My husband’s slippers are made of soft shearling. They were a Christmas present from his mother one year. He wears them almost always because the thermostat is set on “economy” and that is not nearly enough to take away the chill that seeps into our house with the damp from the rain.
My husband wears his slippers so much, the rubber soles have begun to crack and leave little bits around the house wherever he has walked. “You need new slippers,” I say as I walk by with an armload of laundry.
“Mmm,” he replies, turning one over in his hand while contemplating the big gaps that have formed where the sole and the leather should meet. He is barefoot, and I notice the strange patch of freckles around his right ankle that showed up after a childhood cast was removed.
I remember back many years ago when I ran my fingers across those spots and wondered about them. It was the first time I had ever touched him. My heart felt almost sick to trace out that little strip of skin where his socks didn’t quite reach the bottom of his jeans.
I still get a little woozy over his ankles.
But it’s not right to let him walk around cold-footed in January, so I think I should set about trying to find him a new pair, maybe on sale. It’s not really the time to be spending money on shearling slippers, not while he’s still out of work and looking for a place to minster.
But I figure I can find something just to get him through for now.
A little while later, Jeff is at the kitchen table with a gaggle of kids around him. There is duct tape and a razor blade and the sound of something dangerous going on. I peek over their heads. The slippers are undergoing reconstructive surgery. The cracks in the soles are being sealed up, and the worst places taped together.
When we’re all alone, I ask him about it. “I can find new slippers for you,” I say, and he smiles.
“I want to make a deal with you,” he says. “I don’t think this is a good time for me to spend money on slippers, or anything else.” He lists a few other things that he is going to do without, and even give up, for the time being.
I nod, sadly aware that we need to find a way to make our tiny budget a little tighter. Jeff takes me by the shoulders and looks into my eyes. “I don’t think we should spend money on slippers because I want you to spend the money on your blog.”
I am stunned, so stunned I almost don’t hear all the beautiful words my husband is saying to me, all the words about how much he has wanted this for me, how he has felt a shared agony over the fact that this gift—is it a gift?—must remain unopened while the pressing duties of life and motherhood take priority.
“It is time,” he says, “for you to write.”
I choke back a sob that comes up out of the years of waiting, wondering, doubting. It is a sob for a dream that has been buried so deep and for so long, I thought perhaps it was dead. I thought perhaps it had never been real.
But it is a gift, he says, and my eyes fill up with his words. God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. Time and circumstances cannot take them away.
All these years of waiting, of feeling the weight of a gift I cannot use, seem all at once not to matter. The season of early motherhood, when I couldn’t find the balance between using my gift and loving my children, when I couldn’t keep a home and entertain a dream, was just that: a season. Not the dead-hard season of winter but the sleepy-cold season of early spring when the ground is almost too cold to plant.
In the dark of the earth, with muddy furrows above and beside and beneath me, I mistook the season. It was not a season for dying. It was a season for being planted, for waiting, for growing in strength down in the dark so the gift could grow when the sun came to shine. It was not the end of a dream. It was the beginning.
On this beautiful day of motherhood, I am thankful that the dark years cannot diminish who God has made us to be. I am thankful that the gifts God plants in us do not whither for the waiting. They are simply waiting for the right time to grow.