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,

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,

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,

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,

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Quadrigeminal Crawl

My son turns four tomorrow.

In the words of one of my best friends, "that's not possible!"–and while it would seem that life has just flown by, I know in my heart of hearts that it has been a slow crawl. He and I are hardheaded and yet so very sensitive. We feel so much that it's too much sometimes, and we overflow into areas only suitable for dirty rainwater.

We are quick to forgive and hate the distance between the steps it takes to get there.

My son breaks and mends me. He kisses and cuts me. He and I dance a gospel dance everyday. Since the day he was born I knew things would be different, but that word doesn't even cover the miles we have traveled. We've gone to South America and back (his favorite destination) in terms of understanding one another. And I am still learning to speak toddler. A language that I am thankful is a dead language for most well-rounded adults.

My son and I, we hug tightly. We cry loudly. We laugh until tears form at the corners of our eyes. We are the type that are given a lot, and we don't exactly know how to stay inside the lines. He and I, we're buddies. As he would say. 

I remember the first week I held him in my arms. I had a photographer come over and document the entire blissful experience. In every picture my eyebrows seem furrowed and my hands unrecognizable beneath the flap of a swaddling blanket. For some women, motherhood happened upon them and their entire purpose was realized. It's almost as if they had been wearing a clown suit their entire lives and then were handed the most perfect uniform suited to their measurements. Not so for me. Some days I still swim in the deep end of this job. But others, I ride high on the wave of wonder. I see their smiles and their strides. One minute it's absolute miracle and the next, it's a broken wave on the shore.

But I get to be a witness to it all.

Four years ago tomorrow my son baptized me in the fire fall that still burns away the edges of my selfishness. The very first time I heard him say he loved me I cried in the hallway. He moves me to emotions I didn't know possible. He ignites my life.

We live in a new house, you know. One that is absolutely a dream. It's not huge. It's homey. It's not for everyone, but it fits us like a glove. We have yard to explore and a small pond to throw leaves into. We have room, but we are still close.

This is the home I knew I would live in someday. I didn't know what it would look like or where it would be, but I knew it would be full. Full of fire and feeling. Full of warmth and whimsy. This place is where I will watch my babies become adults. And while right now it doesn't seem like life is moving at the breakneck speed I know it will someday when there are moving boxes in his bedroom and a college degree in his sights, I am so ridiculously undeserving to have a front row seat to the beginning of his becoming. And I will savor these molasses moments that make my life so simple this day.

Happy birthday my dear warrior explorer. I can not wait to see how you use your gifts to teach the world about feelings that run well below the surface. I wait in anticipation to see you discover new ideas that could very well change the way we feel about classification, collections, naming, species, travel, invention, introspection, and love. You are going to change your world. I know this because you have irrefutabely changed mine.

For the rest of us, love them with fearless abandon–whoever God has entrusted to you. And thank God. For the cold nights that hang too heavy, for the warm nights that fuel memories for ages to come and for the sheer force that the human spirit holds. Above all, get on your knees every now and then and cry out in absolute awe of the divine coupling that Jesus used to pair you with your people.

Now if only I could conceive of a way to keep my son away from all sugar on the day of his birth. Fat chance.

We're in this together,

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Invisible House

While I wait for our new house to close and have already said a tearful goodbye to our little home over on 19th, it seems like a lifetime has passed. Really it's only been three weeks.

I was hoping the next time I wrote it would be an exuberant entry filled with little details about our new house, the beauty of the process, the joy in my kids' laughter and how all the puzzle pieces fell into place at the exact right time.

I'd throw in some words like "so blessed" and "God is good." It would be smug and comfortable. I would be certain we'd made the right decision, because it just went too perfectly for it not to be.

Conversely, this transition has been rough on us as a family. I've been sleeping in bed with my four year old and my husband has had to sleep on the guest house couch because of his pet allergies. However, much like my children who like to point out their invisible "ouchies" to me so that I will kiss and fawn over them, I've been collecting cuts to lay before God.

It was quite the house hunt, with a heartbreak or two along the way and we ended up buying the very first home I saw. No sparkle dust or magic moments to be had, the house just felt like home to us and it didn't to anyone else. Eventually, they lowered the price to our price.

However, we are still waiting while living with my parents in the lurch called limbo.

But now we just have two days to go.

And I've been asking myself, does the start and stall of our move make us any less blessed or does it make God any less good? Not hardly.

It seems somewhere along the way I fell back into believing the ludicrous lie that perfect and God go together. Like if he was really at the helm then things would always be easy to handle. This isn't the gospel. The gospel is gory and ugly and blood spattered and splinter ridden. The idea of easy is meant to deceive. And it does, daily.

Alas–once again–God decided to use my little ideas of perfection and twist them into sanctification. He took my storyline that I lifted from a line of Hallmark cards I saw somewhere–scrapped it and handed me a wrinkled, worn version that looks distinctly similar to the shirt that I've had to recycle over the last three weeks.

In his poetic way, I can't help but notice that the seasons are changing. I'm still dressing in remnants from my summer wardrobe that just don't suit the new bite in the air that signals the return of Autumn. Neither does my heart. It has undergone a small reshaping in these last weeks. One that has opened my eyes to my idol of self-invovled introspection.

And as we enter into the final stages of Operation Who's House Is It Anyway? my heart is beginning to cool. I'm emerging from this season flared with frustration and inconvenience, but I don't want the cool to become hard clay, I want it to glow with gratitude. I want to be softened. I want this invisible house to reveal the visible flaws in my beliefs about Christ. And it has.

He still gives good gifts to his greedy kids. Like the luxurious gift of a new Autumn. Her hot afternoons are birthed from crisp and chilly mornings and there's a quiet about late September that just doesn't occur any other time of the year. It's as if we're all just so tuckered from the summer that we sit. And talk. And live out more quiet versions of the remaining summer days.

It's true that I haven't been able to enjoy the blended days of impending Autumn like I would like–that's not the bigger issue. Sadly, I haven't been able to enjoy my husband or my children like I would like either. I have found I don't do well in transition and I don't do well out of my routine. I am like my four-year old.

And so, instead of thriving in the anticipation of our new house I've been a little loose around the corners spraying gravel in sputtered rage and wading in inconvenience with my lip in a defiant pout while watching birds circle overhead and envying their freedom.

It hasn't been that pretty. But it has caused some growth, I think. I pray it has. It has forced the envelope on a few important conversations. It has shed light on where I still need to grow and where I need to be even more scandalous with grace.

The books I've been reading during this transition has all said the same thing in one way or another: "Find the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." That is where your "post" will be, as C.S. Lewis refers to our call. I'm still trying to figure out what my call may be in specifics, but in general, my deepest gladness is found in making a house a home and making my heart an open book for those who are also trying to write their stories with intentionality.

I've always wanted greatness for my giftings, and it has blinded me to this simple truth: I am not great, nor is what I can offer. Greatness develops from the days when the gears get jammed and I have to pull off the highway to admit that I can't get myself unstuck. I am not late to some big party where my passions were supposed to play out on the world's stage. I have not missed the big picture that God had for my life.

I am in wait. I will always be in wait. In wait for the lessons. In wait for the wonder. In wait for the purpose. He created me with short circuits in my patience center, but it is only because of this defect that I am able to run to him for peace. I am absolutely nothing on my own. I run to him for reassurance like a teenage girl with acne. I'm so thin around the skin. I need a heaven-to-earth hug from his Word every day. It is a good thing I worship and love a God who embraces the forgetful and the fearful.

I don't know what it will feel like when we finally are settled into our new place. I do hope there are pockets of oh-my-slow-down-I'm-going-to-get-sick happy and overwhelming thankfulness for the gift that is called a house. But I know it will still be life when we get into the groove of living there. Four little broken people with one incredible God is the only hope we have during the hiccups of life when our heart and our breath are out of step.

I am in process. So is our life. I thank Jesus. That's all I got.

We're in this together,

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Happiness Hunter

I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Revelations 3:8)

That familiar saying: When God shuts a door he opens a window. Well, it bothers me today. There have been other days when those words have probably felt encouraging, but today, they ruffle my feathers. 

You see, you can't walk through a window. Instead, you have to find a chair, hoist yourself up, shimmy your behind through an opening that wasn't meant for human passage and then fall into a heap on the other side. 

To me this window business seems human-bound; like something we tried to fashion out of disappointment. It seems to say that a closed door should be an excuse for cutting a window into whatever wall we can't break through and forcing our own way in. That's just how I feel today anyway. 

Because in this moment I'm okay with standing behind a closed door. I am okay with waiting for the next green light. In any other time of my life, I would have forced a window open and hurled myself into the street. But not today.  

Ever since I recently left my job at a local magazine, I have felt more plugged into life and more content with less.

This doesn't mean that I've downsized my shoe collection or somehow stopped putting way too much dressing on my greens–it just means that I have the excess time to allow the beautiful ordinariness of dust bunnies and toddler ringlets to grab me tightly by the hand. I'm much more present.

There are of course the dog days when feeling more plugged in doesn't feel enlightening. Instead, it can feel like an ungrounded light socket that shocks and sputters–but mostly, I am provided with just enough light to truly see where I am and how I am spending my time wisely, and unwisely.

Life is more fragmented nowadays too. Yes, I have more time to wipe runny noses, appease fruit snack cravings and stray from strict nap schedules, but every hour is cross-hatched with countless interruptions. And it always has been, but before I wasn't available. I was emotionally spent somewhere else. And that's a tiny tragedy, because I would miss connections like the ones I made today.

My son has recently learned to put words to his emotions. He will come to me with crumpled shoulders, and furrowed eyebrows and thickly say, "Mommy, I'm sad." Other times, when he used to resort to solely throwing temper tantrums he will now announce through gravel and grit, "I'm mad." But the most troubling to me is when my son gets something he wants. Especially when it revolves around some kind of plastic nothingness, and he will beam, "Mommy, I'm happy now."

And again I see myself in my son. The place where the happy hurts. When the infatuation fades and we become fidgety with the very thing we were desperate to have.

One of my favorite books is The Jesus Storybook Bible, I read it to my son as I put him down for his nap today. It was the part when Jesus was putting together his team of helpers to accomplish the Great Rescue.

Who would make good helpers, do you think? Clever ones? Rich ones? Strong, important ones? Some people might think so, but I'm sure by now you don't need me to tell you they'd be wrong. Because the people God uses don't have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things–they just have to need him a lot. 

Cue the tears.

I need him a lot right now. So much it hurts. The happy hurts. The sad hurts. The I-totally-blew-it-again hurts. The Lord, I-think-I-may-be-getting-it hurts. The fulfilling and the wasteful; they both hurt. Just like my husband's favorite karaoke song, Hurts So Good; none of us can avoid what C.S. Lewis identifies as the 'pang' of life.

Today, I am at peace with the door that is momentarily shut. I am content to live loudly inside the small spaces. Clanging pots and pans loud. Singing Mary Poppins loud. Splattering paint loud. (Washable paint of course, I'm not a masochist.)

And I've realized that until I can be satisfied without the stuff–the paycheck, the deadlines that make me feel important, the emails that I absolutely have to answer–happiness will be a flightless falcon that I keep looking to the sky to find. It will be a earthbound root that I keep trying to pluck from the top of the trees.

We don't hunt for happiness, it hunts for us. And it can warp our ideals slowly and completely, if we allow our hearts to soar on every whim of want.

All this to say, I've decided to change my job title. The Happiness Hunter has resigned. The Closed-Door Contented classes are now in session.

We're in this together,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Panic at the Disco

Mt. Adams. Photo Courtesy of Life is a Mountain, John's Hiking Blogspot
I lost it.

You know, that thing that I never had.

This house selling-and-buying business has me breathing into bags in the evening and trying to calm my wild heart beat with sweet and sour indulgences. This does not seem like something a person who has peace should be doing.

Cue the crinkle of a Salt & Vinegar chip bag. Shameless.

The dream house. That's the thing I lost. The one that would make leaving behind the house we've made a home, easier. It would have happened on my perfect time line. No overlapping, no double moving, no more breathing into bags. And here's where I struggle with quantifying this whole process through the lens of my faith: do I believe that God is good?

My husband is at the base of the second tallest peak in Washington state as this very moment getting ready to summit 12,000 feet on top of a snow-covered "potentially active" volcano–which Wikipedia was so kind to point out. He isn't climbing for the heck of it, although I do think he would climb any mountain on any day over most things. He is climbing it with a team of 26 guys who have raised almost $70,000 to rescue girls out of forced prostitution in India. In a kilt no less.

And here I am. On the edge of reason, doubting that God will rescue me from the predicament that I created. Wrongly assuming that He, the creator and orchestrator of the greatest rescue in existence, is someone who will sit back and let us move into a home that will be worse for us.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give good things to those who ask. 

He is a God of means. He isn't just a fluffy fellow in the sky. He holds us. He rocks us. He shh's us when we've gone on for far too long on something he has already taken care of.

My husband is a part of something meaningful. I think that's really what is at the heart of this ache I feel. I want this move to move me towards a deeper understanding of family, community and Christ. I want the next address to be a reflection of where we've been. I need to kill the idea that it needs to be flashy, impressive, something people will approve of. I need to kill that same thing in myself–that a house is separate from God. I am the house of God.

I need to banish the idea that God is too busy guiding the feet of the climbers on Mt. Adams to reach their incredibly noble and glorious goal, to meet me in the ash.

The ash: where I doubt God's goodness for the bajillionth time while He is literally lifting young girls out of a life of slavery on the backs of men I love and dearly respect.

There will be another house. That's what keeps being said. And in this moment of disbelief and distrust I am not entirely certain there will be. So far I've just seen homes that wither my heart, and cause me to doubt this whole crazy ridiculous Life Relocation Program thing I've begun.

These last few months for me have been a 'tearing down' era. A process of "letting it crumble", so that  something better can be built. I'm still sifting through the rubble. I'm still completely clueless as to where we are going. To some, that's called adventure. But for me, I need a script; A rough outline of what's coming next.

So I've decided to prayerfully create a list of what I want this next era of life to be like. What I want the stage to rise up for: a hammock where everyday life can sway, steady and sweet.

1. A refuge

A place that breathes us all to life, Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

2. A place big enough to gather comfortably. I will not pay more for something smaller or the same size as what we have. I am not interested in "tiny home" living. Not at this point in my life, anyway. I want to throw parties. Loud and big ones, with magic shows and wine and late talks into the night as the moon rises.

3. Close to our community and my family. I've lived in Los Angeles and Nashville. I know the longing of missing home. I don't want to make those people and places any harder to get to or to spend time with. I want to be closer to them and more available to them.

4. No old windows, doors or popcorn ceilings. (Sorry, I've been there and paid my dues.)

5. A writer's view.  This doesn't need to be mountains or ocean-though we've got both up here. It can be something like an old growth lilac tree outside my window, or a place where I can see a sliver of the sunrise from the kitchen table. It needs to be profound and simple. Something I can count on when the ideas run dry and when the heart questions everything, all over again. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. 

6. Joy. I need to feel gratitude. It needs to feel miraculous. Like I stumbled upon a bramble-covered lock. A secret garden with a lost key and God handed it to me just in time. It needs to be gift. Not something I could give to myself, only something he could provide. I have to relinquish control. (Yuck.)

As my husband's boots crunch snow and his muscles ache from his pack; I imagine the August sun toasting the places around his eyes where the squint lines will become white. He just called me for a quick check in, "This is the last time I'll be able to talk to you until we come back from the summit. I love you."

And for some reason, now I know: God doesn't lead us to the treacherous places to make our life there. He leads us up and guides us back down. And when the climb is over-we are changed and have helped instigate change. We may be in the exact same place we began, but we are different.

And that's it. That's my home right now. A man on a mountain.

I wonder what the HOA's are?

We're in this together,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Small Changes

There is a painting that hangs over my fireplace mantle. It reads, There is no Such Thing As Small Change.

When I first saw this piece of art I was drawn to it. And every time I read it, it speaks something new into my life. Whatever I am dealing with one thing is constant: change.

And in the middle of change we can lose our bearings. And this is when I fall prey to my heart's tendency to obsess.

Once I exited the glorious Monet of childhood and tip-toed into the abrupt edges of adolescence, I discovered a black box inside my mind that gave me the power of preoccupation.

This "gift" allows me to see things from every possible angle; to analyze and experience; to interject and often times, exaggerate. A big blob of tightly-wound worry–I am able to manipulate the shapeless matter with an artist's hand. I can twist and turn something over enough times that it spontaneously spins on it's own. It becomes alive.

When I was younger it may have been schoolwork or a boy I liked, whatever the "it" was I intensified it's place in my mind by feeding it copious amount of brain food. I over indulged. I entertained ghosts. I circled and circled.

Obsessing gives my creative mind a place to land; anywhere or any situation that needs over-thinking–I'm the girl for the job.

This has it's benefits and drawbacks.

When I want something very much, I have dogged determination. When I fear something very much, it can swallow me whole. When I have what I've been obsessing over, I cling to it with a clenched grasp. It makes me fiercely loyal, but just as fiercely flippant.

Our house sold in two days. Pending inspection and appraisal and all that fun stuff that makes me sweat behind the knees.

Answered prayer wrapped in linen layers of terrifying reality.

We are momentarily homeless. Displaced. 

God knows what He is doing. I do not. I think that is called faith. But I can't be quite sure, because it would be a lie to say I am walking in it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

I have prayed my supplication and thanksgiving prayers. I have been waiting for the peace which surpasses all understanding, but there's a road block. It's my obsession. She is standing in the middle of the road and I can't tackle her to the ground. She is determined to steal my peace. She is determined to make me crazy with distraction. She stands between me and where God wants to move us. 

These walls that used to be my home are now closing in on me, and so I comb the MLS listings for new place to lay our heads. Maybe it's the one with the yellow door, or the one with the sagging porch but glorious master, or the one that doesn't have a yard but has a dog house (wait, we don't have a dog) or the depressing discovery of a gut job in the top of our price range? All of these potential homes have now become companions.

I hold hands with these stacks of bricks promising forever and then turn my back on them, slam the door and run into the arms of another address. And this story isn't unlike my romance with Jesus.

And I realize that my fear shouldn't be that we'll never find another home: My fear should be that I will miss the peace that surpasses all understanding while on the hunt. That I will forget to drink from the river that runs underneath the foundations I am standing on.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

I am far from being in a wasteland. This is a beautiful time. This is a fruitful time. There is no reason to allow obsession to overtake me. And for anyone in the middle of a large, big, beautiful and unrealized change–don't let the Unknown overshadow the upcoming. Wrestle with her. Accept her. Invite her in.

My family and I are on the edge of something exciting. Something new that God is going to do. And so as always I look to Jesus. He was homeless. And yet He was always at home.

I've got a lot to learn. 

We're in this together,

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Life Relocation Program

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it... Yet." - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I don't deserve a fresh start. And yet I get one.

Every. Single. Sunrise. 

Every morning–I get to start over. 

That's the insane infatuation that God has with us. He forgives us before we even bite into the apple. He kisses our mouths with the juice of the forbidden fruit streaming down our chins. He pursues us while we are running in the other direction. He pulls us close when we arch our backs like infants during a midnight wail. 

His mercies are new every morning. Even when we are failures. Which if we are human, we are. We fail. All the time. And even when we've let him down time and time again, He still chooses to write us as principal players into the greatest romance of life. The only romance that fulfills. The one between the Creator and His created.

Mercy is the magic.

What a miracle. In an age of criticism and chronic opinion, Jesus is a safe place. To know that the God of the universe–the one who knitted your bones together; bent over with furrowed brows; exercising the utmost concentration–knew we would fall apart at the seams.

He created us fully knowing we would throw ourselves to the ground. Shattering the art. Breaking the beauty. And he broke himself for that very fact. 

And as I sit in my kitchen, where I've written every word since I've been a parent, I realize I will soon be saying goodbye to this place. 

We are selling our house.

Soon this home–where I saw my babies take their first steps, throw their first temper tantrums, witness a bubble for the first time, utter their first words and take their first falls–will be someone else's address. Soon, this home will be a memory. A yesterday that I can't redo. A fuzzy recollection that will keep me company when my son is off to college and my daughter is studying for her high school finals.

And as I look back on the first four years I have been a parent: It's bittersweet.

I spoke too harshly too often. And yet, I exchanged I'm sorry's and I forgive you's richly. I cried too much over things that inconvenienced me, and yet I embraced the unexpected. I complained over the stains on the carpet, but really I was just discontent with imperfection. And still, there's a side of me that loved watching my daughter eat tomato soup with gusto while splattering the walls and staining her dress. I loved having uncooked spaghetti fights in the kitchen with my baby boy even when I surveyed the damage; dozens of snapped sticks of imagination scattered to high heaven all across the floor.

I am a contradiction. My wills are at war within me. I loved chaos as much as I loathed it. 

All in all, we became a family here. In this place. The one that I wasn't sure I even wanted when we bought it. And as we prepare to plop a 'for sale' sign in the front lawn, it reminds me of early parenthood: it wasn't what I thought I was looking for but it was exactly what I needed.

As we look for a new home, I won't be looking for something perfect. I will be looking for a place big enough to invite strangers, new friends, old friends, the lost, the found, the happy and the despaired from all walks of life to drink wine and smell my favorite candles over a large table.

I want a place that will symobilize the growth we've experienced as we have become a family of four. I want a place that will be a safe haven and yet an open door for anyone who knocks. I am excited to recreate our new normal. I suspect it will be something we won't expect; but it will be place to shape the formative years; where we emerge from the thicket and begin the ascent.

This new house won't be the change we seek. Because the change has already happened. We are different. Not better. Just better at starting over. Better at admitting we need a fresh start. 

And so as we embark on the process of finding a new place to lay our heads, I am tired in the best way possible. With heart muscles sore from use and mind muscles sore from faith.

I have no idea where we are going, but we're going together-as a family. Be looking for the house warming invite. I'll be pouring Sauvignon Blanc. Naturally.

We're in this together,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Extra Raft


Such a glorious word. A gospel word, even. It suggests that we have more than we need. That the work has been done. That we can rest in the overflow. I have come to learn a thing or two about this word in the last few months. 

I had an audition for a national commercial last week. It was the first one I had gone to in over a year. I got a callback from that audition. I waited for four days, which felt like forever, all the while hoping and praying that I would get it. A fragile ego I nursed, hoping for a win.  

I got the call yesterday that I didn't get the part. But I wasn't left empty handed, I was asked to be a union job extra. In the acting world, an extra is basically a body. Someone who shows up without a name and without a  single line and just does what they are told. It was the smallest role I have ever accepted. 

And yet, I took it with thankfulness and joy. Because I am learning the true meaning of what it means to be and have, extra. 

After recently walking away from a job that consumed every ounce of extra time I had on my hands, I was squeezing essentials like bathroom breaks and even meals into the margins of my day. I was scurrying around like a squirrel with cheeks full of nuts who had a bounding black lab chasing my tail.

Days faded into one another with nothing but deadlines, criticisms, diapers, naps, mess making, mess cleaning, writing until my eyes burned, waking with my eyes still burning, coffee that never stayed in my cup long enough, and frayed nerves that snapped at the littlest detour in my daily, rigid schedule. All the while I prayed for God to make clear to me if I wasn't doing what I should. I can't help but laugh. The Spirit within was telling me what I didn't want to hear.

But now? It has stopped. The spin cycle has subsided.

I jumped off the merry go round mid-twirl, stood up on wobbly legs marked by scraped knees, and I carried my bruised heart and broken will, home.

There are still the diapers, the laundry, the endless snack fetching, mess making and mess cleaning. But I've been breathing. I've been feeling space in ways I wasn't able to before. I've been exposed to extra. And it feels so freeing. Except for when it feels frightening. (Of course.)

I am a planner. This is the first time in my life where I have stepped out onto nothing. Well, maybe not the first time. My wedding day I walked down the aisle into a white page of unwritten script. When I held my firstborn in my arms I couldn't see past the moment. I didn't have an inkling of what was to come. And it cradled me just as much as I cradled him.

Sometimes not knowing is the most beautiful part of painful endings that roll into new beginnings. It's that sliver of time that suspends itself between what we thought we knew and what we are completely clueless about. And no matter how much we try to see beyond–no level of guessing or strategy exists. We are forced to walk in the dark holding the hand of God. We have to feel with our hands along the walls and take timid steps that snap sticks and rustle fallen leaves.

In these dim moments we are tempted to live in fear of an opportunity-less life–like nothing good will ever come our way again.

But when we begin this blind journey, our eyes begin seeing things that were hidden before. Things about our dreams, our passions–who God created us to be. For so long my biggest fear in life was being ordinary, someone that just lived life quietly, simply. As I've matured in my baby-like faith, I have come to realize that God tells us to "aspire to live quietly" in 1 Thessalonians because he realizes the gift to be found in the extra.

Not extra stuff. Extra whitespace.

And it is in this most recent "whitespace" (which I have learned so much about from Bonnie Gray and her delightful book), I have discovered something amazing: My life road, like so many of ours, is a river.

I left home at 17 to pursue an acting career. That ran upstream into pursuing a music career. Which twisted into pursuing a book deal and a writing career. Then it ran over the smooth rocks and dropped off a jagged edge into a freelance photojournalism career. But through it all, these streams have all confirmed that I am made for all matters of creating, performing and artistic expression and I've even found that I can make a mean jam sandwich and slay dragons. Who knew?

The highs and lows of each pursuit pale in comparison to how God used each to patch together a life raft that I have needed time and time again. One that is fashioned from planks of trust built upon the rotten-turned-repourposed soft spots of my sin. One that is tied down and reinforced with strong ropes of forgiveness and embrace. One that is propelled by the wind of his will, and I'm just along for the ride.

It twists and turns, dips and dries out, floods and forges. It is exhilarating like a waterfall and quiet like a glassy lagoon. If we surrender to the river mentality of life we may come to a new understanding of our own gifting in the light of where God is leading.

Tethering ourselves to the "foundation of God" isn't enough if all we plan to do is to leave it in the foreground while we fly, accomplish and check off to-do's. Jesus isn't interested in safe distance from our real needs and desires. Jesus wants to wipe the tears when we think we are crying alone. He wants to clink glasses full of rich, ruby-red wine when something needs to be celebrated. He wants to kiss your eyelids while you dream. He is that personal. He is that in love with you.

Only calling on him when our balloon deflates or we hit the bottom, cheats us out of the small, quiet rivers we ignore with sights set on the ocean.

For so long I looked at my career, motherhood and my "calling" as a bridge I was building to get from somewhere I didn't want to be to somewhere better. And that isn't the way God designed our life to be.

Instead, if we let ourselves flow freely through the hands of his will we will embark on an adventure fashioned from his strengths to offset our weaknesses so we can accomplished those God-sized goals he's placed inside of us.

Take time to drink in the beauty of every day ordinariness. The symphony of sparrows in the early morning; the tight hug of your child when he whispers, "I love you so much mommy." These are the ordinary moments that are potently poetic. Don't miss them–like I have so many times–to blaze a trail across a ravine that God never intended for us to have to cross.

Jump into the cool river. The water is nice.

We're in this together,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Pool of Envy

Kids squeal. Water splashes. The smell of coconut oil and chlorine drift on the breeze. To a child, we have reached paradise. A swimming pool in the summer.

Plastic toys spill out of beach bags and float around like time bombs in the water. Parents drift alongside their offspring wading fast and slow in hopes to head off a meltdown by distracting them from a new toy that has been momentarily abandoned; seemingly available for the snatching.

Conversations rise and fall as kids come and go for naps, lunches and bathroom breaks. "But he has a green squirt gun dad! I have a red one. I want a GREEN ONE!" And we try and explain: they are the exact same squirt gun. Just a different color. But logic falls with a dull thud. Our soft voices and gentle, but urgent, pleading become echoes in the canyon of that's-way-cooler-than-what-I-have. They can not hear us. They will not hear us. They are entranced by the unattainable.

And here I am bobbing like a cork next to my daughter and watching my own son literally run back and forth from content to discontent as new balls, water guns and float toys enter the scene. His little three-year-old brain spins; trying to process emotions and longings that he can't name–anger and awe and envy. Grown up issues that he is absolutely defenseless against.

And I realize that we are not born with the innate understanding on how to be happy. We have no clue what it is that will satisfy us and what will leave us empty and itching to get our hands on what someone else has. We are born full of want.

On this particular sunny day in paradise, it started and ended with rocket ships. My son's new friend Carson had brought in two "rocket ships"–actually airplanes. One was red and one was yellow. I saw the storm swirling overhead. Thunder clapped. Lightning struck down. Envy unleashed. "Mom! He has rocket ships. I want a rocket ship!"

Carson was not about to share the rocket ships. My son begins explaining that he needs to share. Carson disagrees. The combination of too much sun not enough breakfast and the teetering insanity of toddler reasoning culminated into chaos. The tears begin. The scene is made. It is time to go. NOW.

As I am trying to navigate an escape route with hand signals to my husband across the pool we begin hastily gathering our wits. Our son continues to melt down. This triggers rapid spelling, "He just needs a N-A-P," I yell. My husband grabs our daughter and begins gathering our stuff, shooting back, "I know, and F-O-O-D." I nod incessantly, "Yes, and he needs to go P-O-T-T-Y." And it continues that way for a minute or two as I try to coerce my son into leaving the rocket ship battlefield.

He sees us moving toward the exit and panic ensues. "No mom!" I don't want to go!" Tears begin forging into waterfalls. His chin quivers. "I'm happy mom! I'm happy!" Wails and arm slapping enter the negotiations. "Mom, see I'm happy!" Tears running in thick streams. He truly thinks I will believe that he is happy by telling me that, even though his blotchy and exasperated face tells the real story.

My face flushes red. Half-embarrassed by the scene we're making over Carson's inability to share (as if my son has never withheld a toy from someone for the sheer joy of it) and half-embarrassed by my own reflection that I am beginning to see in my son's broken little heart. His brokenness over the stuff. The sense of loss. The fear of missing out.

And I suddenly feel bad for him. He can't identify envy. He doesn't understand why it is twisting his heart in knots. He doesn't understand that this behavior is going to cost him what he already had. A fun afternoon in the pool.

And more than all of that, my sad little son is letting the idea of losing something he never had become more important than trusting that mom and dad knows what he needs most. Rest. And sustenance. A cool, calm dry place out of the hot sun.

We successfully completed Operation Escape the Pool of Envy after a couple of failed attempts. But I made it out alive and with enough composure that I am able to detail the encounter with some clarity in this blog.

As I was finally tucking my son into his bed. I felt it.

Whether we are three or thirty-three, the hunt for happiness will never end well when we don't trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Rest for the restless.
Rest for the brokenhearted.
Rest for the unloved.
Rest for the overworked.
Rest for the unemployed.
Rest for the disliked.
Rest for the ordinary.
Rest for the overlooked.

Rest. Not relaxation. Not something that we dream of during toil filled weeks. Not a vacation. Not a break from reality.

Soul rest. The kind that we will find when we close our eyes to the distractions and temptations of want and we open our eyes to what we have right in front of us. Empty space. Open hands. Ready to accept the good news of grace. It is more than enough.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Rest in that.

We're in this together,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Oh, Joy, the Crumbling Continuum

I've been wondering why I am enchanted with words. They wrap around my brain like an eagerly anticipated gift and I'm a gap-toothed child with frosting smudged across her face reaching up with open arms. They never leave, even though they do lie quiet in times of stress or run in the opposite direction when I am trying to squeeze them from a place too tight for flow.

I welcome this acrostic addiction with an appetite for more. I invite flowery, fickle and downright bad ideas to run amok through the elongated gates and trails of my mind. I find joy in the plunky metamorphosis of letters turning into silky ribbons of delicious thought emerging chapter titles, songs and bite-sized breaks of blue through the clouds.

And I am thankful. I am thankful that I have this love to share with my children. I am thankful that when the world feels unsafe and unkind I can escape into the mind of C.S. Lewis or Anne Lammott or Brennan Manning and Jen Hatmaker– those who have lived life with their ear to the door of God's heart hoping to hear a symbiotic morse code that will spell out the exact answer we seek. And they do.

I've found that while God does often speak in cryptic collections of stories and ideas–he doesn't leave us to fumble the puzzle back together on our own. When we are hurting, lost or desperately seeking His face he isn't so mysterious. (Matthew 7:7). He's actually quite plain. Blunt. Transparent.

I am between the spaces right now; where the sunset over a tranquil lake transports me to a hotel room in my soul that I've never checked into. And yet, it is as if that is the only place in the whole world that could possibly be home. I don't think of heaven often, but when I do it is sparked by random moments of beauty. When dew slips from petals into a pool of rainwater. In the squinty corners of my children's eyes when giggle fits ensue. Those are times where I can't contain the joy I feel and I instinctively put my hand over my heart. It's what C.S. Lewis called the "pang" of joy. And it is worth more than comfort. It is a preview of something we were created to live in continuously.

Comfort has been the god that often snatches the position of most importance when I don't tend to the wilds of my want. I have been taking inventory around my home of the "comforts" I was afforded when I had an income. There's several pair of shoes that are colorful and yet, they seem crass. As if they represent me flipping over a table in the temple or me handing over my birthright for a meager bowl of watery soup. OK, so that may seem a little strong. But it is excess. And excess isn't eternal. It's moth food.

I have a few more dresses than I used to. A few more beauty products. A few more clothes for my kids which have now been washed, shrunken and demoted to consignment quality. Innumerable Starbucks cups found their way into the trash along with their bought-status green straws. But most boldly and evidently, as I look around and take inventory of this blank space I find myself in, I notice a skin that has been shed. I notice that what I was once wearing has now been cast in the dirty clothes. It was a uniform of I-can-do-it-all-myself–as if a title of nothingness could trick my heart into believing that I was anything more than naked and ashamed.

I feel so free from that skin, which now I can properly identify as a suit of armor. I catch moments of dusty sun now. I revel in the sound of birds out my window. I itch to bring beauty in.

And that's where I feel reintroduced to the place of purpose that God carved into me with a chisel and a gouge. That place of tenderness and trepidation. The place where I am able to notice God. To give him credit. To cite the source.

And that's why the words have been assaulting me with the most welcomed show of gunfire. I've been cracked open wide. Without our fissures and faults, there would be no way for Him to encourage us to "let it crumble". There would be no crag for him to establish his greatness among our garbage. Be thankful for your bruises–the places that if pressed upon would burst us to bits.

They are the marks by which we feel for our way and open into a bright meadow that is decorated with  quiet and clarity. It is only in times like these that I am able to wipe the steamy film from the mirror to see myself through the streaks of condensation. (1 Corinthians 13:12) For now we only see as a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

You are already fully known by your Creator. These humans we share our lives with; they can only know us in part as we can only know ourselves and others. That's the journey. Realizing that this isn't about getting to know ourselves or hoping that someday someone will "get us". This life, this discovery–I believe–is about allowing ourselves to accept that will only be ever truly known, cherished, accepted and trademarked as beautiful by the hands of God. The ones that knit us together in love. (Col. 2:2)

We're in this together,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hopelessly Unhinged

This has been an interesting week.

I quit my job. But it doesn't stop there.

An eighty-year-old woman in the aisle of Fred Meyer told my 14-month daughter to "shut up" as she was repeatedly squealing because of the balloons overhead. An acquaintance accused me of trying to reap the spoils of her divorce by asking about buying a painting in her home. And I had someone tell me that they were hurt that I did not acknowledge them while they wore a t-shirt heralding my old band days. While these things are not the end of the world I am fighting the temptation to pull into my turtle shell and be done with it for awhile. A reformed introvert who still struggles with internalism, these little cuts are beginning to gape. I can feel the blood draining from my face.

I am far too sensitive. I take things too much to heart. I know this about myself. But Jesus knows that even more.

I will be the first to say I don't do life well all the time. Honestly, I think I only have peek-a-boo moments of goodness where something bursts forth from a place beyond my own humanity and I am able to harness it long enough to help someone. Or support someone. Or forgive someone. Then it's gone and I'm back to being obsessed with myself.

The only comfort I can find is that Jesus knows me. He knows this wasted heart, and that I desperately want to please. And unfortunately that desire to please gets me into trouble. I set myself up for failure.

Jesus knows I don't say the right things all the time. He knows that I walk wide-eyed into misunderstandings. He knows I sin. I covet. I gossip. I envy. I assume. The world can be cruel. And sometimes I wonder if I'm not wired to handle it all. The comments. The assumptions. The accusations.

It can simply be, overwhelming. I have always been easily broken. I have a thin skin and I've tried to make it thicker. But for those of us who God made this way; sensitive, big-hearted and trusting–it's okay to admit we can't do this on our own.

And in this hard season, where I feel isolated and clunky in my attempts to re-find my footing–I am tripping over my good intentions. But more so now than ever I am so thankful for my church and my closest friends. I am so thankful for other broken people who put their foot in their mouths and those that are familiar with the gift of grace and are much more willing to give it freely to those who don't deserve it.

I know I don't deserve grace. I know I say stupid things. I trust people blindly. I don't always think through the things I do. But I keep being reminded of God working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He knows we are unhinged and spastic. He knows we can't hold a train of thought and that we can't see ourselves crashing until we are among the blazes sometimes.

And that's the peace I have right now. Because I know I love Jesus like crazy. I know He's seen me at my worst and He still longs to know me. That is why I believe what I believe. Because I am imperfect and impolite and imposing and marred and stitched up and He still welcomes me with arms open wide. He still invites me to His throne to hear his gentle voice and to forgive me for the bazillionth time with no strings attached. Seriously, none.

And for a screw-up like myself that is more than good news, it's what this tired and beat-up heart needs.

Sometimes people think that religion is unforgiving. But for me, it's the opposite. My religion–Christianity– is nothing but forgiveness. Pure and potent, like the most intoxicating drink you'll ever taste. It's a reality that never goes away once you acknowledge you need it. As long as you keep His truth in front of you, what's behind you becomes glassy and highly apertured. Fading into the fog of forget-about-the-past.

I feel such joy knowing that I have a clean slate and a life washed white every single morning (Psalm 30:5). I will continue to hold fast to my firm belief in a Man who came as God to fulfill ancient prophecies and give us the gift we could never earn–a direct line to His goodness. He left us with the blueprint on how to live life in community with Him and those who love Him.

I am worn down. I am vulnerable. I am broken. I am sad. I am feeling attacked.

But by God, I am forgiven. And loved. And held. And kissed. And unconditionally accepted. No matter what I do wrong tomorrow or what I forget to do right the next day, Jesus has it covered. Dear friend, if you've ever been misunderstood, wrongly attacked, rightfully attacked or left to feel like you don't matter. You do.

You matter so much that you don't have to do anything right to be righted. Rest in that.

We're in this together,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texting with Jesus in the Thicket of Nothingness

Sometimes I wish Jesus sent text messages.

My life is such a ball of harried busyness these days–it would simply be more efficient. I'm an editor for a local magazine, a mom to two kids under four and a wife to an energetic mountain climber who only needs six hours of sleep. Doesn't take much imagination to get a clear picture of the daily tiredness I encounter. So what? We're all tired. Moms are exhausted, it's a reality. But that isn't what bothers me.

It's the why I'm tired that bothers me. I'm beginning to think that I'm moving yet, going nowhere. Typing yet, creating nothing. Getting ahead, yet falling behind.

You see if Jesus could send texts that would fit so much nicer into the grid of my life. I barely have a moment to change the toilet paper roll let alone consult with Him on how to use the fourteenth temper tantrum of the day as a teaching moment. I don't have moments to gather myself and listen to the whisper of His wisdom when my kids are screaming for more juice and my work is drilling my email with negativity and complaints.

And you know what? I think I may be in sin.

Believe me, I really want this to be untrue. I want people to tell me that I'm doing a great job juggling it all. I want my husband to be proud of how hard I work. I want my children to know that mommy isn't just a mommy, she has other talents outside of wiping running noses and making a mean jam sandwich. But why do I want that?

And I sit here. My fingers poised on the keys. And I am at a loss. I don't know why I want that. Jesus made it so very clear in his Word about what is of value to Him that it may have well been a text message.

JesusMartha (Megan), dear Martha (Megan), you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary (someone else) has chosen it. [Luke 10:41-42]

Me: What was that G-man? I was too busy editing a piece about dive bars and folding the laundry and loading the dishwasher and changing a diaper and calling my mom and reading the "news" (Facebook) to understand what you mean. Can you repeat it?

Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [Luke 10:27]

Me: Sorry, too tired to talk about this. Going to watch Parenthood. 


And I'm, done. Ready to turn my brain off for some sanity. All I want is just a sliver of escape that I desperately deserve. Right?

Yes, I deserve to find rest in Him. But that's not where I go. I don't run to the Bible or my journal. 

I run to an empty room inside my mind where no one needs me, it's quiet and clean. And I'm alone. It's a fantasy of what peace must be like, but my imaginary happy place is counterfeit. Real peace is found in the wise whispers I can't hear over the clanging of my own complaints. 

Do less. Breathe more. Spend time with me. Spend time with your kids. Let the accolades go. Don't believe the hype. You are not talented. I have given you those gifts. Love your husband. Stop blaming him for your state of mind. Stop blaming Me for not speaking clear enough. Stop blaming yourself for getting caught up in the thicket of nothingness. Return. To. Me. 

Jesus was and is so counter-cultural that even two-thousand years after His death he is still breaking down the truth of what life should look like when lived in alignment with His best for us. And it looks drastically different than anything we will see on TV, in our friends' lives and even in the church. 

It looks minimal. 

Sell all you have and give to the poor. [Luke 18:22]

It looks plain. 

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. [Isaiah 53:2]

It looks unimpressive.

For your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. [2 Corinthians 8:9]

But dear friends, it looks peaceful. 

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. [John 14:27]

I have traded in my Savior for a schedule. I just want efficiency. I just want a yes or no. I want to treat him like my assistant who has an amazing sense of direction.

But you know what He really is? He's the point. He's the plan. He's the promise.

If I am completely upfront about my current heart condition, I should say that this probably won't change anything in my life immeadietly. I am stubborn and full of vanity. But I do know this, that Jesus is relentless in His faithfulness. He will not let me waste myself away to dust. Instead, I am opening up my weary heart for some soul surgery.

I've been joyless. I've been run down. I've put busyness above belief.

One last text would need to be sent.

Me: I ask forgiveness for being too distracted to be a disciple. Don't let me get away with it. You are my first love. Show me how to fix it.

If you ask the hard questions about how you've designed your life, He will provide the real answers. I pray I'm not in the middle of folding socks when He does–God knows how hard it is for me to break away from that.

We're in this together,