The Life and Death of a Wallflower

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Cotton candy flora

Cotton candy flora

Are you brave enough? Because I am not.

I like to hang back in the background and comfortably blend in like the big, fluffy, pastel flowers that adorn the walls of my house. Fitting in is just too important to me. It always has been.

But I just can’t sit still anymore. I’m restless. There is a big bad world out there with so much heartache and pain. People are hurting day in and day out. People have lost hope. And here I sit pretty in pink all nice and cozy on my wall. Don’t make a sound. Don’t move or someone might notice. Blend in. Wear the right clothes and hairstyle. Take your kids to the right functions. Say the right things on social media. Be on time.

But I am always late. And the right clothes and hairstyle never look right on me like they do on her. And my kids are usually the ones who make a scene at all of those functions. My place on the wall is getting old and dusty.

I have been living amongst the floral wallpaper for so long that it is starting to grow on me. Sometimes I actually think it looks pretty. Gasp! Then I come to my senses and realize that while it may look feminine and pleasant, the wallpaper really is outdated and just has no business in this 21st century world.

Denial. Been living in it for some time now concerning my wallflower status and people pleasing tendencies.

It’s hard to go against the grain; take a stance; stand out; be brave; journey into the unknown; step out of your comfort zone; try something new; chase that wild dream.

I fear that everyone will laugh at me. Perhaps everyone is already laughing at me just for dreaming about the dream and sharing it with the world.

But I am learning.

You have to get to that point in which you don’t care if anyone is laughing at you. You just have to get over that hump and expect that you will be ridiculed and make peace with it and move on.

At the end of the day I want to teach my children to be brave and to not be held back by the fear of fitting into society. How can I do that when I am so often crippled by fear? I have to get them a wallpaper scraper too and teach by example. They need to see mommy and daddy scraping off the old and trying something different to change our little corner of the world. If I want my kids to be brave enough to fight the good fight then I have to be brave enough to fight the good fight.

I’m tired of being the wallflower that watches as others claim and conquer their dreams. I want to have a fabulous story too. I don’t want to be held back by my shoe collection and social media profile. I need to get off this wall and into the light.

There is this dream, this passion that is burning bright red. It’s not my dream. It doesn’t belong to me. I don’t own it. It is bigger than that. This dream cannot be contained by four flower speckled walls and a roof. Well, at least that is how it feels when it is thumping and pounding in my chest and squeezing my heart.
Impossible. Echoes in my head. And it is true. It will be impossible to ever even coming close to the dream realized if I continue to be content with the status quo.

Daily, I waiver between painting over the walls of wallpaper in our house and just scraping it all off and starting over from scratch. I don’t know the answer to that question yet but I do know that I am tired of looking at the cotton candy flora. We have already scraped a significant amount of wallflowers off the wall but we are nowhere near being done. Those pearly rose and teal colored peonies are a constant reminder to get out of the past and into the present. I hear those flowers crying out to me, warning me that if I don’t act soon my fate will end up like theirs. I will be doomed to live a life of pretty stillness: complacent and stagnant like the images of women from decades past. Not me, nuh uh!

For too many years I have listened to countless stories of brave people doing amazing things and all the while I am thinking, “oh that is nice, thank God for people like that who are willing to take risks for humanity. People like that are so inspiring but not everyone is made for that kind of greatness.”

People. Like. That. Where does that idea come from anyway? Those “people like that” are really just normal, every-day people who made a choice to step out of their comfort zone and think creatively and live bravely towards a life uncommon. They got off their wall, took a deep breath, and while holding their dream in their hands plunged into the great unknown.

They were brave.

We don’t have to wait for “people like that ” to change the world. We can all have a part of a greater story if we are willing to let go of some of the lesser things in life. What are we waiting for?

Seriously though, what are you waiting for? What is holding you back from that dream bubbling inside of you?
What are your thoughts? Comment below, we are not meant to do life alone.

Living on the edge because it just has to go.  No place for complacency.

Living on the edge because it just has to go. No place for complacency.

Nowhere to go but up

Nowhere to go but up

Enter into our house of flowers

Enter into our house of flowers

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Tilling the Earth

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Cultivate-  to till and prepare (land or soil) for the growth of crops: 2. to plant, tend, harvest, or improve (plants) by labour and skill;  to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops; also : to loosen or break up the soil about

Cultivate- to till and prepare (land or soil) for the growth of crops: 2. to plant, tend, harvest, or improve (plants) by labour and skill; to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops; also : to loosen or break up the soil about

The sound of the razor blades tore through the air running shivers down my spine. The buzzing held my disturbed thoughts suspended in air enveloped by clouds of dust. A great dissonance had moved into my soul. There was something cruel about watching all of that lush green grass being ripped out of its comfortable earth.

Our backyard was a mess- uneven and hazardous for our two small children to play in. My husband, Emmanuel, got a hold of a tiller and our friend, Richard, volunteered to help with the labor. For two days we could hear that tiller ripping up the grass and smoothing out the plateaus that were often the cause of so many scraped knees .

Just a few days after we finished the tilling project we made a trip to my hometown. We have made the pilgrimage across the great state of Texas to visit my folks many times but this time was different. This time there was the looming reality that this just might be my last trek across the desert. My mom and grandma were both preparing to move out of their homes and my siblings were scattering across the world living out their lives. It seemed that no longer would we have our home base. Everywhere I turned my loved ones were moving on into a new chapter of their lives. To me, all of this moving and shifting was getting out of hand. It felt like the tectonic plates were rumbling in anticipation. An earthquake seemed inevitable.

Because my mom and grandma were moving out of their houses, there was a lot of purging going on. Boxes and boxes of mementos, keepsakes, and junk lined the hallways of both houses. Pretty much everything had to go. My mom had piles of stuff already ready for me to take back home with me but there were other things that, unless I rescued them, would become garage sale fodder. Our library of children’s books and the bookshelf that they sat in were amongst the items ready for the chopping block. Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen.

I walked into my mom’s garage and amidst clouds of dust I began packing up the books. It made me think of my husband and Richard tilling our backyard. As the blades of the tiller loosened up the soil little puffs of dust littered the sky and their clothes. At the end of the day, they each looked like Charles Schultz’s character “Pig Pen.” And now here I sat as “Pig Pen” with a dusting clothe wiping off Snoopy, Cinderella, Spot, The Cat in the Hat, Angelina Ballerina, and all the rest of my childhood friends. Each book unearthed a swirling of memories. I saw myself reading certain books at my grandma’s house. I saw my mom reading my favorite books at bedtime. I saw my dad assembling and painting the bookshelf. I saw myself buying books for my sisters as souvenirs. I read inscriptions to me, to my sisters, to random people I had never even heard of. I found my sisters’ names in the Dr. Seuss books. My name was in a few books as well as the names of my mom, my aunts, and my step-brother. My childhood unfolded before my very eyes as I flipped through the pages. It made me laugh inside to think that at one time these books were such a precious part of the fabric of my daily life until I grew up and moved out and on with my life.

How long had these books sat here in the land of forgotten items, otherwise known as our garage? About four layers of dust- that’s how long. I really had forgotten all about these books and really didn’t even care about them and now here I was reclaiming them, saving them for my sweet children. They would once again become a precious part of the fabric of my daily life as my children would rediscover them.

As I sat in my mom’s garage, my head was a dusty fog of melancholy nostalgia. It was an end of an era. Things would never be the same. Even the garage was evidence of this fact. I could always count on the garage to be this never-ending pile of random junk and now it was nearly cleared out except for books and the ghosts of Christmases past.

The truth was that the earthquake had already hit my family. We were going through a painful and personal family crisis. Perhaps I was holding onto those books so tightly because I was really trying to cling onto my siblings, my parents, and my childhood. Perhaps we were all just trying to hold onto each other.

While digging through the dusty books I was really digging into my past. The Great Tiller of My Life was ripping through my memories like the tiller had ripped through the grass. What was once buried was brought to the surface. Oh there were so very many happy memories of a girl who had an idyllic, blessed, and even blissfully sheltered childhood. The good times were so plentiful that they far outnumbered the difficult times. But I could not ignore the painful memories of early adulthood that were uprooted as well. Through the great purging of our family’s junk I could see evidence of the conduits of magma that eventually erupted into the volcano of pain and suffering that my family was now experiencing. So much emotion was buried in our garage and now out of necessity we were all forced to reconcile with certain truths that had gone unnoticed for so long. It brought my family closer together as we braced ourselves for the aftershocks.

“Why was God allowing us to go through this?” I wondered angrily. Why would God reveal all this ugliness and beauty simultaneously? Why would he force us to deal with such horrible and painful truths that we had all buried deep inside of us? Through prayer, I was instantly drawn back to the image of our backyard that lay waiting for fresh pallets of grass. That pretty yet uneven grass that had been hashed through and ripped up was now a soft pillow of rich soil just waiting in hopeful anticipation to grow new life.

God was cultivating us.

He was preparing us for something new and fresh. All this digging would not be in vain. All of these things were unearthed to bring truth to light and healing in preparation for the next chapter in our lives. I could acknowledge the hurtful parts of my past, learn from them, heal, and move on. You can’t stay buried in the past- it’s much too dirty there.

A couple days after we returned back home, Emmanuel and Richard were at it again. This time they were ambitiously laying pallets of grass in the few hours that exist between dinner and nightfall. When the job was completed, I sat on our new, leveled grass watching the kids run through the sprinkler. I thought about how so much of the backyard had to be pulled out, rearranged, and redesigned just to make this yard a safe space for my children to play. That is the thing about gardening that has always turned me off to it- work. It takes some labor and skill to grow something.

The kids were thoroughly enjoying their “summer chore” of watering the grass meanwhile the volcano that was our family crisis was still fresh. It was time to take a closer look at those conduits buried deep within. Flipping through those books stirred something up in me; it reminded me that perception is reality. Mixed emotions about the past puffed up when thumbing through old books. But why was this all important? Because it was necessary. Just like it is necessary to pull out the weeds in your yard on a regular basis, its necessary to reflect on the good ‘ole days and those not so great times as well. It’s just something that you have to do.

When you allow The Great Tiller to rake through your soul, you will inevitably pull up some weeds. But fear not, you come from good soil too. Those dusty old books helped me to come to grips with some bad habits that I learned back in the days when Dr. Seuss and Angelina Ballerina were a part of my everyday life. But they also reminded me of a million little details of how God had planted me in rich soil. Sometimes when your life has been abundantly blessed it is easy to ignore the bad habits and character flaws that date back to childhood.

If I didn’t evaluate the habits picked up in my youth, both good and bad, then I could not be the rich, healthy soil in which to plant a new life with my husband and children. Tilling the soil is the best way to insure proper cultivation. I must heal and allow God to prepare my soul for a lush crop of new life and focus my energies on creating new memories in this house. My part in the cultivating process would be to release the bad memories and bad habits learned to make room for new ones. Not necessarily to forget them, but release them like puffs of dirt that evaporate into the sky. Eventually, the dust settles and the earth is like new.

Confessions of a Dishwasher

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It’s fun to journey down the rabbit hole of bitterness. Everything goes according to plan in that wonderland of justice. Everyone gets theirs and I am the queen, shiny and right. I have done nothing wrong and, therefore, justified in my revenge. My rally cry “off with their heads!” as my hands are elbow deep in dish soap bubbles and clanking silverware.

I hate washing dishes.

In the not so distant past when I lived in a land without a dishwasher, I noticed that while hand washing dishes my mind would frequently drift off into the realms of my bitterness. Usually, recollections of some past hurt would come up and I would begin to journey down a spiral of anger into an alternative universe in which everything turned out according to MY plan.

That’s the thing with menial tasks such as dish washing. The simplicity of the ritual allows for your mind to wander. If you are not careful the mind wanders to places better left for fairy tale villains.

When we moved into this house and I realized that, for the first time in my life, I would actually have to wash every single dish by hand I was overwhelmed. I had to swallow my pride and accept the fact that I was going to have to wash dishes every day and I was going to have to do it with a joyful heart.

It was time to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty.

Months went by in which dish washing time meant time for me to deal with all the dirt and grime crusted onto the insides of my heart. Unfortunately, it often turned into a pity party beginning with my whiny attitude towards the fact that I had no dishwasher.

Sometimes I had help washing the dishes

Shortly after moving in, we began a pattern of inviting people to come and live in our home. Sometimes they were strangers and sometimes they were loved ones.

Inviting people to come and live in your house is completely contradictory to what society tells us is appropriate. We are to be wary of people entering into our personal space. Your home is your castle and we are taught to protect that castle; protect our families from the dangers of strangers.

These days it is even frowned upon to have family living with you. The thought is that family living in your home is too close for comfort. Of course, there are situations in which it really is dangerous to invite someone into your home; I am not making light of those sensitive issues. I’m just saying that most of the time when we told someone that we had opened up our home to xyz person, we were met with stares of bewilderment and criticisms of “you all are crazy” or “are you sure that is a good idea?” We just felt that God gave us this big, old house that really was too much house for us. It is our responsibility to put it to good use and if someone needed a place to crash we would open up our doors.

Living with other people in your house is hard.

There, I said it. Living with new people, no matter who they are, is challenging for both parties. You could be living with your best friend and still find conflict. Everyone has their views on how life should be lived and there is always a period of adjustment as both parties get acquainted with each other’s preferences. It can get dirty.

In the last year we have had 6 people live in this house at different times and I found that in their help with washing the dishes they were really helping me wash away some of my bitterness. While washing dishes, bitterness time was replaced with deep conversations with these loved ones.

Perhaps these menial tasks exist to slow us down and give us time to think and maybe to connect with other human beings. As I look back over this last year and all who have lived here, a vast majority of my memories take place in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes together while we attempt to clean out our souls through deep conversation; through getting to know each other. If you want to get to know somebody and help them, and I mean truly know them, you will probably have to get your hands dirty. You will probably have dishpan hands. You will probably have to do grunt work that you just don’t want to do. But it will be all the worthwhile. It is totally worth it to help someone out during a sticky situation. I’m willing to do the work if it is the least bit helpful in keeping someone clean.

But truly, truly I was the one who was getting washed clean.

Dish washing time had once been a time of resentment that would spill over into the evening and onto my family. But when other people start washing your dishes for you, you feel kind of silly complaining about something so small when there are others who are struggling with much bigger problems than a lack of a dishwasher. With the help of some loved ones, it had become a time of personal growth for me. The humility that comes from other people helping you out gave me a clear head to stare my bitterness in the face and see it for the wicked witch that it was.

We live in a dishwasher world, we want to rinse things off quickly & let the machine do the work. When I entertained the bitter beast that lived in my imagination, I thought I was helping myself. A quick little trip to the land of revenge should make me feel better about my pain. “A quick little rinse should be enough to get these dishes clean.” But in the real world, the steel scouring pad is the weapon of choice for deep cleaning.

Just like the bitterness, my pride was being scraped as well. I learned a lot of good, strong, and hard life lessons by opening up our home to temporarily help people out. There are always bumps in the road when someone comes to stay with us. Some days are better than others just like some dishes just need a quick wipe down. But then there are other days when you feel like God is taking that scouring pad and scraping off your pride. But no matter how it ends I am always pleased with what God has taught me through the process. The dishes always look cleaner when you take the time and wash them by hand.

When Your House Floats Away

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Stay Clear;  Random woman just floating through life

Stay Clear: Random woman just bobbing through life

I watched my house float away on the small river that had overtaken our street. There she was in all her glory slowly being torn apart by the cruel force of nature that was our plumbing. From under the house the flood had corroded the floor boards and unhinged it so that the house was now sailing away. Bobbing further and further down the street. Floating and falling apart. Floating and falling apart. Eventually the house would completely crumble and cease to exist and all I could do was watch.

I know how she feels. I lost myself there for a while. For almost ten years I bobbed around through my life like a wave crashing buoy anchored in one place. I don’t regret it for a second. That is not a popular thing to say in this day in age but I know now that I had to put pieces of myself away for a while so that I could focus on a bigger picture. I needed time to figure out how to be a smaller part of a larger whole so I collected some of my smaller parts and put them in a shoe box to deal with at a later time.

Most of those small collectibles needed to be put away. Like forever. In fact, they needed to be buried at the bottom of the ocean and never seen again. Selfishness, discontentment, disillusionment…. Who needs those things anyways?

Other parts, however, were sweet and beautiful and reminders of a girl who used to dream and twirl around in tutus. Those parts, while very dear to me, just needed to be put to sleep for a while. They just took up too much of my brain space and I needed every ounce of my mind, body, and soul to figure out my place in this new “larger whole” that I now belonged to. The music, art, and poetry of my life were packed up and saved for a later date.

The later date came this past summer. It was time for those sleepy parts to wake up. The awakening was a slow and subtle process that rolled in waves over the long and hot summer. As June and July sizzled by we noticed that the house was shifting as old houses do. The ceramic tiles in the hallway were popping up and doors were no longer closing properly. The house in her restless unsettling was trying to warn me that the foundation was shifting. The flood would soon follow.

The warning signs were all there but I was distracted by my own restless unsettling. Years of suppressing the little nuances and quirks that assembled my personality were now bursting at my seams just ready to explode. I had reached a time in my life where I no longer felt like I had to put myself away to concentrate on that larger whole. The “larger whole” was now, well, whole. It was good and pretty strong actually. I had worked so hard for so long and now I saw that the foundation had been laid solid and sturdy. Because I put in the time to focus all of my energies on this one huge idea I was free now to open up that box of mementos that used to be me. It took ten years to get there but I had arrived at a place where I could take some time and breathe. The hard work had finally paid off.

Over the summer, tidal waves of memories rolled in gently reminding me of the person that I used to be, the person that I had always been. A favorite song, an encounter with a long lost friend, readings of journals from days gone by, and rediscovering old photos crashed like waves along the surf and there I was riding my boogie board trying to stay afloat and navigate my way through the ocean of memories that were flooding my head.

It all came together and made sense on the day that we discovered the flood under our house. A pipe from the upstairs bathroom had broken in half (a complete fluke and not at all a result of having an old house) and water had flooded the crawl space under the house. Since the foundation of the house sits above ground it took a while for the water to seep out of the crawl space and into our backyard and our neighbor’s backyard. Nevertheless, hundreds of gallons of water were rolling around under our house. A tiny ocean. Had we not noticed the leaky pipe when we did, the water would have begun to corrode the foundation of the house.

The foundation was in jeopardy of completely falling apart and the house we built could have been lost forever.

Okay, that is slightly over dramatic. Our house certainly did not float down a river of despair (welcome back little nuances of my personality known as over dramatization and romanticizing of the mundane). But that is what it felt like.

I imagined what that would have looked like- the water busting through the floor boards and the through the cracks in the bricks until the house began to crumble. Thankfully that was all in my imagination and all it took was a pump and three days to get all of that water out from under our house.

But that silly little over dramatic image spoke to me. It was the whispered message that I needed to hear; the kiss from the prince that woke up this tulle wearing princess.

A broken pipe caused a flood which caused the house’s foundation to shift which gave me this image of our house floating away which then turned into an image of me floating away.

My personal foundation was waiting for me to save the day. The flood of yearning for the long lost me had finally bust through the box that I had hidden myself in for such a long time.

It was perfect timing.

Like I said, I really believe that it was necessary to put some things to sleep temporarily while I figured things out. We all go through seasons in which we just have to cut back on some areas of our lives. But there comes a time that we have to open up that box and pull out those old pieces because if not they could get lost forever. At least that is how I felt. The timing was right. I was primed and ready to break free. After focusing so long on the foundation that I had help to build, now I had the freedom of focusing on me without compromising the foundation.

In fact, the foundation needed me to put those missing tiles of my life back in place. When I began to unpack some of those sweet, little parts of me I noticed that my husband and my children seemed to like me more! Well, of course they did. Who really likes to be around a person who is trying too hard to be something that she is not? When I was reintroduced to myself I felt this peace and contentment roll over me. Freedom. Completeness. After all I was created to be this person; this dreamy tutu wearing girl that my husband fell in love with and who my children feel more comfortable around. I had woken up from a deep, deep sleep and it felt good! I was refreshed and free to be a part of this beautiful larger whole that God had created for me to be a part of.

Again, like I said, I do not regret for one second that I spent the last 10 years without these little pieces of me. Temporary sacrifices are sometimes necessary for personal growth. These last 10 years have been so fruitful for me as a human being. Lessons have been learned (many times the hard way); growing up has happened. I think that if I had not put some things away for a while my spirit might be stuck in the same 23 year old place. That frightens me. Have you ever been around someone in their 30’s who still acts like an early 20 something or worse- a teenager? Yikes! When you look at the grand scheme of things ten years really isn’t that long after all.

Rolling Around in Manure

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sewer mud heart

Toilet water was dripping down my face. That was the moment right there. Freeze frame and label it as “my life mostly revolves around cleaning up pee and poo.” Not just the literal excrement of a defiant 3 1/2 year old, an eager-to-potty-train 2 year old, and the dog; no at this point in my life I felt like I was also helping to clean up emotional doo doo from those around me. In my head I was a custodian for the brokenhearted. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t mind cleaning up- it’s a job that someone has to do. But when you have a plumber outside trying to unclog the sewer of a 117 year old house and you have toilet water on your face from your daughter’s potty training endeavors and you are simultaneously comforting a friend via text message, you start to see a connection.
And it was all connected.

The house was going through some potty training troubles of sorts. Whatever went flushed down a toilet, bathtub, sink, and/or washing machine was now flooding our backyard. A team of plumbers were trudging through the steamy, sewage mud in search of the culprit.

Inside the house, my daughter had asked for privacy to use the restroom only so she could clog up the commode with wads of toilet paper; meanwhile, I was dutifully waiting outside the restroom and seized the opportunity to catch up on my social media. Enter dagger to the heart as I came across some words from a dear loved one that cut a gash through my pride. Those words- they were a slap in the face… or better yet it was like toilet water splattered across my face. How could someone just flush the toilet on your best efforts? Here came the flood of anger, resentment, and frustration.

This is when I walked into the bathroom to discover that my precious daughter had clogged the toilet. Perfect timing. We were instructed by the plumber not to flush any toilets or pour anything down the drain. I was going to have to pull that toilet paper out of the toilet. After I scolded Eva and turned this into a teachable moment, I grabbed the toilet brush and a trash can and went to work. I was about to get the last bit of soggy toilet paper out when the brush got stuck on the side of the toilet bowl and splashed toilet water onto my face. Hot. Red hot boiling water bubbled its way to the top of my head. The surge of anger, resentment, and frustration that had begun with the social media status was now updated by the nastiness dripping down my face. The surge was now pulsing through my body ready to explode just like our sewer waste had exploded into our backyard.

I took a moment. I cried. I showered. The horror washed over me in steamy drops of humility until I came down to the real source of the pot of red hot boiling water.

It wasn’t the clogged sewer or the potty training kids that were bothering me. No, the problem was much deeper. The problem was planted in the depths of my soul and rooted in my heart. Bitterness. Nothing like cold water to the face to wake you up to reality. I just wish that it wasn’t toilet water.

I knew I had been harboring some deep bitterness for months now; gosh, it might have been years. But it took our clogged sewer line to bring me face to face with the ugly truth. I probably had more disgusting gunk in my soul than what was overflowing into our backyard. Bitterness. What was I bitter about? Lots of things. Everything. The hurtful words on the social media site and the kids’ potty training only triggered what I had been holding onto for quite some time. For months I had been feeling this tug at my heart to repent of my bitterness. Let these people go who have wronged you. Stop living in the past. Forgive. Move on. But dang, I am stubborn! I just love to revel in all that hurt and pain and relive it and allow myself to be angry with the ones who have hurt me. Someday I’ll see justice! Someday they will all be sorry for what they have done! Someday they will apologize! I was turning into a pig that loves to roll around in manure. Well, this little piggy needed to go to bitterness rehab! I knew my life would not progress until this nastiness was completely flushed out.

After two 2 different plumbers, a visit from the city sewage company, over 100 feet of hose, and a few days of no flushing the problem had been solved but it turned out that the clog was only part of the problem. Due to the fact that the plumber had an exceptionally difficult time flushing out the clog, he suspected that there was a break in the sewer pipe that was probably caused by a tree root dissecting the pipe. Great.

While the problem of our clogged sewer pipes had technically been taken care of, it was only a temporary solution to what will inevitably happen. At some point we will need to get in there and find out just what is going on with these old sewer pipes. The idea of bitterness rooted deep in my soul took on a whole new meaning at this point. Our beautiful house could quite possibly have a tree root messing up the flow of her pipes. She just might need all new pipes. Oh, the parallel with my life is just too much; somehow I feel responsible for all this! It occurred to me that the effects of this tree root could be catastrophic for our home; likewise, the consequences of me holding onto my bitterness could be devastating to my livelihood and that of my family. This bitterness wasn’t just holding me back from reaching my full potential of being the best me, it was going to mess up my family too. Perhaps it already had. How many things have I said or done that have been a direct result of my “bitterroot?” How many people have I hurt? This isn’t just about me anymore.

Every bone in my body wanted to kick and punch and scream to fight against the conviction to repent. But it was time to flush it all out. The giant wad of bitterness was clogging up my life. It was holding me back and hurting others. It just had to go. I knew my life could not progress until this bitterness was completely flushed out. But it might not be enough. The damage might already be so severe that I might just need all new pipes. What would that look like? I’m pretty sure that my memories of hurt and my hurtful actions/ words are connected by bitter thoughts. Every time I think about those memories I spiral down a tunnel of disillusioned resentment until I get the opportunity to say or do something that I end up regretting . I think that it will feel good but it doesn’t. I need a new tunnel. I need a new pipe to connect memories to actions. Somehow, I need to find the silver lining in each of those potentially bitter memories. I need a holy filter to remind me that God was present even in those awful times. I am in desperate need of clean pipes that will allow joyful thoughts to flow purely like fresh, clean water.

My husband’s way of informing me that the sewage issue had been fixed was to draw a heart in the sewage mud that was our backyard. Ah love. It was finished. He had answered my question of what would it look like to have all new pipes. Love. What would be a way for me to overcome my bitterness? Love.

Flash back to the freeze frame and the self-proclamation that my life is ruled by cleaning up excrement of all kinds. As much as I complain about it there is something healing in pouring love into someone else’s life. It kind of melts away the bitterness. Or maybe it’s because you are so busy helping to clean that you don’t have time to be bitter. In all of my whining about the toilet water and the sewer issues and the kids I forgot about the texting conversation with my friend. There was magic in that conversation. Me and my friend- we were cleaning together. We were emptying ourselves of the mess that is our pasts. There was the silver lining. There was God present in one of the most humiliating and humbling moments of my life. There was love in all of its auto-correct glory.

Custodian of the broken hearted? That sounds so melodramatic and self-righteous. But broken hearts do need mending and bitterness does need uprooting. So we continue to pick up the dustpan and the toilet brush and plunger and shovel and continue to dig and clean.   I’m learning that with love and forgiveness the dirty work will get done.

Her Name is Eva and She Built This House

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Eva's Best Drink

I looked her in the eye and told her that we would live in this house. This house would be ours. I was expecting the owner to scoff at me especially considering that she had just literally laughed at our meager little offer on the house that was 1/3 of the original asking price. But instead she looked at me for a minute then smiled and told me to follow her. She took me upstairs to the guest bedroom that was lined with brown faux wood paneling left over from the 70’s. There on the fireplace mantle sat a small glass bottle which she handed to me.

At first I thought that it was a pretty cool looking relic but then she told me the significance of the bottle. When Evelyn first bought the house back in the 80’s she realized that someone was going to have to crawl under the house to take a look at what was the state of the plumbing and electrical wiring. Scrappy woman that she is, Evelyn decided that she would be the one to do it.  Under the house  it is pitch black with all manner of wildlife probably sustaining their own ecosystem within the crawl space of the house. Still, Evelyn proceeded with her quest. While she was sliding around on her belly examining the house’s foundation she found a glass milk bottle that dates back to post World War II daily life . Who knows how long it had been there or how it got there. We can only assume that it rolled under the house from the front porch.  The possibilities of it’s whereabouts were endless and intriguing to me.

But what really caught my attention and took my breath away was that the name brand of the milk was “Eva’s Best Drink.” It still gives me chills. I looked at Evelyn and told her that my daughter’s name is Eva and she is named after my grandma Eva. It turns out that Evelyn’s grandmother was also named Eva and that she had named her company after HER grandmother Eva. Evelyn’s own name was a derision of her grandmother’s name as well. Evelyn credits her “Eva company” as the main financial provider for her many, many restoration projects for the house because when she bought the house it was in shambles. In a sense, it was the legacy of her grandmother Eva that rebuilt this house.  When Evelyn found the milk bottle she took it as a sign that this house would be blessed.  Well, that was it. Sold. Ms. Evelyn did not accept our offer that day but we both knew that this house would one day be ours.

It’s been almost 2 years since that conversation about the milk bottle but this last weekend I could not get this story out of my head. It was my Grandma Eva’s funeral and all around me was evidence that she had built this home just as much as Evelyn’s grandmother had built the house. There were so many, many pictures of the chic and classy woman that was Grandma Eva. There were so many stories and eulogies shared; all of them detailing how she had put her faith and her family first. Always. There were memories galore and tears of joy that come with honoring and celebrating the life of a remarkable loved one.

Many times I scanned the room and breathed in the sweet fruits of my grandparents’ labor. It was a soothing, nourishing, and warm scent. Like fresh milk. Grandma Eva was the mother of all these people. Good people. People who are doing things with their lives to make this world a better place. She built this house. My grandparents, they laid the foundation for all of these people who I am privileged and blessed to call family.

I looked at my daughter Eva who is one of the heirs to this kingdom and prayed that I could build her a home as lovely as the one that was built for me. We don’t have to rebuild the house like Evelyn had to, but we are building ourselves a family and several ministries within the walls of this home. Evelyn’s grandma Eva lived on in the legacy of her business that allowed for her to restore this house; my grandma Eva’s legacy would live on through the scaffolding of our family as we made this house our own. I looked at my daughter Eva and realized that she really inherited both legacies. What a grand idea for such a tiny little person! My Eva would reap the harvest of at least five generations of women who came before her. All of them necessary in the building of the generation that followed and all of them essential to the restoration of the physical house that she would build her childhood memories in.

The “Eva’s Best Drink” story would stand as a reminder of how generations past have nourished us in their selfless sacrifices to build us up into the people that we become.  I realized that this story kept coming to the forefront of my mind during Grandma Eva’s funeral because it put things in perspective for me.  As I begin this journey of restoring an old home, I am thirsting for time to complete the ever growing list of home improvement projects so much so that I often lose sight of the bigger picture- the little people who are right beside me.    However, the best drink that will come from this house will not be from the completed projects but from the building of a family within these walls.  Eva gave her best and I am still drinking it all in.  Cheers!

two Evas

My little Eva celebrating her great-grandmother’s 80th birthday!

The Renovation of My Heart

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house and heart avil'art

We bought a house that was built in 1896. Let me make one thing clear, I am not one of those people who watches HGTV or “Flip this House” or some other kind of home improvement show like that. I am not into renovating houses and neither is my husband. I’m the kind of girl who wants to move into a brand new, custom home and do absolutely no work on it except for hanging pictures. We are not even really big on the do it yourself thing. However, even though it goes against everything that you ever hoped for, when God gifts you with a classic beauty how can you say no? Continue reading