Don’t panic. It’s for an good reason. No, there is no #icebucketchallenge involved. There’s not even “a mile without shoes”- challenge. (Yet.)
Today, I walked barefoot, on a dream.
We’ve been married 26 years in October. Almost 30 years ago we spent long summer and fall days- on Big Portage Lake and Tim’s Lake- near Jackson, Michigan. We always talked about the cottages that lined the lakes. We shared stories of each of our families’ cottages.
“Someday.” We dreamed. “Maybe, someday we can have a place on a lake.” However-we never actually believed it could happen. Lake front property is notoriously expensive. (Yes, even here, in Michigan- where we have more lakes than bathtubs.)
There is always “something” else that we needed. Like: college tuition. Groceries. Vet bills. Cars breaking down or needing replacing. Home maintenance. Life. It’s always something. Isn’t it?
Still-we kept saying: “Maybe, someday.”
For one week a year we have a time share that my mom and step dad blesses us with. It’s in Traverse City. Right on the water. Every year we look at buying another week or two- because a week by the water is just not enough. It’s heaven. But, goes by so fast. Except, that involves just another week. It’s also hours from our home. Not exactly somewhere to just go spend a day. Or, two or, ten.
We’ve looked at property there-every year- and dreamed: “Maybe someday.” “Maybe, someday, we’ll have a place up here-where we can go anytime we want- and just: rest.” Nature or nurture or, maybe God’s calling us to His creation- water and sun and trees = almost instant- rest. Always. Sunshine and water are better than Zoloft. (Trust me, I know of what I speak.)
We love to go camping- and for years we’ve been calling our camper “our mobile cottage.” Still thinking: maybe someday. Camping is amazing- but- it’s a lot of work with moments of rest. Every time we’ve packed up to leave our campsite we’ve said: “Maybe, someday.”
Then- came surgeries and cancer and their BFF’S: medical bills.
“Someday” Became “No way.”
For the past few years our lives and dreams have been on hold. Between my hubby’s health and my own- it’s been wave after wave of waiting for test results,surgeries, doctor’s appointments. Treatments. All while working and writing and traveling for work and living and kids and – life.
A couple of months ago- we started talking about how tired we are of being on hold. Being on hold is different than waiting. Waiting ends. Test results eventually come in. Decisions are eventually made. Having your life on hold, means not making decisions because: “What if?” “We can’t plan a trip, because what if the test results are bad that month?” “We shouldn’t spend on that- because: what if? The BIG What if, happens?”
Only like the cable company- when your life is on hold- time continues to pass. So does the life you actually, have.
Instead of moments savored, they are moments of torture. Like the cable company- there is also, bad hold music. Of course. It’s the sound of all the worries and scenario running- good, bad, miraculous and ugly- that plays in your head the whole stinkin’ time. You’re on hold.
As we thought and talked that through we realized that whatever happens- this is the day we have. This is the life we have. However long or short, it may be. The truth is- none of us know how long our days will be. Only God knows and he wisely keeps that to himself.
So we took ourselves off hold. We changed some of our what it’s.”
Everyday I pray for a few things- that God would bless the work of my husband’s hands and heart, that my kids would know they are deeply loved by us and by God, and that God would make a way where there seems to be no way.
He hasn’t healed my husband’s cancer- (yet) and I think my kids know they are loved. And this year- God did some pretty awesome things through my husband’s hard work.
We made some plans. College plans. Bill plans. Financial plans. (We’re Ramsey flunkies who are slowly getting it. We passed the second time- it’s a process.)
Then we realized: That dream? Well- maybe it could happen. If we could find something that would work for us. The “that would work for us” part was the difficult part.
- Close enough to home to actually be able to go to for just a day trip.
- In a price range that wouldn’t change our ability to help others.
- Big enough- but not too big. (Bigger means MORE WORK.)
- NOT a fixer upper. We wanted a place to rest- not work. Low maintenance.
- On the water.
We weren’t asking for much, were we?
We started looking online. We were shocked to find some reasonably riced cottages. We tried not to be excited. We started to spend weekends driving all over South East Michigan – looking at cottages. “Too far.” “Not handicapped accessible.” “Too expensive.” “Needs too much work.” Then I found one we fell in love with online. It fit our criteria. It was also on the lake we’d spent so much time dating on.
We drove out just to “see it.”
We loved it. We called the realtor from the driveway. “Sold.” I nearly cried.
Kyle (My husband) Suggested we just drive around a bit in the area to see if anything else was for sale.
A few misses and then: Bam. It happened. At first glance I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go in- It was red. Which was kind of weird. My hubby said: “Let’s just look.” He called the realtor. It was still available. “Could we see it?” She called the owner’s- who happened to be at the cottage. They said to come on in.
The kitchen needed a little love, but the view and the deck and the layout? PERFECT. They were also selling it: furnished. Appliances included. We left to talk- and pray. And question and pray. We talked to some trusted friends. We battled a lot of guilt- because really- it was a want- not a need. And- I remember so desperately wanting a home of my own for years-that to have a home and a cottage just seemed like too much.
We talked to our doctors. Both said: Do it. Enjoy your life, now. It will be good for you. Mental health can lead to physical health.
So- Friday- we did it. We bought that tiny almost 100 year old cottage on the lake. By Saturday night- it felt like our own. The previous owners left everything immaculate- and stocked- from a jet ski (another dream- little known fact: jet skis are my roller coasters. Give me a ski and a tank of gas and I’ll hit that lake hard, and come back to the dock with bugs in my still grinning teeth. There is a shed full of everything a cottage owner needs, lawnmower (Mostly moss and low growing grass- only needs cutting about twice a season.) a bbq a bug fogger- lake rake…. life jackets, enough floaties to invade Cuba. Patio furniture, fans and window AC units. It even has a big wooden swing.
All we had to do was bring clothes and give it a Tracey Makeover. Which we did. Including an actual writing desk that faces the lake. It’s light and bright and cozy all at the same time.
In some ways- it doesn’t make sense. Now? Really? In other’s it makes total sense- it’s now- or never. We decided to be brave and wise and go with now.
Which is where I am, right now. Writing where I’ll be finishing up my book. Facing the water. Soaking in sun, and finally feeling off hold.
No. The cancer is not gone. Yes. it’s still bad. But, today? We have a place to enjoy- rest, recover between appointments and make memories.
When I chose my word for the year- “Abide” I had totally thought it was going to totally be about abiding and enduring. I had no idea it would also involve abiding here- in a dream come true.
I have no idea what you’re going through. I have no idea what dream you have that you’ve set aside as “not ever.” I have no idea why your life feels on hold. Honestly- I also have no idea why we were blessed with this option at all. We sure don’t deserve it.
But, I do know this: Winston Churchill was right when he said: “When you’re gong through hell- keep going.” Whatever your hell. Whatever your dream on hold. Keep going. Take another step. Breathe. Do the next thing. You just might find yourself surprised by God, even there- as well.
“Dear Lord- I thank you for all you have done and are doing. Thank you for our little cottage of grace that we so do not deserve. Thank you for all the tiny affirmations that this is the right place for us- for now. Help us to enjoy your presence even as we continue to go through the hell that is cancer. Even here- abiding in grace- and surprised at where it’s led. Lord- for those who’s lives feel on hold- who feel like they’re barely treading water- help them to keep going. To try again. To breathe one more breath. Take one more step. And meet them with grace- where ever they are.- in Jesus’ beloved name- amen.”