Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A House Unwrapped

There is a house in our neighborhood that is naked. One day last week, the stucco siding was removed, and the wood underneath was exposed for all to see. While it poured rain that night, I thought about and prayed for the family living there. I prayed that their house wouldn't be too leaky, and I prayed for the mother. As a mother myself, under those circumstances I know that I would be worried about the possibility of insect invasion, of water infiltration, of the collapse of a wall - of every single thing that could go wrong. I prayed that she would be able to rest well and not worry about her family or their safety.

Today the wood is covered in what appears to be tar paper of some kind. It's black anyway. I assume that it is meant to protect the wood underneath the new siding. Will it be another coat of stucco? Will they choose brick? What about the type of wood shingles that are more popular in the north? We have to wait and see.

When we were looking at houses here in Charlotte four and a half years ago, the real estate agent warned us that stucco houses can sometimes have difficulties that require the replacement of the entire facade of the home. She told us that it can cost as much as $100,000. Hearing her say that only served to confirm our desire to own a brick house. Safe, sound, solid, and very unlikely to ever need to be replaced - at least, that's what we hope.

A house unwrapped.
A naked house.
Exposed, vulnerable, penetrable.
Like me.

There are times in my life when I feel like the skin of my heart and my soul has been peeled back, and all the world can see the leaky, insect-riddled inner layer of me. I remember feeling that way when my father passed away; the strongest, kindest, gentlest man I'd ever known was gone, and I was exposed in all my sorrow. I felt that way when Karen died two weeks ago: eyes and heart raw with my tears. When I stand in front of groups of women to speak or teach, I feel a deep sense of contradiction because I know that so much of what I say is teaching me more than it is teaching them. "Seek peace and pursue it" comes out of my mouth, and I know that peace is a rare phenomenon in my relationship with my in-laws. "Forgive and be forgiven" comes out of my mouth even as I struggle deeply with forgiving those who have caused soul-scarring harm to my nieces as a result of the divorce of their parents. I feel that way every time I hear someone speak negatively about others because of their race, their religion, their gender, or their immigration status. I feel peeled, salted, and boiled in hot oil. Not a nice feeling at all.

It is at those moments of exposure that I know it's time to reinforce my underpinnings. Time to peel off the cracked outer layer, to tend to the wounded spots on my heart, soak off the crusty parts with hot tea, rewrap with the tender loving care that comes from journaling, prayer, exercise, and taking a nap, and then I get back to living well. At those leaky times, when the tears escape from ceaselessly flowing eyes, I don't try to patch the holes. I let the water flow. I pour it into my journal. I call on the friends who are willing to help me carry my burdens. And when I fell better, I offer my shoulder for the reinforcement of others in need of reinforcements during their recovery time.

I expect that within a week or two, the house down the street will be completely recovered. The mother in the family will sleep better. The father will be glad that the house has been restored to its former grandeur - and beyond. The children will be sad that the scaffolding is gone, and there is no more banging and hammering going on outside. The folks footing the bill for the work will hope and pray that no similar kind of repair has to be repeated during the rest of their tenure there.

I'm feeling pretty strong at the moment.
Safe, sound, sealed up tight.
Hopeful, joyful, rested, recovered.
Let's see what happens next time a storm blows through my town.

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