opposites unite

Opposites attract. Everyone knows that old adage, and many times it rings true in our lives. I think it’s especially true when it comes to couples. I find it completely awesome how many couples could not be more opposite in personality, preferences, gifts, and talents, yet they enjoy a lovely balance in their relationships. It’s definitely the case in my marriage. I am a flighty extrovert, while my man is a sober-minded introvert. I process verbally. He processes silently. I’m all city-girl, he could live on the side of a mountain forever. It’s a beautiful paradox, but in certain areas, it makes things a bit complicated.

For example, serving others is a central part of our life as followers of Christ. But since we’re wired so differently, one of the things that my husband and I have always found difficult is exactly where and how to serve others together.  He prefers practical, behind-the-scenes ways of helping folks. He wants a task to accomplish on behalf of someone to meet a need they have. I prefer to get all up in the mix with the people… seeing their faces, hearing their stories, feeling their emotions, making a connection so they know they’re important. That’s what thrills my heart.

Scripture reminds us of the fact that we’re all wired so beautifully different on purpose.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. -1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. -1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the years Todd and I have served others together in various ways, but they have undoubtedly been more slanted toward one of our worlds than the other. We’ve just made the decision to bend toward each others’ direction in order to be able to serve together. And while all of those things have been good, we hadn’t quite found that thing, that one cause that we both would passionately jump behind and could feel like we’re both in the right place with. Something that serves the poor, the downtrodden, the desperate heart. Something that allows both of us to use our very different gifts to show God’s love to people in practical and personal ways. Something that we’d both be excited about and be able to dig into with fervor, working in sync to accomplish one goal.

We’ve been glad to step into each other’s world from time to time just to be able to serve together, and many times we’ve simply served folks apart from one another in our own ways in different directions, and those things have been good too. And we will probably always have that to some extent. But we’ve had many conversations over the years about what our “one thing” might be and we kept dreaming that someday we just might find it.

Then the other night, it happened. We were having a conversation about human trafficking, as he had just returned from a men’s event centered on the subject. He was giving me the run-down of the evening, then he said it. It was unexpected, and it made my heart skip a beat.

“I think this is our one thing.”

Whoa. Say again??? I was all “really!?” and “seriously!?”  like a kid reacting to her parents telling her they were going on a trip to Disney World.

We went on to have this amazing talk about how fighting human trafficking is all about serving the underdog… people who have been used and abused to the worst extent, shunned and misunderstood by society instead of getting the true help they’ve needed. Both of our hearts go out to them in every way. Both of our hearts twist up in anger at the injustice of one human being viewing another as property and a commodity to be sold. We talked about our skill sets and gifts and how they could mesh to drum up awareness and resources to combat the problem, and how it would be awesome to go on outreach together to let people know that they are loved and there’s a way out. There are many ways to help that require lots of the things we’re each good at doing. There are tasks to be accomplished and people to encourage. It’s a perfect fit for both of us.

It was music to my ears hearing him say that the thing that I’ve become so passionate about and that he has supported so selflessly over the past few years, is now becoming our thing.

I am so, so thankful for the ways that God has worked in both of us in the last decade. He never ceases to amaze me by doing the impossible, like placing his love into the hearts of a selfish woman and a cynical man so they can work together to help bring freedom to more of the people He loves. I can’t ask for anything more lovely.

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.”

grief and shiny things

I have two confessions to make:

1) I cried in the middle of a store this week.

2) I have a weird love affair with seasonal tabletop decor.

You know, like tablecloths and dishes of every color. And fancy napkin rings (even though I despise cloth napkins). And all varieties of drinking glasses. And useless decorations that will sit on top of the table and take up space where the food should be sitting, getting in everyone’s way. Yeah, that stuff.

I love plates shaped like maple leaves in the fall. I love the red and gold and silver sparkly-trimmed business around Christmas time. I adore hydrangea blue-purple splashed on top of yellow fabric in the spring. I love cups with watermelon-shaped ice cubes in the summer. Just thinking about it….oh, glory!

When I was a little girl, I declared it my life’s mission (in addition to being a paleontologist, of course) to grow up and have a big tote full of decorations and dishes for every season and holiday of the year, which I would change and update whenever the time was right. Every time I walk past the seasonal displays–shiny, colorful, sparkly– I still dream a little dream. It’s a sickness, really. I’m sort of a junkie. In theory anyway.

This weekend I was in Kohl’s to pick up a few things (which was strange enough for me) I looked at the seasonal decor (duh!) and saw some of those pretty tablecloths. My heart skipped a beat because I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and I really wanted a pretty table for dinner.

Then I spotted it. It was shiny and silky and heavily beaded… A beautiful Christmas-y table runner that immediately reminded me of the one that my momma bought me years ago, for absolutely no other reason than I fell in love with it. At the time, I was a single gal with a crappy apartment, no guests coming over for a dinner party, not even space to have one if I wanted to. We were out shopping together, so I know it had to have been a long time ago. I was swooning over this gorgeous, red silk beaded runner, and saying how I couldn’t wait to have a house to decorate for the holidays someday. Then I bounced along, down the aisle to look at the next shiny thing. She put it in the cart without me even noticing, and it has been mine ever since we finished that shopping trip.

My Mom’s love language was clearly gifts. I didn’t know that then, but looking back now I can see it. She had the habit of telling me to put things in the cart/bag if I even slightly mentioned in passing that I liked it. I had to talk her down quite a few times from buying me lovely but completely unnecessary things. She had lived a hard life growing up and basically had nothing. She had to quit school after 8th grade because her family couldn’t afford clothes and books for her to attend school. Besides, they needed her to work to help them keep food on the table. So to her, having things you want means that you’ve pulled yourself up by the bootstraps, and you’ve made a good life. Purposely denying yourself something nice when you have the money to pay for it just didn’t make sense in her world…which I suppose is the reason I drove her so crazy during the last few years of her life.

But standing there in Kohl’s this week, surrounded by seasonal, sparkly, unnecessary things, the tears welled up in an instant and flooded my eyes as I thought about my momma. It only took a second to go from wow-that’s-gorgeous to my-momma’s-really-gone?

And just like that, I was one of those weirdos who cries in public. Oh dear….

But I guess that’s what it’s like when grief sneaks up on you… When you’ve been too busy to give it its proper due, it just sneaks up from behind while you’re in the midst of all that busy-ness and takes what rightfully belongs to it: your attention.

It’s been nearly a year since I lost my mom. We’re about to have the first Thanksgiving without her, which was always her favorite holiday. I keep thinking to myself that I’ll be fine, that she would want us to have a happy day and not be sad about her being gone. I keep telling myself I’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. But then again, I thought I’d be “fine” looking at fancy table decor too.

In all honesty, I’m only half looking forward to this holiday, but I’m trying hard to be thankful anyway. Thankful that I had a mother who was so giving, even if sometimes it was to her own detriment. Thankful that I have a home in which to host family, no matter how dysfunctional, for the holiday. Thankful that we’ll be sharing a meal, since there are some who won’t get such a luxury in their whole lifetime, let alone once a year.

I’ll have a few shiny things on the table this year, but certainly not a tote full, as I’ve long since lost interest in storing up that much of anything. But this year when I pass the potatoes across my shiny, patterned tablecloth, I’ll remember how my momma always brought a little sparkle into our lives. And for that, I will always be thankful.

carrot cake, family and other good things

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. (sigh) Something about the 5’s for me… little mini-life crises. I had one at 25. It was the oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-how-am-I-25-already-and-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life-yet kind of breakdown. Now I’m in the midst of whoa-how-am-I-35-and-thought-I-knew-what-I-was-doing-but-now-I’m-questioning kind of deal. It’s cool, it will all work out, God’s got me and there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve never been happier. My husband is incredible– full of integrity, generosity, and muscles (hey, gimme a break, I’m only a woman!) My son is healthy and starting life again…slowly, but he’s starting. My family is just amazing. Not so much my blood-family. Unfortunately it has been blown apart and everyone seems to have gone down their own path.

But my family, my peeps, the real people I do life with, those people are incredible. Blood or no blood, they are my family. They are the ones I call when I need something. They are the ones who share my special moments, my tears, and my triumphs. They are the ones who remember the little things that connect my heart to theirs. They are the good in my life. I’m so thankful to have each one of them. Yesterday some of my people conspired to turn a rained-out party into a little birthday gathering for me. We were getting together anyway, there was no doubt. But they went a little extra step and added something special just for me. It was by far the best birthday ever.

Every year on my birthday, I used to call my mom and sing “Happy Birthday” to her. She would always laugh and ask me why the heck I did that when it was my birthday. I always used to tell her it was because she was the one who gave birth! It only seemed right. That was a fun little tradition of ours, and that tradition is gone now, along with my momma. This is the first year I couldn’t call to sing the reverse happy birthday song to her. It hit hard. Another thing she used to do, up until the past few years before she died, when she just didn’t really cook at all or do much of anything, was to make me a special birthday cake.  Something unusual, special, just for me…a homemade carrot cake. It had been years since I’d had the special cake on my birthday. Another little tradition, gone.

But yesterday, my beautiful friend Jessica, one of the most thoughtful people I have ever known, teamed up with my husband to insert something extra-special for me into the party— you guessed it—a carrot cake. Something so simple, packed with such memory, unleashed a few tears. Happy and sad ones. So, celebrating my birthday, a great night with my friend-family, and the end of traditions, I thought about all the good in my 35 years of life, and I couldn’t help but be so very thankful. Looking forward to 35 more years (at least, right Amanda!?)

 

On second thought…

I was just about to hit the “post” button to share my snarky little comment about having such a looooong day at work, and how I have to work on my assignments for my master’s degree program now instead of relaxing and going to bed early. No rest for the weary, right? [insert long, exhausted sigh here]

Then I pulled into town and saw this amazing sunset sky. This pathetically hasty picture does it no justice whatsoever….baby blue streaked with pink and orange darker pink, giving the old grainery an awesome silhouette for just a moment.

I canceled my snarky little post and closed my eyes. Instead, I would like to just say:

THANK YOU. Thank you for beauty, even in my ungratefulness. Thank you for a second chance and a second look.

JUST thank you.