A Spot

Today I said goodbye to a treehouse.

Not a treehouse as in the fantastic play place of a gleaming sepia childhood.  A place of work, actually. But we have joined a work that is life and a life that is work. No, not a treehouse exactly, but I would meet my friends there. I helped make it what it was in small ways with my own two hands. In the proverbial treehouse, there were club meetings and arguments and brainstorms and plans and snacks. Seasons passed but it continued to be a place to gather. Its walls are thick with time and experience and history. Of decades of team and tears and trying.

My memories are recent in comparison but valued nonetheless. Climbing the steps to the old office, a senior in college, I received a phone call from Fuller Seminary saying I was in and my program was paid in full. In the brightest room, Ryan and I had interviews for World Impact, then discussed how our first year had gone, then helped with others’  interviews, and throughout, could find an inviting leader and friend. Next door to the director’s office was the room in which most of the staff became acquainted with Ryan, who was the City Administrator for our first three years. Across the hall, he dumped the recycling box of paper on Isaac’s head in a lighthearted afternoon round of Office-guys Goofing Off. Then there was the very serious moment of realizing he had to clean human feces from the sidewalk entrance at 8am one morning. There in the old office, we would have informal gatherings, times of visiting, of recognizing footsteps up the stairs, times of listening prayer and reading the Bible aloud, times of teaching and reporting. Times of dedication, reconciliation, ah-ha moments, and check-ins.

Most people did not come to say goodbye to the treehouse this afternoon in the group time, and most of most of those people may have not understood the goodbye time anyway. That is for the most part okay. After all it is a building. An office at that. Just a finite space to a motley crew committed to apostolic movements and permanent dislocation. Lord knows I do not need to seek out one more thing to miss or be all nostalgic about. I found and find myself envying some of my friends’ and spouse’s not-un-caring, perfectly-understandable nonchalance.

If ever a word did not describe me, it is nonchalant. I am terrible at it. Case in point, I am blogging about an office.

The office has been consolidated with the national offices across the street. Not a big move. Not a shutdown. But yes, a break in routine, a shift, an end. We did our best to add our treehouse to the one over there, and ultimately we are less encumbered. I know. I know it is just an old building and it all makes sense in Excel. I know I am a strong Feeler and that my enneagram profile says I should lighten up and just have fun. I know-know.

I also know that to me, the Non-nonchalant, and to a few others, it is still something to stare at. It is a grief and it has implications and it is just a spot but was ours. And so I was thankful for a simple time today to, with others, say goodbye to it. And say thankyouGod for the treehouse. For the time we had with a redeemed space of both spontaneous and strategic shepherding, for the years of a work-home that housed those big and little moments that make up a community of wounded healers. I was thankful for the time to honor what was done in those walls, who had passed through our ranks and roles and how He had been there and seen to our needs there.

The office, of course, is not our north. But it was a base and an intersection. It is where the tours began and the departures finalized. It was a workplace and a parsonage. It was often where we could find help and found Him too.

There are very small things sometimes that still deserve a pause of thanks and goodbye. Those things that years later, someone will miss and someone else in the room will have no idea what they are even talking about because they happened later. A band. A local donut shop. A family tradition. An old car begging to die. An office space. A small goodbye could be silly, it could be overlooked at the time, with the pressure of the new. But even just the chance, the moment, to recognize and name the change, can be healing and later comforting. It could make something in the future seem less disorienting. At least, that is what I have found. I have found that naming and praying and grieving and pondering the ends, the overs, is one of the truest ways I can be present to the life I have been given. I have found that my vision and my gut are such that these things are important and can be of help to the community at a later time. That facing and investigating the losses make the gains more accessible.

So yes, I said goodbye to a treehouse today. An office-building-turned-treehouse. I will remember and carry that goodbye and be glad for it.

Small Bodies

A few weeks ago, I prayed with vivid feelings and memories fresh on my heart. It was a couple days after two loving parents had disagreed with weary bones and Spanish-filled minds over what needed to be done if Asher became worse. After weeks of diarrhea and antibiotics. After a night’s rest beside my youngest that began with tears. With Guatemalan daylight easing the upset of our disagreement and offering a new day with hope of better health for my son, I thought back to a hot afternoon of carrying children, walking a long way, through a foreign city. We had not known how to get home from church using the microbuses. I thought that by walking in the right direction we would be able to ask a bus and catch a ride eventually. Eventually never came and we just kept walking. Backs sore, arms wrinkled from the weight of our children, we arrived back home a long time later. Dusted with fumes, rosy with sun, disgruntled with the situation. The kids just had to hold on though and they were fine. When we finally arrived back, they were happy to be back “home,” and soon took peaceful naps. The walk had not been very impressive to them.

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I remembered that walk, and others similar to it when small bodies relied on big, as I tried to express our needs to our Father after acute points of concern for Asher. I found  us, the feeble caretakers, in the arms of the Caretaker, and was comforted by the image. Step by step, would you somehow carry us both and lead us in a good way…again? Like we do here with two, strapping helpless kids on narrow sidewalks. Coated with dust, inhaling fumes, maneuvering through crap and uneven steps and drunks and dogs. Our arms tired but we keep our voices upbeat — for them. We carry, we lead, we get home somehow. We are those heavy children, Father. Doing what we know, the good and the bad. Please–speak to us in the voice of “we are going to get there.” In your heart of lifting and love. Move us in the right direction with Your cadence of protection and perspective; of ‘look at those pretty mountains’ and ‘we are closer than before.’ We do not know the way. Would you fill us with your tone and tenor of tenderness and struggle-less? 

Now, back on home soil, I thank God for the distance from those difficult nights of uncertainty about Asher. He is getting better. I also pray the same prayer for Now. Now we are here with there still on our skin and I still know that all I can do is ride, is hold on to the Caretaker. The daily is not so strenuous here but there are wider things to look at now, like ministry, our team, our future. We are here with dmv reminders and warehouse membership and hot running water and sofas. Oh how we missed having a sofa to sit upon. We are here with plans to make and news to catch up on and old roles in need of new adjustments. We are here with preschool plans and adoption applications and cell phones and creamer.

This morning, I wonder-prayed, to say nothing about the crying. I wondered to God what He thinks of this time, and what is sustainable self-care for moms and what can we do now that we can’t other times and what do we do other times that we cannot do now. I felt the disorientation of this time. I thanked Him for the journey so far, for His strong arms that carried us through dark nights and some long days. I thank Him that only day by day can we make progress and process. I thank Him for those who help me remember that by modeling patience and grace.

While I want knowledge to gain confidence, He offers love. The mystery of the Gospel is a fear-ridding, grace-producing love that precedes knowledge, that precedes all the orientation and answers in the world. He asks that that be enough many times. That those arms of love and grace be confidence enough until it is safe to walk, until we have another brief period of sure footing. May we each enjoy the Caring One, who carries each one, as we have been and are now being.

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For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deepis the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   – Eph. 3:14-19