My heart’s a little rambly tonight. I don’t know just how much of this will make sense to anyone but me. Do you ever feel like settling into your own life is elusive? That after that next thing happens, when you cross that next hill, come up from that next dip into the valley…then you can do all those things you’re planning to do? You just have to arrive first, right? Right?
We didn’t move a lot when I was young. A few times in my early childhood and then we moved into the house where I lived from age 8 until age 21 when I left to move into my first “married house.” John and I are both relationship people. We like traditions and security. We tend to plan a bit. We pictured ourselves as “pick a house and live there to raise our family” people. John did an excellent job of saving and preparing for marriage, even as young as he was. When we were engaged at 20 and 21, he had saved enough money to buy my ring and make a down payment on our first house. I was extremely proud of him. We loved that little house. It was our first experience with building a house even though it was a little cookie cutter starter home without a lot of options. We made our first Home Depot runs where “a few things” added up quickly, bought our first Christmas tree that was way too big and barely fit in our living room or in our car to drive home, bought a puppy for our first Christmas gift to each other, bought toilet paper from Sam’s that lasted us months and months, and painted rooms whatever color we wanted. We spent hours and hours decorating our firstborn’s nursery, stayed up all night playing Empire Earth on two computers side by side, and I made I don’t know how many cookies to feed all John’s buddies who came over to play Halo or watch 24. We lived on the same street with a couple from church who became some of our best friends, hosted small groups, played games with siblings, and had family and friends spend the night. It was greatness.
When I became pregnant the year after John V was born, we decided that it was time to think about getting more space. Then I lost the baby. When I quickly became pregnant again, we continued on with our looking and planning. Then I lost that baby too. We felt clearly that even though things weren’t moving forward with our family in the way we had pictured, it was still time. We both knew that we were supposed to step out in faith and build that house for the babies we believed God would send us. For the hospitality we felt was our calling and ministry. So we did. And as the months passed and we built that house, we were surprised that we had to continue all the way through move-in on faith that we needed that extra room because it was still Critz party of three. John’s job changed around that time and it turned out that he would be working ten minutes from where we were building our house. What a blessing! That was a wonderful season of a very short commute and a great work environment. What a blessing. We began settling into that home and creating new memories there. Within a month of living there we had hosted a family holiday, a baby shower, and small groups. We decorated and my mom and I made drapes, bedding, and covered chairs. We again loved the building process as this time we built something much more custom to our tastes and to raising our family in our “forever home.” I guess forever is a stretch to use in describing 4 years, huh? It’s easy to laugh at myself a bit now thinking back to how figured out we had things at that point. One thing we still didn’t know was where the small people were to fill our new home. Then came God’s promise to us after fasting and praying through the due date of that third miscarried baby. He spoke to us and promised us more treasure than we could carry away if we would praise Him first and allow Him to fight our battle. And true to His promise came a little pink person to help fill one more bedroom in that house. And after a year and a half and a scary start to the pregnancy, we experienced our first two consecutive pregnancies without loss in between. Such joy. Such victory. And complete unawareness that the next two years would hold two more losses, another son, and a move completely away from the place we had planned to “settle.”
I will never forget that “punched in the gut” feeling I had the night John came home and told me there was a strong possibility we would need to move to Austin if he wanted to keep working at his current job. It seemed like just too much. After my third baby I had been sick, struggling with health issues. I had worked with every ounce of energy I could muster to get out of that hole. I had spent hours and invested myself in learning about nourishing my family and taking us down a better path. I had gathered resources and figured out a plan. And now I was going to take my three young children, my physical struggles, and my plans and start over in a new place. A place where my husband would relocate with everyone he worked with and I would start over. But the first thing the Lord reminded me of in that moment were the vows I made on our wedding day. I said the words of Ruth when she promised Naomi to stay with her, “Wherever you go, I will go.” And I knew in my spirit that this was my opportunity to fail in my marriage or to make it stronger than ever. And I did everything in my power and in the power I begged God to pour out on me to go with a cheerful heart, with courage, and as a support. And, as God always does when we just walk off the cliff with Him, I found myself standing on much more solid ground than I could have ever created with all my safety nets in place. I wouldn’t trade the next two years for anything. We said goodbye to that house we thought was ours to keep and found ourselves building again. At this stage of life we found ourselves thinking about what would be hardy and strong against little munchkins, what would give me space and usability for homeschooling and for spending many hours at home with my kids in a new area. Again, our goal was hospitality as we invited others to spend time with us there. We knew we would also have many visitors and we treasure the memories we made with friends and family who stayed with us during that season. That move we expected to be more temporary – probably around three to five years. Mitchell came and blessed us beyond what we could have dreamed. We built precious friendships with co-workers and their families, ball team friends, and neighbors. We grew as a family into people who desired adventure with God over security. We were no longer content to calmly exist, we wanted to wildly go out there and be really crazy. We crossed the line of normality and never looked back. Our thinking changed and God took our minds out of boxed compartments and opened it up to see a tiny bit more of His perspective. I received the beginning of a calling to serve moms as a ministry and began seeing slivers of how God was going to open the doors to make that happen.
We had lived there two years when we very suddenly saw our next move in front of us. We were supposed to go home. And that quickly I found myself having made a full circle back to the house where that eight year old girl rode her bike in the driveway. We moved, my grandmother had a serious car accident that drastically changed our extended family, I had a baby, my sister graduated, my other sister got married, John started a new job, he left that job, he started another job, he worked on a side project that will eventually be his job, I started another year of homeschooling a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a pre-K son. Now I go to Home Depot with five kids and can’t remember what I need while my child climbs on everything, I go to Costco to buy things that might last a week, and I stay up all night folding laundry and feeding babies on growth spurts. 😉 The other day I asked God, “Where should I put down my roots? Do they need to go here in this house? Do I invest myself here? Do we go somewhere else? Should I keep myself in reserve knowing that You never intended for us to be stayers but goers?” I wrestled through my planner questions that have swirled in my head for a year now. And I heard Him tell me again that my investment is not in where I am but with whom. If you come to my house you will find it a long way from “settled.” There are drawers and closets that need more organizing, there are wall hangings under my piano instead of on my walls. There is a nursery for one of the most wanted and beloved babies ever born that still awaits personalization, and a sweet six year old wanting a move up from the bedding we made her for her first big girl move out of a crib. You will find my Pinterest worthy fall decor missing and the school system of my dreams is just there…in my dreams. You will find that I spend many hours doing things to invest in the health and well-being of my family and still don’t do all the things I would like to do. But you know what you will find there? And anywhere that I ever live? You will find my whole, entire heart there. Outwardly I may be far from settled and some of those things I would like to give to my family are elusive. But I will never choose to let those be a measurement of what lies beneath. I will get there on many of those things. Eventually. But if all of this moving has taught me anything at all, it is to invest the most in what will go with me. I will decorate, organize, and settle into what lasts – my family. And with what is left over, I will do the same with my home. Wherever He takes us next will be part of a great story, and we will be ready. For now, I think boxes are the enemy and the “M” word is one of the four letter ones that isn’t allowed. 🙂 Until He says it. Then suddenly what I didn’t think I wanted becomes the best thing that ever happened to me. That is the miracle of God’s hand at work. He didn’t come in and make my closets look better and He didn’t paint the nursery, but He settled my heart and that is the greater miracle.
I am grateful for those who have spent time with us in each of these places. For those who will spend time with us in the places to come. For everyone in my life (and they’re in yours too) who doesn’t care a bit about perfection but about being together and being a part of my past, present, and future. I begin to think less about how long I will do something or how to plan it out and more about how much real living I can fit into whatever time I have in this season. Maybe “settled” is elusive because it is never meant to be the goal. Maybe “ready and willing” is.