Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"In the Palm of Your Hand..."

"Embosomed deep in Thy dear love,
   Held in Thy law, I stand:
Thy hand in all things I behold,
   And all things in Thy hand.
Thou leadest me by unsought ways,
Thou turn'st my mourning into praise."

I have lived in 50 houses, 10 states, and 44 cities, towns, villages, or municipalities in my lifetime.  Lived, mind you, not just visited. I have packed and unpacked, been assigned or chosen a bedroom, decided which drawer to put the silverware in and which cupboard best housed the plates versus the glasses.  I have repainted or papered hundreds of walls….bedrooms in pink, lilac, pale blue, cabbage roses, mint green or Laura Ashley stripes as well as more than my share of the Navajo white which is the standard “neutral” for most rental properties. I can map the trajectory of my life in color trends for kitchens from 50’s diner aqua through avocado, harvest gold, Williamsburg blue, persimmons, cobalt, khaki, butter yellow and periwinkle…back to cobalt blue and white again.

I have learned to assimilate myself into an empty house so quickly that I can throw a dinner party the night after the move…every picture hung, the pantries organized (call me if you’d like a tip or two), a genuine “Welcome Home” mat in place at the front door.  That said, I find change unsettling.  The biggest demon I’ve had to wrestle to the ground is the one that threatens me with its insidious suggestions of homelessness and destitution. 

At the mere hint of a move my heart pounds, and I need to call my Nomads Anonymous sponsor.  I begin to burrow in deeper and become obsessed with finding the next “right place”, scouring the classified and real estate sections of newspapers (and now the internet) and trolling neighborhoods for rental or “For Sale” signs.

Last Friday I posted a piece that was based on an old Allison Krauss song off her “Now that I Found You” CD.  Writing it made me long for its voice the way I want chocolate after watching an episode of Emeril Live on Food Network during Valentine’s week. 

I must have played
"In the Palm of Your Hands," a hundred times over the weekend and was reminded again and again of a move that had a life-transforming effect on my view of the somewhat nomadic life I’ve lived. 

It was 1997 and we had adopted, and brought home, our twin daughters only a few days after moving into a wonderful stone cottage.  OUr older daughter was a gentle, generous, and happy eight-year-old with only one dream…becoming a ballerina.  We loved our home.  The opportunity to live there had come at a time when we were living on a shoestring after relocating to a large city so that I could participate in a global initiative that was very close to my heart.  Initially we rented a sweet house near the project’s headquarters, but when the owner told us that he really needed to sell it before our lease was up, we realized that finding something in our budget would be near impossible.  So we did what we had always done when faced with insurmountable odds…we prayed. 

When the opportunity to rent the charm-filled stone cottage suddenly came into our experience we were thrilled…and grateful.  It was going to be perfect for our small family of five.  It was in the neighborhood where our daughter had already begun attending school after our move from Colorado, near her ballet studio and a short commute from  where my husband and I worked…which was no small miracle in this city.

By the time the girls were six months old we were happily planning for the holidays.  That’s when we received a call from our landlord who informed us that our wonderful, cozy cottage was an environmental hazard for our daughters.  We would have to put all of our things in big black plastic bags and move to a hotel.  Within hours we went from being nestled in our candlelit cottage to facing the harsh light of a large residence hotel lobby where we stood with three small suitcases, baby paraphernalia, our daughter’s schoolbooks, backpack, dance bag, a teddy bear and a very shaken eight year old child who didn’t understand what had turned her life upside down…anymore than I did.  

How had we gotten here?

We were assigned a room. I had all three children asleep in a bed and in portable cribs, and I had unpacked suitcases before my own terror hit.  And boy did it hit.  I felt traumatized.  The honoraria for my project was gone, I had a healing practice but the phone patients called and reached me on was back in the quarantined cottage (this was before I had a cell phone) and my husband’s work, although satisfying, was not consistent.  Our daughter’s school would not let her continue to attend if it was discovered that we weren’t living in the very desirous neighborhood (whose residents it served exclusively), but were living in a hotel forty minutes away. 

On top of that, we had only one car. In order for my husband to get to the office where he could accept the  temporary projects he was being offered, he would have to take our daughter to her school and pick her up later in the day…which meant he would have to leave work well before the end of the work day…which didn’t bode well for him being considered for a permanent hire.   Her ballet studio--her real home away from home, the place where she felt most secure--was another forty minutes away.   Her school schedule would require her dad to pick her up and bring her back to the hotel after school for a few hours, before one of us would have to take her back into the city, a city internationally known for its horrific commuter traffic, to attend her ballet lessons and rehearsals. 

I asked myself again, “
How have we gotten here?”

Regret, self-doubt, bitterness were tearing at my spiritual poise.  What had we been thinking when we moved to this part of the country?  Were we that naïve?  We had no money for a down payment or a lease deposit even if we could have found a house in our price range in the third most expensive housing market in the nation.  We didn’t even have enough money to go home to Colorado.  Within a month our hotel stay (which had been paid for by the owner of the cottage) would run out.  It seemed that all my lifelong demons had come to roost on my shoulders and were cackling with glee.  Homelessness and financial destitution were knocking at the door and I didn’t know what we could do to keep them at bay.

I was up all night studying and praying.  For the next two weeks after my husband and daughter left for work and school, I would put the twins in their double stroller and would walk the miles of hallways in the hotel singing hymns and praying, listening quietly, for a spiritual solution. 

I asked myself over and over, “
How had we gotten here?”

One evening after a particularly difficult day, I offered to drive our daughter into the city for her ballet lessons. I needed a break from the miles of patterned carpet that I seemed to be drowning in.    My husband was only too willing to stay back in the hotel with the twins and avoid the traffic back into the city until the next morning.

As she and I made our way across the crust of snow and ice in the hotel parking lot, I felt tears of despair begin to freeze on my cheeks.  The Jeep started on the first try, gratefully.  As we sat there waiting for the car to warm up, our daughter reached her small mittened hand across the console between us and into my own.   I felt as if we were so alone.  My own mother had faced years of impending homelessness following my dad’s sudden passing when I was just out of high school and we were left without any resource but prayer.  She had prayed and each day we were cared for.  But it seemed so much more daunting now that I was the mom and I was the one praying.  I missed my mom and my sisters.  Most of all I missed the feeling of being secure and safely nestled in a home. 

Our daughter must have sensed my need to feel connected to a chapter in our lives when we were a family living under our own roof in a little house that we loved with grandmas, aunts and uncles nearby, and our own little coffeehouse to go to work at each day.  She reached into the CD case and pulled out Allison Krauss’ “Now That I’ve Found You” and popped it into the player.  Her voice worked its magic on my heart.  It reminded me that I
had known the peace and joy of home, and through our coffeehouse, we had shared it with others.  By the time Allison’s voice reached “In the Palm of Your Hand,” I was ready for its message:

"If I could have the world and all it owns
A thousand kingdoms, a thousand thrones
If all the earth were mine to hold
With wealth my only goal

I'd spend my gold on selfish things
Without the love that Your life brings
Just a little bit more is all I'd need
'Til life was torn from me

I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees
Your grace provides for me

If I should walk the streets no place to sleep
No faith in promises You keep
I'd have no way to buy my bread
With a bottle for my bed

But if I trust the One who died for me
Who shed His blood to set me free
If I live my life to trust in You
Your grace will see me through

I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees

If I could have the world
If I could have the world and all it owns."

The same insidious question presented itself again. “How had we gotten here?”  But this time I had an answer.  We had gotten there by choosing to leave a life that was comfortable and secure to move to a place where we could engage in a project of such far-reaching spiritual impact that we had had to throw all caution to the wind and jump into an abyss so vast and fathomless that all we could do was trust in God’s care. 

We were
not alone.  We were in good company.  Not only were we surrounded day in and day out by colleagues, and their families, who had also made huge sacrifices of self to participate in this initiative, but we were surrounded by spiritual heroes of reform like Jesus, Mary Baker Eddy, Moses, Paul, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, who had surrendered personal comfort and the guarantee of home and hearth for a life that was heart-driven, divinely guided, purposeful and deeply devoted to global transformation and individual wellness.  I was not alone…and neither were my husband, children or colleagues. 

I found a sense of peace that night.  I dropped our daughter off at the ballet studio and went to a local coffeehouse to pray and enjoy the sense of home I found there, with other mothers, students, homeless men and women, and executives…in the palm of His hand. 

I would love to say that things resolved quickly.  Rather it was sometimes a path that felt confusing, messy and scary…but it also provided amazing opportunities to learn about the kindness of strangers, the generosity of friends, the warmth of coffeehouses, bookstores,  and our local church…but most of all I learned that I truly

“…rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be…”

There were months when the solution to our dilemma seemed to keep us separated from one another by thousands of miles, months that were full of personal heartache at being away from my children, but also full of the joy I found in serving a purpose that I truly believed would change our world for the better.  During those days when I ached to hold my babies, I would remember that since we were all living in the palm of His hand, we were never farther apart than a thumb and a pinkie.  That when God closed his hand…around the globe to hold the whole world close…we were even closer to one another.

That chapter of my life was one that taught me that I could feel a sense of home whether I was living in the corner of a generous friend’s studio apartment or in a spacious home on a mountaintop, a penthouse apartment or the backseat of a car.  Home was found in the palm of His hand, not in the world and all it owned.

I am grateful this week to be reminded of this song and the deep sense of home it fills me with.  Some days our twins are just a dozen or so feet away from where I am working late at night, sleeping under their soft, worn-pale petal pink and spring green quilts after we have read to them from the latest chapter book... listening to their daddy sing hymns on the CD player in their room, and other days they return to their dad's apartment after school to play with their beloved dog, Daisy and fall asleep to their daddy singing to them in person or their stepmom reading to them before they nod off. One daughter is in San Francisco starting her life as an adult with an apartment, roommates and a new job.    Our son comes home at night to sleep upstairs in his bedroom under the eaves, but even he is often out late with friends driving them back to the dorm or enjoying a concert.  And my former ballet dancer now lives and goes to school in South Africa and I must calculate time zones before picking up the phone to hear the voice that is dearer to me than I have words to explain.   But no matter what each of us is doing or how far we might seem to be from one another, we are all “In the palm of His hand”... as close as a thumb and a pinkie.  And when He wraps His hand around the world….we are so close that we can whisper to one another…or sing if the Spirit moves us, that…

“His grace will see us through…”

K (& J)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a beautiful and candid view of your heart. It lifts mine and helps me to remember that we are all one family and that we are connected and sheltered in Love.