Monday, March 27, 2017

When a Slippery Slope Changed Our Faith:


As a family, we have grown together over the past four years in our faith dialogue.  There have been growing pains for sure.  For instance, Phil and I started our first year of homeschooling as Old Earth Creationists and interpreted the Genesis story fairly literally.  Now we accept evolution in its entirety--all the way down to the shared genes with primates.  Our kids have watched and listened as we shifted and changed our direction over the years.  They’ve been a huge part of the story.  I like that they have walked it with us.  We’ve explored hard things together, re-shaped our limited literal view of the bible, and talked openly about hard topics (abortion, sexuality, other faiths-- all of it).  

I remember at the beginning of the shifting, someone telling us to be careful about the ‘slippery slope.’  It supposedly started with gender-role equality in church and marriage, problems with inerrancy, then the evolutionary science in which you no longer see Adam and Eve as historical figures, an acceptance of homosexuals, and finally you just give up on Jesus.  Because you’ve messed with the bible so much, you can no longer figure out which parts are eternally true and which parts are antiquated storytelling.  

The words “slippery slope” are thrown around in Christian circles usually with little understanding of the actual processes involved in the so called ‘sliding.’  The short sighted assumption is that one or two small shifts in belief lead to a tremendous descent into a very unbiblical spirituality.  The term keeps us in check because it instills fear.  We want to have a valid faith, so we stay away from the cliffs.  We want to be poster Jesus followers, so we do not play by the edge.  The funny thing is that Jesus lived his life at the bottom.  Over and over, he is creating space in the low places and then saying, “This is where I’ll be.”  I like to think most religious people 2,000 years ago watched and listened to Jesus and thought, that guy is on the slippery slope. 


As my own faith started painfully shifting, I hoped I could allow some alterations, but remain secure on the summit of faith…that I could adjust my sails a little (like be a Jesus feminist or accept evolution), but I would not slide down to the bottom (accept homosexuality or consider the possibility that other faith traditions are honored by God).  Little by little, even as I dug my heels in and tried scratching my way back to higher places, I could feel the descent.  I hate rollercoasters and I detest the freefall rides.  I involuntarily curse a lot on these things.  My kids count the curses and tell me afterwards how many times I said ‘shit.’  God has heard me curse a lot over the last four years, too.  

The reality is that I cannot invalidate or deny that some progression occurs-- all things are connected in some way.  My favorite word in the whole English vocabulary is ‘sonder’.  It is defined as follows:  n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.  When I was a kid, and we were driving in the dark of the evening, my mom would always comment how she loved to peek in the windows of the houses we passed.  The lights were on, window curtains pulled back.  And sometimes the old house we saw a hundred times before, the one that looked only semi-cared for or maybe a little broken down, would come to life.  People would be sitting around a table.  Walls were filled with photos, candles twinkled.  I looked forward to certain houses, because I knew they were alive inside.  Glowing.  I am learning to start here with myself and others—assume that we are all a complex mix of story, experience, and light and not a mere structure of mostly correct or terribly incorrect thinking, that we all have truth to offer.  

A few years ago, I found a blogpost that didn’t just critique the slippery slope, but formulated a better shape and understanding of it.  The graph was specifically addressing inerrancy, but I think it offered me a sigh of relief at the time.  Since then, I picture the “slippery slope” as a soundwave.  My faith has a frequency, a heartbeat.  Some days I live in the valleys and feel more like an atheist or agnostic than a Christian.  I’ve tried holding on to certain narratives or doctrines I thought were untouchable or somehow validated my faith before others, but eventually my stubborn fingers relent, my hands open, and I’m left with what feels like emptiness in this place.  But, I’ve learned through it all, this is never the end.  Something far more rich and wide is always given back to me.  And my faith swells and deepens-- and then I find myself rising again.  Valleys and mountaintops.  Darkness and light.  Doubting and trusting.  

I listened to a podcast this week where Rob Bell talked about pinning down a butterfly.  By the time you’ve got the thing pinned still, it’s already dead.  I’m not trying to pin down my beliefs anymore.  I feel safe to live in freedom.  I believe in a God big enough to love me even when I’m wrong or still figuring things out.  


So as we have moved and talked as a family unit, all while our individual hearts shift and beat inside us, we do not fear the ‘descent.’  It is where we have met God.  Two weeks ago, Niamh sat in the truck with me, and somehow homosexuality came up.  We talked about different viewpoints, our own consciences, and that we should believe first in a good, loving God.  She told me “I’ve never really thought about it as bad, mom.  I think there are really good families who have two dads or two moms.”  And I exhaled a little.  We are okay with our kids treading these places now.  Working out their faith.  Owning their belief system.  I’m thankful for a daughter who believes in goodness and grace and thinks through nuances and complexities rather than seeing the world in black and white.  She will offer tired souls a safe place.  She will see people and not labels or stereotypes.  She will know that as you turn the prism of a life, you see a million hues and a spectrum of light-- and we are not structures only, but unfolding stories, too.  

I think there are many families who hold hands and cross, together, the lines that neatly defined their faith years ago.  It is a sacred thing to do with children-- navigate the hard places in freedom and grace.  I believe in it.  Too many millennials are leaving church because in their youth they were given a box that contained a statement of faith, some creeds, and God himself.  Eventually, life, experience, and the secular world shakes the box apart, and we realize it only housed a God we had made for ourselves: easy, safe, and obvious.  But I get super excited over this place—the messy, ‘slippery slope’, upended faith place.  If we celebrated these parts of the faith journey, people could be included not excluded.  Loved, not judged.  Safe, not dangerous.  I love a wandering heart because it is the vehicle through which I fell in love with God again, and I know it is an opportunity to deconstruct some structures and assumptions.  Instead of rebuilding with rigid framework and impenetrable walls, we find that our faith is better for the wild freedom of soft lines and fluidity.  


Science is my very favorite place to sit with new ideas and challenges to our faith and bible.  I grew up loving science, but fearing it too.  As I began to accept evolution as an adult, I worried that I would be forced to leave my faith behind.  As I pressed in, evolution offered this exquisite, beautiful story about life and a God of process and deep time.  It stood in contrast to a 6-day creation (which surely speaks to God’s power) in that it revealed incredible investment and artistic integrity.  While I do not think it matters AT ALL what we believe about creation regarding our faith, I do think our learning posture in it sets the stage for how we dialogue across the gamut of faith conversations.  Evolution in its entirety caused a chain reaction in much of what I held tight; but the gift is that I no longer fear science—or the bible.  I can embrace life on other planets (it’s out there in some form— get used to the idea), neanderthals (the amount of time I’d spent worrying over those guys is.just.weird.), an evolving universe (instead of a fallen-from-perfection universe), the deeply beautiful humanity of the scriptures (differentiated from seeing them as mostly or fully divine), and all the tensions and different theologies that make up our bible (the writers and editors of scripture were on individual and collective faith journeys, too).  One of our biggest obstacles as parents has been the lack of resources for our children in this.  However, we’ve learned that the answer is not in a meshing of God and secular science— like no book or curriculum is going to give five neat bullet points for kids on to how to love Jesus and accept evolution.  Is there a better way to embrace emerging science that speaks to multiple universes (quantum mechanics will likely provide the next biggest obstacle to a literal bible viewpoint in the very near future) and life emerging from non-living matter (why do we equate purpose with instantaneous life)?  For us, the best way forward has been in safe conversations, embracing science, and loving God.  And not fearing that one excludes the other.


One direction I’d like to take this blog is helping other people create good dialogue in this area for their families.  Questions are a good way forward.  Story is a good way forward (knowing someone’s story softens the heart immediately).  Trusting that God loves you even if you have a few things wrong— that is a good way forward.  I’ve written this post over and over; I’m still deep within my own learning and figuring-it-out stages.  (Pretty sure this will last my whole life!)  But I figured a rainy Monday is as good a day as any to share my heart and start somewhere.  I hope to publish a monthly blog dedicated specifically to navigating science and faith conversations within the context of a family unit (including children)— questions, resources, books, links to people who lead well in this area, and our own continuing story through it all.  Mostly, I want people who are knee-deep in it to know that there are others already waiting for you at the bottom of the hills.  We love Jesus.  We believe in a loving God.  We sit with our bibles and read the Psalms.  We have a deep, rich faith too.  The Gospel lies perhaps the most alive within the valleys we tread.  

"When someone in vulnerability tells you everything they’ve known has fallen apart, 
the correct response is not to quote scripture, 
the correct response is not biblical apologetics, 
the correct response is a hug. 
The correct response is to say, I love you. 
They have to encounter an impossible love.
It’s the only way the gospel comes to life.” 
~Mike  McHargue

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thoughts on Water, Moana, and God

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Water speaks to me.  I am not a huge swimmer or anything (I’m actually awful).  I do not spend much time in or on water— but it has always been that place for me where Spirit and matter meet.  Water is dangerous and beautiful; more powerful than any ship and yet will gently cradle our body-form and float us across its surface.  Without it, there is no life.  It serves as a good place to house the ancient stories of creation and floods, where perhaps water and myth work together to tell us the divine things that factual, quantitative words cannot.  Water is paradox at its finest; chaos, ordered, deep, shallow, dark, reflective, wild, and poetic.  In eighth grade, I wanted to write my research paper on water and how beautiful I thought it was.  I didn’t.  I thought it would make for a weird paper.  In my mid-thirties, it seems like the most logical thing to blog about.   
__________________________

This week, one of my best friends texted me (used and edited for length with her permission), “I want so badly to call myself a Christian [but] I am finding it increasingly difficult to convince myself of any truth.  How can I take some of Scripture and say it’s “truth” and some are “stories” or an “outdated ideal” of…how we deal with God and ourselves?  How do you hold on?  What do you still hold to be absolute?  Is there such a thing?  Do we still call ourselves Christians?”  

I love this friend.  We were besties in elementary, and then she moved to another school.  I did not see her for twenty years.  And then one day, there she was in our Chick File A.  We fell back into being friends as easy as water runs downhill.  I love, more than anything, her searching heart, open eyes, and difficult questions.  These are good questions, guys.  They are the questions, often answered inadequately or too hastily, that drive many of us from church rather than to it.   
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I saw Moana last month.  Twice.  It is my favorite kids’ movie ever.  I looked forward to this movie for two years, mostly for the artwork, not knowing much about the storyline.  However, as breathtakingly beautiful as the movie is, the story is what stole my heart.  It mirrors some of our Christian journeys— being on an island, only allowed to sail the coastline, knowing there is an ocean to explore, but feeling the pressure to play it safe.  We can feel locked into a predetermined role, an already mapped out faith, where questions and an exploring heart lead to danger, or worse, the unknown.  My favorite part of the movie happens in the cavern full of hidden sailing ships, when Moana whispers, “We were voyagers!”  

We should remember that we were voyagers, too.  That there is more to being a God worshiper than staying close to the shore.  
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I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s questions the last few days.  They are not unfamiliar to me.  I have had the same ones.  I don’t think the point is in the answers though.  We may live our whole lives in darkness in some places.  St. John of the Cross said, “…the more we look at the sun, the greater is the darkness it causes in our vision.”  Maybe the point is not whether we ascribe to every point in our church’s statement of faith or can honestly adhere to whatever Creed we read aloud in Sunday morning worship.  Maybe we do not need to be worried about whether we are called “Christian” or not in our friend circles.  If you love God and are in open water—the kind of water that sometimes feels soothing and other days feels like you are drowning— listen:  YOU ARE A VOYAGER.  

God is not squeezing you into a role or belief system that redirects your questions and searching heart towards easy answers.  His love is bigger than the places you get him wrong.  Thank God— because we all probably have him wrong here and there.  I hope so.  I put my trust in a God who is bigger than my faith, so it is always stretching— sometimes painfully so.  Who the hell cares if you fit into nice definitions or other people’s expectations.  I hold on to two things: 1. God is love.  Always and 2. My theology will forever be in flux (stagnant theology means I am worshiping a God I’ve created).
____________________________

To my dear friend, I’m there with you.  I am cheering you on from my own spot in the ocean.  We are not meant to show up on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and be fed all the answers.  Church people need to be voyagers too.  There is still much to be learned, to be explored.  May you find the space and grace to ask these things aloud, to wrestle for answers even if they never come, to refuse common labels the power to invalidate your love for God.  You are safe.  Even in the middle of the ocean.  Far from shore.  God is there, too.  

I love that your faith is all the paradox of water-- chaos, ordered, deep, shallow, dark, reflective, wild, and poetic. This, THIS, is a beautiful life in God.  You have a pulse.  A beating, sometimes throbbing, heart.  These are not the places to fear.  It means you are alive.  Voyage on.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

~Navigating Social Media with a Teen~


We have a teen.  

She is bright.  And funny in a witty way.  You would like to be around her.  She is good at making people feel precious and noticed.  She likes playing and make-believe and her toys are still treasured in all the sweet ways (I found a Moana doll in her bed the other night which made my heart melt because I really, really do believe in the phrase “let them be little.”). 

She is growing up, too.  She wears my clothes.  And my shoes.  Lately, she has been in a “piercing” stage where she wants ALL.THE.HOLES.  I accommodate her when I can (I mean, I don’t really have a good argument on this one), but the nose has to wait until she is 16—thank you Department of Health and tattoo shop that abides by the laws.  She does the Dab and that Whip and Nae-Nae thing. Recently, she knew the words to a song I’d never heard, and she told me, “it’s an 80’s song, mom”…like she knows cool-vintage and I didn’t actually grow up then.  She loves all the good books and movies, and you will be her best friend if you reference anything Harry Potter, Star Wars, Narnia, Lost, or Marvel.  

I love my Niamh.  She is this thirteen-year-old mix of being a child and being a real live teenager.  We have had hard discussions this year about image, eating, exercise, friendship, being unique, and why I don’t like her in 4-inch wedges (it’s just too weird, man).  I am learning for the first time as a mom what places I want to stick my ground (my kids are not allowed—ever ever ever— to drive with teens, for instance) and what hills I’m not willing to die on (piercings, hair coloring, and her use of YOLO—which makes me cringe but I bite my tongue).  She loves music (like her dad), so we have taken the route of evaluating on a song-by-song basis whether curse words have some type of value in the song (because we think some help express a point or feeling— like in Stand Up by FloBots, which is one of her faves) or whether they are pointless, derogatory, or crass.  We have also had to figure out a parenting plan for social media—which is a place, I believe, needs strategic parenting.  

There are a thousand different ways to approach social media as a parent.  Niamh has multiple friends with Facebook and Instagram accounts.  I learn from parents who do it differently than we do.  In most cases, they are a nice correcting force in my life, because I tend to over protect and maybe helicopter around a bit.  From a parenting standpoint (and I really have to consciously work at this), I want my kids to have the freedom to experience the world, make some bad choices with the good ones, and know they are joyfully loved to the fullest in it all.  I don’t want them operating from a behavior management angle (which I did very well as a teenager).  They will make mistakes.  I will make mistakes.  Richard Rohr says in Everything Belongs, “The great and merciful surprise is that we come to God not by doing it right but by doing it wrong” (let your theology wrestle with that one for a while!).  This way of thinking has helped Phil and I both stay in conversation with our kids.  Sometimes I have to show up to Niamh and Philly and say I am sorry for failing them as a parent— that I was concerned with behavior over heart, which is never the point.  And they come to us, too, sometimes with tears in their eyes (Philly) and sometimes with a broken heart (Niamh) and ask for forgiveness.  And it is all mercy, grace, learning, tears, space to fail, adjusting their compass a little, and hugs again.  

Phil and I choose not to allow Niamh to have her own Facebook.  We think it might serve as a distraction and could even be a place for someone like her (who can be shy and nervous…like me) to depend on abstract friendships rather than real-life-people friendships.  

Instagram is, in my humble opinion, the best thing since email, maybe even bread.  It is my favorite social media platform, mostly because it is, at its core, a creative and curated place.  I openly and fully admit, it is the best of our days.  I choose my photos carefully and edit them meticulously so that they flow together and the “story in squares” is both lovely and inspiring.  I can talk about real and messy things there, but I like that it is a place for me to creatively tell our story in beautiful photos.  

I wanted to allow Niamh this same creative space to explore photography and express herself.  However, there is no real way for parents to monitor or manage the content on IG.  Sure, you can make your child’s profile “private”, but that does not sift out what will appear in their searches or even on the community page.  I do not want to protect her from the reality that some people in the IG world are basically naked and happy to show it, are sending a message of body-perfection over soul-substance, are preferentially promoting discord over peace, are demoralizing and verbally assaulting to women, or are really good at following whatever is popular but have no real thought of their own.  As a parent, though, I want to talk through it with my girl…who is still learning that it is a beautiful thing to be “curvy” and have freckles and wear plain, old Beatles tshirts and be weird and unique and appreciate people who are culturally, religiously, and ethnically very different than herself.   I do not want to give her free and unsupervised travel down a road of being informed and possibly shaped by excessive amounts of the world’s content with no friend to help navigate the harder things.  I want her to walk it, but I’d like to hold her hand.  

So we opened an IG account together.  We use it to refine her love of taking photos; grow her creativity in telling a good story through images and a few words; to share a fun place together as a mom and daughter; and to give her some access to the world of social media.  She is not logged in unless I do it for her.  And she is not allowed to “surf around” IG aimlessly.  It is a working compromise, and may need some adjustment as we move forward.  I’m learning there is an art to compromise when you are a parent, some sort of give-and-take of freedom and respect.   I plan to eventually hand it off to her.  But Niamh is still half child in our opinion, so Phil and I have the responsibility and massive privilege of guiding her as she grows.  

It is not a matter of trust.  I trust Niamh and Philly both.  I trust them to know the right choice.  I trust them to make it.  I trust that, at some point, they won’t.  I trust them to be honest with us, because we stress grace and love over perfection.  I trust them to honor our parenting choices.  I trust them to fail—and they trust Phil and I to love them through it.  I trust Niamh not to look for bad content.  But I do not trust bad content to not come looking for her.  When it does, and it will, I would like to be part of the picture.  I’d like to ask the right questions and gently nudge her towards a healthy outcome.  And at 13, we believe that is necessary parenting not optional parenting.  



Like I said, there are so many different ways to approach social media with kids.  We have many friends who do it differently— and successfully.  In no way do I think we have the best approach.  In these new things—this teenager stage we are encountering—parenting often takes the form of a shot in the dark.  We have found that being honest along the way with our kids—keeping them a part of the discussion, admitting where we have struggled in the past, and being free to share anything  in a safe, loving home—creates a family where honesty is a thing to celebrate even when it reveals a failure.  Often our hard talks start with us telling our child “you can’t shock us” and end with “thank you for being brave and sharing with us.”  

Safety.
Grace.
Honesty.  

And this is our attempt at incorporating those things into social media access.  I’m thankful that our kids are good at grace for Phil and I, too, even as we figure out parenting!  It is my favorite, most exhausting, and scariest life task.  And my greatest, greatest hope is to be parents of children who parent better than us— who move our family and legacy more towards Life and Goodness and Love.  

If you want to check out Niamh’s and my shared Instagram, you can find it under @mom_and_a_girl .  Feel free to say “hello.”  We enjoy meeting new friends.  

And Phil and I would love to read advice, experiences, and tips on how you navigate this with your own children!  Feel free to share in the comments.  

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

RV Life...soon.


This month we bought an RV to live in.  I know that is weird and maybe even a little crazy, but we did it.  It is a move we’ve been planning for months but weren’t too sure how it would pan out.  Or, even if it would.  But now there is a trailer in our driveway, a hitch on our truck, and a box of luminoodles on its way to our address.  (I refuse to live the camping life without twinkle lights.  It is where I draw the line, folks.)   

For almost two years, we’ve been feeling the need to simplify, choose freedom over expectations, and wholeheartedly pursue living out a good family story together.  It did not start as a dream to live in a 17-foot RV (I really thought we’d be in a 34 foot airstream with new wood floors and little cactus plants in the big, airy windows)—but our path has led exactly here, and it’s terrifying and exciting. 

There have been moments of panic.  I’ve woken up a few times in the middle of the night wondering what the hell we are doing because I don’t know about bears or wilderness or how to cook tasty things in my oven let alone over an open fire.  I don’t know how to “winterize” anything and honestly, the luminoodles are not so we can look cute while we camp—I’m gonna wrap those suckers around my kids so I don’t loose them somewhere on a mountainside.

The day we picked up the camper, right before we handed over our money, Phil and I both walked into a corner of the dealership and just breathed.  We kept asking, “Are you okay?” And we both kept answering, “I think so.”  At one point, Phil did say, “We could just run.”  After laughing and instead of running, we talked everything out—What do we want?  Would we regret not giving this a shot?  Where is God leading us?  So we handed the salesman our money, hopped into our truck, and drove the tiny (guys, it’s t.i.n.y.) RV back home. 

It has been a huge learning process.  The times we feel nervous about what we don’t know, feel afraid of what others might think (you know you think we cray cray—it’s ah-ight), or feel overwhelmed by big dreams, we always come back to those three things—simplicity, freedom, and to live a good, adventurous story. 

So here is to living with less, wild spaces, quiet work, learning new things, nature, homeschooling on the road, facing fears, 140 square feet of living space, four humans, two cats, and twinkle lights to make the kids into walking glow sticks.   We will be messy at it, but I am thankful for passionate, adventurous hearts to share the experience with. 

We will post our trip itinerary sometime after Christmas.  Be sure to let us know if we are in your neighborhood!  And if you are a seasoned RV-owner or camping expert, feel free to share hints, tips, or advice—we will be very grateful! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Lover’s Gift Guide

I read to refuel, reimagine, and relax.  Most often, though, I read to learn.  I love a good nonfiction book (it's sort of my thing).  Through reading, I’ve rediscovered my faith, created space for good conversation, strengthened friendships, and become a more passionate and truer version of myself.  Words on a page stay with me forever, like a good friend ready to be re-consulted, loved again, and captivated by over and over.  I keep my most favorite books in a pile together, all of them worn and weathered by creased page corners, underlined sections, and notes in the margins.  And I often find myself reaching for one, looking for a partially remembered quote to encourage a friend or the paragraph I know is somewhere in chapter 9 that will reframe some struggle I’m moving through myself. 

I read a spectrum of topics, but I especially love science and theology books.  Undoubtedly, my favorite books of each year will fall into one of those two categories.  I appreciate a book that stretches both my understanding and my comfort levels; and honestly, most of the books I read now I would never have touched 5 or 6 years ago.  All the books have changed and shaped me.  For the better, I hope. 

I love to gift books.  I barely need an excuse to do it.  And with Christmas just around the corner, I thought I’d pair each of my favorites this year with something perfect in a Book Lover’s Gift Guide.   At the least, it will give you some good book recommendations (I’ve read them all—they are ALL top notch), a few shops to check out, and maybe inspire your own book “pairing” for a friend on your list this season.  Also, there is a free download at the end of the list if you’d like to print and/or color a bookmark to slip inside the crisp pages of a gifted book.  Everyone should always put a bookmark in a new book—it’s just right. 


**Click -->HERE<-- for downloadable bookmarks** 
Happy Holidays and early shopping!
And, as always, happy reading….

PS…Feel free to share what you are reading!!  I pursue all good recommendations.
I really do.  You should see my living room bookshelves!
 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Boots and 15 Years


On October third, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  It feels so weird to be married for fifteen years.  I remember early in marriage hearing other people talk about 12 or 15 or 17-year anniversaries and thinking, man they’re old.  And now we are there, in all our married glory, right in the middle of all the “old people,” still feeling quite young and energetic.  Sorry to all the decade-older-than-us couples I know—you guys were in that ripe part of marriage ten years ago while I was still stupid and thinking mid-thirty-somethings were ancient.  I love my mid- thirties.  I love being 15 years in.  I finally feel settled into my spirit, even as we look forward to new adventures and wandering paths. 

For the life of us, we could not figure out what to do to make the day special this year.  My mom suggested that we re-do our first date, which is what we ended up doing.  We drove the hour and a half up north to eat at Olive Garden, ordered the same two meals, and watched a movie at the mall.  I loved it because we laughed the whole time and a lot of what we said started with “remember when…”.  A few times during the night, I wanted to go back in time and whisper to my 20-year old self, “Don’t worry.  He likes you.  A lot.  And someday you’ll do this all over again.  Except you won’t be nervous, just totally and absolutely in love.” 

We also bought each other a pair of boots.  I got the girl version and Phil, the guy pair.  We looked at all the different styles together, the colors, reviews, and descriptions.  We shopped intentionally—choosing a shoe company with clear vision for others.   We wanted something rugged, durable, and stylish.  Everything about this gift we chose as a careful metaphor for the next ten years. 

It may seem silly to attribute so much meaning to a shoe, but all the details in this gift-choosing were for a reason.  We wanted something practical and tangible to move forward in.  Marriage is never easy.  It is difficult terrain in every way unimaginable to starry-eyed 20-year olds eating at Olive Garden. We bring everything we have been shaped by into relationship with another shaped individual.  And, God, it is exhausting and wonderful to discover who we are together.  Fifteen years in, you can eat at a mediocre chain restaurant and laugh hard because life is magical and funny and heartbreaking and perfectly imperfect.  And together, you know the deeper rhythms of life and look forward to what the next ten, fifteen, and twenty years will teach.  We are wiser, perhaps, only because we know there is still more.  More to learn, to endure, to embrace, to forgive, to love. 

I hope my boots look super worn-in ten or fifteen years from now.  I hope the creases and frayed stitching and scuff marks tell a good story.  I know they will be more beautiful down the road, wrecked and comfortable and filled with miles of adventure.  And I’m super happy that I share this life with a guy who knows I appreciate a good metaphor and a great pair of boots.


  
*This is not a paid endorsement for these shoes.  I just love everything about this company and their product.

Check out the Oliberte site here. 
The boots are even more beautiful in person.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Horses



I’ve never been much of a horse person.  My best friend in high school loved them, rode them, devoted her extra time to caring for them on a nearby farm.  She wore horse sweatshirts, and we listened to Garth Brooks in her car.  I could never wrap my head around owning an animal whose poop weighs as much as a small toddler, but I am probably in the minority as a non-horse-lover.  We live in an area with tons of horses.  They are behind fences and in barns on almost every road we travel here. 

On the way home from a sunset run with Phil in the woods the other night, the sky burned orange and pink.  Sometimes sunsets are their own thing.  They are “over there," somewhere  ‘west’.  They can seem far away, even while being very beautiful.  But the night of our late run, while we drove home, the colors spilled over the horizon into the warm air blowing through rolled down windows.  Everything was pink and gold and glowing, the same farms we drive by every day, turned magical and luminous. 

There was a brown horse behind his fence alongside the road after a four-way stop.  As we passed, he danced a little, kicking his front legs and flipping his hair.  His creamy-colored main whirled around in separate strands, and he played for a second like he was a foal again.  In that moment, he may have been the loveliest creature I’d ever seen.  I am not sure if horses can appreciate beautiful sunsets, but he looked free and right—like he couldn’t help himself but to enjoy the hazy fall twilight like a horse should. 

I needed that seven minute ride home in golden-pink light with a dancing horse more than anything that day.  I caught myself leaning out the window so much that I thought I might look weird if Phil glanced over…I just wanted to breathe all of that beauty in.  Like, deep down into my lungs, where it would have to pass my heart.  It felt quiet and fragile, and maybe I hoped a little of that would seep into my own molecules and fill my spirit with whatever made the horse dance and look wild again. 

We are in transition and that can feel unsettling.  It is as if we are stuck in mud and moving terribly fast at the very same time.  My eyes and body are tired, but my brain races at night until the wee hours of the morning.  We have hopes and dreams that are crowded out of focus by the details of real life changing course.   Phil and I have circled back around to the same conversation over and over the last few months—let’s make the next best choice, take the next best step.  For someone who is very goal-oriented, like BIG life-goal-oriented, those intermediate steps can feel painfully dull and slow.  I never really do anything slow.  I eat fast.  I run my miles as fast as I can.  Some people say I drive too fast.  Like, cops.  And my mom.  I read fast.  I walk fast (which has actually been a tension in our marriage for quite sometime because Phil is a slow-walker).  I don’t even like small talk because it typically goes nowhere.  I like to get things done and move on to the next thing I can get done.  I like making lists and checking off all the boxes.    

This season of transition has left me with a lot of unchecked boxes at the end of my day.  It is a season of crawling through life rather than running.  I have learned a lot of good things in the process, but sometimes I have to relearn them again.  And again.  I am learning that much of my self-worth is locked up in ‘achieving.’  I am learning that Phil is the type of person who not only operates by—but enjoys—all the small steps in between.  He is not a BIG goal person like me, but a manageable goal person.   I am learning that he is my brake.  My parachute.  My down-shift.  And I’m thankful for that, because I’d crash and burn a lot more without him.  I am learning to be intentional in shaping the person I want to become and the life I want to live.  I have one life and three people to share it with.  I am learning to identify what to pursue, what passions to celebrate in my children, when to pause and when to run, where to place my energy, what to build and what to tear down, what I need and how I often confuse that with things I want.  And I am learning to live in the moment.  And watch horses dance. 

This fall I turned a corner.  It is a new direction in that I’ve left behind a business and blog that I worked for years to build up.  But I really want to live in that sunset place—the magical in-between where I learn exactly what I was made for and who I really am.  I love the freedom in this place—it’s where the ordinary looks heavenly because it is pregnant with possibility.  I will still draw, and artwork will show up again in some new way.  But mostly, I will write.  And learn.  And write some more.  It feels weird and undone to invite you into this place- to share the middle of the journey here with me- because the achiever in me wants to wait until I’ve made it out the other side looking perfectly in control, in charge, and successful.  But we are all in the middle space in some way or another.  There are always thresholds waiting to be crossed.  New places to be explored.  Sometimes the best thing is to know there are other explorers out there in the twilight with you, finding the horses and magic places, too. 
 



This is my new blog.  Some of the side links are empty and waiting for a history of posts to fill them up.  I am choosing to fill this space with the things we are focusing on in this season of life.  I will share as I link to different places—but for now, you can check out the “About” page to get to know us a little better. 

Also.  I might love horses now.  I wanted to take a picture of the horse that I passed that afternoon, so I drove up the long driveway and asked this cute, country, blonde-haired girl to photograph her horses.  She smiled and walked me straight out to them.  They nudged me and tried to eat my hair.  They were basically big cats, lovey and sweet.  And people are super kind.  Seriously.  We talked about her wedding and her recent move, and it wasn’t weird at all that we were strangers in a field taking photos. 

One of the best things I’ve read in a very long time goes something like—believe that the Universe is on your side.  I forget to do that sometimes…but It is.  Horses whisper to my tired soul.  Strangers make light of a weird request to take photos in their flowery fields.  And beautiful sunsets turn a truck ride home into something memorable on a rather ordinary day.  I think that is a good place to start over—to begin to write again—believing that there is a goodness that permeates each day, different directions, and every new adventure.