You know how you are going along, living life, enmeshed in the daily whatever of who’s who to you and to do’s scratched on a list as long as your excuses? And then, everything changes. Shifts. You feel it in the air. It’s like something you can touch or taste. This morning as I looked out my kitchen window, loading the dishwasher absent-mindedly, it hit me. I looked up. I looked around. It felt like someone had said something to me. Or that I’d been tapped on the shoulder. All I know is that since that moment I’ve been looking around my home, my head, my calendar, my heart; for it.
Maybe it’s that way the cool morning air feels in Eastern Washington at the end of August and early September. You can smell fall coming long before the evidence appears. Fall is a favorite season of mine. Baking summer heat (and freakish, weird storms) give way to cool, crisp, bright days. Leaves turn colors so bright it breaks your heart. I have 500 tree and leaf pictures if you want a slide show. This year, though, I’m not as eager to skip on to fall. It’s hurting a little to leave summer.
For the record, I cannot remember one year of my life where this has happened. I have had my issues with summer, but they all were overruled this year. The heat? After our gray winter here last year, I have spent as many of my moments soaking in life-giving enhanced Vitamin D as possible. The sun on my skin felt good. Migraines? I had them, heat doesn’t do any favors for this malady, but this summer I can only remember one making me physically sick.
Swimming? I haven’t enjoyed swimming much since my firstborn; it’s a job to watch and hold and monitor little ones in water. However, mine are all swimming this year, thank you Jesus. And when up at summer camp with my oldest, I was able to make my schedule work so that I had several free hours each day on the beach, the dock, and in the cold inviting water of Lake Coeur d’ Alene, ID. One day while lying on the dock I scooted myself back so that my head hung upside down just touching the surface of the water. Seeing the opposite shore inverted, the blue, blue lake lapping in my ear, the ambient sound of kids swimming and laughing, the toothpick trees hugging the shore on the other side; counts as one of the favorite scenes of my summer.
Maybe it’s the new new in my family. The beginning of my summer was work; transitioning my three boys through the end of another school year, helping my middle sister pack her life into storage and then watching as she flew off to Sydney for a year, and the plain exhausting work of getting everything together for five of us road tripping (with two of us needing to bring most of our food) for 10 days to Vancouver, BC and Seattle. Looking back, I can see why I was understandably a mess of emotions.
My sisters are my besties. We all live in the same city. So now, my youngest sister and I have to piece together bits of conversations, texts, emails and secret codes in our Pinterest and Instagram accounts to get the play by play of our middle sister’s days. And in my major relationship, the reintegration began again. There is always a bit of getting used to each other again when my husband is on an extended break from teaching. ( I said that very diplomatically). For several years my work place has been my home, so when four boys are back to full run of the house, 24-7, I feel a bit displaced. I’ve been unbelievably blessed to do what Mark and I wanted to do, which was for me to primarily be a stay at home mom (sahm-I even get a neat little acronym!) until our guys were all in school. During the school year, we have a bit of an understanding that when Mark is home, he’s with the boys, who more and more are appropriately shifting their needs from mommy to daddy. And I’m outta there for a bit.
We’ve also developed the perfect all season gift for me, a twice a year scrapbook/craft/women’s retreat held at Camp Lutherhaven, held on the above mentioned beautiful shores. I have increased the days I go as the boys have grown. Those five days in the early spring and early fall have been plainly, sanity. It’s where I take my time and leave my schedule open for whatever fills me. I get alone time, walking the camp trails, where I find out that yes, my mind is capable of thinking big thoughts. I get to have long conversations with adults. Do not underestimate the importance of this feature. It’s where I remember who I am, that I am creative, that I’m fun, and find friendships that remind me that despite all of the mistakes and missteps, guilt and fears I may bring from home with me, God’s grace and mercy hem me in from behind, and before.
What I think it is, most likely, is a change in direction. There have been literal seasons that have gone by when I don’t think I’ve heard a thing from God about when things are going to change. Sometimes those times just are. They can’t be figured out, sorted through, or summed up in an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Love can feel so absent, unnoticed, not what I were expecting, that I almost forget what it is like. And then He does it. He moves. I can feel it like a shift in the ground. An earthquake to my hopelessness. That is where I was in early summer, hungry for hope.
Music is at the core of my being, usually when nothing else works to clear my mind of fears and pain, a song will reignite that small ember of me still burning. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, I often imagine my life is set to a sound track. A super eclectic one at that. Because there is an alchemy to the way songs interact with our souls. I believe God talks to us in the things we know. The embedded parts of us that make us an original, those passions, loves, joys are not random, they are downloaded by our Creator. And how He loves us. He wants us to be in conversation with him, and hold on to him when He keeps his silence.
A CD that my sister gave to me before she left for Sydney has been on constant rotation in my van since she left on July 3rd. Yeah, I rock the van. Don’t disrespect the minivan. The CD is a Hillsong one, which is the college she is attending while in Australia. Glorious Ruins. At first I didn’t know the songs, kind of just let it be background music. Then on my way up to my first time at camp in late July, as I hit the long driveway, a line from one of the worship songs left me crying and breathless -it expressed exactly where I was. I was feeling pretty hopeless about some things; but I sang…”no turning back…no turning back…” No matter the cost, I would not let go of Him. And then it shifted.
Everything. That particular CD has spoken into little me, a mom with a minivan (so cliche I want to erase it), with a fairly obscure life. I believe that God breaks-through in ways we would never expect. I know. This summer, He brought change through change. Through waiting, uncomfortable unknowns, tears and surrender. On the way home from Seattle the other day, (I know, much of my thinking occurs while driving, showering, being outside), I thanked God for the tough growing he let me go through the past month. Thanked Him. That is crazy big change. That I wouldn’t trade one of the minutes or experiences He used during this season, that I was grateful to my very bones for all I had been through in such a short season?
Once you find yourself in a new place, looking around for what’s different, there is nothing like it. That feeling of being anchored in hope, knowing that the only One who can truly satisfy is my Redeemer, well, it reminds me of being on the lake, the sun high in the endless blue, sparkling on the water like millions of diamonds. I’ve been around long enough to know that my heart will most likely fail, again. And soon. That’s why I have come to really take in these times when everything tilts. Just as summer feels like the shortest season in this place I live, there will be cold and gray times ahead. In life and weather.
One more thing about that CD. The day we were getting ready to head to Lake CD’A with the boys, my sister, her husband, and my nephew, Mark came in to tell me that it would be a long time till we left, since I had left the CD on in the van, running all night. My reaction surprised me. I felt complete peace and said, “How do you know? Maybe not.” I listened out my kitchen window as I saw him enter the van, and turn the key. I heard the van engine turn over, and purr. It started. In these here parts, that is a miracle. I cannot count how many days have been rerouted because of a dead battery in that van. It’s legend in our family. I smiled. He is moving. In the smallest and biggest of ways, He is sending me a letter here, a text there.
Later, on the way to the lake, I said, “You know how the van started? That was crazy, wasn’t it?” Mark agreed, nodding silently, pretty stunned still. “All summer this CD has been ministering to me.” My voice was thick with impending tears. “Every time I drive somewhere with the boys, and this CD is on, they are QUIET. I know God is using this music to heal and grow us.”
I turned to look out my window to the passing landscape. My heart was full. My eyes were filled with unshed tears. The difference this time, driving up to the lake, with the same CD in the van, was that instead of sorrow, I was filled with joy.