Monday, November 23, 2015

Truth About Marriage

Some days it is just oh so clear why serial divorce is a thing.

It's easier to fall in love than it is to stay in love.

The rewards of falling in love are like fizzy beverages... tingling and fresh. They go down smooth and leave you heady and breathless.

The rewards of staying in love are different. A bit heavy. They're the matching scars you bear from healing side by side. Tinged with salt and grit and bound up wounds and the rust stains of iron wills that say, "I'm here. I'm not leaving." Less glamorous. More gracious.

Falling in love is full of possibility and bravery and chance and newness. No one has yet been disappointed. No one has failed for the 100th time. Faith may have been dashed once, but it hasn't yet been dashed into oblivion over and over against the rocks of unchangeable human nature and stubbornness. He hasn't been beaten by cruel life. She hasn't been soured by frustrated aspirations. All is hope.

Oh, but staying in love... Staying in love is a long, slow road where possibility often disappoints, and hope often tarnishes under trials. Where life's brutality molds hopers into something they never planned to be. Where we become so accustomed to the things we love about each other that we take them for granted, and only the things that drive us bonkers seem to shine above the monotony of daily living... in a tiny house with two babies... and only one microscopic bathroom.

I'm tired of newly married people saying, "Oh, marriage isn't hard! We're different. We're better matched. We beat the odds." (I said it myself even just a few years ago.) Shut up. In the scheme of a 60 year relationship, you practically just glanced at each other. You're making those who have been on this road much longer than you feel sick. What loss have you overcome? What sleepless nights? What broken hearts? What frustrated careers? What abysmal loss of identity? What loss of life or health or dreams? Of course your marriage isn't hard. You barely know each other. Suffer together, and then talk. Feel yourself changed from the fresh dreamer into the weary parent. Apologize and promise for the 1000th time.

I'm so tired. Tired of trying and never being enough. Tired of reaching for love. Tired of giving. Tired of receiving. Tired of things getting lost in translation. I'm tired of being myself. I don't want to be the messy, complicated, creative, wild-spirited person that I am. I'd rather be clean-lined, simple, smooth. That's what my husband says he wants. He wants meat and potatoes on the table and no drama.

Why did he marry me? I didn't hide my true nature. I was honest. I pulled no punches. I've always been a roiling, wind-whipped sea. If his heart's desire is a glassy lake, why me?

Marriage is not ours. We think that we create it. We think that we sustain it. No. Marriage is God's mission. He brings us together. Sometimes we sail, wing to wing and oar to oar. Sometimes we chafe like iron sharpening iron.

My husband does not need a glassy sea. He needs me.

I do not need a rushing river. I need the heavy oaken roots of the anchored tree, slowing the churning water of my soul into slower pools and eddies.

I can never sweep him away.
He can never stop me.
There will always be friction there.

We hurt each other often. It is natural that sometimes we would both wish to walk away. We are very different, he and I. As we pull against each other, we create a certain balance in the middle. God has given us to each other. His wisdom is clear. But oh how the pulling aches me today.

Here's the grace:  It isn't about being the perfect wife or husband. Perfect was never part of the equation. Our wobbling souls are exactly what our spouse needs. Their pitching decks are exactly where our feet should be planted. This is the way we grow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where's Christ in Your Kvetching Christmas?

I know, I know... we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, but the Christmas Kvetching has already begun... so... this post is happening.

We're entering the season of grumpy Christians fighting tooth and nail to keep the Christ in a long-ago-commercialized Christmas. My head is there with you, Grumpy Christians, but my heart isn't in it. And here's why: Christ came to establish a kingdom in our hearts, not on our Starbucks cups.

The people who are campaigning to overturn the secularization of Christmas are operating from a good-hearted place. They're fighting for Jesus. They're holding him up. Loud and proud. These people love their Lord. They see people editing him out of history and they get riled. I would hazard to guess that Jesus does not scorn this love and fidelity, but I would also hazard to guess that he would rather to see their love lived out in a different way.... because his heart is always for the lost sheep. His word tells us that when the 99 are in the fold, and he is running out into the night for that one lamb still wandering in the dark.

Dear Christians, I want to challenge you to pick your battles by a new rubric: Does this help a lost and watching world see Jesus the way he wants to be seen?

If all you want is for the world to see Jesus, then your grousing is, technically, accomplishing that. Congratulations. But does the Jesus you're holding up really reflect the way he represented himself to the world?

It's not that hard to see Jesus in the world today, but are we understanding his heart?

Dear Christians, I repeat... Help a lost and watching world to see Jesus the way he would show himself to them.

The holidays are a great time for that. So get on it. But it's not going to look like the contentious, media-driven, embattled thing that it often becomes. That's too easy. It's easy to dig trenches and throw hand grenades. It's harder to walk across the field and understand your opponent. This doesn't have to mean compromise in your own heart. It doesn't mean surrender. But it does mean service. It does mean sacrifice. It does mean submitting yourself to one another, trying not to be a stumbling block for the weak, choosing the high road.

Put Christ in your Christmas, Church, by understanding and living out Christ in your hearts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Here Come the Holidays... Run!

The season of EXTRAS you never had margin for in the first place is galloping upon us.

I'm already feeling its effects.

Halloween costumes.

They're so fun. I LOVE Halloween. But, you know, you have to either make them yourself by the sweat of your brow, or work overtime to pay for Walmart polyester confections, lovingly sewn by children in Chinese sweat shops. Trade offs. Either way, there will be sweat.

As a kid, I thought that holiday joy sprang fully formed from the pure magical force of the season. Christmas came trotting into the calendar year with treats and twinkles automatically grafted into its innate species. Magic was not created. It simply rippled out from... from... somewhere.

And then I Adulted. And I realized--to my great woe--that holiday magic, no matter the season, is created by an elite fighting force of holiday cheer known as MOMMIES. (Which probably stands for "Makers Of MerriMent In Excruciating Situations".)

Holidays are no longer the effortless experience of magic moments that pop up spontaneously like fizzy bubbles in soda. Costumes must be made. Meals must be plotted and budgeted for. Presents must be sleuthed with screaming toddlers in tow and then shipped through angry postal workers who hate their lives. It's fun... but it's less fun than someone else doing it.

Today I'm just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Chronic fatigue and severe back pain is getting me down. (Saw the chiro. Taking vitamins. Working on it.) The house has descended into deep mess. My 8 week workout quest culminated in an inglorious 1 pound lost. My husband is working 5 twelve hour days in a row, and the only night he has off, he is going out for guy's night. Plus, to top it all off, the sermon on Sunday was about how we should be sacrificing so we can support the work of the gospel and I'm like, "I don't want to give up the $20 a month I spend on Chick-fil-A!!!!! It is desperate times up in here!! Jesus take the wheel... but not my CFA money!!"

And in the midst of it all I'm supposed to make Halloween costumes.

Then I'm hosting house guests until the end of the year... so I guess I'd better start planning Thanksgiving and Christmas ahead of time.

Could we just designate an official Holiday Planner to take over for the rest of us? When it's our year, we promise we'll rock it out. When it's your year, we'll be so thankful!! We can restore the magic of the holidays. And sanity! And liberty and justice for all!

But seriously though.... I know that the secret is to simplify expectations. But I also want to craft magical memories for the kids and myself. The struggle.

I have no answers... only this: While your head is spinning around for the next three months, while you're trying to do too much in too little time, while you're striving to make magic happen in un-magical circumstances... remember that true magic is in rest. Your rest. Their rest. His rest. Our rest.

Your children don't want perfection... they want you to smile and shrug and say "Sure. Let's do hot chocolate and cereal for dinner."

Your husband doesn't need a better turkey with six homemade sides all hot at once... he needs a quiet moment on the sofa looking into the eyes he married... being distracted by the avocado that's probably smeared on your face from lunch.

Your mother in law doesn't need the perfect pair of hand knit socks... she needs a note that says, "Thank you for raising this man that is now my husband. He aint perfect, but dude sticks with. Bless you. He wipes his own butt and pulls his pants up by himself, so... you're a radical success in my eyes."

The tree doesn't have to glitter with perfectly color coordinated ornaments... it's really just an opportunity to come together and reflect on our story together.

The costumes don't need to win Project Runway Neighborhood Edition... they just need to not fall off. For an hour. Maybe less.

If all else fails... I say cut a head hole in a paper bag and go as a sack of groceries.

The meal doesn't need to be bloggable.... just edible.

Put down the iPhone & back away from the Pinterest.

This is going to be a rough couple months, no matter how you slice it... but the thing that will make it the best holiday ever for you, for them, for us... is grace.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giving Depression the Slip

Depression is a sneaky ass hat. Before it ever swallows your mind and your heart, it spends months biting at your heels and breaking down your defenses.

It wraps you up in its arms and rocks you. You start to feel sleepy, so sleepy, because everything is exhausting. Adulting and Moming and Wifeing and Friending and EXERCISING OMG is hard.

Hopelessness starts to seem like a way out... like giving up would be easier than this hamster wheel. Hopelessness starts to look almost like a hope. Quit now. It's not worth the fight. Sleep it off.

Once depression has you in that tempting warm embrace, it squeezes!
Tired? Ha! Well, now you can't sleep.

It's like the hypnotists from old fashioned movies with their swaying pocket watches.... "Yooou're getting sleeeeepy..... SUCKA!!" And then the hypnotist punches you in the throat.

And since it has you all wrapped up, and weary-so-weary... your hands are tied. You are in no position to be reaching out for help. When you should be flailing and screaming, "I'm drowning!!!!" depression has you muffled and too exhausted to move. Or ashamed. "Again? I can't be that one putz who is a mess again. I'm a waste of oxygen."

There's only one way out of depression quicksand.....

You have to lay on your back and float to the top. It's this delicate balance between intentional/working rest, and gentle/persistent hopefulness.

You have to actively disbelieve the lie that giving up would be getting a break.

You have to pull your puffy eyes open a little wider, look depression in the face, and say "I don't believe you. You're not my answer. You don't own me." Then take a nap. A real one.

You can't claw your way out of this mess. That would be more exhausting. That would use up more of your finite resources and leave you gasping.

You have to rest your way out of depression.

You have to mercy your way out of depression.

But most importantly, you have to hope your way out of depression. Not a clawing, snatching hope that grabs desperately for anything and holds on with a death grip. Not Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hope. Eck!! A quiet, patient hope that says, "I'm rising. I'm rising to the top of this. Maybe slowly... like rising through molasses, but the fresh air is coming. It's up there. We're getting closer every day."

Depression tells you, your arms are too heavy to lift. If you can lift them, let them float up to pray a prayer of release. "Father of Light, you see me, and I am burdened. But if I can keep peering through fog and spot light, I can keep moving forward. Do not let me be swallowed by the fog."

Then drop your arms and believe that rest is for you. Let his arms do the heavy lifting. The lifting of judgement. The lifting of criticism. The lifting of Not Enough. You choose hope. And let the Lord fling away those demons.

It's a hard balance. And your balance is off. So that doesn't help. But limping lambs are the strongest ones... they stagger on rocky ground, while others skip on an easier road. They haul their battered hides five feet, while others have run a mile. But when they reach the Shepherd's green pastures, they know better than any other how green the grass is here. Their struggles make them thankful. And beautiful. And wise.

This is your journey. You can do it. One moment, one hour, one day, one week... you can slip out of depressions grip and rest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Breathing Life into the Future

Today I wrote an email and I was so happy with it because it held the genuineness of my own voice telling the truth. It had that tone that I feel like I've lost touch with for a few weeks.

I've lost my confidence recently. I have 6 unpublished posts lined up because I can't grasp the confidence to put them out there. They don't feel right. My voice seems to lack it's ring of power. But that email had the things I want to tell the world in it.  So I'm cheating and posting part of it here. (I hope the dear sweet soul I wrote it to doesn't mind.)


I was sitting on the floor nursing and staring out the window... just thinking. What probably draws me to writing is the desire to last. Life is just so short. So much of what we do is just undone or disappears. But if we write.... it lasts. Much longer. Longer than dishes or projects or anything. I don't think about this while I am writing.... but when I think "Why am I so obsessed with this?" I think that's the best answer I can find. Because it lasts.

This is part of the beauty of children too... I live beyond myself. Not in a selfish way. Not that I have to push my life into theirs... or that I use their lives to define mine and give it meaning... I just know that my life means more than serving my own dreams. I'm blowing a kiss of life into the future. No matter what scars I leave on my children (because, of course, I will) they will know that they are brightly, deeply, delightedly loved. They know that they can screw up and be loved, flourish and be loved, hate me and be loved, love me and be loved. They know they can stagger out into the world and stagger home again where they are loved. I really believe that this kind of unconditional love can shape history. I know that love can cover over a multitude of sins. I love the whole world while loving my kids well. 

I know you are not sure about having kids. I wasn't sure how to answer your searching questions before... I've thought about it... I wouldn't ever try to talk anyone into having kids or out of having kids. That's up to you and the universe. All i can say is that it is an act that makes you more human, more spiritual, more whole than any other act. It grounds you to the earth and spirits you into the heavens. It puts you in touch with your animal instincts and drives you to a blind faith more genuine than you ever imagined. 

People don't want to have children for many reasons that I deeply respect.... especially not being an especially child-goo-goo-ga-ga-loving person myself. But I have looked at Eames in the middle of his most difficult times and said, through tears and depression and everything, "I would go through the worst of this 1000 times just to be your mother again." There's magic there.

Don't make a choice "Yes" or "No" about having children. Just take what comes and look for the magic. 

Wishing you all the love. Lots and lots of love! Twinkling love. Earthy love. You have a great capacity for love. Mwah.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Change the World Like a Girl

Lemme talk about this girl who is rocking my world right now.

She's got a weird name. "Thermuthis." Yes, I kid you not.
Or maybe "Hatshepsut." Also weird.
The scholarship is a little spotty on exactly who she was, but you probably know her as "Pharaoh's Daughter." You got it: the one in the Bible.

Here's how the story goes:
Pharaoh wanted to curb the growing numbers of Israelites living in the land of Egypt, so he ordered the newborn sons to be killed. Not too crazy in those times. One mama hid her baby in a basket in the river to keep it alive. The baby was found by... dun dun da... Pharaoh's Daughter. And she decides to keep it. That baby grows up to be the liberator of Israel.

Real Talk:
Did you ever read this story and kind of think she sounds like a bimbo? Spoiled little rich girl? Legally blonde? "Oo look! A baby in a basket! Let's play house. I'll be the mommy & we'll keep this tiny human for a pet! Goody!"
That's just kind of how I always thought about her. She seemed so naive and clueless to me. Like, do you even know what it takes to raise a baby?!

Driving around a few days ago, I was thinking about Pharaoh's Daughter--- (dude... I can't do this any more... she needs a name... let's call her Hatty!)

I was thinking about Hatty... and I realized, wait, this girl wasn't just a middle school airhead who liked collecting cute stuff she found on the side of the road... she actually had some serious guts.

For starters.... She knew exactly what her dad was up to.
How do I know? Because the title given to her "PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER" didn't just refer to "one of Pharaoh's Daughters" but held a weight of distinction. She was likely his eldest and in line for the throne (or, rather, her son would have been Pharaoh... not her, 'cause she was a girl). Which meant, she would have been educated and in the loop about the political goings-ons of the day. She was in the know. Groomed for leadership. No bimbo.

And.... she knew exactly what kind of baby she had found.
She even says in scripture, "Hey! It's a Hebrew baby."
(How did she know? It's an anatomy thing. Wink wink.)
But even though she knew that this baby represented everything her dad hated as well as a direct challenge to her own political/social/familial security... she made a radical choice. To adopt him.

Here's a girl who is deciding her own politics, even though they fly right in the face of her family's beliefs and interests.
Here is a girl who is willing to give up her political power (her princess' birth right) to a foreigner that she found in a swamp (by calling him her son) in order to save a life.
Here's a girl who is taking a stand for social justice.
Here's a girl who is saying, "My family, my power, my position opposes everything about your life... but I'll risk the scorn, I'll risk the political jeopardy, I'll risk the wrath of Pharaoh... to do the right thing."
Here's a girl who is saying, "I can't save them all... but I can save this one."

Wow, Hatty. What a strong woman!

Suddenly I'm seeing this girl in a whole new light... and here's what I'm learning:

We can't fix it all... but we can do what's in front of us with integrity and, in doing so, completely change the world. Like... the whole world. Boom. Just like that.

If we make the choice to protect the innocent, uphold the oppressed, show compassion to the needy, put our own reputations on the line for the discarded.... we can literally change the course of history. It just takes guts and one small step in the right direction. Like Hatty.

We may never see it. It was 80 years later that the abandoned baby in the bullrushes came back to Egypt as Moses the Liberator... but none of that story would have happened without Hatty's ballsy faithfulness. Without Hatty's selfless love of human life, no matter what race, religion, color, politics, or power. Without Hatty's heart.

Even in a time in history when women were not given nearly as much power as they are today, Hatty's simple act wildly reshaped the entire fabric of history. It doesn't take power, fame, or platform. It doesn't require resources or recognition. You can do it now. You can start today.

To change the world, we only need Hatty's Heart.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Own Your Exact Life, Sisters

“Take all the hard parts—the failure, the losses, the wounds— and give them to Jesus for glory. He makes magic with those, I tell you. Those scars are a gift; they say, “See, I’ve been there, and here I am still standing and you will too.” They become badges of honor, agents of healing.”
- Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

Sometimes it hits me..... There’s a little bit of tragedy in all the brilliant, educated, powerful women who have been dragged out of their passions and squeezed into motherhood. 

I’m just being honest.

All their lives, they've practiced making their dreams come true. They are teachers, authors, artists, musicians, counselors, movers and shakers. And now they clean up the same messes, day in and day out. The meal messes. The legos. The pee pee sheets. The bath water. The smeared food.

Even if they’re tackling their corner with bravery and strength, it’s just a little sad, isn’t it? 

Sometimes I think it's worth saying out loud. It's worth stopping to recognize that there's a deep cost to the work we do here.

There’s also overwhelming beauty.
Wise words once taught us, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person should lay down her life for her friends.” For our children, we undoubtedly lay our lives down. Daily. 

We lose ourselves. We give up our dreams. We give up sleep and physical beauty and social recognition and freedom. We give up single-minded focus, task oriented behaviors, and showers. We give up simplicity. But we haven’t given up! 

Are we writing our own tickets to the future? Picturing it and making it happen? Seeing the world, putting it all out there, leaning in? No... at least for a season, no.
But how totally ballsy is it to have your first dreams taken away, and just not give up?
To accept that your dreams were smashed and see it as a redirection not an end. To take a deep breath, let it go, maybe grieve a little, and then start telling a new story. Holy crap guys! [Insert corny and obligatory phoenix-rising-from-ashes references here. ;) ] It’s beautiful.

Being determined to only have one version of your life may rob you of the magical experience of turning scars into praise songs. Trials into testimonies. Loss into limping leadership. Hurt into heroism. 

Look at all those women out there… the ones that “used to be” job titles and labels... now they don't have the security of a label and they do this raw, organic, natural work of birthing and preparing they next generations of the world... they do motherhood. Quietly. Invisibly. Their rewards are jelly kisses and holding sleep-breathing angels with floppy miniature bodies just five more minutes. Look at all the sparkling intelligence and leadership there. Has she wasted her life? No. Look at the bravery. She has allowed herself to be humbled, but not crushed. Knocked down, but not destroyed. She will rise up with greater strength, because she knows that nothing (no loss of identity, no pedantic purpose, no stooping low) can take away her worth and her guts.  

It’s a beautiful coincidence in the English language (or iiiiiiis it?) that “Testimony” begins with “Test.” This is it, ladies. This season of life is our Test. Allow it to make you richer, not thinner. Warmer, not colder. More, not less. Let it add to your character rather than destroy your dreams. This is not a detour, but an integral formation of fibers in the tapestry of your life and the tome of your story.

If you will hold loosely to that one perfect vision you had of who you are, the Lord will reveal that you are much more than you ever imagined.