I think I can officially say that I am no longer moving. There is only one cardboard box still in use in my entire house, a victory that cannot be understated. Last week, I started counting down, first by excitedly proclaiming to Paul, “BABE! There are only FIVE cardboard boxes in the whole house right now!” which slowly shifted to “LESS THAN FIVE cardboard boxes!”. Then came “All the cardboard boxes that are being used are in the same room now!”, which I did proclaim to be a victory, although in all honesty, it only happened because we were having friends over, and I was trying to make as many rooms as possible look “lived-in”, not “just-moved-in”. And now, here we are. I’ve left this last box for a few days, in the same place on the floor in the middle of our “office”, dragging this process out for some unknown reason. My guess is there’s something that sounds even scarier in my subconscious to be “Finished Unpacking” rather than “Almost Finished Unpacking.”
Either way, the moving stage of moving seems to be closing, which means walking into the next open door. Everyone tells me this is the “Normal Life” stage. This is the point where you stop keeping your dishes, and your Crate-and-Barrel-registry-never-been-used glasses on the kitchen floor, and start using them in cupboards and all, like a grown-up.
So far, this new stage seems to involve a lot of shopping. All at once, we are cleaning supply shopping, bookshelf shopping, and salt and pepper shaker shopping.
Once we find those things, we are kitchen island shopping, rug shopping, couch-and-chair-really-anything-to-sit-on shopping, and pet shopping. (...hahaha we are totally not, that was a joke for our landlord, Larry, in case he ever reads this…)
I don’t know if I’ve ever said the next statement, but I am sick of spending money. We’ve been eating leftover beans and rice for the last three meals because now we are just sick of stores, and are putting off basic grocery store shopping.
Shopping, this idea that we go places and pick and choose what we want, what matches the other things we already have, or what is in our price range, seems to be a theme for more than just physical items. We are finding ourselves church shopping, a term I am using yet strongly dislike, mostly because of the idea that we have control over where the Lord wants us to serve. That feels backwards to me, and yet I’m at a loss for how else to describe this process. Going to churches, and then getting in the car with Paul after, both looking at each other, one or the other of us starting with “Well, what did you think?”
Last Sunday was so rough I cried (...hard) in the car while we were driving home, and Paul pulled over (a great husband) so he could talk me through it. We pulled into a mostly empty parking lot to a Marriot hotel, which had a big, empty front porch, and eight or so white rocking chairs. “Let’s go sit,” I said, secretly hoping Paul could run inside and grab me more tissue- the supply of drive-through napkins in the glove compartment was rather low.
We sat, and as I caught my breath, I caught my thoughts, too.
“I just don’t want to become a watered-down Christian.” I finally confessed, still sniffling, turning to Paul while rocking back and forth, pulling my knees up towards myself. “I knew that we had a great community in Boulder, but we were also both in leadership positions, and I don’t want to be...I don’t know. I just want to be challenged. I don’t want to be lukewarm. I'm afraid if we don't find the right church, we won't be passionate anymore.”
Shopping for churches feels like sifting through all the junk emails in my inbox. There are so many of them, each store claiming this deal or that, 30% OFF- TODAY ONLY!, all brightly colored and loud, but I don’t want to read, or even open, any of them. I don’t need a church that is shiny, that knows how to advertise to people, that can look cool, that’s trying to put on a show, keep as many people around as possible. I need a church that is simple, and has a heart for people like I do. I need a church that isn’t afraid of mess and fiest and honesty and grunge, a church that isn’t afraid of people like me.
We agreed, on the porch, that we will find it. The Lord will provide everything that we need, although it might not be in the form we thought. We talked about our friends in New Orleans, who have community, and yet are pushing the community they live in to love Jesus deeper, give Him more. They, although they are not pastors, have become the spiritual examples for a small group of people.
Selfishly, I look at their lives, and think wow, that looks amazing, and that looks hard. They are essentially missionaries to a church that already exists. The laziness in me would rather be pushed by someone else, than be the one pushing. I’ve always moved full speed ahead because there was a crowd of people around me doing the same thing- but now? Now it feels like it’s just me, Paul, and our God. Trying to go full speed ahead, but on our own, our legs feel heavier, and our muscles seem to get tired quicker.
We find ourselves not only church-shopping, but accidentally “friend-shopping” as well. I’ll think to myself “Does this person make me feel like myself when we spend time with them?” I’m going to repeat that question, because writing it down makes it seem more absurd the second time through. I’m trying hard to be myself, to love who I am, who God made me to be in all situations. And I’m giving this other person the power to handle that when I ask if they make me feel more like myself. How silly of me!
When I take a hot sec to stop thinking about all the “Are we getting along okay? Is this double date going well? Will they like the food I made?” I actually do start to be myself, regardless of who is in front of me. When I get out of my head and start listening to the potential friend candidate I am sitting in front of, the whole thing seems to go a lot better.
Paul went to lunch with someone from his seminary, and afterwards, I immediately started battering him with questions, trying to analyze what the odds were of us becoming friend couples with the other student and his wife, and how long that would take based on their lunch conversation topics. Paul just sighed and shook his head at me.
“I don’t know, Kait,” he said patiently, “Honestly, if we do all become friends, I’m expecting it to take a really, really long time.”
Oh. So not next week, then? Okay.
I thought we were ridiculous when shopping for knives took us six hours. Shopping for a butter dish took two days, and two different trips to Home Goods. Shopping for the intangible parts of A Normal Life is already taking infinitely more trust in God, and equally infinite amounts of time and patience.
I know it’s good, and most of the time I realize that when I’m walking with God, I turn into a child who runs along the path for twenty steps, racing ahead, before turning around, cupping my hands around my mouth to make my voice louder, leaning forward and yelling, “HURRY UP! WE GOTTA GET THERE!”
Jesus’s patience is perfect, and good for the most infinite of situations, so I imagine that in response, he would keep walking at his pace, looking down and shaking his head, with a smile. Like a dad who isn’t going to walk any faster, knowing that if He did, they would be too early, but enjoying the enthusiasm of his daughter, all the same.