Digesting with gratitude

Dear patrons of the local Mexican restaurant my family frequents,
Thank you for allowing my husband and me to argue in your midst. Thank you for averting your eyes and not [audibly] questioning our decision to hash it all out in front of our young children. This has been a long journey for us to get to this place in our marriage, where we can be real with each other and show our disagreements instead of forced pleasantries.

Unlike our children, we did not witness many couples who loved each other arguing and then reconciling. Perhaps that is why we do not always fight fair; nonetheless, we are learning, and so are our daughter and two sons.

And thank you, staff, for giving us space so we could have this honest - and heated - discussion. You were attentive but not intrusive. It can be hard to have such tension in your establishment, and I can assure you we plan to return without gloves on. That's what reconciliation looks like, and we do it well because we've had a lot of practice.

Gratefully yours,
A couple still in training


Of Lemons and Lost Paychecks

Before the onset of children, my husband sold his reliable red 2003 Ford Focus ZX5 so he could get something bigger, more adult-looking, with more trunk space. He wanted to be able to haul our film equipment more easily, and there were only so many Tetris moves he could do to fit it all in the little hatchback.

And so, of course, we ended up with a bright yellow 2003 Mini Cooper. It met every need on the checklist - except for being bigger, more adult-looking, and having more trunk space. But it looked cool. The controls inside were like a space shuttle. It had leather seats and two moonroofs. The October day we took it home from its private seller, we went for a long drive and dreamt aloud of all the adventures we would take in it.

But first we had to do some minor maintenance. Since it was a BMW product, we had to take it to a special BMW shop. Which we didn't know at first, causing a simple oil change at our regular mechanic to result in a leak. We got that fixed, and a few more things, and we were back on the road. Bob bought cute little Mini Cooper accessories from other enthusiasts and enjoyed his new status of being part of this secret club of car owners.

A month later, we were looking at a positive pregnancy test, then over at the miniscule backseat area, trying to figure out if a carseat could possibly reside there. Around this time, we had to take the car back into the BMW shop for some mystery malfunctions, and we were out another paycheck. But, dang, that car was cool! And so we paid the bill and were back on the road, measuring leg room and evaluating seating arrangements. 

And then the Spring came. We had not fully appreciated that two moonroofs with no shades to close  in Phoenix would bake us alive. The air conditioning did little to cool it, and we couldn't use music to distract ourselves from sticking to the leather seats because some of the radio wires weren't working right.

As I grew in size throughout the pregnancy, I dreaded riding/roasting in the car and then climbing up out of it. The fact that the car was in and out of the shop so frequently canceled any plans to take it on those vacations we'd discussed that first night. So when I took it to get emissions testing done and heard grinding as I turned the steering wheel, I was ready to just park the car and leave the keys on the seat as they had done on the stinky car episode of Seinfeld.

Eventually, we had to accept the Apostle Paul's sentiment, "'I have the right to do anything,' you say--but not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23). We put the car up for sale. It took several months, but it eventually sold - almost one year to the date we had bought it.

And so it is with relationships, my dating friends. If it's a lemon from the beginning, don't buy it. If you're already driving it, sell it. No matter how cool it looks, if all it does is drain you, you'll just keep dumping more into it and longing for the road trips you will never take.


From a mom of 3 under 4 to the incoming grad school student

Below is a letter I posted at my new blog, Verses 3 to 5, where Christian women can post letters to their former selves. God's grace is so good!

Dear 22-year-old Jessy,

First of all, I know how closed you are to advice, especially any that comes from someone who approaches you with an attitude of, "I'm older, so I know." It seems condescending, and I will strive to avoid that here.

You're busy. So very very very busy. And you're going to crash...eventually. If you start now, though, you can build a support system who will surround you and encourage you so you don't break apart upon impact. Yes, that is contrary to your m.o.; you prefer to stay isolated when you're suffering. But that is pride, not wisdom.

Today, you lead a Bible study full of moms of young kiddos, and you divulge embarrassing stuff every week. And it feels good. You've had to ask for their help on several occasions, not the least of these being when you had three little kids and couldn't pull yourself away from the restroom longer than an hour due to a stomach bug that wouldn't quit. These ladies have held you and prayed for you and loved you when you were pregnant with twins, the size of a manatee, wearing your husband's pajamas and no makeup. You want this, but you haven't known what it looks like. Now you do.

So check out your friends. You have a bad feeling about a few of them, but you're not listening to yourself, and you'll regret that. It's not weak or rolling in holy bubble-wrap to have friends who love Jesus, and you don't have to say goodbye to those who don't. But if you take some time to write a mission statement for the next 5 years, align yourself with it, and hold yourself accountable to at least one Jesus-following woman who truly cares about you, you won't end up having to do all the backtracking you'll have to do otherwise. After all, it gets harder to hold it together - "it" includes relationships - the more you alienate people through your intense need for privacy.

Community is a blessing, so get involved with a small group at Genesis now, before you don't have time for it. Get the relationships in place so you can rely on them in the tough spots ahead. This will teach you how to share openly, learn from others, live congruently, prioritize your relationship with Christ, and all kinds of other things you're trying to do on your own. Think about that, Jess: You're trying to be in community by yourself. That's ridiculous.

But you don't have anyone calling you out on it because you're ducking and hiding. Let's call this what it is: Fear. Listen, girl: The God you serve is not one of fear! He is a God of love and grace, and He's bigger than all your bad habits, stupid decisions, and irrationality. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18) That isn't a condemnation of your lack of progress in the journey - it's a call to be perfected even more! He cherishes you and wants this for you! You are the daughter of the King!

So, before you head into not having a life for more years than you yet realize, get your walk with Jesus straight. Relinquish the crazy control you're grasping for - your husband and kiddos (one of whom is banging his head against a glass cabinet right now) will teach you that you don't really have it anyway! - and relax in the path He's designed for you. It will be long, hard work, but you will enjoy it with the right people by your side.

By His grace & in His time,


The Inclusive Misfit

This morning, I watched my firstborn swallow her animated boldness to don the ill-tailored costume of a timid wallflower. It was her first tumbling class, and she was the youngest kiddo, the only new student, and therefore did not yet have a self-selected buddy. She hung back as the more experienced students ran, hopped, and jumping-jacked their way around the small dance studio. And I felt every one of her feelings.

I was a misfit as far back as my memory is reliable. There was nothing more incredible than finding that other misfit and finally having someone to stand next to, someone to giggle with, someone who didn't care about fitting in or adhering to others' standards. Because it wasn't that I wanted to be included with the other girls; I recognized our differences enough to respect the cordial boundaries we set at even the earliest of ages. Still, I consistently yearned for someone who "got" me.

And God was gracious to me in that. I met many other girls and boys, gals and guys, who were just "off" enough to get along with the masses but not go along with them. We formed covalent bonds the likes of which only the marginalized know. But that was not where things ended.

See, it would be too easy to form a sort of reverse-discrimination clique, full of snark toward the rest of normalcy. I saw that kind of thing, I tried it out when I was young and angry, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. No, to be more accurate, it sickened me. Why do to others as it has been done to you?

I serve a Savior who broke bread with tax collectors and prostitutes, a God who loves the downtrodden and the orphans. How then could I isolate and then alienate?

So, instead, these misfit friends and I inadvertently attracted other stragglers - ions, I suppose - into our universe. We created adventures and relationships and conversations that engaged other outcasts. We might as well have carried a blazing neon sign that read, "Feeling left out? Join us!"

And this is the lesson I want to share with my kids. I want to grab each one of them every day and sing to them, "It's okay if you don't fit in. Don't try to! Find others who share your values, your interests, your taste for life, and then journey with them. Bring others along - you are no better or worse than anyone else."

The hard part is that this type of lesson often comes through empathy, which means my words won't be enough. They will need to feel lonely and left out. This tears at my mama heart, and I pray that I won't get in the way of the experiences God puts in their paths to give them a greater sense of compassion. Including today's tumbling class.