In the drive-thru line of the Oshkosh Starbucks where I’d previously met friends — try not to think about it, I thought — next to the Hobby Lobby where I picked up most of the fabric for projects for the girls — the scraps of which are now part of the quilt squares I’m cutting — try not to think about that — I just told Dave, “tall soy chai,” and was still. Fall creates a nostalgia for something; maybe summers of the soul I wasn’t ready to see die; maybe for the two-day period between the leaves’ peak and 48 inches of snow in the driveway. Fall’s coy; it’s fleeting, it’s momentarily beautiful. But it’s death we all think is beautiful and as I waited for my tea I tried not to think about that too much. Be still, I told myself.
“Be still,” I’m writing in loopy letters now, six hours away. “Be still, and know I am God,” the verse finishes, of course, but I’m stuck on the “Be still” part, because it’s first and “know I am God” is a lifetime thing, really. I can spend forever wondering about knowing, about I Am, about God. “Be still” seems a good place to stop. My loopy letters will someday become a print Dave’ll make by carving it out of a piece of wood and every time I walk by it in a hurry it’ll admonish me. I love when my walls admonish me.
He doesn’t know yet I’m creating this for myself. He’ll probably carve it for me, though, because he would agree. I should be still.
Before we pulled out of the parking lot at that Wisconsin Starbucks, though, my phone vibrated with an email from a Michigan friend. I’m here, and there, and both, all of it, all of them, at the same time. It was a divinely timed email, reminding me to stop thinking about the big whys and the big hows; my little story. Be still.
When we left for Wisconsin last week the leaves were golden and crimson and all those names of colors I only use in autumn. We stood on the shore of Lake Michigan and conceded summer was over, and that was OK, romantic even. We were alone on a roadside beach. Fog blurred the line between sky and water. It drizzled but the treeline was radiant. We skipped stones. Being still was natural.
This week, today, at home, every shade of brownish-gray and muted yellows illuminate our backyard view of the park; leaves float by on the slow-moving river. Today was nothing much except school, picking up a prescription, talking to the neighbor about the weather and birds. Sigh. Not romantic. Be still is simply a command that points out how un-still life can be with children underfoot, especially with big whys and hows tumbling loudly in my mind like shoes in the dryer: I can be really bad at living here when I let myself wander. Be still anyway.
Last weekend in Wisconsin Dave and I hugged our people and talked, held babies, sipped tea and ate pizza. Each time I meet them, I’m grateful they’re still there, still challenging me and loving me. Still, inexplicably, interested in me, in us.
I feel the distance, or the difference, sometimes. They can’t know how ugly parts of Lansing are to me yet, still — empty stores, empty lots, and yet a beautiful meadow they’ve sold to tear up for stores. Why? Lansing’s a place I’m learning to love because it doesn’t look like me. There’s tension here, in finding a home here next to the park where I encounter God almost every time …and realizing I’m often the only one in that park. There’s tension here, in serving and growing and wondering. There’s tension in leaving a place to find a new one. There’s tension here and I think that’s part of the point.
Lansing: this one’s not gonna be easy to love. Stay anyway. That’s what we heard.
So we came home to Michigan Monday morning and I’m living here, paying bills, doing math with Alice, changing diapers. It’s being still, a little. …. Moving reverberates some tension I’m still feeling, every time I come back from the last place I moved to. That’s normal. But this time, God’s got a patchwork of people catching us on the other side of this fall.
“You don’t understand that feeling until you move,” a lady told me after my message at church. I spoke on community, and church. I don’t know her; she remembered I’d had a column in the newspaper there; she knew my face. But she told me something I carried a while on the trip home: moving is hard, but it makes you stronger. Moving makes me hungry and cold and it’s awkward, but it’s also a natural time to seek out the essentials, and the essentials for us were a church, each other here at home, and more space. Community and solitude, the same as everyone on earth has ever felt, only more so. And being still: moving made me realize how much of that there was to be done — and how being still prepares me for those times I’m to move, or go and do something.
I’m not ready for a Be Still, but it’s coming. A squirrel came up to the door with an acorn as a warning. Oh yes, friend. It’s coming.