Idolizing Susie Homemaker

Contentment by the Fire

Contentment by the Fire

Idolizing Susie Homemaker is not something I set out to do. Nor do I recommend it.  Let me explain….

I’m not sure if you saw one of my first posts, but in it I shared how the title to this blog comes from a small plate I found ages ago. It has a drawing of a sweet cottage and written on the plate is a brief poem about coming upon a pleasant scene, the Cottage of Content. That plate captured perfectly my desire to create a nurturing, simple cottage life for my family. I bought the plate and happily hung it in our home.

I gave it a good shot, creating the Cottage of Content. I stayed at home while I raised my children, baked lots of bread and cookies and wholesome meals and had fun decorating and doing crafts and teaching my four children about God. There were choir concerts and sporting events and birthday parties and it was pretty much as perfect as I could make it. Which was not so perfect at all because reality is messy. Just ask my kids.

When, after 22 years, my ex-husband and I divorced, I came to realize that I had idolized the Cottage of Content. I believed that if I could create a nurturing environment it would ensure a happy future for my children. (See my posts on Divorce for more on that…)But when our family cracked, my idol cracked, too. There is no such thing as the Cottage of Content. Not really. Contentment has to come from within. I get that. Now, if all is well between me and God, I consider that contentment enough.

Still, I keep returning to that image. I still want that Cottage of Content. I know contentment comes from within. I’m talking about the creative part of making a house a home. It’s all the “Susie Homemaker” stuff. I can’t stop doing it. But does it cross a line to idolizing? For me it might. Let me try to explain.

All those years of being Susie Homemaker didn’t come to an end because I divorced. Sad though I was, I gradually recovered, continued to make a home for my kids and got a job, and then I chose to marry again. And create a new home aka Cottage of Content. I took it slow this time.  I didn’t want to make the same mistake by idolizing anyone or anything to the point that I served it too much. When it came to decorating I limited it to attractively blending our things. We bought just enough new things to make it feel fresh and “ours.” I still made the kitchen “mine” by baking up a storm (couldn’t help myself there!) but invited my husband in to cook a lot, too.

Ten years in we’ve had lots of fun creating a home that suits us both. We both enjoy hunting down “treasures” at antique stores and flea markets. I’m not sure how we started calling the “finds” we come across “treasures.”  “Did you find any good treasures today, Honey?” “Yes! I love it!” Sometimes I’ll put a treasured vintage tablecloth on my table to see if it’s a keeper or a seller. If I really, really like it, I keep it. The same goes with recipe boxes filled with old recipes.  I sort through them and decide which to keep (I’ve found the most awesome recipe boxes!) and which to sell. I do that with a lot of things. We rent space in antique stores and have a blast setting up in the summer at flea markets where we can sell our treasures there.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to blog about those things. I could share pictures of vignettes at the flea markets, and projects I create or those antique, handmade, lace bedspreads made of fine silk threads and the quilts I found for a song and the most amazing box of old linens. What fun it was to discover those and then sell them to others who also appreciate them!

But I worry that instead of sharing from the heart, I’d be sharing about stuff. Stuff can lead me to idolize, or covet or judge or feel inadequate or dissatisfied. I worry that it might do that to someone else, too. I feel a responsibility with my writing here, to keep it about the heart. Maybe sharing some recipes would be fun (if you could read through those recipes boxes with me you’d understand why I think they’re so cool), but only as they relate to our hearts.

Do you see what I see? What I love doing has become a way of living. Which should be a good thing. Except that lately I hear myself saying “I love that!” and “treasures” too often. The words escape my mouth – my heart – I say them too easily to swiftly retract. Yes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It’s true. I do love some things. As a homemaker, designer, a buyer and a seller of vintage items, things really can bring me joy. It may be for a moment, or a month or a year or a lifetime. But as the years go by, the things add up. You might say I have too much joy in my life these days. Too many cookbooks and pie plates and pretty china and linens. I’m uncomfortable with that.

So is it idolizing?

Lately I’ve been thinking hard about Jesus’s response to the rich young man who wanted to follow him.

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What if Jesus is saying that to me?  Selling everything would mean walking away from my comfortable Cottage of Content. Big or small, filled or not, I like living in a safe, comfortable haven.  I’ve worked hard to create that out of very little at times. It’s just what I do. It’s what I need and want.  I want it for me, for my husband, for our children and grandchildren and friends. It’s never been fancy or grand, trust me. But it’s always been home.

But what if, in order to avoid loving things and being occupied with taking care of them or moving them or cleaning them or selling them, and keeping myself safe in my contented cottage, I chose to embrace a different lifestyle altogether?

What would it look like if I was no longer a Susie Homemaker? It’s one thing to accept change when I’m too sick or too old and I have no other choice, it’s another to chose it now, when being Susie Homemaker means comfort and security.

Most disconcerting is my inability to even imagine what life could be like without being Susie Homemaker.  Something is up with that.  Maybe billions of other women are just fine being Susie Homemakers.  But for me, it’s a dangerous occupation. I can be too caught up in the stuff of a contented life.  Earthly treasures are a cheap reward for a life supposedly set apart for God.  I want heavenly treasures – the words “well done my good and faithful servant.”

Clearly, I’m thinking hard about these things.  I don’t have answers yet.  But I’m trying to open myself to possibilities.  And not be afraid to think out loud.  And continue to share from my heart. I know Jesus is called the Shepherd because he leads us, caring for us today by preparing us for what’s ahead. I think he’s doing that very thing with all these ponderings.  I’m going to work on being content with that for now.

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The Christian Divorce – Saying Yes to Divorce

IMG_7932IMG_1217 The Reality of the “Yes.”

Surely someone has breezily accepted a marriage proposal without thinking and then divorced with just as little thought. At least once or twice I’ve read a newspaper report about celebrities doing that – Vegas, right?  But what if they were hurting from the reality of their situation just as much as the rest of us?Among the hundreds of people I’ve spoken with as they divorced, no one ever breezily dismissed their marriage, no matter how brief. Spouses may grieve in different ways, but the internal pain is often quite similar.  For some, they will, really, never recover from the divorce. Children’s lives are broken in ways that will never heal.  The reality of saying “yes” to divorce. can be harsh indeed.

Loss on multiple levels, feelings of failure, grief – these are just some of the rites of passage through divorce.  The tearing asunder seems endless some days.  One day, when I was going through a very difficult time more than a year after my divorce, I asked a wiser, older woman in charge of the divorce recovery program at my former church when she thought the pain might end.  ”I’d guess it takes three years for every year you were married,” she replied.  I stared.  22 years x 3 = 66.  66 years????? How can that be? Slowly the light dawned.  Oh…I’ll never get over it. She was right.

With so much healing needed, and with circumstances taking curves you can’t foresee and spouses hurting each other in ways once unimaginable, it’s not uncommon for deep seated fears to surface.  ”What if the kids….?,” “How will I…?” “What if I lose…?” This often leads to, “I need to do this.”  ”I don’t have a choice.”  ”I have to for the kids.”  Sin stealthily slips in to steal and destroy just when we are most vulnerable.  At its worst, divorce tears at the souls of good people, people who never wanted a divorce and despite their best efforts, find themselves faced with their greatest fears.

Another harsh reality about saying yes to divorce is that we’ll be accountable before God for the call we make.  Our children, also, have every right to question our decision.  Daunting.  Simply daunting.  It still is for me, because my responsibility doesn’t end just because it’s in the past.  I continue to believe I made the right call, but I’ve had to examine my motives, my steps to fix the marriage, my reasons for calling it quits, how I handled the divorce and then how I handled being single.

I’ve gone over the details and the debris so many times that I amaze myself at how many perspectives I can have on any given day!  Clearly, I think way too much, but I know I will do this until I die because time and experience keep bringing more insights to ponder.  I also have a healthy fear of God, which continues to keep me open to owning my mistakes and seeing if I’m ignoring sin in my life.  I figure I’d rather do this today instead of dying unexpectedly and finding it’s too late!

Not all the realities of divorce are harsh, however.  For many, divorce is a cold winter of  tearing asunder that leads to a spring of healing.  Getting away from the adultery, abuse, addictions, or any pattern of sin that has developed within a marriage, can bring us to a place where we breathe freely again for the first time in years.  Fragile and barely able to move forward, God promises,”He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.”  “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, ” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest,”  Stumbling, crawling under burdens you were never meant to carry alone, whatever it takes to get out, it’s worth it to begin to heal. Even for the children, or perhaps, in some very hurtful homes, especially for the children.

Consider, however, one more truth – that no one leaves a marriage without some responsibility for what happened within it.  Each spouse bears some of the responsibility and surely some of the guilt.  However, holding on to guilt will do you no good. The Bible says that God removes the guilt of our sin.  His forgiveness is complete, even if your spouses’s isn’t.  Ask your spouse for forgiveness anyway, because you have surely hurt them, perhaps through your blatant sin, or perhaps by enabling theirs.

Is healing harder if we’ve made the majority of mistakes?  Not necessarily.  Key to healing is the ability to have hope.  We may not have hope for our spouse anymore, but – and this is important – if we own up to our own mistakes, hope for a better future with a better outcome is possible.  Consider that God promised, of all things, hope to those who had turned their backs on him.  He said, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. “

How does that happen?  Hope comes in many forms.  In fact, it comes in so many forms and is so, well…hopeful, that it would be a great topic for another post.  For now, I’ll start with the hope most familiar one to me – the one I lived. Strangely, hope came when I owned up to the full impact of my own mistakes.  It was time to grow up, to step up, and own up.  It had been easy to point a self-righteous finger at my spouse because he blatantly erred.  In my anger and victim mentality it felt good to think he was responsible for the demise of our marriage.  My self-righteousness became a heavy stick I carried for a long time.   Yet, despite how “right” I thought I was I still found myself hitting bottom.  Splitting asunder due to divorce brings a physical, emotional and spiritual agony that defies words.  Imagine my shock when the only face staring back at me in the agony and darkness of my situation was my own.

I took a long, hard look at that face.  It held no answers.  ”Dig down,” I urged myself. Where my motto had once been the old “you gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps” I found that really, “I got nothin’.”  That was pretty scary.  For all my determination and anger, I still had “nothin’.”

Acknowledging the darkness of my own soul helped me see that I was just as tormented and lacking as the one I was blaming for the divorce.  I needed help and healing just as much as he did.

I began to own my own junk.  And what do you know?  In the harsh reality of owning our own mistakes God comes with our future laid out before us.  We need help.  We find we are same person we were before we married.  We have the same fears, some bad habits, same lessons to learn.  And therein lies the work ahead.  The more honest we are about this, the more we ask for help in addressing these things, the more baby steps we  will be able to take forward.  Hope begins to grow as we see that change begins within, with God’s help.  Small wins become confidence builders that inspire better choices. Little by little, the future unfolds with hope.

For the record, I hate divorce. Yet, there are clear grounds for divorce in the Bible. The Bible also gives many teachings on what a good marriage should look like.  Only you, your spouse and God really know the intimate details of what is good and what is bad within your marriage.  Many a marriage can survive adultery, abuse or addictions. Many cannot.  If you’ve decided to divorce, I pray that you will reach out to Jesus in the midst of the harsh darkness that you may be in.  His Word – the Bible – may it be a light to your path as you examine your choices.  May God give you the wisdom to know what to do and how to do it when you have no hope that things will ever work out for you.  May your fears not take root, but be rooted out.  May hope be felt in your heart again, very, very soon.

P.S.  If your marriage is in need of prayer, please feel free to contact me privately through this blog.   Sometimes I’m contacted through a “comment” below – and I respond privately and never make the comment public.   You may also email me at cottageofcontent@hotmail.com.

Called to Change

My call to change came in the middle of Walmart.  I had a white, faux wood blind for the bathroom window (I settled on 30 x 64 because I, employed for years as a decorator, had forgotten for the umpteenth time to measure the window) in my arms on its way into my cart when the very clear, distinct thought occurred.  “You’re focusing on the wrong things, Jill.”  I paused, blinked, and tilted my head.  Huh?

The Blind - How Apt!

The Blind – How Apt!

“You’re focusing on the wrong things.”

Okay, this was way too clear and out of the blue. On top of that, I had this just arresting feeling.  Like everything around me stopped and I had to think about this.  Hmm.  I paced a bit back and forth in front of the shelf, pretending to peruse the sizes again, trying not to look like a weirdo.

Again, “You’re focusing on the wrong things, Jill.”  Okay, is this me or might it be the Holy Spirit nudging me?  I mean, it’s just a blind. Okay, it may be the whole bathroom thing, but really, it needed to be painted, but yes, it is turning out to entail more work, time and money than I realized.  But I’m at Walmart for Pete’s sake.  I did my homework and this blind is the best bargain out there, not like I’m spending too much. And I’m not going to paint the cabinet even though it would look much better.  I drew the line there.  But, maybe…it’s not about the money or the painting, but the focus.  The focus.  

Well, I have a gazillion things on my plate yet I’m trying to get the house ready for a two week visit with my daughter and her family.  Not that they care about the house, but I like to set goals and I set their arrival as a time frame to accomplish a bunch of stuff around the house.  I’m on a roll.  The focus.

Wherever this thought originated, it was a good one.  One I need to deal with, think about, and then resolve.  I knew all this in one simple blink of an eye.  However, and this is a really painful, honest, loaded however, I was also in the middle of my own forceful impetus forward to do.  Get this done.  I didn’t know how to stop it in that moment and switch gears.  I paced a bit more.  No, I wasn’t ready to let go of anything I was doing or delay a purchase.  There was no stopping me at that point.  I was committed to that blind and getting the house done.  I put it in my cart.  And, I continued on to Home Depot to get more switch plates that I’m slowly swapping out.

But the thought continued to grip me.  When I came home, I put the blind in the bathroom corner and left it there.  The switch plates remained in the bag.  That’s not so much to my credit, however, because life had a funny way of forcing that.  You see, I’d been to the dentist before I dashed to Walmart.  I’d had a root canal, which was not fun (and of course at Walmart I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in years when I couldn’t even talk straight – we both laughed at my attempts!) and the anesthetic was wearing off and I couldn’t do a whole lot anyway.  Except try not to think about the pain and just let my body rest because it really doesn’t like hates root canals.

So I had time to think focus more on focus.  Reality is that those gazillion things on my plate aren’t really all that many but they feel that way because the most important things on my plate require change.  More accurately, they require more change.  You see, I’ve been working on making healthy, wise changes in my life, in relationships and situations, and it’s been hard work!  I feel so drained sometimes, because of that hard work, that I look for distractions.  To some extent that can be good, but I think that wake-up call in Walmart was  about how I’ve been letting those distractions take over.  I love to decorate, fix up and make superficial changes that make me feel as if I’ve finally accomplished something.  It’s physically taxing, dents the budget a bit, but it gives a lot back.  It’s fruitful. A great way to get things done. Besides, some are really necessary.  Or so I pretend. But one project (no thanks to Pinterest!) seems to beget another project.  And pretty soon I’m kind of lost in projects.  Distracted you might say.  Uh, huh.  Total loss of focus on what’s important.

That was yesterday.  Today, I “just happened” to read Hebrews 12 – this book in the Bible is really one of my favorites – and it spoke of laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely to us…here it is: 

…therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

What was once my pleasant distraction from the demands and stress of change really did become a weight, pulling me forward into more of the same.  Not that decorating is wrong to do!  But, like any pleasant distraction, I let it shift my focus off the work at hand.

Hebrews 12 inspires me to get back into the “endurance” part of trusting in God.  I feel like I need to make a list of those things that weigh me down and those sins that cling so closely to me.  I’m going to write them down, one at a time, each on its own piece of paper.  Acknowledge their reality.  How they’re affecting me.  And then I’m going to “lay them aside”, really.  Set them to the side, maybe toss them in the garbage can, (recycling is too good for them!)  Then I want to make a short list of what I am going to focus on wholeheartedly, trusting God to help me with those things I’m avoiding.  I want to face up to where I need to be making wise choices so I don’t stumble where I’m weak.   Next I’m going to go run, even if it’s just up the stairs, but do something to visibly say, “Yes, I want to run with endurance and strengthen my feeble limbs and get back on track.  I so want to focus on what’s important.”

I wonder, when that blind does get put up, years from now will I look at it and remember that moment in Walmart?  I sure hope so.

The Benefits of Brick Walls

Nice To Meet You?

Nice To Meet You?

Granted, I was only nineteen and had just finished my freshman year of college when I found out I was pregnant and we decided to get married. But while the shame of that messed me up for some time, I was also in love and he was a really great guy and we were totally up to the responsibility of doing whatever it took to be amazing parents. When our third child was born five years later, we realized maybe we needed to slow things down a bit and think more realistically about what it was going to take to make this all work. Adding a second income seemed an important place to start, something part-time, something “mom friendly”.

After a long search I landed on becoming a dental assistant. I could work evenings and weekends when my husband was home so we didn’t need a sitter. The dental field seemed challenging enough and had potential for growth if I really liked it. I interviewed with an older, respectable dentist and was quickly hired. It took about six weeks of working late and my husband warning me several times before I realized that the dentist’s intentions were not about teaching me how to be a great dental assistant. While I was angry at him, I was angrier at myself for my naivety. I quit and looked for another position. A friend of mine recommended her dentist. I called and got an interview, and once again was hired. My first week on the job, the dentist offered to pay my way through dental school. Having been naive once, I waited to hear what came next. It was not appropriate and I’ll leave it at that.

I remember getting in my car, driving home with anger pulsing in my temples. Back then I was nothing if not determined, (read stubborn) and I wasn’t a quitter. I  had juggled the schedules, put out money we didn’t have for a few new clothes and expenses that go into working, brought home charts and books to memorize and worked above and beyond to prove myself and learn quickly, all while being a very good wife and mother and managing the household, but here I was, feeling like I’d run at top speed towards a great goal only to slam into a brick wall. I felt pretty beaten up.

I pounded the steering wheel and sent up an angry prayer to God, “What am I supposed to do now?  Huh?  Huh?”

Just be a mom.

The thought stopped my tears. The anger died. What? I sat very still. Just be a mom? It had never occurred to me. Really? Embrace motherhood?

A clear picture of my real intentions raced through my mind. Truthfully, this wasn’t about trying to make everything work out for my family, this was about me. My desire to go to work wasn’t so much about a second income, but was rather a way to redeem myself from the shame of getting pregnant and walking away from college and a potential career in journalism. “Don’t lose yourself in motherhood, avoid more shame, do what you have to do to prove yourself.” That’s what I’d been telling myself in the darkness of my shame.

I realized my goals had nothing to do with my children. Viewed through my shame, my children were there to be managed. It had been rough early on but now I had the hang of it and it was getting much easier, surely nothing I couldn’t handle. I could work and redeem myself and raise them just fine.

I had not embraced motherhood. Inside my house were three little beings who needed me more than I’d been willing to acknowledge. In a split second I recognized the selfishness, the error and the importance of the wall I’d just hit.

I got all that in an instant. What took time was trying to wrap my head around the alternative, just being a mom.

Embrace it? How do I embrace something so big? What would that look like? What about that second income, we needed the money, didn’t we? After more time sitting there in the car, trying to figure out who I would be and what life would be like if I embraced motherhood fully, I finally I realized it wasn’t to be understood, not until I did it, that’s how big it was.

Striking isn’t it, the simplicity of actions we take in momentous moments? I got out of the car. I’ll never forget pushing open that front door and stepping into the house. I can still see the thin brown 70’s tile in the little foyer area, the dark wood of the closet door, the white trim, the feeling of home.  I could feel with every fiber of my being that this was about the needs of my two little girls and my baby boy.  In that moment I embraced those needs. I knew it was going to take everything I had to do what was required of me.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was open to learning.

My shame took a backseat to their needs that day and it’s never had that kind of power over me since. I walked away from that wall with a new goal and a new heart towards my babies. I’m actually grateful for that wall because it changed my life and their lives, irrevocably.

“Back in the day”, the choice to work or not work was a big deal. Both choices came with their own gains and losses. Today it seems, though I could be wrong, that the issue is no longer polarizing, and I really hope that’s true. What remains the same however, is the harsh reality of brick walls. Some of life’s most insightful moments come after hitting a wall.  But how do you know when you need to keep on trying to bring about change, and when you’ve hit a brick wall and the changes need to take place in you?

Here are five important signs of a brick wall signaling a need for internal changes:

1. Your determination is outrunning your circumstances.  If you’ve taken all the right steps externally towards achieving your goal but you’re met with continued resistance that has nothing to do with you, it’s time to analyze the situation as objectively as possible. When action takes precedence over analysis, it may mean you’re so focused on your goals you’re missing important cues that something is wrong. Consider that hitting a wall may not mean that you’ve failed to try hard enough or that you’re not smart enough, or that someone else is to blame, but rather there’s something more going on that you need to learn. Take time to do an honest heart check. Ask God for wisdom and insight to see if there’s something He wants you to understand or change.

2. You’re frustration over hitting the wall is escalating to the point of unhealthy anger. Anger that causes you to sin, hurting yourself or hurting others, is not a healthy, helpful anger. This is a clear and common warning flag. Pay attention to it. Figure out what it is you’re really angry about and why. Then chose a better response. Loving well in the midst of our disappointments is a hard thing to do, but by being open to God’s love for us when we’re at our worst, we can then chose to share that love when we’re disappointed in ourselves, our circumstances, or even our loved ones. Loving well, no matter what our circumstances, is always the best goal. Letting God change the perspective of our heart may be the change required to move forward.

3. People, one or more, are warning you about the wall but you just don’t see it, again and again. Stop trying to convince them you’re right and really listen to them. Is there a love for you at the root of their concerns? Hold on to that while you listen. Is it possible they could be right?  Consider that you might have a blind spot that could be hurting you, and ask for input about it.  Test it out.

4. It’s beginning to feel like a life or death, black or white, must have or life as you know it is over kind of situation. Ask yourself, “Why is this so important? What is the real fear involved? Is it life threatening?” Hitting a wall and not achieving a goal may mean disaster, death, or truly bad consequences. But realistically, that’s rare. If we focus too much on achieving a specific goal, we lose sight of the bigger, more important picture that may include a variety of positive alternatives and good choices. Sometimes the gift of a new perspective is all we need to “get it”, so seek out Godly counsel for input. Give yourself permission to fail, to dream new dreams, to try new things, to trust God for the outcome. If you do these things, down the road you may find yourself getting what you really wanted after all.  God has a way of fulfilling the desires of our hearts in ways that have nothing to do with our best efforts.

5. You feel victimized, hopeless, and/or depressed. You’re not hitting the bricks anymore, but you’re knocked down and bleeding. Hitting a brick wall is painful, so don’t minimize it, but don’t go over the feelings or circumstances obsessively. Dwelling on the pain or letting these feelings take root is like rubbing the raw wound on your forehead where you hit the wall, over and over. The wound needs to heal. The best way to start that process is to acknowledge the pain, mourn the losses, cry if need be. Then, if you’ve made mistakes in the process, admit them.  If you’ve hurt others in the process, ask God to forgive you then go make it right with any you may have hurt. If you’re blaming God, seek the truth that says He is for you, not against you, that He loves you no matter what you’ve done and wants to heal you and be your Comforter and Savior. It’s in this process that insights emerge. New goals become clear. Wisdom arises on how to steer clear of repeating past mistakes.

Seek help outside yourself if you’re unable to do this on your own.  Persist in healing and someday you may be able to help someone else when they hit their own brick walls.  

One final word on what to do when you’ve hit a wall and you’re not sure what to do next: Breathe this prayer that’s been proven to be quite effective when we really mean it: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Coffee and Pie

CoffeePieBibleBlogPhotoThe year is 1964. I’m four years old. My older siblings are in school and I’m home alone with my mom. She fills the aluminum coffeepot with water and Eight O’clock coffee kept in a Tupperware container. She lights the stove, washes the breakfast dishes and quickly tidies the house. The women start arriving, having walked no more than a block to get to our brown brick home.  One carries an infant, the rest come carrying various types of Bibles.  Within moments the small house is full of chatter, the coffee is percolating, and chairs are scraping across the linoleum as the women gather around the table.

For one hour the women listen as my mom reads and teaches from her worn black Bible. I hear the name “Jesus” several times.  They eagerly ask questions. They search the words in their Bibles as if they are more important than the homemade pie on the table. How I wish I could join them. But I’m too little to read and I don’t have a Bible.  I interrupt my mother, ask her for one.  She sends me up to the attic to find an ancient Bible and I find it easily among the bookshelves, it seems to be waiting for me. I return with it and stand outside their circle, Bible open, looking hard at the red and black letters, willing myself to make sense of them.  I cannot.

They share grownup stories in excited tones, stories I’m too young to understand.  Wistfully, I look around the circle.  The infant nurses at her mother’s bare breast.  The women laugh, grow sad, and laugh some more.  They drink the coffee, eat the pie and ask my mother to teach them how to make pie dough.  They pray and then chairs scrape and it’s time to go, children will be home from school for lunch.  My mother is smiling happily, content as she promises the recipe and sees them to the door.  My world is good and secure and all it needs to be.

It’s 1984.  I have two daughters and am pregnant with my third child.  We have moved into a house in a neighborhood that is full of families.  But I know none of them.  I feel like I’m the only woman home during the day, and it’s true, most women are at work.  I try the old adage “to make a friend be a friend”, but nothing comes of it.  I make plenty of pies, my mother taught me well, but there are no friends with whom to share them.

I see, at 24, that change is constant.  I look at my marriage and see how hasty it was, how quickly I threw away innocence and truth in search of love.  I gained love and marriage but what did I lose?  I can see at last how critical sound choices are, what my parent’s divorce in 1967 cost all of us and now my oldest is four and what stability will I give her?  I get down on my knees and ask forgiveness for all the selfish mistakes I’ve made in recent years.  I pray that my daughters will know the security of truth, that they too will hear the name Jesus spoken at the kitchen table, that they will see the need for vulnerability, for honesty, and I promise to give them Bibles with words that may be difficult to understand at first but will eventually point them to truth and never, ever change.  I pray for strength then, and wisdom, to give my children all the good that my mother gave me and then some, to point them to the forgiveness of Jesus and to God’s unconditional love.

When I stand up and wipe away my tears, I take stock of myself.  I am aware that while nothing has changed externally, somehow, by this simple act of faith, it is well with my soul.   The external losses, the gains and pains of love, they fade in the light of this peace.  Suddenly, my world is good and secure and all it needs to be, once more.