Photo: The quilt top is coming together! Gotta get it done so I can get on to basting and quilting. Hopefully I’ll have a picture of the full complete top next week!
“Hey! I was wondering if I could crash on your couch for the summer?”
This is the start of a message that popped up on my Facebook page on Monday afternoon. It has been the source of much anxiety for me and The Husband all week.
The Husband has a younger cousin who is attending veterinary school here in Massachusetts. She is a lovely young woman who has worked incredibly hard to earn her place in the competitive program, and she has accomplished a lot without any outside support from her family. While there have been a few loans from my mother-in-law and her sisters, this cousin has taken on the majority of the financial burden of reaching for her dreams. I admire her a lot.
But that admiration doesn’t change the square footage of our little house. Nor does it change the energy levels of my two boys. It definitely doesn’t change the intense nature of our summer, which is already chaotic and high-energy, speckled with random playdates, no naps, hopping from pond to pond and pool to pool, and probably will feature one week of swim lessons and nothing more again. What I’m saying is, Camp Mama is hard enough. Camp Mama + Roommate seems like a recipe for disaster.
This cousin did offer to babysit. But she also said that she planned to work and volunteer. “I really only plan to be there to sleep,” she said in her Facebook message.
And my first thought was, “no. Oh no. No no no…”
So I asked the two most important questions: “Are you ok?” followed by “Are you leaving your apartment or are you planning to return to it after the summer is over?” (I guess I was too chicken to bluntly ask if she was being evicted.)
She’s not. She’s facing a big car repair and she says she wants to get home to the midwest to see her mother, who she hasn’t seen in two years.
Oh. Okay. Thank goodness.
Because if she were losing her apartment, this would be a different story. You and I both know we’d just make it work. We certainly wouldn’t turn her away if she were going to be homeless.
But she’s not. She wants to live with us rent-free from the end of May until the end of August to save up money. I’m assuming she’s going to sublet her place to achieve that.
So… now what? What do we do now?
The Husband and I have been grappling with this all week. Are we selfish for not wanting to take on this burden? Are we selfish for viewing it as a burden to begin with? We have a room–a guest room/office. The one room in the house the children have only minimally taken over. The only room where we can get work done if the children aren’t bothering us. Where would we put our computers and other office things? How would the Husband work from home on certain summer days? How would we host other guests this summer?
It’s been hard, Dear Reader. It’s been hard because, while we know we’ve worked hard to obtain what we have, we did it in the context of a lot of help from family and friends. Everything in this house, from the hand-me-down furniture, to the kitchenware and curtains… a lot of it was gifted or given by family and friends. The boys get clothes from the grandmas multiple times a year. I just got a small check from my aunt to help pay for that Great Wolf Lodge bill. Family doesn’t give us everything, but they certainly help to give us some breathing room on the margins, you know? Everything that we’ve ever achieved is thanks in large part to the support system that we enjoy and can never possibly thank enough. And if we were in crisis, they’d be there for us without question.
Longtime readers will also recall the month I spent at my mother’s with two little boys while this house was being worked on.
So, here we are. It’s our turn to serve. We feel monstrous for our initial inclinations to say “no.” Not because we don’t want to help, but because the burden feels so large and overwhelming.
The dilemma actually had me in my pastor’s office this morning. I needed to speak with someone who knew us well but didn’t have a stake in any of it.
“It sounds to me like your door and your heart are open. You just understand the limitations of what you can offer. God asks us to serve, to give, but not to martyr ourselves. This is where hateful resentment is born.”
She gave me ideas for resources. Places to look to help this cousin out. Suggestions on what we can do to support her, even without actually boarding her.
“Your door is open. You’re doing your part. You’re doing the right thing.”
My Quiet Thoughts this Friday are about the vulnerability in the ask and the powerful feeling that comes with being called to serve. To understand your own blessings and yet feel the weight of your responsibilities is difficult, even stifling. Yet, in the end, we must give of ourselves within reason. We must serve in a way that doesn’t deplete. We must use our gifts powerfully, efficiently, and resourcefully. It’s a hard lesson for all involved. It will take some time to fully learn it.
Dear Reader, it is a cold Friday, but one not without hopeful signs. There are buds on some of the flowering bushes. There are songbirds chirping in the morning. A skunk, I think, might have taken up residence in the barn (and what does that mean for my fox under the barn?). While the earthy smell of the full thaw hasn’t quiet filled the air, the sun is certainly feeling warmer on my skin and it lingers for a longer part of the day. What will you do with the extra minutes of sunlight that you’ll gain this weekend, Dear Reader? Whose load can you lighten for a moment, simply by extending your hand or holding a door open? I wish you time to find out, Dear Reader. I also wish you a kindness done for you in return. I wish you something warm and delicious to share. A loaf of banana bread, perhaps? Maybe a lasagna or other casserole? It’s not too late for one last stew or maybe a roasted bird. Whatever it is, gather a few people around it, Dear Reader. I wish you some shared laughs and fun stories while you enjoy it. Then I wish you time to stare off toward the horizon and dream about what can happen next. May it be pleasant and exciting. No matter where you are going, you’ll get there accompanied by admirers and friends, people who love you beyond measure and support you in ways big and small. Don’t forget it. Don’t forget to give it, too.
I have done not a single Meatless Monday this month. Such sadness. But then I was reminded that it’s a Leap Year, so I have one more shot this month! Let’s see what I can come up with on Monday! I’m also hoping I’ll have colors for the boys’ room for you, too! Much to look forward to, Dear Reader. Until then, stay safe, stay warm and take care.