For the Rabbits: Hutchmoot is a Sending Place

“‘No. You’re forgetting,’ said the Spirit. ‘That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about the light.'” – Lewis, The Great Divorce

Hello, dear fellow Hutchmooter.

You are now experiencing reentry. Please keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, and wait until the car comes to a complete stop. Reentry is not pleasant for anyone. It’s a strange mix of feeling full, of having so much to talk about, to share, to process — and maybe you don’t have anyone to do that with. Maybe you have to hit the ground running with small children the moment you enter the door. Maybe you have an unforgiving boss who doesn’t care about your weekend. And you — you’ve been altered, you’ve been fed. You feel different and you wish you could put it into words.

Maybe this was your first time at Hutchmoot, and you were astonished at the restful space that was given to you. You were unhurried in your heartfelt conversations with people who were once strangers, but now are dear friends. You lingered over your coffee, made with care and love and handed to you with a smile. You’re overwhelmed with the simultaneous joy of a creative space like Hutchmoot, but you’re also exhausted and your brain and spirit feel full to the brim. While you don’t want to leave, you feel that if you had one more session to sit through and think through, you might slump over onto the floor out of sheer overload.

Maybe this was a returning time for you. You knew the faces to expect, the hugs to anticipate, and the jokes to be told. You might have opened up on a new level and shed some tears with kindred spirits. You felt, as you have many years before, that this was a home-going of sorts. Yet every year is different, and there are new things to think about and sort through. Your heart feels uplifted and filled. You lingered in the parking lot and didn’t want to leave yet again. 

If I may, I’d like to remind you of one very hard thing: Hutchmoot isn’t a staying place; it’s a sending place. 

Wherever in the world you’re returning to, you’re sent there. You’ve been placed there by design. You aren’t there by accident. At least for now, and for most of us, Nashville isn’t where we belong.

You, artist/creative type/appreciator, serve a purpose in the kingdom of God in your actual, local, geographic location. You are a part of the body, unlike any other part of the body where you are. You aren’t meant to be like everybody else.

Part of the glory of Hutchmoot is that you feel like people “get” you. You ask them if they’ve read that book, and they have! And they loved it, too! Remember Lewis’ quote about how friendship is born the moment someone says, “What, you too?! I thought I was the only one!” Hutchmoot is full of those moments, and they are delightful and soul-nourishing.

But back at home, you are a bit more unique. Not everyone thinks the way that you do. This, also, is by design. If everyone thought like I did, the budgets would never be balanced and the times tables would never be learned. But that’s because I serve a different function than someone else who excels at those things.

It’s easy to interact in that “you too” manner at Hutchmoot because some of the work has already been done for us. We know that we make a Narnia reference and almost everyone will perk up. We know that people will want to talk thoughtfully about films and not cast them aside out of hand. There are relatively safe conversational spaces to occupy and know you will be welcomed. But that’s because the Proprietor, the Hutchmaster, and the staff have worked very hard to establish grooves for us to run in. The way has been paved, the example has been set, and the space has been made. At home, this is probably not true. 

May I suggest that you do some hard work to find those “you too” moments with the members of your local place? 

Not everyone there is easy for you to love. You’re not easy for some of them to love, either. Recall Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church about the parts of the body. You might be an eye who has nothing in common with an ankle or a hand. Remember, you have the most important thing in common: you have Jesus! The body of which you’re a part is the very thing you have in common. 

Because you’re good at imagining, let’s imagine for a moment a group of eyes talking to each other. “What a night I had!” one says. “The Body left the contact lenses in overnight and it was a battle all night long.” The other eyes nod in agreement — they’ve experienced that as well. Another pipes up, “I saw the most beautiful meal the other night, but Stomach was a real downer and said we could only have a few bites.” Someone replies, “yes, my Stomach is that way too. Why don’t they understand what we see? How beautiful it is?”

It might take more effort for an eye to have conversations with stomachs, ankles and hands than with other eyes. But they are still part of the same Body, and they can’t do without each other.

I have long felt, as many of you do, that The Rabbit Room is a unique place worth preserving. It’s different, it’s new to some of us, and it’s a haven. Anytime there is a sniff of controversy, we have the difficult conversation or we just do the hard work of lovingly pressing through and forgiving a difference. There is special care taken to major on the majors and allow kind disagreement on the minors, because we can’t let conflict destroy this special place we’ve got.

But this is what the church ought to be to us, as well. Perhaps familiarity with the institution of the local church, and the way it has become lazily enfolded into cultural Christianity, has made us careless in striving for the preservation of it.

If the past decade in America is any indication, there is a shift happening in American culture. We are, slowly but surely, moving from “a Christian nation” (may I say, we were never this — and that’s another post) to a post-Christian one. Though the changes are uncomfortable, the church is being refined. It’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable for people to hang onto churches for the social capital. This is a good thing.

As this shift continues, the need increases for you, Rabbit. Your local body needs your voice of hope. Your vivid descriptions of Heaven. Your songs in the night. They won’t all understand it at first, and some of them will never “get it” at all — at least, not at the level your idealistic heart wants them to. But for those who do, you may function as a life preserver. Russell Moore has made it a habit of saying that the church is moving from moral majority to prophetic minority. As this happens, the songs and stories will grow all the brighter. The church needs its artists and its poets, striving with their musical hearts towards peace in the church and for the hope of Heaven.

So don’t stay in Nashville, Hutchmooter. Go sing to your people at home. Maybe we’ll see you next year. We’ll hug you when you get here.

Packing My Bags

In our home this week, there has been much discussion of travel. A good number of my Nashville friends are filling up Oxford at the moment, putting on what I hope is the first of many Hutchmoots in the UK. Their Instagram feeds are lighting up with picnics in Port Meadow, walks in the Cotswolds, and pints at the Bird and Baby.

As David made his tea yesterday morning, he let out a little groan. I asked what was on his mind. He said, “I was just remembering our last day in London. I remember making my tea that morning and thinking about how our trip was over…how there would be no more tea in London for us. If we were to ever go again, there would be another last day, and that makes me sad.”

I laughed aloud, thinking about how he had not only jumped to making another trip, but also to that trip already being over. I would call it glass-half-empty thinking; he would call it realism.

There is definitely something about travel that helps me meditate on Heaven. Back in 2014, David and I made our first trip to England, just the two of us. I spent most of the months leading up to the trip in disbelief that it was actually going to happen. On days that were hard, with the usual demands of parenting and homeschooling and all of the rest of it, I would think about how at a definite, set date in the future, I would be landing on the ground in London. I would take a train to Oxford. I would be there! It seemed too good to be true. I could endure a lot of hard days if I kept the goal in mind. 

I picked out things I would wear. I anticipated how I would pack. I made list after list of places I wanted to see, knowing full well that there would, in fact, be a “last day,” and I could never see everything. Why oh why can’t travel time and budgets be limitless?

But in eternity, the time and the budget is limitless. Why do we not live more often with this truth in mind? At some definite, set date in the future, we will be with the Lord. We will have all the time in the world to enjoy, to walk, to grow, to rest. We will walk in the Port Meadows of eternity and not grow tired. There won’t be a sad “last day.” We can put of with a lot in the here and now if we keep that in mind.

I don’t mean to say we should check out for now and be “so Heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” What comes our way in the here and now is a way of “packing our bags,” of preparing us for the feast and rest to come. We can welcome it with the knowledge that there is a sure and steady hand guiding it to us and for our good. 

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  John 14:1-3

A Seat at the Table: A Letter to my Single Friend

Dear Friend,

I see you.

I see you coming into church on Sunday morning; you wade through the foyer packed with moms, dads, and little children running around. You steel your spine as your weekly battle with discontentment rears its ugly head right there at the threshold of the church. I am glad you came. I want you to hear the old words of the hymns, to sing with your brothers and sisters, and hear the Gospel preached to your soul again. It’s OK if you cry. I cry at church, too. Please don’t sit by yourself. You always have a spot in my pew. Let the sound of the congregation’s singing wash over you and remind you that you have a spot at the best table of all.

I see you extending yourself in hospitality. You invite people into your life and your home regularly. Even when it’s awkward, even when it is hard, you are outward-facing, humbly promoting love and togetherness. You think creatively about how to pull in the outsider. You do not pursue relationships for the sake of finding a spouse; you pursue people because God pursued you. You set an example for the self-involved ones.

I see you battling for sexual purity in a complex world that attaches no eternal weight to that struggle. The world wants you to give up, to give in, to seek fulfillment in casual attachments. The media builds up sexual bonds as the end-all, be-all, and then invites you to pursue them as though they are nothing but a casual conversation. I see your tears as you go to bed alone and wrestle with your thoughts.

I see you taking a risk. Your friends wanted to set you up; you are appreciative of their care in that way, so you went. You spent extra time getting ready, all the while telling yourself that he or she should judge you on your heart, not your appearance. You texted a couple friends to ask them to pray and check in. You navigated the introduction and waded through the awkward small talk. You put yourself out there in the most vulnerable way, emotionally speaking. You thought it went well. Then there’s no follow-up; there’s “I just didn’t see them in that way.” And you have to collect yourself again. You’re perpetually the friend, you’re not spouse material.

Scripture tells us that being single is a unique blessing, as marriage is a blessing; I am sorry for the ways that we as a culture have misrepresented, or at least underrepresented, that. I am sorry for Pinterest and the wedding industry feeding your discontentment. They’re just out to make money, you know. After people get married, these voices immediately switch to making us feel bad about our house or our children or our clothing choices or our children’s clothing choices….

I think we have underestimated you. I want you to feel the freedom to pursue creativity in ministry in all the ways that having a family does not allow. Please buy the good knives for your kitchen. Set yourself up with things that help you minister well. Get yourself installed in a place where you feel at home, whether that be a house with roommates or an apartment by yourself. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in a community where you can minister, don’t miss out. Please show up for it.

We’re really happy you’re here. We want to see you and know you as Christ sees you and knows you. Unity is different from uniformity. You have something to bring to the table. You aren’t children waiting to grow up and get married; you are a part of our body now, with gifts to use for the glory of God and the betterment of the rest of us. We are better because you’re along with us.

We love you, and we’re thankful for you.

Kelly

A Modest Holiday Request

Dear Reader,

Hello! Happy December 1st. No matter where you are, this is likely the merriest month of the year. It is the time when we put up ridiculously lavish displays of lights and greenery. We bring a bush into our homes and string it with garlands and memories. We make the same recipes, the same sweets. We bestow on one another gifts and love.

Over the next few weeks, you may be invited to a gathering or two. If you are in someone’s home for a party in the next month, may I make I request of you?

Take a picture of the hostess.

I say “hostess,” because in my home I am the one heading up these efforts. But in all circumstances, there is someone heading up the food and the atmosphere at your party. He or she is the one who spent hours ahead of time, determining what you might eat when you arrive, making sure there’s room in the coat closet in the front hall, and wiping the bathroom sink one more time. He’s the one shuttling the empty trays back to the kitchen to refill. She’s the one taking the trash out — quietly, so nobody’s conversations get interrupted.

But I bet that host isn’t in many pictures. He might have taken a picture of you with your spouse; or a picture of everyone at the table together; and then he put the phone down to refill somebody’s coffee.

The hostess is present in the pictures, of course: in the flowers on the table, or the spread on the buffet, or the carefully chosen blankets on the back of the couch, so you could lay down for a nap if you wanted to. But where is her face?

Thanksgiving 2015

This feels like a self-indulgent request, and I won’t deny that it’s personal. Recently I was looking back at photos from our past Thanksgivings, and I found one of me, sitting in my usual spot at the foot of the table, smiling at a guest who had insisted upon taking my photo. I was struck by how rare a photo it was. I think I was about ready to leap up to get something I’d forgotten for the table, but my friend made me freeze for a moment so she could document that I was there, too.

As my children get older, I am beginning to realize how few pictures I am in. Dad, if Mom is the self-appointed documentarian of the family, make her get in a few photos. Don’t let her fuss at you about how she isn’t camera-ready. Tell her she is beautiful and click away.

It is a little thing, of course — and in an eternal sense, a photo doesn’t lend any significance to the service done. But in these days of ever-present cameras, let’s make an effort to temporally celebrate the one who is running behind the scenes. Give her a second to dry her hands off and take off the smudged apron, and then make sure she is remembered.

Happy Holidays!

Yours,

Kelly

Furrowed

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field

Torn open like the dirt

And I know that to be healed,

I must be broken first

Andrew Peterson, “The Sower’s Song”

My face is furrowed. It isn’t furrowed in the regular sense of the word — like my eyebrows are knit together. This year, my face became furrowed by a new scar.

A few months ago, I learned that I had a minor form of skin cancer just under my right eye. I had battled a small blemish for over a year, trying to get it to heal. It never did. After a biopsy, the spot was confirmed to be basal cell carcinoma. And so the date was set. After we returned from our whirlwind vacation overseas, on Easter Monday early in the morning, I would be numbed up and have a piece of my cheek carved away.

The procedure I underwent is called Mohs’ surgery, named for the doctor who created the process. I suggest doing an internet search on the term if you’d like to see some truly horrific pictures. The doctor takes away the cancerous cells to the best of his ability. He also takes what he considers to be sufficient “margin” — enough healthy cells to create a border between the location of the cancer and the healthy, unaffected skin nearest the site.

This process is mind-bending. While you lay on a reclining chair in one room, lab technicians down the hall look at a piece of your face to make sure they “got it all.” When the doctor is satisfied that you’re done, he uses a tiny torch to cauterize the site and help it heal. The smell of my own burning flesh is not one I will soon forget.

The first couple of weeks of healing were uneventful. The most traumatic part was the first glance at the stitches — seven of them, marching uniformly in vivid purple across my upper cheek. But once the stitches came out, I was optimistic about the healing of what would amount to an extra-deep laugh line underneath my right eye.

Then, two weeks later, some purple sprung up under the skin. Swelling began. Was it an infection? No. My body was in rebellion. A hematoma had arisen. It had to be lanced. More bandages. And now, some work.

Beneath the line that rests on the skin, there is an angrier area. My skin wants to harden up. Scar tissue is setting in, making my upper cheek a lumpy mess. It is in need of some work. “Your best friends,” the doctor said at my third post-op visit, “will be time and massage.”

Now, and for the foreseeable future, an alarm on my phone sounds every hour. Ten times a day, for one minute each time, I must massage the scar. But to say “massage” is too kind — I must push down hard, exerting pressure and breaking up the hardened tissue underneath the skin. I must keep at it. I must exert little bits of hard effort, a small amount at a time. I hope to win out over the hard scar tissue through time and consistency. However, I should not expect overnight results, and I should not expect to rest from the effort anytime soon.

The experience has served to remind me that little things we do every day often matter more than big things we do every once in a while. Consistent effort, little bits at a time, bear regular, bountiful fruit more than big, occasional efforts. Our flesh desires the big, showy payoff performances. But long-lasting fruit comes with little bits of faithful investment.

So please keep going to the gym a few times a week. Keep reminding your kids to put their dishes in the dishwasher. Keep texting that friend even though you haven’t seen her in awhile. Keep opening that Bible every morning. Keep showing up at church early to serve. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, how you spend your days is how you spend your life.

Also — how quickly can scar tissue set into our souls? We all know areas that the Holy Spirit wants us to press on. It causes us pain. It requires effort. Quite frankly, we don’t want to enter into it. The first cut hurts. Our natures make us want to become atrophied and give up for lack of observable results. After the initial sting, we may think the work is done. But the process of repentance is borne out over days, months, and years of dying little deaths and pressing forward into little resurrections.

It is meant for our good by a good and kind Father, and it will bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness in the end. (Hebrews 12:11)

His Heart Beats

IMG_20151009_151801664_HDRRecently I asked the kids to help with with one piece of school planning. We needed a signal for the start of school. We always begin the day around the dining room table at 8:30 in the morning, but I wanted to pick a song that would signal to the kids that it was time to gather. I thought this might be a better alternative to me shouting their names, sometimes nicely, sometimes no-so-nicely.

I gave them one restriction — the choice needed to be an Andrew Peterson song. Since I’ve been listening to him for twenty years, Andrew’s voice has an immediate calming effect on me, which is advantageous when we’re gathering for school, for both teacher and students. He is the mother/teacher whisperer.

Andrew’s most recent album came out over Easter weekend. It’s entitled Resurrection Letters, Volume I. It is a prequel to an album he released over a decade ago. This most recent offering is all about Jesus’ resurrection — the actual event. The opening song, “His Heart Beats,” could not be more literal. We hear about Jesus’ heart beginning to beat again, his lungs filling with air, and him rising up to walk again.

Here is where a sanctified imagination can serve us. Let’s sit with the fact of the resurrection for a moment. A person that was dead “a moment ago” is now alive again. His skin warmed up. His eyelids opened. He spoke for the first recorded time, to Mary. Maybe he had to clear his throat first — can you imagine?

No, really — can you?

“The blood that brought us peace with God is racing through his veins,” Andrew reminds us. That blood was sitting still and pooled just a moment ago. It’s moving again.

If you know me at all, you know that Resurrection Sunday is my favorite day of the year. It’s better than Christmas or my birthday or even a British Royal Wedding (!). Charlotte always shows off on that Sunday. The azaleas are usually in full bloom that week; the early bulbs have given way to the later ones, and the trees are flowering. I am one of those people who insists on greeting people with “He Is Risen!” (– this is our one special thing, Christians! Let’s use it!)  I usually make a few ridiculously decadent desserts. We jam our house full of people until it can’t hold anymore and they spill out onto the lawn. We eat and talk until we can’t do either anymore. My goodness, it’s wondrous. The reason we sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is still true all these centuries later, and if I have anything to do with it, we’re going to have a party to celebrate.

But also — if you know me at all, here we are in August, and I’m anxious about the beginning of the homeschool year. No matter how long I do this — I begin year thirteen tomorrow morning — I still get scared every single year. Perfectionism nips at my heels and tells me I can’t do it. The lists rise up endlessly, and for some reason I convince myself that I must have everything decided/finished/perfect by 8:30 tomorrow morning. It’s a lie, and I fall prey to it every year.

I found myself grieved Saturday night, sending out a few emergency texts to friends to ask for prayer. I am blessed with faithful friends who responded with encouragement and promises to pray. I am blessed with a faithful husband who doesn’t give credence to my fears, but instead holds me when I cry and put too much pressure on myself.

Back to our song choice. The kids told me earlier this week that they wanted Andrew’s “His Heart Beats” to be our gathering song. It wasn’t my first choice. I probably would have picked something about family, or enjoying God in nature, or something Hobbit-ish (he has a few of those). But as the week wore on, and I battled emotion, fear, vulnerability, and perfectionism, the truth of the Resurrection rang like a crystal bell in my mind.

As I was laid bare by the temptations to grasp for control, Jesus’ faithfulness rose up to meet it. He said he would raise the temple up in three days’ time, and He did it. He just does not do these things in the way we expect. Our marriage, our family, our parenting, our story, has not looked at all as we expected. And yet — He is still faithful. He will do it.

Jesus is still just as alive on a Saturday in the middle of August as He is on the moment of sunrise on Resurrection Sunday morning.

My sin is just as dead as it was then.

Death itself is just as dead as it was that first Sunday, “very early on the first day of the week.”

And that, friends, is wind in my sails. That is why I can get up tomorrow morning, embrace my failings, take a step forward in my God-enabled strengths, and pull these kids along with me. It will not be easy. There will be days, just like there are every year, when I’m tempted to run out into the street and flag down that big yellow bus just to get a moment’s peace. Jesus died for that impatience, as well.

Happy first day of our school to you, friends. And if you’re up for it, turn this song on at 8:30 tomorrow morning and whisper a prayer for us. Jesus is alive, and He’s listening.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. — I Cor. 15:26

 

Greatest Hits of 2017

If you’re not sick of reading year-end lists yet, here are some things I appreciated in 2017. In no particular order:

  1. Pen snob: 2017 was the year I indulged all my pen snobbery. I now have three faithful go-to pens for different purposes. A micron .03 for bullet journaling, a pilot disposable fountain pen for writing notes and checks (yes, I still do that occasionally), and in a pinch, this pen is a worthy replacement for either. Jen Wilkin made me aware that a disposable fountain pen was a thing in her first  interview on Only the Good Stuff. Fountain pens have long been favorites of mine, but the cost always made me shy away — I was afraid to lose one. Now I don’t have to worry about that. Also, if you have a kid with dysgraphia, or one who struggles with handwriting in general, give them a fountain pen. It really helps!
  2. Analog life: 2017 saw our family trying hard to become a bit more analog and a bit less digital. Try as they might, tech developers can never replace the mental exercise of writing something longhand; the weight, texture, and feel of an old book (or a new one, for that matter); or the joy of a note sent or received through the jolly old US Postal Service. David has once again returned to his longhand prayer journal, I began a bullet journal (more on that in a moment), and I read three times as many “real” books this year as I did last year — mostly because I was more disciplined about putting my phone down. I did this with the help of a paid app called Offtime. Apple users should look into one called Freedom.
  3. The Great British Baking Show: in our continuing unapologetically Anglophiliac british-bakingexistence, our family went whole hog into TGBBS this year. If you happened to be in our home while it was on TV, you might have thought we were watching a sporting event. Screams! Thrills! Tears! And the most delightful unexpected heroes. Please give this a try if you haven’t already. It streams on Netflix.
  4. Bullet Journaling: I received a lovely blank book for my birthday in June, and by the end of July — once I overcame my fears and stopped obsessing about making it perfect — I had it set up as a bullet journal. I have three sections: one principally for spiritual stuff (prayer, sermon notes, quotes, and the like); one for life-in-general stuff; and one for homeschool stuff. I also have a killer to-do page that uses post-it notes so I can clean it off and add to it as needed. I love having everything together in one place, and it’s lasted me a good six months. I might be beginning a new one in the next month or so. If you are at all interested in bullet journaling, please be careful out there on the world wide interwebs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and want everything to look perfect. Don’t do it! Ask yourself what you need that little book to do, and then use it for that. The end. No one is going to grade you on your bullet journal.
  5. Men. Ha, that’s a funny one. 2017, particularly the end of it, was a hard year on men. While the #metoo movement brought about some conversations that absolutely need to be had, I was shocked at the number of women — married women, even — who were saying casually what amounted to “men suck.” No, they don’t. I would hope you wouldn’t say that about your husband, married person. And you didn’t marry the only good one. My life is full of good men. I was raised by one, I am married to one, and I am trying to raise four of them. Helping me in the endeavor of raising those four young men are countless other good men, involved in their lives at school, at church, and in our neighborhood. The boys are thankful for them. Me too.
  6. 40. I can’t sign off on this year without acknowledging one more time that this was my year of turning 40! I ran a half marathon — a lifelong goal, and I ran it a full minute faster than I thought I could because of the help/friendly harassment of my husband. I went to NYC with sweet friends: we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, did drinks at the Four Seasons, and watched the sun go down from the deck of the Empire State Building! (did that really happen?!)

I am so thankful for the lessons and gifts of 2017. On to the next. Here’s to growing deeper in God’s grace, having patience with ourselves and others, and gratefully enjoying all His good gifts. Happy New Year, friends!