The Buck Stops Here

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Well, it’s story hour folks. Sit right up and grab a bowl of popcorn, or just scroll on down to the bottom where there is a super exciting picture of a sewing machine. Your choice.

For those who choose to continue reading, I will tell you that about six years ago, we decided to buy our first house. For four years we had been renting a tiny duplex- about 900 square feet tiny. Our second son had just been born, and this bigger house- four thousand square feet bigger, was on the market for a steal. The real estate market was booming, the hubby had a pretty good job, and this particular area in our city was the place to be if you wanted to renovate a house. So we bought it, such as it was. It was a gutted structure with half a roof. What roof was left was populated by a plethora of pigeons. It was a mess, but oh the plans we had for it.

We set to work with a will, but it was such a big job that we knew it would be a while before we could move in. We rebuilt the structure, fixed the roof, put in a lovely staircase. We continued to work, even after we discovered I was expecting my third child. We had high hopes that we might move in before he was born. We worked many late nights there with our babies sleeping in sawdust covered playpens. My big ol’ pregnant self learned to measure and cut piping according to instructions hollered through a hole in the floor where he was putting our plumbing together.

We were getting close, the plumbing was in, the electrical completed and the insulators were coming when the economy fell apart.  Details aside, we had to put the house on hold. I made room for our third son in our tiny duplex, and the hubby, in order to keep his job, was asked to start working in Memphis, six hours away. We had family troubles as well, and when my dad was diagnosed with dementia, I offered to go help my folks out for a couple of months since the hubby was gone most of the time and I needed some help too. It was meant to be a two months visit, but slowly stretched out to six as there was no end in sight for the Memphis job. We finally bit the bullet and moved to Memphis, but all this time, there was the house looming in the background, sitting empty, sucking us dry. We finally moved back, and found a “temporary” tiny house to live in. We are still in it three years later.  When we went to the big house, we discovered that thieves had ripped out all of the wiring and some of the plumbing we had put in, and stolen many other things beside. I remember sitting and weeping when I discovered that someone had stolen all the books I had been collecting since childhood that had been in storage there. That was a low point. And then the hubby lost his job a few weeks before baby number four was due to arrive.

Well, life went on. We have had many changes in our lives the past few years, but the looming house has been a constant worry, always nagging at the back of the mind. I felt I was content with my lot, but I had learned to shut the door to thoughts about the house, and hated talking about it to anyone. I started having dreams that I would show up at the property and it would all be finished, or that our current small home had bedrooms or even whole floors that I forgot were there. I would wake up asking myself why on earth I didn’t use that extra space and then reality would hit.

When we found ourselves members of a new church, I didn’t want to tell anyone, so no one would ask that wearying old question, “Soooo, how is the house coming on?” But at church one night, there was a group of people sharing prayer requests and I felt I would just mention the circumstance. One of my pastors prayed, and all he asked was that the Lord please help us to finish our home because “A hope deferred makes the heart sick”. (proverbs 13:12)

I broke into tears as it struck me how sick my heart had become. I realized how weary I was of waiting, weary of putting my life on hold until our real home would be finished. I had gotten to the point where I could push it all out of my mind, but then it would come bursting out in moments like those. It could all pretty much be summed up in thoughts about my craft room. That may sound silly, but from the beginning of our plans for the house, the hubby wanted to make sure I had a room of my own. A place where I could make and store all the crafty stuff that is constantly being spread around my house by my mischievous boys. It could even have a lock on it! The hubby designed it with lofty ceilings and a dormer window. I can show you a picture in it’s sadly unfinished state if you like.

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This is the view from the windows, where I try not to imagine myself sitting on my cozy window seat, stitching dainty things whilst ignoring my children.

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That room seemed to symbolize all of my frustration and weariness, all of my excuses for sitting on my bum and bemoaning my life.

I am relating this long sob story, not to throw myself a pity party, or to throw a fund raiser so that we can finally finish that monstrosity of a house. I tell it because God has been so merciful as to open my eyes to the way my life was heading. It was becoming a constant sighing for what I did not have and an unwillingness to embrace what I did have and make the most of it. Through the prayer of my pastor and others, God started to wake me up. I began to feel that circumstances had dominated my attitude long enough.
Around the same time, the hubby attended a convention for a new company he was interested in working for. When he came back, he was fired up. He seemed to have a new energy and kept muttering the word GOYA under his breath as he went about his day. I finally asked him what GOYA meant. It sounded like some goofy, new-age mantra to me.
He laughed and said,
“Well, it stands for “Get Off Your Ass.”
I about died laughing. I guess that was the rather crass theme for the convention, but I liked it. It said to me in a refreshingly flippant way that life is hard, but God is good. Now get to work.
The result is this blog and a brand new craft room that I made myself. Well okay, it’s just an ironing board in my living room and a dresser full of fabric, but it works.

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Oh, and as promised, this is the sewing machine the hubby got me last year. Isn’t she a beaut?

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At any rate, the house is still there-unfinished, slowly being reconquered by the legions of pigeons. Remarkably we still own it, which leaves room for hope. But the moral of the story I hope I have learned thus far is ora et labora- work and pray. Hopes are often deferred, but as children of God, our hearts do not need to be sickened. Look your trials in the face and get to work. And as hard as you work, pray even harder. Leave the rest up to Him.

 

Ponder Anew What the Almighty Will Do

Life rolls in stages.  I write a lot about my past on this blog, mostly because I had a very happy youth and I like sharing it with people.  That happiness was due in great measure to the fact that I was a child, and didn’t register that things weren’t always perfect.  But even with that blindness, there were times in the life of my family that truly were happier than others- long stretches of sunny weather with hardly a cloud in the sky.

I haven’t written much about my present, other than my feeble attempts to start a business, because it has been a stormier season of life.  I have four healthy boys, and a wonderful husband.  We live in a comfortable, albeit tiny, house, and we have plenty of food on the table. We have lots of good friends and are members of a great church.  I write that list easily because I run it like a litany through my head every time I get discouraged about the circumstances of my own and my larger family.

The past five years have been no picnic.  The house we were renovating and hoping to move into before my third boy was born fell prey to the economic crisis.  We still own it, but it is sitting empty, a roost for pigeons and an easy target for anyone looking to tear the wiring out of the walls.

My dad was diagnosed with dementia, and we are now witnessing the gradual disappearance of his memory and functionality.  I say witnessing, but for us it only hearing, because we live far from the rest of my family, and that is a trial in itself.

My husband lost his job two years ago, and we have been trying to get back on our feet ever since.

We have dealt with mental illness, and the sudden loss of my brother-in-law a year ago. We have walked with my sister in her grief as she moved here to start a new life.  But she is moving on again, leaving us this week.

When she first told us she was moving on, I felt like it was the last straw.  It has been so wonderful having a sister in town.  It felt like the beginning of better times.  Now that was going to be gone too.  It was time to resign myself to the fact that things would never be sunny again, and let pessimism reign.

But now there is a fresh wind blowing.  A sudden and unexpected gust that has me trembling with hope and a joy I haven’t felt in years.  I am seeing that God can tear down our walls without warning and build them up again just as quickly.  I can’t spell things out yet, and I don’t really know what is going on. But  I can share with you my favorite hymn, the words of which have been bursting out of me with tears of joy, startling my children and no doubt making them think mommy is crazy.

Praise to the Lord, who with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,

Decked thee with health and with loving hand guided and stayed thee!

How oft in grief, hath not he brought thee relief,

Spreading his wings to o’er shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper they work and defend thee!

Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;

Ponder anew what the Almighty will do,

If with his love he befriend thee.

Catherine Winkworth

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