The Willamette (will-AM-et) River winds behind the backdrop of my childhood memories, and now it is winding into the memories of my children. It feels surreal on some level, to be back here with my children and living within a half mile of her banks.
The scents are heady: water, douglas firs, blackberries; the baking rocks beneath the heat of the sun. For most of my adolescence we lived within walking distance of the river, and for the two fabulous years when I was 17 and 18, it ran right through our backyard. She’s a part of who I am: my senior environmental science class ran experiments on the pollution in her water, our church youth group had bon fires on her stones, and on particularly warm nights our friends and we would drag the trampoline down a hill in order to sleep on her shore.
Something is calming inside. Quieting. There’s been a tremendous shift in my heart and in my thinking these past five months, a shift in my perspective toward home, a shift in my perception of my children and parenting, a shift if my understanding of myself.
When we moved five months ago I was on the last vestiges of survival mode: present in body, accomplishing the duties, but with heart locked pretty deep inside (as though tucked into a self-protecting room). The move from Oklahoma to Oregon, the upheaval of exiting the military, the distraction of my husband in tending to those things, the burn out from homeschooling and parenting through deployment and reentry, the indiscriminate ebb and flow of life in its taking and giving, taking and giving, taking and giving – all factors.
So once we began to settle in to some sort of routine, it was time to step back from my ideas of who I am and what I am doing and why. If you read the homeschooling newsletter in May, you know I was considering it a “Sabbath Season.” Life slowed down – we were intentional in her slowness – and we used the time to step into each other, my children and husband and I, on a more vulnerable heart level. I found myself waiting on God, waiting on time, waiting to see how the dust would settle and the chips would fall and the present would be redefined.
Yesterday was weeding day in the back yard. We weeded flower beds and trimmed bushes and cut down the browning stalks and leaves of Spring’s annuals. The bushes had grown so dense that I sacrificed quite a few good branches and blossoms in order to tame the plants themselves into some sort of beautiful.
That’s what this season has been like for my heart: a lot of weeding, you know? A lot of pulling out what used to be lovely but is now out of date, a lot of trimming the details of life down to manageable size and, maybe, down to their original forms.
Cutting, trimming, resting until I can take a turn about my life and see the discernible shapes of all that actually matters. Shapes of a child, a rhythm, a value, a certain structure that benefits our days.
What matters? How do I cut back to find it? What do I trim in order to unearth the deeper good, the truer beautiful? How do we begin again, in this new place or this old set of circumstances, how do we make room for life to be breathed in?
Feels Like This
You know what it feels like? It feels like leaning into life and letting our actual reality shape us, rather than trying to shove life into a mold that no longer works.
It’s like floating the river awhile to learn the bends and crooks and rapids so that when it’s time to actually get in the water and go somewhere on purpose, we’ll possess realistic expectations, and will be able to form realistic goals.
A few months ago I felt as though God whispered, “don’t make big decisions yet. Trim down life, and wait. Sabbath with me awhile, first, and see what happens.”
I’m over here on this river bank, hat tipped over my face and Kindle in hand while my children play – it almost sounds iconic, doesn’t it? I’m out in the berry fields picking, making jam and driving to the coast and having in-person conversations. I’m family-ing and wife-ing and Sabbath-ing. I’m trying my best to show up and be present for every good, and every hard, and every mundane thing.
And lest the nostalgia of this deceive you, understand that the soul-work we do as people, even the work of rest, takes an awful lot of effort and intention. It’s often accomplished in the cracks and crags of our busy and difficult days. It’s a rigorous discipline, no matter how poetic it may seem when put into pretty little words like these.
What is your summer’s soul-work? What are you learning? How have you grown?
It’s August! I wrote this post in early June. The work goes on. 🙂