Thursday, April 23, 2015

what are you waiting for?

I was perched precariously on the kitchen counter with a dripping paintbrush in hand when they arrived - two friends I hadn't seen since our college days.

When you move into a new house {that is actually really old} there is work to be done.  This is one of the reasons you haven't heard much from me lately.

There has been painting of walls and cleaning of corners and drilling of holes that seem to never end.  And all the while there is still the usual laundry piling high, dishes getting crusty, and kids who demand to be fed.  Sometimes I feel like there is so much work to be done and not enough time to do it all.  Anybody with me?

If I'm not careful my to-do list can grow so big and bossy that it blocks my view of what is really important.  I can set my eyes and my heart on it's glaring demands and suddenly I am left standing behind a wall of tasks that won't let me move forward.
Have you ever felt 'stuck'?
This is how we get there.

At times like this I am grateful God made me a writer.
In the middle of all this working the words keep coming - perhaps even at a faster pace.  There is something about the monotony of painting walls and scrubbing floors that relaxes my mind and soul enough to let something true run freely through me without getting hung up on overanalyzing thoughts and distracted frustration.  The words push themselves gently in between the tasks on my list and guide my thoughts back to a greater vision God has given me for my life, a vision that centers on Him and not home improvement.
Do you know what the words have been telling me lately?

Do. Not. Wait.

Maybe you've heard them too.

Do not wait
until all your kitchen cabinets are painted
until you've unpacked every box
until the random pieces of furniture are out of your carport
until your house is perfectly clean
until you find just the right outfit
until the kids are just a little older
until you learn just a little bit more
until you have just a little more money
until you feel just a little more confident
until everything is just. exactly. right.

I knew they were coming - those two college friends and their gang of little ones.
One of them had reached out to me just weeks before about a stirring in her heart that nudged her towards me.  In response I picked up the phone, called her, and suddenly all those miles that separate Colorado from South Carolina disappeared.  We talked for over an hour and I knew this was something worth pursuing, a piece of something bigger God was doing in our lives.  So when she texted the following week to tell me she was making a last minute trip that would land her minutes up the road from me

I hopped off the counter when I heard the knock at the door.  The dishes were literally a tower of filth in the sink and the dust bunnies scurried across the floors and we would be leaving in an hour to go out of town but that could all wait.  I never hesitated when I told them to come.  I didn't want to miss an opportunity to get out from behind that list and see where a few uncertain steps in the right direction would take me.

Was the house in guest-ready condition?
   Not even close!
But my heart threw out the welcome mat.

When things are messy and the work piles up, we can't just close up shop.  We'll get buried under the work and it's hard to breathe when you're buried.  It is at precisely the moment when we don't have a moment to spare that we have to set our to-do list aside, open the door and let in fresh air and the real people who can shift our eyes back onto a greater vision.

I've learned that if I wait until my home is perfectly prepared to receive guests I will never let a single person through the front door.
I don't wait, and neither should you.  Because, guess what?
In all my years of inviting people into my far-from-perfect home I have never had anyone refuse to come inside or appear hurried to leave. {And if they did we probably shouldn't be friends anyway, know what I mean?}

Over the past few weeks I have invited dozens of guests into our new home.  My husband thinks I'm crazy.  They have had to step over paint cans and bear with me as I try to find something they need in a box buried in the basement.  I have offered drinks in paper cups and given tours of of weed-filled gardens because the color explosion on branch and bush is just too beautiful to miss.

The incompleteness all around doesn't matter much when we focus on each other and look into eyes and speak into hearts.
The more deeply we connect with the space inside each other, 
the less the condition of the space around us matters.  

If I had kept the doors closed and the guests out until our house was 'ready' I would have missed so much these past few weeks.
I've heard stories
and dreamed dreams
and wrestled through tension
and laughed with people
and cried with people
and prayed desperate prayers with people
and watched as God has tidied up my mind and soul while whole rooms of my house remain filled with clutter.

Yes, I must keep plugging away at that darn to-do list.  But I won't let that work block me completely from the more important work.  The cleanliness of my closets and the arrangement of my furniture are not really what matter most.  It's okay to neglect some of the lesser things for something better.

My friends, each of us has something precious we are responsible for moving forward and that will never happen if we
stand still
or hole up
or throw in the towel
or make excuses
or spend our lives waiting until the conditions are perfect.

Let's make a deal.
Just for today,
don't let the less important keep you from the most important.