“Yup . . . yup . . . yup. Now release the wheel. Good. A little bit of gas. Yup.”
This is a transcription of Audrey’s first driving lesson with me. Camille recorded it from the backseat, and I am happy to say that I was uncharacteristically calm and encouraging as Audrey jerked to stops and starts in a nearby neighborhood, which I had specifically chosen for its wider, quieter streets at a remove from Toronto’s bustling downtown. Although I had tried insisting it was Ryan’s responsibility to teach our oldest to drive, the reality is also that I am home in the daytime this summer with flexibility in my schedule, and he is not. And as friends reminded me recently, I can’t really send Audrey to driving school next week with absolutely no road experience. So, I am doing my due diligence this week and risking my life (and the lives of our other children, whose smothered giggles from the backseat of the van can also be heard on the video) to teach Audrey how to drive. (If I’m granted permission from said daughter, I’ll see if I can post the video later today on social media.)
Teaching Audrey to drive is just one way I’m keeping place this summer. As many parents know, summer is the season for turning life upside down and shaking out its contents. Without the regular routines of school and with the irregular routines of camp and travel, it becomes difficult to maintain a semblance of order, of predictability, of quiet. Instead, life, in the day-to-day, often feels like a messy pile of gum wrappers, receipts, and pens missing their caps. And admittedly, the quotidian chaos can be frustrating, especially when work and household responsibilities don’t simply disappear because the final bell has rung for the school year and pealed summer. I still have to answer email, still have to keep to some kind of writing schedule for the next book, still have to the big project that I’m leading at church.
It was this ongoing-ness of work, this gum-wrapper, receipt, and cap-less pen life that woke me up yesterday with leaden dread sitting heavily on my chest, mocking my intention to set one word down on paper. And quite honestly, yesterday, dread had it right. Because after more than two hours of waiting in the lobby of Service Canada in the morning (all six of us had to get our SIN numbers, which is the Canadian equivalent to a social security number), the day already felt swallowed up by the housekeeping. And it wasn’t even lunchtime.
I write about the housekeeping in chapter 6 of Keeping Place, and it’s in this chapter where the whole book turns—from considering home in the abstract sense of longing toward home in the more concrete sense of labor. If there was a reason that I needed to write this book, it might be for this chapter and the ones to follow it. Because like you, I can get grumpy about the housekeeping. I feel entitled to life being easier, more convenient, less built on the principles of hassle. But what I’ve come to realize is this: there is no home without the housekeeping. We don’t get any of the comfort and safety, rest and refuge or home without the regular hassles of the work, which is to say: the investment we make in our people and places. (And if you have read Keeping Place, you know I’m not just talking about the nuclear family and our house.) Housekeeping is a way of describing our call to embodied and emplaced service in the world.
Because it’s summer, because life has this gum-wrapper quality to it, because I’ve been immersed in the day-to-day responsibilities of the housekeeping, you might imagine what I noticed as I recently was reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection in the book of Luke. As Luke 23 concludes, we see Joseph of Arimathea claiming Jesus’ bloody and battered body from Pilate. This is his act of the housekeeping. He takes Jesus’ body down from the cross and wraps it in a shroud before placing it in his family’s tomb (v. 53). And who is there watching this tender act of love? The women, of course. And when they return from this private burial scene, what is the work they take up? The housekeeping, of course. “They returned and prepared spices and ointments,” (v. 56). I imagine this small group, shedding tears into their mortars, letting grief keep rhythm with their pestles. I imagine the motion of their hands as one small source of consolation, one solid promise that the world wasn’t only gum-wrappers and pen-less caps. I imagine their kitchen work, taken up in community, in the dread of the darkest day, and I think of the small comfort it must have been to end up here together, puzzling out what it had all meant that Jesus had breathed his last breath, that the sky had gone dark, that the temple curtain had been torn.
And then Luke 24 opens. The quiet desolation of a Sabbath with a buried Savior has ended, and the women hurry to the tomb with their spices. Did you catch that? It’s the housekeeping that brings them to the sight of miracle. They are the first to the tomb because they are the ones intent on properly embalming Jesus’ body. In other words, the housekeeping isn’t the menial work to get done before the real business of life begins. The housekeeping is the means for seeing Jesus.
And that encourages me. Summer is full of housekeeping, which means I’m not always getting done what feels most important to get done. But isn’t that just my foolish, naive way of seeing the world? Because when life turns upside down and shakes out like crumbs from the bottom of my purse, can’t I choose to believe that Jesus is there, too?
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the angel asked the women at the tomb. As was true in their case, it’s the housekeeping that can bring me to the sight of miracle.
The housekeeping of camp laundry.
The housekeeping of afternoon driving lessons.
The housekeeping of lobby waiting.
The housekeeping of babysitting a friend’s son and hosting overnight guests.
Summer’s housekeeping, like ground spices, bring me to an empty tomb.