Friday, February 24, 2006

It's a good thing....

Say that with a certain lilt in your voice, and everyone knows who you are talking about. I'm sure that there is a lot of cool stuff to learn and buy from that someone, but right now I'm thinking about how many obstacles seem to be placed in the way of having people in each other's homes.

Hospitality. People have told me that I have the gift of hospitality. I receive that blessing, but I don't accept the distance that it seems to put between my lifestyle and others.

I have had people tell me they couldn't do what I do. All I do is make coffee (well, usually Marc makes it). Sometimes I add chili (not to the coffee - eew!) The hardest part of 'hospitality' is moving outside of myself long enough to make a phone call or send an email "Want to come over?" Honestly. That is the hardest part for me. Every time I need to pick up the phone I am momentarily seized with anxiety. Push through, call. Done.

But what I hear when people talk about how we have people over is how they aren't as neat as me, or as organized as me, or as creative in the kitchen as me (I'm not creative, I'm comfortable and broke, so I use what I have on hand.)

There are so many obstacles to being hospitable it seems, from the cooking channel to TLC, to rows and rows of cookbooks, to theme parties, to "it's a good thing". It's become an industry to 'entertain' people, to have a dinner party, to cook a meal.

But it's not meant to be that way. It's meant to be "I've got some fish, you've got some bread." Let's gather around that and see what happens. It's not about setting or food, it's the gathering. And that's not a gift or personality trait.

It's really not a gift of hospitality... it's a heart cry. It's just as much about my wanting to be part of you, as it is my inviting you to be a part of me. It's a note passed secretly across the homeroom "I like you. Do you like me? Circle one."

I can't accept that we are meant to live our busy lives bumping into each other's force fields. I can't and I won't. A human life is meaningless if it doesn't becomed entangled in other's. It's neater and easier, but where does it go?

I am a highly, highly introverted person. People tire me out, and I love solitude. I am not just an extrovert looking for the next rush of people to come through the door and jazz me up (that's Marc). But I don't want to miss out on the opportunity that being with people in community, around a table or a mug, gives us. An opportunity to love, laugh, challenge, get angry, and grow. There is no way to hot-house the growth that comes from being with people. So even though I might rather not, I would even more rather not be who I am today when I turn 50 with the same ideas and outlook on life, not having had to give or take to or from the lives around me.

Please don't watch me and say 'oh, she's got a gift' and choose to not try it yourself. How will you know, until you try? If it is a 'gift' I happen to know the Giver has more to give out, and as far as I can tell He is all about His people living in community with one another.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

One of our neighbors is probably in her 80's. Her daughter died on Tuesday, after battling leukemia for two years. The woman had been married for more than 35 years, and her son was born in 1989. He is 16 or 17.

I've never met any of them... and my heart is so sad for all of them. How will I be a neighbor? Even if I knew her, I know myself well enough to know I would be bound up with saying something petty or 'band-aidish'. And now I don't even know her, but I know that I'm her neighbor.

Oh how will I be a neighbor?
I get such a sense of satisfaction of cleaning up the kitchen at night. It's like tucking in our house. I feel like I'm loving my family, loving myself (because I'm the one it really matters too), and putting all the stuff of the day away.

My kitchen also happens to be the entry point to our home, the dining room, and the place where we school. It is literally the hub of all that happens.

I love filling the dishwasher, cleaning off the counters, putting all the books back on the shelves, and swoooshing the table cloth over the table, topped with a fragrant candle.

My mother-in-law once had a plaque that said "A clean house is the sign of a mis-spent life." I can't bring myself to agree with that. I understand the sentiment, and I certainly believe that my family is way more important than the structure around us. But for me, there is something in tucking in our house, or mopping the floor, or cleaning up around the toilet that feels like I'm spending my life on taking care of my family - and myself.

I guess I should also share that I am not nearly so aware of what is behind closed doors or drawers. You would only have to come in and look in any drawer or cupboard, and find that I relish the open, throw, close it fast method of clean up.

We could probably go into some deep analysis of me at this point, couldn't we? So let's just leave at this.. I really like to tuck my house in at night.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We live on a dead-end street. There are 10 houses, including ours. Two are empty right now. So the kids and I are embarking on a neighborhood project. It began this week with Valentines. They made enough Valentines to leave one at every house. "from Caleb, Anna, and Sofia at 5 Oak Knoll". I figure I can come up with something at least once a month that we can do to bless and reach out to our neighbors.

One of our neighbors today came out to say thanks. He said, "What a touch of humanity. Most of us live like the person next door isn't even there." And that is what my army of little people and I are going to change.

What is amazing to me, is that for whatever reason, this 'distance' that is 'natural' between people, strangers, Caleb does not at all understand. It is certainly nothing that he has gotten from his shy and introverted mother!

As I'm sitting here wondering about this, it strikes me that as we've come to terms with our issues (I'm the oldest, I'm the middle, I'm an extrovert, I'm an introvert, my mothers brothers dog had puppies in front of me when I was six) that we've overused the usefulness of self-awareness and built walls of excuses around ourselves. (I haven't showered, my house is a mess, I'm too busy anyway.)

So when do the healthy boundaries, and healthy self-awareness begin to pen us in one from another? How is it possible that I have lived on a dead end street with only ten houses, (two of which are empty most of the year), for over a year, and still had to look up (or have Marc loko up) the names of the recipients of our Valentines on the computer?

Stay tuned as we continue our Operation Neighborhood in the upcoming months.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sofia got quiet all of a sudden. She had been crawling around and jabbering, and then I noticed to silence.
"Sofie, are you okay?"
**slurpy baby noise**
"Sofia, what did you find?"

Apparently, Anna had left a bowl with a donut and pretzels in it.
What a great before bedtime snack.
In 1980, we had a school assignment to write about something we wish. I was in 2nd grade. What I wrote impressed my 1st grade teacher enough that she took it home and had her mother (who in my estimation at the time must have been an original member of the Ark) pen in calligraphy and frame it. I don't hold onto much, but this I have held onto, and it is above my desk.

"I wish I could make it rain or snow in Iran and Iraq because they are having a war. I think it would be joyful for them... I just wish that I could do that because I love the world that God made." Emily Downing 1980.

I think what strikes me most about this right now, is that Caleb is nearing the age that I was when I penned it. Did the world know in 1980 that the children of those children would be so near to writing the same prayers? In all our innocence, we want rain and snow to stop it and wash it and make it all better.

You know, I think I am just as naive about the Middle East and all the conflict and pain that is there as I was when I was in second grade. And now that I have kids... well, I still wish it would snow.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I labor under several false assumptions in my life... that the dishes will be done, that the house will be clean, and the laundry will be all caught up. The laundry is the big one. Every time I empty one of the laundry baskets I get this sense of exhiliaration... I've won! And five minutes later, the basket inevitably is sneering back ... Tag You're It.

I've begun to realize how absurd this is if I am going to live in a home rather than a museum. Because in wanting the laundry to be 'done', I'm either wanting fewer clothes or fewer people in my life. Neither is true.

So I'm going to limit myself to two loads of laundry a day in an attempt to break this sense of urgency and importance that happens in my laundry room.