Monthly Archives: September 2011

Life Signs


Thinking about home making today. Seven of our thirteen crates of belongings have arrived from the States to date. And the most random assortment therein, might I add. The bottom part of the leather rocking chair but not the back. The books but not the bookcase. The footboard but not the headboard. The wine cabinet but not the wine glasses. The cushions but not the couch. The sheets but not the mattress. You get the idea.

So we’ve unpacked and arranged as much as we reasonably can at this point. While we’re waiting for the balance to arrive, I’m daydreaming about where everything will ultimately go, how it will all look when it’s finished, the new touches I want to add as time and budget permit. I’m thinking about how this place will be a haven of familiar and comfort in the middle of a foreign land. And I’m thinking about how much I love making a home mine—even if it’s a rental, even if we’ll be packing up before we know it, even if it isn’t actually mine at all, but instead belongs to some rich Arab guy who is making a killing off me living here. Even if.

Right now my favorite spot in the house is at our dining room table that’s positioned near a sliding glass door that looks out to “the garden” as they call it here. “The garden” is essentially a tiled patio with a pool and some potted plants. There is no grass or yard here. Just a tall wall around the perimeter of our property and lots of tile, so this bit of beautiful blue that looks in at me from the pool creates some softness and movement in an otherwise still landscape.

The light comes in through this sliding glass door as well, and I like that sense of being indoors and yet being so near the outdoors. The pool reflects off the awning that extends from the side of the house and out over a bit of the patio. I like it all.

I set my laptop up at the end of the table and watch the birds splash at the edge of the pool whenever I’m between thoughts or emails or sentences. Nice to feel and see the signs of life.

Perhaps that’s what making a home is all about. Nurturing, celebrating the signs of life. Letting the light and the movement in. Celebrating what’s there and not bemoaning what isn’t. Allowing beauty to emerge from the unfamiliar and unlikely.

I love that I’m sitting next to an old deacon’s bench that was in the home I grew up in just about my whole life and belonged to my grandparents before that. I love that my mom let me paint it Swiss Coffee and have it distressed so that it’s old and new.

I love that this very bench is sitting on top of the rug Steve and I bought from Yousef eight years ago when we were here previously, the rug that has been a centerpiece wherever we’ve lived. And I love that all of this is in immediate proximity to an old wooden drink crate from Shreveport, LA, my mom’s hometown, from the neighborhood “Piggly Wiggly,” which I now use to house some of my favorite “accoutrements,” as Steve might refer to these items. You know . . . favorite pens, a few art supplies, a handful of small wood finials, some scrabble tiles. Just things I like having near me.

These are what make me feel home. Odds and ends from the far corners of my story, all presiding together. Thankful today. And smiling.


three learnings from life’s labyrinth

I must secretly long for life to be less dimensional than it really is because I’m almost always caught off guard by the paradoxes of life, the complexity, the way it doubles back on itself and gives you mourning and dancing in the very same moment. How beauty and struggle coexist, loss and gain, strength and vulnerability.

And, how quickly I forget that these seeming paradoxes are not, in fact, opposing forces, but instead companions that create richness and depth in life.

In reality, I long for the dimensionality of real living—the texture and vibrancy of raw life—but then when I get it in heaping doses, sometimes I get a tiny bit overwhelmed, maybe even a bit desperate, wishing for a dozen or so Diet Cokes, some Real Housewives, and any other kind of soul-anesthetic I can get my hands on.

Anyone else out there relate?

Some of you are rocking a new baby as you read this. Some of you are sitting in the middle of someplace you never thought you’d be. Some of you are aching and longing. Some of you are celebrating. Some of you are just trying to survive the mundane reality of your days in a way that is honoring to yourself and to God, as hard as that is.

I thought I’d share some of the paradoxes that I’ve experienced lately, some things I’ve learned or relearned about myself during this life transition.

#1 I am more resourceful than I realized AND I need more help than I realized

Another way of saying this might be, I am strong and I have limits. Along the way from San Diego to the Middle East, I have seen that I am  more competent than I sometimes give myself credit for being. I’m not as helpless as I sometimes feel. When it was time to get my family from one side of the world to the other, I did it. And I’m actually kind of proud of it all. At the same time, it took an extraordinary amount of people helping in order to make this move happen. Very, very practical help as well as that intangible support you feel when you know there’s a tribe of people believing in you. The learning here is that competence/strength/resourcefulness are not the opposite of needing help. In fact, as I’m realizing, some of my more resourceful moments were acknowledging my limits and allowing the help in when it was offered.

#2 I love adventure AND I love home

This is such a tension for me. The adventure is full of risk, dis-ease, vulnerability, inefficiencies, and indirect routes. All of which are difficult on the nerves. And yet, what happens during the seasons of adventure–defined widely and broadly–are the kinds of things that can’t be duplicated smack in the middle of comfort. I’m crazy for comfort. That’s why I love home. I love the feeling of place. I love homemaking. Candles. Coffee. My turquoise desk. And yet, adventure often asks us to abandon place for a time. So the task, I’m beginning to believe, is to find that bit of home in every adventure and to find that bit of adventure in every home. And, mostly, to validate both placement and displacement in our becoming.

#3 I am a struggling mother AND I am a soulful mother

There have been some ugly mothering moments since arriving here. Both my children covered in ice cream sprawled out on the floor of the base food court, undone, 50 yards apart from each other. Me, towing purse, backpacks, empty stroller, beverage  — trying to figure out which way to run first. Everyone passing by offering comments like, “Wow, it looks like you’ve really got your hands full.” Shut up. These are the moments when I believe anyone else, everyone else, would be doing this so much better than I’m able. The shame is practically pooling around me. And then I do what I’ve learned to do in these moments, which is (1) secure the escapees, (2) breathe deeply,  and then (3) reach out. So I email someone who treats me with the kind of care I often wish I could summon toward myself, and I tell them how desperate it’s all looking. And then, like balm, I get a note back that reminds me of the important truth about myself. And I’m able to access a place deeper than the shame — a true place — and I’m able to connect with the part of myself that knows, that truly believes, I am a soulful mother. I am not a lost cause. And, then the most important part illuminates: just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m a failure. In fact, the struggle might somehow create the greatest beauty of all. Dang, I hate that.

I hope something in this intersects with you today as we all try to remember that life is nuanced, a labyrinth much more than a direct line. Grace and peace to you as you wander through it all.