Marriage: From Googly Goggles to Grace Goggles

Eleven years ago I was packing up my first classroom and my first big girl apartment in Lexington, Kentucky walking into a week which had the words my wedding marking the end of the of the week on the desktop calendar in my fifth grade classroom as well as the calendar stuck to the refrigerator in my apartment kitchen.

I didn’t know it then but I was so googly-eyed for Michael Craddock when I think about that week. Googly-goggles blurring my vision and masking all of my soon to be husband’s flaws. It was my infatuation with Michael Craddock and my googly-goggles that carried us from dating to engagement and finally to the altar, from first date to I do for forever in a little over nine months. Blinded to Michael Craddock’s humanity by my googly-goggles.

What I know now is googly-goggles, infatuation and human effort are certainly fleeting. Humanity, flaws, imperfections and missteps are as much apart of Michael Craddock as they are to every human. Humanity and imperfections are so apart of my own self.

There will always be tension between two imperfect humans living seasons and lifetimes alongside one another but when the goggly-goggles no longer mask human imperfection, in Christ-centered marriage, God provides spiritual goggles of grace, the goggles of true righteousness and holiness made after the likeness of Christ. The goggles of grace which enable me to see my spouse as the way God sees him. Human, imperfect and flawed, but at the same time seen and deeply loved.

Goggles of grace which are spiritually blinding to imperfection in contrast fleeting human effort, infatuation and goggly-goggles.

The goggles of grace help me see my spouse not with the worldly magnifying glass which maximizes things the world defines as imperfect. Goggles of grace enable me to see the unseen, to see a transformation happening beneath the surface-inwardly my spouse is being made new day by day and I have the privilege of sitting in the front row to experience this transformative growth and change.

“When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves  your spouse, and he is committed to transforming him or her by his grace, and he has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change.” Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

After I will and I do for eleven years, four thousand and fifteen days and what feels like forty thousand diapers, I desire to be the kind of wife who chooses to put on the goggles of grace. To put off the worldly pattern of loving out of infatuation and loving only off of the high of the feeling of love. To let the worldly and fleeting pattern unravel away. I desire to be renewed in my mind with the ways of God and put on the goggles of grace, made after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24) I do not choose goggles of grace in every moment, I have so much unraveling to do, but I know God is not finished with me yet.

Googly-goggles may have gotten us to the altar, but it is only grace goggles which will enable us to walk through the rest of our days here on earth alongside one another.

Marriage needs the constant balming of grace and I am thankful to be on the journey alongside my husband as little by little God is redeeming the both of us in marriage and making us both new not because of what we do but because of who He is.

Yes, outwardly we are wasting away but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

photo by Bumblebee Photography

I Miss Mayberry

Although I wanted to be a big city girl growing up, my story had me in a Mayberry kind of place during my youth.

Everything was not in black and white by any means. My Mayberry was in technicolor with the taste of Natural Light Beer or Zimas that had baked in the trunks of first cars in the high school parking lot and memories of house parties in the winter and bonfires in the spring, summer and fall.

I can’t help but think of you in Mayberry. How I miss you sitting next to me during games of power hour or around the bonfire chanting I hate rabbits in hopes of making the smoke move from stinking our clothes and hair to the other side of the circle to make the eyes of our friends burn and water across from us.

How I remember you sat next to me in Spanish IV, taught me how to shop for legit thrift shop tees, change the oil in my 5 speed- manual Dodge Neon or just loved a heart-broken girl who lost her mother freshman year in high school.

I miss seeing all of you in Mayberry.

Now it is just Facebook posts and Twitter tweets and I feel like I know more about which side of the aisle you stand on than I can remember the crooked teeth that settled back in your smile because you didn’t faithfully wear your retainer.

I miss feeling your shoulder next to mine and your laugh.

I miss seeing you in three-dimension and technicolor instead of 140 character posts and emojis that show up in my feed.

I miss Mayberry being a place where we could talk about real issues face to face, around a table at a house party or around a bonfire. Because heavy conversations should be had in three-dimension. Not in 140 characters on a feed.

My heart has been heavy from only experiencing you and where you stand on candidates, abortion, refugees and women’s rights. I have become frustrated. I’ve thought about this. I’ve thought about you. And I confess I have forgotten to see the three-dimensional, technicolor, Natural Light breath version of you. I’ve seen posts, and I have forgotten the entirety of you.

That we are different. And I am thankful for that. We think differently about issues and the differences I experienced in Mayberry make me who I am today. Your story is weaved into the patchwork of mine because of time spent cruising in the Neon or conversations around the bonfire.

And damn, we have had fun times and you can make me laugh.

I wish we could make it back to Mayberry and wade through spouses, children, jobs, states and time to sit around a kitchen table with week old Natural Light or Zimas (if they still make those) with Jolly Ranchers sunk down in the bottom of the bottle. The conversations about candidates, abortion, refugees and women’s rights would be much different. I’d see you in three dimension and I’d remember the whole you.

Because the more I think about you in technicolor, in Mayberry, around that bonfire. The more I remember my deep affection for you and the crooked teeth in that smile.

You are not just someone standing on the left or the right. You are a whole person. You are my friend. And I believe our friendship and our experiences together are much deeper than our polictical choices.

I miss you in Mayberry. I want more often to think of you there instead of words on my mobile screen.

I miss seeing you in three-dimension.

One is Silver and the Other’s Gold

Years ago, I could not wait to turn eighteen, graduate and leave the childhood home I grew up in on Sycamore Creek Drive. I wanted a fresh start and I never wanted to look back. I had many happy memories in that place but my inability to deal with my grief as an adolescent left a lot of those happy memories in the dark shadows of the ever looming grief I kept beneath what I believed to be was a tough-girl exterior.

And for a few years after high school ended I was able to make a fresh start for myself in a new place. I moved my life to Kentucky, attended school, started my first job, met my husband and got married.

However, I still held my grief beneath a tough-girl exterior. I was able to numb myself with positive things during my years in college and the early years of marriage. Things like an over-achieving course load, good grades, and countless activities and all around busyness which was a step up from the numbing drugs I had chosen during my days in high school; troublemaking, chasing boys, skipping school, drinking and a severe addiction to mixed cassette tapes- the fast-forwarding, flipping over to the other side, the rewinding- all to orchestrate the perfect anthem for car dancing from the from seat of my purple Dodge Neon.

Either way I look at how I tried to bury emotion and grief, whether it was the accolades or the vices of addition, I found myself severely attracted to things and tasks and extremely disconnected from people. When I acknowledge where I am tender I can see that I have completely lacked deep emotional intimacy with others.

Relationships are such a tricky, tender place for me and as I follow up on my last post, Changing from the Inside Out this past year I discovered this one sentence in a beautiful book on vulnerability,

“When we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

When I was a child, I remember singing an old Girl Scout song with my mom while I wore the prestigious brown brownie vest laden with colorful patches, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”

And over time as my arms outgrew that brownie vest and my mother passed away from breast cancer when I was a freshman in high school it became extremely difficult to listen to happy songs or think about how precious people are because I had lost something so dear and so precious. My heart hardened in my grief and this childhood song along with many others became distant whispers. These are the happy moments I lost in the shadows of that looming grief. And this is the place where relationships became a tender place for me.

I had friends. The Lord has blessed me with so many amazing people in my life. So many more than I deserve. But in burying grief, ignoring it and not wrestling through it I completely lost the ability to be emotionally intimate with anyone.

Years later, as an adult I was introduced to the God of the Bible. The verses from scripture seemed to go from words in an old dusty book on a shelf to God’s words to me, His redemption story of the world and how my life was a tiny thread in all of it.

Even though I had heard stories from the Bible before and sat in mass almost every Saturday night I had never read the Word of God for myself; but once I read them, it was like the piece I had been searching for underneath the empty accolades and addicting vices was finally sitting right in my lap. I had ears to hear God and a heart prepared to receive His perfect peace.

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9

One of the very first verses that brought me so much joy and freedom was from 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, The old has gone, the new is here!

In Christ, I believed I could start over completely. This is what I had wanted for so long. To separate the old from the new. To just be new. To start a new book for myself entirely. I wanted to forget the dark shadowy places, completely. I misinterpreted this to mean I could completely let go of the person who I was before I had those ears to hear.

The young girl listening to Girl Scout songs, the sad motherless girl, the troublemaking-disconnected teenager and the over-achieving sorority girl. I was given a new life and the freedom to start new.

My first few years as a new Christian I experienced a major identity crisis. When starting my new story, I had no idea who I actually was anymore.

And then. After so many years of running away, God called me back to a place not too far from my home on Sycamore Creek Drive. Just sixteen-point-three miles away to be exact.

And after eight years of living sixteen-point-three miles away and thirteen years of reading that verse from 2 Corinthians, I have discovered that God wasn’t leading me to start a new book but simply a new chapter. That my whole life, my entire story is bound together in the same book. I can’t just forget about who I was or dismiss it completely. God was writing a story for me from the beginning and my story is incomplete if I leave out the moments I left in the shadows on Sycamore Creek Drive. The highest peaks and the lowliest shadowy places are all apart of God’s work in my life.

This past year, as I looked my grief in the face and decided I would not be defined by it I was lead to a rediscovery of relationships with the people who I left back in those early chapters. The people and the relationships I have worked at restoring have been like neat little bridges to the stories of my past.

Some of those bridges which I believed to be the strongest have collapsed for reasons in which I can’t explain or understand. But many of them, even with all my running away, even in the dark shadows, by God’s grace those bridges remained sturdy and strong enough to step on, to walk on. Those bridges left in the shadows have had a foundation that was strong enough to walk towards someone else on the other side of it.

It has been terrifying to walk on those bridges. But it’s been a journey back to who I really am.

Some of the bridges have collapsed completely while I was standing right in the middle of them.

Some of them have needed desperate repair.

Some of them were shaky but the person on the other side met me so much more than halfway across and walked alongside me all the way back.

Because it sucks to face the dark places of your life. It is scary to face the ugly parts of yourself. But it is good to have others help you gather up the happy places and uncover them from the shadows.

And as I have been walking on those bridges back to who I used to be I have been thinking about that song. The one about old friends, new friends, the silver and the gold.

New friends are silver. They are precious but more easily tarnished simply because of the newness of the relationship. But the ones who make it through without tarnishing are precious.

Both relationships, old and new are valuable.

But the old relationships. Those relationships are gold. Like gold, the old relationships, the ones where the bridges have surprisingly stayed intact in the shadows, those relationships are gold. They are solid.

The laughs are still the same. You can tell your horrible jokes safely because your sense of humor is known and (mostly) unoffensive.

Those old relationships like gold have been portable, I’ve been able to carry them with me, they have made me who I am.They cannot be counterfeited, they do not perish and those old relationships are much more rare.

I have been surprised that I could come back to where I came from after so many years of running away from it. But in walking those bridges I have found precious, rare treasures.

And as I walk these bridges to my earlier chapters I am discovering that the gospel frees me to be vulnerable and emotionally intimate with others. That God is making me new by peeling back my layers of grief and He doesn’t want me to forget the old chapters but to see them with a new lens.

And I have not completely arrived in the area of emotional intimacy with others. I am still very much scratching the surface.

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

C.S Lewis, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

But in Christ, God is making me new. He is calling me to uncover the shadows and walk bravely in His love. That the God of the universe knows the early chapters completely and in His redemption of me I am fully known and deeply loved.

The more I discover the people who knew my dark-shadowed times will still laugh with me and rejoice with me and the more I walk in the truth that you can be fully known and deeply loved- these things free me to grow confident in my emotional intimacy with others. A cure is beginning.

Even though I out grew that Brownie Vest, the song is still true. It necessary to make new friends but just as necessary to keep the old. Both are the bridges to all of our chapters in all of our stories. One is silver and the other is gold.

Unraveling Grief

This very week, nineteen years ago I was riding in the front seat of our silver Town & Country minivan with my father manning the wheel. I stared out the window as we drove down Sycamore Creek Drive, my eyes fixed on the greening grass that streaked alongside the concrete curb.

I was fourteen, six weeks shy of fifteen and my father was about to say something to me in the privacy of that car, a simple sentence which would change me forever. I knew the words were coming. Every adult around me had been locked and loaded with the words for weeks probably bearing the weight of them and waiting for just the right time to delicately let the words leave their lips hoping the words would come out like the gentle drop of a pin instead of like an earth shattering atomic bomb.

I felt the weight of the words before they were even said. I knew they were coming, I was preparing for the earth shattering atomic bomb. As I prepared for the news I rehearsed the best way I knew how. Just like anyone would prepare for an air assault, I toughened up my exterior and pulled up my bootstraps. I was going to face the worst but appear like a strong fortress, absent of emotion, cold, but protected.

As I stared out the window, I heard my father say, “Rach, mom is going to die.”

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The words enveloped me. I had prepared for this exact moment and I responded in the best way I knew how. I kept staring out the window and all I could reply was, “I know.” As I stared and attempted to let disengagement consume me I felt warm tears begin to cover my eyes, turning the strong streaking line out my window into a blurry green blob, even mixing up sometimes with the grayness of the curb.

Staring at the green gray blob became too much so I drew my gaze in and I caught my reflection in the window. I saw the tears in my eyes reflected back at me and immediately I remember being overcome with disappointment in myself for not holding it together enough. For not being strong enough. For not preparing well enough emotionally to handle the news. And then the shame flooded in. I knew if I could see my reflection, my father could see it too. I knew he knew I was crying. I didn’t want him to know I was weak nor did I want to appear too emotional.

I felt the responsibly to be strong and brave in the waves of uncertainty and the shattered earth beneath my feet.

So the best I knew how I tried to go back inside my fortress to hide from my pain. I built walls. I hid behind a heavy mask and protected myself with layers of armor.

The armor I hid behind looked different in different seasons. In high school my armor was a tough girl exterior. I don’t think I wore it well but I flirted with rebellion, disengagement, relationships with men, drinking and recreational drugs. Anything I could get my hands on to help me escape my pain, I tried it. But my fixes weren’t fixing. My band-aids weren’t able to hold together the still open wounds underneath the armor and the masks.

I became exhausted from hiding beneath the bad to the bone girl I was trying to be in high school so in college I tried on some new ways to hid my pain from the world. For a season, during my days at Eastern Kentucky University I tried on the armor of busyness. Twenty-two hours a semester, 4.0s, overly-involved, mentor, sorority girl, chair of the committee, changing the world kind of busyness.

I never wanted to be known as the girl with the hard story so I ran from my hard story. Buried it so deep it even became difficult for me to remember my actual mother. I spent so long trying to be strong and burying pain that I lost even the happy pieces of the times I shared with her.

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Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly,

“When we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”

I had spent so many years hiding from where I was tender that I wasn’t even sure anymore how and where I was tender.

Brown also goes on to write from her own experience,

“Slowly I learned that this shield was too heavy to lug around, and that the only thing it really did was keep me from knowing myself and letting myself be known. The shield required that I stay small and quiet behind it so as not to draw attention to my imperfections and vulnerabilities. It was exhausting.”

From my own experiences in unraveling my grief over the loss of my mother I could not agree more. I spent so many years hiding behind strong personas, I forgot who I really was. I lost myself. And I felt isolated because I never let anyone know the real me. And I didn’t have my mother present to tell me how to snap out of it.

For so many years I hid and then I lost myself. I felt like a balloon, not tethered to anything at all, just floating around.

It has only been in the last five years that I have been able to slowly unravel my misconceptions about my grief. When you are fourteen you think you know everything about the world and about strength but truth is I knew so little about strength, I knew nothing about it at all.

I thought strength and vulnerability were like that greening grass and the hard concrete I saw streaking outside the window on that April morning. Two very different things which before I felt tender I believed would never blur.

But it turns out, today I believe strength and vulnerability are actually a lot like the blurry blob of grass and concrete I saw out my window when I was feeling tender. To see them both blurred together as one thing. That strength requires vulnerability and it takes a whole lot more strength to be vulnerable than it does to pretend that you can just keep marching on and hide beneath armor and masks.

Now I understand that to hide my pain is not strength at all. It is weak, cold and inhuman.

So I have loosened the bootstraps, tried to get rid of my solider boots all together and I am slowly unraveling unhealthy patterns.

I am trying to be more tender. To learn and remember where I am tender.

I am trying to remember my mom. To cry and sometimes shout to myself, “It sucks that my mom is not here.” Sucks is not apart of my regular vocabulary but it seems to fit there for now.

When I let myself remember the emptiness I feel when I think about her it helps me remember that this life is just not the way it is supposed to be and I long for heavenly places where there is no more crying and no more tears.

I try to talk about my mom with my kids because they ask about her.

I try to remember my mom with my brother and sister. Though my vulnerability with them causes tears. I can only share a little and try to remember the blurring vision my tears cause and what I believe that means. Grief is not black and white, or green and gray streaks or little neat steps. I can’t check off the boxes when it comes to my grief.

Grief is jagg-ed and criss cross with both hard edges and smooth shining surfaces. Grief requires a constant unraveling of our hearts.

I try to sit and wait with a hurting heart. I wait because if I try to bandage it on my own, I will never truly heal. I sit and wait on a Good God who sees me while I wait and promises He will bind up the wounds, I only need to wait and be still. (Psalm 147:3)

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In the jagg-ed and criss-cross places of grief, I have unraveled enough to know now that it’s okay to lean into uncertainty and earth shattering grounds, to be tender and broken, exposed and known because I don’t have to appear strong at all. That I can delight in the broken and tender places. It is there where I find God glorified. It is there where I see him holding all the threads of myself together. Taking away threads of misconception and binding me up with His promises to me and His truth.

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And I’m not all the way redeemed in my grief. I still have so much more unraveling to do. I may have only begun to chip away at the surface. But I have so much more hope. I know there is a real and good God at work in my heart because I never could have been called out from behind the armor on my own. Little by little God is working on me. Making me more aware of where I am tender and helping me see that to grieve is to simply be human.

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.