Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Awake and At Home

I feel like I just woke up.  Not that I have been asleep, but that something inside me has been dormant and has sprung to life again.  Or has been released from where I locked it up out of a survivalist inventory of things I could handle.  I wasn’t surviving something horrific or life-threatening…and it’s probably a little bit dramatic to call it surviving…but now that I feel something come to life inside of me that feels familiar and that I didn’t even know I was missing, that’s all the explanation I have.

I just finished reading a book that I now place on the imaginary “Top 5” list of books I don’t have in my head but, anyway, you get what I mean.  I loved it in a way that is different from other books that I love, so there can never be just one top favorite, but this one has touched my heart deeply, and surprised me in the process.  The book, These Is My Words, written by Nancy Turner, is a story of grit and survival and family and love in the Arizona Territories from 1881-1901. It has all the elements you can imagine; outlaws, Indian wars, wagon trains, scarlet fever, loyal dogs, rocking chairs, and quilts.  There are always quilts in books about pioneer families.  But this is not a review of the book, just a report about what’s going on in my life and heart.
The front of our home in Tucson, Arizona, literally right where a lot of the book takes place (Fort Lowell)

Fourteen years ago, I had the words “And I will go with you” engraved on Jeremy’s wedding ring while he was off in the wilderness on a backpacking trip right around our second anniversary.  We had both just quit our good jobs, full of promise and opportunity, to go into a great unknown: Kazakhstan.  We didn’t know a lot about it, but we knew we were going together and that God was going before us. We had committed to following where God would lead when we got together back in the rugged mountains of Northern Arizona, where anything seemed possible and a life of adventure was full of charm and excitement.  Now we had lived for two years as a young married couple in a cute little duplex by the beach with two successful careers born out of two college degrees just earned. We were the Lundgrens, and we hosted Dinners for 8 and baby showers and took weekend trips and went surfing after work and had extra income (which mostly went to paying of school loans, but still). But we left it, with mixed emotions and intentions—some of which were selfish and immature, before you go thinking we deserve sainthood or anything—to go somewhere unknown, because not going would kill something that was alive in us and because going was especially appealing to my young husband. And the fact that it was appealing to him made him appealing to me, which also scared me at the same time.  I was the young wife on the wagon train…trusting God through fear and going hand-in-hand with my strong and brave husband, yet looking back at my home and family’s roots with sadness and longing.

Homesteading in my apartment in Kazakhstan

Jeremy and I went to Kazakhstan, and then came home.  We then lived in Oceanside, Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Placentia, Fullerton, and now Lombard. That’s a lot of homesteads in the 12 years since we returned.  Somehow, I have blinked, and now I have become a woman that other women call brave and adventurous, adaptable, and able to make a home anywhere.  I cling tightly to my husband, who has become better at making us feel safe and protected despite his still-often inclination to “go” to new territory. He is studying among academic elites right now, and in many ways, we don’t feel up to the challenge, yet he finds a way to provide for us and care for us and do his work with integrity. I might not be able to shoot a rifle (though that sounds fun) or hunt for my dinner…I can’t even hang curtain rods without assistance.  But, from hard work and experience, I know how to make new friends, make an imperfect house a home, and even entertain guests in the midst of pulled-up floorboards and exposed studs. My children know how to be brave and (mostly) make the best of new situations, even though they miss their grandparents and their favorite frozen yogurt shop and aren’t sure where to say that they are from.

I don’t even really know what came to life inside of me after reading this book—and maybe it’s a combination of finally having been here in this new place for a year or the change of seasons or just that the kids are back in school all day so I can finally have a deep thought—but I feel strong, and ready and with a renewed desire to work hard that I haven’t felt in a while. Purposeful, I guess. And though in the past, I’ve been able to name what roles I have or what position my husband has or what I am in charge of…I feel suddenly okay to just be working hard on my homestead right now and to love my people. And to look back and to love the journey that it’s been to get here.

Barefoot and pregnant in a dingy apartment :)

Homesteading in Flagstaff...our first Christmas in that kitchen, hosting our youth group, Chinese students, and then both of our families.

I worked hard on that backyard in Flagstaff...bringing beauty to the former weedpatch through the help of kind women who were gardening veterans; showing me what to do and giving me starters from their gardens.

In These is My Words, the (fictional, yet historically accurate) diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, I saw life through the eyes of a woman who had to pause during the hard times to be thankful for what she had. She was a woman with a simple life, yet longed for more than the status quo.  Even though there was a charm to her life because it took place in a period of the past, there is so much in common with our lives and challenges and desires today. I don’t want to give too much away in case you read it, but I got to see her grow into accepting that she will never be able to have all she wants at the same time, yet in a lifetime, she has more than she deserves.  She has seasons of grief and seasons of prosperity, times of lonesomeness and yet great love.  I am reading Ecclesiastes in the Bible right now, and I am struck by the comfort in the seasons…a time to plant and a time to harvest, a time to weep and a time to laugh…each comes and goes by the hand of God. To eat and drink and find enjoyment in our work, this is from the hand of God. I recently came across some wise words by one of my heroes of hospitality, Edith Schaeffer:

There needs to be a homemaker exercising some measure of skill, imagination, creativity, desire to fulfill needs and give pleasure to others in the family. How precious a thing is the human family. Is it not worth some sacrifice in time, energy, safety, discomfort, work? Does anything come forth without work?

Surrounded by love in Lombard

So that’s where I’m at.  I live in Lombard but I am from California, and in many ways, Arizona has my heart.  I come from Pilgrims and citrus farmers and ranchers and an engineer and a teacher.  I have a sister who is far away and I wish I could sew quilts with her and talk about rearing babies together.  I am married to a good man who comes from Kansas and Tucson and will follow wherever God leads him.  I am sad that I miss so many people, yet my cup runs over with the beauty in who God gives me for community every step of the way. I am a mother who finds strength in circles of women through the ages who are trying our best to make our homes clean and loving and productive.  It is good to be loved and have hard work to do.  It is enough and it is good and even the sadness parts of it and the missing the places I am from and the uncertainty of what’s ahead are good because it is my life and I am loved.  These are my words.