The host led us to the back of the restaurant, through the swinging doors, and to the immaculate white-linen table in the midst of the chaotic kitchen. Chefs, line cooks, and servers bustled around us. We were celebrating a belated Christmas gift – a four-course feast right at the “Chef’s Table” in the heat of it all. For three hours, we watched the often-hidden mystery of how decadent culinary creations are frantically created in a complex system. Under the bright lights, loud clangs, and orders shouted, exquisite plates made their way out to quiet dining rooms to hushed conversations over candle-light. Busy, efficient, and beautiful, the kitchen staff raced around us like we were but an invisible feature of the kitchen.
There are times that this year has felt just like those three hours. Away from work, from our community, from our home, we wait as time goes on around us. I spend my days alone with our boys as I shuttle them to bus stops, preschool, and appointments. I orient my hours around nursing an infant, fitting in school work, picking up the house, cooking dinner, welcoming my beloved home, and preparing lunch for another day. My parents visited this weekend and as I waved goodbye to them at the airport, I couldn’t help but feel like it would be an eternity until I saw them again. And yet I returned to our sabbatical home knowing that these five months still have something yet to teach me. The year is not done with me yet.
TIME eludes me – slipping out from my hands, laughing at my attempts to hold it steady.
TIME contains me – measuring, ordering, and claiming me in its passing.
TIME slays me – cutting my stride at the knees when future thoughts cause me to assume that it is passing faster than it is. Continue reading
To discern what time it is has become seemingly my primary task. Having undertaken Duke’s Doctor of Ministry program amidst my sabbatical year, I am constantly asking myself – What time is it? Is it time to read, think, write, or edit? Is it time to close my computer and work on a puzzle with the younger one tugging at my side? Is it time to insert myself into the quibbles and squabbles of two brothers acting out the day’s exhaustion upon each other? Is it time to persist in cleaning up the day’s mess? Is it time to surrender to the fatigue of carrying this nearly-grown human life?
Is it time for productivity?
Is it time for presence?
The life is known: baby brother, boy #3. The name is close to being known. The items have all been retrieved from storage. He moves and kicks, perhaps even practicing prenatal yoga. And yet now is still the waiting time. 13 more weeks. It is too early for him to burst forth, breathe this common air, and join this human pilgrimage . His presence may be growing more pronounced every day, but we are still living in the pregnant pause.
The life is known: a return to Louisville for the next chapter. The jobs are secured. Our home will return to our possession next summer. Our minds leap and jump and stretch. We imagine the ways our life will return to “normal” and the ways it will feel as an all new beginning. The year cannot be rushed nor the days counted down. The days prescribed have too much to teach us. We are living in the pregnant pause.
20 days until we drove away from our home with belongings packed or stored.
28 days until Drew starts his fellowship.
40 days until I begin a new educational endeavor.
57 days until first-born enters kindergarten.
146 days until this baby boy is due to enter the world
391 days until all is returned home.
All the days feel exposed and vulnerable for their temporary status. To live in the temporary is to live exposed to time’s quick short-hand, the tick-tock sound ringing constantly in my ears. It keeps the beat as the counted moments go by.
Piercing the tapestry of all that has been of our lives for the past ten years, the winnowing fork does its work. The Divine Hands rake the winnowing fork back and forth, over and over, pulling out the threads of the tapestry that has been. Threads loosen. The tines of the fork carry out the threads that remain intact. The threads that have snagged and disintegrated fall to the pile of scraps. It is the baptism that Jesus promised – the kind that does not just immerse us but promises to eternally transform us.
Oh, it hurts. The tugs and the pulls.
The process of dismantling the tapestry that has been in order to prepare for the tapestry that will be has been one of the most difficult ones to endure. There have been times when I tried to cling to the tapestry that has been in order to protect it from the winnowing fork’s work. But each time, the Divine Hands waited in persistence until I realized my efforts were from fear’s taunting. Fear tries to keep intact that which should be dismantled. Each time, the Divine Hands paused the process to pass on enough trust so that I might move aside and the work might continue.
Change always seems to feel most palpable in January, right at the same time as weather draws me in and keeps me contained at home. It’s all part of a wider pattern. I see it as I look back, like the waves behind a boat reveal the way only after traveled. The first month of the year comes and it brings with it a time of rest amidst a season of restlessness.
Change feels most threatening in January.
But its mercy is powerful in equal measure.
A new year begins here. While boys sleep and the light rises outside, blue gray winter skies promise another year. Routine is adjusted with a later alarm but it is all the same. Cereal, eggs, coffee, quiet.
365 days stretch before me, all named by 2016. Some of them have already been claimed. Work trips. Wrapping up. Saying goodbye. Moving. Kindergarten. Beginning again. Birthdays. Anniversaries.
Many are left untouched, awaiting life to fill them and grant them their greatest desire – purpose.