Two weeks ago, I uttered the sentence: “I’m sorry we couldn’t make it to the tractor pull. We had to move chickens.” Yes. Really.
My children have to pick potato beetles from the potato plants every morning before they can play, and some days we see more tractors and four wheelers on our road than cars. This is rural life.
It is easy when my to do list includes “hill potatoes” and “shuck peas” to present myself as a caricature of the country preacher’s wife, becoming the stereo-type I have always hated to read. It is tempting to go for the easy laugh.
But for all of the ways that our life looks different from the life we lived in St. Louis and Columbus, there are infinite ways that it doesn’t. There are still hurting people and happy people. There are victories and defeats and the mundanes in between. We are praying for health and for jobs and for lost souls. We are doing our best to love people, and we are sometimes failing. The promises of God are true, and we all need to hear them every week (or more) no matter where we have lived.
So yes, there are tractor pulls and chickens, and I have shucked a lot of peas. But there is so much more to this life than those trappings. The people we love and the life we are building here are precious to us, and Jonathan’s calling to serve the church is an honor. It is rural life, and rural ministry, but I will not make it one big redneck joke. It is so much deeper than that.
In 2010 we had our first seminary US Thanksgiving. We weren’t going to travel, and our new neighbors, the Baudhuins, had just brought a baby home from NICU, so they weren’t traveling. We decided to celebrate together. (I posted about it here.)
I remember vague things about that Thanksgiving, but mostly I remember that the subject of how long 4 years really was came up a lot. There was no real way of knowing that we would walk closely through these years together. For two years Bliss and I and our children ate dinner together every Tuesday evening while our husbands worked, or were in class. We have celebrated other holidays together, and birthdays and the ends of semesters and the ticking down, class by class, of those four years that seemed so daunting this time in 2010.
This summer as we were meeting the church that would become our new home, the Baudhuins were doing the same and when we came back to our neighborhood with the news that we would be leaving a semester early, Chad and Bliss literally jumped in delight, because they, too, had abbreviated their four years to three and a half. So we arrived together and will step out together. It only seemed fitting to celebrate this Thanksgiving, our last Thanksgiving, together like we had our first.
Here we were then:
And here we are now:
One of the things I decided when I was hugely uncomfortably pregnant with the snickerdoodle was that I was going to make more of an effort to reach out to women in their final four to six weeks of pregnancy. I appreciated the meals that came after the snickerdoodle was born, but the people who either brought food or invited us over for meals in those last weeks before she made her appearance are burned forever in my mind as some of my most favorite people EVER!
There aren’t as many pregnant women in my life this year as there were last, but one of them is the wife of one of our associate (assistant? I always get those confused) pastors at church. I hesitated before even suggesting to her that we would like to either bring them a meal or host them here. I guess I’m still holding on to some of those “larger church myths” that have lived so long in my mind – one of which is that the staff of larger churches are far too important and busy and importantly busy to spend time with the little folks, especially little folks who will graduate and likely move on to smaller things in the next three years.
So I hesitated, but eventually sent her a quick email asking if such a thing would be a help.
Tonight they came for dinner.
I can’t say enough how glad I was that I let go of that myth.
We had such a great, easy evening that part of the way through, as we were chatting about something or other I found myself laughing in my head at this idea that these nice, enjoyable, fun people would have turned their noses up at dinner in seminary housing. Turns out that they were real people. Who knew?
All of this reminds me of why I love having people in my home. When we see each other exclusively at church, or out in social situations, we can often think of them as not quite real, but when we’re in one another’s homes we begin to take form as genuine people who do simple things like eat, and take our kids to the potty. It’s how we build community and it’s why God calls us to be hospitable.
Because it turns out we’re all real people.
The McGinnises have come to play and we are too busy having fun to get on the computer.
Tonight our friend Betsy had a surprise birthday party and we were invited.
Another neighbor entertained the kids while we waited for the guest of honor to arrive.
When she arrived, she was really surprised!
Her husband announced all the food in a big food runway event.
While the children - mine front and center - danced. It was dinner and a show.
I’ll get you all the pictures tomorrow Betsy, but I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of them here first. Thanks for including us in your celebration! We had a LOT of fun.
Last week I found out that one of my oldest childhood friends has cancer, and two friends’ marriages are falling apart, one slowly and painfully, one quickly and painfully. It sort of puts the whole “none of my clothes fit properly” complaints into perspective. It also shocked me out of a personal pity party I was permitting myself. (How’s that for alliteration?)
Jonathan’s schedule last week was HORRIBLE! When it showed up in the e-mail inbox I pitched a fit. Unfortunately, I pitched it by e-mail to my friend Becky. I engaged in some ungodly attitudes and thoughts and general “poor me” behavior. I grumbled. I complained. I felt sorry for myself and expected others to do the same.
Then I kept getting news from friends. Pretty soon I was thanking God for a series of late nights and long days, and Jonathan put things in even more perspective when he reminded me that we have to guard our own marriage from the things that have attacked these others. I didn’t need to be complaining to God about a few 10 hour days. I didn’t need to pray against a 10 am – 8 pm Saturday shift. Instead, I needed to be begging the Lord to keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. I was so lost in the twigs, I had lost perspective on the forest.
The final straw of conviction was coming to the end of the week and realizing that unlike cancer and broken marriages, the difference between a bad schedule and a good one is seven days, and sometimes less than that. A training day that had been scheduled for Sunday was rescheduled for a Wednesday, and Jonathan’s schedule has been reworked from five shifts of six or seven hours, to three shifts of ten hours. That means four suppers and bedtimes with Daddy instead of two. It means three nights he can do his homework after the kids go to bed, instead of sometimes having to put in a couple of hours reading or studying after getting home at 11:00 pm.
It means that while my friends are dealing with real struggles, I was pitching a fit about something so temporary as to be laughable. This week I’m delighted in the new schedule and reminded that most of the things about which I complain are both fleeting and irrelevant.
It means this week, when I’m tempted to complain about regular pants being too small and maternity pants being too big, I’m going to stop and pray for my friends and their families and hopefully look up from my little twigs, to see the forest around me once in a while.
It’s 73 degrees with less than 50% humidity and a beautiful breeze. We had a great breakfast with our friends Rob and Sherri and now Rob and Jonathan are playing outside with the children in the cool. I’ve mopped my floor and opened every window (that will open) in the apartment and now Sherri and I will be going outside to enjoy a beautiful day.
The cyber-world will take a back seat to the real world today.