In 1999, or maybe it was 2000, I flew to Seattle for a conference. But, I was sad and could not focus and ditched most of it. I rode the bus around the city and bought hot coffee in little shops in the coldest rains. I was carved up by the disappointments in my life.
The coffee shops were no bigger than train cars. The walls were panes of glass, the muntins painted red. They were planted diagonally on every street corner. People still read newspapers then. I went to Nike Town and bought a pair of hiking sneakers although I’d never hiked a day in my life.
One night, I had dinner by myself on the rooftop of a Latin restaurant. Every day, I walked around Pike Place Market buying gifts for my baby girl who was just two. She is 17 now, but I spent every second of that trip thinking of her. I was dizzied by our separation, in another orbit, unhinged from nature. I’d bonded with her the second she was born, and now a Great Evil threatened to conquer us every single day of my life. This never ended. It never ends for any of us.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. — Peter 5:8
1,999 Miles Away
After two days of standing at bus stops in the rain, I bought an umbrella. I wanted a red one, but could only find black. I wondered, with me in Seattle and Juliette in Oklahoma City, did we even exist at all? Perhaps I had dreamed the whole thing.
Wretched is the world that rips a child from his mother, if even for just a day. I read in Malachi that a man who divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect. No wonder I felt so terrible.
Divorce, there are no good divorces, is so violent. Even if it ends with a whisper in court.
But, growing up my father told me to count my troubles as joy and so I did. All those trials, as reported in the Book of James, would test my faith and it would grow. One day, when my endurance was fully developed, I would be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1). This would take forever, like my whole life.
But, then, what of these breasts heavy with milk? Seattle was cold while my breasts burned from the inside out. Your baby cries and the milk lets down, but your boss has sent you 1,999 miles away. Is corporate America cruel or just plain stupid?
At night, I returned to Seattle Pacific University, which was sponsoring the conference. I slept in a dorm without curtains on the windows. All was gray save for amber from the street lights that made shadows on the walls. I prayed, how I prayed. And I heard the voice of God speak to me as through the Inner Witness. He told me one day things would be better than I could imagine.
And, so it was that it came to pass. My hope was not disappointed.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. –Romans 5:3-5
We Shall Come Rejoicing
All that blue tape on those tiny window panes is a celebration. (They have always reminded me of Seattle.) It looks like work, but it was me, come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves. I carefully sanded the muntins in my boy’s room. Unbelievably, this is his last year in single digits. How I praise God that he has been mine these past nine years. There could not be a more cherished son, but I know every mother must feel this way.
This prairie bungalow is the only home he’s ever known. Some days, I dream of living someplace else, maybe Seattle or just Logan County. I want land and space and time and not so many familiar faces. But, then I think of my son and this house and his tree, which he says he can never leave. And, I think, maybe it’s true? Maybe that tree is part of his destiny and moving would be a fatal mistake. I trust the Lord will take me where I need to go.
People might plan what they want to say, but it is the Lord who gives them the right words. People think that whatever they do is right, but the Lord judges their reason for doing it. Turn to the Lord for help in everything you do, and you will be successful. The Lord has a plan for everything. In his plan, the wicked will be destroyed. The Lord hates those who are proud. You can be sure he will punish them all. Faithful love and loyalty will remove your guilt. Respect the Lord, and you will stay far away from evil. When people live to please the Lord, even their enemies will be at peace with them. It is better to be poor and do right than to be rich and do wrong. People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps. (Proverbs 16)
This past fall, I cleared everything out of the boy’s room — his room. I painted his walls and spruced up his floors. The wood was worn free of varnish and stain, the work of legos, dinosaurs and make-believe. I painted his white bed navy blue and bought him a desk at the convent sale at Villa Teresa. It takes a long time for a house to become a home.
Here are a few Instagram posts I published during the makeover.
You can see where Sully wrote his name on the fence in silly string.
Welcome to historic living. I hope you like the trees and sidewalks because the home improvement will drive you batty. A photo posted by Jennifer (@jenx67) on
Been prepping Son’s room all week. He’s been sleeping here since we brought him home from the hospital 9+ years ago. Last night I took down his alphabet. He learned his letters a long time ago. Sully, I think of you with every brush stroke. I am so glad you have been with me the last 9 years!! I hope you will like your big guy room. You’re still my boy!!
So far, so good, except the Commodore Blue was so bright it hurt my eyes, so it was back to the paint store for Naval Blue. Reminds me of my father who served in the U. S. Navy. He’s been gone nine months now. I miss him more than ever. I’m excited Naval Blue is the color of Sullivan’s desk! My dad always had a desk full of interesting things. He sat at his desk every night and worked on his sermons and stories. Ahhh, I miss ya, Dad. I miss you very much. A photo posted by Jennifer (@jenx67) on
Life is better than I could have ever imagined.
I love this line from an old Springsteen song, Independence Day.
I’ll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary’s Gate. We wouldn’t change this thing even if we could somehow. — Springsteen, 1980
Last year, Juliette played tug-o-war with friends, or maybe it was horseback riding. She borrowed those old Nike hiking sneakers I
bought in Seattle in 1999, or maybe it was 2000. When she came home they were ruined. Torn apart and caked with mud. Years beyond their purpose, I unceremoniously tossed them in the garbage.
These days, Juliette thinks about college. Where will she go? What will be her major? Every day, a brochure for a different school arrives in the mail. They are telegrams reminding me she will be gone soon, into life, into adventure, into adulthood. She’s so worried about making a good decision, and I tell her OU is a good school, and OSU, too, and Robert likes Holy Cross. And, then I remember something. A few years ago, a friend of mine from college, Danny, became president of Seattle Pacific University. I tell her maybe she should check it out, it’s such a nice place. I was there once, many moons ago when she was just a baby.