In a new space.

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How do you make a house feel like a home?

Our new house is beautiful. It is a sudden rise up, a view and some space, but we have not changed, our money situation has not changed. So how do we reconcile this shift? How do we hold it and live inside of it, expand and live in these spaces? How do we make a home here?

The younger kids roam. They ride their bikes and their scooters. Solo rides his wave board, all geared up with elbow pads and knee pads, looking like a kid in a catalog. They run to Winnie and Josh’s house to hang out with their friends, then all of them careen over here.

The older kids hide out. They find privacy where they can, in their rooms. Kenya draws and reads. Kai tests out the computer he bought with money he saved up, a great bargain when his host family moved away and sold it to him. He throws a football (An American football, Leafy insists. A football, Kai replies, in an old argument between people who feel more rooted here or there) to his siblings with his excellent arm, and they catch it again and again. Or they all go to the basketball court.

(Rumor has it that the village was talking about a certain kid of ours (maybe Solo) who was at the basketball court at 6:00 in the morning the other day. I have a feeling that not much of what we do here will go unnoticed.)

Chinua builds shelves, installs things, and plays his trumpet. I go through boxes. But I can’t wait to finish unpacking before having people over, so people are here among the boxes, in the bones of our new life, not yet settled, not yet complete. It doesn’t feel like home if others are not here. This is the life we have always lived. I don’t know how to make it homey any other way.

So I cook and we eat together outside. We have a covered outdoor table, the delight of my heart, in our carport. Who needs to cover a car? We would rather have a table there—a mystery to our landlords, who protect their car from rain or sunshine. Every countertop in our kitchen is too short for me, so I have embraced the old art of sitting while chopping. We have dinner and Bible circle with our friends over, and everyone is a bit astounded by our new view. The light shows off on the hills. We sit on cushions in the living room, surrounded by bugs, cups, tea, and hot water in the middle of the circle.  We read John 5 together, and discuss. I am always thankful for the perspective people from around the world bring, and this time is no different, as we hear about spirituality in Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines.

I want to try to live in my life, not drift along. Probably writing stories will help. Stories of our life here in this place. And to live in something beautiful, something more spacious than we are used to? I guess it is just thankfulness that helps with that. To acknowledge what we have been given. A view. That’s a mighty thing. I didn’t form those mountains, but there they are for me to see. I feel small in comparison. I didn’t plant these trees, but here they are. It is a vulnerable thing, to learn to receive. Inside I feel used to scrapping along, sure that what I have comes from my own power. Fists up.

How do you make a house feel like a home? Open hands, relaxed shoulders, lights and candles, sitting together. Songs in the house, maybe a dance party. Homeschool and students coming to learn. Figuring out the rhythms of life. (There has to be milk for the morning, because the store is far away.) Comforting crying children. Sorting out arguments. Driving to town for meditation. Cutting flowers for a vase. Planting a vegetable garden. There are hundreds of ways to make a house feel like a home.

The day before the last day.

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It’s the day before the last day of the year.

I’m sitting in my studio with a new candle, thinking about the past year and all it has held. Thinking about the next year and what it will be.
This year my oldest son moved out partially. He’s doing really well.
I published another book.
I started a podcast with my community.

Next year I want to play more.
Play more music, play more boardgames.
I want to take Chinua’s camera out sometimes.
I want to sketch and draw and paint.
I want to publish more books.
I want to appreciate, and write, and take photos, and make art. I want to have people over, and be a mom who is present. (More of the same.)
I’m starting seminary. I’m homeschooling my own kids. I want to do it well, with care and without playing the hardworking victim. (My weak spot.) It’s going to be a busy year, but each day has its own work and play and God offers buckets of grace.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much.
Hello, day before the last day of the year. What do you have to offer today? Maybe a walk? A cup of tea with a friend? Helping some beloved friends pack up their house? Making palak paneer?
Hopefully all of those things with some little surprises in between.

A Work Day

Yesterday I was hard at work in our studio, the detached room right behind our outdoor kitchen that Chinua or I lock ourselves in for focus and concentration. It sort of works. I get visitors like the one above, who want me to make them tea. (That's the door, which has a large gap at the bottom perfect for Isaac or Wookie to peer through, or mosquitos to flood through.) 

And I get lovely visitors like geckos, or cats who look at me through the window, or, on days like yesterday, sons bearing special drinks. In the morning Kai knocked on the studio door with a cup of strawberry smoothie, and in the afternoon it was Leafy with a lemon ice drink. 

And I worked away and thought that I am a very blessed woman, to have such lovely office deliveries. Iced drinks on a hot day, "I love you's" called under the door... even when it feels like there is a lot to do, the day brings its gifts. 

Three Beautiful Things

1. Chinua and my studio is going to be in a coconut hut near the beach this year. Hooray for space to write! (And for Chinua to write music.)

2. Old friends from California who are going to be part of our community of Christian Practice this year arrived a couple of days ago. Their faces are lovely to us.

3. The flock (?) of egrets (so white!) in the green field in the distance.

3 1/2. Every day I can take deep, deep breaths, every day I can pray, every night I can lay my head on my pillow and rest.

My "princess."

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In her princess dress. I love her.

I am thankful for:

* the little Solo boy who is sitting in my lap right now

* the love that emanates from our friends as they take care of us and feed us, as we cook together and talk together, sing together, love each other

* my camera

* pens and notebooks and sketchbooks

* the beauty of lines

* trees and rose bushes and virtually every green thing. They feed me.

* all of my kids. I can't wait to see what they become.  I met an eleven-year-old boy yesterday who was almost as tall as me. That's only three years away, for Kid A. Three years!

* My Chinua. The most amazing, caring, wonderful, musical, talented person I have ever met.

* The unexpected and all the possibility out there. These curvy roads that our lives follow.

* Every breath, whisper and resounding shout that signifies the presence of the Great Divine, Creator and Healer. I am living in the mystery of a life which is devoted, I am the devotee of my guru, Yeshu Ji, Jesus the Master, the Rabbi. He has me, the twisty paths of life are not frightening because we have history and I have never been led wrong. Every road that I travel on leads to love.

* Tea and coffee and salsa. Not together.

* Rhythms in life. Oh how my soul longs for rhythm of breath and heartbeat and gentle days...

* Water. Food, pillows, a spot on the couch.

* Even this tiredness which has suddenly overcome me. It slows me down, helps me to see...

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Thank you for your giving. I'm going to leave the giveaway open for the same amount of time that Carrien is leaving hers. So, feel free to give all of Wednesday and Thursday, and then on Friday I'll announce a winner.