our people, our family.  Parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles.  They know everything about me, have been with me my whole life, and still they love me.  I think that is a relationship worth preserving.

Nobody tells you when you have a baby that those sleepless nights, the terrible twos, teething, potty training, none of that compares with the emotional challenge of letting that baby go.  Seeing him grow up, develop his own personality, independence and free will and then leaving you to begin a life of his own.  It is what we are working toward throughout their childhood.  In a way it is a sign of our success that they go off and become independent adults.  Yet, after so many years of protecting them we now have to trust that they have learned enough to take care of and protect themselves.

And we have to trust that they will return to us.  We have bonded as a family and home will always be a safe place to return and enjoy.

I have been worried that we aren't making this last summer with Jake fun enough.  We aren't playing enough games together, we aren't doing activities together, we aren't camping together, together, together, together.  We just exist together under one roof.  And then I ask Jake to clean the kitchen for me and he doesn't and I am worried that I didn't teach him responsibility and I want to go back to 3 years old and start over again.  I want a chance to do it just a little bit better than I did it last time.  Now I know what to expect, I understand better what he needs.  This time will be much better.  Just one more chance!

But we can't go back, we can only go forward.  And while I have seen lots of areas maybe I wasn't that strong a mother, I also see lots of areas where I was.  I see his consistent personality, I see his loyalty, I see compassion, kindness and lots of charm, I see a mind that is always pursuing knowledge, a boy who is becoming a man who loves the Lord.  And even though he doesn't always do what I ask him, I hear of a boy who is a star at his job.

Last week we decided to watch an old movie with Isabelle, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"  We had been talking about it and she didn't know the movie.  Jake came out of the office to join us and we all snuggled up on the couch to enjoy the show.  It was fun, we laughed together, ate popcorn together, and now Isabelle will get it when we quote the movie.  But while those are the moments we remember and talk about for years to come, I am starting to think those aren't the moments that actually bond a family together.  It is the day to day.  It is just sitting in the same room together checking facebook and turning to see that quick funny meme that was found, it is talking about the days activities over dinner, the high five as we pass each other in the hall or the morning hug on the way out the door.  None of that seems special, none of that feels meaningful when we are doing it each day but those are the things that create the bond in the family.  We love game nights, camping trips, canoeing.  We love that stuff, but our family bonded not in the big events but in the day to day as we loved each other through the highs and lows, pressed through the frustrations, and continued to be present.

So as the days tick by closer and closer to Jake leaving I am letting go of some need to create an amazing event every day for him to cherish and instead keeping busy in the daily of my life while enjoying simply having him present for a little while longer knowing he will always be part of us and we will always be part of him.  We are a bonded family, and time and distance cannot break that.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It is OK to comfort me

I started this a few weeks ago when I was a little cranky.  I am trusting God and being comforted by his presence in my life.  Still, we all go through times when life just does not feel OK and we could use comfort from a friend.

Why is is that when someone is struggling we tell them, "it is going to be OK"?  Is the reason they are struggling because they think it won't be?

Sometimes when I am stressed I tell this to myself, "it will be ok, it will be ok, it will be ok..."

But, is the real problem that I don't think long term it will be OK or is the real problem that at this very moment it isn't?

A friend's wife died last week.  Will it be OK a year from now? 5 years from now?  Yes with time it will be OK but, today, right now as he and his kids learn to live a life without her does it need to be OK?  I doubt if feels very OK.

Yesterday I found out a neighbor's newborn baby died.  Will it be Ok?  Eventually yes, but not today, not this week, not for a while.

Will it be OK for the friend who can't find a job, is struggling in their marriage, having financial troubles, watching their child walk a destructive path, or, like us, in a transition and wondering where we will live next?  Will we all be OK?  Yes, it is going to be OK.

But today it isn't OK, and that is OK.  Some days we struggle, some days the circumstances of life overcome us.  Reminding me that it is going to be OK doesn't change the fact that I am the one who has to get from here to there.

How do we comfort those who struggle?

"Comfort those who suffer in body, mind and spirit".  We pray that each Sunday during the prayers of the people asking God to bring comfort to His people.  We believe in God's healing but while we do pray for those things we acknowledge that between today and healing we need to be comforted.

How do we comfort a friend?  I am far from an expert on this topic but here are a few things that have comforted me at times:

A meal.  I never think I need someone to make me a meal but when they show up on my doorstep it is so nice to have one less thing to problem solve on a stressful day.

A listening ear.  Sometimes you just need to get the worry and fears out without judgement or advice.

A distraction.  It can become overwhelming to sit in your mess all the time.

A break.  When I am struggling I don't always say the right thing, do the right thing or follow through on tasks I promised to help with.  It is all overwhelming and receiving understanding during that time is very comforting.

Help.  When a person is struggling just the basic tasks of life can be overwhelming, even if it is unrelated to the problem it can be so comforting to get help with day to day tasks.

What comforts you when you are going through a hard time?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Learning to Trust God

Here we go.  Off on our adventure.  We sold our house a week ago!  A day filled with joy and relief to have this obstacle to our future plans overcome but sadness as we love our home and neighbors and wish we could stay. 
Here it is with the fresh paint job.

 "Where are you going?", we are asked practically every day.  "We are going to be homeless", I reply.  Actually we won't be living under a bridge, my parents are taking us in, but if we haven't found a new home by the end of August we might have to live under a bridge to maintain our relationship with them!  Moving back home when you have been independent for 23 years and your parents have been empty nesters for nearly 15 is a risky venture.  We are all having a good attitude about it and I am confident we will have fun for a month but at the end of the day we all like our independence so the sooner we are able to answer the question, "where are you going?", the better.

This is a summer in which I am very busy working for nothing.  Starting Real Estate is a lot of doing stuff while making no money.  So I am spending my days either mailing notes or visiting properties or learning more about the real estate process.  Making contacts and hoping eventually one of them turns into a paycheck to justify my existence and cover my expenses.  I have a couple exciting leads and will hopefully have a check soon.  In the mean time I did sell my own house!

John is starting to get busy this summer but after 2 years of not pursuing his business the referrals and work just weren't waiting for him the moment he finished classes in May like we had hoped.  He got off to a slow start this summer and we are catching up as fast as we can.

Honestly, if I was looking at us from the outside knowing how we are struggling financially, I would see 2 people who are being lazy and in denial of the fact that they just need to go get jobs!  I am making no money and John made basically nothing for nearly 3 months this spring.  In less than 2 months John goes back to school and construction dries up.  What on earth are we doing?!  We just sold our house and are moving in with my parents just so we can continue to not get jobs.

While I know that isn't what we are doing sometimes in the middle of the mess I can loose sight of the plan and start to worry that really is what we are doing and we are just in denial.

The long view.  Isn't that what I keep telling you we are having for this education? "Most people over estimate what they can do in a year and under estimate what they can do in 10 years."  We are on the 10 year plan not the 1 year plan.

Remember the movie, "Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith?  It was about a man who was offered an opportunity to train for a great job that had the potential to make him big money but it was an unpaid internship working many hours and he had a son to take care of.  Anyone looking at his situation would have said he was crazy to pursue that opportunity.  He needed to get himself a job, make money and get a place to live.  Instead he lived in a homeless shelter and made major sacrifices to his comfort during that time.  As a result he was able to get that training and become a wealthy man.  He had a vision for more.

That is us, we have a bigger vision for our future.  We are going to be homeless while we pursue our success.  People do what we are doing all the time, they are just usually 19 and single, not in their 40's with 2 kids and a big mortgage.  

The secret to staying focused as we walk this path has been what we are focused on.

When I was in labor with Jake I remember the importance of focus.  When a contraction came and I started thinking about how much it hurt and how uncomfortable I was that contraction just got worse and worse and I got lost in the pain and felt total panic.  When I relaxed and focused on breathing and the spot on the wall my body was able to more naturally go through the contraction and, while it was still painful, I was more relaxed and peaceful.

Our journey through John's education is sort of like labor.  When we focus on what we don't have, what we need, what we have given up, how big John's future student loans are likely to be and all the ways our life is not exactly how we imagined it would be at this age, we panic.  It is painful, we question what we are doing and are full of fear.  But when we focus on the Lord and trust Him, his guidance and provision, when we watch (my word of the year) and see what He is doing each day in our lives, the process goes more smoothly and we are more relaxed and at peace.

A friend of mine recently wrote this post about learning patience which she calls the "P" word.  We have all had someone shush us to not ask God for Patience because he might actually test us with something to teach it to us.  While "trust" doesn't instill quite the same fear as the word "patience" in many ways they are related.  Because when you are trusting God, you have to be patient.  God rarely works on our time schedules or carries out our agendas.  He works on his own time and follows his own plans.

As we pack up our house, put it all in a storage container and prepare for homelessness there have definitely been days when I have panicked.  WHAT are we doing?  But slowly, as I watch God working, as I let go and trust Him, follow Him down this path we are walking, I am seeing hope.  I am relaxing and leaning into His promises, His plans and care for us.

There have been many little things but here are a couple things I have watched God do this summer:

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling low thinking I needed to get a job and asked God to just give me a little piece of encouragement to keep me moving forward with real estate.  The same day I got a floor call (where someone randomly calls the office) for an opportunity to list an $800,000 house.  HUGE.  I decided because of my lack of experience to ask one of the most successful agents in my office to help me and have learned a ton working with him.  We haven't heard yet but I am hopeful.  Whether it comes together or not it was exactly what I needed.  There have been several other much smaller but also exciting possibilities since then and so I just keep working and trusting that God will provide through this job.

An agent I am working with mentioned a house he was aware of that had been empty for several years.  The owner (who did not live there) died a year ago shortly after this agent met with him about selling the house.  He knew it hadn't been listed since his death and mentioned it as a possible listing I could pursue.  But the moment I saw it I knew it would be our future house.  It is 3 blocks from our church and cute as can be.  But a year after the owner died it is still in his name and going through probate. Figuring out who the heir is and where they are at in the process has turned out to be something of a challenge.  Yet, every time I come across a road block I find a new path to pursue.  Over the past few weeks I just kept making calls and asking questions.  This week I found out they are one document away from finishing probate and putting this house on the market! Yesterday I was able to leave a slightly too eager message with the realtor who will be listing it.  After leaving the message I just prayed and told God that while I realize there is no promise that we will get the house, I can't believe he hasn't opened this path up for some reason.  There is still a lot I don't know about this house, like exactly how much work it will need after sitting empty for over 5 years, but, I am excited about the possibility.  For now we are patiently trusting God as he works out the details.