If You Think You May Have Married A Crazy Person

I know it crossed my husband’s mind a time or (let’s be honest) a dozen times when we were first married. I know in our first months of matrimony he looked at me more than once like he did not even know me at all.

The first time was perhaps when we were fighting about something really good like how long an unused glass should sit on the countertop. My husband would say an empty glass could sit on the countertop and be refilled again for further hydration purposes throughout the day and I am more of a “as soon as it hits the countertop I am swooping it into the dishwasher” kind of gal.

One of these first fights had us both pretty heated as we were both just learning the dance of communication in marriage.

Literally while I was firmly speaking about all the times he had left his glass out with hands going in all directions my sweet husband sat down on the couch opened his Bible and motioned me to sit next to him. He started reading the scriptures to me and I think my head started spinning like the exorcist lady.

I gave my husband my evilest of teacher looks and I growled, “YOU GET THAT BIBLE AWAY FROM ME.”

Call me a horrible Christian or call me human but I did not want to hear the Word of God in that moment.

This may have been the first little appetizer of my insanity and the first time my husband may have thought he married, for better or for worse, a crazy person.

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The soup and salad course of this dazzling crazy person meal would probably have been the time he brought a buddy home after seminary class while I was at work without telling me. When he brought me home that afternoon and mentioned the great time he had I FREAKED OUT because I had not cleaned the toilets that morning.

The entree was most likely when I had my new husband take me to the emergency room because I believed I was having a heart attack. I was twenty-two and generally in good health but on the way to the hospital I was panicking about quadruple-bypasses.

The dessert course was most likely the other argument we had about glasses on the counter and he asked me if we could pray about it and I said “Sure, you pray out here in the living room and I will pray in the bedroom.” And I fell asleep instead of praying.

And this was really me.

I was really married to my husband and I was struggling to believe truth, hear truth and walk in truth.

And I was really hurting.

BUT

My husband loved me though it.

He may be the only person that has truly seen me in the worst of times, the craziest of times, and loved me through the crazy.

And at times our marriage has felt like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but my husband has fastened his seatbelt and committed not to unbuckle and bail when the bumps and hiccups feel like something he didn’t sign up for.

“Human sin is stubborn,” says Cornelius Plantinga, “but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way.”3 Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting grace that changes us. Now that’s good news indeed.”
― Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say “I Do”

The beautiful thing about a marriage founded in the gospel is Michael and I both are not committed to the person who we see sitting in front of us right now in this present moment. As husband and wife, we are committed to the wretched mess being sanctified only because of the power of God working in us. And we believe that God isn’t finished with us yet but working in us until we reach our full potential and beauty.

So if you are in a Christian marriage and you are contemplating whether or not you married a crazy person…

Cling to the truth that the icing on that cake is coming and one day, God will perfect us with all the endless truth and beauty freely offered on Christ.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

He is able to redeem the crazy person and give the crazy person the gift of grace of being known and loved.

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Dear Mom, Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

My mother passed away after a seven year battle with breast cancer when I was fourteen. There is literally no way she could have told me all the things I needed to know about pregnancy and parenting but I had this idea to write like I was writing to her a few years ago so I’d thought I give it a try. There are so many times I find my kids sucking on the toilet cleaning brush or wondering what to do about splinters and I ask myself why I didn’t have a notebook in my back pocket observing my mother while I could have. 

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Dear Mom,

I love you and I miss you tremendously every day. Seriously. Young moms need their moms to have on the other end of the phone saying things like, you used to suck on the toilet brush too and you still have two eyes, ten fingers, ten toes and a twisted but very funny sense of humor. 

I am now a mom and I get you. I get why you had to talk to yourself while you are driving the minivan or shopping in the grocery store. I used to think you were a little insane. I loved you but the aloud list making was just something I couldn’t understand. But I get it now. If you didn’t say it aloud your thoughts may have been lost in the screaming and the chaos of the unpredictable life of raising multiple kids.

And by the way, why didn’t you tell me it was unpredictable? I really believed my children would come into the world knowing how to listen to mommy’s voice. I have seen all these nice videos now-a-days on the Internet (the Internet has really taken off and is a good but horrible thing all at the same time) when children hear their mother’s voice from their womb and the mother’s voice is a beacon for them, it is comforting to them. Why didn’t you tell me that as babies grow the beacon isn’t as important for them anymore?

None of my children listen to mommy’s voice. There are times when I feel like they have turned my beacon/frequency down all together. If you would have told me this before I feel like I could have been a little more guns blazing about it. The listening patterns of my children are still a mystery to me.

Why didn’t you tell me there will be days when I feel like I am doing everything wrong but at the same time I am doing something right.

As a mom there are so many moments when the data seems to point to the undesirable outcome. There are just too many times when I feel like I am screwing up my kids and I wish you would have told me that it will all be okay.

I wish you would have said that even though you were at every class party, brownie troop meeting, dance competition and planned the most creative birthday parties I have ever seen before pinterest, (pinterest is a website where people can find all of your ideas for birthday parties on that thing I mentioned above called The Internet, it doesn’t even dial up anymore, it’s all about high speed access to your awesome birthday party ideas)

I wish you would have told me that I didn’t always listen and the data pointed to the undesirable for you too.

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Why didn’t you tell me it would be so hard and that I would need you so much? Even what feels like so much more now than it felt like I needed you when I needed you when I was little.

When I was little I needed you to help me use a spoon but now I need you to help me feel un-crazy.

These toilet brush sucking moments make me freak out! I can’t even begin to let myself go down the road of germs and other possibilities. I really can’t even go there or I’d call 9-1-1.

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why wasn’t I listening?

Why aren’t you still here?

These are the moments when I miss you. When I want to pick up the phone and call someone who has been gone for seventeen years.

It’s a good thing I’ve totally accepted talking to myself as normal. That basically is what I blog is for me. So I’ll maybe keep bringing the questions to you here.

Maybe someone out there will remind me that toilet brush sucking has happened before and talking to yourself is not insane but it is survival.

Mom, I miss you all the time. The loss of you makes me understand the fact that this life is not the way it is supposed to be and makes my soul long for something better. 

You were a treasure and I wish I would have followed you around with a notebook when I could have.

Unraveling Kindness

I never knew it but for a long time I never understood the real reason of why it was important to be kind to others.

I can remember being taught the saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” from Matthew 7:12 and I believed what this verse was communicating was that if you gave kindness to others, others will give kindness in return. We treat people as we want to be treated in hope of someone giving back kindness to us in return.

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I interpreted this teaching from the Bible as a young girl, just one verse, which is a good verse in itself but without proper teaching and my own ability to turn a verse into what I want it to mean, I led a life giving kindness and expecting kindness in return.

This way of living gave me many years of giving kindness and receiving disappointment.

Living a life giving out kindness and expecting kindness in return is not a great way to live. Everyone out there is fighting battles I can’t even begin to know about. People are lost, insecure, hurting, scared and jealous. All on their own levels. But everyone is fighting a some kind of battle in the same way I am fighting mine to put off the lostness, the insecurities, the hurts, the fears and learning to love yourself enough to not compare your life to the lives of others.

I have lived enough years now to know that giving kindness does not always return kindness. You can smile at that runner on your route every week and they may never smile back.

You can like someone’s photos on Facebook, wish them a Happy Birthday, take interest in their life and family and they may never take interest in you back. They may never wish you a Happy Birthday and they may even unfollow you.

And this is life. Living life is raw with real hurts to your heart and life lessons beneath the surface. It has taken me ten years of following Jesus to unravel my thoughts about kindness. Ten years of undoing the things I thought were true and letting God weave truth within me from His Word. What is true about kindness is we do not give kindness to receive kindness.

We give kindness to others only because God is kind.

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It has taken ten years of reading the Bible as an entire story and ten years to learn how to unravel what is untrue about kindness. To take that one good verse and place it in the midst of all the other verses that God speaks to us about kindness. To synthesize them all together under teachings from Sunday mornings and participation in Bible studies.

 

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Psalms 36:7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

Psalms 63:3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.

Acts 20:35b – It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Galatians 6:9a – Let us not lose heart in doing good.

I John 3:19 – We love, because He first loved us.

Hebrews 13:1-2 – Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

James 3:17-18 – For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

It has taken me ten years to learn that giving kindness is not about receiving kindness in return. Kindness should be given to show others the love of God. I can only be responsible for my part and I cannot control how others respond to me. I do not know their battles. I can only know mine. And it is a fight for me to give kindness when kindness is not returned.

So that is my battle for now.

I will be kind because God is kind, giving kindness freely and expecting nothing in return. I believe this is where the root of true kindness begins. When we give and expect nothing in return. Just as God has given us Himself, in our messes, and He abundantly bestows his lovingkindness on us even when sometimes we are too blinded by ourselves to give him anything in return.

As Christians we have to get off the hamster wheel of giving kindness to receive kindness. We have to give kindness only because God is kind and expect nothing in return. It is there that we can find true kindness, without selfish ambition. It is there that we can have that runner not smile back every week and remember how long God has bestowed his lovingkindness on us and we have looked the other way and not smiled back in return.

We can only give kindness because God was kind to us first. Over and over again.

That is the truth and that is what I have been missing all these years.

We can only be kind because God is kind.

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Stick with me and follow this blog as I continue to write stories about what it is like to unravel and learn to be Christian in the front row at church. I am forever learning, growing and trusting that God has begun a good work in me and is bringing it to completion. 

Marriage: Learning To Ask Questions

A few nights ago I noticed that the leftover boxes from the lunch we had eaten out that afternoon were not in the refrigerator. My husband had taken our four children home from the restaurant in our minivan and I had taken his car to the grocery store after lunch. It was his role that afternoon to get the kids home safely and get the leftover boxes out of our minivan to prevent them from baking in the hot garage on a humid, eighty-five degree almost-summer day.

Here we are at our rehearsal dinner nine years ago.

Here we are at our rehearsal dinner nine years ago.

My husband and I have been married for nine years. Nine years of good fights and sweet moments of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

For nine years we have been fighting to learn to ask one another questions instead of making accusations when the topics around here get heated. Usually we fight about things like leftover boxes (and also) hypothetical situations.

If I had noticed the boxes missing from the fridge and right away said something like:

You left the food in the car didn’t you?

That would have been a bad question. A very bad question. There are two yous in that question. Even though it is what I wanted to say… it hints at the fact that I know the answer. This kind of question would be an accusation. Which in marriage, I am learning, is a bad way to communicate with my husband.

Two yous in a question are very bad.

This is the kind of question I asked when we were in the earlier years of our marriage as I unraveled; trying to grow and walk in the gospel of grace but there were parts of me still tangled up in the roots of my past: hot fires of accusations and fists up ready and looking for a good fight.

In the middle years of our marriage I would have asked something like:

Is the food from this afternoon still in the car?

You see as a wife here I am getting better at asking a question but there is still a subtle hint in the direction of an accusation. No yous but there is still a hint of pointing the finger, especially with that sighed still thrown in the middle of the question.

Now, get ready for me to give myself a round of applause. Truly, if you knew my struggles in the area of asking people questions without already assuming the answer you would give me a round of applause too and if you really knew me you would stand up and encourage me to stand up too.

And if you were my husband you would want me to high five, rock fist and chest bump with you in celebration.

After nine years I asked a good question and it happen the other night over leftover boxes.

First step, I waited for the right time. After noticing the missing boxes I waited until the kids were asleep, the house was quiet and my husband and I were snuggled up on the couch watching our new guilty pleasure on Netflix.

I then waited some more and then sweetly asked…

Is the food from lunch maybe still in the car? Maybe it didn’t make it inside while you were bringing the kids in this afternoon.

Truly. The word maybe made my question non-threatening. My husband automatically said, “Yes, I forgot, I am so sorry.” And it was finished.

This whole thing got me thinking about asking questions and growing over time.

I am learning to ask better questions and I know I am not finished in this whole process. God is unraveling me and I am applauding.

Just think how good my question will be when we have been married for sixty years. I will probably just skip the question and retrieve the forgotten boxes once I find that they are missing. That would be completely accusation free. That would be complete sanctification.

And… will probably take fifty-one more years of sanctification. Or maybe longer.

Learning to ask questions has been part of the journey in learning to communicate in our marriage. We are both thankful for the process and thankful to have one another to walk with in the not-so-perfect jouney of learning communication in marriage.

God is able to do more than we could ever ask or think.

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The “I Can’t” Days

There were so many days when I had a baby laying on my chest waiting to be nursed and a toddler pulling on the hem of my pants. There were so many moments when I was overwhelmed with all of the directions my heart was being pulled and all of the needs I could not possibly meet.

There were so many I Can’t Days in our little one story brick home. All the needs of those tiny people in my arms and at my feet overwhelmed me. There were tears and many disappointing sighs.

There were voices. “You are a smart, educated, with-it woman, why can’t you conquer… why can’t you be one step ahead of the runny noses and the diapers and the toys that need to be mended and fixed.”

There were moments when the “I Can’ts” were loud and the “I Cans” were soft.

Being a mom with little children is the hardest thing I have ever done. The boundaries of who I thought I was and the things which I thought I could handle have been nudged, pushed and eventually those boundaries stretched out wider and grew bigger in my young days of motherhood.

The “I Can’t Days” have made me into a better woman. It is horrible at the time, when your boundaries are being nudged, you feel like you just can’t give anymore. You feel like if someone stretches you any further, part of you might just break off. But over time, with that tiny baby on your chest and that toddler pulling on the hem of your pants, you learn that little by little you actually can.

You learn that you can stretch further than you thought. It hurts to grow in the process. I have grown with many tears. But in the hurt and the stretch you get stronger and you learn to punch the “I Can’ts” right in the nose. Right where it smarts.

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Little by little and day by day you learn that you are more than you thought you were when you started this whole journey called motherhood. You find yourself loving in ways you once thought you were incapable of at the beginning of the journey. As you stretch in the “I Can’ts” you learn that you can.

You can care for one child. You can care for two… and then three… and four and beyond. You can survive on 20 minute bursts of sleep between feedings and children getting sick in their beds. You can love something when it is tantruming on the floor and acting unlovable.  You can survive the long days while you are counting the years as short.

Motherhood changes you. It morphs you into a better version of yourself. You learn that you are more selfless than you thought, you learn that you can love bigger and your gag reflex slowly fades away. (See: Why I Have Been Politely Declining You Dinner Invitation)

You learn you can.

You learn you were made specifically for this journey.

And over time the “I Cans” become a little louder and the “I Can’ts” seem to soften.

You become thankful for the “I Can’t Days” because you know that those were the moments when God was refining you. Gently showing you that He made you for this journey and gently showing you that you can do more than you ever thought you could.

Happy Mother’s Day to every woman out there walking with me in the “I Can’t” days and learning, little by little, that we actually can love more than we ever thought we were capable of.

You were made for the journey.

You can.