Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When You Say Nothing At All

Welp.

I haven't written in a long time.

I've had a couple of people ask me why (and by a couple of people, I really mean one person unrelated to me), but regardless, I am not entirely sure why. Today, I read this Relevant article by one of my favorite authors Shauna Niequist  and it sparked something inside of me that called me to the keys.

So here I am. 

Shauna wrote of how we all go through seasons in our faith. And in those seasons she writes about how God sometimes speaks to us in different ways than He used to. How he goes silent where he used to be prolific and how he can start using new languages that we aren't entirely attuned to yet. Or maybe we just miss the memo altogether because we are distracted by The Voice. That could just be me.

Either way, it is pretty obvious if we just take a cue from creation. Seasons sprouting and fading around us show how intrinsic change is to growth. It is comforting to know that God speaks in all kinds of places and spaces. He can speak to us in bold strokes and big ideas–through consistent cushion warming in Sunday services. Or he can speak to us while we are waiting for a milkshake at Dairy Queen or when we are chasing our kids through those anxiety-inducing trampoline places.

Other times–and this is where I think I may be now–He turns down the volume and simply lets us feel Him in random moments: a slice of dusty sunshine, a trill of a spring bird, a kindness from someone in traffic or an understanding smile when you're kids are flipping out in the grocery line.

This season feels like a delicate, pale pink sort of faith for me; a simplicity of life I am enjoying while I'm hobbling in step with him–I think this may be what Paul Tripp refers to as a "God Awareness". He shows up in the most random places for me. A pair of mismatched shoes on my two-year old. My son asking all kinds of questions about theology through things like Star Wars and ninjas. My husband picking up my favorite banana peppers from the store.

You see, life is screaming very loud for my attention and yet I am just not really that interested in what is being offered. Even though I  haven't felt like writing I've still had hundreds of thoughts on marriage, Jesus, motherhood and identity. But the thoughts are still being filtered through who God says I am. I am still transitioning; being sifted like flour over a rolled out piece of sticky dough. The old me and the new me is being refined, newly shaped.

Kind of like when you first write a song, you can see the shape of something waiting to be created but it just isn't speaking loud enough to bloom into becoming. So you let the broken melody hang in the air and know you will come back to it when you know which  notes should come next.

I've had much to say. But when I boil it down inside, it really has been a season of silence that has felt like the best fit for me. A season of quiet conversations with a small group of friends and family that are helping me to unpack this backwards evolution. I've gone from the front stage to the background. I have turned off the spotlight and settled for a reading light. I feel as if I am being reconstructed.

And just like the Don Schlitz song that Alison Krauss made famous goes:

"It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing"

You guys. That's God. He does that.

My mantra as of late is Romans 12:2, and it's the first verse I've put to diligent memory since I don't know. It's super sweet to the silent soul.

Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world: while some people think that means to not watch movies made after 1954 or to swear off Chardonnay like it's cocaine, I think Jesus would say something different. He loved loving those on the fray. I think somewhere in there that "pattern" that Paul is writing of may resemble the reality of today's hamster wheel; the weary speed walk of killing ourselves for something that isn't worthy of our undying attention. Like shiny stuff or new carpet, and sparkly shoes or brand name tags that are too complicated to throw in the wash. But the beauty is to be found in "the renewing of your mind"...I love that.

Keep on updating your Jesus news feed. Keep on downloading his word. Keep on seeking him, pursuing him, and stretching your faith muscles. It may not look like much is happening. And that's a good thing. Because his will may look very different from yours. Wait it out. He's got good things going on inside that lump of uncooked dough my friend.

We're in this together,
M

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dirty, Crooked Truths About Me



  I am a screw up. 

Sometimes it just needs to be said.

For me, it just feels good to admit the obvious. Go ahead and say it out loud if you want: I am a screw up.

Well of course, unless you aren't. And in that case, you should stop reading now. But for my fellow drop-the-ball, wait, what-ball? Hold-the -phone, I-am-playing-ball?! friends: Guess what? It's okay.

I met with a couple of my friends last week over wine and Chia seed muffins (go Seattle!) and we were talking about this basic idea: of being a saved screw up. And one of my friends, nodded in understanding, "I know. It's like the more you learn about God the more you realize how much you suck."

Okay, okay. So I can already tell that this isn't coming off like a great read. But the idea I am finding freedom in is this: we can make mistakes and move upward. And I have found that the faster we do that moving upward the better; when we run towards God instead of away from him, the likelihood of retreating into that the same muddy hole that we used to think was home, diminishes. Little by little we become further and further away from the same dirt that used to define us.

Speaking of dirt, I have been obsessed lately with gardening. I honestly just want to see dirt under my fingernails and edge and pull weeds and create order in the chaos that is my yard. I think I am going through something. Mainly I'm learning to define my stubbornness for what it is: stubbornness. And I find this is even more true when I garden.

I recently found out that I have Scoliosis. I can't say for sure–because I am not a doctor–but I think that means that I am 80 years old inside. This truth means one thing: I should NOT BE gardening. I am not qualified to garden. It is actually making things worse for me. For my back. For my insurance. For my sleep habits. But more than ever, I want to lift large rocks, rip out moss, unload thousands of pounds of mulch and literally mimic the reality that I feel going on in my heart in my silly little yard. Mainly because someone told me I shouldn't. Alas, the stubbornness.

I desperately want to uproot and replant; which seems to mirror the desire to uproot the screwed up pieces of me that keep trying to re-grow. I keep praying and reading and dying to myself in hopes for some kind of Jesus characteristic to bud in the place of what is always trying to overtake.

Pride for humility.
Anger for understanding.
Selfishness for generosity.
Vanity for contrition.
Apathy for compassion.
Laziness for wisdom.

I want to load all of my screwed up bits into my rusty wheelbarrow and set it on fire alongside the dead rose bush garden I stumbled across today. Brittle thorns and all. 

When I garden I can smell the rain. I can smell things changing. Everyday when I venture out into the dirt there is something new that has grown or died. It is visual proof that something is taking place. An exchange. And because of that, I am falling in love with this whole plant, grow and tend business.

You see, I haven't wanted to write lately. First, because I am not entirely sure I have anything of worth to say. And secondly, because out of all the people in the world, I am the least likely to be a gardener let alone someone who dare attempt a life following in the footsteps of Someone who never sinned.

But these truths don't make me any less a gardener in training or a Christian in training. I may be crooked from my back to my heart, but I am called to the mission of uprooting and replanting and so that's what I plan to do–even if it means I never fully straighten up.

We're in this together,
M

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Lollipop Guild

It all started with a lollipop.

As it usually does in my house these days.

My son (the Lord of the Lollipops) is a wonderfully charismatic and uphill-my-way-or-the-highway warrior poet and my lovely daughter who follows him (and his tendencies) like a love-sick puppy arrive here at least once or twice a day; stuck within the gory grind of the candy conundrum.

Candy has become a major trigger in my household. And lately, I believe that a lollipop is nothing more than a gooey, fake-colored Satan stick that causes irrational purple-faced meltdowns that I am expected to manage as a good mom who shouldn't allow her children to have such a deep addiction for Red 40. I should protect them like a mother lion. Rawr.

But here's the deal: I like candy too. Sometimes I want something sweet. And no, I shouldn't let my son have candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner–which is often the request. But there are times to treat my kids. I like to treat my kids. Oh and just so you can sleep at night we do have a strict no-candy before 10 a.m. rule in this house. I know, I'm such a stickler.

But as I think on this, I don't think my answer to candy should always be "no". 

For instance, my absolute favorite time to give my "spirited" son candy is when he is least expecting it. I love to sit him down in a serious manner and ask him, "Would you like a lollipop?" This happens in the same tone as I would when suggesting he pick up his toys or when I ask him if he wants to take a bath.

His eyes get wide. He glances over his shoulder as if looking for a hidden camera. His grin spreads from ear to ear. And he half-giggles in disbelief before answering with a resounding, "Yes, momma. I would."

Jesus wants to lavish us with good gifts. He wants to surprise us when we least expect it. Even when he promises us good gifts we don't fully believe it. We try to manage the timeline. We ask before it's due. We rob him of the opportunity to bless us by succumbing to our obsession and addiction with controlling our own lives.

So here is what I am hoping for 2015: a lot of unexpected lollipops from God. God loves doing the unexpected. He likes tumbling walls down with nothing more than the blast of trumpets. He likes to involve the most unexpected characters in his greater plan. (Joshua 6)

My goal this year is one thing: to run after God with sweat dripping down my temples. I want to dive into his word and swim with understanding strokes. I want to test his truths. I want to wait for his gifts. And I want to prove him a righteous, good and loving God.

I have spent too many years learning the language of fluent warble. I have allowed my soul to speak or sing in uneven quivering tones. I have spent too much time taking unsteady and uncertain steps with a bruised and scared heart just waiting for God to snatch the lollipop from my sticky stubborn fingers and to scold me with a disapproving tone. 

That is not our God.

If you run in the direction of him you will find amazing gifts. And so I fully plan to spend this year testing this theory. I am no longer going to spend time wondering what I lack as a mom and a wife that leads to my constant state of life uncertainty. Because upon further examination in these last few months I've unearthed a shocking discovery. I'm lacking everything. Absolute everything.

And on the days where I trick myself into thinking that's not the case, I find myself stepping out onto a plank dipped in fake confidence and I fall headlong into a spiral of action and reaction.

It is out on this wobbly space and in the blankness below, that I make decisions that I shouldn't. I flare my temper when it should let it fizzle. And I embrace my abilities instead of fully surrendering my disabilities. When I do this I reduce God's margins for miracle making to nothing more than a sliver on the pie chart; he becomes a measly afterthought on how I shape the rest of my life.

And, yet by grace, he still uses the tiny spaces that I give him in my heart for change. To benefit others. To love my husband and my kids well. To serve the women in my life.

2014 was a hard year for me. Not anywhere near tragic. Just rough; a series of shedding skins, until I was raw and ready for God to show up. It was also a glorious year of reinvention and redemption. I finally got the job I thought I always wanted only to lose it in a heartbreaking yet, necessary way. I juggled raising two kiddos under four, who are amazing, and yet so very different.

I've spent many days in the tension between my daughter wanting to snuggle me and my son wanting my undivided attention. This usually results in me carrying around a pig-tailed little miss while a determined son vies for my eye line. I end these type of days empty. And yet so full. And yes, tired.

So the goal list for this year is in the trash right next to the crumpled up lollipop wrappers. I am not going to tighten the legal lines between God and myself. I am not going to develop a budget plan or execute a new laundry schedule. These are all great things, but they aren't the best things. I'm reading The Best Yes by Lysa TerKuerst right now and it's so powerful.

A wise friend of mine once told me, "When you say yes to one thing you invariable say no to another." And while that seems obvious, I've intentionally left spaces in my life lately to allow myself to be available when God calls me to stop and act. To invite that person over for dinner. To allow a quiet night to call me to him. To stop by a certain person's house with coffee or a card. To have a glass of wine with a great friend. To enjoy my husband and not watch the clock like a sleep deprived troll.

This year I have one aim: to hook my soul up to a scripture IV. I want wisdom. I want to grow. I want to put down thick roots into that spring of living water. I want to see the power of the Holy Spirit play out in real time. I want to believe more. I want layers upon the layers I already have.

I am going to continue to run in the direction of where God is. Not just on Sundays. Not just when I screw up. Not just when I feel grateful. Not just when I do the right thing. But in the middle of a curse word. In the middle of one glass of wine too many. In the middle of the rain, the sleepless nights, the I-don't-know-what-to-do moments, the selfish moments, the botched bleached laundry moments. And most important: the unexpected, beautiful lollipop moments.

I want this to be the year I get real with Christ. If I run towards figuring out who he is, then I won't have to wonder who in the world I am supposed to be.

We're in this together,
M

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Quarantined Christmas

Christmas is my favorite. Always has been. I look forward to it all year.

I have actually said to my husband on multiple occasions "I can't wait until Christmas" in the dead of summer while smothering sunscreen on my forehead surrounded by the smells of lakefront and BBQ.

Once the season finally does arrive I do all the regular sappy things, like getting a tree the day after Christmas and buying eggnog and wearing mittens even when it's 50 degrees and rainy.

I try to come up with thoughtful and handmade gifts when possible, but I get the most satisfaction crossing people off of my "2014 Christmas Budget and Expenditures" spreadsheet. Nerd, yes. But above all that, I cherish the whole idea of our routine being thrown off and everyone understanding that it's expected because it is the holidays.

This year God decided to pull the smug out of my stocking and serve it up hot.  

Usually when I sit down to write, I try to make sure it is coming from a place of perspective. I give myself time to roll around the thoughts and struggles I have about a certain parenting precipice until they fall into some kind of fragmented proverb. I wait until I've learned a lesson or God has melted away my roughness to produce a gem. 

However, today I am too raw. Too tired. Too smelly to do all that. You see 48 hours ago I discovered that my kiddos have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Lovingly referred to on the CDC website as HFMD, where the medical experts like to tauntingly remind me there is no medication or magic cure–instead, just good old fashioned quarantine time where you get plenty of one-on-one time with your scab ridden children. Their spotted complexion is then accompanied by high temps, blisters, overall grouchiness and restless sleep patterns.

One of my closest friends even told me that a co-worker had her face paralyzed for a month from it. 

Merry Christmas to me.

Oh and my husband has been out of town since the first spot was spotted and has yet to return. I feel like I am carrying this on my own. But I know I'm not. I see God's grace splattered all over the place. I see it in the text's from my sister and other moms who understand. I unearth it next to the dirty clothes and the bread crumb crusted carpet, or in the appreciative texts from my husband. I see God in it all. 

My kids have been, for the most part, joys to be around. Last night, I fell asleep thanking God for who they are and that I get to be here with them even in sickness. However, this morning I woke up crotchety and collapsed. A sweaty-headed blonde girl needed me multiple times last night and it has knocked me off my thankful prayer platform and into the realm of I-want-to-be-anywhere-but-here-even-if-that-is-just-the-magazine-aisle-in-Safeway-as-long-as-I'm-alone.

What I am beginning to realize is that what I am most sad about isn't that my kids are sick, it is that the picture of how Christmas was supposed to look has been torn up and thrown into the trash next to the newly emptied bottle of Lysol.  Once again God has reminded me that, The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

We may not be surrounded by toddler cousins and eccentric extended family this Christmas. And I may miss the annual fight over the rules at our now-famous Gift Exchange-that may actually be a win.

All of this points to the truth that I have little lepers on my hands. And we are outcasts, rightfully so. But the window of understanding is open just a crack and I can see a glimmering of reflection. Maybe, just maybe, their spots are nothing more than a reflection of my own. I'm just as sick as they are sometimes, when I allow that sticky sin to blister around my heart. 

But the meat of it all: this hanging in there, it is all a part of the job. This is where mommas work overtime and burn ourselves out. We show up when no one else does and we soothe, and feed, and sympathize, and pray, and feed, and tuck in, and flop into bed, and do it all over again.

This is where we really see how the scars of motherhood have come together in stitches of determination and we scoop up our lepers and love them and sit in the trenches with them. This is where we earn our stripes; the unseen badges that grace our biceps hardened from lifting and loving and learning.

My kids will get well. This is a gift that many families do not have this Christmas. And that breaks my heart way more than my expectations being waylaid. There will be more Christmases where we can leave these four walls and enter into society as whole, non-rashy folks. But not this year. And I am beginning to realize that it's ok. It's not my plan, but it is a new plan.

We will get to spend our first Christmas at our new address fully and wholly. We will get to have quality family time that isn't about rushing from here to there and making everyone happy but our poor over-tired, and over-gifted kiddos. Don't get me wrong, if I could do the trek and the stress and the over-gifting and the constant chocolate eating, I would. Hands down. Sign me up for the chaos.

But this year God wrapped me up a big old box of "rest even though you're restless." This contagious virus is actually a gift. A gross one at that, but a gift.

And so I will sit here staring at the fresh string of colored lights my son begged to plaster over our nice, clean white  grown-up ones. And I will be quick to bite off any sprouting angry parts so that I can be in complete awe of these moments. I know they are going to be gone way too soon. And I will eat licorice and watch Christmas cartoons and welcome that feeling that time is literally standing still.

I'm a wreck with greasy hair and I ate cold pizza for breakfast. The scene isn't pretty. It isn't clean or clear cut. It's adorable and mussed. It is harder and much easier than I thought. It is losing my temper and kissing hot ears. This is my Christmas and I thank God for digital thermometers and infant Tylenol.

And for you? Well I wish you a very Merry Christmas free of communicable diseases and wrapped up in the ridiculous grace that is loving our little lepers.

We are in this together,
M

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Oh, What a Wonderful Weight

Most mornings I wake up with it on my chest. A weight of will that is most commonly one of two things: guilt or gratitude.

On the guilty days, I find myself obsessing over the cracks in the back patio and the endless parade of water and syrup spots on the counter tops. I calculate my days to have the least amount of inconvenience and the utmost in comfort. I shy away from anything that will exhaust me. And I embrace anything that will allow me to breathe, slowly and calmly.

These speedbumps in my brain do not fit well with raising toddlers. They also don't fit well with being a Christian really. But by scandalous grace, I'm allowing God to work on those parts of me day by day. Sadly, there are days where I spent more time sweeping the floor than reading their favorite books with them; cleaning more dishes than I play dinosaurs. And my heart breaks over that.

It doesn't break because I feel like I should be spending more intentional time with them–we spend a lot of time together–it breaks because I am still a slave to the idea that I should be doing more to have purpose. In this place I am taking the gift of motherhood for granted; a gift that some ache for and cry over at night.

On the days of gratitude, I remember that this life is not about doing and that I can rest in just-being. For the first time in my life, I wake up facing the day and only the day. I don't plan out my weeks and months based on job deadlines or vacations I am dying to take. I literally can only take it one day at a time because my life is so blank.

It is blankly beautiful; I am just praying for boldness and bravery to fill it up with beautiful creative, God inspired things that tighten the laces on this family unit I've been a partner in creating. But more than that, I want to use this space to run to God. 

I am not one of those moms who always has something unique and fun for her kids to do. I don't plan trips to their favorite places or play dates everyday in succession. For some, that gives them peace of mind and is necessary for their well-being, but, for me, not always "doing" is an exercise in patience and being in this place fully and wholly. It is a discipline for me to be still. To have space. To get bored. And to be led to inventiveness alongside my kids.

And somewhere in there I am in wait for the beauty of the weight to be revealed. The gloriously weighty call of motherhood.

I have a dear friend who lost her second child at 38 weeks. She was able to hold her daughter for 12 hours before she had to let her go. We were talking about her sweet daughter this last weekend, and she described to me how one of the hardest things to process was holding the baby blanket empty; there was no weight against her chest like there should have been. And how strangely enough, the most comforting thing was feeling the one pound weight of her ashes on her lap. The small box was evidence of her daughter's existence, there was a weight to offset the immense amount of nothingness that she was left with.

And this woman, what a warrior. The way she talks about Christ it's like her first language. A portal has been opened between heaven and earth for her, and she lives between them inviting her daughter's memory and Christ's constant presence to be the bridge that connects her to a life of meaning.

And here I am: fiddling with filler when this type of unspeakable and unbearable pain is a reality.

How can I remain too scared or hard headed to reach up for the deep stuff? To let Christ permeate my being; to let the spirit speak continuously–not in spurts when I have presence of mind enough to take myself out of the equation.

I do want to know him like those who speak his language fluently do; to let him fill in those insidious cracks in my character that mirror the cracks in my patio.

The hardest thing for me as a mother hasn't been the sleepless nights or the diapers or the potty training or the tiredness, or the tantrums, or the monotony; the hardest thing has been tricking myself into thinking that there is something beyond these four walls and these two souls that I am supposed to be doing.

Being happy and present: that is one of the biggest challenges facing a Type A, do-it-yourself, creative junkie like myself. I know the answer lies in knowing Christ more and focusing less on me. But I am horrible at surrendering the need to do over to my God. To get out of my own way. To shut up. To sit down. To enjoy. To stop the spinning wheels.

Today my son, daughter and I were still enough to sit in front of the windows long enough to spy three Stellar's jays, four chickadees, and one robin. And while we were trying to name them, the oddest thing happened. A hot-pink headed hummingbird flew right in front of us and hovered for just long enough for it to feel like magic. He didn't zip by in a blur, he hovered right in front of us, face-to-our-faces and simply shimmered before he flitted off to smell the yellow flowers in our bed.

Jesus has been speaking to me in bird lately. A language that I don't fully understand, but it just feels like gift and maybe the beginnings of a dialogue that perhaps will soon flow without stopping. I heard my son whisper as we sat on the ground watching the birds peck and nibble on the seed in a nearby feeder, "Thank you God and Jesus for these birds. I love you so much."

And just like that my heart splattered into a million gooey pieces for two reasons.

1) My son does not whisper. He has two volumes. Loud and louder.
2) That's exactly what I was thinking.

For a brief second my son's heart was laid bare and beautiful. I saw Jesus speak to him the way he speaks to me and he spoke back. It was small window into the wonder that God may be knocking on his little heart already.

After that, we actually had a particularly hard day. But in the wise words of Paul Rudd in the highly spiritual film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he explains that the secret to surfing is to "Do less". And in parenting no amount of low or high tides, crashing waves or calm waters can change what I know: the less I do the more I see Christ at work.

We're in this together,
M

Monday, November 3, 2014

Birds on Full Blast

Last week on an oddly warm fall day I took the kids down to our little pond (an over sized puddle) to throw pebbles in. We were struggling with boots and jackets and zippers and "do it myself's" before we heard it.

At first it sounded like an ornery hum, as if we were standing under the buzz of power lines. Slowly my senses awoke and I recognized the trills, lifts and melodic runs. An army of sparrows, robins and finches filled our entire yard with a symphony.

It was so loud that at first I was frightened. Clutching the little, sticky fingers of my four-year old and one-and-a-half year old, (I promise I do wash their hands ) I was imagining a brigade of angry birds pecking our heads until we ran back inside, but quickly the feeling transformed from fear into wonder.

The volume reverberated through the trees. I kept looking up and around just in time to see little flashes of yellow and red darting from bough to bough. A few of them were ground bound, fluttering their wings in the water; bathing and singing as if there weren't three wide-eyed bystanders invading quiet time. It reminded me in an infinitesimal way of what it must have felt like to be in the garden of Eden. Sharing life with the birds and animals without the fear of death or that enmity between us all. 

I felt as if we had stepped into a portal, where peace was potent. I think it could have been what is often referred to in Celtic Christianity as the "thin places"where just for a few brief moments we experience something otherworldly; heavenly. Where God smacks a sloppy wet kiss on us when we're least expecting it. We tingle and we light up, unsure of what we are experiencing is reality or fantasy.

And then it was gone. The birds hushed just as strongly as they came on. Either taking their party up the street to cooler trees or just dispersing into the world each one carrying their part in the greater song. I am just glad that I didn't miss it. That I wasn't scrubbing the kitchen counters or lamenting over the loss of something trivial.

I felt God. I heard him. I watched him fly on the wings of his creation. To some, I'm sure this would seem like just a crap ton of birds in one place at one time, but to me, it was God. His presence thick and real surrounded by an unimpressive chain link fence and arthritic old-growth trees.

Some people experience this crossover in the middle of unspeakable pain–the death of a child or in the loss of a dream. Others experience it in the mountain top aftermath of new life or beating cancer. For me, it was random–gift. Undeserved. Strange. Obtuse. Without rhyme or reason.

Sometimes you just need to download all of the good things that God is doing to fully appreciate his grace. I am in this season of quiet, where busyness has been replaced with large chunks of time spent at home with space to think, reflect and thank.

I don't deserve this life. I deserve death. I deserve that enmity: the inconveniences and spats and the fear of losing it all. I am ridiculously ill equipped to protect and appreciate what I've been given. But I choose to respond with generosity. I don't always do it well, but my heart wants to give away–to break myself every day to become the person God is trying to mold from the dried out clay.

Today, I am in awe that my God, my Jesus, treasures my fissures and faults instead of locking me out of a life full of joy. He has taken my cup and brimmed it with serious, wake-up-in-the-morning and dance joy. (John 15:11) Not happiness. Not ease. Not perfection. Just good old fashioned gratefulness.

We haven't achieved some major goal. Our little family isn't plodding along on some fast track to financial success or traveling the world making our mark–we are just living and loving and showing up and turning in and hugging and encouraging and inviting and letting go and saying the things we know some of our friends and family need to hear. We're open. Open to seeing God doing beauty among the rubble.

I have been in seasons of life where my sin was so stickily present that it's reckless resin felt inescapable; becoming an unreliable rudder.

But not right now. I don't fuss over my jean size as much. I don't bat eyelashes or ask for more spotlight like I used to. I squeeze and kiss my kids so much more often instead of shooing them away for a deadline or to deal with personalities in a job that I was worshiping. This is my reward: God giving me eyes to see things I was blind to before (Proverbs 20:12). I still have glaring blind spots–God knows that, as does everybody else who knows me. I'm human, I'm captivated by want; by indulgences.

Joy though, I'm discovering, is the counter to the craving. And it's so full. The exchange rate. Blood for blessing. Screw ups for scandalous love. And if I had to guess what joy sounds like I would have to imagine it's something like birds on full blast.

We're in this together,
M

Friday, October 3, 2014

The X Factor

Moving through layers of shadow and cedar, the morning mist floated and twisted into ribbons of thick steam. The fog folded itself over an infinitesimal amount of times before disappearing into the unfolding day. I sat in awe on our back patio. A "wow" escaped my lips.

My daughter was pulling all of the toys out of the outside bin and running around with one shoe on. My son was sword fighting an imaginary bad guy–all required sound effects included. I was in a striped tunic, workout pants and flowered rain boots. Not the best outfit choice of all time. Not the most serene surroundings. Not the quietest moment. Not the perfect time. But I looked up. I took the time to see God moving in nature and it got me. It got me on the inside.

When I sit down to write, I never know what is going to come out. Whenever I am in the middle of a struggle it helps me see clearer. Whenever I am in the middle of monumental achievements–like joy and contentment–it helps me catalog. And sometimes it just feels like flying. Like doing the one thing I was made to do, clumsily, with free falls and typos and tense shifting and plain old errors. And I embrace that.

I can finally say that I don't do things perfectly and somehow the people on my home team, as Shauna Niequist would call those people who give you the space to stagger, still understand. It is amazing how far grace goes.

Lately, I have found this grace between crumpled sheets and in shreds of moonlight on the carpet. When I am tired and sick, I still pray for a longing to love. For the baby ears, let's just refer to this as the X Factor. I am getting all itchy just thinking about writing about this, but God is teaching me something in this department and so that's where the fog led me.

I don't know a lot about this. But I do know that after you are married for awhile, you can forget about how important the X factor is to the fundamental way your marriage should function. I know that it is something that needs care, attention and connects us to our spouses like bolts and hinges.

When you are waiting to get married you think it will always occur to you; that you will make yourself available in lace and longevity no matter the season. But after the ring goes on or comes off, or the kids show up and the shaving of your legs drops on the list of priorities, we can get to a place of forget or fatigue or flat out apathy. There are a hundred reasons to hang it up. The timing doesn't feel right. The outfit is wrong. The surroundings aren't serene. There's stuff in the way. Like socks.

You know the angry socks, the ones you can feel resentment towards.  

These socks right here–ugh. More like shackles. If only I could have a moment to myself then maybe I could fold these with happy hands. If this was easier than I could see the beauty in the threadbare heels, but right now? I only see tired feet and tired eyes, and my edges are frayed and fickle and dipped in Go-gurt. Oh and look, the garbage is full and the clothes are lumpy on the floor and my kids are screaming.

And just like that anger has moved in and shut you off again at the spout.

And we drip like faucets inwardly and outwardly and we want change that we don't want to have to make ourselves. (Proverbs 27:15) This isn't an ALWAYS state. But in certain seasons of life: transitions, being sick or stuck, or being sick and stuck in a transition–we may default. To anger and unhappiness. And justification. Or at least I do.

And it is here. In the place of self pity that we need to get to it. We need to connect. We need to stop making lists and keeping score and instead peel off the prescriptions and truly see the beauty of the ordinary.

The angry socks? They are actually the very same ones your husband wears while he paces at work and provides and stresses and succeeds and belly flops and comes home to you. They are the same ones that you wear at your job, sacrificing and juggling and trying to do it all as well as you possibly can.

Our feet are the vehicles for our lives. No more are these socks just a chore, they could be a catalyst. You know, for that change that is aching to take place.

And the screaming kids, maybe they are squealing or clamoring for your attention because they are still young enough to think you are a superhero and can solve all their problems. Get on your knees and try your best. That's all they want.

The X Factor is just an outpouring of ourselves into the large, vast cistern that is thankfulness for our people and thankfulness for life, and thankfulness that we have this mess to make and unmake. This last year has held so much loss for so many that I know. And if there is anything good that comes from ugly, downright, no-good bad junk, it is that they now see the world differently. The anger rises slower. The resentment morphs into reflection. And the hard stuff seems like blessing.

Not sure where you are with your love today, or the love you hope to find one day, but pour into it. Make yourself available. Turn on the spout, let your heart flow again.

For those that have and hold, let's enjoy it. Every chance it occurs to you and even when it doesn't. Amp up the outward showings: the hugs. the kisses, the kind words, which leads to the hushing of the sharp words. The prayer together. The jokes. Tell them and laugh loudly. Even if you are the worst at jokes. I would know. He will still laugh. Hold hands. Touch bare toes.

Do the work. And then reward yourself by letting yourself enjoy the fog that has lifted. It is truly magnificent when you take the time to look up, to let it in. To let yourself shift shape into a force. One that joy can not stay away from.

These last two weeks have been some of the most joyful in my recent memory, and it has nothing to do with an address change. Well maybe a little. I have more space to feel and live and breathe and think. But more so my heart has moved- ever so slightly. Like the fog that twists and turns; I'm trying to let it change me. The love that I'm the luckiest to live.

We're in this together,
M