Tag Archives: history

A house that talks

I went away for my birthday last weekend and returned to find the walls of our house, previously bare, covered with photos and artifacts from our travels and pictures of that lovely girl has become the source of so much inspiration on this blog and to her parents.  My husband and his parents had to work around the real plaster walls to adorn the place but it surely feels more like a home now that it did before I left.

A few months ago I wrote about how I’ve struggled with this big purchase, this acquisition if you will, but how the house has already brought us so much joy, and perhaps God means it that way.  And you’ll have to humor me for writing yet another post about the house.  But it continues to feel like an adventure, this getting to know the house, and its old ways.

img_0055
Lucia enjoying being outside in front of our house.  All photos mine.

For one thing, the house creaks and moans and groans and talks.  It’s kind of like another character in our lives; it does its own thing.  And it seems like people forgive that personality of old houses so much more easily than new.  A crack or a cranny or an angle or a blemish is just how she or he was made, rather than something necessarily to be fixed.  You work within the house’s constraints with more measure, because it has existed long before you and will continue to live on (hopefully) long after you’re gone.

IMG_0114.jpg
Lucia on a walk in the cemetery.

A few people have asked me whether it’s haunted and I’ve replied heartily, gee, I hope so!  Across the street a cemetery that initially spooked one of Lucia’s nurses (she’s from China and has a hearty respect for ghosts) has become a favorite walking place for all of us.  It’s the view we linger upon from our windows, that and a little church that’s no longer in service.  All these features can be kind of painful reminders of the lives lived within these walls and around this little town that cease to be.  But they can also remind us of our smallness.  Our small, small part in the grandness of God’s works throughout the ages.

You see, when we were looking at houses, we kind of fell in love and bought this house because of the way the sun set and the golden light glittered on the field out behind it.  Sure, we cared about the inside of the house, its spacious kitchen, and its accessibility for Lucia, but it was not as much about just who the house was but what the house held out before us that made us buy it.  Perhaps this is why old houses are so much more than the sum of their parts–they have storied pasts and thus, hold out before them artful futures, and we continue to feel blessed to live in the in-between space, where history is relished and dreams are conjured.

img_0204
Lucia and her dad on the porch.

We’re learning to live with the clunks in the night, but it’s so funny, whereas in our previous apartment we used to go all frenetic when the smoke alarm went off and might wake Lucia, in this house, we let the sounds live.  I think we imagine she enjoys and leans into the creaks and the clunks as much as we do.  They’re a sort of comforting reminder that the house has its own truth to be spoken in a world that can be so careless with the histories, stories, and lives of things that mattered to someone and will matter in the future.

So on a rainy morning like this one, I listen to the rain fall on the rooftop, place my feet on the boards that have been here for hundreds of years, and relish the little creaks that let me know that my weight upon it means something to this sturdy, storied house.  And I wonder how our lives lived will be added to its landscape, our little imprint figured into its much longer, illustrious, creaky history.

Speak your truth (the whole truth), America

486166_4450241426252_1341685246_n
Plymouth, MA.  All photos by Evan Schneider.

Last night, after yet another independence day celebration, yet another weekend of flags, festivities, and fireworks, I read a rather apologetic post from one of the new co-moderators of the PUCSA.  In it, she writes that although she doesn’t want to be a “Debbie Downer,” on the fourth of July, she is also painfully aware of the transgressions of our nation, especially with regards to slavery and civil rights, and our present problems like gun violence, torture, pollution, and racism.  She writes that while she will celebrate, she recognizes that others will grieve.

But I say, don’t apologize, Rev. Edmiston, for speaking your truth.  

We need voices of dissent in this country, even as we have those who cry out (and I would remark unapologetically, as well as uncritically) to “make America great again.”  We need  a fuller appreciation of our tattered history to find a more purposeful present.  In our zeal for patriotism, we often forget that our founders, flawed as they were, were hearty dissenters!

484622_4450242826287_739203129_n
Plymouth Rock.  

Why is it that we in America today are so afraid of the dissenters?  Why, despite years of good and bad, do we espouse to have all the answers?  Don’t we know that what makes America great is insight and innovation, change and adaptation, that can only come with critical reflection upon our very mistakes?

My truth this morning is that love is not enough.  We need justice.  We need change.

We need change because it’s not just in Medina and Baghdad and Dhaka and Istanbul but everyday, sometimes twice a day, that gun violence on American soil intervenes to take the lives of young men, mothers, and children.

We need justice because faith has been compromised; justice would choose a fast that breaks the chains of poverty, discrimination, and sexism, chains that we often prefer not to see even in our very history of liberation and our present struggle.

We need truth, because real truth, the ugly, full, challenging, meaningful, both star striped and tattered truth, does and can set us free.  Dissenters are part and parcel of that truth.

What is your truth to speak, America?  How will you go on, despite, in spite, to fight injustice?

74266_4450243906314_1518371871_n
Native American protest at the Massasoit Indian Statue up the hill from Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving Day, 2012.

In the words of the poet, Langston Hughes,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

 

The resurrecting in between

I remember that moment in my college studies when it was pointed out to me that history was hardly static and that periodization, the act of splicing history into reasonable, succinct bites, necessarily altered the meaning of those events it sought to contain.

Mind blown.

The stories of our own lives, our own journeys, are told and retold.  We re-imagine the significance of certain events in light of others, and every once in awhile we feel blessed to look back and see what we believe to be the hand of God.  That type of perspective is other-worldly, not because God only blessed us with bite-sized intelligence, but because God and life only lends each moment with bite-sized grace.

If you’re like me, you try to gobble grace in bigger bites.  You get really gluttonous and really greedy, and you think you could live life a bit better, certainly more faithfully, if God would just give you that kind of landscape, big-picture, historic panorama vision.  I feel like this most of the time.

All photos by Evan Schneider.
All photos by Evan Schneider.

And then there are the days when I sit in silence and listen for God, and I know, fully and with great freedom, that these seasons that supposedly lie in between that we all feel, these days of waiting, these are God’s, too.

I know this because other faithful people around me confirm it and live it, and they struggle, too.

I read a line on facebook the other morning that said, “Perspective: Abraham waited 25 years, Joseph 13 years, Moses 40 years, Jesus 30 years. If you’re in a waiting season, you’re in good company.” 

What a comfort to know that we’re not the only ones who wait and wonder and…stumble.

Just the other day I mentioned to a professor that a paper I’d written and been proud of had become a stumbling block toward developing my dissertation.  The realization of the fact was freeing–perhaps I could now move forward.  She responded differently, jubilantly, with a line I’ve never heard or thought I would, “Oh that’s good, stumbling blocks are good!” she purred.

Lotus flower

We can’t really learn anything if we don’t stumble, but we’re also remiss if we think we’re bound for a life where we stumble no more.  This morning a friend of mine told me that after a loved one died, she was told there’d be suffering, followed by healing, followed by victory.

We began to muse together that, what if while we’re stumbling, while we’re waiting, there is also resurrecting?  What if what’s in between is victory?  What if this moment isn’t between what’s next, what’s holy, and what’s God’s, but this moment accepted, embraced, and faithfully swallowed is grace incarnate?

On Wednesday I wrote that the world seems so full of saturated with pain and heartache lately I feel as if it would burst.  If anything, over the last few days the messiness of life has started to seep out of those seams with even greater gravity.  And if you’re like me, despite the above revelations, at moments like these you’ll continue to yearn for God’s panoramic vistas, you’ll be tricked into trusting in your own powers of perspective, into concluding that victory is a sham and resurrection fleeting.

But all the while you’ll have been looking to the horizon, to the mountains, onward and forward, when God was right beside you offering a hand, a shoulder, and rest for your weary head.  Friends, look around–you’re in good company, you’re already victorious, you’re being offered a sliver of grace.

Flower

So don’t miss the resurrecting in the waiting, the stumbling, in the seasons between.