10.21.2015

the gift of flawed and chosen family

I’ve laid awake at many a 3 in the morning, heart-broken for the flawed and dysfunctional family my sons get no choice in. The family I got no choice in, or didn’t know I was choosing. Trying to wrap my head around why and how any parent and grandparent would choose themselves over their children and grandchildren. Trying to imagine how wisdom answers the hypothetical answers my son will ask in 2 or 5 or 10 or 20 years.

But that’s not my family, right? And of course, it’s not Jason’s or yours either. Because we all went to church and look super sparkly on Facebook, and the good, “godly” kids like us respect their family name and sing their parents’ praises and work a part-time job polishing their family image. Well here’s the truth folks: While all our parents have some great qualities, they also all have some rough edges. Some perhaps more jagged than others. No one can convince me that there was a more perfect dad on the planet to raise and nurture my heart and spirit and I’m thrilled that he’s also "Pop-pop" to my little guys. Even still, we are who we become partly because of our parents and partly in spite of them, and I find not an ounce of shame in that.  

I will happily be the first to lay down the polish. When you’re heart-broken you don’t have energy for pretense and so I lost the ability a while ago. My family, Jason’s family, is flawed and broken and dysfunctional. After staring into that hard reality many a 3am in which it felt like only a nightmare, I woke up to the gift that is. It’s easy to look at the absence of a family member here or there and see the lack, but I’ve starting noticing what that space is filled with instead - and that is the gift of choice

I get to choose how I want to be treated. 

I get to choose those who are loyal and kind and full of character and wisdom. 

I get to choose, hand-pick even, those people who my sons will look up to and create special names for. 

I get to choose who is trustworthy and privileged to be part of my most vulnerable. 

I get to choose who sits around my table and loves on my babies - and we don’t necessarily have to share any resemblance. 

Some of the people I have chosen I happen to share blood with, and some of the ones I've chosen, I don’t. But how is that any less? What makes us think that there is something in shared blood that creates exceptions? Shared blood doesn’t create loyalty or character or love, though sometimes a common interest of family image management can create the appearance of those things. When those qualities truly indwell a person, it doesn’t take shared blood to draw them out. And if a person doesn’t embody those things, shared blood won’t create them. Yet somehow we’ve come to see this type of blood family as a form of identity that it was never meant to be - that if I can make these people I share a name with appear flawless, then somehow that says something about me. To be quite honest, it’s those glossy families that I’ve become a little leery of the older I get. Sometimes, the more broken, the more the need to create the image of perfection. But the especially beautiful souls who have graced and enriched my life - some blood related and some not- tend to have one thing in common: They are not image managers. 

They own their flaws and brokenness. 

They are the ones who are quick to say sorry and have forgiven before I ask. 

They aren’t in the business of self-promotion. 

They are comfortable in mess, both mine and their own. 

They are comfortable being “in-process” 

... and vulnerable enough to share struggles and doubts while they’re still working through them. 

They are quick to see their flaws and my strengths, and never try to fix me. 

They are the ones I want to become more like.

They are the ones I choose to be family.  

And what an incredible gift! A gift that I share blood with some people like that and a gift that I get to choose rest to fill the empty spaces. I can say that life down here at the bottom, in the humble and messy, it may not be very popular on Facebook or gain you a ton of Instagram followers, but there’s no place I’d rather be. When we trade in likes for the real friends who can weather the storm and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, we find the best kind of family. To be honest, I’d have to say that mine is still small, but growing as I’m learning to trust people again. And one of my favorite things about this kind of family is that (because they don’t care much for image and pretense either) there’s room at the table for you too, and nobody cares if the extra dishes match. It may not be the kind of gathering you can post pictures of to become the envy of all the block, but it’s exactly where I want to eat. It’s where I can be my most authentic, vulnerable self. It’s where I want to raise my kids and navigate the hard questions. 

And y’all, creating that kind of family IS hard work... because it requires all of me, showing up, being willing to be known, risking, rough edges and all. 

It’s built when I choose to pick up the phone and call that friend when I’m about to lose my ever-loving mind instead of checking out and comparing my messy life to someone else’s seemingly greener life on social media. It’s built when I stop trying to impress and invite those friends over at the last minute even when my house is a construction zone and dinner is coming from a box and served on paper. It’s built when instead of judging I see that struggle in you and say “me too.” It’s when I choose to reach out for help instead of pretending to have it all together. It’s when I choose to be the kind of person I want to call family that I participate in creating it - flawed but together, broken but chosen. 


8.04.2015

a tribute to Willow

Some of you may remember way back when we bought Willow (FOUR long years ago) and my blog temporarily turned into a documentary of all our amateur renovations and home improvement projects. Well we just took on a brand new project house, far beyond anything we’ve tackled before… and you’re kidding yourself if you think I’m going to share all this renovation goodness with you!
BUT FIRST!! We stumbled across this album the other night of all the “before” pictures of Willow and our jaws dropped. Even we had started to forget how far she had come and I just couldn’t resist a trip down memory lane with some good ole before and afters - as a tribute to Willow. She’s been so good to us and it makes us so happy knowing that it’s another family’s turn to get to enjoy her. 

















Oh, and the very best thing we got out of living in our first home?! That stray, skinny little 20 pound pup that wandered up looking for a home. Of all the things I’m grateful to Willow for giving us, Mocha pup is the greatest gift of all... and all 95 pounds of her is coming with us!! 




Farewell, sweet Willow. We know you’ll make the lucky next family so happy! 

. . . . .

As we move on to a new chapter, J and I are just so blown away by how purposeful everything has felt.
The timing.
We just. can’t. get over it.

NOTHING about the buying and selling process worked out “as planned” but in retrospect every detail has fallen into place more beautifully than we ever hoped it could. I’m planning on sharing some sneak peaks of new little construction-zone, soon-to-be-home soon. Her name is Evelyn and she’s the perfect place for some fresh beginnings. She’s a major change, a very purposeful downsize into the city (which I can’t wait to share more about) and feels so in alignment with some heart shifts that have been in the works for a while.

5.17.2015

when God doesn’t feel good

Have you ever doubted that God is really good?

I sat in church not too long ago and that line was in a song... or maybe someone said it from the microphone. I don’t remember. Only that instead of that “God is good!” inspiring excitement or hope, it made me really, really angry. I thought about my life, the details that I don’t blog about, the deepest parts of betrayal and wounds that still haven’t healed, the evils that seem entirely unnecessary.

I thought about a family who had just lost their precious little one so tragically. I thought about the documentary I watched about sex trafficking, about children who are practically babies when they’re sold and treated like soulless objects and this is all they know - no way out. I thought about pornography addiction and the millions of people who claim to “follow Christ” - people who go to church and sing those songs and quote bible verses - but instead of liberating the oppressed like Jesus did, they fuel an industry that enslaves the people he gave his life to free. I thought about the stories that don’t have happy endings and the people that die never experiencing what real, human love actually feels like.

How can a good God let those things happen?

I thought about the person who said or sang those words. I don’t know their story, but I thought they certainly don’t have one like mine… and they sure as hell haven’t seen that documentary about sex slavery! I wondered if I’d ever tossed those words around and if anyone who was hurting, doubting, questioning heard them and wanted to punch me in the face.

I actually used to feel comfortable with the god is good crowd. Messy stories that involved suffering made me really uncomfortable. I think it was because I didn’t have any good answers and I felt like I should. I felt like I needed some way to explain the unexplainable to make it have a purpose or happier ending, but I didn’t. I tried, of course, but the “comforting” explanations always felt grossly insufficient at best… even to me. I didn’t know how to help. I didn’t know how to make god good in that scenario.

The past year I’ve become a lot less comfortable around the god is good crowd, and the people with messier stories and lots of questions have started to feel more like home. Once my own life started feeling like a giant cosmic mistake, I finally saw what I’d been missing before when I was so eager to offer “help” and answers. People in the middle of mess don’t need quick fixes and pretty answers or bows to put on top of their crap. They need safe people with whom to ask their questions and have their doubts and not be alone. They need to be surrounded by humans who believe in something non-human that’s big enough to handle tough questions without any good answers. And generally speaking, those are the ones who have walked through a lot of messy things either themselves, or intimately with others.

I’m starting to wonder if the peace that heals our deepest spiritual unrest isn’t in theology, but relationships.  It’s awfully hard to find Jesus in isolation and even harder to live like him alone. What if our spiritual understanding can only grow as deeply as we plant safe people in our lives and offer our vulnerable, unfiltered selves to them? What if it’s our overly-simplistic answers rather than our wildly honest questions that have been keeping us from experiencing community? I think it’s interesting that in the gospels, Jesus wasn’t offended or put off by people with doubts and questions… his response was always come and see, come and follow, join this community, learn from me, let’s have dinner. And the people who had all the answers and looked down on the ones who were asking bold questions? Jesus used some strong and vivid language to call them out and cursed them for being oppressors, making a show of their religion, and keeping people from God.

So why do we feel this need to defend God or be able to explain him? Why did I feel the need? Maybe its just the human condition - fear of what we don’t understand, a need to make meaning of things, a desire for predictable outcomes and reasons we can wrap our brains around or fit into tidy equations. Whatever the reason, I’m working on being okay in the discomfort of a God who is bigger and less explainable than I once thought. I’m struggling to find peace while I have zero answers. I'm getting more comfortable admitting that sometimes God feels trustworthy and safe, and sometimes it feels like my life is screwed over for his glory and I don’t want any part of it.

But most of all, I’m finding that sometimes faith isn’t about creating reasons or answers for God. Sometimes it looks like having faith that the God I’m struggling to trust is big enough to handle my honest doubts. Could mustard seed type faith in some seasons mean risking being painfully vulnerable, laying down my bare, open questions before I have a chance to polish them up to make them "doctrinally sound”? I think my mustard seeds look an awful lot like that right now. And if that’s the season that you’re in too, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I don’t have answers to make the unthinkable make sense, but I’m honored to sit in the unpolished vulnerable with you as we ask our questions and have our doubts. Together.

4.07.2015

sunshine season

We got a letter in the mail a little while back. It was hand written in ink, and splotched with tears by the end. The kindest, most heart-felt encouragement from ones we’re so lucky to call family. That letter stayed on our fridge for a long while, then moved to the drawer, then a box where we keep all the words that somehow transcend language and speak directly to the heart. And even after that letter was in the box the part I kept revisiting was this beautiful analogy about seasons of life. About times of struggle and working land and planting seeds and making roots go deep… while other season are blossoms and sunshine and enjoying the fruit.

Last year was one long season of hard work. 
The work of separating truth from lies 
The work of recovery 
The work of healing 

And now it’s almost as if, ushered in with the physical season that embodies rebirth and life after a long winter, our life has followed suit. 

If you had told me last Easter that in one year I’d get the opportunity to hear my husband share a small bit of his story with our church and then be baptized I wouldn't have believed it. If you had told me that I would get to witness the change in his heart that would literally transform and rebirth our marriage into something it had never been before, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. If you had told me that I would be pregnant with our (surprise!) second baby and that we would be thrilled about it, I would have thought you were out of your ever loving mind. But sure as all this green sprouts up and buds open and sunshine warms skin, this season of life is growing into one of overwhelming gratitude for blessings upon blessings upon blessings. 

And God keeps reminding me that he was still every bit as good the night Jason left. He was just as good when I didn’t see any hope for my marriage or husband to change. He was just as good when I felt my life shatter. There is blessing even when all I have to cling to is his character. He is every bit as good and faithful and near in the tears as he is in the dancing… But there’s something really magical that happens in the place where those two meet. 

Hurt and healing. 

Doubt and faith. 

Struggle and grace. 

Human and divine. 

Burden and blessing. 

Winter and spring. 

We walked around the block last night, drunk on star light and the lavish nature of God's love and brilliance displayed in every detail of the universe. I held that man’s hand and felt all the gratitude that God so big comes to rest inside my chest and whisper to my soul and chooses something like my marriage to be the analogy for how he loves his broken people, the church. 

video


This guy, you guys. Never have I known him to be who he is. This transparent, honest, humble, bold, spiritually awake and full of love and compassion. And joy overflows!!! What can separate from the love of God who pursues?! What height or depth or darkness it too far for him to climb into and surround us with grace?! What addiction can he not break? What hurts can he not heal?

2.16.2015

love lessons

The past year has been one incredible teacher. Thinking back on how my perspective has shifted I just want to catalog and share a few lessons I’m learning on love. I hope they encourage and challenge your heart as much as they have mine.
. . . . .


How we love says everything about us and nothing about the people we choose to or not to love. 

There are some personalities that I get along with particularly well - people who take little to no work or intentionality to love. But divine love doesn’t just pick and choose those people or what’s easy. It doesn’t discriminate any more than God’s love discriminates. 

Scripture says that love is this:
Even if we live as his enemy, God chooses to love us still.
Through his eyes there is neither jew nor greek, slave not free, male nor female.
We are all equal because we are all equally loved by him, all with equal access to his grace.
Then it begs the question, “If you love only those who love you, how are you anything like the Jesus?”
Love your enemies. 
Do good to those who hate you. 
Bless those who curse you. 
Pray for those who mistreat you. 

So if I am choosing to love this one but not that one, then what I’m calling “love” isn’t from God, it’s merely sentiment centered around my feelings. Rather than being an expression of the divine, I re-create the divine in my image to suit my purposes, but fail to change the terminology. Some relationships are toxic and in those instances love may even look like distance to create space for healing or even letting go. Love doesn’t mean I give up boundaries and allow everyone equal access to my life, time, resources. What it does mean is that the way I see every person I come into contact with should be as if I were looking at them through the eyes of God; who doesn’t just overlook flaws as if they weren’t there, but also doesn’t create any prerequisites for one to be worthy of love. He simply loves - because that's who he is - regardless of who we are or how we respond. To love like him means that when my head hits the pillow at night, my heart is at peace with the people in my life - regardless of their behavior towards me - because I choose to tap into divine love. And divine love changes the person who channels it. It means that my thought processes are free from bitterness, jealousy, judgement, and resentment. It means that my well of forgiveness is as limitless as God’s. If I ever hit a point where I refuse to love or forgive, it says nothing about the person I don’t want to love or forgive, and everything about the state of my heart. 

When I first found out that Jason had been unfaithful in our marriage it was sometimes tempting to think that his choice to not love me or Eli made some kind of declaration to the world about us. The thought also crossed my mind, “What does this say about me that this is the person I chose to love?”
Both of those are thought patterns are deeply flawed. The fact that I chose to love Jason in the past says everything about the desire of my heart and the source of my love. It says nothing about Jason. The fact that Jason chose to not love me and Eli in the past says everything about the desire of his heart and the source of his love. It says nothing about me or Eli. Those truths are HARD and don’t always jive with my feelings. It’s especially difficult when other people ignorantly confirm those lies that satan tries to make us believe: 
“They don’t love you because of who you are or what you’ve done” 
“You don’t have to love them because of who they are or what they’ve done” 
But whatever version of that lie he may choose to whisper, it cannot coexist alongside the recognition of every human being as an image bearer of the divine - including ourselves. And divine love is as unlimited as God himself. “But this is how we know that we have passed from darkness into light: We love. Anyone who does not love remains in darkness.” 


Our expectations say a lot about the source of our love. 

Can I just be totally honest and tell you how many times I've felt like I was loving someone out of a pure motive, but then the minute they didn’t respond how I think they should I felt the impulse to withdraw? I want the “sacrifice” of how I’m loving to be seen, appreciated and reciprocated. And when it isn’t, I feel like the victim of some minor injustice... “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?!"

That’s my sign to get out the scissors and clip all those strings (which somehow manage to regenerate like those of reptiles that can regrow tails or something)… because love that is from God doesn’t come with strings attached. 

I know it in my heart, but those lingering parts of me that still desire the occasional validation from other people get focused on reactions and results. When that happens it feels like other people are the problem… like they are robbing me of something I deserve. But the truth is that I’m the one allowing myself to be robbed by my own misapplied need for validation. Because validation is a real need, it can feel more like a friend than a thief in those moments, but when I give other humans the job of fulfilling a spiritual need in my life, I’ve made my needs god. As long as I’m operating from that place, I will eventually end up deeply hurt and disappointed. Nothing anyone does will ever be quite enough. We all know what it feels like to be on the other end of that kind of “love” as well. It’s that feeling that no matter what you do, there’s always something you should have done differently - and so you’re left waiting for the other foot to drop. Every action is under a microscope, analyzed, compared and judged by how it makes them feel. Those strings will eventually strangle every bit of life out of the relationships they’re attached to, and the person holding the strings (along with the corpses of relationships tangled up in them) is still left unsatisfied. 

On the other hand, when I practice letting go of my expectations of how others “should” respond, I finally get to experience the joy and freedom of simply channeling divine love. That kind is bottomless and comes with zero expectation and is near impossible to offend, because it’s completely polar to the entitlement mentality (though it also doesn’t negate the need for boundaries or self-respect). It’s simply me offering up my life and words and actions as a vessel through which God channels his unlimited love to the world. And in one of those paradoxes of the gospel, that kind of being continually poured out is where fulfillment is actually found. Of course there are times that I stop the flow and start viewing love as if it’s currency - as if it has scarcity and can be wasted. I get preoccupied with where my love is going and start attaching strings to it so I can track my investments. And that is precisely the moment that the source of my love becomes limited, stifled, cut off from the source. 

I’m learning that beautiful, masterful art of staying open to the endless, abounding, liberating, love that only comes from the divine. I’m working on staying tapped in even when I feel threatened. I’m learning to remain open even when I feel hurt and betrayed and want to close myself off from the world. I’m practicing love within some healthy boundaries while not allowing my heart to become bitter towards people who may not understand or respect my decisions. I’m finding the words of CS Lewis to be so true, that “love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.” I’m learning to continue practicing my art of divine love even when it gets criticized and judged. I’m learning to be proud of who I am and who I’m becoming without looking to others for validation. I’m learning to love without strings. 

How we love is a direct window into our spiritual awareness. 

If you’ve talked to Jason in the past 8 months, you know he’s not the same person he used to be. He’s putting a ton of work into recovery, and though he’s probably more sleep deprived than he’d admit, he is more centered, at peace, happy, optimistic, loving and forgiving than I’ve ever known him to be. Excluding his persistent love for bacon and grandpa cardigans, he is an entirely different kind of human. I’ve seen him choose love and forgiveness over bitterness over and over and over again. And as I watch it unfold, as I watch him learn to source his love from the divine unlimited, I’m reminded of my own journey. I’m reminded of how loved I am. How patient God has been with me. How much grace I’ve received while I wasn’t even aware of how much I needed it. My heart overflows with gratitude, and loving and forgiving begin to feel less like obligation and more like opportunity - a beautiful chance to draw divine energy from the one who is unlimited and mirror what he’s done for me. 

Scripture says that anyone who has been forgiven much, loves much. That love for other people is the tell of a Jesus lover. A follower of Jesus who doesn’t love every human they cross paths with is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. For me, finding enlightenment could be summed up as this: I am more sinful and flawed in myself than I ever dared believe, yet at the very same time more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than I ever dared hope (paraphrasing Tim Keller). It’s simply that I see myself through God’s eyes and by extension, every other human on the planet. When I realize how irrationally I am loved, I begin to embody that love - in my breath and work, attitude and art, in every conversation, commute, and conflict - I am the essence of divine love. The truest expression of how honestly I see myself and how clearly I see God, is how I embody love.


. . . . .

And it’s all still in process… As I ask Jason and people I trust to be my mirror, as I ask God to shape my heart to be more like his, as I think back on the day and know I could have been more patient/kind/loving, it’s all in process. If I were trying to live every truth spoken to my heart out of sheer will power I would end every day feeling as if I completely and utterly failed. The truth is that God doesn’t require anything of me that his spirit inside me isn’t capable of accomplishing. So I lean into the strength of his spirit in me. Then at the end of the day when loving felt more like work than art and I am keenly aware of how imperfectly I loved, the same spirit also gives me the ability to catch a glimpse of myself through the eyes of God, who completely adores my in-process, rough-around-the-edges self. As I grow in grace and love towards myself more, perhaps I’ll find over the weeks and months and years that the practice of loving myself as God loves me - imperfect and in process - was the greatest spiritual practice for learning to loving others while they too remain imperfect and in process. 

1.20.2015

it is well

grander earth has quaked before
moved by the sound of his voice
and seas that are shaken and stirred 
can be calmed and broken for my regard

and through it all
through it all my eyes are on you
and through it all 
though it all it is well
through it all
through it all my eyes are on you
and it is well with me

far be it for me to not believe
even when my eyes cannot see
and this mountain that’s in front of me
will be thrown into the mist of the sea

and through it all
through it all my eyes are on you
and through it all 
though it all it is well
through it all
through it all my eyes are on you
and it is well with me

so let go my soul and trust in him 
waves and wind still know his name




1.12.2015

the enemy of grace

Everyone has a darker default.  For some it’s place they traveled through and emerged from and never want to return. For others it’s a comfort zone they visit from time to time. But we all know that darkness. I began the journey away from my own a long time ago, and though the past year has expedited that process, there are still some minor scars and tendencies, and I’m sort of recovering.

A recovering legalist, to be specific.

I never would have called it that in a million years while I was there. I didn’t even recognize it because my intentions were so good. At least that’s what I thought. Even though it wasn’t my home culture, after a long while of being steeped in good-intentioned church culture it just started seeping in and I didn’t even know it. I couldn’t identify the symptoms other than this vague feeling of God being “so far away” and of feeling “lifeless” “stifled” “worn-out.” I didn’t fit the typical definition of what I would have considered legalism: placing more emphasis of actions than heart. And I didn’t think it described me at all because I was doing a lot of good things, with a lot of heart. It wasn’t about appearance or competing. It was because I really believed in what I was doing and I really wanted the best for other people too.

After the truth about J’s past came out, it threw me into the this deep re-examination of everything I had ever believed, trusted. That’s when I started noticing this theology inside me that played out in really subtle, but significant ways. Before my life was so violently derailed, I thought I was partly responsible for how good it was going. I would never have said it quite like that. I would have said, “I’ve been so blessed” but the theology that held up that belief was built with some flawed bricks. Like the one that said because I made good choices, God blessed me. 

And this is where it gets dicy (as if it wasn’t enough already). Because I do think there are some general principles in life that can help us out if we get on board. For example, most of the time if you’re kind to people they will be kind back. But the problem is that there’s no guarantee of that. In fact, a lot of times you can be sweet as sugar and people will straight up spit in your face. Which isn’t a big deal if you’re being nice because of some bigger principle you’re living by. But when you’re doing it based on the expectation of a particular result - something we think we deserve in return - then the second we get spat on it’s going to totally throw us off our game.

And that’s what happened to me. I was doing a lot of good things for a lot of good reasons, with a lot of expectations for good results. AND THAT IS LEGALISM. And there are a few facets to it that I can now finally identify as I shake off this old self:

Legalism is a form of self-protection. If I believe that I am partially responsible for the good in my life (even if it’s just at the 10% level) then it makes it a bit easier to distance myself from those who are struggling. I trade in compassion and activism for what can seem like realism but is really just legalism in disguise. It’s like a disease in uppity culture and I heard it so many times that eventually became the whisper inside my own brain:

“Maybe they're homeless because they’re too lazy to get a job”

“She probably wouldn’t have been raped if she hadn’t been hanging out with those people/at that place/wearing those clothes”

“I doubt he would have ever cheated on her if she had/hadn’t ______”

“Anyone can get out of poverty if they work hard enough. Racism doesn’t have THAT big of impact on someone's climb out of poverty.”

Distancing distancing distancing. Because it makes me uncomfortable. So I choose to believe that "those people” somehow have something to do with the struggle in their life. Because if those people are partly responsible for the struggle, then I feel less vulnerable to the struggle myself. Because I make all the right choices, remember? So I’ve got good things on the way. If I believe that life is generally fair and God blesses those who make good choices then I can use my theology to tragedy-proof my good life with good choices that bring God’s blessings. And I feel less responsibility to do something about the suffering I see around me.

The problem with that theology is that is it’s no where to be found in the gospel. And is actually pretty antagonistic to the message of the gospel when we get right down to it.


Grace is highly uncomfortable and unwelcome by those of us still trying to be a superior kind of human being and meet God half way. Because the enemy of grace isn’t atheism, but legalism. I remember having this image of salvation at one point that looked like me "drowning in a sea of sin,” my head just clearing the surface enough to gasp for air then being engulfed by another wave… until Jesus throws out this life preserver and saves me, pulling me onto his yacht.


Cute, right?

It’s this idea that I had some good things going before God got my heart. I had some great traits, but Jesus really polished them up. The problem with that picture is that it's nothing like the one the bible paints. It says that while were dead, Christ died for us so that we can be raised to life with him. D E A D. That means I wasn’t treading water when Jesus found me. I was sunk to the bottom, lifeless, tangled up in the muck like one of those horrifying scenes from Sherlock or CSI. And Jesus didn’t throw away a life preserver to lend me a hand. He threw away his life to save mine… while I was dead. I had nothing to do with it. Which is such a freeing and awesome thing to embrace once I’m comfortable with my powerlessness to save my own skin. It’s unbelievable to be THAT loved. To be THAT worth it to someone THAT perfect. But is really uncomfortable if I’m still holding on to that cute whiteboard, stick-figure drawing of Jesus in his boat shoes, on his swank yacht with the life preserver.

Once I embrace the grace thing and stop trying to be worthy and just rest in the fact the he says I already am because he adores me, then love and peace and joy in spite of my circumstances are natural outpourings. Obedience doesn’t feel like obligation but opportunity. And the choices I make don’t come with expectant strings attached. Where do we get this idea that obedience comes with any form of expectation? The crazy thing is that I didn’t even know I had those expectations... until they weren’t met. In fact, I got the very opposite of what I was expecting.

Sometimes you do all the right things and all hell breaks loose in your life and you end up surrounded by a complete shit storm and God’s blessing comes in the form of his presence closer than your skin while you’re in the middle of the hurricane.

Sometimes you follow the Spirit right into poverty or disaster or loss or being betrayed and misunderstood and God’s blessing comes in the form of completely unexplainable peace.

(Doesn’t make a great church flyer, but it’s more honest than most I’ve seen.)

And sometimes we lie and break our promises and hurt the people we were supposed to protect and what we get from God for all our screw-ups is Jesus’ blood poured out and in exchange for the absolutely nothing we have to offer, and are given the opportunity to be adopted, to be called his son or his daughter.

Sometimes people hurt and betray us and the life we dreamed of falls completely apart and God’s blessing is that we get to say: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead. 

1.01.2015

piling up stones

In the old testament, after God did something big, his people were always stopping and piling up rocks and for a long time I didn’t really get it. I didn’t see the significance in a pile of stones. Then I read this line in Joshua:

“In the future your children will ask you, ‘what do these stones mean?’ then you can tell them…”

This blog is one of those piles of stones, but the funny thing is that we started making it sort of by accident. I mean, the being super transparent about our lives with the whole world isn’t even close to an accident, but it wasn’t something that we did “for our children.” We actually didn’t do it for anyone, to be perfectly honest. It was more just something God kept nudging us both to do so we did… without understanding even all of the “why.”

Oswald Chambers wrote this really beautiful thing about obedience and God. And I just need to add in the name of transparency that I really don’t like the word “obedience” in general. It has this connotation of me not doing what I want, which is entirely against everything inside me, naturally. But that’s also why I think what OC wrote is so moving.

"If my relationship to Him [God] is that of love, I will do what he says without hesitation… He will never force me… But if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. When God’s redemption brings a human soul to the point of obedience, it always produces. If I obey Jesus Christ, the redemption of God will flow through me to the lives of others, because behind the deed of obedience is the reality of Almighty God."

Pinholes, through which I see the face of God. It gives me chill bumps, because I know with every atom in my body that THAT is what this journey is about. How people respond to our obedience in sharing it - be it positive or negative - is obsolete, because that isn’t the why, and if it ever becomes the why then we’ve missed it. It’s about the pinholes, then all the rest is a bonus… and that’s where the piles of stones thing comes in.

Jason and I were talking this week about the impact of our public transparency on Eli. Like, will he be able to live it all down or will it be this dark cloud over his life? What will happen when he knows the truth about Jason’s past? And the answer that came was so loud and clear it just kept ringing in our ears and was all we could hear for days…

“How small do we think God is??!”

Big enough to rescue Jason from his past and remake our lives into a picture of redemption, yet not big enough to allow that redemption to flow through us to our son?! It’s almost laughable. The more Jason and I talk about it, the more we realize this isn’t something that we’ll just stop talking about one day. It’s part of the story that we’ll tell our kids and grandkids and anyone else who asks. It’s a story that Eli will hear about more than the stories that Disney, Pixar, or Marvel made up. This one is important and full of hope and truth more than any superhero fairytale.

The challenge in that is that it holds us to this standard of authenticity rather than perfection. Which is great and terrible. If I’m relying on half truths about myself and my marriage to inflate my image in an attempt to conjure respect in my son, that “respect” will be awfully short-lived at best. Authenticity is what earns true respect - the kind that can’t be stripped away. But it also requires the guts to say “I was totally and completely wrong… I messed up here… I wish I could change that… I’m sorry.” It also means letting go of the image that we have it all together - all the answers, a perfect marriage - and that’s really vulnerable. It means trading in control and image management for trust. But the longer I’m a parent the deeper this truth sinks into my heart: Children don’t need perfect parents. It's not even what they want. That’s not the standard God calls us to, but for some reason it seems to be one I try to hold myself to. The funny thing is that when I think back about the moments that made me think “I have the best dad in the entire world”… it wasn’t the times when he gave me stuff or got public accolades for being awesome. It was when I felt frustrated, confused, angry, not-enough, vulnerable, and instead of trying to guide me from a distance, he stepped into the brokenness with me and made himself vulnerable and said "I totally know how that feels, I’ve been there too. I don’t have all the answers, but I trust and believe in you completely." Which is also pretty much the parent-child picture of what Jesus did when he stepped down from heaven into human skin and said, "I’m done guiding from a far… I’m in this with you now."

I think when we're fearless and humble enough to be vulnerable about our brokenness and God’s grace right up in the middle of it, it creates this brokenness-grace collision. And that collision results in an entirely different kind of human and it can’t be faked, especially to a child. I hope that our relationship with Eli is forever marked by what happened in May, because it changed everything about the expectations and atmosphere of our home. We’re learning to care less and less about reputation and instead our gauge of how am I doing? is "am I being completely authentic? Am I recklessly following the truth God speaks to my heart? Does my life look more or less like Jesus than it did yesterday?" That’s the kind of parent I want to be. That’s the kind of wife and friend I want to be. When Eli asks about the stones we piled up in simple obedience and we tell him our story, I hope that what he sees will actually be nothing new. Just imperfect parents who are wholly in love with, resting in, and consumed by the unrelenting love a completely perfect God.

12.01.2014

why I keep talking about our marriage

Sometimes I think about the choice we’ve made to be so open about our marriage and I look around and think, but nobody else is doing this and I ask God if he’s sure.

This method surely isn’t the way to create a masterpiece of a reputation. Sometimes I would prefer to see it all as bad people doing bad things and good people fixing them. Or maybe just move on and pretend it never happened in an attempt to avoid the social taboos and what-ifs. It would be way less risky. It would make way more sense. It would allow me to side-step my fears of being misunderstood and judged. But then I look at who God is and what he’s done and is doing and remember why we keep talking about his miracles. We’re first hand whitenesses to the most outlandishly grace-filled experience of our lives and to be quiet is also the most unnatural, selfish thing I could fathom.

After Jason read my draft of the first blog I posted - letting the world into the most intimately difficult part of our lives - he said something I’ll never forget:

I’m more than happy to sacrifice the shell of a reputation I had built to showcase God’s grace and redemption in my life

And I thought, woah. am I willing to do that?! willing to risk that big? be THAT honest?? And I decided that I was and we were and we kept choosing that path over and over again until it became our banner of sorts… saying this is so broken, but look at what God is doing right in the middle of it all!!! 

I’ve been reading a book called Redemption and it draws this rich parallel between our struggle of being human - of being both the offended and the offender, the betrayed and the betrayer - and the Israelites’ journey out of slavery into the promised land. Maybe it’s as a result of too many G-rated versions of bible stories, or maybe it’s just our natural inclination to identify ourselves with "the good guy” in the stories and see others as "the bad guy,” but the problem with the Bible when you actually read the whole thing, is that everyone is really screwed up. Really. The hero from one story just straight up murdered someone in the previous chapter, and the only thing that separates the two is some outlandish intervention of God’s grace that never would have worked if the person had had the audacity to ask for it.

I just need to pause for one second here and acknowledge how tempting and ridiculous it is to see ourselves as Jesus' little helper rather than an entirely undeserving, wildly lucky beneficiary of his grace. We start thinking that we have it “in with God” and focus in so hard on being the light, that we blur out the need to be increasingly enlightened ourselves. And by we I mean me. I’m talking about those thoughts with an undertone of thank goodness God has me, which sounds so absurd I’d really love to backspace that line and save face, but I’d be lying to say that feeling hasn’t flashed through my body. It shows up when I get angry when people don’t recognize or appreciate the work i’m putting in… "for God!" It shows up when I overemphasize the impact of my actions in the overall outcome. It shows up when I talk about the problems with humanity like I’m not part of it.

The longer I read the bible, the more the idea of good guys and bad guys gets lost and the only theme I can find is God pursuing people and rescuing them out of their own shit for his glory. And frankly, that’s the only theme I can really find in my own. Because that’s at the core of our day-in, day-out reality. We dance around in the kitchen in sock feet while we’re pretending to clean and it’s nothing but grace. We tromp through the woods together with Eli and Mocha and it’s nothing but grace. We sip hot drinks with friends and family and try to keep laughter from spilling out of our mouths to keep from waking a sleeping baby in the next room and it’s nothing but grace. We stay up until the a.m. snuggling by the fire and spilling our guts, nothing hidden, and those hours pass like minutes and it’s nothing but grace. We go on dates to Costco and play up and down the isles and it’s nothing but grace. We come home and bathe a baby and get soaked from his splashes and bath-time escapades and chase that naked kid around the house with a towel and it’s nothing but grace. We’re living together again and it’s nothing but grace. 

And you may be sick of hearing about grace, but I’m just going to keep on talking about it because it’s as tangible as the dishes in my kitchen sink, paw prints on the floor, and chickens pecking at the backdoor. There are some days that are really, really hard. There are still times when I think about the affairs and lies and I want to throw up. When I see wedding stuff I fight this wave of cynicism and feel incredible sadness that the memories of my own are so tainted. Looking back at pictures is still crazy hard. But then I look at Jason and he’s not the same. Not even close. I’m not the same either. I think about what I know of God now that I only ever knew with my mind before and now it’s tattooed all over the scars on my heart… how he has proven so trustworthy, unshakable, faithful and grace is the only word I know for all of that. That he was able to take all this devastation and pain and transform it from an enemy into a teacher… I can see grace in that. I don’t know how to authentically share even a shred of what’s actually going on in our lives without talking about it. 

True friends who will walk through this kind of crap with you are irreplaceable. Therapy can provide a lot of insight and we’ve spent a fortune on that. Workbooks on addiction and redemption and marriage are all awesome. But the truth is that without God meeting Jason right in the middle of the complete filth he was drowning in and giving him a new heart and new mind and making him want Jesus more than the next breath (and giving me the ability to take my eyes off of Jason and fixate them on Jesus), all the rest, as great as it is, would be about as helpful as a raincoat in a hurricane.

I can take you back to those nights sitting in a dark bedroom, alone, with a sleeping baby by my side… wondering where I should apply for jobs and where I would leave Eli when I went back to work and where we would live... The conversations with a lawyer about custody and trying to determine what would be best for Eli as he grew up. It felt like there was no good way out. Like I was trapped between an army and an ocean. So I took our wedding picture out of it’s frame on our nightstand and wrote the verse from Exodus (having no clue how significant that story would be to me months later): 

The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. 

And after days and weeks of feeling closed in and trapped on all sides, God parted a whole freaking ocean and gave me a new husband and I can’t type about it or talk about it or even think about it without feeling completely engulfed by grace and gratitude. After the Israelites were rescued from their slave masters through their own sea that God literally parted in two, they threw a party and there was dancing and music and it sounds like it was wild and wonderful. They didn’t just move right along, saying a quiet prayer of thanks in their hearts. There weren’t any heads bowed or eyes closed, and keeping it all private. It was straight up shouting and singing and dancing and it wasn’t quiet. There were tambourines for crying out loud! Our rejoicing isn’t very quiet either. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t scars or that there isn’t still some really difficult work ahead, it just means that we aren’t letting the past or the unknown quiet our songs of gratitude for what God is doing. right. now. 

11.06.2014

on mountain climbing and forgiving

I wanted to let you all into some of the aftermath of healing since we decided to share our story, and what our life looks like these days. A lot of people have asked me how you forgive something like that. The truth is that there are still times when memories from the past swirl around in my mind like ghosts and I get all hung up on thoughts like:
Why did I not act on that feeling that something was off?
Why did I let her in that picture or video that I’ll now have to photoshop her out of or sharpie her face at the very least?
Why did I not call them both out in front of everyone?
Why was I so polite and decent to her on the phone after I found out and why didn’t I beat the crap out of her? 

I’m generally a more decent human being in the moment than my retrospect would like. Sometimes to my disappointment, but always by God’s grace. And lately I’m becoming more grateful that I didn’t cut her hair off with kitchen sheers. Something like this was the style I fantasized about for a while:


As good as that would have felt at the time, as things are I don’t have anything to apologize for... which is hard when I’m angry, but good when I remember that my job isn’t justice. That’s in God’s hands and timing. And he’s reeeeeeally patient… so much more patient than I would like. Because I want justice NOW. 

Then I remember that that used to be me too. 

I didn’t chase after another woman’s husband, but I have chased worthless, selfish crap at the expense of my soul and the people I love. I’ve chased building a reputation. I’ve chosen safety, predictability and comfort over faith and risk. My heart has chased after religion, morality, and self-righteous filth. I’ve been unfaithful before to the most faithful God imaginable… And if justice was immediate, I wouldn’t have had a chance... 

BUT GOD
who is faithful 
abounding in love 
slow to anger
unreasonably patient
overflowing in grace 
While I was choosing everything but him, was still loving me and pursuing me. 

And I look back and realize that I’m not even close to the same person I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even 5 months ago, not because of justice, but because of grace. When I look at it all through that lense, I don’t see what other people have done to me as much as what God has done for me. Me. Who’s heart used to be just as dark. Who has the same capacity for sick, ugly, stupid, destructive sin as anyone… but as I get more swept up in what God is like and how freaking unreasonable his love is for me, the more it elbows out anything else in my heart before it can take root. 

Sorting through all the hurt and trying to heal and forgive is still really really hard work. But there are some other things that are bigger than the past. WAY bigger. Like what God is doing with our family. How Jason is less and less like the person I used to know each day I watch him live. Like the letters and messages and phone calls from people I never expected to hear from that spill over with vulnerability and encouragement. How my heart is waking up in new ways and I’m actually pursuing some dreams, chasing down some feelings that I finally have words for and discovering the unfathomable joy that comes from being vulnerable and authentic even when it’s ugly, even at the risk of criticism, and regardless of anyone’s opinion. 

So currently, we’re focused on the healing and the miracles God is going right in front of our faces. There is still a pretty big mountain ahead of us to climb, but the higher we go the more the negativity is like an ant in the shadow of Everest. So we just focus on the next step and the next and the next. And mostly the miracle that we’re even still climbing together.