Monday, July 29, 2013

Silly Baby

It is no secret to those who know me that I have a strong affinity for the silly side of life.  While visually I am indeed a grown up and do responsible things like go to work, pay bills, cook dinner, and make up the bed, sometimes my mind isn't quite so growny.  Now, I wouldn't necessarily brand myself immature, I just find myself enjoying mundane life things a little more if I can sprinkle some silly here and there.

For instance, a friend and I had a saying years ago that everything is better in opera.  Which still holds true. Ask you husband what he would like for dinner normally, or ask him the same question in an opera voice and suddenly the routine becomes both ridiculous and hilarious.  I think the opera tactic stems from my childhood growing up in church.  Anytime I heard the opera vibrato spilling out of a nearby hymn singer, I couldn't help but giggle.  For those of you who know the old hymns, it was particularly hilarious on the Sundays we sang "Victory in Jesus."  It literally sounded like some of the opera folks were about to take flight and I couldn't contain myself. And for that matter, still cannot. Which is why I decided, if you can't beat them, join them because there is pure joy to be had and endorphins up for grabs rippling out of the waves of ecstatic vibrato.  Especially when asking your friend if they can pick you up from the airport.

Another silly tactic I enjoy is adding a y or the y sound to words.  So Halloween becomes Halloweeny, constipated becomes constipatey, Filipino becomes Filipeeney and so on and so forth. Just another way my brain attempts to transform plain into momentary entertainment.

A few years ago, I had a great alibi for my silly slants.  I taught 8th graders.  And 8th graders are not known for their mature logic and reason.  In fact, over the course of my tenure as a teacher of these mystifying creatures, I accrued many nicknames,  all of which were derivatives of my maiden name, Mullins.  Mullet, mole, mully, moleymon, and mullinator were just a few of the monikers I received. As a teacher of early teens, I was in essence a silly referee at any given point during the day. Which was often, my favorite part of the job.

While my 8th grade audience imparted some influence in my life, they can't be held responsible for my propensity towards ridiculous.  Let's be honest, I showed up in that classroom silly. At parent night one year, I was introducing myself to a classroom full of parent's and said the word "do" twice in a row in one sentence.  Instead of continuing on with my informative diatribe like a professional should, I opted to pause and then pronounce to parents entrusting me with their children's education, "Oh, wow, I just said doo-doo." And then giggled nervously at the blank stares and somehow managed to scamper back on track.

So suffice it to say, I've come to grips with the fact that I was born this way and come from a lineage of silly.  Or as my grandmother, Ouida (pronounced Wee-duh), would say, "she gets so tickled at herself."  Like when I saw a cereal called Weetabix in the grocery store and decided that was a perfect nickname for grandmother from that day forward.  And what a good, affectionate sport she was.  Or, perhaps she was just overly graceful towards my genetic disposition towards all things bright and silly.

From early on I remember my paw-paw saying things at the dinner table just to make himself laugh. A memory, I do love. Hearing him laugh to himself over something silly he shared whether or not anyone else did.  Life was too short, and sometimes too tough, not to laugh, and he lived laughter well. 

For those of you who know my mom, you probably know her laugh. Another one in my direct lineage that chooses to laugh it out and has been known to take multiple walks on the silly side. She made family shirts for us when my sisters and I were younger featuring a watermelon and combining our family's last names (Waters and Mullins) so it read "The Watermullins."  Since this was prior to the onset of the cynical teenage period, we wore them gladly and thought we were a family of comedians. All we needed was to trade our mini-van for a clown car and head out to an audition for MAD TV.

While my dad and I are not blood relatives, I did spend the majority of my growing up years around him. A man who has been known to vacuum the family cat to try to curb shedding, speak in a variety of accents, and always pick the odd, kid we didn't want to date and then refer to him as our boyfriend. In fact, even though I'm married now, it wouldn't be weird for him to tell me "hey, I saw your boyfriend (insert name) at the grocery store today." To which he would respond with a smile, and now, I would laugh, but in my teenage years, this is how I came to perfect the eye roll.

My sisters may initially paint me as the weird, silly one if asked.  But let's go ahead and let the freshly vacuumed cat out of the bag. My older sister, Livvy, made up a song about her infant son with the lyrics "Jonah Roy Jernigan don't get a perm again," and when we were teenagers, helped me create the hit game "Burrito in the Microwave" where one person impersonates a microwave and the other person acts as the heated burrito. And my little sister, Emily, regularly uses the word "turlet" instead of toilet and once fashioned a grill out of aluminum foil, wrapped it around her teeth, and then smiled for the camera. Evidently, I have silly to the sides as well.

This brings me to my husband, Stephen.  While we have no genetic relation (because that would be illegal and gross among other things), this is a man who regularly woos me with silly because he too, has an affection for the absurd.  If you meet him, your initial impression may be that he is nice, laid-back, and perhaps even a little serious.  All reasons why he is the major breadwinner of our family. While he is silly with those close, he knows when not to say doo-doo in a company meeting whereas I, clearly, do not. When we were dating he made me five tiny bunnies out of foam core, simply because it was ridiculous. And I loved them. Not because I'm a crazy bunny lady, but because I loved imagining him at work, crafting tiny bunnies while trying not to draw the attention of his co-workers, all because he knew I would find great delight in this silly gesture. He is also quick to make up stories about inanimate items which is eternally gold to me.  Nothing like imagining the life of a chip clip shaped like a pig to take your mind off income taxes and the rising cost of health insurance for a blessed minute or two.

All of this is to simply say, our baby, which is baking up in my tummy as I type, has little chance of escaping some silly.  The genetic odds are stacked in favor of lighthearted, laugh when no else is laughing, ridiculousness.  I like to think it's in my tummy tap dancing, practicing its stand up right now, and giggling to itself about its rapid metamorphosis from an amphibious form with a real, live tail and paddle hands into a human baby.

To be perfectly clear and let another vacuumed kitty out of the baggy, we are medium with child (waddling every day closer to great) and due on January 4th.  We couldn't be happier and more thankful that God would entrust two silly rabbits with a little life.  Whether our baby arrives giggling, and telling yo mama jokes, or straight faced and pushing its imaginary readers up its nose, love already abounds and I look forward to the joys and challenges of parenthood with my best friend and baby-daddy.

God is a great giver and friend.  He creates imagination, wit, babies and laughter.  And then invites us to enjoy, observe, and partake with those around us.  And sometimes, it's just a little more delightful in opera.  

You should probably try it :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Proposal

If you were looking for an outdated review of the Sandra Bullock movie, the following will be disappointing to you. But if you would like to know the story of my very own proposal, read on my friends! Originally, this was an e-mail to my friend, Susan. We have written back and forth to each other since our college days and she gave me the idea of writing my news to her instead of telling her on the phone. An idea I loved since it would be something I could keep and that my potential kiddos could have as a reminder of how all the wedded magic began on that enchanted November evening.

Disclaimer: The story that follows is long, and if you choose to read it all you may need a potty break or two prior to finishing. But I could not skimp on the deets for a besty -- and no one has ever accused me of not having words -- so push those decorative readers up the bridge of your nose, hunker down, and hopefully -- enjoy!

He surprised me for sure and the timing was perfect.

About 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, Livvy had her baby. She was one month early. Originally, we were not planning to go home for turkey day because I was hoping to hold out until Livvy delivered. But since Lilah was eager to arrive, I wanted to go meet her, so Stephen and I decided to head home on Wednesday, the 23rd.

A few days before we left, Stephen asked me if I wanted to do something by ourselves on the Saturday night we were home. This is not out of the ordinary as it's sometimes nice to have something in place as a little break when home. I told him sure and I didn't really think twice about it.
He asked me on Thanksgiving if maybe I would want to go see the sunset on the beach on Saturday evening. At that point, I had met Lilah and fallen instantly in love and was actually thinking I might rather hold my tiny niece. Not that I didn't want to go see a sunset or have some time alone with Stephen, I was just focused on maximizing my moments with Lilah before returning to Texas. I think I told him that was fine, but it was a more "why don't we play it by ear" kind of fine. In my mind I was thinking, "If we miss the sunset, we can catch one at Christmas, but Lilah might morph into a moody adolescent by then so I probably should hold her instead."

On Friday, Stephen reminded me again about going to see the sunset. He told me the sun set at 4:50 so we should probably leave my sister's house by 4:30 at the latest. Which in hindsight was weird. Since when did he transform into an almanac? Was he going to tell me about the tides and begin referencing knots next? But I didn't over-analyze at that point, I was happily preoccupied with my niece and eventually agreed to go see the sunset with him.

I should have known something was up when I told my family I was leaving to go with Stephen to watch the sunset and I didn't get any sort of passive aggressive push-back. No "Don't y'all see each other all the time?" type questions. In fact, they were all smiles as they told me goodbye.

When Stephen came over to my sister's that afternoon to hang out before our sunset date, I did notice he was looking really cute. He had on one of his favorite button down shirts and these light grey pants I recently picked out for him from the Gap. I, on the other hand, had been hanging with my family most of the day and knew we were going over to the beach so hadn't made a significant effort to look cute -- at all. I had on my trusty solid, v-neck tee and jeans -- crowned by my greasy, pony-tailed weave. About as lovely as a Fraggle.

So we left Livvy's house and I noticed he was driving pretty fast. And I think he possibly ran the red light right before getting on the bridge. As we were driving over, I noticed the clouds rolling in (it stormed later that night), and I thought to myself, "We really aren't going to be able to see a sunset and I could still be experiencing snugglefest 2011 with Lilah." But he was clearly hellbent on getting over to the beach so I held my tongue, silenced my inner Debbie Downer, and just rolled with it.

Looking back, I think I may have had an inkling something was about to happen. There were a few things that triggered my mind to think, "Maybe he will propose." But I also tried really hard to allow God to keep me in the moment over the last couple of months. To enjoy the day and not get too far down the romantic mind road to the point that I'm frustrated with reality. So I curbed those tiny inklings and told myself "Sarah, just be present with this man right now." And I know that some of that mentality was my self-protection kicking in, attempting to avoid potential disappointment, but I also believe much of it was God's gracious wisdom.

When we got over to the beach and started driving down Via de Luna, I noticed that he continued to drive past the typical places we usually stop. I asked him why he was driving so far and he quickly brushed me off by saying something like "I haven't been this way in a while and just thought we would come down here." Which must have satisfied my inquisition because I didn't press any further.

Eventually, we pulled up to the second public access parking lot just prior to the National Seashore. While it had been unseasonably warm that day, the clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up in preparation for a storm arriving later that night, making it feel cooler.

We proceeded to walk across the boardwalk leading down to the Gulf. As we got to the bottom of the steps, I slipped off my raggedy circa 2006 $10 black flats, held them in my right hand, while Stephen took my left hand in his, and started leading us down the beach. About 3 minutes into our journey, he noticed I seemed a little cold and asked if I wanted him to go back and get his jacket from his car. I said yes but also didn't want to make him trudge back to which he interrupted my indecisiveness by replying, "stay right there" and darted back for the jacket.

Later I would discover that his cousin, Daniel, and his cousin's new wife, Laura, met him at the beach earlier that day, where they received supplies and detailed instructions from my industrial designer fiance' and helped set-up while he drove back into town, changed in the car into his snazzy outfit, held my tiny niece, and then collected me for operation "watch the sunset." So when he dashed back to the car for the jacket, he passed Daniel and Laura who were hiding in anticipation of the "sunset", and casually told them to "Standby, she's cold."

I did notice that Stephen got back to where I was pretty quickly, considering he had to run through the sand, and was slightly out of breath. I think I thought his quick antics were a little strange but he very smoothly put his jacket on me, turned me towards the diminishing sunset and continued our walk with his right arm around my shoulder and my left arm at his waist.

As we were walking, I noticed he kept pushing me up closer to the dunes. And as I was just about to go complainy smurf on him ask if we could walk closer to the water on the packed sand because my calves were getting tired, he looked to his right, toward the dunes, and said, "Hey, what is that?" I glanced toward the direction he was referring and noticed white Christmas lights stung between four wooden posts making a square canopy. It looked like a cozy outdoor room. This is when I turned quickly back towards him and said "What is happening?" Which I continued to repeat as he said "Why don't we go see what is up there?"

So as I began stumbling around in confusion and disbelief, Stephen patiently led his increasingly overstimulated girlfriend towards a path leading up to the canopy of lights in the dunes. When we got up to the pathway, there were mason jars lining either side with twinkling white tea lights within casting a simple glow toward our destination. As we got closer to the outdoor room, I realized there were pictures from our times together adhered with clothespins hanging from the lights. I think there were probably at least 20 pictures displayed from the lights but I'm pretty sure I only saw maybe 2 or 3. When I realized the pictures were of us, I just blurted out "Hey, that's us!!", with dumbfounded disbelief. And Stephen just replied very calmly, "Yep, it sure is" as he chuckled and I'm sure thought, "When is she going to get it?"

To be honest, I'm not sure if I fully got it until a couple of days later when I was back in Texas and had some time to sit before the Lord and let it all just settle. During the moments of the proposal and the night following and even the next day in the car driving back to Dallas, both my mind and mouth were all systems firing and nothing was real yet. I was a pile of elation and disbelief topped off with some girly squeals here and there.

Back to the story.

Underneath the strung lights and pictures was a card table covered in a table cloth with two beach chairs set at the table. On top of the table, there was a beautiful flower arrangement (no potted mums in sight) tucked into a mason jar, his Bible, a small, black, electronic looking rectangular device, and a large white box tied with a light blue ribbon. After giving Angela Lansbury a run for her money and declaring the pictures were indeed of us, Stephen asked me to sit down at the table with him.

He would tell me later that it was at this point he began feeling a little nervous, but I was as overstimulated as Maddy in an m&m store and didn't notice in the least. Stephen reached for his Bible and told me he wanted to read me a few verses. All I could hear in my mind was "FOCUS SARAH, FOCUS!!". But of course I failed and heard only portions of what he was reading. But my inner Angela Lansbury did kick in again and I was able to deduct that he was reading mainly about marriage.

Which normal folks would obviously rationalize this was all part of a proposal -- but not me. In those moments, I traded Lansbury for idiot girl and my raggedy, self-protecting mind was thinking, "I think I know what might happen here but what if there is just dinner in that big white box?" In spite of my unfounded doubts, I listened to my man as he read life to me. Even though I didn't hear everything, and thoughts of a boxed dinner paraded around, my heart was warming well past the typical snuggly temperature it usually is when I'm with Stephen.

After he finished reading, he asked me to open the large white box. As I untied the blue ribbon, I noticed there was a card he designed and printed underneath the ribbon. It said "To my beautiful girlfriend, Sarah Mullins." And underneath the ribbon was Ephesians 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Which I thought was a pretty solid indication I would leave the beach engaged, and that feeling was HUGE.

I'm not sure if men can fully understand that emotion. A proposal is something most of us have thought about since we were little girls watching Cinderella and Ariel. But we have little to no control over when and how it will happen. For all we know, we could be hunched over a furry beast kissing life back into him just as the magic last rose petal cascades to the ground. So when the time finally presents itself, it's a big, surreal, magically spiritual deal.

I would later discover that this box I was opening was specifically designed and created by Stephen for the proposal. The box was split into three different levels of surprises separated by cardboard dividers. As I slid off the top of the box, the contents of the first level greeted me.

Enclosed were several items he had saved from our very first all day long date in October of 2010. The pumpkin patch fliers from the patch we visited to pick a pumpkin to carve, the stencil he drew for our jack-o-lantern, parking stubs from the bluegrass festival we attended -- all fun memories from a great day. In fact, I remember thinking after that date how much I enjoyed the entire day with him. Which he would proceed to tell me, as I rifled through our memories in disbelief that he purposefully kept those things, the reason why he held onto them for over a year was because he knew then that I was the one for him.

Over the next couple of days when I had time to actually process our proposal, I remember thinking how much I loved when he told me that he had known for over a year that he would end up proposing to me. And while that would have been sweet to hear months ago and perhaps even something I thought I should hear, I respect so much more the restraint he showed in not telling me those words until he was ready to make good on it. A great reminder of how he intentionally tried to protect my heart and mind from our earliest moments together. Which gives me an added measure of confidence in his commitment to lead well as we begin our journey together.

On to the second level of the box!

After being sufficiently wooed by the contents on top, Stephen instructed me to open the second level of the box. As I peeled away the divider, I discovered two cards, two pens and two envelopes surrounded by rose petals. He looked at me and said, "How about we write cards to each other that we will open five years from now?" To which I happily agreed. I mean I was in such a cloud of romance that if there had been two sets of toenail clippers in the box and he had said "How about we cut each others toenails and make a heart with our clippings?", I would have been euphorically compliant.

Now mind you, at this juncture, Stephen has yet to officially propose, so as I begin writing my card I'm thinking, "How should I start? Should I write Dear Husband or Dear Ex-boyfriend? Because it will certainly be one or the other!" And then I think I giggled to myself as I began writing, imagining a pizza at the bottom of the elaborate box and what a terrible trick that would be, yet finally choosing to confidently pen my card to Stephen like he was indeed my man to have and to hold from this day forward.

During our card writing session, we both felt a couple of drops of rain fall from the gathering clouds. Not having any clue what still might be in store, I wasn't worried and proceeded to happily write. Stephen told me later that when he felt the drops, he freaked out because he knew what he still wanted to accomplish and was fearful of a storm. He said he has no idea what he wrote on the last half of the card because he was intent on speeding the process along to avoid a downpour. I look forward to reading a half sweet, half frantic card five years from now.

Once we finished the cards, Stephen suggested we take a couple of pictures of ourselves with his phone. So we smooshed our cheeks together while he held out his phone in front of us and we cheesed it up. I'm so glad Stephen did not base his willingness to propose on how I looked in those moments -- wind blown, greasy bangs mixed with a healthy dose of humidity unfortunately do not spell hot, or pretty, or even cute for me. It's more in the homely range. But who cares, I was a deliriously happy homely gal which is arguably the best kind of hot.

After we took the pics, Stephen sent them to the black rectangular box on the table which lo and behold was a tiny wireless printer. A couple of minutes later, the printer ejected the little photos and I got a good gander at my greasy bangs and tired ponytail snugged up next to my handsome boyfriend. I didn't even care that I looked like I'd been in the back of an airplane for 3 days and my overstimulated self happily awaited what was next.

Reaching behind him in the sand, Stephen pulled out a clear tube that was partially submerged. It was a time capsule. Yep, a time capsule. In all his spare time, he designed and built a time capsule and then he led me down to the nuclear fall out shelter he created under the earth and proposed there. I kid, I kid...but not about the capsule part! He looked at me and said, "I thought we could put our cards and pictures in here and bury it. Then we could come back here five years from now and dig it up."

I mean I knew my man was creative, but he was pulling out all the stops for the proposal. And I loved every single element. He was wooing me and it was working. Even though Stephen probably knew I would have said yes to his proposal if he had dropped to a knee over a frozen pizza and an office episode, I loved that he took time to think, create, and prepare. An intentionality that bends my heart towards his even more so and makes me excited to trust him with our future together.

When we were discussing the time capsule part of his proposal later that night, he said, "We might need to go dig that up at Christmas and take it with us because I'm not sure it will still be there in five years." But I told him that while I would love to read our cards and reflect on this time together in five years, it would be pretty cool if a stranger found the capsule too. I know if I did, it would be so fun and encouraging. So no matter if we get the capsule or a stranger happens upon it, it was cool for us to do together.

Post capsuling, Stephen sat me down again and told me he wanted to read me something. He got out his journal and began reading to me a list he had written describing all the reasons he loved me. And while that would be amazing by itself, it was even more special because we had yet to tell one another that we loved each other. This never really made me nervous in the 13+ months of our dating relationship. I knew he would tell me when he was ready and I had feeling it wouldn't be until he proposed and could put action to his words. So hearing not only that he did in fact love me for the very first time, but also why he loved me, was incredible. And I'm thankful it is all written down because my ability to focus was basically non-existent from the moment I saw the lights twinkling in the dunes. I liken myself to a baby distracted by a busy mobile not sure what to look at or grab first.

After he finished reading the list he looked up at me and said, "Now how about you open the last level of the box." As I willingly obliged and took off the final divider, I peered down into the box and saw the iconic, little blue Tiffany's cube tied with a white satin ribbon ever so daintily displayed.

Let me be clear, I am not a girl who knows jewelry. About as bedazzled as I get is wrapping some beads made out of paper by my Ugandan sisters around my wrist. Yet despite my jewelry ignorance, I would tell Stephen later, "Every girl knows the blue box."

Which in hindsight was a cool parallel God showed me regarding his pursuit of his church. If Stephen had asked me to go ring shopping with him prior to our engagement, I would have never suggested we go to Tiffany's. I'm imaging myself talking in a valley girl voice: "You better get my ring at Tiffany's because Tiffany's is the best you dummy."

Ewwww, how ridiculously trolllish of me to do that! I probably would have said something like, "Now where is a Service Merchandise when you need one?" Or "How about we ring shop at Sears or Kohl's and use a coupon?"

Not that I wouldn't have secretly wanted a really nice ring, but I would never have known how to ask for it or even think I needed it. Yet just like Stephen wanted to give me the best, how like God to surprise us with his best when we do not even know how to ask for it.

To be sure, I would have loved ANY ring Stephen presented me, but how sweet of God to show me even in this early phase of the marriage process that He is the ultimate gift giver. Reminds me of the following verse that is a favorite of my friend, Kay:

"Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and well being your ruler."

Isaiah 60:17

I am thankful through the grace, wisdom, and discipline of God, he helped me wait for the man that was his best gift for me. And then would be so kind to affirm this throughout the details of the proposal. Even in Stephen's ring shopping process and purchase, my heart would notice the evidence of God's timing, generosity, and graciousness.

After seeing the Tiffany's box, I stared at it, still not fully believing or grasping what was happening. I think I even asked him jokingly, yet with a twinge of blasted self preservation, "Is there a cupcake in that box?" Still preparing myself to not be totally devastated if this was just an elaborate dessert scheme instead of a proposal. Exhausting I indeed am. Stephen very kindly but purposefully looked at me and said "Go ahead and open it." He probably wanted to follow it with "you crazy girl" but instead patiently waited for me to untie the box and let my timid faith become sight.

As I untied the blue box, a little black box was tucked inside. I took it out, opened it and I think just started rambling about sparkliness. Stephen took the box from me and told me when he asked my dad's permission earlier in the week to do this, he told him that the main reason why he wanted to marry me was so he could marry his best friend. To which my dad responded "We've been waiting for you to ask her since we met you."

At that moment, he got down on his knee, looked up at me with ring in hand and asked me to marry him. And I ecstatically agreed. Soon after, Daniel and Laura bounded up from their hiding place with excited hugs and congratulations. They took some pictures of us and then we left to head back to my sister's house where both our families were waiting to celebrate the news.

I couldn't be more honored and humbled to begin life together with this man. A man of integrity, patience, creativity, and purpose. A man who leads with both determination and tenderness. A man who strives to honor God in his decisions and disciplines. An imperfect man but one who is committed to humility, repentance, and growth. A leader, soon to be lover, and friend.

There were many times along the way to Stephen, I felt like God was withholding from me, or even being a tad bit mean. I felt like I was doomed to learn the same tired lesson on repeat. That men may try but no one would fully commit to the challenge of leading me. Looking back, I see God kindly teaching me that He was enough.

While I do not know if I will consistently arrive in that place this side of heaven, it took that beginning of wisdom for me to be able to fully receive and appreciate the gift that is Stephen. My confidence needed to be rooted and established in God, not man. A twisted yet kindly redemptive process.

And one that will no doubt continue as we enter into marriage. How thankful I am for the foundation, though. Gives clarity to the wait, paints a picture of the greater reconciliation narrative, and makes this gift of one another sweeter.

God's best is always worth the wait. Trite in phrasing but assuredly true.

Feel free to remind me of that truth when I'm undoubtedly bratting it up about something else in the near future.

I mean what if?

"...and the two will become one..."

Matthew 19:5

Friday, August 26, 2011

Above and Beyond

"I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to them, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace to those far and near, says the Lord. And I will heal them."
Isaiah 57:18-19

This morning as I read about God's compassion towards Israel and his great patience with their wayward hearts, I was moved to think that he still longed for wholeness for his people. That he wasn't done with them in spite of their habitual rebellion. He not only saves them from their own self destruction, but promises to heal, restore comfort, grant peace, and guide them. Talk about going above and beyond.

And while he was the God of the Israelites thousands of years ago as described by Isaiah, he is also my God, with the same olive branch extended -- ready to heal, eager to restore, providing the way. I texted a portion of these verses to my friend, Kristen, earlier. A young, beautiful, single mom, recently diagnosed with MS. Faced with many overwhelming circumstances at once, this promise in Isaiah is hers. Healing will come as will comfort and guidance from a God tender enough to be involved in her details.

May his guidance, peace, and healing be evident to each of us today -- finding us marked by this backwards, compelling God and ready to restore.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

I mean, what if?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Work of Feeling

Last week, I was emailing back and forth with a friend. She was expressing an area in her life causing frustration while simultaneously trying to talk herself, or perhaps more accurately, bible verse herself, out of her hurt feelings.

As I read her circumstance and also her determination to not be affected by it, I was reminded of myself. How I often convinced myself to not feel the full extent of a situation, but instead rely on my knowledge of spiritual jargon to keep the inner peace -- mistakenly and pridefully believing my knowledge alone should preserve me from injury. I would even rationalize that if I admitted feeling hurt, jealousy, despair, etc., then I probably didn't believe my neat little answers.
Leaving me unraveled. Exposed even.

No thank you.

And as I implemented this defunct, circular line of reasoning, I unknowingly built a prideful fortress of biblical mantras and self sufficiency, and audaciously claimed it as God's protection of my confused heart.
Yet in reality, it was just my own flawed defense that kept me looking like a nice enough girl but in essence, I was a thief bent on robbing
myself of real, compelling life. A slow, festering wound I was; unwilling to get past myself to heal.

Laboring towards wholeness has always been the story of redemption. While limping around as a fractured facade of sufficiency is the same old worn out saga of deception. A repressed and continuous beating of sorts.

Thankfully though, somewhere along the line, I decided to stop beating myself. After some years of subconsciously hating my own guts, combined with numerous failed self pep talks, spiraling circumstances, wise professional counsel, and friends and family that have wisdom well beyond mine, I learned to extend grace to even a wretch like me. And since grace tends to evoke feeling, I learned to feel fully, even, if it felt quite horrible.

I decided identifying with Christ mandates feeling.
Even the scary, uncontrollable ones I try desperately to avoid. Which, incidentally, are the ones that often make me most relatable, most honest, most real -- most like him.
For he felt deeply. Far beyond my own limitations in fact, and experienced the heights of ecstatic joy mingled with the excruciating depths of anguish.

And I can't escape his call to be like him.

My email response to my friend that follows was a needed exercise for myself in articulating truth that after years of defensiveness God graciously settled on my own heart and mind:

" is OK to feel though...remember that. You can feel disappointed or mad...God knows...I just always have to remind myself it's what I do with the feelings that when I get frustrated or fearful or insecure or I let those feelings identify me or do I let Christ identify me? Unfortunately, it is sometimes the former...but in God's steadiness and grace...I am growing more and more to where I know my home is the's Christ...not insecurity...nor fear...or jealously...or even my sick, sneaky's just and thankfully him. Praying that for you now too.

...that we might be "rooted and established in love...and have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:18-19

Wow. The fullness of God...what a pretty dress that would be. Praying we wear him well."

Progressive sanctification. Or unraveling, if you will. A painfully, beautiful gift encased in the vitality of feeling.

Let's keep doing the work of feeling with Christ as our identity.

All the fullness of God awaits

And I want that more than anything.

For me and for you.

I mean, what if?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Such Things

Yesterday I was challenged to be identified by the things I favor. How easy it is to rant against the things that displease me. So exhaustively easy if that makes any sense.

Time to accentuate the positive instead of complain about what is lacking or disappointing. And this epiphany is in no way an excuse to abdicate the throne of truth telling. Clearly, truth is vital. Especially in the midst of situations that are disagreeable and compromising. Fixating on the negative, however, may very well be a slippery path towards entrapment.

And still I fall for it. I find myself wrapped up in frustration over an issue or individual instead of choosing to see God's movement. Repeatedly even rationalizing my feelings by declaring it righteous anger and citing instances of God's frustration with his own creation. When in fact, the sentiment is actually counterproductive cynicism than anything remotely resembling righteousness. A perspective that regularly, if I'm honest, leads to folly.


To be sure, God's patience will reach a limit. But as the sun rose this morning, I am reminded that day has not arrived. How thankful I am he has been slow to anger and abounding in love with this girl -- a silly, prideful wreck. Purposefully refined every moment by a compelling compassion.

Let me look in mercy at the process of growth around me instead of choosing to dwell in the brokenness. Therein lies the chance to love him more, and I'm always a sucker for great love.

I want to be a woman who angers slowly, full of love and mercy, walking in thankfulness. Humbly remembering that God is not finished.

With me or with you.

Good news indeed.

I mean, what if?

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Friday, December 17, 2010

Aisle Party

Three weeks ago, my best friend, Jourdan, married a great friend, Jeff, and it was beautiful. The engagement was fast, not even three months, but we gathered together as a community of friends and family and helped them celebrate the beginning of a marriage ten years in the making. And God was there.

He was there in the laughter, the songs, the creativity, the words, the beauty, the errands, the food, the prayers, the dancing, the tears, and the ten year process of joining a man and a woman in spite of themselves -- for his glory. What I witnessed three weeks ago, God did. He just did. And everyone in attendance could sense it. The presence of God hovered on a cold, November night and reminded us all of his tender sovereignty, and our hearts were warmed.

When Jourdan walked down the aisle that night, she was indeed radiant. Aglow from the inside out, peaceful, expectant, breathtakingly beautiful, filled with inexpressible joy -- and her community agreed and broke out in spontaneous applause. We clapped and whistled and yelled as she walked with her daddy to finally meet her groom.

I have never experienced that at a wedding, but our hearts were united in joy as this part of Jourdan and Jeff's journey ended at the altar as the two became one. What a picture of redemption. Of the larger narrative. Perhaps, one day the angels will sit on either side of the aisle and watch the church, washed clean and radiant, walk down that aisle to finally rest in the God who sees her -- who has always seen her.

And like the guests at Jourdan and Jeff's wedding, the angels will undoubtedly celebrate. For they, like us, have observed the journey -- twisted and heavy at times, yet now sensing the imminence of completion. And they become overjoyed in anticipation of a long awaited conclusion. My mind is limited as to what that will sound like --- perhaps peace, love, hope, perseverance and joy blending into a score that will move us assuredly toward our groom and prompt us to exhale at long last as we gaze transfixed at the one who has chosen us.

Thank you Jeff and Jourdan for letting us do life with you through your journey. Even the twisted and heavy parts. For those parts allowed us to celebrate more fully and glimpse the compassionate grace of the God who saw fit for you to walk towards him together in this life as he patiently awaits his own bride.

And Jourdan, your John 2:11 prayer offered earlier that day was abundantly answered on your special night. The wedding absolutely uncovered his glory and many of us there believe him a little bit more because of that sacred time together. May it be even more so as you strive together in marriage.

Love you both.

I mean, what if?

"What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

John 2:11

For a more detailed description of Jourdan and Jeff's journey, check out their story at

Sunday, October 31, 2010


My sins are before me

The looseness of my mouth
The lust of my flesh
The pride of my heart

I am reminded of who you are
Of your holiness and of my haughty obstinance
And so your grace means much today
Saving a wretch like me

Make me a woman ready to encourage instead of criticize
Ready to listen rather than rambling hollow words
Soaked in insecurity and deceptive pride

That I might hear
Then filter
Then encourage

Becoming a glimmer of redemption
Instead of compounding brokenness
And adding to foolishness

Root my words in silence
In wisdom
In humble confidence

On earth as it is in heaven

I mean, what if?

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 12:18

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."
Proverbs 31:26