Saturday, May 21, 2016

Homesteading: Our First House, Gardens, Raspberry Bushes and Chickens, Oh My!

This week my fiancé and I sign our rental papers for our first house. One of us will move in over the summer and the other will follow after the wedding in August. I will tell you how it came to be.

One night my fiancĂ© Robert had a dream. We were moving into his groomsman’s house some miles north. About a week later, lo and behold, his friend contacted him to say he and his wife were moving and asked if we were interested in renting or buying this very house from them. It is just minutes away from where Robert works.

So on a Saturday in May we drove over together so I could have a look. I did not have any expectations. As we stepped inside the front door, I was stunned by the interior beauty of the home which our friends worked hard to remodel and fashion. Hardwood floors, a cozy fireplace in the living room, a large kitchen with a wrap-around counter top and modern features, lots of beautiful wood cabinetry, two bedrooms (one in which a cat greeted us stretched out on the bed like my Ginger), a bath and a downstairs room with another fireplace, and bookshelves built into the wall. As we chatted in the kitchen, our friend pointed out the east-facing kitchen windows, which on a clear day, offer mountain views and lovely sunrises. As if the interior of the home wasn’t amazing enough, we walked outside and I kept on being amazed. There were raised garden beds and a compost, bee keeping boxes with nests inside (tended by someone else), and a chicken coop with squawking ducks and chickens! There were roses, raspberry bushes, a cherry tree and kiwi trees maturing to produce their first crop.

I was stunned. Could it be God was offering us all this without us even seeking it out? You know how we have those dreams…and sometimes they seem far off…one day I will write a book. One day I will live in a house and raise a family… one day.

But here our dreams were coming to life, as they have been in the entire past year. Here a real vision of our new life opened up before us. A nest for family, welcoming others, nurturing life, cooking, working, writing, gardening and even perhaps...yes, keeping a chicken or two! (Thanks, Flannery O’Connor.) No more tiny and overpriced apartment living or basement living. (Keep in mind, currently we both sleep in basements – my bedroom is in the basement of a house – and Robert’s apartment is underground.)

Later our friend emailed photos and more details of the patio being built behind the house and the landscaping to be finished this summer. We are overwhelmed by our friends’ generosity and God’s providence:

“Garden beds and coop will be empty and available. If you want to keep chickens there, we can arrange to get you some new ones. There's running water and electric power back here. Wood shed is full of 1 cord of wood for use in fireplaces next winter.

“Land on the left side of the road is also part of the property and could be used for planting if desired. We had great plans for it, but haven't gotten to them. The big purple thing is a plumb tree that produces crazy numbers of plumbs ever since I thinned out the trees to give it light.

“Here's the raspberry bushes, blueberries and cherry tree. All producing now. More raspberries than we can eat.”

We left and I praised and thanked God the rest of the day.

All we need is a cave of love, right? In rags or riches, we are vowing to spend the rest of our lives together committed to each other and to God Almighty. That’s all we need. Yet God knows what our other temporal needs are too, and the plans He has for us. Build us up, Lord, in your love. Build a fire in us that will dance and glow into eternity.

Proverbs 31:25 in describing the ideal wife says, "She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come.”

I have been laughing a lot the past week. I can’t help it. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Preparing for a Wedding

I’ll never forget the weekend my mother got on a plane and flew out to Seattle to help me shop for the wedding dress of my dreams. It was here the motherly heart and the daughterly spirit embraced and rejoiced among flowing dresses and veils.

My mother first clothed me as an infant, dressing my naked body as I screamed into this world. She wrapped me in a white blanket, enfolding me with her love and acceptance. “Clothe the naked,” Christ said. And so she did.

Now I am 29 years old and she has put a new garment over my head, a wedding gown, a symbol of purity and innocence. Gazing at myself in the mirror, I see beyond myself and into his eyes as I imagine my groom beholding me with rapture. And so, tears of joy and anticipation well up inside of me. I am grateful we have waited for the one. In this dress “I’ll thee wed,” and then, mysteriously and miraculously the bride will become a babe again, known to another kind of love. I’ll be tenderly held and fondled and known for the first time as I was known once upon a time on a winter’s day, January 2nd, a babe with fresh pink skin and a beating heart, desperate for love.

“Feed the hungry,” Christ taught, and so Mom did. During her visit, she fed us lambs with her motherly presence and assured us by her prayers. We’d had a stressful few weeks leading up to her visit, but then she waltzed in, bringing a breath of fresh air and positive reinforcement when we needed it most. It wasn’t about the advice she had to give or any problems she solved; it was just being there for her daughter, and for her future son-in-law that made a difference. These were moments full of grace. Her unwavering belief in us and her prayers were a little miracle that dried up the rain and brought us together simply by being “our mother.”

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…” And we felt the Lord with us as Mom and I spotted rainbows almost every day of her visit, each one reminding me of God’s promise long ago to never let flood waters destroy the earth again. One rainbow touched down so close to the earth, reflecting off the lake, that it looked as if we could dance right through its rays! Bask in God's goodness to us!

A Yogi tea bag reads “Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.” To me, this quote finds beautiful expression in motherhood, physical, spiritual and emotional, the act of carrying life inside of you and bearing it out to the world, emptying yourself in the process, giving your very heart, mind and soul to help others, nurture others, love others.

I think of the Blessed Mother Mary for she in fact, and most dramatically, let the Creator of the Universe fill her so completely as to become man inside of her. Mary submitted in prayer to God’s mysterious plans and then emptied her life in raising the Messiah, encouraging him to initiate his ministry at the wedding at Cana and courageously following her Son to the Cross, standing there, accepting into her arms all of humanity, who He married on the Cross, as her own children. For Scripture says, “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you” (Is. 62:5) and “For he who has become your husband is your Maker” (Is. 54:5). And she takes us into her arms now like adopted children in law, sealed in Christ’s blood.

And the wonder of it all is that somehow, it is in this "becoming babes" to each other that man and woman become parents to another generation. Marriage is a mystery, or a series of veils being lifted over time, from the altar to the death bed.

“No life is happy without mystery, and the greatest of all mysteries is love. Great are the joys in marriage, as there is the lifting of progressive veils, until one is brought into the blazing lights of the Presence of God,” wrote Fulton Sheen.

In his book Three to Get Married, which I think could be the most beautifully written book on Christian marriage ever written, Sheen unpacks the different stages of marriage and family life as they evolve:

“In a true marriage, there is an ever-enchanting romance. There are at least four distinct mysteries progressively revealed. First, there is the mystery of the other partner, which is body-mystery. When that mystery is solved and the first child is born, there begins a new mystery. The husband sees something in the wife he never before knew existed, namely, the beautiful mystery of motherhood. She sees a new mystery in him she never before knew existed, namely, the mystery of fatherhood. As other children come to revive their strength and beauty, the husband never seems older to the wife than the day they were married, and the wife never seems older than the day they first met and carved their initials in an oak tree. As the children reach the age of reason, a third mystery unfolds, that of father-craft and mother-craft – the disciplining and training of young minds and hearts in the ways of God. As the children grow into maturity, the mystery continues to deepen, new areas of exploration open up, and the father and mother now see themselves as sculptors in the great quarry of humanity, carving living stones and fitting them together in the Temple of God, Whose Architect is Love.” (pg. 71)

The wedding is only the beginning, the lifting of just the first veil. And so I echo with Mary, a song of gratitude rejoicing in unknown but promised mysteries: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name”! (Lk. 1:49)

Thoughts to ponder: Mother’s Day is this month. What lasting memories do you have with your mother? What does motherhood mean to you? Do you have a relationship with the Blessed Mother?