Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Bless This House (Upon leaving our first family home)

See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them. Deuteronomy 1:8

Dear Red Vine Family,

How are you? I’ve been missing our Friday talks.

I realize I’ve been a little MIA lately.

I guess it started the week before Thanksgiving when we thought we’d just meet with our real estate agent to see about selling our house in the next six months. By the time the meeting was over, we’d agreed to put money down on a lot in Puyallup and put our own house up for sale the following week. We signed papers full of contingencies, wondering if any of this could even be possible for us.

But, we found this neighborhood. And this plan that felt like home. And this plot of land we felt we already belonged to. And for the first time in a very long time, we wanted to see what it would feel like to reach forward in faith for something just plain amazing. To stretch forward into promised land dirt, to feel it grow between our toes. To plant, and to yield. To live in the land.

But first, before the land and the toes bit, we had to sell our current home. With the same determination we had used to buy this blessed house we endeavored to finish it up: every last project, every unpainted corner, every inch of trim still needing replacement. We painted, remodeled the last bathroom, decorated, and staged. And two weeks later (it took a little longer than we originally thought it would), they dug the hole in our front yard and put up a “For sale” sign.

It’s funny, really: this was supposed to be a flip house. You know, the kind where you move in, work your butts off, and in a few short months or years make a killing?

That’s what we thought was going to happen, anyways.

But God meant it as our tabernacle in the desert, as we have wandered and gathered manna and breast milk and wondered if God had forgotten us.

We bought this house at the peak of the market, with zero down, spurred on by our first baby growing in my belly. It didn’t matter if every surface had to be removed, painted over, remade. It didn’t matter that I would spend months walking barefoot and pregnant on concrete and years carrying our babies up and down stairs without a banister. We had no idea we really couldn’t afford to make the changes this house begged for. We had no idea we wouldn’t have the money or the know-how or the energy to make it all over. We bought it anyways.

We bought it even though we couldn’t make a decision–any decision–without a knock-down, drag-out fight. We screamed at each other in closets as our families painted adjoining rooms and pretended not to hear. We fought over the apple tree, the broken-down fence, the rats in the attic, every closet organizer.

We had no idea how crazy an unfinished house can make a pregnant woman on bedrest. But, we found out.

And I’m not saying I tried to chop the dilapidated fence down in freezing temperatures while I was six months pregnant. Or that I got my big-bellied butt carried in the house by my husband as I kicked and screamed at said-fence. But I’m not saying it didn’t happen, either.

We agreed on one thing: there were enough rooms in this house for babies galore. We wanted a whole crew. We said we’d stack them like Hewey, Dewey, and Louie: 3 to a bunk.

And then we lost Caleb: this house we’d bought in a hurry just for him. And his nursery, with its fancy doors it took both grandfathers to install, this nursery with two family’s worth of shower gifts, stood still and empty.

This nursery stood empty for months as his memorial. And when I was ready, and certain that my first son was climbing his way through the hills of heaven, I found a place in my heart for another. I took his nursery down, all in one day. And I made room for a rainbow.

We didn’t know pregnancies could be cruel. That our deepest dream could cost so much. That we would age and crack under the pressure, that we would count weeks as if they were lifetimes. We didn’t know that high-risk meant high-cost, and that I would sit still on the couch for months. We couldn’t have known the costs would stagger, demolishing our remodeling budget and making a mockery of our five-year plan.

But then Abraham was born. The day we brought our Rainbow home: ah, that had to be this house’s best day ever. His Daddy carried him in the house, and it didn’t matter that the kitchen cabinets were still that ugly brown. It didn’t matter that the hill out back was waist high in grass.

As aunts and uncles crowded in around us at the kitchen sink for his first bath, this house swelled with joy. And when we crammed over fifty people into such a small space to celebrate Abraham’s baptism, this house stretched.

This house has known a pulsing, beating, always-stretching life. It has been remade while enduring a litany of beatings in the process. Its walls and floors have been covered in everything from squash puree to black sharpie, stuck with nerf darts, and taped over with miles of art projects. For every nail pounded in, a hole was patched. For every picture hung, another dish dropped to scar the hardwoods.

Back Camera

This house has held its breath. Those months we waited day after day to see if Sam’s heart would keep beating inside of mine, this house held us close.

The grass grew green and lush that summer as Abraham toddled through the yard oblivious to our fears for his unborn brother. We fenced the yard as my belly grew, believing that there would be a miracle, believing Abraham would have a brother to chase around the yard.

This house heard prayers: the aching, middle of the night prayers of a mother begging for relief, the screaming and throwing beer steins prayers of grief, the breathless, tear-soaked prayers of gratitude, and the sweet-voiced prayers of little boys first acquainting themselves with Jesus.

This house hosted overnight and long-term guests as well as a family of guinea pigs, three baby showers, Dumbo and Neverland and Mickey birthday parties, two baptisms, gingerbread house parties, Christmas Eve shrimp fries and Christmas morning glee, Thanksgiving feasts and Passover Celebrations, three cousin camps, countless girl’s coffee dates, and families of friends for Saturday night dinners. This house has known filet mignon and fish sticks, with equal gusto and the perfect wine pairing.

This house has screened siblings’ future spouses. Something about this house: it knows who should go, and who needs to stay.

I have dressed this house up like a child in her Sunday best, and I have learned to live in its undone and unfinished and unmade.

I have learned to accept friendship that comes into my mess, into a house that may be almost sterile but is always messy, too. I have learned that true friends want a spot on my couch more than a spotless me. I’ve learned that the best friendships don’t see dishes in the sink. Best friends come and sit on your front porch when you can’t even let them in the house. They bring you coffee and swing on the porch swing and listen to a mama trying to normalize her baby’s open heart surgery tomorrow.

This house has brought me to a kicking and screaming humble. Of accepting that I’m not the most or the best because of where I live. Or what I drive. Or how much I weigh. Or where I buy my clothes.

This house has taught me patience. Or maybe that was just these years wandering through the desert. In this tabernacle. Of always having just enough, and learning how to say thank you and be grateful and have that be enough.

And this house has taught me to trust. To believe that God can break hardwoods to provide a new kitchen. That He provides in ways that don’t make sense. That where He wants us to go, He carves out a way.

This house has seen my deepest grief and highest joys, cradled my two living sons, and provided all the hard clay soil any grieving mama could ever need to shovel the sadness straight out of a heart. Every inch of garden dug in sorrow now buds in gratitude.

And on the eve of leaving this house, I marvel that so much life can be lived and so many lessons learned in 1600 square feet. I marvel that so much of what we thought would come, didn’t. That so much of what we thought was a given, wasn’t. That the people we thought we would always have can be taken from us. And that no matter what we brave, God is always with us.

So I leave with a decade of memories and a heart full. And I ask God to bless this house, for all the blessing and shelter and lesson it has been to us. May it be all that and more for the next family. And may God’s Spirit linger here, and lead us on.

Lead us on, to greener pastures for two growing boys. Lead us on, to an easier way and brighter days.

Amen.

For My Heart Warrior Son on Hard Days

For my dear, struggling, heart warrior-son:

Sometimes I don’t know how to help you but to put words down. God seems to talk to me through my fingers, charting a map through my fears, showing me the way home through this blog-tangle of words.

Did this start at your last doctor’s appointment? Or did it start several weeks into full-day school?

Your little mind, still sponge and light and weave of you and us, can’t quite tell yet. But somewhere, something finally sunk in, didn’t it? Somehow you finally saw the difference between you and the other kids. You realized in a long recess that there was no way to keep up. Or maybe you just found out, for the first time, that they invite you into games you cannot play.
I can’t tell most of the time when you’re being a stinker or if you just don’t know yet how to say “I can’t.” Or maybe you’re just a control freak who only plays what you want to play. But maybe that’s because you play what you CAN play for more than a burst of energy’s time. Either way, we’ve got to figure this out, son. Either way, we need to make sure you can play well with others.

I fight back tears and grip the steering wheel as I watch you play alone. I know something about myself that you might not know yet: Your mama is not good at “I can’t.”

She’s much better at “I’ll try harder.”

She’s much better at pushing harder. She’s still here because of that push. And you’re here because of it, too.

And the irony is that in disbelieving the “you can’ts” and “he won’ts”, trusting in the One who saves the “I’m too far gones” and raises the “dead-for-three-days,” I’ve come to know that He Can. And He Will.

But maybe He Can when I’ve come to the end of mine. Maybe He Reaches down when my push falls flat across the floor.

Maybe this Mama needs to stop willing, forging, fighting.

Maybe I, too, need a new way.

Your doctors say you’re an old soul. Most heart kids don’t start to wrestle limits for a couple more years. Most kids can’t even see what you’re now swallowing whole. But that doesn’t surprise any of us. You’ve always been Warrior. You kicked first, long before the trouble came.

Maybe we need new words, Son. Maybe we both need to voice our limits.

Maybe you can teach me when to stop before I’m chin-deep in cardiac arrest.

Maybe you can teach me your running-away trick, that fall-down-on-the-mat trick. Maybe you can show me how to get more oxygen when no one is listening. Maybe you can share some of that defiance when we’re both drowning just a bit.

You’re loud and you’re savage, and so often right.


But before you’re wild, you’re needy. And that’s where I want to meet you.
I don’t know how to meet you yet, but your dad and I are trying.

We’re praying, and we’re trusting in this God who makes you breathe ten hundred times a day.

We’re believing that this Father God of all who made you so special is going to fill your anger with understanding.

You, Warrior-son, Kicker, Defyer: you have purpose we won’t give up on.

You breathe meaning on that cold playground, and in the midst of this pain, I know: God foresaw all of this.

Where He sees, He provides.

. . . if I’m grateful to the Bridge Builder for the crossing of a million strong bridges, thankful for a million faithful moments, my life speaks my beliefs and I trust Him again. I fearlessly cross the next bridge.
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 I will sit in my car, welling up this pain for you. And I will pray “Thank You.”

I will believe in this mighty God, and I will say thank you for the provision already coming to us.

We will cross this bridge, just like all the others.


And when I have crossed yet another, I will try to teach you how to follow me across.

I love you, Son.

Always,
Your pushy mama

 

How to Know when God is on the Move

Do feel trapped in a hopeless situation? Do you feel like there’s no way out, and God’s forgotten you? Do you wonder if there is any hope for your broken marriage, your upside down finances, your stalled career, your dissolved dreams? Well, come join me at the table, friend, and let’s reevaluate your position. From where I’m sitting, your story’s just starting to get good. Continue reading

When You Hit the Same Wall All Over Again

Do you ever feel like you’re hitting the same wall again and again? That no matter how spiritual you think you’ve become, no matter how much counseling you get, you just keep making out with the pavement? Yeah. Me, too. But there’s hope. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrew 12:12-13 Continue reading

All the Rest is Fluff: The Broken Way

Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Esther 4:15-16 Continue reading

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