Love Finds Me 2

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Sometimes life is made up of big things. Big events that shake us and sift us. Like moving, changing jobs, changing schools, changing relationships, or sudden shifts economically, politically, socially. Times when your faith is tested and tried and the true bedrock of life comes under scrutiny. You are aware of riding a huge wave that is terrifying and thrilling in equal measure; for better or worse, life is going to be changing drastically, and there is no way of knowing the ripple effect this will have on the future. Times when you feel truly alive. I have definitely experienced a lot of really big events in the past three years. And it has been both thrilling and terrifying.

Sometimes, however, life is made up of little things. Endless seemingly insignificant and unimportant moments that string together and suddenly before you know it, a whole week has gone by. A week of chores and laundry and driving and running errands…. Emails, conversations, churning out plans, organizing volunteers, cooking and cleaning and staying on track of friends’ birthdays and community events. Discussions at home about where to put what piece of artwork, and how much the water bill was this month (much too much!). Discussions about pocket money, and why we clean our rooms, and where God lives (yes but how did he get there?) and why we tell lies (it wasn’t me it was my brother). My life is sometimes overwhelmingly full of apparently small, insignificant details.

Planting a church, and endeavoring to implement God’s plan for a community in a large city, is a fairly big thing. So many lives are at stake, and people have given up jobs and homes to come with us. I yearn to “make a difference”, to see those who are lost and hurting saved from their lost-ness and hurt. To see the kids’ school transformed and our city become a place which is safe and happy for all. But I am constantly surprised and sometimes vexed by how many small and little things consume most of my time. Like pixels on a screen. 

Dinner parties, games nights, friends coming and going, plants growing in the garden, barbecues smoking and neighborhood projects humming with volunteers. There are times when I fall into bed late at night, exhausted and spent, vaguely aware that we were mostly happy in our spending, but hoping that in the grand scheme of things, it was not all “smoke in the wind”.

Even here, in my busyness with small things, love also finds me. It seeks me out, like a persistent vine, spreading and finding the tiniest crack to hold fast. I read my bible on the run, sometimes with a cup of coffee, my soul so craved and needy it gorges on every word. I hear the whisper, I sense the call, to stop and meditate more on what I have just read. So, as I weave around the streets of our neighborhood, kids loudly conversing in the back of the car, water bottles being passed back and front and “look at that kitty, mama!” Yes, yes, such a cute kitty. So, I rehearse in my mind what I have read: faithful is he who calls us in him we are the righteousness of God because of his great love he died for us every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in heaven I am no longer a slave but free this is love that he lays down his life for his friends… And love blossoms and fills the space.

This is our faith: That as we come and go, as we strive to be the hands and feet of God to a hurting and broken world, he would heal us and love us and fill us to overflowing. I am always guilty of being a Martha rather than a Mary, as in the famous line of Jesus quoted by Luke : “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things, but Mary has chosen what is best”. To sit and receive at his feet is a splendid thing, and a necessary thing. But before long my feet get itchy. I must move. I must give what I have received. To me the needs of the world, my neighbors, my family, my friends, clamor so loudly, that when I look deeply into his face, I cannot but think of how he poured himself out, not even stopping short of giving his life. And I am compelled to move. To move and love and love and give. To exhaust myself in his service.

And I am careful to listen. Careful to weigh my time, my commitments and my agendas against the soft, quiet whisper that comes to me in the still moments. Yes, or no, this one or that one… like a tuning fork I feel myself yield to the slightest vibration. Why is this so important? Because I don’t want to waste a minute. Not one single minute of one single day doing something which is meaningless or eternally insignificant.

And you know the funny thing? It is never straightforward. I find myself sometimes gently nudged to spend more time with my family, sometimes to listen more deeply as I catch up with an old friend or to stop and observe the purple leaves of our cherry tree blowing in the wind. Sometimes to abandon the washing or the dirty dishes as my six-year old begs me to paint with her. Sometimes to fold the washing as my tired husband will need more socks tomorrow and clean the dishes because it is necessary for order and harmony in our home. To serve at our school when really I would rather be tinkering in my garden. To joyfully tinker in my garden when I struggle with guilt: should I be unpacking another box? To roll up my sleeves and work hard and push hard, but then to pull back and relax; the tension between being and doing.

There is no formula, no system that can achieve this: an awareness and understanding of a life FULLY lived and eternally significant and yet fully at rest in him. And I teeter on the brink of making unhealthy choices every day. Of missing the mark, of neglecting my family, avoiding my neighbors, over-engaging at church, under-engaging at church, being too busy, being too lazy, being too selfish in my personal pursuits, or too much a martyr to my duties.

Only love, only love can find me in this and safely steer me to the other side. Only through perfect love (his not mine), can the big things and the little things come together to find ultimate meaning and purpose.

In him we live and move and have our being – the Bible

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Love Finds Me

I am here. Here I am. Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest coast of America. Before that it was Corvallis, Oregon, and then again before that Visalia, California, and then a half-breath before that, London, England. Wait… How did I get here again? I feel like half of my stomach is still left in its place at Chiswick, London. The merry-go-round has been whirling so fast my innards have not yet caught up with my outside. That is how I feel, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Like a plant that has been planted, then transplanted, then transplanted again, over and over.

I give my new friends I meet a big disclaimer: I am tired of making new friends. But you seem nice. And I force myself to, to be brave, to keep pressing forwards, to keep an open heart and a gay outlook. In every new place, everything is possible. For the kids’ sake, for Simon’s sake… For my sake.

I have found myself crying for my past houses every time we move. And every time we move, it is like I say goodbye to each of them, all over again. The big white damp house in Chiswick. My very first garden, huge and overgrown. The old but immaculate craftsman-style house in Visalia. The ugly brown house in Corvallis that oddly enough turned out to be my very favourite. Like a bulldog – brown with a snub-nose but comfortable, sturdy and loyal. And our most recent  house here in Portland on Richmond Street that I could never really get on good terms with, with its funny angles and strange proportions.

I loved it though; the kids racing up and down the sidewalks playing carefree; casual yet rich conversations with the neighbors as we mutually tend our growing gardens; the roses along the side of the house wooing away the fact that the garage hung like a backside out into the street. I would stand at the kitchen window, doing dishes, looking out over a patio filled with my flowers, to the sunny grassy patch that was always dotted with children. One rolling down the slope. Two fighting a light-saber duel, disappearing and reappearing from behind the garage. Yet another bending over to examine something in a bush, deep in her imagination. I miss it so, it is still so fresh.

None of these houses were all that special. But we lived in them, and breathed our lives into them, and I feel that they could speak, crammed with our loving and being and hurting and laughing and coming and going. I cannot think of our lives but in terms of where we were when things happened. The house which held the moment becomes for me the frame that holds the memory.

Now we are in our latest house, our very own first house. It still feels strange, as though the previous people haven’t quite left the walls and bathroom mirrors yet. We unpack slowly and everything finds its place. I am overwhelmed with excitement and at the same time a sense of dread. To start over…again.

But, I am confident that love will continue to find me, in this, as in every house we have made pilgrimage through. We are here because we answered a call, following we knew not where… but we knew Who.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass – The Bible