my word for the week: mundane

my word for the week: mundane

This week, I’m joining my friend Charity from my writing group, Plume, in her space. Charity is one of the most encouraging people I know. A mutual friend describes her as “the kindest person anyone knows,” and I’ve found it to be more than true. So when she offered the opportunity to write a post in her guest series “In Your Own Words,” I was thrilled. I’m honored to be there today. Here’s an excerpt:

Before those years of chaos, I associated mundane with dull. I thought that an adventurous life meant seeking the next thing, running and chasing for more. I didn’t know that the thing that would give us more, what we needed so badly, was to make space for the mundane. I’m learning that when my soul starts itching for more, it’s not more that I usually need. I’m finding that my itch for more is usually an alarm that I need to wake up and see what’s actually right in front of me. Our marriage didn’t need more money, more activities, or more stuff; we needed space to live in the mundane together. I didn’t realize that God wanted to speak to me in the mundane rhythms of my day if only I would make time to listen.

You can read the rest here.

algebra and homemaking

When I was in high school, I had a long, dramatic relationship with Algebra 2. There’s too much to even relay all that goes into this spiteful correspondence, but let’s just say–my junior year (the second round of Algebra 2), it got ugly and I spent most Saturday mornings in Steak’n’Shake with a tutor, crying my way through homework. Like most high school students, I wanted to spend time doing what was familiar and easy, so I put Algebra 2 homework last–until I was nearly failing–and my parents were all, “You actually have to do this homework or you are going to work at Taco Bell for the rest of your life,” and I was all, “Well, I like Mexican food, so that’s fine.” (Dramatic story short: I eventually passed. Ish.)

More than a decade later, I have to tell you–I met domestic life with the same resistance. I laughed out loud the other day when a friend casually said that she envied my homemaking skills, because can I just tell you? I spent the first year of marriage “bragging” that I didn’t know how to cook, and I was weirdly proud of it. (Read: really prideful and just gross.) Like a teenager refusing to learn how to do a math problem, I pretended like I didn’t need domestic skills (which is just stupid)–and even worse, that I was too good for it. In my insecure quest to make it known that I was above all that, I made a fool of myself.

Homemaking and mothering have felt a bit like Algebra 2 for me. Get up in front of a room in teach? Sure. Jump in a meeting and brainstorm a new concept, or work on a project and bring it to life? Take me to your leader. But plan out meals, play a support role, and keep everything afloat in the operations of our home? Yikes. If we had tons of cash-flow, I would immediately hire a full-time cleaning person. DO NOT LOOK AT THE BASEBOARDS IN MY HOUSE. You’ll never return. It’s astounding to me how unnatural this process has been, and quite frankly I’ve felt like the new kid in class over the past year.

But just like that pesky math homework, I’m learning something holy. Somewhere in the impossible process of algebra, a breakthrough usually came sometime around 10pm. With my dad leaning over, trying to help me through the frustration, suddenly something would click and I was able to fumble my way through problems. And I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: sometimes it’s good for us when things don’t come easy, and we have a lot to learn from leaning into things that at first feel foreign or difficult.

Maybe my identity is bigger than being someone who naturally leads and awkwardly follows. Maybe I’m in a season of following because I’m a really arrogant piece of work sometimes–and for a while there, my heart was in no shape to lead. I’m starting over, here. I’m in a season of life where in almost every area, I’m painting in the background. God has something new for me in this season, and I have lots to learn from the women who have gone before me.

I’ll start with learning how to clean my baseboards.

making room for two

Did I ever tell you about our full-size mattress?

Yes, that’s right. We spent the first four years of our marriage sharing a 20-year-old full-size mattress. Kyle is over 6’ tall. It was stupid, but we didn’t know you could—you know—save and buy a new mattress, so for years we tossed and turned on a little full-size mattress because it seemed good enough and we didn’t really consider doing anything different.

Then we realized (as most grown-ups do) that if we saved a bit every month, we could save long enough to buy our own mattress—and behold, a queen mattress at that! The night we bought it, we slept almost eight hours straight, and were both totally baffled that such a thing was possible.

Is it totally weird that I started this whole thing off with an illustration about our bed?

Sorry.

Now that you’re good and uncomfortable, I’ll tell you that when Kyle and I got engaged over five years ago, we were asking questions and wrestling with decisions that were a lot like fitting two grown adults (and sometimes a dog) onto a full-size mattress. Whose work should we follow? Where should we live? What was God calling us to? In the fall of 2009, we decided to move to Indianapolis—my hometown—because we believed God had given me the opportunity to do what I really loved: minister to middle and high school students and serve the local church. It was a risk for Kyle, because he moved with no job prospects or connections, but he still made a (pretty huge) sacrificial decision for me.

That first year was full of complex questions, crappy part-time jobs, and late night conversations. We wrestled a lot over calling and giftedness, questioning if we had made the wrong decision. We also prayed. A lot. Near the end of that year, Kyle was offered a full-time job that he now loves. And over the past four years, I’ve watched him completely come alive and spill over with passion. But I’d be leaving out a big part of this story if I didn’t tell you that over the last 15 months we’ve found ourselves in familiar territory … full of late night conversations about calling and work, and now there’s a beautiful, little person added in the mix.

If you know me personally, it won’t be a surprise to hear that of the two of us, my personality can be a little on the—what’s the word—commanding side. Up until recently, one of my top five strengths in Strengths Finder was “command.” (I retook it this past fall and all but one and changed. Apparently I am very affected by circumstances.) I push, hustle, and strive. I jump first and think later. I say “yes” without considering the implications on our family life and often find myself with ten too many things on one plate. And it usually lands us in a place of burnout and exhaustion.

So when we had our son and our priorities started shifting and shuffling, we found ourselves a little tangled up in logistics. I was striving again, trying to push forward and do everything and then some, because—you know—that’s what I do! I thought because I was “only” working 20 hours a week that I needed to “fill in” all the other hours with more, more, and more. More accomplishing! More doing! More pushing! We can make this work. I can raise a baby, take care of a house, love a family, work, cook meals, volunteer everywhere, lead a small group, be friends with everyone, get to know all my neighbors, read every book in sight, speak in hyperbole and save the world, yeah?

No. 

I’m trying to say that word out loud a little more, just as practice. Can you hear me hesitantly whispering it? “No… okay maybe! No… no, I can’t, wait, yes I can! No, I so wish I could, but I can’t right now.”

My intentions are good. Almost always. I mean well, of course, and say yes for the right reasons. But I often fail to see that making room for two callings means both people have to say no sometimes when they would otherwise say yes. How many times did Kyle say no to what he wanted or needed in our early days of ministry together? So many. The weeks he went to middle school camp with me, sacrificing time to research, prepare, or rest … the weekends he spent helping me prepare sermons, or came early to help me set up or tear down … the nights he opened our home to people when he was–frankly–exhausted. There are too many to count, and he did it gladly. We both did. Student ministry was hard, to be sure, but it was also so rewarding and so much fun.

(Here’s proof, by the way, that we rocked out the lanyards and backpacks together.)

MS Camp 2011

Before we found out I was pregnant, we were both starting to feel the tension of two callings in one house. And when I’m completely honest, a lot of it had to do with me—overextending myself with a sinfully large view of my own capabilities. I failed to see that God was divinely preparing me for this time… to slow down, to be a mother, to make a house a home, work a little more behind the scenes, and to learn how to be a more present wife.

I’m not saying I’m giving up or bowing out. I believe motherhood and calling can go together, that positions of influence aren’t just reserved for those without logistical challenges, and that there is space for passion and child-rearing. I don’t know what it all looks like yet, but that’s for another day. I just can’t shake it, though–right now, for us personally, it’s time to make room for two callings. And up until the past year, it’s been a little crowded.

It’s been a huge identity shift, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that. But I really believe God has me here and that I have something to learn that otherwise I wouldn’t. I can see now–with a little breathing room–that the incredible gift of motherhood is preparing me for ministry in ways I never dreamed. I’m learning how to love people more deeply because I now know everyone is someone else’s child. Every person has a story, a background, a family, a mother. I knew that before, of course, but now I feel it in my bones. And I have this extraordinary little boy, and I couldn’t love him more. I get a front row seat to his growth and development, and I get to help shape and mold this tiny, fascinating person. But that has also meant I need to slow down and say no to some people and opportunities where I would otherwise say yes. Because if I say yes now, I will sacrifice too much and spend my energy in ways I can’t regenerate for the places I actually need to be.

So we’re in brand new territory again—and what’s in front of me now is huge: a home I get to make a place of respite and joy, a son I get to raise, and a husband I get to support and love. And I’m so grateful for Jesus—who in every season so patiently unearths the prideful parts of me that seek status over His kingdom. I’m thankful for a God who graciously calls me to surrender my will and my pride, and now it’s time to make room for two.

On Parenthood and #Joelia

parenthood

By now, you surely know of my unabashed love for the television show, Parenthood and the Braverman family. It’s a little sad, really, that I continually fall into this cycle with fictional characters—they become my people and pretty soon I start praying for them (on accident) at night.

I digress.

So no one should be surprised that when one of the show’s most stable couples (Joel and Julia) started having marriage trouble, I went a little off the deep end and started live-tweeting like I was watching a basketball game. Tweeting Joel and Julia’s every move, I set off on a mission to interact with the characters because WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

And as much as I truly hate this story—the narrative here is a little more realistic than I care to admit. In my fantasy world, couples discuss every issue and no stone is left unturned. But because we are broken people, the real stories are different. In our everyday marriages and relationships, we ignore and shoot past the things that actually grieve us and keep us up for hours at night.

Because I love a good (slow) story, I went back and watched a few episodes from Season 1. (This is the precise moment you back away slowly as you realize I’m a little insane.) And dang it, these problems we see billowing over now have been there since the beginning. Quiet and subservient Joel has been pretending to be content and supportive for years, but the whole story is he hasn’t actually been telling the truth. He continued silently supporting his family while letting Julia unknowingly live a selfish tale. He failed to lovingly tell her the hard truth about herself, and ignored the things that made him feel disrespected and betrayed until it was too late.

But now he’s too tired to fight, and that’s what we’re seeing. If anything, this story is a bit too true, which is what I’ve loved about Parenthood since the beginning. The characters move slowly, like all of us do. We all have things that sluggishly grow beneath the surface, and Joel’s bitterness has been expanding like mold.

So I love this story for being honest, but I hate it, too. I wish Joel would stay at the table and say something. I wish Julia would look within instead of blame others. I wish they would both apologize and sit across from one another in the cold counseling office and cry until there’s nothing but forgiveness left. So bravo once again, Parenthood, you’ve created a heartbreaking, gradual story about the way people actually lose each other. It’s an alarm for all of us—even the Joels and Julias of the world.

I hope to write a different narrative in my journey. I pray that I’m willing to do the hard, slow, painful, and beautiful work of redeeming what’s been broken and putting back together what’s been lost.

Also, I really need to stop getting so involved in fictional characters’ lives.

“You need to read this!” challenge

Surely you’ve experienced this too, right? You read a book, watch a movie, think it’s just about the best thing that’s ever happened and your spouse is, shall we say, unenthusiastic?

Well, we’re finally doing it. I pick five books for Kyle, he picks five books for me, and we read. I’ve actually been unofficially wanting to do this for a while, but after Sarah Bessey wrote about it, I was all, “Okay, it’s on.”

Here’s some background.

Kyle has wanted to do this forever. So we decided, from now until summer ends, we’re each going to read five books of the other’s choosing. We had a few ground rules: first, it had to be something the other has never read (this should be obvious, but much to Kyle’s surprise, I’ve read more fiction than he anticipated). Second, we set a 300 page limit, mostly so we still have time to read what we want. And third, no doubling-up of authors.

KyleAnneReading

Here’s what I chose for Kyle:

1. A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle–As a kid, I discovered my love for words while reading A Wrinkle in Time. Ever since, she’s been my muse. I go back to her when I’m feeling dried up and out of words. I read her writing when I’m feeling uninspired and dreary. And in many seasons of life, I’ve resonated with her questioning and depth of faith. This is truly a book I come back to again and again.

2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning–During my sophomore year of college, I felt like I was rediscovering Jesus and what grace really looked like–for me and for others. I’m forever thankful for his work and can certainly relate with his description of “ragamuffin.” This quote sums it up, “The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become–the more we realize that everything in life is a gift.” (p. 81)

3. Love Does by Bob Goff–I read this in two days, and I’m a slow reader. I couldn’t put it down. As someone who almost always hesitates and second-guesses myself instead of just loving people, his book messed me up in the best of ways.

4. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist–This book is so dear to me. I read it during a very bittersweet season of my life, and I couldn’t shut up about it. She has taught me so much about being present: in my home, in mothering, in my marriage, in friendships, etc. I have quotes from her all over the house, so it’s time for Kyle to get some context. She asks a question near the end that still resonates with me, “I don’t know anyone who has an easy life forever. Everyone I know gets their heart broken sometime, by something. The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?” (p. 233)

5. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright–It’s impossible to summarize what this book has meant to me (and so much of his work in general) in just a few short sentences. In some insane ability, N.T. Wright continually calls me up higher in the way I see Jesus. He has been called “the C.S. Lewis of our time” and I wholeheartedly agree.

In Kyle’s own words, here’s what he chose for me:

1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway—Of all the Ernest Hemingway’s works to choose from, I am picking The Old Man and the Sea because it encapsulates everything about Hemingway in under 120 pages: his terse prose; protagonists battling against an uncaring world; more being left unsaid than said. It is a succinct response to Hemingway’s belief of the nada that faces everyone—you must fight against it.

2. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean—“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fishing.” Norman Maclean uses fishing as a way to connect with a brother he ultimately could not help. This story explores our desires and inabilities to help those closest to us. For me, this book was a gateway to Hemingway’s short stories.

3. Silence by Shusaku Endo—Powerful and layered, Silence explores the survival of European Christianity in xenophobic Japan during the 16th century. Partly narrated, partly epistolary, Endo’s book takes the reader to the verge of apostasy and asks the question, what does God’s silence mean?

4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger—Holden Caulfield resonates with my inner-teenager. Irreverent, anti-social, ornery, Holden tries to hold on to an innocent youth to stave off what he perceives as a phony adult world. He struggles to cope with death and growing older—two subjects that hit far too close to home.

5. The Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book—Calvin and Hobbes is the single greatest comic strip of all time. Every time I reread the strip, it gets better. What I love is the truth Watterson captures using a 6-year-old and his tiger. This particular Calvin and Hobbes book is wonderful because Watterson leaves comments throughout. My favorite quote of Watterson’s is “The best comics expose human nature and help us laugh at our own stupidity and hypocrisy.”

So, if you could make your spouse/best friend/mother/dog read one book, what would it be? 

a day late: i want to be daring

This year, I want to be daring.

I probably won’t jump out of a plane, travel the world or hike Kilimanjaro. That’s just not the kind of daring that’s calling me right now.

(Maybe when Keegan starts using the toilet. Then we’ll consider it.)

I’m interested in a whole different kind of daring these days.

About a year ago, Kyle and I read a book together that has radically changed the way we live. Sometimes we read together, it’s true. And in almost every occasion, I make it through about two pages of what his book before I exclaim in a melodramatic voice, “I JUST DON’T GET IT!” He almost always puts my book down after three paragraphs … mostly because of indifference. I love non-fiction like I love tea; give him a novel or biography about someone who’s dead and he’s set for weeks. We’ve reconciled on this–we have different taste in books. But in this particular instance, we both wanted to read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. (Sidenote: I briefly talked about her work last year and how it was changing my life and I was telling people in Target about it, and a year later I can say it has actually changed my life.)

Because see–I read her words about the power of vulnerability, being willing to fail, and letting myself be seen right before I did approximately all of those things. I applied for a new job when I was 41 weeks pregnant (people usually don’t recommend this) and I interviewed when I had slept for just one hour. Dare greatly? Willing to fail? Uh, yeah. We plopped ourselves into a new church community with a newborn and opened ourselves up, willing to be seen. Kyle started grad school and sat in a class where he admittedly felt like a kindergartener and dared so greatly by sitting in a room full of experience. I knew something wasn’t quite right in July when I was still feeling blue, so I said it right out loud and walked myself into a support group for women suffering from postpartum depression, and I’m a better mother for it. During 2013, we most certainly dared greatly.

And so this year as I look ahead, I feel ready to be daring all over again, in lots of other ways. I want to live a less scared life. I want to stop being so afraid of failure, judgment, vulnerability, being seen, and all kinds of other things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life and following Jesus fully. I want to be daring and invite people I know and trust to tell me the hard truth about myself. I want to go through the beautiful (albeit sometimes painful) process of growth and change, because I know there’s nothing sadder than someone who’s decided to stop growing. I’m going to pay attention when I’m tempted to shut down, and learn from my mistakes and failures instead of never take any risks at all.

During a class with the Influence Network a couple of weeks ago, Jessi Connelly said it this way, “There’s no such thing as a perfect mom. So if you can’t be a perfect mom, the other option is being a mom who is unwilling to admit she’s wrong.” I lost my breath for a moment thinking about all the ways I’ve seen relationships fall apart or parents shame their kids simply because of pride. Isn’t it true? Haven’t we all ruined a relationship, burned a bridge, or had to ask for forgiveness because we held on tight to pride and didn’t just say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake?” I want to be daring and ask for forgiveness, say I’m sorry and mean it, and reconcile when I need to. I want to let other people get a word in and listen more and talk less.

In all these ways, I hope to be daring. So here’s to 2014 and another year of daring greatly.

daring

the (good) details

I’ve written so little about our birth experience because frankly, I needed time and space to process it all. Not only physically–but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am different because of my childbirth experience, and I knew I was different when I woke up the next morning. So, here is our story, from what I have gathered so far.

We went in on Sunday, February 3rd at 8pm to start the induction. I will spare you the grimy details of everything involved, but by 5am the next morning, contractions started and were coming on strong, so we moved to the next step in the induction process. At around 3pm on Monday, I had hardly progressed and Keegan’s heart rate was all over the place, so my doctor talked to us about the possibility of a C-Section. Around 4pm, she broke my water and within two hours, I had fully progressed and was ready to push. Once again, I will not make you endure the details, but three hours later, Keegan had not budged, and a C-Section was no longer a hypothetical but a necessity, and we prepared ourselves for surgery.

There are a lot of details about that day that I will never forget, but there are two that stand out so crystal-clear in my memory that have forever changed me. One has to do with a little green line, and the other my husband’s right hand.

From the time we started the induction, our nurse pointed us to the monitor which showed Keegan’s heart rate, my heart rate, and my contractions. Keegan’s heart rate was bright green, and mine was a vague taupe color, directly below his. All evening long, and all day Monday, it was all I could do to not watch that little green line. I knew in my mind that nurses were keeping track, and that alarms would go off if anything went wrong, but I could not–for more than a few minutes at the longest–keep my eyes and mind off that little green line. I needed to watch him, to see him as I prayed for his little body to be healthy and whole. In a time where I felt absolutely out of control, the only thing I could manage was watching that green line.

And the second? My husband’s right hand. Throughout the entire process, he sat to my left and held my left hand with his right,  coached me through it, encouraged me, and prayed over us.

I became a mother while watching that little green line. Over 9 and 1/2 months of pregnancy, my heart slowly began the process of nurturing and protecting this little one. But in watching that green line, my heart became consumed by it. And I have never been more in love with my husband than on that day, and will never forget when we heard his first cry in the OR. It was the sweetest moment of relief that I will forever cherish, and he is the only one that can replay it with me.

When I look back on days of my life, I hope to remember the small details that affected me greatly. And on this day? It was a little green line that became my son, and my husband’s right hand that became my strength.

photo