That Preacher Man’s Wife

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We were married a whole two weeks before my husband became a Pastor—or as our neighbors at the time called him—a Preacher man.

We moved into a little green house with a red door in a slightly shady part of town. We bought our first home in the winter and had no idea that spring would bring open garages with sofas in driveways. Despite the rough appearance of a few of our neighbors and the occasional landlord pounding down the door for a rent check we got along just fine.

On the corner was the Harley riding lesbian couple. Our dog loved pooping on their lawn every time we walked back from the dog park, which led to a lot of conversations, more about the Harley’s and good hiking trails and thankfully less about the poop, which I apologetically picked up as quickly as possible. In our dogs’ defense, they did keep a really nice lawn, so I assume she thought it was a nice place to go.

Up the street was the gay couple, theirs was the prettiest home on the street, well maintained with updated fixtures. One was prone to shirtless lawn mowing sessions and the other to planting and re-planting flowers in his garden. They often oohed-and-ahhed at our new born baby boy as we’d go out for walks.

Directly across the street were the rent-darting true Colorado “we did this before it was legal” pot heads who kept their pirate skull Halloween decorations up year around. The decor bothered me so that I began praying for a gust of wind to blow it away. One spring day my prayers were answers as the pirate skull in all its glory was lifted from the roof and blown out of sight.

Next door was a man named Josh and his pit bull, who once charged our dog, giving my sister, who was dog sitting at the time a near heart attack. She reprimanded the dog and owner. Josh apologized profusely. Keep the dog leashed and all was forgiven.

We were a hodgepodge thrown together group in that little neighborhood. Despite our pretty obvious differences we all said our hellos and made small chat in passing. Beers and gardening tips were shared, conversations had. We’d stand out front and talk about the weather or whatever, of course someone would eventually ask, “hey what do you do?”

There was no tiptoeing around the subject. My husband was/is a Pastor. Strangely as soon as the truth came out the language would get a little cleaner, the conversations a little less real. We tried to be as disarming as possible. “We’re normal, just like you. Probably more like you than you realize.” But with the title came stigma, fear, walls.

It was spring and our lawn started growing into a mess. We didn’t have a lawn mower, nor the money to buy one. We worked it out with one of the neighbors to borrow his in exchange for a case of Natural Ice beer. The exchange was hilarious, who asks for Natty Ice, especially in a place like Colorado where there’s practically a brewery on every corner?

I was wearing cut-off shorts and a tank top, gardening gloves and had dirt all over my face when I returned the gardening supplies and brought the case of beer. Our neighbor’s adult son was home when I knocked on the door. He looked at me quizzically as I offered up the libations. We stood there for a moment in silence, it was as if he were looking at Big Foot or a Unicorn. I wondered just how much dirt exactly was on my face. Then he spoke, “hey, ain’t you that preacher mans wife?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. What a sight I must have been. “Yup,” I said. He started laughing too.

The conversations got a little more real, the language a little cruder. Who knew that it would take a face full of dirt and a case full of Natty Ice to help our neighbors let down their walls.

We’ve since left that little neighborhood as life and ministry has called us to new adventures. With each change we meet new neighbors, and hope for new opportunities to share life, a meal, and maybe even a face full of dirt.

When Life Becomes a Disney Movie

mess.jpgOver the past few days I’ve been walking around the house humming a little ditty. It’s a melody that you—and probably the majority of America—know. The song? “Let it Go” from the extremely popular Disney movie Frozen.

To the pile of laundry in my closet, “Let it go, let it go…”

To the sink full of dishes, “let it go!!!!”

To the sticky floor and teal table, “let it go!”

To the un-fluffed pillows on the couch, bed unmade, emails un-answered… “let it go, let it go.”

Here are a few more lyrics from the song:

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

Seriously, was this song written for the stay-at-home, multitasking mom?

I’ve fallen so behind in all things life over the past few weeks. Fresh off a family trip and a string of wonderful houseguests, and this new thing called “kindergarten” which eats up almost two hours daily in pick up and drop off, my home and head are a “I hope I’ll adjust soon” mess. When I first looked around I felt a panic well upside of me, “dear, Lord, please do not let a single soul ring my doorbell.”

We had contractors in the house today finishing up on the last of the repairs from a fridge/freeze water line leak. I actually apologized to them and asked them if they’d like me to sweep before they got started. They chuckled, but I’m fairly certain I heard them discussing the state of my floor.

I made a mental check-list of things to start working on, but after the list was complete I found myself exhausted and happy just to sit on the floor and let baby girl crawl all over me.

It can wait. And so it shall. (Just a short post this week as I gather myself.)

Until next time here’s a little “Let it go” to get you through your day.

Be Well,

Rachel

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The Witching Hour 

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Everything had been just fine. I swear it. The baby was happily playing at my feet and little man was in the basement with a small horde of his extremely loud friends playing ninja Spider-Man. I finally unpacked the suitcases I’d shoved in the back of our closet. I felt accomplished, we were having a good day.

The 5 o’clock hour was upon us. It was time to transition, to work on homework and color while I prepared dinner. The friends headed home and we gathered at the table. I pulled out the colors and stencils, gave the baby scrap paper to make her art. It all seemed good, peaceful.

Suddenly, the dogs came rip-roaring through the house. They made off with a colored pencil that had been dropped, it was quickly decimated to slivers all over the living room floor. The baby starts weeping. Little man puts his head on the table, resisting his homework. “It’s tooooooooo hard,” he whines. I’ve only asked him to write his name.

At this very moment, my husband walks through the front door. He starts talking ministry, plans, upcoming events. I begin to think my system processors might be shutting down. I had a plan for dinner, but what was it? My eye starts twitching. I try to keep my cool, as cool as a reformed temper tantrum thrower can. Now I can’t remember what I was planning on preparing for dinner. The noise is overwhelming.

What happened to my happy peaceful home?!?

He has to leave for a meeting, because there is always a meeting, and I’m thinking we’ll skip dinner altogether and eat otter pops in lieu. And is it just me but is it super hot in here? Why am I sweating, and how did the dog get another colored pencil? That’s it dog, you’re going down. I begin chasing the dog around the house, but she’s little and scrappy and suddenly much faster than I remember. Little man is still whining in the background and the baby is now whaling.

My husband has gone thankfully silent. He stands very still near the kitchen counter, wide-eyed. “Was it like this all day?” He asks. I just nod, because frankly I can’t remember the day. I think we had a good day, but now I’m not so sure. I can’t really think past this moment.

Knowing that he has to leave again in mere minutes he suggests I go take some “me time” before he departs. It feels like a time-out, maybe it is, I have a feeling I’ve starting yelling. There may have been some commands in there, “drop that pencil!” I yell to the child. “Do your homework!” I shout at the dog.

I stomp up the stairs and plop on the bed. Welcome to the witching hour; the hour that my sweet little home and sweet little family go absolutely nuts. The drama is monumental, laughable. I hide out, knowing that these alone minutes will be over shortly. The clock counts down, I take a deep breath and brace myself. Here we go.

Coloring Outside the Lines

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How did it happen? The days somehow turned to months and years, and suddenly I have a kindergartener. I’ve spent most of the summer mentally preparing myself for that first day. The day we’d walk him to class, kiss him goodbye, maybe even shed a few tears. It would be surreal and sweet.

We entered his little classroom, filled with little tables and little chairs and little people quietly coloring…in the lines. Instantly I felt a sudden pang of concern, “oh no, they all color in the lines.” My brow furrowed. We don’t color in the lines in our house. We color ALL over the page. We color with six crayons at the same time. We race when we color, and Little Man shouts “I win I win!” as he fills his page with color and dimension.

But still, I worry. Will he be forced to color within the lines? Will he be made to conform?

He put on his favorite tie-dye shirt a few weeks back, a vacillated over whether to keep it on or not. “I wonder if my friends will like it,” he pondered out loud before running out the door to play. I stopped him and looked him in the eyes. “Baby, it doesn’t matter if they like it, it’s your shirt and you like it, it’s a cool shirt.”

This stage came so much faster than I had anticipated. The caring and worrying about what others think stage. He suddenly worries about what his friends think, and now I’m sure this will apply to his classmates. I hope with every fiber of my being that I’ve instilled into him his awesomeness. He is so fun, and smart, and capable, and he, we, live a bit outside the lines.

One might take a snapshot of our little family and begin to categorize us. The list might be based on appearance and assumption, it may be based on statistics. It might look something like this:

  • White anglo-saxon
  • Christian
  • Republican
  • Middle Class
  • College Educated
  • Volvo Driving
  • Chocolate Lab Owning yada yada yada

It’s true, we do fall into a few of these categories, and that’s fine, but these labels don’t actually define us, they don’t make us who we are. Yes, they are a part of us, sometimes for better, and given the current political climate, for worse. But at the end of the day what I think we are truly defined by is our humanity. We are people. We are the peoplest of people. We need love. We want love. Relationship. Community. Understanding. Safety.

So, because I want my son to know that we are just people, I teach to him to love past boundaries and boxes. We talk about things, the whys and the hows. And I hope that at least some of what I am saying imprints on his little mind.

To the potential dismay of his teacher I will continue allowing him to color outside the lines, I may even encourage it a little. Because we cannot truly be categorized, we do not live inside a box, we do not live in black and white. We live in a wild wonderful world, complete with colors abundant, flavors to be tasted and savored.

How a Year in Provence Changed My Life 

lavender-1551535We arrived to Aix-en-Provence in the blazing heat of August. With the help of my new friends I lugged my heavy suitcases up three flights of stairs. Our building was pre-war, by the way our hot water would go out I assumed it predated all wars. This building was there in the beginning.

The ground floor was occupied by a fish market. My shoes often smelled of fish water, but I couldn’t be bothered. We lived on the second floor, my roommate and I, with whom I had a falling out weeks before our return to the states, never to be reconciled. Something to do with her not liking my boyfriend.

My room was yellow with a teal circle painted above my rickety twin bed. The circle reminded me of the ocean, of home, it was perfect. The room had no closet, just a few dressers where I folded my stacks of clothing, most of which I’d toss out before the year was over in exchange for more modern French attire.

My days there were, for the most part, simple. They were quiet, with lots of time for reflection, stillness, slow meals and deep conversation. When I wasn’t in class learning French—poorly—I spent my afternoons in the local tea shop, sipping Turkish tea and playing board games with friends. These afternoons went on for hours, with very little concern for the time.

Sundays were spent under the large branches of a willow tree. My favorite tree in my favorite park. I absorbed book after book in the warm afternoon breeze. Sunday evenings I’d worship at an anglophone church, whose Pastor hailed from Southern California. I drank wine, maybe too much, and sucked the marrow out of life. I visited the coast and neighboring countries. I ate, a lot, and made francaphone friends.

I often reflect on those days. I think about the relationships and friendships, about everything I did, but also about everything I didn’t do. In all the “doing” there was so much less “doing” and so much less stuff, clutter, both physical and mental.

My things—all of them—could be stored away in my small chest of drawers. I came to own very little; four pairs of pants, eight to ten tops, a winter jacket and a few pairs of shoes. My splurge items were all of my fancy dangly earrings which I purchased from a local boutique. An outfit could be transformed with a scarf, but really clothes didn’t matter. Here, I learned to embrace quality over quantity. My clothes were washed at the nearby Laundromat and hung to dry on a rack in the middle of my room.

My refrigerator, which was roughly the size of a small ice chest, was never full. I went to the market almost daily. While in Provence I never once ate processed foods, I didn’t own a microwave and only prepared what would be eaten fresh. Breakfast was fast, pain au chocolat and espresso. I’d often spend my morning classes yawning, a result of staying out too late the night prior. My kind Polish classmate took to bringing me an extra espresso on   a near daily basis.

Those days I didn’t own a smart phone or a computer. I corresponded with friends and family via email, using the computers at my Université. I had a vodafone prepaid cell, which I used to text my local friends, but when the credits ran out I knew I could find them sitting around a small table sipping something in the center of town.

I didn’t know it then, but while I was living and studying in Provence I was learning more than just a new language. I was there to complete my French minor, that was my original mission, but as the year progressed I found that I was learning much more than words. I was learning to be quiet with myself. I was learning to walk in solitude and travel distances completely alone. I was learning to communicate with kindness. I was learning more about myself than anything else. I was learning to live on less and as I did I found myself enriched by the experiences and people around me.

As the year wound down, I found myself on a plane returning to the US. I wept the entire flight. It took me months to acclimate to my old life, to return to a schedule and to feel the need to update my wardrobe. Very slowly I found myself accumulating things and becoming distracted by all that which distracts.

When my world begins to spiral, as it so often does, I tell myself to return to Aix. Although I can’t easily hop on a plane leaving behind children and responsibility, I am able to return there in my head. My breathing slows. I see the Cour Mirabeau with trees arching overhead, I taste the mulled wine of winter, and listen to the music of a language that I only partially understand. It’s a wonderful way to reset, to be reminded that so much of this “stuff” doesn’t matter, that less is so often more, that life needn’t be lived at breakneck speeds.

If you, darling friend, ever get the chance to visit, go unscheduled, leaving itinerary behind. Eat the crepes, drink the rosé, walk from park to park, have a conversation with your eyes. Visit the market, do not touch the fruit, but then once the merchant has selected the ripest and most lovely for you, enjoy and savor.