My Mama told me that there’d be days like this.
Days when it feels like the heat of Hades is burning blazes up your backside.
And just when you grip that blessed doorframe and the exit out, somebody slams that door hard, scrapes your fingers into a mangled mess, and you’re left flailing like a fool in the heat and the hurt and a bit of a weary chuckle.
Yeah, maybe, kinda, a whole lot of days like that.
Four boys scrap loud over the last scrap of bacon. My inner cochlear and introvert shrivel up.
Who in the busted world threw six garbage-empty egg cartons back into the fridge?
(Really, there were six: I counted. Six empty cartons tossed in on top of the cauliflower and broccoli. I have no words for the profound mysteries of life.)
There’s a crusted lava of eggs splattered across the stove top. This takes 12 minutes to scrape off with a razor. I know. I set the timer. 12 long minutes of this scraaaaping tuned a bit like a squealing fork across a Corel dinner plate.
Tolkien talks back to me every time I set a timer:
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Yeah, yeah, I’m a slow learner in a life going by fast — Every day, every moment, you only have one decision to make: what will you do with time.
It’s strange: You can want nothing more than time, and use nothing worst than time.
The timer screeches. There’s no stopping time.
I read this story to the kids. I do this a lot, read true stories to kids, because really: a mother’s vocation is to hands the kids inspiration. Malakai’s chin’s digging into my shoulder.
I shift the dented shoulder, Malakai shifts and dents deeper and I read to him, and his little sister sprawled across the back of the couch and Hope knitting another cowl for blizzard gear and Levi who is supposed to be doing math but has got one ear tuned in.
And I read how there were these ragamuffin kids who lived off on an island drifting near the coast of Thailand.
Yeah, literally lived off the island: the island was this outcropping of rock — and they lived off stilted houses clinging to the side of the rock, stilted houses over water, the village of Ko Panyee.
And all around Ko Panyee, around these communal tvs with cocked rabbit ear antennae, these barefoot kids sat cross legged and concentrated on endless games of football.You can watch life. Or actually play life. And only one way wins.
So after a while, the whole feisty tribe of kids stood up and decided to be more than life-spectators: they were going to actual life-participators.
The rowdy bunch of kids made their own football team.
At which point, the rest of the islanders/stilters made fun of them.
Because there was this, oh, one small problem —
“Look around you…” the villagers of Ko Panyee laughed at the kids.
“Look at where you live.”
Look around you — look at where you live.
There’s a pile of laundry on the couch and dishes in the sink and there are books splayed everywhere like a clowder of sunning cats.
And I choke hard when I read that one line:
“In a village floating on water — space can be hard to find.”
In a life like this — space can be hard to find.
In a life standing on thin stilts over waves — space can be hard to find, space to think and dream and make and read and do and become.
An island of time can be hard to find to do new things and change old ways and stretch into different territory and give like you are called and grow into someone like Him.
Space can be hard to find and time can be hard to come by and how do you find the way to do hard things?
And all the football-hungry kids wilted into this clump: “We had a team — but no place to play.”
“Where we live — space isn’t something that we had.”
Where we live — sometime space for new ideas of ministry, new dreams of being, new ways of living, isn’t something that we had.
Where we live — who has space and time for popcorn on Thursday nights and rowdy rounds of UNO with kids, who has space and time to bring a pie to the shut-in down the street, space and time to disciple that lonely kid at church, space and time to create art?
Who has space to invite the neighbours over for dinner, invite a new dream to the front of the line, invite a new habit into lives that are so full, they already teetering on stilts over water?
One ragamuffin kid in a greying-white tank top stands up:
“We figured out we would have to create our own space.”
We figured out we would have to create our own space.
And I’m struck if that’s how it really is?
God gives us everything we need for space — but we will have to make space.
God gives us all the ingredients for time — but we will have to make time.
God gives us everything we need to live — but we will have to make a life.
No one just gets space.
No one just gets time.
God gives you the raw materials — but you will have to make your life.
So there are these kids on a village floating over water, without even one inch of solid ground to play football on — who look at what they’ve got — and they make space.
They figured out they would have to start collecting scraps of wood from around the village. They figured out they would have to gather up what wasn’t lean, what hadn’t been fully optimized, what hadn’t been creatively envisioned.
They believed: What they needed had been given — they would just have to see it and make it.
They figured out they would have to make space with salvaged planks.
When I get to the part where the kids start tying old rafts together and nailing down the salvaged planks? It’s hard to swallow, something in me burning — something like hope.
After school, and after chores, and after dark, they nailed together what they could salvage, the raw materials of their life reconfigured.
Until they had nailed together a floating, wooden, football field.
Malakai and Shalom laugh this cheering glee.
Yeah there were nails sticking out of the wooden football field, and sure, it is tipsy, a football field bobbing on rafts and barrels, and yes sireee, when they dove for the ball, they often found themselves in the water. They found themselves playing wet and on a slippery wooden, nail pocked field.
So maybe your space won’t look normal, so maybe your space won’t be comfortable, so maybe your space won’t be standard or steady or safe.
Make your space and play anyway.
That’s what they did: Those kids from the floating village of Ko Panyee played in the space they had made — with what they’d been given.
But even then, when the letter came from the mainland, inviting them to a football tournament, they just didn’t know if they had what it takes.
But that is just the thing:
You don’t have to know if you have what it takes.
You just have to know that you will take what you’ve been given and make something of that.
Those kids from the floating village of Ko Panyee played in that mainland championship.
“We were nervous…. ” the kids wrung their hands a bit. Real grass? Real ground? Real football? “But once we got playing — we realized we were better than we thought.”
They realized that their space that was unconventional — had made them a force that was unstoppable.
The nails in their field had made them nimble. The unevenness of their field had made them unflappable.
The small goals they had to work with on their field had made the big goals on the real field easier to score, easier to win. They made it to the semi-finals.
Then it began to rain. Their shoes filled with water. They were down by two by half time.
They gathered and tried to reorient — what could they make of what they were given?
They took off their shoes. They knew how to play with little. They knew how to play in slippery spaces. They knew how to make something good with what they were given.
The kids of Panyee who lived over water, the kids who made space over water for their dreams, they scored two goals in the second half — and. evened. the. score.
And a crowd of kids on the farm grin a mile wide, feeling it in their bones, how there is space in this world for any God-given dream, for any God-given goal, God always providing the raw materials to make real space, to make real time.
I’m grinning like a fool with them, me their mama who wants to tell them there will be days like this.
Days when you will just have to salvage time planks. Because you don’t get space and time. What you’re given are the materials to make time and space.
Days when you will have to make space.
Days when you will have to make your own field — and then go be outstanding in it.
Yeah, I can see it from the couch, hear it, how the clock is ticking like a miracle about to detonate…
But I can see that too —
There are hands on the clock but the hands on clocks are always bound hands:
You are the only one who gets to decide what you’ll do with your time.