“Oh Lord, I have to pack!”

When the reality of our upcoming move finally hit me, it was like a tidal wave with water up the nose and an undertow that swamped me.

From my prayer journal:

“Lord, Today I have five hours at home to work on organizing and throwing stuff away. All I feel like doing is throwing up. I’m not kidding about the nausea. Where do I even start? Basement? Attic? Garage? Crawl space? Book shelves? I can’t do it alone. Also, I need a handyman, a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician and a landscaper. Who are they? When can they come? How can we pay them? Oh Lord, please prioritize this mess!”

And under I went, swirling in a wave of confusion and chaos, wondering if I’d be able to make it through to order and stability. I called out to God often, whenever panic started rising, which was every hour.

One day I walked into the house with several cardboard boxes, and the phone was ringing. It was my friend Sue from Colorado. “Don and I have cleared two days, and we’re flying to Chicago to help you do whatever needs doing. Don will bring his tools.” Now it was my turn to cry. God had heard my questions, and Sue and Don were his answers.

They arrived toting overnight bags full of work clothes and tools, as promised. After Sue asked, “What needs doing?” it was obvious from my stuttering that I didn’t know how to begin.

“We’ll begin in the basement,” she said with firmness, marching toward the stairs. I followed, quietly whimpering with gratitude. “Get me a marker, a roll of tape, three black garbage bags and those boxes you collected. We’ll start in one corner and work out from there.”

As I stood staring at her in wonder, Sue continued. “One bag will be for trash, black because once something goes inside, you won’t be allowed to see it again. The second bag will be for give-aways. You’ll be downsizing, so you won’t be able to keep everything. The third bag will be for keepers. When that bag is full, we’ll transfer its contents to a box, label it, tape it and stack it.”

I felt my body go limp with relief. Sue had become my life preserver, rescuing me from going under for the third time. As we worked, we talked and laughed. When we came to a questionable item, such as a science project one of the kids had worked hard on and received a blue ribbon for, I began to sink again. “We can’t throw that away!” I whined. But Sue squared her shoulders and said, “Get your camera. We’ll take a picture of it, then get rid of it.” For each “no-I-can’t” dilemma, Sue had a “yes-we-can” idea.

Meanwhile, Don was eliminating items from my “Handyman List” the way a bee bee gun shoots cans off a fence: done, done, done. Slow toilets ran faster, sticky doors opened, a stubborn computer obeyed, rotten house siding morphed into new, malfunctioning light fixtures shone, and 23 other things.

In the basement, Sue and I gradually transformed piles of debris into neatly stacked, labeled boxes ready for our move. Garbage cans were loaded and my mini-van was filled with bags for Good Will. The tidal wave had calmed.

As Nate and I stood at the door waving good-bye to Sue and Don, the phone rang. It was my sister. She was coming over the next day to help me “with anything that needs doing.” God and friends were bringing us through.

Flashlight or floodlight?

Jackie Boy.When our dog Jack and I take our late night walk through the neighborhood, tree-shaded streets are inky black. I always grab a flashlight, because without it, we’d walk into parked cars and yard fences trying to find our way.

Most of our flashlights are the dollar store variety. Their circle of light is small and often inadequate, although a little light is better than none. Then there’s the heavy flashlight with the powerful halogen bulb. When I carry that one, I feel guilty for producing a swath of light that spills into the privacy of people’s living rooms. It’s a floodlight in a tube.

Last night when Jack and I walked, my cheap flashlight was flickering with weak batteries, casting only a faint yellow glow in front of us. This was irritating since my light would only shine as far as the next spot my foot would land on and no further.

Scripture gives us a word picture of this exact situation. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) When walking along life’s path, I crave a peek all the way down the road, right into my future, preferring a floodlight to a flashlight or a lamp.

But God is the only one who can see all the way down the road. Because of that, it seems sensible to leave the darkness and uncertainty of what’s ahead, up to him. He’ll light it up when we need to see it. Meanwhile, he hands us the lamp of his Word. He says, “One step is enough for now. Walk into that circle of light in front of you, and let me worry about what’s ahead in the dark.”

Last night Jack offered the perfect example of why we ought to take God’s advice on this. He stepped in front of my flashlight’s beam, which suddenly cast his own black shadow directly in front of him. He startled, jumped to the side and searched for the dark villain he’d just seen, but the shadow had disappeared. The walk goes better if he stays behind the light and follows where it leads.blog street

And I guess that’s good advice for me, too.

“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”(Psalm 139:12)

An offer!

After we passed the second set of holidays without a nibble on our house-for-sale, the phone finally rang with the call we’d given up hope of ever receiving.

“We’ve got an offer,” our realtor told us in a strong, steady voice that communicated confidence. “Can I come over tonight for your signatures?”

“Yes, indeed!” was my happy response. They’d offered less than we wanted, but an offer of any kind had come to be what we wanted most.

Sitting on the edge of our dining room chairs, Nate and I studied the stack of legal papers. I was thankful I married a lawyer. “Just tell me where to sign,” I said, “and I’ll get the celebration coffee!”

Later, we once again gathered the children still living at home. “We got an offer on the house today,” Nate began.

“What does that mean?” Birgitta asked.

“It means we’re really going to move, but not for a few weeks yet. The people who are buying our house don’t have enough money, but they’re going to get it from a bank. That’ll take a while.”

And quick as a wink we were looking again into faces with teary eyes. Never mind that they’d known about the need to sell the house for nearly two years. Suddenly it was on top of them, and it felt awful.

“Give them a little time,” I reassured Nate. “They’ll come around.”

He and I decided to begin house hunting ourselves, flipping from being sellers to buyers. Where should we look? We had four more years before the youngest would be out of high school and had hoped to stay in the district. But if high prices in our suburb dictated a distant move, the last two girls could always go to the Christian school they’d attended through 8th grade. It might be a long daily drive from a distant location, but it would step around the problem of a new school. The girls had friends who still attended there, and they already knew the ropes.

Nate and I drove to the end of the train line he currently used to commute to downtown Chicago every day. Property values that far out were spectacular. We toured half a dozen homes, chatting excitedly on our drive home about the lovely possibilities.

Two days later, our daughter Louisa received a letter from a friend. She tacked it to the wall over her bed:

“I’m so sorry someone bought your house. I know how bad that feels, because the same thing happened to me. I’m here for you.”

The letter went on to empathize with Louisa’s crisis as only a good girlfriend can. Later, when I broached the subject with her, she burst into fresh tears, clenched her fist and shouted, “I hate those people who bought our house! I hate ‘em!” It wasn’t going to be a smooth family transition.