This is what I must remember

This morning at work, after the normal morning tasks of coffee making and ice gathering, after cleaning up the conference room from last night’s dinner,

after scrubbing dried/soggy lasagna off of a plastic utensil in a sink that won’t stay on consistently because hello, plastic utensils are very much worth this kind of cleaning effort,

after reading just the beginning of another blog post about laundry and tedium and the desert fathers who sought the spirituality of the most menial tasks, after clicking to something else because that kind of truth feels like too much this morning, after reminding myself: you have a job, this is good, be grateful,

after that, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk, dumped a couple packets of creamer, and just stared into the smooth, unperturbable surface, its color embarrassingly closer to white than black.

I feel stretched thin, and I don’t know why; my life is so good. I don’t want more. I don’t want better. I just want to feel less exhausted.

I want to embody hopeful anticipation, without haste, without impatience. I want to be kind and generous and open-palmed, all those things I’ve never been all that good at, but boy would life be easier if I was.

I want the advent to wrap itself around me, to change me. I want to embrace this real hope and good light that won’t be muddled by the mundane or rocked by my failures.

And it’s hard without a church, I tell you. It’s hard without community. It’s hard, sometimes, to force yourself to create the thing you know you need, because if you could just have it already, it would be so much easier to get started.

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I tried to remember the last time my heart and soul and mind felt this weight, these frustrated, negative thoughts that seem to fly through my mind faster than I can shoot them down. The last time I darn near hated myself for my own inability to just be happy already.

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I know it was like this shortly after I moved to Abilene. Oh, I hated Abilene. I hated its endlessly confusing roads. I hated the complete lack of a drainage system that resulted in a biblical flood every time in rained for more than 20 minutes. I missed my family. I missed my church. I missed Super Target.

I missed the life I had expected for myself. The one where I went off to college, and suddenly became a different person, where making friends was easy, and I was not only the most brilliant student of all time, but also the life of the party.

I think I was disappointed by how much harder it is to live in the reality of a moment than to imagine it. And I think I missed out on a whole year of loving that place because I was too busy focusing on the life I expected.

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The Sunday before graduation, we met one last time at the house in which we had gathered for almost two years. Each arriving to our little family holiday, laden with food and gifts and grace, greeted with hugs and cheerful exclamations.

We laughed uproariously, talked of deep things, drank more than our fair share of Mark’s darkest of dark roasts. We repeated our stories, shared our tears, offered our endless thanks.

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And before we left, Gina, the kindest of hostesses, commissioned us. Reminded us that we were about to go out, that we had been given this gift of real and true love for a time, for a purpose. 

We knew a community that was real, a community of joy and hard questions and “I love you” and “this doesn’t end here”. We would not be fooled by the cheaper imitations, we would not be placated by shallow and nice.

And so we left Abilene, left the house on Lincoln, but carry with us not a bitterness of what we left behind, but a hopeful charge, a belief, that here too, anywhere, we can cultivate a garden that blooms in generosity and faithfulness.

We are not passive victims of our circumstance; but willful participants. So we can bake the cake and offer it with open arms, invite them in, surrender our home and our coffee, gather around the table and share the bread, even if we don’t call it that.

We’ve done it before. It just takes time.

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So maybe the moral is that I’m still being taught patience, after all these years. How to be patient with new places, how to be patient with myself, how to wait happily, expectantly, resting in the gracious gift of this one, spectacular life.

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Don’t tell them that God loves them.

The other night, long after I should have gone to bed, I found myself scrolling down the never ending, eternally generating images of my pinterest feed.

Truthfully, I had decided to paint my nails, and I was waiting for them to dry. And I had somehow selected a nail polish with magical, never-dry properties, so what was I to do besides sit down on the bathroom floor and scroll through pinterest for a couple of hours?

And I saw this graphic – you pinteresty people will know what I mean – a quote in swirling typography laid over, in this case, some painted flowers. Your standard, emotive Words With Meaning* pin.

It said: “Sweet one, you are loved”.

And underneath a very sweet friend had captioned it something like, “I want to tell this to every girl and tell them how God feels”.

Pinteresty, right?

What caught me wasn’t the quote-ishness, and it certainly wasn’t the colorfully-rendered lilies. Nor was it the kind and genuine desire of the caption, or the gendered-ness of it (boys need to be told that they are loved, too, amiright?)

I was caught by my own defensive, knee jerk reaction – I have no desire to go telling people that God loves them.

At least not strangers. Not everyone.

Which is weird, right?

Because I believe in God. I believe in this conscious being that is somehow creator and orchestrator and judge and wisdom and mercy. And I do believe that God loves people, in all their mess, in all the failing, even when they’re trampling each other to buy bras at Victoria Secret because BLACK FRIDAY I MUST HAVE IT NOW!!!

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And I remember sitting beside my friends on the wide, carpeted steps of our “youth cove” knees pulled up to my chest, singing into the dark, and feeling so loved. And then the lights came up and the charge was given: go into your schools. Be salty light. Tell those heathen classmates how loved they are.

No one ever really called them heathens.

With the unspoken understanding that those who kept quiet were a) ashamed of God and b) more concerned with “looking cool” than the fate of their peers’ eternal souls.

But I mostly just felt like c) I know a whole lot of people who want to be told they’re loved by God even less than they want to be told they’re loved by Santa Clause, and I would prefer not to offend and alienate those people. Because they’re nice and I like them.

Mostly, I’ve never been very comfortable as an evangelist.

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So I sit on the bathroom floor and wonder again at the Going and the Telling.

Because sometimes I think we’re too concerned with the words, with the convincing, with the Right Answers.

And I wonder what if we maybe tried a different strategy?

What if we just show them what God’s love might look like?

You know, instead of talking them to death, what if we just love people like God?

Love them when they’re inconvenient.

Love them when they’re greedy.

Love them when they’re annoying.

Love them when they’re late.

Love them when they’re lazy.

Love them when they cut you off and they’re so rude and why are these stupid ignorant people so inconsiderate and he could have just waited five seconds.

Love them when they’re 11 and no one’s introduced them to deodorant, and they have no idea that they need it.

Love them when they’re selfish.

Love them when their reality doesn’t meet your expectations.

Love them when they should have done better.

Love them when they could have done better.

Love them when you disagree about everything, and they are so indisputably wrong.

Love them when they’re crying, when they’re pathetic, when they should be over it already.

Love them when they take 36 items into the 15 or less check-out line.

Love them not because you like them and not because they were particularly nice to you.

Love them because they don’t deserve it.

Love them without expectation or agenda.

Love them because they exist. Because they were created. 

Love because they are there, in front of you, in your way.

Love them because you share humanity’s broken anguish. Love them because you partake of the same graceful hope.

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And maybe someday they’ll ask. Maybe someday they’ll want to hear what you have to say.

Maybe if our love didn’t come with so many pre-requisites, people might have reason to believe in unconditional love.

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*It may sound like I’m making fun of them, but I’m not**.

**Well, actually I am***.

***But I love emotive Words With Meaning pins. I have a whole board of them. It’s the kind of pin I would be if I were a pin. Or a delicious cookie recipe. I might also be a delicious cookie recipe…But you get the point.

I am being tested for drugs.

Seriously.

We are doing drug tests today, and I have been randomly selected.

Which makes me nervous.

Not because I do drugs, but in the way that getting my blood pressure checked makes me nervous.

You know, because I want to do well, so I get all anxious, and then I worry that I’m increasing my blood pressure by thinking about it, so I focus really hard on breathing normally and repeating don’t be stressed, sit very still, think calm, over and over in my head until they’re done. My blood pressure is always excellent.

So yeah, nervous like that.

Which is apparently a fantastic strategy for getting low blood pressure readings, but is not a great help to the drug testing process.

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Mostly I find this whole thing ridiculous.

Because from the bows on my leather shoes to my bright teal pants to my recently washed hair, it seems clear that I am not “on drugs”.

But whatever. This is corporate America. We drug test people here.

Welcome.

Disappointing football and fantastic food.

Well, I have returned from the land of the Okies.

I hope you all had a really wonderful Thanksgiving full of food, family, relaxation, and gratitude.

I have so many, many things to be thankful for – more than I could possibly list here – but here are just a few to brighten Return to Work Monday.

1.  Gravy. I discovered it this Thanksgiving. I’ve always given gravy a wide berth; brown liquid made from turkey giblets just never sounded the least bit appealing to me.

But apparently, it isn’t always made with the innards of a large bird. And tasty brown sauce made from normal kitchen ingredients sounds great! So I ventured into New Territory, something I almost never do on Thanksgiving.

And I was rewarded most deliciously.

I am now a person who likes gravy. I think I have to register for a gravy boat now…

2. Brisk fall days and long walks with David to work off all that gravy.

3. Leaves coloring trees all bright red, leaves gathering in crunchy piles for the amusement of children (and 22 year old joggers), leaves raining down, leaves caught in the blustery wind, leaves resting gently on lawns and driveways and front stoops.

The view from David’s parents kitchen. I just love a perfectly yellow tree.

4. All the crazies who went out at 8 pm on Thanksgiving day, resulting in a perfectly pleasant day of Black Friday shopping (seriously no dressing room lines! no trouble finding a parking spot! no wait at check-out! how does such a thing happen?)

5. Baking Thanksgiving pies with David’s grandmother. (We made a Vodka crust; it was fun times).

6. Sorting through hilarious-precious pictures of David and his siblings as children (and several of his mom and my aunt when they were in school together).

Aren’t they SO cute? David is on the left. And his older brother, John, is on the right.

David’s mom and my aunt were roommates in college. A seriously serendipitous little fact. Don’t they just look so lovely? Left to right: Susan, some woman I do not know, my Aunt Beth.
I love it.

7. Running into my sweet friend, Matt Anderson during our 4 hour layover in Abilene yesterday. Plus he gave me free coffee, which let me tell you, is one of my very favorite things ever.

8. Speaking of, Peppermint Mochas have returned to Starbucks. (And don’t tell me they have peppermint flavoring year round. I refuse to acknowledge that reality. It doesn’t count unless it comes in a happy red cup that orders Cheer! and Rekindle! and Joy!)

9. The world’s best fiance who was wonderfully sweet to me when I get All Kinds of Sick on the drive home yesterday.

As an aside, here are some things that do not help car sickness:

 

  1. Migraines
  2. Having to close your eyes every time headlights pass in the opposite direction because the lights cause your migraine to start screaming in protest
  3. Sprite – I used to like Sprite when I was sick – I do not anymore
  4. 12 hours in the car in one day
  5. Letting yourself become seriously dehydrated
  6. Drinking coffee as a solution to this problem
  7. Setting off the car alarm when you try to get out of the locked car

Here are some things that make me feel much better:

 

  1. Meds recommended by Dr. Dad
  2. David driving my whole six hour shift after he’d already driven for six hours
  3. Sitting on the curb outside of Walgreens while David buys me a drink
  4. David rubbing my back while hunched over in the front seat displaying all manner of Pathetic and Sad and Uuughughugh
  5. A somewhat hilarious combination of peek-a-boo and red light/green light, wherein David warned me every time lights appeared on the horizon so that I could cover my eyes, then let me know when I could safely watch the road again – dealing with a headache and car sickness is a careful balancing act – definitely a two person job.

Seriously though, he’s great.

10. A really beautiful Thanksgiving break full family, food (with almost an entire serving of Puppy Chow all to myself), board games, and Christmas decorating.

You guys, you’re fabulous. And I thank you.

There are times when living life can be draining, when grace is an impassable mountain, treacherous and exhausting and insurmountable.

There are times when it is difficult to believe that you are loved, when even the kindness of dear friends has to fight through the darkness to be heard.

I have spent some time on that dark pass, friends. And it can be terrible, lonely, exhilarating, painful, hopeful, cold, and strengthening all at the same time.

But then there are weekends like this last one.

And I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to know how bad Lima beans can taste in order to recognize just how blissfully apples, pastry, and cinnamon can compliment each other. Our minds and eyes and tongues and hearts know good when they experience it; the ugly bitterness isn’t necessary.

But a heart that has shivered in the loneliness, that has longed achingly for the sun, that has slipped into a chasm where its rising no longer seems certain – that heart has learned gratitude.

Because when that sun rises again – and it does – you are constantly aware of the tickling warmth on the back of your legs, and the feather soft rays that trickle through the clouds. And when you stop for a moment to remember, to recognize, I swear, it’ll bring you to your knees.

And so it was this weekend.

From the overwhelming generosity of my church to family who drove several hours on Saturday just to be there and then turned around Sunday afternoon to drive several hours back.

From a hand-crafted tribute to one of our favorite movies from my cousins to all the precious Christmas gifts from family members that made me feel so known.

My cousin made this. Because she is awesome and talented.

From my dad leaving my favorite road trip snack by my suitcase to a fantastic collection of recipes from my future mother-in-law to the hard-work of my gracious and talented hostesses to another cousin who is helping me do all the decorations because she’s fabulous.

This is the recipe book that I got from Susan. Is that not fan-freaking-tastic? Now, I not only have tons of actual dinner recipes, but I have some of David’s favorites.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, my forever friend and bridesmaid who lives out in California flew in early and completely surprised me by showing up to my shower. So of course I screamed and ran to hug her and we both cried a few happy, happy tears. And I can’t believe we didn’t get a picture, but it was so good to see her.

By the way, she blogs delightfully about all things fashion, here, and you should check it out.

Plus a whole bunch of sweet phone calls and text messages from friends who couldn’t be there, but let me know that I was loved anyway.

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And here are a few gift highlights.
Obviously, one of us likes coffee. I’ll give you a hint: it’s me. I’m the one who likes coffee.

I went with both the fast, single serve (that can also make hot chocolate for David) and the french press. Because why not?

My sister bought me this beautiful blanket. It’s the grown-up version of the blanket I still sleep with every night gave up when I went to college like a grown-up. She picked it out because I can stick my fingers through the holes just like I do with my other one. Yeah, she’s pretty wonderful.

My OhSo soft blanket.

They had a pitcher of wooden spoons set out for people to write their best marriage advice. David and I read through them when I got home last night. Isn’t that such a cute idea?

We got a bit of conflicting advice. Thankfully, I took Glen Pemberton’s Wisdom and Devotional Lit. of the OT class where I learned that wisdom is not bits of universally applicable facts, but is rather the ability to discern when you should apply varied, sometimes contradictory truth. So this is not a problem.
Unless we apply the wrong one…

Confession: this one was my favorite. Mostly because it made me laugh.

I couldn’t capture it in a picture, but sometime I’ll share one of my other forever friends Abby’s brilliant gift. The consensus was that she “won the shower”. Ha.

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I feel blessed beyond words by your love, your generosity, your creativity, and your presence. Thank you. Though those words can hardly contain the depth of my gratitude, thank you, all the same.

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I will think of you each time I get a cup of coffee in the morning or decorate my Christmas tree or curl up with my grown-up blanket.  As Ann Voskamp said, “Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time’s shoulder to see all the long way his arms have carried.”

Nerdy rings, Santa hats, and the question of a hormonal God

This week has been long.

And not for any particular reason just…one of those weeks.

I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, but they can’t seem to coalesce into a point.

It’s days like this that I wish I was Hermione Granger. A pensive would be nice right about now. As would a time-turner. And a magic wand that would do the dishes. Man…attending Hogwarts would be swell.

Plus, I would get this awesome Hogwarts class ring.

Or maybe I could just get it anyway, and pretend.

Then I could get David his Triforce ring,

And we could officially be the nerdiest couple ever.

So I hope your week has been good. We have another shower this weekend.

I don’t know why it makes me so happy to see our shower in my church’s program, but it totally does.

And I’m ridiculously excited, because my hostesses are some of the most lovely and hospitable women I know.

For now I will leave you with two things to brighten your Friday:

The first is this picture that my cousin sent me on Tuesday. This precious boy is going to be my ring bearer and he couldn’t be more adorable.

They went to get him fitted for his little tux, and this was her caption: “Jude is so incredibly excited! He wore his Santa hat ‘to get ready for Becca’s wedding!'” He so belongs in our family.

The second is a post by Richard Beck that nearly had me in tears. It was like he looked at me straight through my computer screen and said, “You aren’t broken. You, too, reflect the image of God. You are needed.”

The church has always struggled with the bodies of women. The fact that hormonal is a pejorative term reflects this. To call a woman hormonal is to say that her body has taken over her mind–her reason, her judgment, her good sense.

 

…Women love and think with their bodies. And that may make their love wild, unpredictable and unreasonable. But that’s a truth about love. Perhaps the deepest truth the church needs to learn.

 

One of the reasons I don’t think the church loves in the crazy, wild, and irrational way Jesus did is because the church has silenced women, particularly the love incarnated in the bodies of woman. You can’t learn to love fully if you aren’t paying attention to the way women love.

 

I tried to explain the post to David, and he didn’t really agree with the point Dr. Beck was making, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Do we need a more emotional, irrational love in the church? Do we need less?

What are your thoughts about “a hormonal church that will step into the risky and passionate love of our hormonal God”?

 

How eating cupcakes saved me hundreds of dollars.

Okay. Show of hands.

Who of you out there has ever dreaded going to try on jeans? Because, you know, they just aren’t going to fit. Because maybe you just moved and you don’t feel safe running at night, plus it keeps just being 10:00 pm, even though you’re pretty sure it should be 5:30, but it’s not, and now your whole day is gone.

And maybe you started a new job where you sit all day and maybe they keep a giant bowl of chocolate out in the break room all.the.time. because they hate you and they want to pay more for your medical insurance after you’ve given yourself diabetes.

Okay, one person. Well hey there. You and me, we can be friends.

Yeah, except imagine that maybe it’s not jeans. Imagine it’s your wedding dress. And imagine that maybe when you bought it, you knew you shouldn’t have let them order the next size down, but you thought too highly of your future self.

And imagine that it’s Veterans Day weekend, which translates into American English as BUY ALL THE THINGS! So there are more people at the mall on this particular Saturday than the 23rd of December.

And imagine that you’ve been putting this off for weeks, but you finally just made yourself do it, because otherwise you’d be walking down the aisle naked…or in jeans (which might be worse. I’m not sure. I’ll have to consult the compendium of all wedding knowledge: TheKnot.com).

And imagine that you put on this dress and it absolutely, positively, unequivocally, comically does.not.fit. So go ahead and cry about that for a minute, but not too much because there are a million and half people just milling about outside and you like to contain your humiliation to only the necessary parties (and everyone who reads your blog).

Then go ahead and imagine that you relish a few choice expletives about this situation. Actually, don’t imagine that. I know you. You’re far too classy for that. I’m sorry I brought it up. Please don’t leave.

So imagine that you take off this dress and put your adorable plaid button down back on, but then you just sit there on the dressing room floor, without pants, because quite frankly, the embarrassment is warming this tiny little room, and putting on pants is too much for you right now. That’s okay. Your mom can take it from here.

The world seems over. All you hoped and dreamed for is crashing down around you. Not even a peppermint mocha and a new J.Crew scarf will heal the heart after such a tragedy.

But wait. All hope is not lost.

Your lovely sales lady can find the next two sizes up (just in case) and suggests a four step plan:

a) return your dress
b) purchase both the other two dresses and have them rushed to the store
c) come back next Saturday to try them on again and
d) return one

Sounds like a plan that could only be made in wedding mode. Let’s do it.

Then she pulls out the tag. They’re selling off the last of these dresses, (mine are coming from Denver). And it’s 50% (!) off. If you have never purchased a wedding dress, let me tell you: this isn’t some cute floral sundress that will be out. out. out. next June*. They don’t just go on sale. This isn’t a thing that happens.

Except that it totally did.

My mom and the sales lady took hands and did a happy dance together. I was, of course, still regretting every single piece of chocolate that I had eaten since May individually, and I hadn’t even made it through the summer yet. So my reaction was more tempered.

Then she rang them up. And they were listed at 25% of their original price. For reals, y’all.

A 75% discount on a wedding dress. Even I was tapping my feet, happy style, at this point.

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But I did totally get my hair cut before trying on the dress. Yes, I did that on purpose. Because a hair cut always makes your outlook on the world a little bit brighter.

10 months is a totally reasonable amount of time to go between hair cuts, right?

 

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So to sum up. I ate a whole lot of delicious sweet potato fries and cupcakes. And it saved me hundreds of dollars.

Bring on the cake.