There’s water in my basement but everything’s ok.

I rushed home this afternoon after a workout to shower and get to a 1pm lunch appointment. I was cutting it close but I love the race against the clock and I would make it. Until I ran downstairs to change the laundry and find something clean to throw on and run out the door …

There was a sound of water running and the wash machine wasn’t on .. and then I stepped on our rug and it was soaking wet, and now so were my feet, and then I looked around more intently and yes; our water heater must be leaking. Must have BEEN leaking – there’s standing water in my basement. Coming up through our Hickory hardwood floors, just dancing around the grooves of the wood as water might do, when it has nothing else to do.

Raindrops: spring rain

I thought if I could figure out how to stop the leak and clean it up, I could still make it to my lunch a little late. I had been daydreaming about what I was going to order. I was so excited. A frantic call to Aaron, an email off to our insurance agent. I thought I would just have to wait … so why not wait over lunch?

But then the phone started ringing. The insurance agent, then the clean up crew, then the plumber. Everyone could come right away, or shortly. And all of a sudden I wasn’t going to be ordering lunch. Or washing my dishes, or finishing the laundry, or cooking.

I was (am) literally stuck here.

——–

Aaron and I had just talked about our plans for this summer. We need to replace a roof on a portion of the garage, we need a new door and the cement steps are giving way. It’s time to refinish our main-floor flooring. We are slowly and surely making our way towards a replacement car for our van. All the things, right? All. The. Things. Clearly we should have been planning to replace a water heater, too. Possibly a furnace. This is an old house, and while we remodeled her and gave her a new dress, she is still standing on the same 80 year old bones.

And sometimes I forget that doing something once doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do it again. Buying a car once doesn’t mean that in 230,000 miles you won’t need to buy another. Replacing floors doesn’t mean you won’t have to refinish them. Taking hot showers and doing your dishes doesn’t mean you won’t wear out the mechanics that deliver that hot water to you.

Northern Michigan

———

A couple weeks ago at church there was a young man who got up at the end with a word for the congregation. This happens in our church – people listen for the Holy Spirit and often get images, dreams, or words of encouragement to share with everyone else – and he shared something about tithing. He had felt God convicting him to tithe $60 but all he had to give was $30 and he kind of went back and forth with himself for a while trying to justify his need vs conviction. After a bit he drove to the bank and got the amount he felt he was supposed to give and experienced overwhelming peace in that obedience.

That same morning I said to Aaron, a little off the cuff, I think we should be tithing. We haven’t for a while, and at the time that felt like what we were supposed to be doing. There’s obedience in all kinds of different ways with our time and our resources. But for some reason, that morning, I just felt like we needed to start again. Aaron said to add it to the list of things to discuss and then we kind of dropped it and went on with our morning. But as soon as the pastor called up the volunteers to take the offering, I whipped out our checkbook, wrote a check and dropped it in the bucket. Not knowing any of this young mans own conviction over tithe that same morning.

Weekend up north with Penelope

——–

Earlier this month I felt God hammering me with the word “Provision” – defined as “the action of providing or supplying something for use // An amount or thing supplied or provided” and I tend to think of provision as strictly financial.

I’ve chronicled our financial story on this blog for a long time. Becoming debt free and selling and buying homes, how we budget and even most recently – how we plan, financially, for vacations. Provision is a large part of our daily life, belief in God or not.

But when I started looking for more what that word really means, in a spiritual sense, I found some amazing things. In Philipeans 4:9 It talks about God supplying (providing) all our needs according to His riches in glory. In Matthew 6:26 it talks about the birds of the air – how God feeds them without their sowing or reaping … and aren’t we worth more than the birds?

Around the house and in the garden

I learned that Provision, in the sense that I felt God was hammering me with it, is a word for His economy. There’s an all encompassing feeling to being “provided for” rather than just putting money in the bank.

God wants to provide me with love, rest, assurance, knowledge, intimacy, joy, purpose, and satisfaction. He wants to care for my hunger, fill my emptiness, call me “daughter, sow seeds of intimacy into my life, save my marriage, equip me daily to parent and instruct me to steward my gifts well.

——–

It’s not that I’ve felt a lacking in provision, but I’ve been missing the point. Mostly in my personal life. I’ve felt the need to continue to work harder for relationships, for success. I’ve felt the pressure to perform and rush and run. I’ve felt guilty for the time available to me in order to pour into women, children, our family. I’ve measured myself against the world with a yard stick that is always only too short. But by centimeters. So the recognition was just in front of me, almost there. Just a little more. A little longer.

And I failed. Every time.

Windmill Island

But this word provision brought with it an understanding that God will provide my comfort. Not Aaron, or success, or recognition, or financial gain, or even being debt free, not my plans or expectations or need for control. None of the labels I want for myself or seek in this life are ever going to provide me lasting comfort.

When I have unmet needs, God reminds me to turn towards him. When I’m dying for connection, God reminds me to take my disappointments and unmet expectations to him. He is the giver of all good things.

——-

So we had our hot water heater replaced, floors are ripped up and broken into pieces in our basement, tomorrow the washer and dryer get moved to assess any damage underneath. We might need new floors. All things. All temporary things, fixable things.

A wrench in anyone’s plans for sure. And still a mountain of unknown ahead. But the sun is shining and everyone who’s been in our home helping this afternoon has been kind and friendly, professional and quick and most important, understanding.

I feel completely at ease in all of this. No rushing or fretting. No amount of planning can undo the surprises and no amount of planning can keep the surprises away, either. We’ll do what we’re able, when we’re able. And not just financially, because if I’ve learned anything here it’s that provision is far deeper than creature comfort.

Cherry blossoms

——–

As I was wrestling through this idea of Provision over the last few weeks, God kept asking me this question:

“Are you more worried about what people think of you, or what I can do through you?”

And I’d have to say that mostly I’m more worried about people, but slowly I’m learning to swim.

South Haven Pier and Lighthouse in the fog 2014

Hidden in all the words

It took over 700 words in an unpublished essay for me to get this one sentence … “If there’s only one thing I can keep from my first family: I want it to be that I was in one.”

And I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

This keeps happening lately. I surround the one thing I want to express with hundreds of words, often not knowing what it is I want to get out until I’ve written it and then I think, oh – there it is. And suddenly the rest of the words don’t mean anything and I walk away from the essay all together.

Riley Woods

I’m doing a Bible Study right now with a small group of women, we’re walking through a book on Your Beautiful Purpose and for the most part, I’ve been blown away each and every week. Because what I wanted going in to this study was a prescribed outcome. I wanted A to connect to B which was going to equal C and I could carry on knowing exactly what I should be doing with my life and voila! Purpose found.

I’ve been afraid each week to speak up, to tell parts of my story. I haven’t come to an understanding yet of what I should and shouldn’t share in these situations but last night on my way home it hit me that I’ve been trying to use my pain as the Branding Expert for my story.

That’s not to say that what I’ve been through/what I’ve done isn’t true. How often do I need to marry my past with my present? Or do I at all?

upload

I so badly want to do something great with my life, but I’ve longsince thought that meant I would have to tell everyone everything all the time for them to see the transformation in me. I USED TO BE THIS :: NOW I’M THIS. And that might work for a little bit, to live through the painful parts of my story over and over again to demonstrate the new life I have now, but is that the point?

Am I just staying abandoned in my pain because it’s powerful?

Am I staying unlovable in my self because it’s relatable?

Am I staying small in my life because it’s required?

Am I staying lonely in relationships because it’s comfortable?

To the Bay!

I think part of the shame story is always that our pain and our past is unique. Which, it is, but it’s not special. What makes me special is not what I’ve been through and I think for a while I’ve been lost in how to get out of this pattern.

Isn’t it possible that the small, seemingly insignificant parts of my life are the great thing I am doing in my life? Listening when my kids talk, being there when they fall apart, loving them unconditionally, feeding them around a dinner table every night, washing their sheets, signing their permission slips, volunteering in their social lives, driving them safely to their practices and events?

I’ve felt called to something significant for a long time. Something substantial. And how I’ve interpreted that has always been sparkly and great and big. SPLASHY! SEEN!

But I’ve also noticed a shift, because what I struggle with today will be gone tomorrow. I won’t always have children to rear or sheets to wash or feasts to serve. These guys are going to grow up and be wonderfully on their own and then I might find myself right where I am now: wondering what’s next?

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So instead of begrudgingly accepting the task of my every day – I’ve started to think of it as an opportunity I’m grateful for. One of the lies I often get sucked in to is that whatever life is right now is how it’s always going to be. ALWAYS. ALLLLLLWAYYYYYYSSSSS. And that’s a really long time for me. But instead, I get to do this today. This won’t actually last forever, and for now this is where I’m planted.

So I’m sprouting a few small roots. No longer easily unearthed by the slightest wind, I’m learning to withstand the weather of life and to bloom any way.

Night 1, Day 2 of Summer Road Trip West

Morning light

And it will be ok.

If you can’t sing, be the song

Hi. I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. “You” being this side of me, I suppose. Going through old photos and boxes of letters recently we found the letter Aaron wrote to his groomsmen before our wedding. He titled it his Single Man’s Swan Song, it was an ode to a former piece of him, a letting go of the old and an invitation to take on the new alongside of him. In true Aaron-fashion he was the first of his buddies to get married (to have a kid, a business, etc) and he owned it. His place in his story, and his clear decision to add a partner to his life with an invitation extended to his confidants to continue the journey with him … but also with us.

We laugh now when we read his letter to his friends but it really stuck with me. I’ve been wondering if this is my Swan Song to this part of me. A farewell, a goodbye, a letting go. A distance but an invitation to the change. It has long since been my goal to be authored and published. To walk into a book store and see my name on the spine of a book. So, as one does at the end of a year or season or extended period of waiting, I re-evaluated my goals. This entire year has been one evaluation after another.

Do I want this?

Is this for me?

Can I walk in this?

Will this hurt me?

Does this help me?

Where is this moving me?

Am I ready?

Slowly, ever so slowly, I’ve noticed that whatever desire was in me to be known on paper has changed. To see ink printed with my words, as satisfying as that is, hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried and mostly failed. And that’s ok. I’m not sorry I tried, or sad that it didn’t work out, or even hung up on the idea that some day it surely will. Maybe I’ve already written my book. Likely, I’ve written many in these archives. Scores of seasons and transitions and living – all recorded. All ready ordered.

So some of it goes unwritten, who cares. Some of it doesn’t get archived here, but maybe, even better, it gets archived on the hearts of my children. It bubbles up out of the mouths of my dearest friends who walked this road with me, maybe one day they’ll tell part of my story for me when I no longer can.

And maybe, just maybe, I tell my story a little differently from here on out. Maybe I start talking. Maybe I start speaking. Maybe I start sharing. Maybe I start profusely sweating and blacking out on a stage while words fall out of my mouth and instead of carrying these chapters with me, maybe I let them out.

Who knows?

I sure don’t. 12 years ago when we decided I would stay home and be a mom I had no idea that a decade later I would still be writing. That, at one point, this writing would bring in a full time income and a community of complete strangers who got me through some of the hardest seasons to date. For anonymous people to mean so much to a person, it might be borderline, but also? It was a lifeline. It was my lifeline.

I’m plagued with What’s Next lately, not like I have been before. I’m not frantic for something to distract me, I’m curious as to where this is all going. What have I been doing to prepare myself for what’s next all these years? I live on standby right now, with one parent who runs a company the sacrifice to the family is that changes, big or small, need to be leveled at a baseline. Here’s how far we can stretch and still bend, together. But this, this is where we break. We have to know where that point is. And we do, we know that point – so I continue to be a mom. I continue to freelance photography and when I stop being afraid of query letters – it’s how I continue to write outside of this space and flex those muscle’s too.

Should someone get sick, should the kids have a break or vacation from school – I’m on standby to supervise. I’m the constant parent. But I have a constant partner.

Aaron and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past August. It was delicious. I wrote (on Facebook) that I finally trust in marriage. God, it’s beautiful. I don’t deserve this life but I get to keep living it. It’s not lost on me that marriages all around me fall down. That friends suffer loss, that my own family suffers loss. I’ve spent the better part of the last thirteen years with my back against the wall waiting for the suffering to befall my house. Surely it was coming, I was due. And if I wasn’t going to suffer loss of love, I was up to bat to lose a life.

Ever so subtly I started backing away from the wall and embracing the vulnerability of stepping in with both feet. I would say something out loud and Aaron wouldn’t shun me. I would stand in front of him, naked in spirit, and ask him if he could see me and he would dance with me. I would sit next to him while he held our babies and I would whisper “is this pretend?” and he would look at me and promise with his eyes that I could trust this. I’ve cried a lot this year (spoiler alert!) because I didn’t know. I had no idea.

How can this be? For me?

It is. IT IS IT IS IT IS IT IS. This is for me. !!!!!!!! HOLY SHIT THIS IS FOR ME.

And I have no more words. I’m not searching for anything, I found it.

xoxo
Jodi

Truth and Dare

I’ve tried to write essay after essay to bridge the gap from the letter I wrote to my kids about politics to the realities of our season. Turns out every time I look at the blank page in front of me I want to explain and suffer through words and slip back into victimization as a way to exploit the negative impacts of a man. I haven’t been able to figure this out. How do I open my mouth and say anything worth while in the middle of this?

Maybe I don’t.

Isn’t that nice? Maybe I don’t have to say anything at all. If I really need to, I can talk to my kids in person or pen the letter quietly and privately. I can write in their journals, the ones I keep specifically for each of them filled with love notes and stories and explanations and apologies and prayers and little victories.

Riley Woods 🙌 Fall 2016

These are my babies.

And this is what I know to be true:

Love matters. Not the empty words of “Love matters, Love wins”, this isn’t a banner I’m wearing, it’s a way of living. And it matters. It’s sacred, to give space to the parts of us that you cannot see. To let the light in, to quiet the darkness of loneliness. Even if it’s a smile, an acknowledgment of someone else’s breath, of their life. Seeing people matters.

Northern Michigan

Art matters. The expression of that space in someone else, their words and stories, their songs, paintings, poems, photographs, designs, gardens, sculptures, dances and battle cries. It’s witnessing someone else hold a mirror up to the vulnerable parts of who they are: and the expression of their heart is essentially their art. Can you see me? Do you hear me? Am I enough? Am I worthy and brave?

This discussion matters. Because our souls are not dead. Because who we present to the whole of the world is often the least of the person we know in the quiet places of our heart, as ourselves. We are wild, we are free.

Weekend on the Lakeshore

Faith matters. There are 3 parts to our heart – like Mind, Body, Soul … our heart has a function, guardian, and emotional aspect. I’m just learning this, or re-learning this as I think most adolescents are taught to unlearn and disconnect their hearts from their mind, from their body. We’re taught, largely on a scale of “fitting in”, to disregard our hearts as a part of our soul. And then we’re taught to hide them. Faith is believing that this trinity in my heart is worth protecting and it’s worth going after with everything I’ve got to keep them connected. I am a girl on fire for keeping my faith alive. I love God and only recently can I say that I see him as a good, good Father.

The Bible is such a wild fairytale some times. It’s radical and unprecedented. It’s a horror story and a birth story and a redeeming love story. It reads like a scifi novel, like a poet in love, like a parent in suffering. It reads like a scientist discovering the wild unknown and it introduces language and words and hidden meanings. It’s one of the oldest recorded histories of our time and it leaves nothing, yet everything, to the imagination. I’m not a scholar of the Bible, but I am a student. If I’m going to say I love God, I want to know who he is. And I have so many questions. They feel provocative, sometimes obscene. But this is faith. And it’s the most daring piece of me. And it matters.

I've never seen a field of sunflowers praying before. I get that they were heavy and this must be what happens before harvesting their seeds but I like to imagine the world a little differently. Not so black and white. Not so either or. Not so afraid of b

Lastly and certainly not least, people matter. Other. Outside, different, margin and fringe. Diversity. If you can see someone, if you can see their eyes or their art, then the rest maybe doesn’t matter. Their eyes and their art are what they are any way. So the color of their skin, their clothes, piercings or tattoos, their hair or the way they wear their past: doesn’t.

These are the simple things I know to be true.

So I’m going to start there.

If my kids could vote, I’d read them these letters first

Here’s what I’ve noticed: people are hurting. We are touchy and a bit prickly. We are scared, mostly afraid of what’s coming next. In this political season I’ve unfollowed so many kind, logical people. It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to have difference of opinion and to turn off the notifications of support of flawed candidates.

I do not want to write about politics because we aren’t sitting across from each other where I can look you in the eye and hear your heart. Where I might still walk away disagreeing with you but where I’ll meet you with compassion and understanding for being a human. For being charged with this heavy decision. For being alive right this minute, in this season.

I do not believe that this election is tethered on pro-life or pro-choice and I can only say this because of the research I’ve done for myself. But if I were going to talk to my kids about this election, here’s what I would tell them:

To Jessica,

You are worth more than what your body can do. Period. You are not a phrase for anyone to throw around in their mouth like they’re chewing cud. You are not less-than or better-than any of your male counterparts. It’s true that we have two front runners for the presidential office and neither of them look good. I personally cannot vote for Trump because narcissism as a leadership tactic is very disruptive. Because having a leader of the free world who can say he values life and then in the next breath completely disregard it is not the sound mind I feel comfortable signing up with. When we make a habit of coloring the story just enough to fit our agenda, that’s called lying, too. When we only recognize our flaws as a result of being caught, when we point the finger away from ourselves so often that we can no longer distinguish where we’re pointing we start to think we’re untouchable. And being powerful is not being untouchable. Being powerful is being approachable, understandable, it’s having self control and tact. Being powerful looks a lot like being humble. It’s the quiet that will spread, the peace that conquers. It’s not the blood, not the fight. It’s not the battle. Additionally, I cannot vote for Hillary. When you’re so comfortable, so poised in discussion but so two-faced, so unattached from the decisions you make: that’s dangerous. And as a woman, Jessica, you will be expected to understand the difference between Decision and Assumption. You will be asked to constantly judge concession. You will be seen as the legs that you have, you will be treated as the pussy that can get caught in the hands of a man who has “needs”, you will be used and taken advantage of. As a woman – your leaders look a lot like Tellers. You ‘should’ do as you’re told. You are bread to be compliant. To listen, submit, concede. And if there’s one thing I can do that makes it easier for you to vote in 8 years, I hope it’s to empower you to choose.

We look at things through the lens of a loving, spiritual Father. So I’m going to see things a bit differently than some of the other people you’ll come into relationship with – and Jessica, I want you to listen to these other voices. I want you to hear them out. I want you to sit with them and absorb their stories and sorrows. I want you to be awake when you hear something that sounds different, that sounds radical or possibly risky. I want you to open your ears and look through your heart and I want you to wrestle with what it means to say yes to the hard issues or to sit with the people you don’t understand or have been taught to be afraid of.

Here’s where it gets risqué and a bit provocative. I serve a pro-choice God. Who very much is pro-life, just very much. So much pro-life but He can only claim to be pro-life THROUGH being pro-choice. Free will, Jessica. This is not a dictatorship. I think most people are too afraid to choose so they hide. They hide behind misinterpretation or the fears passed down to them by their own fathers and mothers. They hide from being seen as the beautiful mind that they already are. None of us are exempt from making bad and regrettable decisions, none of us are exempt from committing crimes, adultery, fraud. From killing innocent people, or our brothers, mothers, sisters, fathers.

And this is not what an election is about – so don’t get stuck down in the mud. Don’t go there, don’t stand at the doorstep of someone else’s redemption with hatred and condemnation. You don’t know the whole story until you ask, you don’t know the million reasons and excuses, you don’t know what happened. It could have been you.

But Jessica, I hope it never is. I love you so much.

Mom

=================================================

To Oliver,

You are kind and gentle. You are beautiful and lovely. You are soft and sweet. AND you are strong and brave. You are smart and helpful. You are resourceful and understanding. You are a warrior who loves well and I can’t explain to you how much it would hurt me (for you) if the leader of this free world was a man whose made his mountain on top of the pain of the people who helped him get there. You’re smarter than that. And I don’t think you’d understand this kind of leadership. You see things so clearly, so innocently. And in 10 years, when you get to vote, I hope you’re still seeing the world as an open book with pages and pages to discover.

We’re trying to teach you how to treat women, while at the same time how to respect yourself. So that the story is not one-sided and “she” becomes the only thing that matters. You have great character that can easily be taken advantage of because you’re willing to give and trust and love. If you’re not careful, there will be someone who latches onto your brand of kindness and saps every bit of life out of you because they’re broken and don’t know how to say it. Guard your heart, Oliver. It’s worth fighting for. And when you’re in the locker room, or at a sleep over, or on the field … and you hear something that sounds counter-intuitive to how you would treat your sister or me, speak up for us. Remember the soft parts of our bodies when we hug you, the gentle way our hands hold you. Remember what love feels like, it’s not sharp.

We’ve tried to teach you to ask questions so when you come up against authority who won’t tolerate a challenge, yell louder. You are not less-than and your values and ideas have merit. Ask again, and again.

Politics are somewhat lost on you still at this age, but you’re starting to follow the leader. And in a stretch of the imagination – that’s a lot of what this is. We’re picking the new leader. What have we taught you about being a leader? Hold everyone who asks you to follow them up to these checks and balances. Your voice is mighty and wise, and your heart is pure. You can trust yourself, too.

I love you so much.

Mom

===============================================

I said I wasn’t going to write about politics and then I did. There’s so much out there right now for you to read and watch and picket and claim. I’m not interested in being one of those voices. I meant what I said in the beginning, I want to see your eyes if you want to have this conversation with me. I need to hear the inflection in your voice when it breaks for the issues you cannot stop wrestling with. I will gladly listen to your stories, your points, your ideas. I’ll ask questions, too. And then I’ll leave it alone and I’ll go home and feed my family and support my farmers and get involved in my community. Because where a voice cannot be heard for miles on end, the ripple effect of a healthy community can spread like wildfire. And so can love.

And that’s what I’m interested in.

I love you so much.

xoxo
Jodi