this is how we do it

TEN Years. A whole decade. That really feels like something.

Seemed like a good time for reflection. We sat together and thought and talked, my man and I. What’s been our best? What are we looking forward to in our next ten?

It was super hard to narrow down one specific moment or event that we thought was our very best. We both agreed that our best thing wasn’t a thing at all. The favorite part for both of us has been that feeling we have that we’ve just always been. There’s kind of an air of timelessness to our thing, a bit hard to describe. Like we just got together and we’ve always been together all at once. Crazy and cool.

Do we have the perfect marriage? I would definitely say so.

As long as you define “perfect marriage” like this:

perfect marriage

We recounted the unfolding of the last ten years of not giving up on each other. Not when an emotional affair was confessed. Not when our personal sin junk was trying to take us down. Not when we were both working overtime to pay off over $100K.  Not when our families gave us zero support in any of our endeavors. Not when the whole pretty picture of a marriage and family started melting into something completely foreign. Not when our son was lying in ICU from a drug overdose. Never. Not ever. Not that we might not have thought about it, because sometimes it just seems a whole heck of a lot easier to give up. But we both decided to stick it out. Fighting back to back. In it together.

Sometimes people ask us how we do it. I guess just they’re asking how we do all this life together and still seem to enjoy each other so much.

I’d like to say it just kind of happens, but that’s just not true, friends.  It takes work. A lot of it. It’s a constant contest to out-love each other. To out-nice each other. To serve one another in love, when we feel like it and when we just plain don’t.

We talk a lot. About silly things, wondering things, deep things. We ask each other questions. We silently study each other, figuring out what the other loves and keeping that information tucked away to use in an onslaught of awesomeness at a later time. We try to fight fair when it happens. We spend lots of time together but also purposely spend time apart. We keep things hot. We have great friends who love us and whom we love greatly. We serve others together. Most of all, we love God together, however imperfectly.

This is how we do it. And this is the stuff we will keep doing for ten more years, then another ten, and hopefully ten more after that. Whatever we do, we will do it together, wrapped up in a cord made of three strands, not just two.

We will keep trying to out-love each other, and mess up a lot while we attempt it, of course. Here’s to our first ten years, and to every moment afterward.

rings

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.” -Song of Solomon 8:7

 

the best kind of debt-free

Thinking in crisp, clear thought today about the center of my life, who used to be despised, rejected, misunderstood, hated, and ridiculed by me on a daily basis. Thinking of how he gave up everything for me. How he suffered for me. How he died in my place.

Who do I love that much? For whom would I voluntarily be disgraced, spit upon, beaten, despised, ridiculed, tortured, even killed? Anyone? I can think of a few people who I love enough to throw myself in front of a bus without a moment’s hesitation if I thought it would save their life. Just a few. But would I do that for someone who hated me? Would I do that for someone who said I was an imbecile? Would I do that for someone who had disgraced me and everything I stood for? Very doubtful.

But that’s what He did. He paid the debt and offered new life. For me and for all of us.

ALL of us.

“Praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead.”

Cuh-razy cool week!

Wow. This week has been so crazy. So much going on, and even though I am sick today (achy, yucky sick) there’s so much to be thankful for.

Nerves were wracked a little bit after sharing part of my past for 30 Days of Story. Even so, I am thankful I did it. It was very obvious that it’s what God has me doing right now, sharing my story. Even the ugly parts (especially those!?) I’ve had several women tell me what a blessing it was to them to hear my struggle and how God has changed me because of it. It’s what our lives are for, I think…to take our stuff, no matter how crazy or unbelievable or wild it all may sound…and hold it up to the one who can reflect himself in it.

Thank you so much to all of you who were praying for me over the past couple of weeks while I wrote. It was every bit as hard as I thought it might be, but your prayers covered me well. After all of the stuff that happened this week, I finally got the story out and it was posted on Sarah’s blog yesterday. Terrifying and wonderful at the same time. Then, I woke up to this devotional in my email today. My God is the freakin’ coolest thing ever!!

Some other random, cool stuff:

  • My son will be twenty years old this week. He is nearly a year sober. THANK YOU, JESUS.
  • FancyFREE jewelry is goin’ legit… and getting a little makeover. Stay tuned for cool stuff coming up in 2013, when she will be known by her new name, Fancy Freedom Designs. Holla!!
  • Thankful for talented designers who let folks use their super cool fonts for not much moolah!
  • This weekend I get to hang with the fabulous Marla and get a little Christmas shopping out of the way. At the same time I get to support women around the globe who now have sustainable income for their families and communities. Can’t wait to see all the lovely stuff from Noonday Collection! (Strike that previous “Holla!!” and insert it here!!)
  • Saturday I get to sell my own creations at Christmas Shopping for a Cause! And I’ve already paid for my supplies so ALL the money I make that night can be donated directly to doma International!!

Okay, people…so I went a little link-happy. Gimme a break. Love me anyway. Peace & Freedom to you, and I hope you have yourself a cuh-razy cool week!

Redefining Our Good

I can hardly believe that I get to be among the women participating in 30 Days of Story at Sarah Farish’s blog. I have read some amazing stories of trial and triumph, all with God at the center of them, writing and rewriting the stories Himself.

I have to admit, this is very, very scary for me. Partially because I’m telling about some of the most messed-up times in my life. And partially because I sorta feel like I’m going through another mess right now. I haven’t felt worthy to be sharing my story. I’ve been hearing that voice again that says I’m nothing; no one wants to hear about my junk. Nothing I say can help anyone. I’m so screwed up, so how is anyone ever going to see God through me?

But that’s precisely why I think it’s important — no, imperative– that we share our stories. If we go through things and come out on the other side, then the whole thing is over. Great. But what did we learn from it? What could someone else learn? How might hearing how God brought us through our mess actually help someone else look at their circumstances differently?

That’s God’s recycling plan. He uses broken bits of our stories to piece together something beautiful. He’s rewritten my story and redefined my good so many times. It’s just what He does.

Here’s part of my story that I shared on Sarah’s blog, and a glimpse into how God has rewritten it.

In Christ Alone

All day yesterday I was listening to the song In Christ Alone, which rocks me pretty much every time I hear it. I can hardly listen to the whole thing without joyful tears streaming down my face at some point. With every line of lyrics I seemed to have a reel of commentary playing through my mind in a sort of beautiful disbelief.

In Christ alone my hope is found, I don’t need anything else to hope in! Not my own abilities, not the promise of bigger or better anything…just Christ

He is my light, my strength, my song; When I do anything without him, it’s a failure. I stumble all over the place like I’m in the dark. Anything I do well comes from the strength he gives

this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,

firm through the fiercest drought and storm. There’s nothing I have been through where he has failed me. He’s brought me through some of the most stressful situations, and although I seem to flail all over the place when I’m faced with the littlest bump in the road, he never moves. He is never, ever shaken by my circumstances

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! I have never felt so loved and so at peace, even when everything around me seems to be madness. Even when I am scared about my son’s future, or when I feel like I can’t do anything right, he gives me peace about it. I don’t have to fix everything or anything!

My Comforter, my All in All,

here in the love of Christ I stand. Even though I have many people in my life who love me and offer me encouragement through everything, he is ultimately the one who gives me everything. If I were to be without anyone else, he would be there with me
In Christ alone! who took on flesh

Fulness of God in helpless babe! God became one of us when he allowed his son to be limited in human form. It’s the mystery of Jesus being fully divine and fully human at the same time

This gift of love and righteousness

Scorned by the ones he came to save: I wonder how I would have responded to Jesus had I lived at the time he walked the earth. Would I have been one of those people who thought he was a heretic or a madman? Would I have spit on him, thrown things at him, joined in mocking him?

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied – This is the place where God’s justice and mercy come together perfectly. His holiness required justice and His love required mercy. He was the only  one who could provide a solution to both parts of that puzzle

For every sin on Him was laid;

Here in the death of Christ I live. Everything I ever did, am doing, and will do that is an offense to God’s holiness has already been paid for because of what Jesus did for me. Because of Christ taking on my debt, I no longer owe anything. I can live

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain:

Then bursting forth in glorious Day

Up from the grave he rose again! Some people say they believe that Jesus was God’s son and that he died on the cross, but not that he was resurrected. What good is it for God to have a son he sends to earth if he’s just like any of us? What good is any of this if the resurrection was not true? What good is someone claiming to be the messiah if they died like everyone else? That would just prove Jesus to be the liar that many believed him to be. But he did not stay dead…he was alive again and now he lives inside each of us who follow him

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me, Because of his resurrection, I no longer have to live as the same person I once was. The sins in my life no longer define me. I am a new creation. The old things have gone and the new things have come

For I am His and He is mine –

Bought with the precious blood of Christ. This one is maybe the hardest to believe. When I think about how God loves the world and all the people in it, it is easy to believe because I am speaking in general terms. But when I think of God trading his son’s life for mine so he could purchase me back from my slavery… to think that I was that important to him and he loved me that much…that’s so much harder for me to grasp. He loves ME that much. He loves YOU that much
No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath.

Jesus commands my destiny. I do not have to feel guilty or condemn myself any longer for the poor choices I have made. I give them to him and he creates something good and lovely from that mess I had made. He works it together for good. I do not have to fear death, no matter how or when it comes, because he is on the other side of it. He is what awaits me at the end of my life, so either way I win. He commands my time here on earth and the end of it.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home,

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand. There is no scheme or trick that anyone or anything can use against me to try to tell me that I do not belong to God. There is nothing in this world that will become more important to me, no matter how many people tell me that it is. Nothing I even do to mess up will keep me from the love of Christ. It is so wide and deep and high that I am covered no matter what. He holds tight to me even when I loosen my grip on him. He has lavished such a love upon me that I am called his daughter and that cannot be taken away, even by me.

Even when my focus gets blurry, I know where my hope is and always will be found.

 

Life, death, and in between

Today is the day. I am finishing a pedicure and Todd is making his famous pancakes for breakfast. We’ve had this trip planned for more than 6 months, and now here we are…getting ready to leave for India. It still doesn’t even seem real somehow, even though our bags are packed and we’re getting picked up in a couple of hours, I’m still asking myself…are we really doing this?

About a month ago, our pastor sent us a list of scriptures. With his experience visiting India many times and the objectives of the trip, he suggested they may be good ones to meditate on before we leave. I looked them over and recognized many of them as familiar text, so I decided to go online and print them off in a couple of different translations in the hopes that I could get a fresh perspective on the message the words carried.

I had read the verses that follow a million times from Matthew 8 and was always surprised by the harshness of them. Different people who were wannabe followers of Jesus were coming up to him and proclaiming their loyalty. Immediately he questioned their commitment.

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus, what’s up with that second dude? I can see you rebuking the teacher of the law because he was used to staying in fancy joints and you knew he couldn’t handle the way you roll. But that second guy just wanted to lay his parent to rest. Wasn’t that a little much? But then I read the same words in the Message translation, and it stood out to me like a bright light among all the other verses that had been recommended.

When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.

20Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

21Another follower said, “Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father’s funeral to take care of.”

22Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”

Wow. That last section kicked me in the stomach for some reason, although I wouldn’t know for a long time what it might really mean to me. First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life. That’s Jesus talking…and you don’t really ignore Him.

So I started thinking what that could mean for me in my everyday life. What does life and death look like when you’re not necessarily dealing in matters of life-and-death? I started thinking in terms of death-by-a-thousand-cuts over a lifetime. Like how you can look at a middle-aged person who is broken and messed up and hates the world and has zero joy, and you just know that a million little things have happened to them over the long period of their life to make them that way. I started looking at my students, just 7 and 8 years old, who already have scars from some of their thousand cuts. I started thinking…that’s how I bring life instead of death…I try not to be one of those cuts. So I really began paying attention to how I was speaking to them and to others…thinking…is what I’m saying right now bringing life or bringing a little bit of death? You know just what I mean…the way you say something can bring death. Like when you give a backhanded compliment. Death. Or when you say something in a certain way only because you know it will force someone to have to give you a pathetic compliment. Death. When someone is talking to you but you’re not really listening..and for one split second they notice your eyes glazing over. You just made them feel unimportant. Death. Or when you walk by someone and you could look them in the eye, smile, and say hello. But you choose not to. Death.

So not knowing at all what else those verses would mean, I simply went along trying to be about the business of life, not death. Pursuing Jesus and the things He represents are pure life. Anything else is death. Not bad, right?

Then a few weeks ago my son overdosed on a combination of drugs. He was in the hospital for nearly 2 weeks. No one knew if he would recover or if he would be normal again after he did. Arguments ensued over the outcome of his care. Lies were told. Commitments were broken. False accusations flew. Death, death, death. Every little thing started to go awry in our world, from the big and important to the smallest detail. Confusion, dissension, anger, brokenness. Death, death, death.

Then, death really came along. On December 22nd I got a call that my mom was being taken to the hospital after collapsing at home. I was on my way there to be with her and figure out what was happening when I got the second call that her heart had stopped and she was gone. GONE. Death.

Your business is life, not death.

It was my momma’s 76th birthday, and she died suddenly. A few days before Christmas, a few days before we were to leave for India. How would we get all the arrangements made before I had to leave the country? Would I actually miss my own mom’s funeral? Or should I try to rearrange my trip to stay here?? None of the options seemed good. Death. Right in the midst of planning her funeral, we found out that Todd’s mom was also now in the hospital and may need surgery. No, Lord, not more death…please.

It took me a day or so to get it, but eventually I could really see what Jesus meant by saying that my business was life, not death. Even in the middle of everything going on around me, including a thousand other things I haven’t even mentioned, I was still somehow concentrating on trying to bring life to the thing. And it definitely wasn’t because of my well-grounded abilities… God was keeping my focus for me. How else does someone’s family go through so much in such a short period of time and still come out halfway sane? Life. Prayers were answered (and continue to be) in ways I never would have imagined before. Life. Every little detail of my mom’s funeral was taken care of with relative ease, all in time for us to hold the service yesterday… Before we were to leave for India today. We put her to rest in a funny and perfect way that matches her personality. Thank you, God. I prayed for healing of my ear, which the doctor told me held so much fluid that it would likely burst if I flew. It has improved dramatically and I am no longer congested, but breathing normally. Life. My son has recovered and not only is out of the hospital, but he asked to come home and stay with us…. Words we’ve hoped to hear for a long, long time. Life. He has given his life to Jesus, and I’m already seeing the new creation God is making him in to. Life!! There is peace in our home and all around us even with some things still up in the air. There is peace all around us. Life, life, life.

I can’t wait to look into the beautiful brown faces of the little girls at the children’s home in India, and smile and show them life. I cant wait to hug the 300+ lovely people who live at the leper colony, praying they can understand that they, too are made in the image of God. I can’t wait to pray for healing and rest and peace for our friends and soon-to-be-friends on the other side of this world we share. And with all I hope we’ll accomplish there, I have a feeling that I will receive much, much more life than I could ever possibly dream of giving out.

“First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.” -Jesus.