catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 4 :: 2011.02.25 — 2011.03.10


In the long winter’s wait

Lately, I often want to crawl into a snowy den and sleep until spring.  The bears have it good when it comes to waiting.

While nose-numbing cold and grayish slush drag down even the cheeriest of Wisconsin residents, this year the outdoor weather conditions are not what have me down.  Instead it’s the spiritual, emotional winter.  The in-between.  The long, slow time of unknowing.

I came back jobless from living overseas just after the deadline for graduate school applications.  For over a year I have waited with all career plans in suspension until I hear my application results.  Unable to buy a home until we hear from graduate schools, my family of four rents a small, two-bedroom apartment. 

We are a crowded bunch, outstaying our welcome.  In an old house converted into a duplex, the floors provide little sound control.  Our downstairs neighbors complain.  I bought an electric piano and headphones so I could play piano after the kids were in bed, but the neighbors complained about the up-and-down noise the piano pedal.  One of my son’s kindergarten friends visited and at 4:30 in the afternoon they complained of the sound of laughter keeping them from napping. 

“You have the smallest house in the whole world,” said another play-date visitor bitterly on her way out the door.

We lived overseas for six years and consider our lives fairly pared down to essentials, but a family of four just doesn’t fit neatly in a home with only two closets.  Clothing drools out the edges of overstuffed dresser drawers.  A beanbag chair fills the corner of floor between my children’s bunk bed and a wall, accessible by climbing over a toy cabinet.  Wrapping paper and picture frames line the wall behind a rocking chair.  Stacks of boxes, camera equipment, sweaters line the wall beside my bed. 

I consider myself a tidy person.  But “everything in its place” requires that everything have a place.  When we get new library books, they have no place on the bookshelf.  “Maybe you can wear them around in a backpack,” joked a friend.  I may try that.

Winter can feel sparklingly beautiful and exciting for skiers and ice skaters for a while, but eventually most of us tire of not seeing growing things.  We want bright sun and seed-planting time and action and sunlight.  We want big open spaces for running around.  We know that the clarity and motion of springtime are coming, but they look so far off.  And it gets hard to be patient.

After visiting our home, a friend wrote to tell us that her three-year-old couldn’t stop talking about our wonderful life.  She loved the bunk beds (separate twin beds would never fit) and the non-drafty windows (she lives in a big old farmhouse).  She also saw our two kids and asked her mom for a brother. 

In these months of waiting, I listen to the prayers my children have composed each night since they could talk.  “Thank you for the curtains, and for the walls, and for my bed, and for my pillow, for all of us together.”  As their eyes roam around the room, they name and thank, name and thank. 

God’s compassions are new every morning, says the sorrowful author of the book of Lamentations.  All winter long, the compassions keep coming.  While I focus myopically on the objects of my desire, God goes on planting goodness at my feet.  I am learning to name God’s compassions: name and thank God. 

Best of all, God’s compassions can overflow in my small apartment without taking an inch of floor space.

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