Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the oil that doesn't stop flowing

Having just started a new adventure living on my own, I'm extra aware right now of spaces that are empty and what filling looks like. When I moved into my apartment a few weeks ago, there were blank spaces to fill: a need for kitchen supplies, the bookshelf to unpack and arrange my books on, a couch that needed (and still needs) some pillows. My walls are white and all my frames and art are sitting on my desk waiting to be hung. My month has been spent buying and filling my new apartment to make it a home, functionally and aesthetically. Meanwhile, I anticipated (somewhat anxiously) lots of unfilled time by myself and learning how to adjust to the rhythm of living alone. The rhythm is different, and yet I've realized that time is filled pretty easily (especially once you get the internet hooked up). In many ways, I'm living the pace I was hoping to change when I left a full house: I fill up, escaping any emptiness I forsee. How can something made of nothing feel so heavy?

All this to say, this week I've been thinking a lot about being empty and being filled up. I feel a certain void because I'm spending this Christmas in California, working (all but the day of, anyway). I miss the Food Network cooking shows, sleeping in, baking and helping to plan the big meal, special outings with my nieces and nephews, even (gasp) the holiday travel. These have been my traditions for most of the last 9 years, for most of my adult life, really. Typically, these are the things that make my holiday full.

This morning I read a post in the New York Times about an adoptive parent who is learning how to not try to fill holes in the lives of her children that she can't, or wasn't meant to, fill. It made me reflect on my own life, how there are empty holes that I feel more acutely at some times than others. But it's not really my job to fill my life with things that might at the very least cover over those holes, if not fill. I leave them empty and believe that God will fill what we bring to Him. It reminded me of the communion passage at my church Sunday. It was a story from the Old Testament in which a woman's creditors come to collect what they're owed. But her husband has died, and she can't pay - so they threaten to take her children. The woman asks a prophet for help, and the man of God tells her to pour from her one jar of oil into any vessel that she's able to find. Her children go out and gather jars to bring for the oil, and that oil doesn't stop flowing until all the jars are filled. It's enough to pay what she owes, and then more to live on. The story is a miracle of God, and what is so amazing to me is that no jar is left empty. God fills every empty vessel.

Merry Christmas, and may you experience God filling your life with the light of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

moving out, moving on

So I moved out. I packed boxes with books and kitchen utensils and candle holders. My cookbooks filled their own box, the heaviest of all of them. I packed about five more boxes of kitchen items than I anticipated, and spent more than I'd budgeted to outfit my new kitchen, and still there are things - like plates, like a pot to boil water in - that I am missing. I folded blankets and sheets and clothes into more boxes and my suitcases. I took frames off the wall and used the tail end of the hammer to pull the nails out (is there a verb for that action? I couldn't find one just now). My friends came over and helped me take apart and put together a bookcase, fill a moving truck, carry my clothes still on their hangers and buy a fridge. And now I am moving in, putting all of my things in their own new homes inside my new home, making a home for me and for others (if even just for a few hours of their visit). My last night in my old house I was afraid I'd made one of the worst decisions of my life to date, and on the first evening in my new apartment I drank wine and danced like a fool because no one was watching and no one cared and I love new beginnings.

This is all moving, all the physical placement of things. But I realize I've been putting off some of the other moving, the moving on. And I don't mean moving on like forgetting, but like packing and taking it with me. This is what gets lost in between all of those little boxes I drew next to the items on my checklist. This one can't easily be checked off because it will take time and sometimes it happens not when I plan. It doesn't all fit in a box. But to help it along, I bought gifts for my old housemates (or should I say, my second family of brothers and sisters and nieces), one of which I didn't even give yet. And I keep putting off the writing of notes, the expression of how much they gave me and what I am taking with me and setting up in my new apartment. The generosity and perspective and acceptance and memories that weigh more than my full box of cookbooks and will be what makes this apartment a true home.