killimanjaro and christmas trees

My life is so very ordinary. It’s true. I spent lots of time in denial, and can finally accept that my life is beautifully, extraordinarily, ordinary.

Last night, up lurking on Facebook, I intentionally stalked stumbled on an acquaintance from high school that recently hiked Mount Killimanjaro. Yes, you read that right. Girl hiked highest mountain in Africa. Immediately my interest peaked, as I 1) Hardly remember this person and 2) Am not sure how we became Facebook friends. Either way, she hiked Mount Killimanjaro. I lurked through hundreds of photos of tents, hiking poles, making food over a campfire, sites you only see in movies and then looked over at my bulldog snoring on my bed. Hardly close to hiking 19,000 feet above sea level.

I post photos of Christmas trees, driveways, my husband, food creations from our  little kitchen, friends having coffee, concerts that no one else cares about, birthdays, holidays with family, and weddings of beautiful friends. This is how my morning went today: I woke up, chowed down on Special K, made coffee, watched the previous night’s episode of Parenthood because I didn’t want to stay up until 11pm, fed and let my dog outside, dolled myself up only to slip a hat over my frizzed out hair, and drove two miles to work. Pretty thrilling, right?

But last night around 9pm, as I was standing near the window and looking out at our backyard covered in snow, my husband came over, wrapped his pale arms around my waist and simply said, “I love my life with you.” And we slow danced to silence. Corny? Yes. Do I care? No.

On the outside looking in, my life looks pretty simple. And it is. If someone wanted to make a movie about my life, there’s a strong chance that many would fall asleep. But that’s because it’s only boring to the outsider. On the inside, it’s pretty extraordinary and beautiful.

It’s taken me a while to realize this, but life doesn’t have to look extraordinary and unique to be so. And I’m not bashing, by the way, hiking Killimanjaro. That’s beyond incredible. But my guess is in between the photos, there was a lot of ordinary wrapped up in that hike. Lots of campfires, processed camping food, bug spray, tent making, blister-repairing, laughter, tears, awkward relational moments, forgiveness, loneliness, sore muscles, and maybe even a little regret. Ordinary.

I believe God is visible and present in the crazy, Mount-Killiminjaro-moments. I also believe He is undeniably present in the small, ordinary moments. The bowls of cereal, arguments with our spouse, mortgage payments, making snowmen with children, bad recipes, raking leaves, tithing, tutoring a struggling child at a nearby elementary.

All of us are full of ordinary. But that’s what makes life so beautiful. So today I am thankful. Thankful for grocery bills, weekly menus, friendships that never change, and ordinary moments that are absolutely Divine.

it’s not perfect, but it’s more than enough.

Five years ago, a bunch of friends headed out to their very first fall break together… three nights and days spent at a cabin in rural Indiana. At the time, they were all living within walking distance of each other, in similar classes, eating meals at the same tables, and basically doing every single activity with one another. They knew they had it good. But they didn’t really know how good. So they spent those three days jumping off docks, canoeing, eating lots and lots of junk, playing one too many board games, developing cabin fever, and laughing just enough to be compared to giddy seventh graders.

The next year, life started changing. Three lived as roommates in Cincinnati and were in their senior year of college, one lived in Kentucky and had just lost her father, one had graduated and was living in Maryland with her newlywed husband, and one in North Carolina on an internship. Suddenly, they weren’t all living on the same floor or frequenting all the same places. In fact, experiences had changed them that some didn’t know about or understand, although miles separated them. Life looked different that year. And Funfetti Vacay looked different, too. The kind of different that recognizes there have been some missing inside jokes, and lots of life lived in 12 months that some didn’t know about. But it didn’t matter. They laughed for three days straight.

And then laughed some more…

And sat for hours in the glorious hot tub…

And then, best of all, ate Funfetti Cake. Thus making it, Funfetti Holiday.

The next year, life got even crazier. Two married, one engaged, all but two graduated, and a harsh thrust into adult-land had officially begun. Most of them feeling lost in the transition, but still had Funfetti. This year, as most would agree, was possibly the most difficult. Some relationships were torn, mended, and put back together. Most were in the beginning stages of the usual mid-twenties crisis. And all were feeling just a bit out of sorts. Okay, perhaps a lot bit. Their dance videos weren’t quite up to par. They didn’t laugh nearly as loud. And, as they would all admit, they all got on each other’s nerves a bit more. But still, they had Funfetti. And these women all vowed that if they could make it to this year… it would become sacred. Three years marks territory that cannot be touched. Don’t tread on Funfetti Holiday. It’s sacred. And here, in that 3rd year, the tradition was really born.

Last year, the fourth and best, was when the bow came together. Life was all over the place–one still in Maryland with her no-longer-newlywed husband, two married, one in between roommates and one living at home. The adult life they dreamed of in their first Funfetti Holiday looked nothing like any of them imagined it. Rumor is that year, they all cried in the hot tub talking about how much they missed each other, that life is nothing like you think, and that if they could, they’d all live in the same city so they could have cry-fests like this all the time.

But for some reason, God just didn’t intend that. But He gave them Funfetti Holiday. And it’s not perfect. But it’s more than enough. So. Much. More.

Here’s to you, Funfetti Holiday. You are truly sacred.

bible college pet peeves

I had a conversation recently that sparked some of my “Bible College Pet Peeves.” I thought I had put them aside, since it’s been almost two years since I’ve been in school, but nope…. they came flaring up with a vengeance. So, here we go. This may or may not come across incredibly judgmental (okay, it probably will). Please know that all of this has an undertone of grace and understanding.

1. I go to Bible College because my parents made me, and I’m over church stuff. 
First things first: I sympathize with you. But I also want to kick you in the rear (in the name of love, of course). You went to Bible College because your parents MADE you? While I’m sad you aren’t allowed to make your own decisions, that is not a get-out-of-learning-free card. While you’re here, and while you are having doubts about faith/life/church/Christianity/humanity/etc., how about using this time to learn a few things? Go visit professors that will make you think… go voice your frustrations with people who will listen, because they’re EVERYWHERE. And they might even be smarter/nicer/wiser than you perceive.

2. I’m an athlete; why do I have to take Bible classes?
Look at the sign at the entrance of the campus. Sorry, but you should have known.

3. This is my time, I don’t need to serve people while I’m in college. 
One of the most perplexing things while I was in school was how few people actually left campus to go serve the people in our community. Because more often than not, these were also the people who had the most critical opinions about church, Christians, theology, etc., which of course makes zero sense. Knowledge puffs up; love builds up, right? If you want to learn, you have to get outside of yourself and do things that make you uncomfortable.

4. I learned all I need to know about the Bible in Sunday School.
Okay, no offense to your Sunday School teachers, but I’m pretty sure they do not have the level of education of the professors that surround you. Also, you were 12. Or 16. Or whatever. Your brain was not even close to being fully developed, and learning by a felt board is not the same as having your nose in a book written by a New Testament Scholar. These classes, believe it or not, enrich your faith, and if you choose not to attend and actively engage… you are seriously wasting LOTS of money, and time.

5. My professor thinks differently than the way I was raised; he or she is probably a heretic. 
This is the worst one of all. What a sad, sad Christian culture we live in to believe that if people see Jesus, the Bible, Trinity, Baptism, Communion, the Holy Spirit, and/or the Church differently than we’ve always known, they are somehow a pagan heretic. Seriously people. When you get out of Bible College and into reality, you are surrounded by people who disagree with you. And if you can’t figure out how to disagree with grace and learn from others that surround you, you are only limiting yourself. And God.

Time at Bible College has the potential to be some of the most enriching years of your life… if you let it be so.

a little request

I have lots… and LOTS… of mom-blogging friends. Now wait: if you just got offended, and you are a mom blogger, I’m actually about to compliment you.

Stay-at-home moms, working moms, adoptive moms, single-parent moms, all kinds of moms: you are incredible. I love reading your blog because it gives me insight into a role that I do not now play. I get to watch your life like I would a movie: unattached yet empathetic. And you write on a variety of topics… from cloth diapering to nap schedules, having children with disabilities and dealing with infertility, play-dates and strollers, and I love every minute of it. Again, I have lots of Mom-blogging-friends. And I love each one of you. I read your blogs because I am genuinely interested in how being a mom has changed your life.

But, I will confess, I need some wife-blogging friends.

I know that sometimes, you just have to ask for what you want. So here’s what I want: if you’re a wife of any kind… struggling wife, work-more-than-your-husband wife, wish-you-could-stay-at-home-wife, cooking wife, non-cooking wife, domestic-diva wife, couldn’t-clean-a-bathroom-to-save-your-life wife, pregnant wife or longing wife, been married 20 years or 20 minutes, kids-hanging-off-your-legs wife or childless wife, whatever kind of wife you are… will you blog about your marriage?

And, can we be blogging friends? And, while we’re at it, would you mind passing along some marriage secrets? Oh, and, if it wouldn’t be too much… could you also be as transparent and honest as possible, because truthfully, I don’t have a lot of time for pep-talks?

Kyle and I are great. It’s just that I can’t help but notice the abundance of mommy blogs, parenting books, parenting magazines, parenting articles, and how few “here’s how to be an incredible partner, and how to love each other until you die,” resources are out there. And if they are everywhere on the interwebs, and I just haven’t found these gems, pass them on along. Please.

I’ve read the books. And they have all been fabulous. Sacred Marriage, Intimate Allies, Love & Respect, 5 Love Languages, His Needs Her Needs… just to name a few. It’s just that… now I’m ready to hear some real stories. Blood-and-guts, here’s where we really struggle, and here’s how I get over myself stuff. I don’t want to do this marriage thing halfway. And I could use some help. So, let’s start a conversation.

on being a female youth minister, part 3: the pool party

There’s this little event in youth ministry circles that’s lovingly referred to as “youth group pool party.” I assure you men came up with this idea, and that whoever started it, did not think long and hard about what this would mean for the women on their team. I don’t hold this against them, how could they know (unless they’ve worn a women’s bathing suit)?

A few years ago while I was doing an internship in NC, I got called up on stage to participate in a “team game” at a Jr. High conference. My partner was a 6th grade boy, Caleb, and the instructions were for the Jr. Higher to put his/her hands around their leader and feed them peanut butter and jelly. Think about the logistics of this for a moment. If you are thinking, “What on earth?” then you’re imagining what happened. A 6th-grade boy’s arms were around my back, trying to feed me a PB&J. If you aren’t feeling awkward yet, you probably should be in prison. I know men came up with that game, because there is no way any full-bodied woman would think that’s a clever idea. Because it’s not. It’s awkward, gross, and embarrassing.

I also know men came up with the idea of youth group pool parties, because anytime we have one at Chapel Rock I hardly ever swim. What’s that? Swimming in a skin-tight-one-piece makes me feel uncomfortable around hormone-enraged teenage boys? And there’s really not that big of a difference between my body and a 16-year-old girl’s body? Oh, you don’t say!

I love swimming, I love laying out, and I love pools. But the older I get, the less I enjoy being in a bathing suit, particularly around boys. I know their minds/bodies/hormones are changing, and let’s be real–NO swimming suit is modest. The very idea of a swimsuit is that it’s suctioned to your body and there is truly no escape, unless you wear a paper bag over your body, and even then, it’s sketchy.

So–to my male youth minister friends that have females on your team (hopefully you have at least a few!), when you’re planning your games, events, and parties… remember the women. Remember that if you ask one of them to lead a devo at your pool party, she will be standing there, half-naked, trying to convince your students that modest is truly hottest. The irony is just too great for words.

super nintendo, monopoly, and talking to strangers

I overhead this conversation while standing in line at an airport Starbucks:

Little red-head boy: Taps shoulder of girl in front of him. Hi, what’s your name?
Little blonde-haired girl: Amelia. What’s yours? And why are you wearing Spiderman?
Little red-head boy: I’m Ian. I have Spiderman everything. Spiderman is all over my room and look at my Spiderman bookbag. Ian turns around to show off his sweet bag, clearly something he had asked for for Christmas, his birthday, or July 4th.
Little blonde-haired girl: Oh. Do you like Batman, too?
Little red-head boy: No. Who’s Batman? I love Spiderman. I even painted my walls Spiderman.

I chuckled to myself, and then imagined what that conversation would look like if it existed in adult-land. We’re all standing here, pretending not to notice each other, typing on our phones or looking over the menu for the 47th time, acting as if none of us exist.

Tall red-haired man: Hey there, you’re a stranger in line in front of me. What’s your name?
Blonde woman, looking baffled that a stranger is talking to her: Um, Jenny, what’s yours?
Tall red-haired man: Tim. Why are you wearing that purple dress?
Blonde woman, clearly offended: I’m sorry what? (But really thinking, Why are you staring at my dress?)
Tall red-haired man: Oh, I’m sorry, I just think it’s a pretty dress. Didn’t mean to offend you.
Blonde woman, attempting to end the conversation: It’s okay. Have a great day! (Obviously an inappropriate remark and no way to continue the conversation, but something we’ve just learned to say to cut things off.)

…and you see my point. Kids clearly win when it comes to talking to strangers, striking up conversation with those they do not know, and asking questions about things that would otherwise be offensive (unless you’re 3, of course).

One of my friends, Lyndsey, is a kindergarten teacher. She told me last summer that the most rewarding time for her is around Martin Luther King Jr. day. I found that surprising–not because I don’t love MLK (we all know I do), but because it’s only one day off school vs. say, winter break. She brushed off my question and said, “No, you don’t understand. I have to explain to the kids why it even exists, why MLK did what he did, and why people would ever hate people because of the color of their skin. They don’t understand, their little minds cannot comprehend it. They’re all different races and colors and none of them can fathom why that would make anyone hate someone else.”

Most of us can remember when the tide turned in elementary school–and the social rules of nerdy, girl scout, popular, and geek became more clearly defined. That was only the beginning of a dynamic that unfortunately continues to grow into adulthood. I’m finding–now more than ever–that social rules still apply. Sit up straight. Don’t ask questions that make people squirm. Say only shallow things, go with the flow of traffic, and don’t ruffle feathers. If gossip is happening, don’t challenge it–what else are we going to talk about? Don’t cross boundary lines. Don’t mix your worlds together. And, my least favorite: Why would you ever be friends with someone who is in a different life stage than you? They don’t know anything.

In these ways, I long for childhood sometimes. Who cares if you disagree about how our country is run? That’s not going to affect the way we play Nintendo together. Why does it matter if we’re into different things? We can all play Crazy Eights.

When I was little, I spent most summers on my grandparents’ lake house in Cadiz, Kentucky… a small, tiny little town in Western Kentucky. Our whole family showed up. Most of the cousins were around the same age, and we always played together. We made up skits to put on for the adults, water-skied, went tubing, played Nintendo and silly card games, etc. And for the life of me, I can’t ever remember thinking, “Wow, we see the world very differently, I doubt we will be friends.” Thinking back on it, none of us really had anything in common, but we didn’t know that. Nor did we care.

How stupid is that? How backwards that we older we get, the less we know how to sit across the table from someone with a different worldview than us? That as we grow older, we really just grow more narrow, making our worlds smaller and smaller and select the people we want to influence us or invite into our every day lives?

I doubt this is what Jesus ever meant when he talked about having childlike faith. Surely even He knew how silly and childish adults can be. That’s the kind of childish way I long for–being able to keep conversation with a stranger, love people without judgment, and know how to play Monopoly with someone that sees the world a lot differently.