Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tales of beauty from the rubbish heap: Sucker punch (a story of openness and vulnerability)

For more than four years, this blog has been my space of storytelling. Where I come and lay out the trail of crumbs from Then to Now, evidence of beauty emerging from what I like to call the rubbish heap of life. But it's always been in the back of my mind, how I want this space to be more. I long for it to be a home for your stories, too, somehow, not only in the comments section. I envision this grand, limitless book where we're all contributing pages of our redemption stories-in-process, witnesses to the pain and the glory, the searching and the finding. And I'm so happy, dear friends, to tell you that I'm starting something new this month of May. I've invited four writer friends to contribute stories each week of the month, their tales of beauty from the rubbish heap. I hope it's only the beginning of a bigger story being told here on this blog.
This week, it's a pleasure to introduce you to Kelly Chripczuk, whose writing I gratefully stumbled across several years ago. Each time I pull up a seat next to this intelligent woman, hearing her stories of wisdom from everyday spiritual practices, I leave pondering life in a fresh way. Over time, she's endeared herself  even more to me with her beautiful prose drawn from a love of birds, land and nature, descriptions reminiscent of Wendell Berry. Please give her a big, warm, open-hearted welcome? 
* * * * * 

Sucker punch: 
A story of openness and vulnerability
We wrote an offer on a big old farm house – a solid, happy looking place with great bones, two acres and a “tenant house” – the day after Christmas 2013.  Then we waited a week for the bank representative to return from vacation and reply to our offer.   

This was the fourth house we bid on over an eight month period.  We'd been through enough ups and downs to be cautious, but this time around we were very, very excited.  We tried to simmer down about it, but one day I brought home a stack of Organic gardening magazines I found on the free shelves at the local library, then my husband started researching chickens on-line.  Soon I was scanning Craigslist for the cabinets and fixtures needed to bring the place up to speed for a family of six.  

But it wasn’t until the last day, the day before we would hear back, that I really let myself get excited.

It felt so right.
It was the first house we hadn’t had to make a list of pros and cons about – just one walk-through and we were certain, yes, this will work.  Despite the old oil heating system, the paneling on EVERY wall and the half bath that was more like a corner closet with an accordion style door – despite all of that, it felt right. 

It felt like it did when we found our first house, too good to be true and everyone we consulted seemed to feel it too – it’s time, surely this one will work. 

The day I got excited was the same day I started writing about my OneWord for 2014.  This is what I wrote about my word, ‘open.’

I picture feet planted firmly, a good solid stance – open body language. 
Arms hanging down long and lose, hands turned out toward the world. 
There's no defense in openness, no closing off, no fear maybe too, which tells me that openness is rooted in something wide and life-giving, like love.   
The posture of ‘open’ leans back a little, open can take a hit and stay standing.  
Feet planted, hands open, embracing what comes.
 I’m open to 2014 and whatever it brings, “Let it be unto me.”

I was prepared to wait an extra day – I told myself it might drag out through the weekend ahead, but underneath it all, I figured the house would probably be ours.

So I didn’t expect my husband to call, near nine on Thursday morning, with that heavy sound in his voice.  The one that makes me think he must be kidding, because he’s so terrible at delivering bad news.  
There was another offer.  It was cash, no contingencies, not even an inspection.

At the word “cash” we knew we’d lost and by one that afternoon it was all wrapped up.  The house went to another buyer.

The news hit me like a sucker-punch, right square in the gut.  I felt literally sick to my stomach.

I walked around crying silent tears that whole day long, I felt the grief of that loss in the way one does when one has been vulnerable, open.

Not long after, I read this on my friend, Shawn Smucker’s blog,

. . . choosing hope is difficult because it involves opening myself up instead of closing myself off. Hope requires vulnerability. It insists that we get back up, no matter how many times we’ve already fallen. To live in a place of hope means to live in a place where pain, should it come, finds us defenseless, with our hands down at our sides, our most sensitive areas unguarded.

Looking back I can see that we embraced hope during that week of waiting – a careful cautious hope, but hope none-the-less.

We opened ourselves to hope and it caused our hearts to flit and flutter in unexpected ways, awakening anticipation, leaving us vulnerable and exposed. 

It was painful, it was awfully close to heart-breaking.  I cannot remember now how exactly we recovered from that blow, except that we also opened ourselves to the pain, acknowledging and grieving the loss as it came.  Then slowly, slowly we picked the pieces up and moved on facing again with openness and vulnerability the possibility of another place, another dream. 

Reading my friends words I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Breathing deeply again, I chose to open myself again to whatever might come, I chose hope.

I hesitate to tell you this, because some of you may also be in the middle of a difficult wait.  Maybe you also know the sucker-punch of vulnerability, the heavy weight of lost dreams.  My husband and I took a hit to the stomach and stayed standing and that in itself is story worth telling because, from where we stood, we had no idea where our story was going. 

But what I think you also should know is this: One month later our realtor called back.  “Sit down,” he said, “I’ve got some good news.  The offer fell through, write another bid just like the one from before and the house is yours.”

That dream? It came back, it was given back and we stood there with our hands open and overflowing.

I can’t explain the why of it all, but I do know that the loss of that dream made its return all the sweeter.  I do know that I learned the cost of “open” early this year when the wind was knocked out and I know that “open” is worth choosing despite the possibility of pain for with it comes also the possibility of deep joy.

* Kelly writes at A Field of Wildflowers or follow her on Facebook @ A Field of Wildflowers.


  1. I too have really loved Kelly`s writing. its such a joy to hear her share here at your place Amber.
    thank you for sharing your vulnerability and your hopes, the ups and downs, Kelly. thank you for sharing that quote from Shawn...definitely resonated deep with me.

    1. Thanks so much, yes, I was so grateful to read that quote when I most needed it. It's amazing how having someone name an experience can move us from loneliness to community which, for me, always eases the pain. Thanks so much for commenting :)

  2. Ahhh. Feeling this post all the way to my bones.

    Just this morning I read: "The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again and again and again. You must allow yourself to feel your life while you're in it." (Victoria Erickson)

    And if that's not exactly what you just wrote, if that's not VULNERABILITY, then I don't know what is. Beautiful story, Kelly. Thank you for teaching us all what it means to open.

    1. Hah, Kelli. Few of us want to take that road to loveliness, but life, ah life, leads us there anyways and then, as always, it's up to us (by grace) to choose what to do with it. "yet still send their open hearts into the world" Yes, working on that one moment by moment. Thanks so much for your friendship, Kelli. I'm trusting we'll meet someday, somewhere in person!

  3. Boy, Amber, I know what it means to have a place of one's own online and I'm so blessed by your willingness to share yours with me. I hope the sharing is a blessing to you and yours.

    1. Kelly, it's been a blessing indeed. Each time I re-read your words today, I felt them calling me to a more challenging practice of hope, vulnerability and openness in areas of my life where this has been a huge struggle. It's your story here, but also your description of "open" and how it fits in with Shawn's definition of hope. This arms down by the side, defenseless, sensitive areas unguarded - it runs straight through my heart. So I'm going to keep pondering, asking for grace and courage to live this one out. Thanks again, friend.

  4. I'm so honored to have been part of your journey, Kelly. But I'm even more happy that the house. Ame back around to you. Trust and openness are beautiful things.

  5. I know that sucker punch all to well, Kelly. I immediately thought of the night we were in a hotel room in Buffalo after a whole day of testing to prepare me for my stem cell transplant. The phone rang and your dad answered. Even before he hung up and told me the news, I knew by that kick in my gut that my donor had backed out. Just as this blog talks of beautiful rubbish God took those ashes and made another donor more beautiful and perfect then the first. God is always good and working on our behalf. I enjoyed your story.

    1. Evelyn... this sounds like a beautiful, heart-wrenching story, and from what I gather, one that you're still in the midst of. Thank you for even the glimpse of it here, and may you continue to know more beauty revealed in the ashes, more hope and life and peace, than you ever thought possible as you walk this road.

  6. Beautifully done, Kelly. I did not realize that the house you got was the one you lost - such a lovely story! Thank you.