Oh, Nature

I enjoy the outdoors. But only to what can only be described as a limiting limit.

I’ve been tent camping. And I’ve even enjoyed it. Mostly. Okay, somewhat. Okay, my idea of camping involves a bed & breakfast with gourmet food, probably some wine, a cozy fire and a luxurious over-sized bed.

I like hiking. For its scenery. For its wonder. For its beauty. Even for its exertion.

I love picnics. Well, maybe I love the idea of picnics more than picnics themselves. And, well, it’s probably more about the food than it is about sitting outside on a blanket. In fact, one of the best picnics I can recall was on the living room floor of my loft apartment in Lexington, Kentucky because heavy rains forced us inside before we’d even left.

So, then, what to make of this limiting limit that innately influences my outdoorsy-ness.

Well, it’s mostly about the bugs. And other critters. Not the cute ones, mind you. Like birds and squirrels and turtles. It’s about the creepy crawly ones. The, dare I say it, the less cute ones. The ones that appear 33% bigger in my mind’s eye than they appear on the grass in front of me.

What can I say. I’m a city girl. I am more comfortable with the unique smells on a Boston subway car than with the idea that a copperhead snake likely lives in the woods behind our rental house {even if I’ve never seen one}.

Trust me when I say, I know these fears are {mostly} irrational. I understand the reality that a palmetto bug is not going to leap onto my head, causing me to flail uncontrollably like a Muppet {like I did when one crawled up and over my head as I sat in the dark one night was putting my youngest girl to bed}. But though they be irrational, they are real. Real enough to me.

Real enough to keep me from doing laundry in our unfinished, bug-infested basement.

Real enough to cause my pulse to race when it is just me and my girls outside because my husband the dragon slayer is at work and I have to dispatch a palmetto bug in an outwardly calm and collected manner.

Real enough to cause me incredible anxiety just in the sighting of something creepy-critterly close by.

Something, like a lizard.

One day, while the girls and I were outside enjoying the North Carolina summer weather, I spotted one such lizard. While keeping him in my line of sight as he crawled across the inside wall of the garage, near where the girls were playing on their bikes and scooters, I wrote this email to my husband:

Yes, I like the outdoors, but to a limiting limit. I don’t know if at the age of 46 it is possible to unlearn and relearn what are deeply-ingrained anxious, nay frightened reactions. We are sitting here outside. The girls are playing and I am looking at houses and such. And from the corner of my eye, I see a lizard on the garage wall – inside the garage. Yes, I think it’s pretty cool. As long as he stays where he is. But inside, my fight or flight mechanism is ready to R-U-N if he moves even an inch this way. And because I don’t want to pass these reactions on to my girls, I try to play it so cool. Pointing it out to them. Agreeing that it is amazing. But how I wish I were less fearful and might consider going over to it with them, maybe even picking it up. But really no can do.

So, let’s focus on what I will be able to focus on with them and pass along to them. Love of music. Love of writing and story. Love of beauty and seeing it out in the world.

Those are good things, too, right?

Mind you, I consider myself a pretty strong, independent, confident woman. I don’t typically seek validation from others. At least not so blatantly. At least recently. At least since I’ve started seeking God first in all my circumstances.

Since I’ve started letting God define my worth. Because I prefer his platinum standard to my flawed human one.

Maybe you know this flawed standard, too. The one where you judge yourself by the world’s ideas and expectations. Or by what you think others think about you. Or by what you think you ought to be able to do. Or by any number of other flawed measurements.

Of course finding my worth in Jesus is still new to me. I suspect it will continue so until I see him face to face. So, sometimes, I seek God’s truth in tangible ways, like in my husband. In the same way that God uses my husband {and now my children} to challenge me in areas I need to grow, he often uses my husband to remind me of the truth. 

Upon receiving my email, my husband replied:

Those are very good things.  I know you don’t want to pass on what you think are flaws in your character, but you are you and being afraid (that’s not the best word for it, really) of creepy crawlies is nothing to be ashamed of.  I know I tease you, but I really would never try to change you.  And the girls won’t necessarily “catch” it anyway – we just need to encourage them to enjoy what they enjoy and if it happens to creep you out, you can just stand back and watch, lol.

Still, I’m proud of you for keeping your cool.  You’re a good mama.

So, focus on your strengths and don’t worry about it – they will turn out fine! 🙂

Those words spoke a much-needed assurance to my inner awkward insecure self. They breathed love and truth to my heart and my spirit. And with the smile of a woman who knows how deeply she is loved, I thanked God {again} for binding my heart to my husband’s as well as his.

I thanked God for my dragon slayer and truth teller.

And that the lizard never moved that dreaded inch in my direction.

It’s the Write Time

Starting this Friday, November 1, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo {National Novel Writing Month}, during which I will attempt to write the first draft of a novel, or 50,000 words by midnight on November 30.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll be writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

At least that’s the plan.

It’s a plan I’ve tried before. Two years ago. But I opted out before I even wrote a single word. But this year, I’m determined not only to start, but to finish. All 50,000 words.

This year I have writing buddies. This year I have a story idea. This year I have a husband dedicated to getting up at 4:00 a.m. to chase his dream of being a composer.

He’s been doing this pretty consistently for close to a year now.

And even though I am so not an early-morning person, I am determined to rise and write before my girls wake and start their day. Because before I had these sweet girls, I was more of a morning person. Before there were nighttime wakings and nighttime needs, I greeted the dawn with anticipation.

There are still nighttime wakings, but they are fewer.

If I can discipline myself. If I can take control of my time. If I can choose writing over mindless Internet surfing. If I can do these things, I can meet the dawn with anticipation once more.

Because partly I have taken to staying up too late without reward. Mostly to unwind from a day of gentle parenting and homeschooling. But life is about choices. 

Life is always about choices. What we choose to do. What we choose to forgo. How we choose to live.

And so I choose.

I choose to go to bed earlier.

I choose creativity.

I choose to hammer out words early in the morning and focus on my girls the rest of the day.

I choose to fight fear and doubt and resistance and all manner of uncertainty.

I choose to chase my dream and pursue my passion.

I choose to fulfill my purpose and trust God’s promises.

I choose to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

And I am thankful that I have a husband who gets that. Who doesn’t only get that, but supports it. Supports me in my pursuit of what can only be characterized as a crazy dream.

But it’s a dream.

In fact it’s a long-awaited, long-gone-missing spark. And I am eager to fan its flames.

And I am excited to share this journey, this wild 1,667-words-a-day, punch-fear-in-the-face, overcome -any-and-all-writer’s-block, wild-ride journey with my husband.

My husband who believes in me. Who inspires me. Who encourages me in my story. The one I will write during NaNoWriMo. And the one I live out each day.

Especially the one I live out each day. The one I live out with him.

Getting to Know You

It’s called Five Minute Friday. Where everyone writes for five minutes, all on the same prompt. Five minutes. No stopping. No editing. Just writing. And then sharing.

This week’s prompt is “TOGETHER.”

{And go.}

How is it possible that we have been together for 12 years (13 if you count the year before we were married).

So, really 13 years.

That first year, before we were married. You in Alabama. Me in Boston. Having only met at our friend’s wedding, we spent time together in writing. Some letters. But mostly emails.

Those emails were a courtship many will never experience in person. We were separated by distance. Physically. But we were together. In words. In expression. In our hearts’ desires.

We were free from the physical obstacles (though we knew the attraction that drew us together). Because we had only words, our hearts poured out honesty and truth and ideas without hesitation. There was no tangle of uncertainty. Together, we bridged a distance of miles and states with hopes, with dreams, with the things that mattered deeply to each of us.

We’d sat with Calvin, the three of us together at what we eventually dubbed “the patio table of truth.” The place where instead of small talk, we made soul talk. Soul-stirring talk that bared souls and pasts and wounds and truth. There was nowhere to hide. There was nothing simple or cursory. There was raw honesty that pierced my heart. And my defenses.

We left that night carrying each other’s hearts, each other’s wounds, each other’s brokenness. 

When I arrived home, the first email. My heart started beating again. The breath I’d been holding finally breathed out.

It hadn’t been a dream.

It hadn’t been just a mystical wedding moment.

It had been a supernatural encounter. With you. With us. 

With God.

The three of us. Together. It had been real.

That first email led to many. It led to long-distance, late-night phone calls. It led to a July 4th excursion to Alabama to see you. And meet your family.

It led to me moving to Kentucky so that we could be together as you started your doctoral program in music and we started our shared journey together.

Together.

Something I do not take lightly. Something I cherish. Something I still find wonder in.

That God had such an incredible gift for me. For you.

For us.

That he took the brokenness we carried away that night and redeemed it. Made it holy. Made it whole. Made us whole.

As long as we are together.

{And done.}

It’s Time

An Open Letter to An Incredibly Talented Music Composer

(aka my husband)

It’s time for you to write.

It’s time for you to upload music to your website.

It’s time for you to leap and trust that God’s got your back.

It’s time for you to believe in yourself.

It’s time for you to STOP listening to the voices of doubt and START listening to the voice of God.

He is the One who gifted you. He is the One who created you. He is the One who knows you.

He loves you. He cares about you. He cares about what happens to you. He thinks about you. In fact his thoughts about you are more numerable than the grains of sand.

It’s time for you to PUNCH fear in the face.

It’s time for you to chase your dream.

It’s time for you to hustle.

It’s time for us.

It’s time to claim the Victory and the strength and the boldness and the confidence that all come through Jesus.

It’s time.

It’s time.

I believe in you.

I believe in us.

I believe that God intends you to provide a gift and a beauty to the world that no one else can provide. If you don’t do what God gifted you to do, the world misses out. Did you get that? The world misses out.

I believe in you.

It’s time for you to believe in you.

It’s time for you to be #awesome.

It’s time for you to shine.

Don’t Settle

Are you settling in your marriage?

Are you settling for getting along rather than nurturing love?

Are you settling for cursory conversation rather than honest communication?

Are you settling for just sharing a living space instead of sharing a life?

Are you settling for good enough rather than creating something amazing together?

Are you settling for plugging along rather than living intentionally together?

Are you settling for arguing about money instead of working on a budget together?

Are you settling for fighting rather than offering forgiveness?

Are you settling for nagging rather than encouraging?

Are you settling for grumbling and complaining rather than cultivating gratitude?

Are you settling for giving up rather than trying again?

Are you settling?

Because I want you to know, you don’t have to.

You don’t have to settle. You have a choice.

You can choose to work on your relationship. You can choose to work on you.

Of course, if you choose to work on your marriage, if you choose to work on you, it will be hard. Really hard.

You will have to be vulnerable.

You will have to honest.

You will have to be empathetic.

You will have to be grace-filled.

You will have to be forgiving.

You will have to be contrite.

You may even have to be broken.

You will have to choose to love your spouse no matter what. Every day. Sometimes many times in the same day. Maybe even every moment of the day (because, let’s face it, some days we just don’t feel love for our spouse).

But these things are possible if you are willing to yield your will to the Spirit of God. Because he can make all things new. Including you.

Including your marriage.

This is what my husband and I have learned in our recent marriage counseling.

Up until Monday, we had been working individually, each with our own counselor. On Monday night the four of us came together for the first time. It was amazing. And unexpected.

And it ignited in me an incredible sense of hope that I have not felt about our relationship in quite a long time. And I look forward to the work involved in the days and weeks to come.

I realize there will be hurdles and challenges. And that some of the biggest ones will be inside me as I work to practice a Jesus-centered attitude in my life and in my marriage.

But I am ready.

And I am willing.

I am willing to love my husband no matter what. I am willing to work as hard as I have to. I am willing to yield my will to God’s.

Because I am no longer willing to settle.

*note: these suggestions in no way apply to situations involving any form of abuse*

Choosing Each Other

Financial stress. Fiscal challenges. Budgetary constraints. Income short-come.

No matter how you phrase it, money problems create incredible potential for marital stress, challenges, constraints and short-comes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It simply depends on how you choose to respond to your financial circumstances.

And to each other. Especially to each other.

On his daily radio show, New York Times best-selling author and trusted money expert, Dave Ramsey tells listeners that money fights and money problems are the leading cause of divorce in America. He also suggests that one of the best things couples can do to avoid this path is talk to each other about their money.

And he’s right. Money problems can either drive a couple apart (consider the recent government debacle and the lack of communication that contributed to it) or draw them closer. We get to choose. 

This is where my husband and I right now.

Because income struggles tend to inspire a strong sense of guilt and if-only thinking.

If only we hadn’t moved when we did. Twice.

If only we hadn’t taken that commission-only sales job.

If only we had changed directions sooner.

If only I’d had a strong mentor when I was younger.

If only I’d majored in something more practical.

If only. If only. If only.

Maybe things would be different if only. But that is something we cannot know. Not something we can change. Not something we need to dwell on. Because here we are. Standing on the dawn of today.

Today.

We may not know what the day holds, but we know certain truths about this new day.

God’s mercies are made new every day. Including today. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

God’s grace is sufficient for today. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God will provide bread enough for today. (Matthew 6:11-12)

God goes before us and he will not leave us to fend for ourselves today. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

God will love us no matter what because his love never fails. Not ever. Not today. (Psalm 136)

And so, with these truths nestled in our hearts, today we will choose to hold fast. To God and to each other. We will choose each other over the fear. Over the worry. Over the unknown.

Today we will choose to love each other no matter what. No matter what our circumstances or finances. No matter what we feel. No matter what.

Today we will choose to draw closer to each other.

Today we will chose to believe.

Today we will choose to trust.

Today we will choose to claim the promises of God.

Today we will choose to live out the faith we have been given.

Today we will choose to glorify God by our words, in our actions, with our choices.

Today.

Light and Shadows

Recently, I have become acutely aware of light and shadows. The way they work together. The way one influences the other. The way they complement each other.

These reflections often come in the early morning hours. Usually not long after I’ve had my first sip of coffee. Usually as the sun just begins to ignite the darkness into dawn. Igniting me with hope. This morning was no exception.

Well, except for what time I woke this morning. That we all woke this morning.

Sunrise was a long way off from the 3 a.m. wake up call our five-and-a-half-year-old provided. Aside from being blanketed in the uncontrolled, hysterical sobbing of our sweet girl, we were bathed in darkness and shadow, stumbling through dark rooms and unknowns seeking our bearings. 

If you are a parent, you know that there is nothing quite as unsettling and disorienting than a middle-of-the-night crying, writhing child. Add to that two bleary-eyed spouses bumbling around like Keystone Cops into furniture, each other and their fear of the unknown and the tensions ratchet from unsettling to panic-stricken.

As if that weren’t enough, cue the two-and-a-half-year-old awake and there is quickly an undulating current of chaos.

Clearly, none of these are building blocks I would choose to strengthen my marriage. To reinforce our still-mending bond. Mainly because I am so definitely not the voice of reason in the midst of difficulty. I am not the picture of calm. But my husband is. And that does not calm me. Not in the least. Not in the moment. Not like it should.

In fact, it frustrates me. I am like oil to his water. And I don’t mean EVOO mixed with tap water; I’m talking an oil tanker spilling gallons and gallons of thick, black goop and coating the ocean surface and all the life within it.

And so this morning I was frustrated. To the point of fussing at him. To the point of growling out my fear. At him. To the point of snarling out my desire for him to fix it, to know what was wrong, to assuage my fears.

Him telling me in a calm voice that he didn’t know what was wrong or what we should do was not comforting. 

Because that’s not his role. No matter how much I demand it of him. No matter how much I wish it of him. No matter how much I expect it from him.

And yet the calm mattered. His calm voice and attitude mattered. This time, the calm triggered something beyond just my frustration. It was small. A glimmer of light in the shadow of fear and doubt. But it was enough.

It was enough to make me slow down.

It was enough to quiet my mumbling and muttering.

It was enough to remind me that there was peace even in the midst of this fear. It just wouldn’t come from David. 

But it would come. It would come from prayer. It would come from Jesus.

And so, in the dark hallway, I stopped in my tracks. I breathed deeply. And I prayed. I don’t recall exactly what I prayed. What I asked. What words I said.

Except for dear Jesus.

But that’s all I needed. It’s all I ever need.

No, it didn’t stop the crying. It didn’t calm the chaos. It didn’t give me answers. But it provided peace. It ignited hope.

Hope enough for that moment.

Hope enough to pause.

Hope enough to breathe.

Hope enough.

And in the light of that hope, I realized what I needed to do. Leaning on the giver of hope, I stepped confidently out of the darkness of the hallway and into the soft light of living room. Quietly, I scooped up my daughter and carried her to the car.

Where are we going, she asked through gulping breaths.

Just for a drive, I told her. As we drove, I told her about how I often took her for drives like this when she was a new baby. When she was restless and had difficulty falling to sleep, we would drive. We would listen to music. The same music disc I slid into the car’s player as we pulled out of the driveway.

The music lulled. The car movement soothed. The night sky shined with a bright full moon. We found peace. Together. Just the two of us. Well, the three of us, really. Because Jesus was there. I felt him in the peace that settled over us as we drove through the darkness.

When we came home, things were better. We all still had a long day ahead of us, but I knew it would be alright. It would be challenging. It would be chaotic. It would be exhausting.

But it would be okay. 

It would be okay as long as I remembered to pause, to breathe deeply, to pray.

And it was okay. It was challenging and chaotic and exhausting and wearying. But it was okay. More than okay, really. Which is why, when the day was done and I sat in the dimly-lit bedroom singing the hymn, How Great Thou Art to my girls like every other night, I paused. I prayed.

I thanked Jesus that he uses the circumstances of my life to remind me who he is. And he uses those same circumstances to remind me who my husband is.

And how amazing he is in the moments when life seems nothing but chaos and fear. His soft-spoken calm voice in those dark moments echoes the still small voice of God that I desperately need to hear. To feel in my soul. To fill me with hope.

Light. Shadows. Hope.