This post written for Women Connect. You can read more about that here .
“the in-between place is still a place” Christie Purifoy
I read these words a few weeks ago now and as sometimes happens with words that strike a chord, they’ve stayed with me.
They made me think of my narrow L shaped hallway.
Its an in-between place.
In between the living areas of the house and more business end of the house. I charge down this hallway arms full on one mission or another day in and day out. Another towel being delivered to the bathroom because no one in this house remembers to take a towel with them to the shower. Or on my way to the laundry, another load of clothes to go in or come out or be hung up, sometimes all three. School uniforms to be ironed, hair to be washed, a bath to be filled. Always something.
Theres the familiar give in one tiny section of the floor where a board has cracked that my feet always seem to find. Dust collects along the skirting boards and gathers in corners and seems on a mission as well – to constantly collect in great heaps just to taunt me. Swishing a mop along those edges right up to the front door feels like a victory in itself but that dust – it has a way of finding its way back.
I wonder how many miles I do in a day, early morning, late at night, up and down – how many do we all do – feeling like we’re getting no where fast
And yep a lot of life is lived in in-between places. Not where we were but not where we want to be either. Between what was and the place our hearts compass has us pointed – the longed for job, the house finished, our goal weight, the debt paid off, something to come or something to go, a big break, a move, a healing, an answer.
And a couple of things can happen.
We can either be in one heck of a rush to put some space between where we are now and where we want to be or we get a lost in the throws of the everyday hard work, the up and down of the same hallways, the in and out, the dust piling up again and lose sight of where we are headed. Drowning not waving.
Either way the difference its the same – we can miss the gift that is the “right now”, we can miss the unique shape and rise and fall of it, we can miss what it might tell us and teach us, we might even miss its beauty.
And I get it “right here” might not be where you thought you would be because you know as well as I that life can’t be trusted to stay the same or to do whats its told. Right now might feel about as bent out of shape as it can get with so many “not yets” and “what ifs”, with so many questions and so much waiting – that somedays we might wonder whose life we are living because it sure doesn’t feel like ours.
Yet even in the in-between place are signs and signposts of the eternal running right beneath our fingertips, just below the surface of our daily work. They point the way , they remind us of who we are are and where we are going, they remind us of the story God is writing with our lives right here, right now.
So I’ll tell you a few other things about my skinny hallway
Ken calls it “the gallery” as a bit of a joke but space is short in my tiny house so each part has to play its part – even the most ordinary of parts. So its lined with paintings – mostly the thrifted kind and mostly Australian landscapes because I love a country landscape and they make me feel peaceful just looking at them. Photographs too – wedding photos and the cutest of the squishy faced baby photos some in ornate frames some in old vintage frames because I like the mix of the old and new and I love their little faces. I’ve positioned them all in groups so there is a “view” as you come out of each door. Destinations for my eyes – like mini breaks and a diversion from the dust.In one corner theres nothing. A hall table was there for a very long while and now that its moved the clear space too is a relief for my eyes. No furniture to wash around, nothing in the way just clear uncluttered space.
On the walls theres maybe a 100 tiny nail holes that have been made in the wrong place – evidence of my picture arranging and rearranging and arranging again and not measuring ever. I’d like to think I was more precise and methodical but the nail holes tell the real story.
Theres a bookshelf too – an ordinary looking bookshelf except that it isn’t. My father made it for me what must be 30 years ago now and its still standing strong despite its age. Me too I hope. It was pushed into the hallway just to get it out of the way and it seems like it was made for this space. A happy accident. Its narrow and tucks into the wall barely noticeable but its a spot to put a few nice things on and the extra storage goes a long way.It just so happens that it covers a hole in the wall too. That hole was first made by Ken years ago now. He hit it out sheer frustration when our boy Ethan 18 months old broke his leg for the second time in a year and it felt like our world was coming apart again. Our only job to protect him and keep him safe and we couldn’t seem to do it. Ken patched the hole later and painted it over but a few years later it was opened up again. Exact same spot. This time by Ethan himself. His hand went through it running full pelt up the hallway playing chasies with a friend on his back. Yes a house full of kids, a birthday party I think, a rollicking good game being had and Ethan a force to be reckoned with. My heart full. I remember Ken being a bit annoyed at the time with the kids “wrecking the house” but truly that ship had sailed a while before and I reminded him, as good wives do why the wall was weak in that spot. I reminded him that Ethan running full pelt anywhere was our prayers of years ago answered, our dreams come true with his bones gaining strength all the time and him growing fast and big and strong. Yes even the things we think broken and gaping, the things we might choose to cover up carry messages of our redemption and are reminders of where God has shown up in our lives.
And in my rushing up and down that hallway I only have to catch a glimpse of those sweet little baby faces and I’m reminded oh this place is good and this life is good. My prayers were answered and I can believe they’ll continue to be answered. The questions and the frustrations and the overwhelm are real but they find there place smaller and less significant than they seemed before because life is a whole lot of dealing with the “bad” but look how glorious is the good.
“Even in the waiting, the listening, and the watching for what’s next, there is still so much right here”. Emily P Freeman
So much goodness, so much life, so much of our story, so much of God, more than we often see with our eyes or even touch with our hands.
Even narrow L shaped hallways can remind us of that somedays
In an in between place:
- Create some diversions from the dust – some mini breaks for your heart and soul. Make some room for the the things you love and that make you feel better and more you just by doing them. Even in the smallest increments its like sunshine to our souls and help bring a measure of the peace and perspective we are yearning for.
- Leave yourself a little blank space, lets call it breathing room. Just give yourself a minute now. Leave yourself some unscheduled time free of lists, have to do’s, planning, scheming, scheduling or doing. Call it pondering, praying, doodling, staring into space or at the garden or out the window time – even just for the littlest of bits it works wonders. “Choosing to leave practical things undone is a brave act of trust and relinquishment. And relinquishment precedes the miracle” Shelly Miller, Rhythms of Rest
- Let the nail hole shows. Remember our mistakes tell our story as much as our victories. They’re signs we haven’t given up on ourselves or on our dreams or our destination. They’re signs that we are still trying and learning and giving things a shot. No shame there. “Lets not fear making a mess, lets not fear broken things” Christie Purifoy
- Celebrate the “happy accidents” There is so much more good then we might think at first glance – unexpected goodnesses that come our way by sheer grace – not planned on, not worked for – just given. The company of a good friend, a good word, a sunset, a blue sky, a last minute reprieve, ten minutes of silence – windfalls for the heart, just at the right time, in the right place. They carry us further than we think. Easy to miss, easy to overlook if were not paying attention but “when things aren’t perfect, which is always, you have to choose what you are going to focus on” Myquillyn Smith
- And finally – look for the handprint of God in your life, trace its lines, run your finger along the imprints left and see how far you have come, see where He has been. Remember “right now” is part of the bigger story being crafted with your life. Now that casts a better light, that brings some form and meaning and place to the present. This place is for a reason so lets call it good.
“Surely the Lord is in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it” Genesis 28:16
Yes God is found in these awkward in between places, in the cracks and crevices of our lives, in the places we feel stranded or squeezed in tight. The very One who sent Jesus down low to the ground with a purpose, to embrace us travellers still dusty and dirty from the road “to steadfastly whisper, I’ve got you, keep going.”