It all starts when a real estate agent sees me naked. It’s 8:30 a.m. and I am emerging from my bathroom, where I’d been blow-drying my hair, into my bedroom where I am about to get dressed. He is standing there, in my hallway, looking completely flummoxed.
My real estate agent (not the one standing in my hallway), had told me that the first viewing by a potential buyer was happening at 9 a.m., and I’d planned to be dressed and gone from the premises before then. Due to some mixup, this agent had booked an 8:30 showing that hadn’t been communicated to me (a pattern that repeats itself later in the week, though not with such dramatic results).
I dress quickly and hurry out of the house. At the doorway, I see a large pair of men’s dress shoes – an unusual sight in a house that has housed only women for the past seven years. Outside, in my driveway, stands the young, flustered agent, in his socked feet. I suppress a giggle when I consider the mad dash he’s made from the house. Trying to save face (but not looking at mine), he swears to me he’d booked the appointment and swears he’d called out when he’d let himself into the house. I brush it off, climb into my car, and drive away.
Throughout the remainder of the day, as I juggle the chaos of running a home-based business while multiple showings disrupt my day, I burst out laughing whenever I remember the man in my driveway without his shoes.
Only later – perhaps the next day – I surprise myself with the realization that the encounter did not trigger me. A strange man intruded on my private space and saw me naked, and… I laughed!
I have spent years healing from the trauma of what has happened to me in bedrooms, and years creating a sanctuary where my body can finally release its hypervigilance and feel safe. Many times, I have despaired at how long it takes for my body to learn a new story. But now, thirty-four years after a man climbed through my bedroom window and raped me in my bed, and seven years after I ended the marriage that compounded (in smaller increments) the trauma of that rape, my body didn’t respond with fight, flight, or freeze when a strange man burst through the boundary I’d so carefully constructed. My only response was laughter.
By the next day, my sense of humour has dwindled. The chaos of having my life so frequently disrupted starts to take its toll. Though no other agents see me naked, they want to come at all hours of the day, they change their appointments at the last minute, and I am left juggling the many Zoom calls my work requires with their expectations that I be out of the house so that their clients can snoop through my bedrooms and poke around in my kitchen. Ten minutes before teaching a class, after learning of a last minute scheduling change, I rush to my sister’s house to borrow her internet and kitchen table.
Surprisingly, the agent’s gaze on my naked body seems to impact me less than the parade of people whose gaze falls on my naked house. I don’t know what to make of it. Despite my efforts to distract myself, including a short road trip out of town with my sister-in-law over the weekend when the greatest number of showings are happening, I can’t ignore the churning in my stomach when I think of all of those people in my private space, looking through my closets, intruding on the sanctuary of my lovely backyard, judging my stained furniture, and casting a critical eye on the cracks in the walls and peeling paint on the kitchen cupboards.
There are moments when I want nothing more than to chase them all away, change the locks on the doors, and hunker down in my own house, protecting it from intruders as though it were a city under siege. There are moments when I want to yank the For Sale sign out of the front lawn and commit to the house that I will never, ever leave it.
This house and I have been through so much together. Twenty-four years ago, with a toddler and a new baby, my former husband and I moved in, our hearts full of dreams of the home this house would become. Perhaps I should have known, at the end of that long day of moving, when my body was completely spent but I still had to find a few more drops of strength and kindness with which to feed my babies and help them feel safe in the midst of monumental disruption, that a pattern had been set that would repeat itself again and again in this house. “The way you start your day determines how well you will live your day,” some motivational speaker once said, and perhaps the way you move into a house determines how you will live in that house.
I spent many, many days exhausted, trying to muster up those last drops of strength, courage, and kindness in this house. There were all of those years of mothering small children while working a full-time job. There were the years of my former husband’s depression and there was his second suicide attempt. There were the many times I tried to convince myself I was happy in a marriage that didn’t nourish me. There was the way that my body kept telling me that my bed was not as safe as my brain pretended it was. There were fights and heartbreaks and disappointments and there was that moment, every day, when my body tuned in to the sound of the door opening, trying to anticipate the mood that I’d need to decipher, manage, soothe, support, or deflect in order to help my children feel safe.
Despite what the motivational speakers say, a pattern can only hold for so long before something shatters, before you choose to end a day differently than it began. Seven years ago, it was time for that shattering, time to rearrange what had so long ago been set into motion.
Though I was restless and ready to leave this house and all of the memories it held when the marriage was dismantled, I knew that, more now than ever, I had to muster those last ounces of strength, courage, and kindness in order to give my daughters the home and stability they needed for the tumultuous teen years. With resolve, and much trembling, I pushed through all the paperwork, stress and worry of buying the house all over again so that it would only be my name on the land title. I didn’t know if I could afford it alone, since my business was still in the early days of making enough money to survive on, but for my daughters’ sake, I knew I had to try.
Not only did I succeed in keeping the only home they’d ever known, I worked hard to make it better and more safe. Even before the marriage ended, knowing that they’d each need their own tender space to hold them through the disruption, I redecorated each of the girls’ bedrooms. Then, when the master bedroom was finally mine alone, I did the same for me. From there I moved on to the living room and kitchen, and finally the backyard, tearing out old flooring, painting old cupboards, hiring people to redo the floors and backyard, and learning to use power tools so that I could build shelving units, desks, and tables. I did the best I could with what I had.
A week after the naked encounter with the agent, the date arrives when my agent will accept offers. There have been about 30 showings in a week, so she expects there to be a bidding war that will land far above the asking price, but it doesn’t turn out that way. The repairs needed on the foundation, the cracked basement walls and cracked living room ceiling have scared people off more than we expected. We’ve priced it much lower than comparable homes in the neighbourhood, knowing that it will require repairs, but even that low price doesn’t convince people it’s a good investment. Add to that the interest rate increase and talk of recession, and buyers have become more reluctant than they were a month ago.
The only offer I receive is below my asking price, and there are conditions that include a full inspection. I decline their offer and make a counteroffer. They decline that with another counteroffer, just a bit higher than they offered in the first place. I am devastated, but I give in, knowing that there’s very little chance anything better will surface.
I consider declining it and taking the house off the market. I consider staying here and pouring more money into the house to increase its value. I consider whether I’m willing to give up my plans to relocate to another city and whether I can be happy living here alone with all of my children moved away and only the memories for company.
I spend a lot of time crying in the next few days as I wait for the house inspection to happen and the deal to be finalized. I cry about the fact that people don’t love my home as much as I love it. I cry about the 29 people who looked and then turned away. I cry about the fact that all of the work I’ve put into the house in the last seven years feels like a financial waste. I cry about the fact that I will leave this home less financially stable than I’d hoped to be at the beginning of the next phase of my life. I cry because it’s so easy to turn “they don’t value my house” into “they don’t value me”.
I cry especially on the day that the house inspection happens. For three hours, I have to be away from the house while a stranger pokes even deeper than all of the people who came before. This time, they will evaluate every square inch of the house, critiquing the windows, the furnace, the appliances, the walls, and the foundation. This time, they will open every closet and look for leaks under every sink.
I wake up that morning suddenly remembering that there are some old mildew stains I hadn’t managed to clean off the trap door at the top of my closet that opens up into the attic. It’s one of the only spots I forgot to clean in the two-month frenzy to prepare the house for sale. I worry that the inspector will take the mildew too seriously and warn the buyers to back away from the deal. I cover the clothes hanging in my closet with an old blanket, climb onto a chair, spray bleach onto the ceiling and scrub.
A few hours later, when it’s nearly time for the inspection to be over and for me to be allowed back in, my agent calls. The inspector wants to know if he can move the clothes in my closet to access the trap door into the attic. I say yes, both relieved that I took the time to clean the mildew and annoyed to know that someone is currently rummaging in my closet.
When I get home, there are far too many signs that someone has been in my home and the frustration boils into rage. I feel disrespected and somewhat violated when I see how many items have been moved away from walls and not returned to their rightful places. On one of the hottest days of the year, all of the curtains have been pulled open and the furnace has been left on.
What is the value of a home? As I wait through the evening for my agent to give me the final word, I ask myself that question. Can the value of this home, that has held so many of my heartaches and born witness to so many of my traumas, really be measured by a dollar figure on the piece of paper my agent passes across the table to me? Can any amount of money tell of the worthiness of this house, when it has been a refuge through so many storms?
It’s the lie of capitalism, I realize, that tells us that worth can be measured. It’s the lie we’ve been told again and again – the lie that has taught us to commodify our lives, our bodies, our stories, our talents, our land, and all of our possessions, placing the value of one above another, diminishing it all to a dollar sign on a piece of paper.
The feminist rage boils up in me as I realize the grief and shame that I’ve been feeling about people devaluing my home is the same old grief and shame I’ve felt about people devaluing my body. “The basement is cracked and the house is showing its age,” they say, casually, as if this home is only a commodity. “Take $50,000 off its value.”
“Your body is fat, female and showing its age,” they say, casually, as if this body is only a commodity. “Take $50,000 off your value.”
My agent finally arrives, and the evening drags on with multiple back and forth phone calls while the buyer’s agent points out what the inspector has revealed. He tries repeatedly to bring the price down even more. Fed up, I say a firm “NO” when my agent is on the phone with him. “He heard your no,” she says when she gets off the phone and I’m not sure if she’s admonishing me or cheering me on for being so clear. Either way, I don’t regret it. I know that I have the power to walk away rather than let this agent chip away any more of my value, and I know that I will carry my head high whatever the outcome.
Finally, the sale goes through and my agent leaves. I crawl into bed, unsure of how I feel.
The next morning, it begins to settle in that I have sold my house. The remnants of grief still cling to me, but I become resolved to pick myself up and carry on. “It’s only money,” I tell myself. “It says nothing about the value of my home and nothing about the value of me.”
I look around my home and see it through the eyes of love. I peer out my bedroom window and watch the birds land in the branches of my sturdy maple tree and the squirrels scamper along my fence. I touch the walls with tenderness, like I used to touch my children’s skin when they were little. I soften my gaze as I peer at my naked body in the mirror. Home and body – both priceless, both loved.
I remember the words of Sonya Renee Taylor in The Body is Not an Apology. “Living in a female body, a Black body, an aging body, a fat body, a body with mental illness is to awaken daily to a planet that expects a certain set of apologies to already live on our tongues. There is a level of ‘not enough’ or ‘too much’ sewn into these strands of difference.” I feel that in my body and I feel it in my home.
Our systems – capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy – are structured to profit from our self-hatred, Taylor says, convincing us to buy more and more things to try to cover up our shame and prove to each other and ourselves that we are worthy of love. We are measured with yardsticks that teach us whose bodies have more worth, whose lives should be protected, and who should be shamed for taking up space. And when the walls of our homes are similarly measured, it feels personal.
“Think of body shame like the layers of an onion. For decades in our own lives and for centuries in civilization, we have been taught to judge and shame our bodies and to consequently judge and shame others. Getting to our inherent state of radical self-love means peeling away those ancient, toxic messages about bodies. It is like returning the world’s ugliest shame sweater back to the store where it was purchased and coming out wearing nothing but a birthday suit of radical self-love.”
The only way to disrupt a system that oppresses people by measuring their worthiness is to stop complying, stop measuring.
It’s now a few weeks since a strange man saw me naked in my bedroom. It’s a few weeks since I burst out laughing at the thought of him standing in his socked feet in my driveway. I notice now, as I think of all of the people who have passed through these rooms since then, measuring the worth of what I love, that I am able to laugh at that too. I see them all in my mind’s eye – buyers, agents, and inspectors – lined up in their socked feet in my driveway, unable to look me in the eye as I walk by. But my head is held high and I am dressed not in a shame sweater, but in my “birthday suit of radical self-love”.
That young real estate agent can know nothing of the value of an aging, saggy female body. He can know nothing of what this body has carried, how this body has triumphed, and how many times this body has nurtured and protected those who are scared or lonely. If there is shame to be had in that moment when this body was seen naked, then he can carry it. I refuse.
Similarly, nobody who walked through these rooms can know anything about the value of this home. They can peer into the closets and peek into the attic, but nothing they see with their untrained eyes will tell them of the stories this house has held or the way it has sheltered my family through the storms.
If there is shame to be had in the cracked walls or mildew stains, I refuse to carry it. Two months from now, when I walk away from this home that I have loved so dearly, ready to start the next chapter in my story, I will do so with my head held high. There may be fewer dollars in my bank account, but the value of what this house has given me will never be measured by that.
In the middle of the house sale, I decide it’s time to finally book the tattoo appointment I’ve been considering for several years. A few days after the sale is finalized, I visit the tattoo parlour and have the words of Mary Oliver inked on my forearm where I can see them easily: “…let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
I will wear those words as a promise to myself to the end of my days. This body cannot be measured. And neither can my home.
“It’s a long and rugged road and we don’t now where it’s headed But we know it’s going to get us where we’re going And when we find what we’re looking for we’ll drop these bags and search no more ‘Cuz it’s going to feel like heaven when we’re home It’s going to feel like heaven when we’re home.” – From the song Heaven When We’re Home, by the Wailin’ Jennys
Last week, I found home in Florida, and, like the song says, it felt like heaven.
No, I’m not planning to move there any time soon (I’m not sure this Canadian girl could handle the humidity), but I found home nonetheless.
That home was in front of 175 people teaching a workshop on Holding Space through Grief and Trauma (see above photo). I taught the whole workshop, from 9 to 3:30, without any notes (other than my Powerpoint slides) – because this is my home. This is my work. This is the lifeblood that runs through my veins. The next day I taught two half-day workshops on The Circle Way and it was the same.
I know this material and these stories so well, have spoken and written about them so many times, that notes are no longer necessary. I can stand in front of 175 strangers and feel energized and a little nervous but still perfectly at home.
Some people call it a divine assignment, some people call it a calling, some call it your life’s purpose. In some Indigenous cultures, it’s referred to as your “original medicine” – the unique gift that you and only you can offer toward the healing of the world.
Whatever you call it, when you find it, you feel like you have finally come home.
Here’s what I know about finding it:
Home is a lot more beautiful when you’ve taken a journey away from it. I spent many years doing work that didn’t feel like home, but that was all part of the quest that helped me find it. The more work I did that didn’t feel like “my work” the more clear I became about what I was looking for. A few days ago, I heard a chef on The Chef’s Table say that he’s known he’d be a chef since he was 14 years old. I’m intrigued by that kind of clarity, but that’s not the journey that was meant for me. There’s no way I could have imagined the work I do now when I was 14 – I had to take the long journey to get here.
The quest for home will take you through “alien lands”. I couldn’t say it better than Parker Palmer does: “Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free ‘travel packages’ sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – “a transformative journey to a sacred centre” full of hardships, darkness, and peril.” There are many out there who are selling very tempting “trouble-free travel packages”, but what you’ll get from them is an empty shell of what you’re really meant to find in your life. Take the “road less traveled”. It’s risky, but it’s real.
The path through the “darkness and peril” builds your resilience and helps you to eventually see the light. It was when I learned to surrender to the darkness and begin to see the purpose and meaning of it that I finally started to find the clarity I was seeking. I can only teach about topics like grief and trauma and the liminal space because I learned to navigate those worlds myself, and I could only learn to navigate them when I stopped resisting them. Wherever you are now, there is meaning in it and there are lessons to be learned from even the hardest moments.
It all matters. Even those long years of doing work that didn’t feel connected to me mattered. I honed my communication skills writing speeches for politicians and government officials. I learned storytelling traveling to developing countries and telling the stories of the non-profit organization I worked for. I learned how to create enough content for a full day workshop when I was teaching courses in Writing for Public Relations at the university. It may not have been the content I wanted to speak or write about, but those were the skills I needed for what I now do.
A true purpose includes generosity and responsibility toward others. If you live a self-absorbed life, you will be forever searching for the meaning of it. Look beyond yourself to find your purpose. “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”. ― Viktor E. Frankl
Many will never understand your quest or your purpose. Last week, crossing the border into the U.S., I was held up for an hour (and nearly refused entry), trying to explain my work to a confused border agent who couldn’t find an appropriate category in his big binder full of visa information. I get the same kind of confusion from lawyers, accountants, friends, family, etc. I used to think I just needed the right “elevator speech”, but no matter what I tried, there were always people who gave me confused looks. I gave up on the elevator speech and simply learned to accept that the work I’ve been called to doesn’t fit well with cocktail party small talk or border crossings.
The right people will get it. It doesn’t take long to figure out whether a seat mate on the airplane, a participant at a workshop, or another parent on the soccer field is on a similar quest as I am on. If I speak words like “holding space” or “The Circle Way” and their eyes light up, I know we’ll be able to have a meaningful conversation. In Florida, those 175 people, who mostly support children in grief and trauma, stayed with me through every word. When that happens, it doesn’t really matter how many confused looks there were until that point.
It will take a lot out of you and it will give a lot back. Whenever I finish doing work that really matters – like that workshop in Florida – I am both exhausted and invigorated. Though it flows with ease when I am doing the right work, it is far from easy. It’s true that I didn’t need notes up there, but that’s because I was sharing from such a deep and intimate place of my own stories of grief and trauma that notes are unnecessary. My heart was being poured out in front of 175 people. I do it out of pure love, but I know that this kind of work must be followed by a few days of rest and solitude.
Desire is a guide even when you try to deny it. I had a lot of baggage around my desire to stand in front of a crowd of people speaking of things that were important to me. “It must be my pride that yearns for the spotlight,” I convinced myself. I needed to be more humble than that. I should be happy being in the background. But as much as I tried to deny it, it’s where I felt called to be and now, because I learned to silence those voices that told me I was wrong to want it, I can stand there and feel at home. “To have a desire in life literally means to keep your star in sight, to follow a glimmer, a beacon, a disappearing will-o’-the-wisp over the horizon into some place you cannot yet fully imagine. A deeply held desire is a star that is particularly your own, it might disappear for awhile, but when the skies clear we catch sight of it again and recognize the glimmer.” – David Whyte
When you find it, it’s even better than you imagined it would be. I have had lots of discouraging days along this journey, lots of times when I thought I was deluding myself, and lots of times when I started looking for other work because it was all taking far too long. But now? I can hardly believe how lucky I am. I have moments of pure joy that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Who knew that speaking on topics like grief and trauma could be so invigorating? Just as I surrendered to and learned from the darkness and the grief, I am surrendering to and learning from the light and the joy.
After the workshops were finished, I stayed in Florida a few extra days to spend some focused time creating the content for my Holding Space Coach/Facilitator Program, and once again, in my little Airbnb room close to the ocean, writing in solitude, I was home. Because my calling is not to stand in front of a room of hundreds – my calling is to teach, in whatever form it takes, this work that feeds my soul and invites me to feed other souls.
“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you.” – George Bernard Shaw
I hope that you find it too – the place that calls you, the work that whispers to you in your quietest moments. I hope that your own long journey is worth it and that you relish the joy that and healing that can come when you find home.
Last week, I was elbow deep in paint and knee deep in clutter. I was continuing the redecorating work I started in the summer (when I painted and decorated my daughters’ three bedrooms), and at the same time was de-cluttering nearly 17 years worth of accumulated stuff in my bedroom and the two bathrooms in the house.
Inspired by the KonMari method, I was asking myself, each time I pulled something out of a closet or cupboard, “does this spark joy?” Only when the answer was a clear yes did it make it back onto the shelf. There were 6 huge bags full of giveaways and an equal number full of garbage in the three rooms.
I am still a little dumbfounded by how much I carried out of those rooms. I don’t actually like shopping (especially for clothes), so how could I possibly have accumulated so many things that I don’t really enjoy wearing? I’ve always told myself that I’m at least being an ethical consumer by buying mostly second-hand clothes, but that doesn’t justify having so much!
Now that its done…. OH MY! I am SO in love with this spaciousness! I feel lighter, more free, and more agile (kind of like that pelican I just hung on the wall). I can look into my closet or dresser drawer and see instantly what I’m looking for. No more digging for treasures and forgetting what’s hidden at the back of the closet. I want to spend more time in my own spaces and have been working less often in coffee shops. And at the end of the day, it’s so easy to find a space for what needs to be put away because there is no clutter in the way. (Now I just have to tackle the rest of the house and put in the effort to keep it this way!)
I keep asking myself – if this much spaciousness feels so good, then WHY do I keep burying myself in clutter that doesn’t bring me any joy?
In fact, why has clutter become an epidemic in so many places where people have access to privilege and affluence? Just look around you (if you live in such a place) and you’ll see, sprouting all over our cities, football-field-sized yards full of storage rental spaces. And then look on the internet and you’ll see a myriad of courses and books on decluttering and organizing. There are huge, multi-million dollar industries whose sole purpose in the world is to manage all of the excess stuff we have.
There’s a similar pattern in our calendars as in our closets. We fill every space until things are bulging out and we’re too overwhelmed to enjoy any of it. We tell ourselves that if we’re busy, we must be valuable, and so we pack things into our agendas. And we do even worse where our children are concerned – making sure they have a sporting event or music lesson every night of the week.
Why? What is this all about?
What I came up with, as I lugged garbage bags out of my house, is this…
We have bought into a collective story that tells us there is no value in emptiness.
When we feel empty, we try to fill the emptiness with things and activities and vices. When there is too much spaciousness in our lives, we doubt our value and feel uncomfortable, and we go seeking that which fills up the spaces.
We forget that spaciousness actually feels good.
Think about the last time you had nothing to do on a Saturday night. Didn’t it feel kind of luxurious to curl up with a good book?
What about the time you cleaned your fridge and those empty shelves looked so clean that you just stood there and stared for awhile?
And even when the emptiness feels uncomfortable – like when your friends all have active social calendars and you don’t – aren’t you at least a little aware that time alone is good for you because you’re learning to appreciate your own company more?
Spaciousness – in our calendars, in our closets, and in our lives – can be a very good thing. Spaciousness creates opportunities for reflection, for prayer, for art-making, for deep breathing, for meaningful conversation, for healing, for self-awareness, for wandering, for healthy grieving, and for simply staring out the window at the leaves fluttering on the trees.
When we have spaciousness in our relationships, we listen more intently, we don’t rush to fix, and we allow for richness and depth and hours of meaningful conversation. In the spaciousness, connection happens.
When we have spaciousness in our calendars, we become more aware of what we truly love to do, we learn to say no to that which distracts us from our purpose, and we take more time for reverence and mindfulness. In the spaciousness, joy happens.
When we have spaciousness in our homes, we don’t let our possessions control us, we find greater value in the things we truly love, and we create less stress in our lives. In the spaciousness, peacefulness happens.
When we have spaciousness in our lives, we learn to listen to the voice of Spirit within us, we create room for personal discovery, and we feel a deep sense of freedom. In the spaciousness, growth happens.
Make it a daily intention to create spaciousness in your life, and watch what happens when you do.
Vicki, in all her beloved nosiness, wants us to post pictures of our front doors.I’ll try to do that later, if I get there before dark after Nikki’s soccer practice, but in the meantime, I thought I’d paint a little word picture…
I stand on the doorstep on the all-weather carpeting Marcel installed a few years ago, in front of the door I painted green and then frowned at as it warped in the sun.Next to me is a pot of flowers Marcel was given when he finished his practicum teaching a few weeks ago.Just over the railing on the right is the flower bed that runs the length of the house and is enclosed by wooden logs.Poking out of the dirt, you can see bold shoots of green – hostas, irises, hens & chicks, and various other perrenials that I don’t know the names for but that don’t mind growing in a shady spot.
The lawn in front of the house is a little patchy under the massive elm tree that stands sentry in front of our house.This is the lawn I danced on with my children when it rained last summer.This is the lawn I’ve dug snow tunnels on.This is the lawn – just under that big ol’ tree – where I’ve taken pictures of the girls every year on the first day of school.This is the place where we hunt for lady bugs, watch bunnies hop across the yard, rake piles of leaves and then jump in them, spin circles with sleds in the snow, and have water fights after washing the car on hot summer afternoons.
At the edge of the lawn is a worn-looking pair of wooden lawn chairs with a built-in table between them.We inherited this from the neighbour who packed up and moved to the East Coast.It needed a coat of paint when we inherited it, but instead of painting, we sanded it down and went with the rough look.I like it better that way. It suits the place.It’s falling apart, but so far, Marcel has always managed to repair it and make it last just a little longer.We like to sit on those chairs at the end of a long summer day and watch the world go by.Sometimes we do it with the children, each of us sipping Slurpees or iced tea.And sometimes, Marcel and I sit there alone after the children are in bed and sip our glasses of wine in the stillness of the evening.
Across the street, behind three massive evergreen trees, and tucked in the middle of a fairly large housing co-op, is a rather bland-looking stuccoed wall with a wheelchair ramp wrapping around it and winding up the side.On the other side of this wall, our children have all, at separate times, spent many hours playing, laughing, making new friends, learning to trust adults that are not related to them, making crafts, and watching occasional Disney movies.It’s the day care – a place I at times resent because it’s gotten more of my children’s daytime hours than I have, and at times thank God for because it is close to home, convenient, friendly, and my children are safe and well-cared-for and offered training and inspiration there.(Remember the food-colouring and milk trick?It was learned there.) On that ramp at the side of the building, we’ve watched many children try out skateboarding tricks – with only minor mishaps so far.
Between that stuccoed wall and my house is a street that’s busier than I’d like it to be.My children can’t dash across it to the play structure in the housing co-op, or ride their bikes up and down the street.We’ve found ways to live with that, though, by using the sidewalk for bike rides and spending more time in the schoolyard and playground on the quiet street behind our house.
On the left, just on the other side of a large and unruly shrub, is a wide yard with a house perched in the middle.These are our neighbours M&J who just had a little baby boy.They’re moving away in a few months, to a newer suburb.We’re going to miss them – they’ve made great neighbours.
I don’t think I’ll give you the same tour of the backyard.It’s a bit of a sore-spot right now, with its rotting deck, falling-down fence, and weed-infested lawn.It needs some major work, but that’s not really in the cards for another year or two.For now, we’ll do most of our living in the front yard.
This is where I live – an ordinary home on an ordinary street in an ordinary suburb in an ordinary city.Nothing grand or elaborate.Nothing dream-worthy or idyllic.Nothing quaint or full of character.It’s just home.It’s where my daughters are growing up, where I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, dreamed a lot, ate a lot, painted a lot, written a lot, and loved a lot.
Just like I will never make the pages of Vogue, my home will never make the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.We’re both simple, ordinary, but mostly happy and well loved.
The water’s boiling for my tea, the house is quiet with the family all away at piano lessons, and I am curled up on my couch – home again. Another flight. Another magical lift-off moment. Another night spent in another hotel room. Another day spent in meetings and presentations (doesn’t it just SUCK when your presentation falls into the 2:00 in the afternoon slot when everyone in the room is beginning to drift off to sleep?) Another taxi ride (no Ethiopian cab driver this time). It’s good to go, but it’s always good to return.
In my job, I often end up in meetings and conferences full of a variety of church leaders from a variety of denominations. As is still the case in WAY too many of them, today I was once again a tiny minority in a room full of men. The only other woman in the room was there with her husband – she worked as his administrative assistant. It makes me sad that so many churches are still missing half the wisdom, half the giftings, half the blessings, and half the opportunities to learn by not allowing or encouraging women to lead. If you’d asked most of the men in the room today, I’m sure they would have said “oh, of course we let women lead” and yet the room full of men tells a different story. It makes me weary.
But that’s not a problem I’ll solve today. The water boiled. It’s time for tea.