Thursday, September 29, 2016

It Ain't Perfect

Okay, let's get serious.
Now that we're past all the mushy, gushy obligatory anniversary posts, I can tell you how our day really went. Because as much as all the things about our wedding day are true and as much as I still think our marriage is really wonderful and that I'm incredibly blessed... it ain't perfect.

So let's back up a few days.
September 27, 2016

We had decided on only one thing for our anniversary- a fancy dinner. Not because either of us really love fancy dinners (however he definitely does more than me), but because the Retreats team at camp had given us a gift card for Christmas that we hadn't used yet. Their goal? To give us something that would make us do something we would normally never do. Tricksters.

So 10 months later, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to put their generosity to use. A two year anniversary celebrated with a fancy dinner. What else can you do on a random Tuesday in September?

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I woke up on September 27, 2016- but I think I may have anticipated more than what actually happened. Eager to continue my new routine of early morning moments with the Lord, I hopped out of bed and sat down at the kitchen island- Bible and journal in hand. Because on your anniversary, you have to write about your marriage (although, when I skimmed backward, I definitely hadn't done it for our one year).

And so I wrote and I read, like all diligent wives do... somewhere, somehow not even realizing that I might be expecting that this day might be different than any other.

Cuing the dog to wake my sleeping beau so we could scurry off to work, I soon found myself in the company of a sleepy, incoherent man. A man complaining about not having pants while wearing a pair of pants. No pants?! You have pants, I assured him. The khaki pair, remember the khaki pair? They're missing! They can't be missing... that doesn't make any sense.

Eventually the pants were discovered in the Goodwill pile...discarded too soon due to a missing button. Buttons are easy. Buttons are cheaper than pants. Don't you know?

And off to work we went.

The thing about working at the same place and working in the same building and, then, having your husband also work for you, is that sometimes work and home mix. Only sometimes, of course. And on this particular day, our anniversary day, we had a scheduled meeting together. A one-on-one. A boss checking in on their employee type of meeting. The type of meetings we don't have enough because we're married and see each other often. The type of meetings he can resent me for not having with him often enough. And so we met. And after the first fifteen minutes of figuring out how to actually talk to each other without being defensive or annoyed, we survived.

But today's our anniversary, I thought.
It's supposed to be special. Different. Better. Best. Isn't it?

My husband suggested us leaving work early to catch a movie before our fancy dinner reservations at 6:30pm. Okay. Let's do it. Let's play hooky and go see a movie. I scrolled through Fandango, dismayed by our options but determined to find one that fit our interests and our timeframe. With less than 15 minutes to get ready for our fancy dinner, we both laughed at how dressed up we were having to get for a movie. A dress, wedges, make-up... his wedding shoes, a button up, a suit jacket.

So we went to the mall (of course). We bought our tickets, our large popcorn (with butter) and our giant Mr. Pibb. It's by far the sleaziest theatre in town, but it had the movie we wanted at the time we needed. With only one other couple in the theatre, I sank down into my seat, my feet already hurting in the wedges. Why didn't I think to bring flip flops? 

As we listened to Florence Foster Jenkins (or rather, Meryl Streep) belt too highly and off-key, I had a moment of dissatisfaction. What are we doing? We could go to a movie any day...? Today is our anniversary... it's supposed to be special. Why didn't we go hiking, catch the sunset and eat a delicious picnic? And why am I still wearing these stupid shoes? 

The shoes came off.
We laughed. He cried.
The shoes came back on, the lights came back on. An hour to kill until dinner.
Fortunately we needed a shower curtain rod (ours had fallen off in the middle of the night onto our dog a few days prior) so we took off across town to hit up Lowe's.

It's always in rides across town that everything goes wrong, isn't it?
It's always on your anniversary where things are supposed to be special when you ask your husband a question that automatically traps him. We came to a stop at a stop sign, I showed him a picture of us that had been taken months earlier and I ask (deep sigh): I don't look as fat anymore, right? 

It wasn't what he said that made me mad, but it was the tone.
And immediately I brought up the pants, the meeting, and his response to my picture. You just don't seem like you even like me today. 

When what I really wanted to say was, today was supposed to be special. I expected today to be special. Couldn't you read my mind? 
Eventually, through clinched teeth, I admitted to him that I had probably had some expectations that I didn't even know I had that weren't being met. And, eventually, after a few more misunderstandings, I even apologized for it.

One (too long) shower curtain rod and a few light bulbs later and we were on our way to the fancy dinner. The type of fancy dinner that immediately makes someone like me feel out of place, angry at the absurdity of the prices and ignorant about food and wine. But we survived. We even drank good wine and ate delicious (small portions) of food.

The thing about the fancy dinner was that it gave us more time to talk. We had quickly moved on from our misunderstandings and had reached a place of common ground. It wasn't long before we found ourselves reminiscing, laughing and enjoying each other's company in this funny, expensive restaurant (the type of restaurant where they fold your napkin again if you leave it on your table when you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom).

We talked about the lessons we had learned over the last year in our marriage and the things we wanted to accomplish in the upcoming one. We dreamed about the possibilities and the ways that we might be better reflections of Christ in all aspects of our lives. We talked about tackling new adventures and being more intentional with the people in our lives.

It was a great fancy dinner.
And, in some ways, it was a perfect anniversary. Not because our relationship is perfect, but because our anniversary reflected exactly that: imperfection. Imperfection, confession, getting over ourselves and still making the most of a delightful evening.

In fact, it's potentially one of my favorite parts about our marriage.
We somehow manage to weed our way through this messiness and find each other... and ultimately remind each other that we're on the same team. We're in this together. Our intentions are good, even if they aren't always executed perfectly or received well.

And it's good.
Super imperfect, but good.
And a crazy, challenging, beautiful, life-changing adventure.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Night to Remember

I felt naked today.

For the first time in our two years of marriage, I forgot to put my wedding ring on. It's actually rare that I ever take it off, but last night I was dealing with pizza dough and who really wants dough caught between a ring and a finger? So, I took it off... and completely forgot about it until this morning when I sat down at my desk.

I remember putting the ring on for the first time. The new spacer in between my fingers felt unnatural and weird, and I wondered if I'd ever get used to it. I'm not really a jewelry person, so anything foreign (earrings, bracelets, rings) bothers me. But, as everyone assured me, I got used to it. The ring became my normal, my every day. It's less sparkly than it was, and it's definitely dirty... but it's always on.

Ironically enough, on the very (only) day I forgot to put my ring back on, my husband and I reached our 2 year anniversary mark. Anniversaries are a funny thing... probably filled with expectations and anticipations. Mostly I just like to remember.

I like to remember our wedding day and all the people that bent over backwards to make it exceptional. The people who drove hundreds of miles, the people who spent way too much money, the people who gave up their time and their sleep and their energy. The ladies who made hay bales look pretty, the guys who moved giant stumps, the millions of other tiny details that caused many people to sweat it out in the too hot of a September day that it was.

I like to remember the go-karts and the batting cages, in my bridesmaids attempts at making sure my wedding day didn't solely consist of make-up and hair spray. I like to remember my sister-in-laws join effort in doing my hair because my hair plans fell through. I like to remember the bridesmaid dress that couldn't quite zip up minutes before walking out the door and the panic that then ensued. I like to remember the prayers that they prayed over me, moments before I was to walk down the aisle.

My husband and I saw each other before the wedding, choosing to take pictures prior to the event....choosing to allow our first glance of each other to be in private. I like to remember the moment when he first saw me and the moment when I first saw him. The moment when you realize: this is really happening. I like to remember all the picturesque locations, the giant mosquitos that got caught in my veil (which had to inevitably be edited out of a few pictures), and the heels that sank into the loose soil. The heels that I would forgo for bare feet for the actual ceremony.

Not long after, I clutched my father's arm to walk down the slope to greet my groom. I like to remember the faces that beamed at me as I made my way down. Faces from all over the country, faces I had seen just that day and faces I hadn't seen in many years. Faces of people who were cheering for me, for us. Faces of people who had prayed and pleaded with me for this very moment. Faces of people who had cried with me in the heartaches, faces of people who had loved me through my entire life. Faces of people who I didn't know well yet, but who were graciously welcoming me into their family with kind, open arms.

I like to remember the instruments (not real, of course) that orchestrated the verses that pierced my heart deeply with each step. In Christ alone, my hope is found...He is my light, my strength, my sound.

© Catherine Rhodes Photography 2014
I like to remember standing there, hands clasped with the man I was to marry, in front of our friends and family and listening to the words my oldest brother spoke to us as he officiated our wedding. His words were sincere, passionate, compelling - reminding us of the commitment we were making to each other.  I like to remember the way the sun began to set and the lyrics we sung as we came before the Lord in worship together. Jesus Paid it All.... all to Him I owe.. 

And while everything after those moments are a blur, I like to remember getting in a canoe in my wedding dress for a silhouetted lake shot, the toasts that were made, the crazy dancing, the friends and family that I finally got to talk to and laugh with (for too short of a time), and the fireworks that exploded as we made our way to the 'getaway' car.

It was literally a night to remember.
The best night.
And while it was just another night to almost every other person there, it was a night that changed my life forever. A night where the Lord swung me around happily in His arms, gently telling me: See?!!? This is what I've had in store for you! I've been waiting to show you for so long, and now it's here! Isn't delightful? Aren't you so glad you waited?

It was a night where I wept much, as I realized again and again how much He loves me. He was willing to give more than what I needed, more than what He promised... and He was willing to give it to me: impatient, selfish, demanding, entirely too human.

I wish I could do our wedding over again.
I wish I could have all those same people back in one place, for more time.

My ring is back on again, and life feels a bit more normal.
The ring reminds me- not only that I'm married and that I have to learn day in and day out how to live more selflessly, but it reminds me that the Lord is just who He says He is: faithful. In all things. In all seasons. And His faithfulness doesn't have to look a certain way for Him to actually be faithful. It can be slow, it can even seem painful...but it is real and it is good.

Because God is good.
All the time.
I hope I never forget it.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, September 18, 2016

An Off Day

Today is one of those days where something just seems off.

Do you know the type of day that I'm talking about?
Something deep within me feels unsettled, unsatisfied... maybe even broken.
It's one of those days where I want to scream at the injustice, where I want to tell people to wake up, to get over themselves, to acknowledge that there's more to life than our comfort and our happiness. To do something different, to want something more, to live a life of purpose.

One of those days where I realize that I'm actually needing to yell all of those things at myself.

There's no apparent cause to unsettledness, but it has barged into my heart, into my soul and reminded me that this world is not my home. Something has bred discontentment, and I find myself waffling, searching, wondering...

And it always begs the questions: so now what? 
What do I need to change about the way that I'm living? What do I need to change about the relationships in my life and how I'm interacting with them? What do I need to change about the way I'm spending my time? What do I need to change about the questions I'm asking, the content of my conversations, my current priorities?

And then the overarching question, the one that pierces deeply... Even if I identify something that needs to change, will I be disciplined enough to actually change it? 
At the end of the day, do I care enough... does it matter enough...?

I wonder how many of us marvel at the idea of change but how many of us are brave enough to actually enact it. How many of us live lives that are ruled by societal pressures, by systems within our jobs, by chasing dreams that leave us richer, smarter, more secure and comfortable. What's the goal, what's the objective, what's the calling?

My husband and I bought a house recently- a house that we'll never live in, but one that we'll be renting out. We hadn't actually seen it until this past week and as we did some minor fixes, I couldn't help but want to change more. What if we did this, or did that...? And immediately I was reminded that none of those changes would benefit me. Which made me immediately unsatisfied with my current living situation. We're basically tenants of a house that isn't ours, a house that we don't have to rent (which we're truly thankful for), but it doesn't allow much room to fix, to change, to make better.

My dust-covered closets.
Who has time to clean these, anyway?
And so I look around the house we currently live in, disgusted by the permanent layer of dust, the dirty carpet, the broken blinds...wishing I could snap my fingers and be living in a house that we could personally invest in (we could, I suppose-it just doesn't make much sense). Immediately I'm even more disgusted by my ungratefulness, by my selfishness, by my incessant desire for more when I've already been given much.

There always seem to be these real, tangible, outward examples of the dirt in my heart. Real examples of how unsatisfied I am, how much like Goldilocks I am.... in all areas of life: This body is too large, this house is too dirty, these dogs are too hairy, I don't read enough, I'm not disciplined enough, I don't have deep/good enough friendships, this church is too long, too boring, too unfriendly, not passionate enough.

I'm too critical.
But I find myself mostly sitting in my criticism and not doing much about it.
Battling the balance between when I need to learn contentedness and when I need to act.

And so I stew.
Some days it's easier to ignore the questions, the doubts, the criticisms, the wonderings on if I'll ever do something.
Some days I actually do something- I seek out people, I wake up early and read, I ask different questions, I have hard conversations that I don't really want to have, I clean up the filth.
And some days I wonder if it's all enough. I wonder what I'm missing, where I'm lacking, how I can be doing different, better, less, more.
And some days it feels too hard.
Some days it feels easier to live like everyone else.

And maybe it's those days where things feel off.
Where something feels broken.
Working toward something. 
Because maybe somewhere I've settled, I've become complacent, I've given up.
Maybe somewhere I'm avoiding my calling-- and maybe that's in small ways, but maybe it's in big ways.
Maybe I just care too much about things that don't actually matter.
Maybe I've lost sight of what it means to consider everything else a loss compared to knowing Christ.
Maybe I don't know how to live extraordinarily in my current circumstances, maybe I'm just living too comfortably. Maybe I'm living too fearfully.

The off days remind me that I want more.
They remind me to ask the questions.
They remind me that there's more purpose to be found... more than 40 days of it.

So today I'll clean and hope it lasts longer than a few days.
And I'll think.
And I'll ask myself some hard questions.
Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thirty, Flirty and Thriving

I have a friend who is about to turn 30.

And she's single...with no prospects.
Thirty, flirty and thriving, right?

13 Going on 30 made this year as a single seem a little more glamorous than my friend probably feels. Because when you're in your late twenties and you're single, you kind of just feel old and decrepit and unwanted. Kind of like you missed your shot. Kind of like the world is passing you by with how it's all supposed to go: marriage, house, kids... and more kids. Don't forget that white picket fence and those darling matching jumpers (yeah, my mom made me wear those with her).

The thing about my friend turning 30 and being single is that, when I put myself in her mind (you know, imposing all of my own thoughts and feelings on her), I suddenly realize that my near-decade of singleness isn't enough. Because, if I'm her, I would think: Debbie, I know you were single until you were 29, but you have no idea how it feels to be turning 30 with no romantic prospects. Because, when you were turning 30, you were engaged to be married. How I'm feeling is a totally different ballgame.

And while I get it, I can't quite put my single-for-a-decade-card away (because 20 is the standard age at which marriage becomes acceptable- just ask the bride of the first wedding I was ever in). And because I can't yet pocket that card, I would also tell myself (or people who are like me) that it's a lie. I think I do understand more than you might imagine. I think my years of singleness allow me to resonate with the pain, the not understanding, the doubting in the Lord's goodness... no matter the age. It may not be perfect and my experiences/challenges may be different, but I also know that it sucks. I can still feel the suckiness of it, the weight of it, the hopelessness of it... and I'm so sorry that it hurts so much.

And while I can tell you a multitude of things (don't focus on it, don't let it be your end goal, trust the Lord, know that He is good and all of this is FOR your good, be patient, keep seeking the Lord, etc. etc.)-- I know that on some level those words just go in and out. Because as much as those things are true and as much as they are actually necessary to functioning and living, it doesn't change the fact that oftentimes it still hurts and it's still all-consuming. It doesn't change the fact that you feel like a minority, that you feel like a third-wheel, that you don't always know how to relate to the world around you when they seem to be experiencing these other components to life that you can pretend to understand, but honestly have a hard time with. It doesn't change that you can't shake feeling like when the world looks at you, they must think: I wonder what's wrong with her? There must be a reason why she hasn't been chosen yet? And sometimes you can't help but wonder if that's actually true of all the current prospects out there who are of an eligible age (sometimes I joke that that's why I got married to a man 5 years younger than me- he was still cool-ish).

So, to catch any of you up to speed who don't really know me yet, I started dating my husband around three years ago. I was 29. He was 25. I was a rule follower. He was a rule breaker. I had long hair. So did he (he actually still has longer hair than me, even after we both got haircuts yesterday).

It wasn't anything I expected.
He wasn't anything I expected.
In reality, he wasn't initially anything I thought I would want. Quite a bit younger, rambunctious, hyper-active, seemingly cocky and too much of a dude who led girls on without even realizing he was doing it (you all know the type I'm talking about). So, my desperate 29-year-old self thought: why not? What have I got to lose? Why not just talk to him and flirt with him? And my broken, 29-year-old self also knew that I didn't want to waste time and that I wasn't interested in becoming one of the girls left in his wake, wondering what had happened and how I could have mistaken his kind, listening ears for genuine interest in me as person, as a woman.

But I was wrong.
About all of it.
The seemingly unlikely quickly became likely... in fact, it just suddenly happened.
I became the story that single girls gag over. Within 10 days of dating we were talking about marriage, within three months we were engaged. Gross. I became the Christian cliche. The type of story I would have rolled my eyes at (I maybe felt like people were cheering more for me only because I was 'so' old and had waited 'so' long). But I've loved almost every minute of it.

I want my story to continue to remind single ladies that hope doesn't have to be lost. To remind them that sometimes it actually does come in the most unlikely ways. To remind them that the Lord hears us, even in our darkest, saddest moments... and that He really is working everything out for the good of those who love Him. I would have waited even longer for my husband, if it meant that I got to marry him (especially if the alternative meant marrying someone else). Because, as cliche as it is, he was worth the wait. The Lord knew what He was doing...and He knew that I didn't.

And while I want to urge you to not place your identity in being single or your hope in not being single forever, I know the reality of that is hard. I know that living a life outside of the realm of your relationship status is hard when your empty ring finger is constantly glaring at you and when all of your friends are, if not already has-beens of a blushing bride, bursting at the seams pregnant. I know that you're constantly staring into a future of figuring out at what point you need to stop thinking someone might just come along. A future of constantly struggling with being content and weeping alone at night. And I know this happens when you're19 and probably even more when you're 30+ (although I can't speak to that from my own experiences anymore).

But I do urge you to cling to Jesus throughout it all.
Be steady in that.
Be faithful to Him through it.
Weep to Him.
Confess your doubt, your fears, your hurts to Him.
Trust Him. 
Lean not on your own understanding (because you'll never understand it, even when/if it happens).
Ask Him to remind you over and over again of your ultimate purpose and ask Him to show you how to live each day fully invested in that.
It doesn't negate the hurt and the doubt, but it keeps you focused on what matters above all else, even if you can't possibly be perfect in keeping that as your number one priority.
And know that it's okay.
You're human.
You have desires.

Be open to the world of unexpectedness. Be open to being wrong. Be open to the different journey that you're on without so desperately trying to change it.

It's an age-old song, I know. But it's always good to be reminded.
God is good.
Life is hard.
But God is still good.
Walk in that today, friends.

P.S. To anyone who is single: ENJOY your time!!  I know many of you are watching friends getting married and having kids, but you were uniquely chosen to NOT have this happen in your life just yet. Don't spend all your time dreaming or crying over the should-be's... there's so much life to be lived that can be lived because you don't have a spouse or children. Know that you are blessed where you stand, that you've been given much and that the Lord intends to use all of you for His glory. I love what He can do through willing hearts and how that oftentimes has nothing to do external circumstances.

P.P.S. To anyone who is married: be aware that your single friends may be struggling, hurting and secretly dealing with stuff you may not understand. All of them will need you to respond differently to them, and differently in different situations. Just be aware. And don't be afraid to ask them about it. Sometimes they just need you to ask them about it, to ask them what they need. Avoid trying to constantly set them up and always be aware of how your own actions and invitations may make them feel alienated/awkward/like a third wheel.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Three Years Later

It's been three years since I moved to New Mexico.

Three years.
Some days it seems like I just got here...and other days it seems like a lifetime.

I remember the day I arrived pretty vividly... wondering when the flat terrain would turn into the supposed mountains that I was moving to. I remember being greeted by a good group of folks who were so graciously willing to help me unpack my too packed Subaru. I remember my calves getting complimented by a strange girl who would turn into a sweet friend. I remember feeling blessed by the space in contrast to my cramped quarters in New England.

I remember rooftop sessions with my roommate, summiting Baldy despite needing to stop every five seconds, working until the sun went down and then some, learning how to run a kitchen by buying food at Sam's and making large vats of chili and deformed, homemade pizza. I remember dropping a cake in a parking lot and still eating it with friends (picking gravel out of our teeth), I remember not knowing how to get around for weeks because this place was just too large. I remember wondering how we'd ever have enough staff to make it happen (I actually still wonder that), wondering if we'd have enough time, if we had enough money. I remember interviewing summer staff, assuring them that their summer would be awesome but admitting that I had no idea what it would actually look like-- still pleading that they would come willingly and unknowingly (I actually called that summer "The Summer of Unknowns").

But what I remember most about that time was that it was new. It was exciting. It was exhausting. It was risky. We were doing something that was known, but unknown. Doing something that was hard, but good. We were on a new adventure and weren't quite sure of the outcome.

Our boss reminded us recently that an adventure is simply a journey with an unknown outcome.

Moving to New Mexico has been exactly that: an adventure.

I never would have imagined that the long-haired, surfer-looking, turtle-tattooed man that I was communicating with when I made the move would be my husband a little over a year later. Our casual long-distance flirting would blossom into many a trip between Texas and New Mexico and late night phone calls.

I never would have imagined the ways that my job has changed or the things that I would be asked to do (and get to do). I never would have imagined the people that would come and go and the friendships that would form and the team that would assemble. I never would have imagined the thousands and thousands of campers we would serve. I never would have imagined serving thousands of burgers to over 1000 people in less than 10 minutes.

I never would have imagined the ways the Lord would move, the ways He would provide, the ways He would be faithful.

I remember when we welcomed thousands of campers in the first day of summer camp in 2014. We watched with awe and terror as they unloaded off the buses, played in the newly established waterfront, and crowded into the mud pit. And we fell on our faces when they gathered in Holcomb Auditorium and worshiped. Somehow, for some reason, it had worked. The Lord had taken all of our imperfections, mishaps and struggles from the last nine months and turned it into something where He could change lives. And we all knew, in the deepest parts of our hearts, that it was only because of Him.

I'd be lying if I said the aroma of excitement is still in the air in the same way it was three years ago. Things aren't as new, as unknown, as terrifying. In a lot of ways, that's a good thing...but sometimes I miss the unknown. Sometimes I miss the newness.

But man...
What a life.
I can't believe what I've gotten to be a part of. I can't believe what I've gotten to witness. I can't believe all the lives that have been changed and the ways the Lord continues to move through the efforts of hundreds of imperfect humans.

So it's been three years.
Three life-changing years.

And I just want to say thanks.
Thanks to the hundreds and hundreds of staff and volunteers and prayer warriors who have been a part of this journey. Thanks for the thousands of phone calls you made, for the toilets you've cleaned, for the sweat, for the tears, for the late nights and early mornings. Thanks for the miles you drove, for the doors you knocked on, for the conversations with youth pastors all over the country informing them of what God is doing here at Glorieta. Thanks for being a part of the story- whether you were here for a few days, a few months, a few years, or are here now.

You are not forgotten.
I know it wasn't easy.
I know it wasn't perfect.
I know it still isn't.
But I pray that when you remember your time at Glorieta (or any ministry, really) that you would believe that the Lord is bigger than all of the junk, than all the humanness. That you would know your efforts produced real fruit. That you would know the Lord used you, despite your humanness, to change lives. It's monumental.... and monumentally humbling.

Thanks for being willing.
Thanks for serving.
Thanks for sacrificing.

It's been an adventure... and, in a million different ways, it continues to be.
I can't wait to see what else unfolds and what else the Lord has for this place.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Other Plans

"Wait, you don't have children?"
It was an eye-opening moment for me as I stared up at the older woman I had met a few summers prior.

I was up at our front office, attempting to send and receive via the fax machine so I could ask a visiting doctor friend about my blood work--somewhat hoping that she could give me all the answers to my infertility by looking at some numbers on a chart. I probably speak a little too casually about not being able to have children (and in that moment, probably too loudly), because this woman came over and told me that if I ever needed to, I could get the scoop on being even older without children.

Wait, what?
You really don't have children? 

Now that I think about my quick response, I can only imagine the knife digging deeper into her heart. I can only imagine the thousands of times she's heard it, been asked about it, had people talk about it.

My incredulousness wasn't because I thought something was wrong with her, however. In some way, I almost felt like she was a beacon of hope for me. A light in the darkness. A woman living out one of my fears, but doing it in a way encompassed with joy, kindness and gentleness. There was also guilt, as I realized I had just assumed that this woman and her husband had kids and grandkids.... because everyone does, right?

We stood in that front office talking for a bit.
No children.
Attempts at adoption, but it didn't work out.
The Lord had other plans.
But that doesn't stop the questions or the assumptions (as I just proved). As much as life can revolve around children, she assured me that it quickly turns into grandchildren: everyone is always talking about kids. And it still hurts, even if it's just a bit.

I haven't really known what to do with not being able to get pregnant.
I don't care enough to really do something about it- like go to a specialist or spending more money on a billion different things. Some might call me foolish, but I just feel like if we're meant to have kids, we will. If having children is in the plan, the Lord will bless us with them. I can't read Scripture, claim I believe it and then not believe that for my life.

So right now we're in a period of just living. Living life and, I pray, learning to live it in such a way where God is truly glorified. We're not not trying, but I've stopped holding tightly to temperatures, timing, and being overly obsessed with fluids and random myths. I've started thinking more about what life might look like without children and if there could be true joy in that for me.

When this older couple left at the end of the summer there was an applause, a cheer, a recognition for them that brought tears to my eyes. They had deeply impacted our entire staff. They had lived a summer of service and sacrifice because of what Christ has done for them- and it showed in the response of everyone around them. In a room with almost 200 folks, people stood to acknowledge them and to thank them. My heart was deeply stirred.

Could I never have a child, yet live my life to impact lives for the Kingdom of Christ and have that be enough?  Could I do it with joy, humility and contentment?

I want my answer to that question to be a resounding yes. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure that I'm there- at least not all of the time. Because sometimes I still think about being older and I think about being lonely and I think about all the things I won't experience without children being in my life.

But I do trust the Lord in this.
I trust that He, and He alone, creates life. I trust that He can make this barren woman fertile, if it's what is best. I trust that He is good. I trust that He knows me better than myself.

And, if, at the end of my life, I can stand before a cloud of witnesses and know that above all else (children or not) that my life was lived to honor the King...I think that ought to be enough for this wretched heart of mine.

I'm so thankful that Jesus reminds me, over and over again, that this life is not about me nor does it ever go down the trail that I'm expecting. I'm so thankful that even the most heart-wrenching things can be redeemed. I'm so thankful that nothing is impossible.

I'm so thankful for a couple who can model this for me- even though I don't know all the heartaches and struggles they've faced on their own journey. I see where the Lord has brought them, and I see what it can look like to abandon all of our own desires for the sake of something greater. I see it, and it is good.

Today, I'm thankful.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

It's a Dog Hair World

It's been a while.
I think about writing a lot. I just don't really ever sit down to do it.

Because writing means processing. It means taking time. It means being focused.

And lately I just feel like I'm all over.
Maybe I'm avoiding.
Maybe I'm busy.
Maybe I'm tired.
Maybe I've just run out of things to say.
Maybe I have what some might call 'writers block'.

So instead I sit and stare. Fumbling back and forth between watching the gentle giants play and seeing what new recipe my newsfeed is going to show me that I'll salivate over, but never actually make.  Meanwhile, the "Blogger" tab stays open, waiting patiently for the words to come.

Maybe today I'll have something to write.
Maybe today I'll stop working, thinking, trying to please, trying to win, trying to do all the things right... maybe today I'll stop being lazy.

And as I watch my gentle giants, I watch the giant tufts of hair floating around them. How did I become one of these people? Our house is often filled with dust and hair (crimpy short whites and long wavy browns/blondes). Because we're a hairy house. And our dogs live outside most of the day in red dirt. Basically we're disgusting. I remember going over to dog owners' houses and being grossed out by various things about dog ownership. And now I'm one of them. A disgusting dog owner with dog hair all over my fleeces and slobber stains all over my pants. And, the more disgusting part of all? I don't even hate it.

However, this time of year is particularly gross. Gross because Great Pyrenees "blow" their coats as they shed their summer undercoats and grow a new, thicker one to prepare for winter. I brushed Zeus the other day and it looked like snow was covering our porch. It got even worse after we gave him a bath. Would you believe when I read online about coat blowing that a warm bath actually triggers more shedding? Better believe that our road trip to my in-laws house had us in a blizzard of white dog hair any time one of them moved. We were coughing, choking, and barely able to keep our eyes on the road. I tried eating watermelon but was unable to escape the white crimpies that quickly attached themselves to the succulent fruit.

And then today, when the thunder rolled, dear Zeus was up in arms. I went outside, in the Texas humidity, to be a kind mom and help rid his anxiety... and my gentle touch caused his hair to literally fall out. So I thought, I'll brush him. I"ll brush it all out and he'll have nothing left to shed. And so I brushed him. And I brushed him. And I brushed him. It was never-ending. The hair piled up around us. I grabbed what I could as it floated through the air, but I'm sure the neighbors at my in-laws are wondering why white hair is now in their food.

Would you believe that alllll that dog hair made me think about sin? They're actually quite similar. Because sin comes off of us, whether we want it to or not (especially when it's what's inside of us). And oftentimes, when we go to purge ourselves of sin, we find ourselves overwhelmed with the amount of it that's there. Sometimes there's so much that we don't know what to do with it and we're choking on its very existence. How was there this much and I didn't even know it? And sometimes it takes someone else pulling it out of us for us to realize how much is actually there. And, just like the dogs, us humans oftentimes aren't even aware of it.

I collected a pile of dog hair today that ended up being the size of another small dog. And now I'm thinking about sin. I'm thinking about if there's sin in my life that I'm neglecting and it's causing me to schluff off more sin into the space of everyone around me that I'm oblivious to. It's making me wonder what I need to do to dig in, grab the brush, and start grooming through the weeds that I've been avoiding for too long. It's making me wonder what I'll find, how much I'll have to dig, and what to do with it when it all comes out. And what if it just keeps coming and coming and coming?

Because my heart is still dark.
But there's nothing secret that will remain hidden.

So maybe it's time to join my pups.
To stop avoiding.
To stop being too busy or too tired or too scared.
To get out the comb. And to brush, and brush, and brush. And allow the Lord to bring His refinement into a life that's been avoiding it for too long. And to trust that His intentions for me are good. That He is constantly bringing me into something better, preparing me for what's next, allowing me to be a greater reflection of Him, a greater image of who I was created to be.

I don't entirely know what that looks like, but this is what happens sometimes when you just starting writing again (and you have two giant fluffs).

Take it or leave it.