On Our Three Year Anniversary

September 7th, 2017 § 0

There’s so much I don’t know.

I don’t know what I’m having for dinner. I don’t know what to do about the state of our political system. I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up. And, by the way, when does that happen?

But I am certain of this: I want to wake up each day, look this man in the eyes and see him for the unmerited gift he is to me.

From the first time I met Luke, his presence began unraveling what was knotted in me–allowing me to clear spaces previously cluttered by insecurity–and with such immediacy it still takes me by surprise. His love is a clarifying force, an opportunity to reckon with the things I thought I could never let go of and have. Our story has brought me to a fierce encounter with the things I hold as precious, to examine them for what they are and to see them from new perspectives. His being, in its kindness, illuminates the shadow places where I need to grow. And I am so grateful.

That’s the four-year view.

The day-to-day view is medical bills and a shower that needs scrubbing and a call to AT&T about getting internet at the new house (God help me). Oh, and my person is running late. AGAIN!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, this distance between the four-year view and the day-to-day view. How at any given moment the most beautiful thing I’ve ever been given could be taken away, and I’d be over here losing my sh*t on the phone with Blue Shield. A crushing absurdity.

These two views are not always close together.

And what I know for sure is every day I want to walk the distance between them.

I want to walk my way back to the bigger picture, to let each day be kissed by the divine mystery that this man is for me. I want to let the road there lead me to the good questions, like “Will you forgive me?” and “How can I love you today?” along with the ever-trusted exclamations, “Hooray!” and “Thank you!” and “Hi there, Sexy!”

Today I’m thankful I get to walk this road at all. I’m thankful to mark three years of marriage to this splendid human. And I’m thankful to know the richness that comes from the deep promises we’ve made to each other.

Happy anniversary to the one who puts moons in my eyes.

A Poem for the New Year

January 5th, 2016 § 254

No, no there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

-Wendell Berry

On Having A Real Job

July 3rd, 2013 § 539

A few years back, my mom woke up one morning to discover she had lost hearing in one ear. Just like that it was gone. She went to see a specialist, as one does when you suddenly wake up with four and half senses. And you know what the specialist  told her after he had finished his investigation?

He said, “There’s no silver lining.”

This might sound strange, but my mom and I have laughed about that many, many times. I love her for it too. It can be straight up funny when people say it as it is.

Life after graduating college, life when it’s first being calibrated to Monday through Friday, 9-5, is very much like being hit over the head from behind and having an ear, nose, and throat doctor say to you, “There’s no silver lining.”

I find it fascinating that we don’t talk more about this. We hear about the terrible two’s (which in my experience is actually the terrible three’s), we talk often about the terrible teens, but somehow we fail to mention the terrible twenty-somethings as a legitimate phenomenon. In fact, I feel that almost everyone in my life-stage identifies to some extent with feeling confused, misled, unprepared, and/or generally disillusioned about life in the “real world” (as some people are apt to call it). For awhile it made me want to ambush every soon-to-be college graduate I know with flashing lights and a road sign reading “Warning! Worst time of your life ahead!”

But it’s inevitable.

So instead, I present a brief informational guide to having your first office job…

Welcome. You’re about to feel stiff, mentally-fried, and in total shock about what just happened to your life.

(1) The first signs that you’ve entered this life stage will be powdered coffee creamer, fluorescent lighting, and direct deposit (and thank goodness for that since you’ll have so little time to spare that a trip to the bank feels like sitting in an airport with a 10-hour layover).

(2) You will quickly notice that office dynamics are much less like a classroom, and much more like a perpetual family reunion with 3rd cousins you haven’t seen in ten years. You don’t really have anything in common with these people, but you’re obligated to make small talk over day-old bagels in the break room.

(3) The first four weeks after your first two weeks, you will feel like time is smiting you mightily for every second of your life you’ve ever wasted playing Tetris. In fact, time will tick by so slowly, you’re almost certain you’re twenty-times less fertile than you were eight and a half hours ago. This is when snacks are most vital. They will become your mini finish-lines, your reward for making it two hours without bursting into tears or allowing your eyes to roll back into your head. Almonds at 10am. Pretzels at 2pm. Cheese-stick at 4. If it’s a fancy-pants day, perhaps a greek yogurt. Never will a snack feel so like the hope of an impending sunset.

(4) You will know you’re getting adjusted to things when you are able to have regular bowel movements even though you spend eight hours a day in a swivel chair. This is one of several important reasons to pass on the day-old bagels in the break room. I’m telling you these things because I care about you.

(5) The transition is complete when you spend your day-off in satisfied relief that you accomplished both a dentist appointment and an oil change.

(6) Some things will get better. Some things will not, and you’ll get used to those too. But when it comes to the day-old bagels in the break room, there is no silver lining.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The truth is I’m actually learning to love the work that I do and to be filled with gratitude every, single day that I get to be a small part of women flourishing. It humbles me. And someday when I become the exquisitely disciplined woman I’ve always dreamed of, I hope to write extensively about this. Until then, there are certain things about life spent punching the time-clock that are too absurdly funny not to attempt to capture.

On Tenderizing

May 17th, 2013 § 246

The night I found out I didn’t get in to grad school, I cried myself asleep.

As the tears flowed, I recited the first passage of the five-hundred-something-year-old Heidelberg Catechism aloud.

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

I repeated those words over and over and over again.

I am not my own. If I am not my own, then I am not alone. I will never be alone.

But belong. Not only am I not alone, but I belong. I am welcomed. I am accepted. I am enjoyed.

Body and soul. My whole being. My whole being belongs. My whole being is welcomed and accepted and enjoyed.

In life and in death. There is nothing that can make me alone. Nothing that will undo my belonging. I am welcomed and enjoyed now, and I will forever be.

To my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Because my whole-being already belongs, I do not need to get my act together. I do not need to measure up. I need not be a self-made woman. I need only cry out in my brokenness and be rescued. I have someone who has saved me and is saving me and will save me. Not an abstract idea. Not a set of rules or ideals or self-improvement strategies, but a person. Jesus. He is for me. He is faithful. He welcomes and accepts and enjoys me.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood. There is real grace in my anger and ingratitude. Jesus bought this ugliness away when he was broken in his body.

And has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. I have been freed. I am free. Evil and ugliness will not be allowed to win in my heart and in this world.

He also watches over me in such a wayI am seen. I am cared for. I am protected.

That not a hair can fall from my headI am seen and cared for and protected even in the smallest, pettiest of losses.

Without the will of my Father in heaven. My pain will be redeemed. Even the smallest, pettiest loss is hidden under the will of my Father who is setting it all right.

In fact, all things must work together for my salvation. All things. It will all be redeemed. Nothing gets left behind in the setting right of my heart, in the setting right of it all.

Because I belong to Him. In my forever-belonging, my whole being is called.

Christ, by his Holy Spirit. In this calling, I am not on my own, but I am given the Holy Spirit.

Assures me of eternal life. As I step into my calling, the Holy Spirit will remind me, when it seems dark and hard and scary, that there is forever life, that all things are being made new.

And makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready. The Spirit will not only remind me, but will also prepare me. The Spirit will prepare my whole heart. The Spirit will make me ready.

From now on to live for Him. The Spirit will make me ready to live. Not trapped by selfishness and disappointment and fear. But to really live. Today. And tomorrow. And the next one after that. The Spirit will make me ready, right here, where I am, to live a life for the God who is over all beauty and joy and goodness.

I’ve prayed this passage what must be a hundred times since that night. Multiple times a day. Gripping the steering wheel. Sitting in the shower. Laying awake at night. For a long time I was too pissed to understand why, but I said it anyway because I didn’t know what else I’d say to that big, cruel meanie up there. But every day I’d say these words, he got a little less cruel and a little less mean. And a little more loving and a little more merciful. Somewhere in there when I wasn’t looking, each word of this passage became it’s own small seed of hope, planted quietly in the hot, damp soil of my heart.

It’s still not all better, and by better I suppose I mean easy.

But this prayer has tenderized me. And I feel a weighty gladness to be far enough down the road to recognize that.

 

On Not Getting What I Asked For

April 24th, 2013 § 666

This is not an enjoyable time.

I have not written about it because this is not an enjoyable time.

To write about it would be to redeem it in some way, to see it as rich or beautiful or profound. And I don’t see it that way. I see it as shitty. I bet you I won’t always see it that way. I bet you someday, I will look back and laugh tenderly at how hard I took everything. But that doesn’t matter now, because someday is not today.

Here’s something that took me by surprise: it hasn’t actually been about not getting into graduate school.

It’s isn’t about not being able to go to that program or study that subject or earn that degree. I wish it was, oh how I wish it was! If this were the case, I know how to remedy that disappointment. There’s an application deadline for next year! And I certainly don’t consider myself above re-applying a time or two or three.

But it isn’t about that.

This is about not knowing.

This is about asking to be rescued from the not-knowing.

This is about not getting what I asked for.

I wanted this season to end. I wanted to have something definitive. Something to struggle for and towards. Something to give me my next finish line. And regardless of whether I would’ve felt 100% confident about the choice, an acceptance would have given me these things. If I were to get in, I thought, it would be nothing short of a cosmic rescuing. At the very least, it would have set me on a specific path.

But I wasn’t rescued. Not in the tidy or definitive way I wanted.

I know we don’t always get what we want. I’ve spent the last year around children, after all. I know they ask you for ludicrous things, things that aren’t good for them, things that are plain-out harmful. I’ve told them no. I’ve told them no, more often than not, because I love them and want well for them and care about who they’re becoming. And they can’t become all that they’re meant to be if they sit in their poopy diaper all day long watching Phinnaeus and Ferb, eating chocolate chip bagels three meals a day. By the fits they’ve thrown, I can tell you this is how they think they want things.

But I have to admit, I never actually stopped to think about what it felt like in their shoes. From my angle, ‘no’ in these situations was for their ultimate benefit. But what they see is something they consider to be good, really, really, good. And the person they love or trust to provide is denying them the very thing they know with the weight of their whole being (or quite often their taste buds) to be supremely delightful.

And that’s hard.

Fit-worthy even.

Looking through that end of the telescope, ‘no’ seems like a betrayal. A painful denial of good things, of love even.

That’s what it can feel like when you don’t get what you asked for.

That’s what it can feel like when you wanted to be rescued and you weren’t.

Even though you know cognitively it’s not those things, it really does, deep down in your being, feel that way.

Right now, I’m learning to sit with that. To name it. To let it be what it is.

Right now, I don’t want to hear “there’s big things ahead of you” or “it’s all going to work out” or “there’s a bigger plan”. Those are nice, true things, and maybe next month I’ll be ready to hear them.

But right now, I really only have room for “It’s hard. It sucks. And I’m with you.”

While I’m feeling a particular bout of ingratitude as of late, I am very, very grateful for a community that knows how to do the latter better than most.

On the Flip Side

March 6th, 2013 § 2,726

I’ll be the first to admit that a season of full-impact, all-out transition is rich and beautiful and life-giving.  And to be sure, there are delectable, little moments when I’m in touch with this reality. These moments occur especially on sunny afternoons drinking sparkly water on the front porch. Or when I go to the movies by myself on a Sunday. They are moments when I realize that I’ve learned how to enjoy being, how to really sit with myself, how to limp off the rat wheel of performance and rejoice deep in my bones that I am free, that I am loved before I ever do or accomplish or achieve.

But there is another side to this coin of transition.

It’s a dark, rabid side too.

It feels like opening your eyes in the morning and wondering if you were ever actually asleep because you’re already exhausted and you just woke up.

It looks like mad scrambling to figure out where the hell you’re going to go and what the hell you’re going to do and how the hell you’re ever going to make a living, let alone be happy doing it.

It sounds, sometimes, like uncontrollable weeping for the fear and anxiety that are so immense you feel like you’re being smothered with a pillow, and you claw in the midst of the tears for the breath to say allowed, “God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good” because it’s the only thing you know to grasp for in your misery.

It’s all very dramatic, I realize this.

And I’m even smart enough to know, cognitively, what a profound waste of personal resources it is to fear in this way. Life will go on, and chances are I will be more or less as cared for as I am today.

But the heart!

The heart feels what it feels, and anyone who has two ounces of honesty about them knows that reason is no pacifier.

My most vulnerable self, the one that is desperately afraid of pain and cries out to avoid it at all costs, has begun to realize that I am, indeed, screwed either way. There will be a great ache if I do get into graduate school, and a great ache if I do not.

If I get in and go, I will have to endure the excruciating loss of proximity to people I love and would give my life for. If you’re wired like me, this is second only to death in its powers to devastate your heart. And if I don’t get in, I am left struggling under the weight of another slew of questions. I’d have to endure the terrifying reality of living further into this fatiguing, insufferable season of unknown, free-falling through my worst fears of unhappiness, and most likely accepting work that doesn’t make me feel alive inside (at least for a time).

And so it is I’m not getting out of this mess without hurting.

But hallelujah for a man who has words when the issue at hand is pain-avoidance! I’ve returned to them over and over and over again in the past four years since I first read them. What I need when the great Fear monster has me in his clutches is someone to elevate the conversation to a higher plane, one where I am gently and winsomely reminded about the role of pain in our lives. When I read these words, I remember again that I don’t believe in living life as if it were a game to avoid all of what’s difficult and painful and scary about being human. I don’t want to live that kind of story.

‘Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.” To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.‘  –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So be it.

And so it shall be.

 

 

A List of 23 Things

February 22nd, 2013 § 2,255

This past year of life…

  1. I learned how to make eggs benedict
  2. I learned the ridiculous joy of being an aunt
  3. I learned that a road trip of any length is made do-able with a bit of butt-clenching
  4. I learned there’s a lot of crappy places to live in this country
  5. I learned the importance of the lime-a-rita, especially in 95% humidity
  6. I learned that failure is miserable, and also it doesn’t kill me
  7. I learned how to earnestly watch a football game
  8. I learned the pleasure of a gin and tonic
  9. I learned that the kindest, most gracious thing God can do is expose my idols
  10. I learned that there is a place where people are more miserable than the DMV, and that place is the clerks office at the courthouse
  11. I learned how to file a restraining order
  12. I learned how to use a microfiche machine (in 2013 no less)
  13. I learned that nothing makes a drive home go faster than This American Life podcasts
  14. I learned that I have agency in someone making me feel small
  15. I learned that I get a chill when a rabbit runs over my grave
  16. I learned that I am the WORST at cars — parking them, driving them under the speed limit, and keeping them clean
  17. I learned how to let myself find company in unconventional friendships
  18. I learned that the stomach flu is every bit as miserable as I remember it being 11 years ago
  19. I learned how to make homemade marshmallows
  20. I learned how much I love the hunt for a poem that articulates something beautiful and striking and profound
  21. I learned to recite the book “Moo, Baa, La La La” from memory
  22. I learned (again) that I am securely loved
  23. I learned that black is not a clothing color for babysitting — I will return covered in drool marks, snot, applesauce crust, and/or goldfish dust every time. Guaranteed.

 

On Today

January 16th, 2013 § 404

It’s an amazing thing to wonder where it is you’ll be in six months, to go to bed at night tromping around in the wild imaginings of your future.

I do not know.

And today, by some great miracle, I’m not afraid.

Today, I feel young. Sweetly, unselfconsciously, invigoratingly young.

There will come a day, maybe soon, when I won’t wonder what I’ll be doing in a month.

There will come a day when I won’t go to bed wondering what I’m going to do with my life. I’ll be caught up doing it.

There will come a day when the bulkier portion of my days will have been spent, and the latter half of my life already made.

And I know when that day arrives, I will look back on this brief unknown with gladness, not disgust. I will be happy for my younger self, who was courageous enough to stare down uncertainty, and wise enough to find joy in the midst of it. I will be grateful that I got to live a wide-eyed season when I didn’t know where the wind would blow me and I earnestly wondered on the many different lives I could live with the time that I’m borrowing.

A humblingly small portion of people in the world ever have the luxury of living a chapter like this, and I’m determined not to donate it away to anxiety.

Today is for tasting.

Trying.

Testing things out.

Today is for celebrating what I do know, and refusing to feel bad about the things I don’t yet.

Today is for dreaming without shame.

Today is for grace. For being present without fear.

Today is for amazement.

 

 

On Holidays and Heart-Readiness

December 10th, 2012 § 4,570

I was having tea with a friend recently, and she told me that she felt “heart-ready” for the holidays.

She meant that even though her house wasn’t clean and the decorations weren’t up and her Christmas shopping was no where near complete, she’s longing for the season where we make it a point to celebrate extravagantly and dwell in joy and linger with people we love.

I know just what she means.

If I were to choose one thing I’ve been reminded of again and again these last couple months, it would be the reality of profound brokenness that is in and among us.

There is, of course, the small matter of my internship at the Women’s Shelter. It goes without saying that my time there has exposed me to explicit brokenness. It’s every bit as yucky as you’re assuming—picking up crisis calls, picking out indicators of intimate partner violence, picking up a woman whose being brought into the Safe House in order to flee her abusive situation. The even yuckier truth is that this work is far less sensational and vastly more ordinary than you want to believe.

Then there’s the people I love and would give my life for, who are exhausted and aching in all kinds of awful and understandable ways. Friends who are suffering under the weight of brokenness that intrudes their minds and bodies and hearts and relationships. They long for healing, long to let go of the hurt, long to know freedom. And I long for them. And with them. Because, let me tell you, we haven’t even scratched the surface of my own paralyzing fears, my own crippling insecurities, my own selfishness and self-addiction.

Indeed, there is cosmic and profoundly personal brokenness in this world.

But that’s where our heart-readiness comes in. By divine mercy, advent arrives to legitimize our despair and rescue us from it once and for all. We sit in our disarray, and wait and yearn and ache until extravagant hope appears in the form of God Incarnate—entering this mess as a beautiful, vulnerable, newly-born baby, who will one day restore all things to abundance.

Oh I love this! I LOVE this!

Nothing could be more crazy-audacious or mind-bogglingly beautiful.

One of the wisest people I know on these matters says often that what we need in our chronic condition is not good advice, but good news. Good news that we can have profound and legitimate hope right now, smack-dab in the middle of our brokenness. Good news that we are loved beyond measure, chosen since before time, and highly sought after by a God who entered the scene through the womb of a woman to be with us, and to pour himself out for us.

I don’t know about you, but I need this news now and yesterday and tomorrow. I need this news because for me it is the source of deep joy, whole-hearted celebration, and immense freedom.

I am broken, and thereby, heart-ready as I’ll ever be for this holiday.

On Richness and Reading

October 11th, 2012 § 7,348

I know when some people dream about being rich, they dream about owning swanky cars, carrying expensive purses, throwing lavish parties in the house of their dreams.

When I think about being rich, sometimes I fantasize about having an open tab at a grocery store. But mostly, I just think about being able to buy all the books I want off of Amazon.com, and possessing the time to actually read them all.

I love books.

I love owning them.

I love underlining in them.

I love giving the good ones away to people I care about in moments that matter.

I’m not at a place in my life where I’m rich enough to buy all the books I’d like—and I probably never will be—but I will say that finishing college has afforded me more time to read for pleasure since I-can’t-remember-when.

Here’s a quick run-down of a few of the books that’ve made me especially wealthy these past six months.

Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef: Good golly, I devoured this book! Admittedly, I love food writing. And I have a severe weakness for memoirs. Hamilton’s book is a hearty portion of both, and she’s a fantastically gifted writer to boot.

My Korean Deli: Risking it All for a Convenience Store: Seeing as I just disclosed my love for memoirs, this book was a delight. Not one to change your life or buy in bulk, but one to pick up when you want a real story cluttered with colorful characters who are learning about risk and relationship the hard, sometimes humorous way.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: No one can put words on a page that have me laughing out loud more often than Anne Lamott. Her reflections on writing are as honest as they are helpful to any and all humans who have ever tried to create something. Glad to have finally gotten this one under my belt.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures: This book came highly recommended to me, and it was a gritty, difficult, thought-provoking read. For anyone with an informal interest in medical anthropology, or for those who’ve ever wondered about the intersection of culture, health, and healing, this book is a must-read.

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection: If I’ve read anything in this season that has so excited me, that has plucked at my heart strings, that has brought me ridiculously close to stopping a stranger buying onions in the produce aisle, it would be this book. After reading Supper of the Lamb, I have a gigantic crush on Robert Farrar Capon—never mind that he’s 87-years-old—and I’d bet a meal around a table you will too. Part cookbook, part theological rumination, I can scarcely believe how many times his wit had me laughing out loud, while the richness of his reflection clubbed me right over the heart. I love this book!