Motherhood + Marriage
Grace for the Middle Years
March 11, 2018 at 7:25 am 0

A Sunday reflection

  I commented the other day that we're in the middle years; though we're nearing the end of our thirties, and by all standards still fit into the "young" category, it feels like we're right in the middle. And though "middle aged" has a bunch of connotations about grey hair and going all in for a red sports car, there is something both mundane and beautiful about being in the middle. We're past the baby-rearing stage, and we glimpse the teenage years barreling towards us. Our parents will have health flare-ups but we're not yet sandwiched between launching children and caring for parents. But the years of going to weddings and baby showers have slowed. We don't spend our weekends traveling for parties or attending themed galas. We've been married long enough to know that there will be cycles of intimacy, distance, and clinging to one another for grace. That, as our marriage grows and deepens it does so in the normal day-to-day activities of making each other coffee, sacrificing our whims for the good of the other, for planning date nights and sex and learning to be silly when the weight of the world feels like it's on your shoulders. These are the small ways love looks in the middle. I've fought the middle for a long time. The way it feels so predictable and boring. Raised on Disney stories and my own idealistic and unrealistic expectations about love, marriage, parenting, and friendship, I thought the thrill would never leave. What I'm finding is we have a choice in the middle years: will I yearn for the early years when everything was fresh and full of promise, or will I patiently practice love in all the intervening small spaces of self-sacrifice? Will I try to make someone (a friend, a child, a mate) into someone they're not or will I love them as they are? The middle can be boring. It's often unsexy. It lacks the thrill of the beginning when all was new. But it hasn't yet arrived at the warm full-bodied sense of glory that's waiting at the end. I want other people's stories of life in the middle. I want stories that will seep into my bones about the goodness of the gospel in the ordinary, daily moments. I want stories about people, places, and things -- nouns that show us that living a life of faith is possible right in the ordinary. Today, I'm living in the middle. Of course it's lost its sheen, but that is not the point. We are headed somewhere together and all good journeys take a deep breath and dig in for the middle. It's in the middle where you really catch your stride. It's in the middle where a stalwart confidence and deeply grounded sense of self grow. So I make coffee for my husband as he leaves early to set up for church. I'll pour cereal for my children and teach Sunday School. I'll reach out to new faces at church and stay to welcome them, and I'll know my children can play unattended for a bit in these middle years. We'll come home and rest our bodies and I'll cuddle up with my big boys for movies. This is the bodily language of the middle and it, too, is a gift.
At other places
This year, I have a Valentine’s Date with a Parking Lot
February 13, 2018 at 8:50 am 0
This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day. The day of candy hearts, overpriced roses, and a whole host of feelings emerge on the same day that the church calendar calls us to gather in community, to reckon with our mortality, and to repent. It's just the sort of confluence that gets me thinking and writing.  
Memory is a strange thing — the way it picks and chooses what to remember, how it distorts and puts the puzzle of real life back together in its own way. On one particular Valentine’s Day in high school, I remember feeling more woman than girl, with a fancy red top. I met my boyfriend (now husband) at the bottom of the stairs, his flowers and photo collage in hand. His jaw dropped. We’d been a couple for six months, which of course is a lifetime in high school romances. That was what romantic love was then — demonstrative acts of adoration, feeling sexy, clinging to another person to save you. It was fancy dinners and longing. Love was not yet what it could and would be. It was but a shadow of what Love is. Love looks different now. This year, twenty Valentine’s Days past that one, I’m going to be spending it in the parking lot of our local elementary school because this year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Since our church plant meets at the local elementary school and we can’t get space to meet mid-week, we’re meeting in the parking lot. As the wife of the pastor, I first asked (not very nicely), “What? For real? We’re meeting in the parking lot?” Yet, I suppose it makes sense — and in a way that is about more than just scheduling. What other space is as mundane, as common, as the asphalt at a local elementary school? ... So, I will line up behind a bedraggled group of suburbanites in the local elementary school parking lot, trying to wrangle our kids so we can bring all of who we are to be marked by the reminder we too often forget: we are but dust and to dust we shall return.

Read the whole piece here, at The Well.

    If you're longing for your Lenten season to have purpose, or if you're curious about practicing Lent in positive life-giving ways, I've created "40 Ways to Love Your Suburb" and it's FREE just this week. To get it, enter your email and it'll come to you on Ash Wednesday -- whether or not you're gathering in a parking lot.

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At other places
How Not to Lose Your Footing
January 10, 2018 at 6:00 am 0
Perhaps you're out of routine and haven't grabbed 2018 by the horns yet, like me? Maybe you got some version of the dreaded flu? Or maybe you just found yourself a bit dizzy at the end of 2017 and into 2018. If that's the case, I'd love for you to read my latest for the Mudroom -- all about how to not lose your footing on a tilt-a-whirl. But really it's about marriage and excess and stability.  
I admit to being a bit spoiled: my husband hardly travels much for work anymore. Now, as a church planter, we practice staying put, putting down roots, being placed. (How else, can we plant an outpost for God's kingdom if we're always moving on?) But over the holidays, I sent him off on a plane for a three-day ski trip. Back to the mountains of Utah: to ski the "greatest snow on earth." Out of practice of solo parenting or sleeping alone, I kept his pocketknife on my bedside table and my phone plugged in to the wall (to, of course, call the police when an inevitable imaginary intruder came through my front door. I'd call and then use the pocket knife if need be.) It was a silly garrison, little things piled up to keep away all the unstable fears that came falling out when my husband, that most stable of people, left for a few days.
And when that most stable of men -- the one I've vowed to love, honor, and cherish till death do us part -- left for a few days, I unravelled a bit. Not so much by making my bedroom a garrison, but I had I lost the ordinary boundaries on my consumption. I didn't cook. I ate junk. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning obsessed with whatever was happening on Twitter. I began fruitless job searches on LinkedIn. I even re-did my LinkedIn profile. I took everything from the wrong angle -- glutting myself on sugar, information, possibilities -- rather than learning how to step back, practice self-control and patience, and make goals and plans to help me make decisions, from everything from what to eat and where to work. I became a black hole for whatever promised to satisfy at the moment -- the glass of wine, the rest of the English toffee, the scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, the job openings that I didn't even want.
  I'm back to some storytelling and The Mudroom. I'd love for you to read the rest.
At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Making Marriage Beautiful
April 13, 2017 at 4:42 am 0

How do you do more than simply "make do" in marriage with all the demands of schedules, children, and jobs?

Here's a bit of my story:  We were making our sixth home together — after first jobs, graduate school in another country, ministerial internships, and now, after two little babies came whooshing into our life. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember shouting that echoed off of wood floors, how I didn’t have words for the tail spin of all that I thought life should be and what it clearly was. So instead we screamed. I didn’t have words for all the ways it was easier to blame him than to grow with him— for the many moves, for adventures that took at least two years to feel at home, for our growing family and the demands on me as a young mother.
It was easier to thrust his own issues on him, run and hide from mine, and make him be the scapegoat for all the angst I felt at the hard process of growing up.
No, I didn’t have the words to own up to my own birthright of sin. So we shouted. We slammed doors. We both were so alone. Now, after more than half our lifetimes together and nearly two years into move number eight, we’ve added two more children, we’re planting a church back home in the suburbs, and I’m writing a book. We’re exhausted. But we’re not exhausted in a way that leads to shouting and door slamming. The change gradually seeped in through lots of prayer, counseling, and going through Sonship, an intensive discipleship program. As we do things we have no more energy to do on our own strength like writing books and church planting and raising four children — I’ve seen the sin patterns in my navel-gazing, my own fear of invisibility if I wasn’t out in the work force being productive, and how it’s easier to blame shift than to see the truth of your own heart.
We make our marriage beautiful because we choose, day by day, to be for each other.
... Read the rest at Dorothy Greco's site. ... Dorothy Greco has written a fantastic resource on marriage, Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You. It's relatable, helpful, and filled with stories of people working hard to make their marriage not only thrive but also be beautiful. Buy it here.
When the Enneagram paints your marriage as volatile (for The Mudroom)
February 10, 2017 at 7:00 am 0

If Myers-Briggs put me in a lovely little box I could be proud of and present to others — “here is my amazing self, take and see” — then the Enneagram has been the first tool to tell me that maybe, just maybe, my "gift to the world" can be a bit “too much.” That my greatest strength can actually also make me obsessive and prone to navel-gazing. It's what the Enneagram is best at -- showing us the shadowside and paths for growth. Of course this is also something my husband has told me all along. When it's him who preempts my epiphanic moment, I get all ruffled. Later, we learn, lo and behold, that per the Enneagram we're a "volatile combination."

His number on the Enneagram (8, the Challenger) and mine (4, Individualist) are “inherently volatile.” The Enneagram Institute says:

Both Enneagram Fours and Eights are intense and have strong emotional responses; both seek to get a reaction from the other, and both can be dominating of their environments—Eights are socially dominant, Fours are emotionally dominant. Both types bring passion, intensity, energy, and deep (often unconscious) feelings to all aspects of the relationship. They are attracted to each other's storminess, the other's vulnerability, and the other's "hidden" qualities: neither is what they seem to be on the surface. Both types are also highly intuitive—Fours by being self-aware and knowledgeable about how they are feeling, and Eights with their intuition about external phenomena, often with an extremely accurate insight about the potentials and possibilities exhibited by others.

This is what has lead us to conclude that he builds systems and knows what needs doing to help an organization flourish, while I get my fingernails dirty in the mess of people's emotional and spiritual states. We’re yin to each other’s yang, when we’re in step with the other.


Read the rest over at The Mudroom -- all about how I've learned that volatility isn't a crime. It'll give you hope for your own marriage.