coffee and houses

In my busiest season, we have decided to move. I have never been more stressed and my house has never been cleaner.

The other day, Tess was asked what if some married couple wanted to buy our house and start a family. I got more than a little misty and told her that was exactly who me and her dad were when we walked through those doors.
When we signed our life away.

It has been a weird process for me.
The packing up.
The moving on.
The leaving things behind.

I know it is time.
But. Oh. My. Heart. 
And let's be honest, it will just be a few miles down the road.
It doesn’t help that I have been listening to Miranda Lambert’s, "The House That Built Me" on repeat for weeks now. I  know this isn't the house I grew up in, but it is in every way possible the house I have grown in.

I knew things would be fast, and I honestly haven’t had much time to shop or think or do anything besides shove some winter clothes and a fondue set into the tower of boxes in my garage.
The realtors joked that the house would go fast and I kept joking to my friends how we would sell our home and have no where to go. I warned them to clear out some guest bedrooms for us. That soon we would be homeless. A few who know me well retorted that I love homeless people so I shouldn't have a problem with it.

My joke might have some truth to it.
We had five offers in less than that many days. All well above asking price.
This weekend we were on the other end and traipsed through home after home after home.
The problem was that they all just looked like houses to me.
With identical floor plans and yards that seem way too small.

Overwhelmed on all fronts in my life I called in sick a few days ago so that I could work.
I hoped to get a shower, mow the yard, have the nail in my tire removed, read a few chapters for grad school and grade about a million papers from my new home away from home…Starbucks.

On my way into the parking lot I saw a man on a bike who obviously hadn’t showered in weeks.
He wore layers of clothes in the hot rain and had a good half dozen overflowing plastic shopping bags hanging from his handlebars. He parked in the field behind Starbucks and Waffle House and was picking up aluminum cans.  I stopped. Rolled down my window and asked if I could buy him breakfast. Preferably something with hash browns on the side. Even through the layers of dirt I could see him blush. He assured me that he still had some peanut butter and crackers and that my kindness was unnecessary. I said of course it was unnecessary, that is the definition of kindness.  But I have done this before, and know that it is more of fear of being turned away than anything else. So, I pushed. I asked if I could at least go inside Starbucks and get him some breakfast. 
He said, "Maybe. Just something small." 
“How do you like your coffee?” I asked.
“Just a little bit,” he said.

I ordered for the both of us.
One with cream and another without. Both cups larger than they needed to be.
I went back outside with arms full and let him choose a pastry.
I told him my name. Asked for his. And tried to look him in the eye, but it was all a little much for him. 
He looked down, nibbled on his coffee cake and sipped.
“Tony,” he said.
I sat.
I didn’t even need to ask more than his name.
As soon as I sat he started talking.
He told me about his brother. They were only 13 months apart and they did everything together.
His last job he said, they got paid 17$ an hour.
And this was an exorbitant amount of money to him. 
He said they both set their watch to ring on the hour so that they could feel 17$ richer every time it went off.
His brother got sick.
He didn’t get better.
17$ an hour with no health insurance didn’t go quite as far as they thought it would.
He died last summer.
Tony never recovered.
Words just poured out of him. Like maybe he hadn’t had the chance to talk to anyone besides himself in a while. 
I am a terrible listener. I interrupt. I one up. I get distracted. I mostly just sit there and wait for my turn to talk.
But with Tony, I just listened and ate my croissant.
I handed him a few granola bars that they were just giving away inside to people who happily spend four dollars on coffee, while this guy picked up trash just a few yards away.
I tucked a twenty in between the bars so he would find it later.

I told him I needed to go do some homework.
He thanked me for the coffee.
I thanked him for his story.

We accepted an offer on our house.
We made an offer an another.
In all of this, when I feel overwhelmed. Or like playing Miranda Lambert one more time.
When I can’t find the pants I want to wear because I think they might be packed.
Or the uncertainty of where I will live, what school my kids will go to, if our offer will be accepted, what will happen if it doesn't, if my old house will pass inspection or appraise well, if we can afford any of it,  and a million other questions and uncertainties that swirl.
I try to think about Tony instead.
Those questions are much simpler and more important.
Where will he sleep? What will he eat? Is he warm? Is he hungry? 

I’ve looked for him and his bike every day since but I have not seen him again.
I hope I do. 

I hope we both find our way home.


(confession - I posted this exactly three years ago and called it Losing Jesus. All of it still feels true)

I think Mary got gypped. I mean she bore the Christ child. In a freaking stable. And I’m betting that the world’s only perfect man wasn’t the perfect toddler. Being without sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that he slept through the night or never went through the terrible twos. The bible never mentions how she rocked him to sleep, or kissed his scraped knees, read him Goodnight Moon until she had it memorized, made his favorite dinner, or got up with him a billion times a night when he had an ear infection.  As a matter of fact the only thing the bible mentions of her parenting (Or anything at all of Jesus’s life from age 1-33) is the not-so-flattering story in Luke where she literally leaves him in another town.

"Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.  After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Luke 2: 41-49 NIV

 In other words. They lost him. Jesus. Their son, oh, and also the Christ. And not just for a few minutes. But for THREE days. This is not the most flattering portrayal of a mom who has her stuff together. To add insult to injury, the very first words that show up in red in the bible are a 12 year old son, stating the obvious to his mom. Who was probably frantic and angry and so happy to find him safe and sound, so she could ground him for the next 12 years. And Jesus doesn’t hang his head sheepishly like he just got caught. Or apologize for forgetting to mention his layover. Instead he acts like it was soooo obvious. Because of course, preteens even 2000+ years ago, knew way more than their moms.

 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Luke 2: 49

And I read that, and immediately feel better about my parenting skills. I mean sure I lost my son once in a sporting good store even before he could walk. But it only took me a few minutes to notice and begin searching frantically under all the racks before I finally found him 100 yards away hiding under some clearance ski gear. And another time, the hubs and I split up at the grocery store to knock out our list faster. I find him ten or so minutes later with my hands overflowing with cereal and juiceboxes and asked him where the cart was before I dropped everything in the middle of aisle 7. He looked back at me frantically, saying, “I thought you had the cart”. We both took off running and eventually found the empty cart in the produce section with our sweet 5 month old little girl happily gnawing on the handle. Neither of those are going to win me “mom of the year”. But I’ve never lost my kids for more than say 15 minutes. Much less three days in a completely different town. At least not yet. And this wasn’t just any 12 year old. This was the Christ. And they lost him. They lost Jesus.

But I do it too all the time.  Maybe not leave my kids in a different city and not notice for a few days. But I’m just as guilty of losing Jesus. Of leaving him behind. Of moving on without him. Of not even noticing that he is gone. For days. Weeks. Sometimes longer.

And then you have to do exactly what his mom did.

Start looking. Backtrack. Maybe even go back to the last place you saw him. Maybe he didn’t go anywhere. You did.

 This Lenten season I have had a hard time feeling it. I haven’t given anything up. I haven’t written a single thing about Lent. I haven’t gotten up early every morning. Some Sundays I didn’t even go to church. And when my son asked me if the Easter bunny was real. I told him the truth. They will not be waking up to Easter baskets and there are not nice new outfits to slip into.  Easter is my absolute favorite holiday. But this year I’m having a hard time with the commercialization part. Don’t worry, we still dyed eggs and hunted them more than once (tonight in the dark with flashlights which is the best way to do it). But I wondered why we celebrate probably the most significant day of our religion with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. And I worry that my kids might be missing the point. And that maybe I have lost some of it as well.

 But I’m starting to think that stuffing plastic eggs with change and candy and hiding them in the dark is teaching them more than I think. Or at least teaching me something.

Because maybe part of Easter is about the finding.
Finding what was lost.
Finding what was hidden.
What was there all along.