19 September 2008

Grace, Tables, and an Artist's Easel

LL Barkat shared, yesterday, about the story of a friend's worn, wooden table, and how grace brought it into her life and placed it just right. Then she invited others to share about the storied tables and chairs in their own lives. My comment that I didn't have a worn, wooden table, let alone space for one, opened some thoughts and I thought I'd share them here.

Right now, Oso (that bear of a man that I married) and I don't own any property. We have our rented apartment, and we haven't had the chance to pick and choose different pieces of furniture to put it it. Generally, we have a hodge-podge of the things we each owned before we married and whatever we could get right around our weddig from various friends, family, and stores with sales. We're so far from having a worn, wooden table that's just perfect that I can't even tell you how far that is...it's just far.

Most couples start out like this, I think. Over the years, they get their own place and slowly replace the things they have with things they love. Sometimes a particular aesthetic rules the day, but many times people buy pieces that mean something to them, then arrange and rearrange until they get it just right. The whole house is like the wooden table, reflecting the family, what it means to them to be a family, and the graces of sharing with each other and caring about each other.

I don't know if Oso and I will ever have that.

These days, he's working his tail off to qualify as an Army chaplain. When he does, we'll start a twenty-something year journey through the United States' Army bases. We don't have many details yet, but even if we're graced with longer-than-usual tours in these different places, we'll move more and farther than the average family. Growing the kind of home where I'd even know where that sort of table belonged seems out of the question, let alone having the time to find the perfect table and put it in place.

It's a mixed bag, all this thinking about moving around. For me, I love traveling new places and seeing new things, but I hate moving. I love immersing myself in different places, but I like coming home. I think that's what this is all about for me--a sense of home. The worn, wooden tables and the stories behind them mean "home" to me, with the grace and the love and the laughter of the home I want to build.

I don't think it's just chance that this is coming up now. Oso and I have been talking about what it would take to raise healthy, happy, secure kids in the Army and how we would build our family around that. One of the things we've talked about is how we'd have to intentionally build a sense of home and make our family's sense of home different from that of most people. We've talked about different options: a place we return to, again and again, as a family; calling one of our parents' homes or a close friend's home "home" and visiting often; teaching our kids that home is found more in people than in a specific place, and then whenever we're more-or-less together, they're home.

Honestly, some version of the last one seems like the best option. And so our children will have stories about each other and about us, stories that go with photos or memories, and not so many stories surrounding the physical things that structure our lives. I think it will be a grace-filled life, indeed, but a different sort of one.

All of this reminds me of one of the things that drew me to Oso the most. He was with me the night my grandpa died. We'd been dating about a month, though we'd known each other for about a year-and-a-half before that. That night, he held me. He didn't say anything, didn't try to make it better or get me to talk or make me laugh. Instead, he sat with me.

I don't know how long we sat there. It probably wasn't long, but I've reflected on those moments so many times that it seems like we sat there forever. What I felt that night, besides grief for my grandfather, was an immense amount of space. There was enough space in Oso for me to be however I needed to be that night, for me to cry or laugh or say nothing. He didn't have an agenda and he didn't need me to feel anything in particular.

As we continued to date, that space became more and more important. I felt like I could stretch out in it, like there was really room for all of me. Gradually, I realized that the space in him had become my home, more than any four walls and a roof ever could.

Talk about grace...this home-in-him that I found is the best gift any one person could ever give another, I think. A place to stretch and cry and pray and play and change and grow and laugh. Like anything human, it's not perfect, but it was the best gift this girl could have been given. Though my everyday sense of that gift fades the longer I live there, that's the kind of home I want my children to have.

And all of this brings me to the one piece of furniture (if it even qualifies as that) I have that has a great story. Actually, it's a really simple story.

I started painting again in the summer of 2007. When I say "again," I mean that I hadn't painted since somewhere around 3rd grade, making it nearly 20 years between tries. I've written a lot about rediscovering the art in me before, so I think it's sufficient to say here that it was a huge step for me to pick up a paintbrush and make something.

I'm a slow painter, but by the fall I had a couple of works that I actually liked, that meant something to me and that I felt happy with.

One day last fall, I came home and Oso was already there. He was in another room, so I went to throw something in our extra room before I went to find him. I walked in the door to the extra room and saw a box on my chair. Since I didn't leave a box on my chair, I went over to move it to his chair so I could use mine.

When I looked at the box, I couldn't believe it. It held a folding art easel, complete with different paints and brushes and a palette.

I ran to the hallway and, still not knowing where he was, shouted, "You bought me an easel!"

He yelled back, "You weren't supposed to go in there!" and then came out from wherever he was.

He found it at Costco, he said. It wasn't that much, he said. He didn't know how good it was, he said. But he couldn't have seen me any better or bought something that, right then, would have touched my heart more.

The easel still stands in our extra room. I paint on it when I get the chance, which isn't as often as I'd like but that's ok. Every time I use it, I think about the man who is my earthly home, and all the little graces he gives me every day.

And one of the best things about the easel? It folds down into a little box with a handle, so I can take it wherever we go.


Jessica said...

If it helps, when I was growing up, my folks told us, "Home is where the van is." I.e., home is wherever all of us are. It worked for me.

Though, I admit, there's part of me that still thinks of Oregon as home, because when we came back to visit the States in the summer, that's always where we went.

kirsten said...

sarah, i just wanted to say first that this piece warmed me -- about how you & oso are thinking about how to create a sense of "home" for your family. i love how you share this relationship, this man has become your home. this quote grabbed me in particular:

Gradually, I realized that the space in him had become my home, more than any four walls and a roof ever could.

and paint on, girl. paint on, eowyn! wherever you are.

Sarah said...

Jess--it does help...you guys are some of the healthiest MKs I know ;) And, if it all works out like Dave and I would like it, I'd so love for my kids to value the experience they have and also have a sense of home.

Kirsten--thanks...sometimes I think I blog too much about him and I, but it's so natural for me...because we are home for each other.

And I will paint on...thank you.

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

I believe this is the best piece of writing I've ever seen from you. Wow. I wept small tears, sighed, smiled. It was so nuanced, lovely.

I'm really glad you decided to write on the absence of a table in your life.

Christianne said...

Sarah, I, too, loved the piece about Oso having space inside of himself for you and how that space has become your home. I really, really identify with that, and it makes me warm inside just thinking about you having that, too, in him. It's one of the safest feelings in the world, isn't it?

Sarah said...

LL--wow...thanks for that. For so long, blogging wasn't about writing well so much as it was about keeping in touch with people. It's only recently that I've started to think of it as a place to write. I'm not sure why I didn't see it like that before or what caused the change, but it's kind of cool. Also, the general category of "personal essay" has always been so hard for me. It's just now that things are starting to come to me in a form that makes sense. Anyway, thank you...it means a lot.

And I'm really glad I wrote it, too...I think I discovered some feelings I didn't know about before.

Christianne--it really is. Warm and safe, a place to breathe freely...very good.

betsy said...

Hey lady, I clicked through the RSS feed to the comments meaning to tell you that we used to tell the kids: "Home is where the van is"... and read Jess' comments. whew! lump in my throat, tears in my eyes! Home is indeed where the family is gathered together - where the bedtime songs are sung, where the babies are rocked, the children delighted in, the prayers prayed, the stories told. I know you guys, your children will have shelter and sanctuary within your very souls. And save this piece of writing, it will go well in that book of essays that you will write someday about the history of a marriage. with love, Betsy

Sarah said...

Betsy, you're making me cry ;) Sometimes I feel like other people have more faith in Oso and I as potential parents than we have in ourselves!! I so hope that our squibs know they're at home in us. (Squibs=future kids)

And a history of a marriage, huh? Now that's not a bad idea at all...

Joelle said...

Somewhere I read, and I remember it being a really profound and reliable source though I don't recall the author, that you better not marry unless the person you marry feels like home. What gift to have found that. And so beautifully expressed!

Erin said...

This is a tear-jerking delight to read. As an artist, I adore a husband that encourages that creative desire, even if he may not understand it completely or know "the best" supplies to get. The fact that he is entering into your passion and love... well, that's just love in it's own right.

I grew up in a large military family and one of the things I count as a huge blessing is the fact that we DID move so much. As a result, my parents and my siblings have become my best friends and the once-every-two-years moving scenario only solidified our bonds. We were the new kids TOGETHER. We were saying goodbye to old friends TOGETHER. We were riding in the giant, lumbering van on a new adventure TOGETHER.
And this family, this home is who I pined for when I was away. This home will blessedly go with me to our Eternal Home. And I can't imagine it ever getting better than that.

Sarah said...

Joelle-Really? You read that? That's so cool! Thanks for sharing.

Erin-Your words bring me so much encouragement. I can't tell you how many people, when they hear Oso wants to be a chaplain, say, "And you're going to have a family?" with the implication that our kids will be hooligans or something. What you say here that you got from your family is what I'd love to pass on to my kids...and you're telling me it's totally do-able. Thank you so much.

The Gyrovague said...

We all need that sense of place, and sense of space. It sounds like you are finding yours, even if it will move sometime.

Thanks for sharing.

heather said...

Don't you love when husbands do great things like that?

Anonymous said...

Sarah this was a really touching blog. It has taken me a while to get over here to read it, i have popped over here so many times and have gotten distracted by one thing or another.

I notice a trend with our blogging friends, several of you. you live in different parts of the US but you all have one common vein, you have very deeply committed relationships with your spouses.

That is so weird and foreign to me. I have never, (that i can think of) been around marriage relationships like that. It is really really weird. I don't understand that. I read the words you all write, but it does not compute. It touches me though.

Sarah said...

heather--I totally do! I love it particularly because Oso thinks he's awful at buying me gifts ;)

tammy--I'm so glad it touches you...and that you stopped by long enough to read. Take care!

kirsten said...

tag, you're it!! :o)

Terri said...

oh my dear lord, i LOVE what you've written here. it's one of your paintings with color all over the place. i loved how you described your sense of home in your husband. i loved how you talk about raising the children you will have and giving them a sense of home and place in the people who they love. i love the story about the easel. i love you.

oh, and i love your new blog.

Sarah said...

Terri--wow! I feel so LOVED! It's so good to see you here.

Jen said...

What a beautiful, sweet story, Sarah. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sarah said...

You're welcome!