Sour Patch

There is a white folding table in our “new” living room. It was fittingly placed beside the basement walk-out door, inviting our boxes, containers, and random piles of junk. Bobby and the rest of the clan and I would go to our minivan and Rav 4 to retrieve new boxes, and place them on, under, or by that useful table.

It took us, oh, I’d say 30 minutes to “move.” All our necessities filled two-ish cars. I was pretty proud of our ability to minimize.

So here we are! At the Bob and Kathy Kunkle Abode. Day Four in fact.

And although I’m not at “home,” I feel homey this very minute. Blog. Snacking. And having a moment to process and breathe.

I debated stress-eating the Sour Patch Kids and jelly beans I bought for Waldo’s preschool Easter party… but decided SmartPop and Veggie Straws was a more mature option. Save the sugar for the people who need it: kids, right?

Whoa! My fingers have been itching to get on this keyboard for days— to find any long chunk of time to just write it all out. And now that the Lord has (sorta) provided time (it’s 9:15 pm… technically bedtime… but, oh well), I don’t even know where to begin!

Hold on. I’ll be right back. I’m getting some Sour Patch Kids. I’ll begin there.

Okay. Much better. My mind officially changed in the Sugar Department.

We moved up our move-day to this past Sunday. Because I have a husband who not only listens to me and cares for me, but also gives me what I need, too, he decided we could move in with our in-laws a bit early. He saved me much sanity. And also, because my in-laws are so awesome, organized, flexible, and sacrificial, they were like, “Sure!”

Thus, we find ourselves residing in their quaint basement, tucked in tight and snug, like a little family of rolly pollies.

I probably should be beaming with thanksgiving, joy, rest, and peace, but somehow I’m not there yet. Nor is Bobby. Nor are the kids. Bob and Kathy seem happy though! (They are the wise mature ones in the house, holding the rest of us up.) The time when we should probably be the most thankful, and cling to each other the most, we somehow find a way to make all the complaints in the world, stress at all our problems, and resent one another.

But at the same time, we truly are going through something spectacular. Like Kathy wisely said to Waldo the first night we slept here, “It’s the first time, give yourself some grace.”

This change is unlike anything I’ve ever done. And my response is what I am calling, mental and emotional shock. Like, I didn’t even know what to think, or how to think it; and when I do think, I am in disbelief that what I am thinking is happening. I am so shocked by everything around me that I feel numb. I don’t feel anything. How can that even be?

But then, all of a sudden, straight out of thin air, a feeling will attack me and I instantly want to crawl into a corner and ball up and cry.

For example, when I started getting out the Bible story for the kids during lunch I announced, “This will make us feel right at home, children!” Right as my chipper attempt to look on the bright side arrived, darker words sunk deep down into my soul like mockery. But you aren’t home.

Or when I looked at the white table in the basement, right after relocating all our possessions, I saw it not as I normally would. Instead of patting myself on the back for a task checked off the to-do list, I rather looked at that clean table with bitterness and resentment. Its emptiness was further evidence that our things were even farther away from our old way of living. I despised the clean table. I avoided the ridicule it flaunted.

I also refuse to call our house “home” any more. Its once comforting presence in my speech has turned into a sour, lifeless “Shawnee house.” It’s impersonal to me now. It’s an object of scorn, rather than an object of refuge.

Yesterday I went back for the first time alone, to the Shawnee house. Upon opening the front door and entering the threshold, another moment of unexpected emotional instability pounced. The smell. It doesn’t smell like our home. The lights were dark, dim, and unused for several days. My steps echoed. The emptiness, dryness, and coldness of our beloved space brought a saddening gloom upon my spirit. I could feel tears, unannounced, welling up hot and ready down my cheeks. The blinds felt like boards upon a shack. Every room haunted me like an old dream. The lifeless toddler beds stood crooked and gray. The nursery had a little remnant of a baby’s hands (Lois sprawled some odds and ends on the floor prior to us dashing out the door), but was otherwise barren and quiet. The once well kept tables and chairs were coated with a floury dust. A heap of cleaning bottles and rolls of tape cluttered and covered our granite counter tops that once held piping hot meals, cutting boards, and crumbs. It may have been the first time in my life I saw no toys on the floor and lamented the lack. I roamed around weepingly, trying to muster up strength to clean up the loose ends and snuff the emotions back because I had things to do.

This too shocked me. I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t process it quickly enough. What is happening? Why am I crying? Should I be crying? It is just a house! It is just a stinkin’ house!

Or is it? Or was it?

Here at our new home, whenever I can’t find my keys, or don’t know where to find a paperclip, or have a dirty diaper, or want to grab a snack: I have to put about five extra thoughts into the task. My whole routine is nonexistent, and everything just feels so hard and disorganized. Everything takes extra effort. Even the most simple and mundane tasks require thought, planning, and scrambling about. This has absolutely nothing to do with my in-laws, and probably has nothing to do with me either. It’s just the facts. This is not my house. I don’t decide where things go, or where they are to go, or how things work. I’m not used to the house, and the house certainly isn’t used to me.

But the Shawnee house isn’t our house either now.

And I think that’s where my shock is born from. I feel utterly shocked that I have no house!

And for a housewife, that’s a big deal.

And what about our dear little children! I, at least, have the ability to recognize and name these emotions that bully me and bring me down in an instant! But my poor toddlers have no idea. Whoever said, “Kids are resilient,” are liars. I don’t believe them for one second. They aren’t handling the transition any better than me. They can’t fall asleep and can’t stay asleep. They fight easy commands and argue irrationally with simple life-sustaining activities. They love every single second spent with their grandparents, and thrive and are loved by them. They are the happiest kids in the world with “Reegee” and “Bappa.” But somehow that still isn’t enough to provide them smooth, fight-free transition to our new home. My pity goes out to them, but sadly enough, irritation comes out quicker than empathy. I should be able to love them the best, because I’m going through the exact same thing. But I can’t. I am clearly not. I’m failing!

I really am unsure why exactly this is all so hard. People move all the time. People move into temporary housing all the time. People move to new states. People get new jobs, new schools, new friends, and start new routines. Why do I have to be so dramatic? Is it this hard for everyone?

Somehow I don’t think moving is necessarily the main culprit. I don’t think living in a temporary house is either, nor the prospect of transporting our lives to another state. Rather it has something to do with everything all together. The hardship I feel is not a narrow criminal. This trial is a beast that has so many moving parts and sneaky surprises. What are my main issues here? Can I just pin something down so I can work through it?

That, I cannot discern. And maybe it is not for me to discern. Maybe I ought to feel the things I feel, and be okay without finding the source of or morality to my every emotion.

All I really know, is I am so extremely thankful—that despite all the things the Lord is taking away from me—one thing he has given me, that may be saving my very own soul: prayer. Where would I be without prayer? Where would I be without Jesus? As each event progresses with moving out of Shawnee Road, and namely out of Papillion, prayerfulness gives a reversing and healing spirit. I am not alone. God is the same God of Shawnee Road as he is in the Kunkle Abode. Everything around me looks vastly different than just a week ago, and although my heart is wrenching and wincing at every transitional pain, the habit of prayer remains. Hallelujah, I’ve got that going for me! God is never changing. I feel like a floundering fish out of water circumstantially, but internally, when I am praying, I feel safe and content in the current of the Lord’s presence. The explanation of this phenomenon stumps me. I don’t feel anything, and then feel all the things, but somehow at the same time, trusting that the Lord hears me and is faithful to me trumps them all.

Just the other night, as I was praying to sleep, God brought me to a place of newfound understanding. As I step into the answers of the Lord’s responses to my prayers, I understand how the full process of prayer benefits me. Not only do the Lord’s answers and final solutions keep my heart trusting, but the entire operation of prayer is for my good. I prayed, “Lord, show me my need before you provide, so that I get the opportunity to pray. Would I not receive without asking, so I can have the joy and awareness of beholding, experiencing, and participating in your Kingdom work.” If I gave Dolly a cupcake without her ever wanting one, she might enjoy it. But if Dolly had been asking for a cupcake for three days, and then I gave her one, oh boy, is she going to enjoy every sugary bite!

So too, does the Lord do to us. Bobby declared this morning a new favorite Bible verse.

“And [God] humbled you and let you hunger…” (Deuteronomy 8:3a)

God let you hunger. Why? Why would a loving God make his children feel lack? How could God give something so contrary to survival like hunger? I’ll tell you why, because he had a plan to fulfill it:

“…and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3b)

The gaping holes I feel in my spirit, in my emotions, in my mind, and circumstances are intended to be there, so that the Lord fills them up with himself! How amazing is that! And just like the mystery of manna, so too must I trust the mystery of how the Lord will feed me in this new desert. His answers to my prayers may come in removal of some of his gifts, but never does he remove himself. Rather, he removes things SO THAT he can fill me up with more of him.

Yes, please! Take all the junk, Lord. Take the house, take my routines, take it all, and teach me, lead me, and feed me by every word that comes from you. That’s all I need. All I need is Jesus. This housewife doesn’t need a house. I once heard someone say, they didn’t like the term, housewife, because, “I’m not married to a house! I’m married to my man!”

Maybe this little snippet of a life transition can be compared to my pungent Sour Patch Kids. Oh man, when I placed the candy in my mouth, was I shocked! It actually was really sour. It stung. It hurt. I regretted giving in to my sugar craving. But after a couple seconds, the sour faded, and sweetness began to sooth my punchy and pursed lips. If the sour was not there, would the bringing on of sweetness have the same effect? Would the sweet taste be as good and relieving? And then of course, the gooey softness of the candy begins to work itself into my taste buds, leaving me happy that I took the bold risk of artificial sweeteners and unhealthy sugar content.

I think I just need to give myself time. Take each emotional or circumstantial floundering, not as the end of the world, but as the world today. Like the Sour Patch Kid, let the shock resolve itself out. Or rather, let God resolve it out for his glory and our good. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, I need to see my hunger, not as the Lord forgetting me, but as him inviting me into his sustaining and life-giving ways. Because “a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10).

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