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Archive for the ‘This rural life’ Category

Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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I’ve been feeling lately like I have nothing to say. As someone who Says Things as a hobby, this makes me a little panicky. When I have conversations with people these days, my face feels weird, like I don’t know how to communicate anymore–like I’m verbally frozen, and a little bit twitchy. What’s that all about?

And then, I had to speak in front of a group a few weeks ago. Public speaking is something I consider exhilarating and fun. Some people even say I’m good at it. What usually happens is that I prepare and get an outline together and these great funny stories emerge from my mouth when I’m up front–many of which I have no idea are there until they show up. It’s like I watch myself from the side when I’m speaking, and I’m like, wow–she’s good. I wonder how she does it. So I usually count on this sparkly person showing up when walk myself up to the front. This last time, Stutter-girl showed up instead.  And someone who said ‘youknowhwhatever’ every time I was at a loss for words. WHAT? I mean, when I was up front, I kept waiting for the person who knew the outline to just start talking. It was a bit embarrassing, since THAT PERSON was supposed to be me. Grrr. I would prefer to be perfect, please…

I’m chalking it up to spending too much time alone. It’s hibernation time in my neck of the woods, and I can’t believe I ever attended bbq’s and pool parties and hung out in the park after church. Was that me? What was that, like, 30 years ago? Do green things grow here? I’ve forgotten…

I’m not really depressed. I just can’t find my words.

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See header picture. I took it off of my balcony this morning. And so it begins.

Time to get out my cross country skis…

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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I started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.

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Roller Coaster is so cliche, but it fittingly describes my summer. When we first arrived in NY I felt this sense of home–a comfortable familiar even though we we’ve been away from this town for 11 years. I was in wonderland–a cool breezy land of green enchantment. The trees, of course, but also the people. The extrovert in me was 100 percent GO–meeting new people everyday, reconnecting with old friends, barbecues, play group–where am I Heaven? People dropping cookies off on our doorstep, coming home to a gift of homemade bread; feeling so embraced, so welcomed. Top of the coaster excitement.

Then Dan actually has to go to work. Oh. So this isn’t Playtime Summer Vacation? I have to readjust to planning meals and keeping the house in order and wrangling an extremely social and extroverted near 6 year old–you know, do my part to contribute to Team Noyes. But now I have to relearn everything because I keep opening the wrong drawer when I want to grab a spoon, and my shopping/meal planning system doesn’t work here because I live out in freaking nowhere now, and Sadie is asking me four hundred times a minute: what are the plans for the day? I miss my friends in Arkansas–the ones you could pop in on, or call and say ‘we’re comin’ over, get the coffee on (Where IS my coffee, Shannon!?) And it dawns on me that I really have to start all over again with all my background because lots of people here don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, and these things take time. So I feel all lonely and wonder where I fit in, and worry that people are just being nice to me because they feel sorry for me because I’m really that annoying person who is totally intense and shares too much the first time I talk to someone. So my insecurity makes me all irrational and  tight faced, and I’m sure I’m missing out on everything EVEN THOUGH I have been invited to many things. I keep wondering why I feel random bouts of depression, and Dan reminds me that TIME is the answer, and that feeling at the bottom of the roller coaster is totally normal when you move to a new place and reality sets in.

Despite everything, though, the great thing is that I know we are supposed to be here. I feel excited and hopeful for the plans God has in store for us. For me. I don’t know yet how my day to day life is going to shake down once school starts and I can go to a Bible study and we get into more of a routine. I know that sooner than later I’ll find my place here in this community–the people here have been awesome to me, and I’m so thankful for being included so far. I know it’s going to be alright, even though I panic once in a while.

It’s about trusting, really. And letting go. Which I do when I ride roller coasters, by the way.  I love those wooden rickety ones that make you feel like you are going to fly right out of your seat. I purposely go slack and not hold on because I like the feeling of being held in, even when I think I’m going to fall out. The less I resist the twists and jerks, the smoother the ride feels. If I’m clenching on for dear life, I get whiplash.

Holy Cow, what a ride.

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The cataclysmic event of moving across the country and settling into new routines, new church, new friends, new temperatures, new LIFE–leaves me with so much to say I don’t know where to start. So I’ll begin with a word:

GRATEFUL.

Grateful for so much. But first for the trees. I forgot about trees. I forgot what it’s like to live in and around them. On my back deck I can see and hear a Quaking Aspen–taller than the house, leaves flashing silver in the wind. Then there are the Evergreens. Tall and close–home to woodpeckers; surrounding me with beauty, tucking me away from the busyness of life. I feel like I’m on an extended retreat here, right in my own house.  I needed to be away from this part of the country for awhile to appreciate what I took for granted. I didn’t really notice before and now I can’t stop staring. I found an old, old tree on a nearby trail–big knots, mammoth trunk. I waved hello, and wondered if it had been there even before the college in 1883. I wanted to know what it could tell me.

Also, I was glad no one saw me wave at the tree.

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