Tuesday, May 31, 2011

how's the healing going?

We meet early.

Like, 5:55 a.m., pillow wrinkles still embedded in cheeks, did-you-sleep-at-all-last-night? early.

We grab our coffee and head to my patio, books tucked under arm, my baby's monitor in hand. And before the sun rises to reveal backyard toys, overgrown grass and the latest art project drying and draped over a chair,

we begin to talk of healing.

My friend, my dear friend of A Thousand Sorry's, and I are reading and working through Dan Allender's book and workbook, The Wounded Heart. We're completing one chapter a week and then we meet to talk about what we wrote, what we reflected on, and a few hundred other diversions equally important. Like, how our history of abuse plays out in our marriages. How it plays out in unhealthy coping mechanisms and serious character flaws. How we hope to change, but can't seem to.  For my friend and I, Dan Allender's material has been good on an individual basis, but used between two friends or in a group, it's exponentially more powerful.

Our times of meeting have become a place of safety, a place of deep soul confession and insight, a place that welcomes the Spirit of truth to stop in, settle down and rest a minute and then lead us to places flesh cannot go. And it's been good.

So, my dear friends, I'd love to ask you--

how's your healing going?

What are you doing to pursue wholeness? What steps are you taking on your journey?

That's all I got!

I'd love to hear from you, I really would.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Irish Jesus, suburban Jesus

We quietly walked into the store, could be we made up half its occupants. We browsed the CDs, recognizing none of the artists, and then we headed to the back where a greying man with a scruff that begged scratchy grandpa kisses recommended we pick up David Grey's White Ladder album if we were wanting something distinct and upandcoming and native to this land.

It was just barely 2000, fog rolling over the grey dates of March, and we were in Ireland.

So HighSchoolFriend and I purchased the CD, boarded the tour bus that held the rest of our chorus group, that held too many freshmen boys who cared nothing of this emerald country, her history and sounds, her people nervous about transitioning to the Euro, her smog-filled streets of Dublin,

her enchantment.

We finished our sight seeing that day, exchanged full rolls of film for fresh ones, hoping for pictures in focus, pictures that captured Tim singing Oh Danny Boy with 90 year old native on the side of the road, pictures of sheep spray-painted fluorescent colors demarcating ownership, pictures of the brown lamb scooped up in my arms, coastal cliffs in blurry background, and we then piled into our modern hotel that promised the next century would be oh-so-cool.

And the reason we bought a CD that day was to use the trendy CD player installed in our hotel room.

The rest of the stay, those next four days, David Grey sang to us, morning and night, while rising and makeuping, while choosing whattowear, and then while peeling the day's adventure away for a night's rest.

Ireland now had her soundtrack, a musical accoutrement to her sights and impressions, to her faces and foods, to the adventures she'd lend me. And beyond those literal moments, these songs created memory space around the girl I was, the woman I was becoming.

The soul searches for continuity, for something that can tie the stories of a bright-eyed seventeen year old to the stories of a (happily) tired mother of two.

And I see some constants, some, against the glaring changes of eleven years. The heart is more weathered, pangs of disillusionment have replaced naivete. The heart is more full, loneliness and longing replaced by the friendship and love of one breathtaking man. And the heart is the same, still breaking away from common paths to discover hidden ones, still getting lost along the way, still craving silence and nature and horse rides over shopping, early morning runs to castles over sleeping in. 

But the most constant thing between my present and my Ireland is not David Grey, is not my stories, is not the aspects of my personality unchanged.

The tie between then and now is Jesus.

He was there with me on that tallest mountain, fog rolled in, whispering through wisps of hair the glory of risk as we scaled the cliff, trail long lost. He was as oxygen as we traveled through humble villages, infusing me with an excitement to breathe it all in, with an invitation to revel in the majesty of rolling hills, of freckled faces, of the diversity of creation. He was with me when I shared my story with my hotel roommate, making for a total of five who knew then, inviting me to ministry, to love, to scrape away false strength in exchange for vulnerability, even when healing's not complete, and only just begun.

And Jesus, the same Jesus who met me on the mountain, who met me in the streets and in the pub, whose presence held me tight even on that hormone-filled, obnoxiously immature tour bus, is the Jesus of Here and Now.

The adventure is not as sensational, no one begs to see the scrapbook of a stay-at-home-mom whose days are filled with cooking and playing and reading and nursing, but the risk, the love of life, and the ministry are all open invitations still standing, still calling me to answer.

It's different now, it sure is different.

But He's not.

God of Ireland, God of now, you are my constant, 
you are the continuity of my story. 
You are Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.

Friday, May 13, 2011

my husband has married eight other people

That is, he's performed four marriage ceremonies.

You were thinking we went all Big Love, weren't you?

I thought for all my ranting about becoming a pastor's wife, I should share with you one of the highlights--

my husband gets to marry people.

Tonight we spent two hours with a couple, the guy we've known for years. We had met him fresh out of his divorce, still reeling from the pain and the let down. He impressed us with his goat-cheese-and-raspberry-relish-stuffed-pastries that he brought to our home team Monday nights, immediately placing himself in high demand. And she? She's too cute. Like, cupcake cute. As in, could-there-be-anything-wrong-with-you cute? They're both PA's. They both love Jesus. They have a great story.

So, they came over tonight to talk wedding details, but I had a better plan.

I decided to test their working relationship right here in our home. So I sliced my right index finger. Bad. Blood-splatter-on-the-wall bad. Just as they were on their way over.

So the first twenty minutes of our time together consisted of them, literally working hand in hand, stitching up a profusely bleeding digit.

            {I let Carter watch and his first words were, "Mommy, I'm so very proud of you!" Enter heart-melt-age here.}

They were even cute then, with their medical suture jargon, her debating steri-strips or gauze?

So, one "U-stitch" later, we sat down with coffee and leftover goat cake

this is what I get for ordering raw milk and generally going crazy about food for three months

and talked




honeymoon plans


work stress




And Neal gets a front-row seat. We get the privilege of being brought in close, close enough to pray, close enough to listen,

close enough to rejoice.

God is doing good things, even now. 

Two friends, four cups of coffee, and one bandaged finger later is proof.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

on dreams deferred

When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t answer this.

When thoughts turned to words scribbled in hot pink journals, I didn’t pen this.

When dreams manifested as goals, as steps to take, as a path to follow, I didn’t chose this.

But God did.

My husband is a pastor.

And I am a pastor’s wife.

I saw us Somewhere Else when my husband and I were just dating, just dreamers, when the world lay before us. He would go into business and my calling was advocacy—I would become the next Erin Brockovich, or Mother Teresa, or Condoleeza Rice. I would fight and bleed and give voice to those who had none.  My major, my networking, our move, it all lined up with my dream and my husband fully supported me.

And then God called him.

I was there.

Right beside him, Bible hugged to chest, bare toes digging through matted apartment carpet. Something inside him broke, some hidden current, nameless and unsuspecting. The dam burst forth and he wept and dreams and desires found words and labels and a way to rise to the surface and become part of the conversation. 

And as if we were part of some holy cosmic game, people and opportunities aligned within months, without our doing.  A mighty hand maneuvered us to the place of vocational ministry,

serving the local church,

pastor and pastor’s wife.

I wrestled and I surrendered. It was no new thing, this request by God to lay down my Isaac for his will. I had seen it, lived it, before so I knew the drill. I would fight him. I would cry. I would submit.

And then I’d know the fellowship of obedience.

The fellowship that is sweeter than any passion that pulses through my veins, more real than the dark children who call my name from across the sea, from across the socio-economic lines of our city. 

I’m learning now that my heart was probably too soured by prejudice towards white, middle-class suburbia to be of good use to a loving God.  I’m learning that I had infused my God-given dreams with a prideful agenda and had made them about me and the identity I so desperately wanted.  

I’m learning how to love those who look like me, who have no physical need, whose wounds are deep and hidden, whose façades of perfection are convincing and deceptive.   I’m learning how to discern and meet the needs of my family, of my community.  I’m experiencing the thrill, the rich satisfaction, of the journey towards selfless.

I’m a pastor’s wife and I’m walking in the footsteps of another person’s dream.

But my God is good.

My God is here.

And knowing him in this is better than the fulfillment of something forced, something worked out by the determination of my independent will.

Years ago, I would be expecting God to intervene and make a way for me.  Years ago, I would be watching the clock, impatiently holding up my end of the bargain, expecting the reward of what I’ve claimed to come my way. But I know better now.

God owes me nothing.

Not even my dreams.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

because I want my son to know where food comes from; because I want my son to delight in the Creator

the pony's name was Alabama (we believe that stands for Auburn, AL)

"is that a horse?"

goat got her head stuck in the fence

the kiss--his idea

two seconds later, mouth full of dirt

Saturday, May 7, 2011

ballet and body and numbers

Dear Ballet Teacher of '96,

I remember you, I remember then so clearly.

We submissively pulled pepto bismal pink tights over our expanding thighs and took solace in the fact that everyone else looked this silly, this naked, too. The maroon leotard was was ribbed and covered our bottoms but its shelf was no help for girls who were growing, who were becoming women, one awkward stretch at a time.

You were small, you were so small and the mirrors that shot our images across the room and back would not let us forget that.  And as we plied and releved and ront de jambed at the barre we hoped we were becoming stronger, more beautiful, and maybe someday we could go en pointe like the real dancers next door. 

And then one evening, at barre, you told us your number. 
You told us how much you weighed. 

And for girls like us, girls whose bodies were changing, wrapped in unforgiving elastic, set in front of tall mirrors, a number like that did not help. 

Did you know that girls like us lived by numbers?

Did you know that girls like us lied and told our friends we were vegetarians so no one would second guess our order of salad, no dressing, at McDonald's? 

Did you know that girls like us counted everything--the calories, the meals, the portion sizes, each digit on the scale?

Girls like us didn't know then that your petite frame and five-foot-one stature played into your low number. We didn't know that you ate meat and fat and actually enjoyed your food, guilt free. We didn't know we were beautiful, our different builds and sizes, and that health did not have to be defined by 

your frame, 

your body, 

your low, low number. 

I'm guessing you had no idea what girls like us were going through. 

But I do, now. 

And I will never disclose my number. Words like "skinny" and "thin" will not pair with compliments meant to build up another girl. I will use my words about myself, about others, to emphasize the value of the soul, of sparkling eyes, or spunk and spirit. And maybe about funky, delicious shoes. 

But for me, no talk of numbers. 

I've played the game before,

and no one wins.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

it's the little kisses

I almost rolled my eyes. 

Not at the mentor who was counseling me with marital wisdom, but at the actual advice.

And when he comes home, I stop what I'm doing and I go give him a hug and a kiss.

I was twenty-two, newly married, and I had read the books, had done the counseling and the courses and had been at this thing for ten eleven months.


I needed to be told to greet my husband when he came home?

We were pro's. We had this thing down. We could start our own counseling practice, we were so freakin' awesome at being married.

And then familiarity set in. The newness wore off. Actual, salaried, you-could-get-fired-if-you-don't-take-this-seriously kinds of jobs, with the stress they generated, came into play.

Oh, and kids.

Shouldn't forget we had kids.

So, seven anniversaries, two pregnancies, five moves, eleven hairstyles, six cars, seventy, eighty, a hundred {?} fights, and a hundred and one make-up's after that conversation, her words still haunt me.

They catch me, soapy hands in sink, when I hear the door open and I think,

           Carter will play with him. Just let me finish loading the dishwasher. 

They catch me, tired body on sofa, baby in arms, and I justify, 
           He'll walk around the corner any minute now.

They catch me, evening routine already in full swing, and I reason that

          I can just smile now and kiss his cheek in a minute.

But I'm wrong about that. About the just-let-me-get-this-done-first business. My husband is my love. He's the one I chose to build my future, my family, with. He's the man I respect the most, the only person on earth with whom I am to work out the weighty mystery of marital covenant.

He's more than a room-mate, more than a break from my kids, more than an extra set of hands to help me get my stuff done.

He is my husband, and love is my first charge.  

My mentor was right. And her tidbit of marital advice was much harder than I expected.

It's the get-up-and-greet-him hug when he comes home, it's the {every night} goodnight kiss, it's the saying I Love You before hanging up the phone.

It's the little gestures in the hello's and goodbye's of life that keep us kind, that keep us closer to the honor and deference and priority that our spouses should have. They tell us that we are not as busy as we think we are, that our agendas can rest a minute, that simple celebration is more important than uninterrupted task.

It's not complicated, it's not sexy, but it sure requires me to lay myself aside for a moment. Who knew, after all these years, my mentor's words would ring true? Who knew I'd be preachin' that

it's the little kisses.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the beauty, the wound, the comfort

I just read about my writer-friend's miscarriage. She compared her soul to a frail origami crane, yearning for release from the pain, fly to heaven, where she can hold and never let go. She wrote of the failure of not being able to bear, to bring forth the life that began inside. 

And I think about another blogger who recently wrote about her abortion, about the humility that comes from knowing she was the one who ended the miracle. About the pain, about the inescapable longing to hold the one she said goodbye to. (She writes of forgiveness and healing and hope, too.)

I think of one of my heroes who got pregnant in high school and courageously chose to carry her child, while culture screamed 'abort,' and to then place her baby in the arms of a couple who would raise her. I think of her pain, of her regret, even in the face of choosing right, of her longing to know the one she birthed.

And another, so many others, who silently pray and hope and suffer and try again to conceive. Who receive sterile words for conditions, for procedures, for tests, from doctors in sterile rooms, all the while, hearts bleeding inside.

Then there is the motherhood--come after the waiting, and for some, it doesn't ever come. The motherhood is beautiful and it is worth the stretch marks and the labor and the sleeplessness and sacrifice. But if refuses to be the escape from pain. It holds its own weaknesses, its own regrets and failures, its own reasons to feel incapable and unworthy. It breeds its own kind of burden, one that causes divisions and sects and labels for different kinds of mothers, all fighting to make good decisions for their children, all fighting to stave off the guilt monsters.

And I wonder what makes it so difficult to be a woman. 

Why a mother of five healthy children can still be plagued by her abortion decades past, why the mother of one adorable daughter still pangs inside when she sees a stroller past and her womb reverberates with emptiness, why a working mom feels less for not staying home,

why a stay-at-home mom feels guilt for dreading Monday, when the husband leaves and she knows she'll probably despise the pleas to play with the preschooler, to fill that juice cup just one more time?

We're insatiable, we women.

We who give life and love, we who nourish bellies and nurture souls, we want so much.

We want beauty and health for the ones we love, we want security and safety, and to know that we can do this thing, this being a woman, this becoming the mother, and do it well. And we don't want the pain, the guilt, the failure, and the uncertainty. But it all comes, it surely comes, wrapped in the promise, embedded in the cells of the embryo twisting deep inside the womb.

I wonder why this had to be our curse, why longing to contain and bring forth life became so closely intertwined with our identities. Becoming Mother is our power, our pride, and maybe God saw its mystery, its majesty, and considered how it might render unchecked in a fallen world. Maybe the wound of motherhood is a wooing of sorts, an invitation to fellowship with the One who started this whole giving life thing. He, after all, knows the pain of losing a child, the burden of raising rebellious ones, the grief of laboring, of carrying the promise of life, only to see it refuse to come to fruition.

I hear these stories and I am humbled. Stories of women who aborted, who adopted, who lost, who bore many, and I am filled with a new resolve to judge less, to carry mercy in my thoughts towards all.

Motherhood is beautiful, but it is no escape from pain. And with the tears, no matter what the source, the quieted will hear a whisper from the very soul of Mother God,

to come close,

to grieve together,

to rest on the bosom of the One who knows.

"For this is what the LORD says:
   'I will extend peace to her like a river,
   and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
   and dandled on her knees.
 As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you...'"
Isaiah 66:12,13