Saturday, March 02, 2019

Swear I was born right in the doorway

Firsts are a lot less important than we think they are. Those first things say something about us, of course, but they don't finish the sentence. Firsts are just the beginning of the story, the introduction to the characters.  Firsts are relatively easy, they're beautiful and glamorous and no one fights and everyone looks good.

I wouldn't trade the first day of our life for anything, but it hasn't been that first day that marked who we are.

It was all the days of waking up before the sun, and the nights of coughing for ten hours straight and not being banished to the couch. It was the years of working six days a week at part-time jobs cobbled into full. It was weekend afternoons spent doing dishes, midnights cleaning up puke, kissing goodbye even though we were both irritated, making supper after a twelve-hour workday, getting up too early Sunday mornings to run set-up at church. It was dinners spent chatting about what the future would look like, glasses tipped in conspiracy, competing for our share of the chips, playing and dreaming and setting the tone for the coming months. It was Thanksgivings that took hours longer to be ready than we planned, car fights and make-ups, parties we threw and parties we didn't want to go to, shoving couches and Christmas trees and bookshelves and our hopes and dreams into a three-room apartment. It was watching action movies through my fingers, side-eye watching you suffer through my romcoms, and trying (and failing) to find that one movie we both agreed on. It was arguing about money and cars and chores and holidays and beating out some sort of agreement. It was watching you dance with babies, joke with friends, run a team, help a friend move. It was tearful confessions received with mercy and the days you couldn't stop laughing at me even though I thought you should be furious. It was late-morning weekend breakfasts, coffee dates on Sundays, navigating our way in a new city. It was flying across the country, early morning runs, walking to get coffee on vacation, discovering new restaurants together. It was late nights of studying, early mornings before tests, days that were longer than our physical stamina. It was fancy celebration dinners and midnight diner trips for pie. It was waking up with bedhead and pillow-lines mapped on my face and still getting a smile, your eyes crinkled that way they do. It was hearing Jesus ask "Do you love Me...?" and wrestling through what that looked like. It was the better, the worse, the sickness, the health, the wealth, the poverty. And those things didn't come first.

It was the dying that told me who you truly were. And so much of love is watching someone die, and dying for them, again and again and again even when you truly don't think there is anything else left to give.

So here's to firsts-- their beauty and awkward messiness and grandeur and preciousness. And here's also to making it to the finish line, keeping eyes on the end goal, and pacing each other while we run. I couldn't have known on that first day what a fantastic partner you'd be, but I'm glad Holy Spirit told me to choose you.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Silence and longing

You provide the fire
I'll provide the sacrifice

[Kim Walker Smith]

A sacrifice is always dead.

Let's be clear-- the simple fact of being dead doesn't make you a sacrifice. Jesus, our Lamb, became Jesus, our Fiery King, through the act of voluntarily sacrificing Himself for the sake of love. He tells us that if we follow His steps in self-sacrifice, we, too, will be raised up; if we pour ourselves out for the sake of love, if we waste our resources and time and energy not for our own good, the fire will burn but it will not decimate. Our heels will be bruised, but we will stand on the broken head of our enemy.

I don't know about you, but I want that more than anything. I want the powerful hope of resurrection; I want the power of Christ to fuel my days. I want to stop being afraid and angry, and be powerful and joyful instead. I want to look death in the eye and not flinch, because I know Whose and who I am.

A sacrifice is always dead.

Advent is a fast, and fasts are about dying. But the most important part of Advent is looking forward-- expecting, waiting, hoping, longing.

Longing is a fearful and powerful thing. In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the dystopian society he's created is centered around weakening longing-- obliterating desire by constant self-indulgence, spreading out "love" to dodge the demands of committed self-sacrifice, diffusing the jet of human longing into a million tiny fountains that are harmless and powerless. It sounds an awful lot like what I do on a daily basis, honestly-- suffocate my hunger and pain and longing under a comfortable pillow and fleeting entertainment and a full belly.

There's nothing wrong with being full and comfortable and happy; there's only something wrong when I hear and feel and see the truth of my longing and instead dodge back into distraction so I don't have to come face to face with my pain, so I won't be disappointed if there isn't something powerful enough to satisfy and obliterate the longing.

A sacrifice is always dead, and part of Advent is making space-- dying to the old things to make room for the new.

The One Who names Himself Desire of Nations is not unfamiliar with the raw longings of the human heart; He isn't overwhelmed or irritated by our need, and He doesn't expect us to just get a grip and get over our fierce hope, our yearning for more. He wants us to feel our longing-- to honestly enter into the pain and frustration and discomfort of it, so that we can experience the intense satisfaction that comes only from His fiery love.

A sacrifice is always dead.

I don't know what it looks like for you to to hope and fast and long this Advent, but I think part of what it looks like for me is to make intentional silent space in my life-- to put aside, to die to, the noise and busyness and gratification that constant connectivity and entertainment offers me. What does it look like not to dull the pain and unmet hope, but instead point it at Jesus in a howl of honest longing?

Come, Desire of Nations, Come

Monday, February 27, 2017

To dust

We are gathered
dear people of God
but I am not gathered.
renew your repentance and faith

I do not still inside until my body moves, drops to my knees
to make a right beginning
and I feel the discomfort that seems like it shouldn't be quite so uncomfortable
and as a mark of our mortal nature
and I can no longer pretend that my insides and outside are not entwined.

And when we rise
You have created us
I follow down the aisle and I watch the dust smudge the skin of my mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, new and old and young and aged alike
a sign of our mortality and penitence
and I am always so startled to see even the babies marked and it makes me cry
that we may remember
and it comes to me
Katie, remember that you are dust
and I close my eyes and I feel the fingers and ash on my forehead
and to dust you shall return
and this is both the most and the least important I have ever been
Amen, I agree
and I open my eyes and carry the mark with me inside and out as I go

With our fathers and mothers, we cry out
have mercy on me, O God
and the words are raw and broken
we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed
but there is always comfort for the penitent, there is always salvation for the distressed
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, desires not the death of sinners
and we kneel as one as we are reminded that even on this night of dust, we are treasures
He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent

This night, it seems too dark and too dusty and too sober for me to bear
but without it how quickly I forget
that you are dust
and pretend I am strong and important all on my own
and to dust
and I fight the inevitable
you shall return

He gives us the gifts of dust
and ashes
you are dust
and grief
to dust
and repentance
you shall return
for that is the point
you shall return

Forty days
and the seed that dies
that you are dust and to dust you shall return
becomes the tree that rises
that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy
and I discover this low place is where my true authority culminates
that at the last we may come to His eternal joy
and that willing death will always give way to new life.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

He Who sits in the heavens laughs

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I did not speak out
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

In forty years, when my children ask me so what happened in 2016?

I'll tell them this--
       we got what we asked for.

We asked, politicked, picketed, protested, for our government to solve all our problems-- so we got the most narcissistic crafty candidates possible.

We put our trust in the courts of men, so the idea of the possibility of a Supreme Court opening crippled the morals of hundreds of normally sane people.

We feared what wasn't us, and the devil's whispers in our ears told us kill it persecute it slander it snuff it out so we capitulated
because we believed even Jesus
wasn't stronger than a manmade wall.

(A wall. Do you even know how He handles walls?!?)

We forgot the lives and the blood of our forefathers and mothers, and we thought it was a good idea to elect a caesar who has determined that members of certain religions or races are inherently evil or worthless.

We looked at intelligent, thoughtful, soft-spoken, determined politicians, who said it is insane to build a wall, carpet-bomb families, patrol and oppress people a different flavor than "us"; and because they didn't make for exciting TV, we shrugged our shoulders, hugged our bowls of popcorn closer, changed the channels, and sold our votes for a few months of sick schadenfreude entertainment.

We decided that because Jesus was a long time coming with drawn sword, that the sword was more important than the bearer and we wanted and needed it now. No matter the cost. No matter what valuables of our own selves we had to sell. We wanted judgment for wrongs.

So now we will have it, just what we asked for-- hail and blood, fire and brimstone, the sword and the spear, division, hatred, suspicion, slander, anger, war, fear-mongering. Armageddon of our own design-- and we deserve it. We asked for judgment-- and here it is. We asked for bread and circuses, because our gods are our bellies and boredom is unthinkable-- and now we have it.

But here's a fair warning, and one I hope is not prophetic-- what happens when you bullishly seek a king of your own design, who will lead you into battle and secure your borders?

Saul comes. Insane, slavering, murderous, pagan, wishy-washy, terrified, proud, beautiful Saul. And he takes your things if he wants them, and he puts you in prison if you offend him, and he refuses to learn from or be humbled by his mistakes, and he washes his hands of consequences, and he rages against God Himself.

So be warned-- the nation ruled by a raging king will be shattered by the Christ's rod of iron. And you will call out Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD, and just is his rage! or you will be beaten into dust.

Put your hope in a king, and you will perish with him.

And know this-- a candidate who is willing to take away some religions' rights and throw out some people . . .
has no real respect for any religion or any person.

And when you get in his way
he'll come for you.

And because you didn't speak up when they came for the Jews, the Communists, the trade unionists, the Catholics, the mentally-ill, the old, the sick, the imperfect, the Black, the Muslim, the poor, the helpless, the women, the oppressed--

there will be
no one
to cry out

And will God have mercy for you when you demanded His harshest judgment for your neighbor?

Because know this--

our leadership does less speaking for us
and more speaking about us--
our fears and suspicions and secret murder.

And this year
we have made our choice
and we will bear
just what we asked for.

Monday, January 09, 2017

We rattled this town

My favorite part of any photograph
        is the bit just outside the frame
   the part you don't know is there
unless you were there.

You can't see, for instance, that I'm grinning
             not just because of the insanely attractive boy beside me
and his arm hard around my shoulder
      (touching me gingerly not because he was shy, but because, that's your dad taking this photo)
but because the man behind the camera
       is just a few months fresh from the longest-three-weeks-of-my-life hospital stay--
when no one could make the coughing-blood stop
        when I watched him turn pale and flimsy as the sheets and gowns they tucked him into
when the news that came back was not good
               when I wailed my grief and terror into the shoulder of a boy who was a fairly-new friend
    and in his arms and voice found a man I wanted to know in a more way--
this man
     this sick pale man
this man is alive
      and he is standing
  and he is laughing
and he is watching me begin the first day of the rest of my life
         (though neither of us knows it now)
  and in a very real way I have seen
           this one was dead and now he is alive again
and I am so purely happy for this exact moment.

You can't see, for instance, that this day
    (though I am more attractive than I've been maybe ever before)
             is maybe literally one of the worst of my life
because I am at a wedding
            a brilliant beautiful wedding
    and I just can't be quite happy
because I am surrounded by my childhood, its friends and mementos and feelings,
            and I am seeing just how far I've come
   I am missing someone I've known less than a year
and I hear Holy Spirit agreeing with my heart that
                  this is the one
     and I finally identify--
for one of the first times ever--
           that this discomfort is okay
   even though it is terrible,
it's okay
     I'm just feeling the too-real pains of growth.

You can't see, for instance, that even though I wasn't there
         this selfie kills me every time
    because it looks like something I would do
somehow both of them at once, though they're doing totally different things
        the helpless laughter
  the steady determination to try again--
it makes me smile and realize all at once
        how much I'm like them
    and think about the ways I'm unlike them, too,
 and tear up because
            though they are faithfully distinct and wonderful
     they always gave me the space to be who I am
not who they are.

You can't see, for instance,
         who we're looking at
  just outside the frame
                 and I can't even remember now
   but it drives me nuts, still,
because aren't you supposed to have eyes only for your bride, your groom
        on your wedding day?
   But today I think it's okay
because it's just a thing
         a part of this story
   and yeah, it probably has deeper connotations than just
you never looked at the camera at the same time
             but I'm not really worried
    because Jesus seems to have a handle on this
and we're both pretty decent at listening to Him
         so I think this'll all pan out.

        You can't see, for instance, that I'm laughing just that hard because just behind the photographer
    is a man I didn't know (when I met him) would quite fill out the title of Father
couldn't realize the ways that Jesus would use his wisdom, his humor, his challenges, his kindness,
              to heal things I didn't even know needed healing
  and I just glimpsed the sparking mischief in his eyes say
                       this will be the best photobomb ever!
and the next frame was.

You can't see, for instance, that I am making a great funny face
            but I feel like literal shit
    because possibly my entire uterus is dissolving and I really think I've never been this bloated
and someone just got in my husband's face and told him
        she's probably pregnant and just hasn't told you
even though he and I have just agreed to wait a little longer
   but I am feeling so ugly and so chubby and so gross and so damn angry because even though I know it's right,
     I'm done with waiting
             but then the littlest baby started crying
and his mama and daddy needed a minute to just play
       so I scoop him out of his seat
   hold him close
and for just a minute
           when this loveliest friend comes sidling up to me
     I can tip the baby's face to her, then cuddle him close,
and pretend
      just for a minute, please God, I swear it will just be a minute
that he's mine
         and you can't see that he broke my heart every day I held or saw or heard him for the next six months
   until I was so angry
               and so done
that I couldn't even talk to Jesus for months.

(Spoiler alert, you can be that angry and survive but it'd probably be easier if you just admitted it and cried or yelled for awhile instead of staying busy and making nice.)

   You can't see, for instance,
that I survived
     that I was feeling so beautiful and hopeful and wonderful
         and just full
standing next to my handsome love
     and it was spring even though there were grits of snow scudding across the lawn
and my new! almost! brother! was behind the camera so I knew it would be a great photo
               but I also felt distinctly the kind of ache that comes from knowing fear, pain, despair
    and surviving
and I knew that now, this moment,
          would be one I needed to remember
   to pull out when the days got dark again
and say
  Look, self, you were happy and he was holding you and everything was okay and spring really does come after the long cold dark winter and it will be okay again
          and God, I was right,
      I've needed that over and over and over,
but in that moment
     I was strong enough to hope that I wouldn't
that maybe, this time,
          hope wouldn't disappoint me.

My favorite part of any photograph
        is the bit just outside the frame
   the part you don't know is there
unless you were there
         the hopes
     the fears
  the backstory
              the little whispers of who we were
     who we will be
 the promises
            the broken and fulfilled and yet-to-be
and I hope
  that I remember not only the where and when and who of the photos
but the why
    the how
        the part that says til now
   the Lord has helped us
and the hope that is held in the eyes that says
         and tomorrow
     His mercies will be new.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

And the Sower leads

It keeps happening
Just when I least expect it
And I'm always shocked, surprised somehow, 
At how it feels when I see the swelling skin
Hear another exclamation of another new life

I've waited so long
Spent so many years of my life
Wondering what it feels like
Staring at my silhouette in the mirror, trying to imagine it encompassing a tiny life
Wishing praying wanting
Pretending to be patient with the choice I've made
Hoping against hope
While all around me
Mothers become mothers without trying
Fathers react in shock or trauma or by leaving
Glad families grow and add and pile on yet another baby
And inside me
My womb and heart and soul


Spring comes so often around me
New life
Over and over and over
While I




Shrivel and ice over
And die and die and die--
I am so tired of blood--
Winter, each season of my life ends up being winter, and I am so tired
Of choosing death


Babies don't fix problems
And I know it
But it is exhausting to live with death as my most dependable constant
And maybe hope would be easier to grasp
If I could just hold it in my arms

But no

Not now
I've heard the words over and over and over
Said them myself so much that they choke me to gagging
Made the choice not to act on my burning want
And all I can do
All I can say

Oh please oh please, if there is any other way . . . 

but You have the final say

So let my tears fall like rain
I won't give up hope
That spring still exists, somewhere
That maybe, this chilly winter rain that falls from my eyes my heart my soul
Is watering ground I can't see yet
That maybe spring won't come in the shape of a small person with his eyes and my nose and twenty tiny perfect phalanges
But maybe
Just maybe
There's a shape I can't quite imagine
A comfort I can't even begin to feel
A hope that hides just below the horizon

And maybe
When the sun rises
Instead of blood and tears and death
I'll finally find, in the places that just looked dead,
Spring flowers

Thursday, March 24, 2016

desert soul

It's cold here, huddled under the deep night sky. I came here willingly, in the spring, when the desert wasn't quite so daunting. I came when You asked, dragging a wagon full of hopes after me, their flames safely shielded inside lanterns of glass. But one by one they flickered out, as the flowers of spring shriveled in blistering summer, their fires too weak to begin with, too little fuel to sustain them. Now, in the dry bitterness of autumn, all but one of the flames has gone-- and that one, I cup close in my hands, my eyes fixed on it, my body bent over it, my mind absorbed with protecting it. It is all I have, in this place of cold and thirst and long wakeful nights. And I think it can sustain me for a very long time.

But now I hear You, footsteps quiet behind me, and I think I hear You speak in a low strong voice.

Give it to Me. I blink past the flicker in my palms, but I can't quite see You after my eyes have focused so very close for so very long on the blazing heart of my tiny flame.

Give it to Me. I feel Your whisper tug at me like a gentle breeze, and I hunch closer to the weak fire, trembling in my hands, coaxing just a little more heat from its burning. The wind whistles around me and I shrink smaller, shivering.

Give it to Me. You have promised me this-- how could You ask for it back now, when I need it most? How could You take from me my only source of comfort? How could You take back the promise in my darkest night?
But even in the silence, I hear Your whisper echoing, and even as I resist I begin to realize that my world has become so very small since I cupped this flame to my heart.

My God is an oath, yes-- but is that real enough to me that I will give back this one small thing as You ask?

You are asking, and You are crouched in front of me, hands cupped and waiting. And as You put out your hands to me, I open my own cupped palms and watch the flame slip soft into Your hold. You pause, holding Your hand out flat, and for a moment the firelight plays over You and I see all the crags and valleys and paths of Your face in vivid detail.
Then the flame is gone-- blown out or hidden, I don't know. But in the startling merciless black cold, I don't even have time to shiver before I feel Your hands on my shoulders and feel You breathe in my ear.

Stars, darling. I've forgotten what stars in the desert look like. I've forgotten as I stared at my own little flame.

Stars, darling. Your hands are gentle as you hold me. I close my eyes and hear the silence of the desert and I wonder what the world looks like without my small flame.

Stars, darling. I breath in deep, open my eyes. Your hands still rest on my shoulders. I turn my face to the sky and the wind is swept from my lungs as I see, for the first night in so many-- blindingly bright, achingly clear--


Stars, darling.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

You don't know me

How I hate it when you,
 with your smarmy smile and your lifetime in your eyes,
dare to pry into that most private place,
the sweet darkness when my body meets another in the wildest possible declaration of love and trust.

How I hate it when you,
with your delighted arms and your bland ignorance,
insist on asking the same bladed question,
every time you see me,
like maybe something changed in the last week.

How I hate it when you,
with your skin-deep acquaintance with me and disinterest in knowing,
try to tunnel down to the core
in just one phrase.

You don't know me.

Vulnerability and openness are my gifts,
but who gave you the right to tear down to the depths like something you're owed?

You don't know me.

Do you ever stop to think
what it really is you're asking?

You don't know me.

What does it mean to you,
the answer to that ragged question?

You don't know me.

When will you ask me
the questions that matter,
the questions that would actually lead you to know me?

Instead of so are you pregnant?
maybe you could ask
what has Jesus said to you this week?
have there been hard things in your life recently?
how have you loved your neighbor well?
any number of questions that don't treat me like a breeding animal,
just a baby factory.

Instead of so when will it be your turn?
maybe you could pause and think
I wonder if there have been nights she's cried herself to sleep because her womb and her arms are empty
Perhaps the Holy Spirit is doing things here I'm not privy to
Maybe there are factors in her marriage that are none of my damn business.

Because honestly
would you ever dream of asking someone
When was the last time you had intercourse?
What's up with your ovaries these days?
Yet that's what you ask me
you see me.
(I'm sorry, do I look like a giant sex organ?!?)

And instead of covering your ass when I bite back,
making excuses in the face of my impatience or anger or grief,
and telling me
I just love being a parent
Babies are gifts!
You're so awesome, you'd be a great mom
You two will make the cutest kids
(all such true things, and do you really think I'm just ignorant?)
maybe you could just say
I'm sorry-- it's not my business,
you have the right to be hurt that this is all I care about,
Jesus is good,
and He's alive,
and He speaks,
even to women who aren't yet mothers.

You don't know me.
But maybe
if you started the conversation differently
you would.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Do you want to run on the mountains?

And it strikes when I least expect it, on the days when we should be most kind. Cruelty has many different forms, all of them ugly and awful, but inexplicably, this special brand of selfishness strikes me as one of the worst.

You think I am unreasonable and impatient and rude and selfish, and maybe that's true. But the other part of the truth is this-- I hate your selfishness because I see it how it's chipping away your humanity.

As I watch you, here, on the battlefield between selfishness and sacrifice, choose what feels easiest or best for you over and over, I know you kill a part of yourself each time. I know when you do this, when you put your own desires over the desires or the needs of others, when you harm or destroy another human, you are destroying yourself.

You are desperate to be loved, yet over and over you try to buy it by clawing at the hearts of those around you. I've watched you, time and again, grasp and scratch and bite for what you think is yours, unwittingly driving away all those you so wish loved you.

Tell me, do you think you became lovable when you'd worked hard enough? When you gave your first gifts, contributed to society? When you gained the approval of those around you by falling into line with their expectations? Or was it when your existence became pleasurable and convenient for another human being?

I defy this lie you believe, the one you tell with your actions, the one that says the beloved is worthy of love only when it behaves or looks or sounds a certain way.

Here's a secret-- you are already loved more than you can imagine.

The beloved was adored in the sheepfolds, and when it refused to open the door, and when it wailed with pain as it clambered on stones too sharp for its tender feet. The beloved was always the beloved, because the Lover always chose to love.

Until you and I get that into our heads, and more importantly into our hearts, we will always be a sniveling pathetic shadow of Love. You can live there if you wish, but as long as you do, you will never know what you are really craving.

Let go of your rights, let go of trying to protect yourself, let go of being strong, let go of trying to scrape love out of the empty bowls of other human hearts. You will always be humiliated, and you will always be wounded, and you will always be weak, and you will always be starved, until you stop scratching and grasping and just be.

For every time you claw at His children, you will be held accountable. I don't say it to be vengeful, but because it's true, and because I need remember for myself. The Lover will only hold His hand so long, before He brings justice for His beloved.

And then, may Christ have mercy on us both.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Diamonds are forever

You knelt and slipped your family's ring onto my finger,
and I sobbed with joy and buried my face against your shoulder,
and we went back down the mountain and were greeted with a cacophony of voices.

Sort of fast, isn't it?

What took you so long?

You're the perfect couple!

Are you sure?

We heard them all,
laughed with the overjoyed,
shrugged off the doubters,
but in reality the other voices didn't matter much.
We had heard His voice whisper,
long months before,
that this was right and just and a very good gift we were welcome to.

They like to say that you just know when it's right,
and though that may not always be exactly true,
I knew when I was confronted with you that you loved Jesus, others, and yourself
(exactly in that order, no room for false humility or stupid pride)
with a fierce and true determination that was not easily shaken off.

I knew when you wrote that first letter
that if I dated you, I would marry you.
I knew when you told me you loved me,
that it would be less than a year before your ring was on my finger.
I knew when you asked me to be your wife,
that waiting long years to make that leap was pointless.

And I knew that my yes,
spoken at each turning point,
brought resounding delight to the heart of the Father.

This is the crux of what you've taught me, love-- that not only do I hear, clearly and vividly, but I have the power to speak and change everything.

When the world said be strong,
you said it's okay to cry.
When the church said be silent,
you said your words bring life.
When my friends said be uncertain
you said you are capable and trustworthy.
When my own heart said I am weak,
you said you are a warrior.

You both hear my voice,
and trust me with your own.

For all these reasons
(and countless others)
I have never regretted my yes,
spoken on that bright chilly October day,

and every day since.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An open letter pertaining to contraception


Why I practice Natural Family Planning

Dear friends,

A few months ago, I was introduced to certain "art," namely the 4000 Years of Choice display at the University of Michigan, that glorifies and celebrates contraception of all kinds-- abortion, horrific primitive barrier methods (ie. early condoms and diaphragms), draughts meant to prevent or terminate pregnancy, and hormonal methods (ie. the pill). Imagine my grief and shock when I discovered, buried in the depths of the lies and misinformation, a poster celebrating the "triumph" of Natural Family Planning* (NFP) as a contraceptive.

Now, if you know me at all, you probably know that I am fully in favor of NFP as the best method of family planning, both for physical and emotional, as well as moral and spiritual reasons. I am a Christian, and I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I do believe that humans are humans from the first moment of conception. In many life issues, I do tend to align myself most closely, not with the Protestant church in which I grew up, but with the Roman Catholic Church. This is simply because, despite the abundance of Protestant Christian literature about sex, much of it comes down to how-to guides, the practicalities of being married. While this is good, I believe there is much much more to the topic. I've discovered in the Roman church, an excellent grounding in the theological roots of sex, marriage, and child-bearing. However, please know this: my faith is not blindly led by dogma. Instead, growing in love as I grow in faith has led me to fight and intercede for the dignity of the lives of women, children, and men. This desire for justice, born from my faith, causes me to view all types of contraception as harmful and destructive.

If any of those statements offended you, probably the rest of the letter will be worse. . . so you may want to stop reading. However, if you're feeling curious, open, or desperate-- read on. (If you just want to argue or debate, sorry, I'm not really interested.)

This is not a how-to or a list of steps to follow. This is simply my own story of how God guided and prepared me to practice NFP.

(You still have time to stop reading if you're feeling upset.)

Growing up, my family loved life. I remember, after my little brother was born, secretly watching my mom for signs of another pregnancy. When "final measures" were taken, I also remember hoping that they wouldn't be exactly final. My parents fueled my love of life with their own actions-- they loved us kids, fiercely; celebrated others' pregnancies ecstatically; cooed over new mamas; teared up over tiny babies; and openly voiced their admiration of large families. (Besides that, each of my parents were part of large families-- my father, number five of five; my mother, number seven of eight; and I loved having dozens of cousins!) When I was a teenager, and more aware of both my own body and the deep issues surrounding life in a culture obsessed with death, my parents stood firm in their convictions. I remember my mother repeating, almost pleading, on multiple occasions, that if I ever became pregnant, under any circumstances, to come to her and my father immediately, reassuring me that they would help me however they could, that they would stand with me and help me fight the terrifying battles. That my mother and father would humble themselves that way, to stand by a (hypothetical) pregnant-out-of-wedlock daughter, to defend their (also hypothetical) unborn grandchild, left an indelible mark on my heart. Later, when people around me got married and quickly pregnant, I remember my mom listening quietly to fearful stories, and later reminding me, "You know, getting pregnant when you're married is definitely NOT the end of the world; it might not be the most convenient timing, but having a baby when you're married is ALWAYS something to celebrate." My parents also celebrated and loved babies that were born out of wedlock, knowing that though these young mamas may have made poor choices, they and their children were still beautiful, still worthy of love in the eyes of the LORD.

So I went into the world, armed with a love of life, convinced that babies were babies were humans had rights from the moment the egg and the sperm met within their mothers' bodies. And I knew I wanted to be a mother, and I knew I wanted many babies.

But there were remnants of selfishness, of brokenness, in my thinking. I remember mapping out my life upon high school graduation and deciding that five to ten years was a good amount of time to wait after marriage to have a baby . . . not for financial or other practical reasons, but because I just thought it sounded like fun to have that time alone with my husband. In addition, the only birth control I was really familiar with was the pill, and somewhere in my heart I just assumed that's what I would use. Then a dear friend from university got married, and as part of her quest to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle, she researched (and eventually chose) the Fertility Awareness Method**-- a system that helps a couple predict their most fertile days each cycle by tracking the woman's cervical fluid, temperature, and cervical position. As I listened to what she was learning, I began to think about what this meant for myself. I knew my own body to some extent, and I knew that I was extremely fragile and sensitive to ANY substance (over the counter drugs, caffeine, sugar). I determined that pumping my body full of extra hormones (as the pill does) would definitely not be beneficial to me or my (future and hypothetical) husband. Vaguely, I decided that the "natural" way would be how I would do things, too . . . once I got married.

But it was still so ethereal, so far away. It didn't seem important that I have reasons or logic for my decision. It didn't seem important enough to spend time researching it, or figuring out what exactly it entailed.  It was just a thing. Just there. Just something I'd do "someday."

(Side note, my life would have been WAY easier if I'd just started charting when I knew it was an option, instead of thinking of it as something only married women needed to do. Charting is SO helpful to deciphering my physical and emotional state on a daily basis! Why am I craving all this junk food WAY before menstruation?!? Ohhh-- my body is prepping for a possible pregnancy. Why am I noticing babies like crazy?!? Ohh-- today is a fertile day. Why am I so weepy?!? Ohh-- today is a hormonal shift day. It's also really helpful for my sweet husband. Anyway.)

I travelled abroad immediately after university graduation in 2010, and lived in a magnificently diverse community for about four months. One of the women I lived with was married, but her husband was in their home country, hundreds of miles away. One day, I walked into her room to visit, and overheard her explaining why they practiced a natural method of pregnancy avoidance/achievement. Some of what she said I was familiar with because of my previous exposure; however, she and her husband went a step further and used no barrier methods (ie. condoms or diaphragms), only abstinence during their fertile phase. Besides being impressed that she could express with deep issues so vividly in a tongue that was not her heart language, I was deeply moved by her stating with conviction what I had never heard before-- "When we can have sex, I want to have sex with my husband, not with a plastic glove." I had never heard it suggested that barrier methods somehow robbed a couple of the true intimacy of intercourse, the giving and receiving of each other's bodies in a deep and unique way. As I listened to my friend, I began to see how right she was.

To recap, I'd ruled out hormonal methods (the pill) because of their negative side effects, and now condoms because of their blocking true intimacy. Diaphragms had never really been an option (the thought of wedging a foreign object inside myself made me queasy) and at that point, I was unaware of the other methods (spermicide gels, IUDs, etc.). Had I been aware, however, I'm sure my soul would have revolted against those things as well. A strong external chemical applied to the outside of my body? An internal device that acted as a near-constant menstrual cycle? No. Definitely not for me.

(And forgive me this short foray into the gender world, but if anyone suggested these insane things be done to men's bodies, I suspect there would be mass outrage.)

It is clear to me now that God was mercifully leading me toward the embrace of Natural Family Planning for my own life. What also needed to be ready was my future husband's heart.

Fast forward to January 2013-- I stood in a kitchenful of near-strangers, one of whom I knew slightly better than the rest. He and I were the only two unmarried people in the room; everyone else was related to each other by blood or marriage. Many of the other women were preparing for the Esther Cry, a prolife conference for women to pray for the end of abortion in the United States. Discussing this led into a discussion of how to support and celebrate life, and so led into discussing the personal use of NFP. All the couples in the room had used NFP for most of their married lives. The single boy across the room stated, "You know, I think it's great. That's the way I want to run my marriage," and slid hopeful blue eyes sideways at me. (Little did I know that nine months later, this boy would ask me to be his wife.) Although I agreed with most of the concepts discussed that evening, I was, somehow, troubled. Though I knew my own convictions and feelings, some little part of me still rebelled at being told, "This is the way; now walk in it." Besides that, I was operating under the extremely Western idea that my sex life was nobody else's business, that as long as I was married, it didn't matter how my husband and I chose to do things. Looking back, I can see that my heart was balking at inviting God into my marriage bed. It was as if I thought He gave us a fantastic and really complex wedding gift (sex), then waved like the rest of our wedding guests and said something like, "You kids can figure out whatever you think is best with this now. I don't have any opinion on it really."

(Isn't that a horrible idea?!? That a Good Father would give such a weighty and magnificent and complex and sometimes dangerous gift, and just shrug His shoulders and say, "Yeah, I'm sure you can figure this out on your own"?)

What followed that first conversation was a summer of dating my now-husband, and working through the Theology of the Body course with a group from my church (as taught by Christopher West, and inspired by the teachings of Pope John Paul II). One evening, I sat clenched and seething on my dear friend's living room floor, listening to him give his personal testimony about NFP. Though I had no reasons to say no to NFP, I was enraged that he would deign (I thought) to tell the rest of us how to run our own lives, how to deal with this very very private matter. I went home fuming, identifying finally that I believed that birth control was my private concern. I felt all openness in my heart turning to locked doors again. I had a huge fight with my boyfriend; I was angry at everyone in my church. Five days later, my friend came to me, as I sat on another living room floor surrounded by children I adored, looked me in the eyes, and apologized. What I remember best is that he didn't apologize and say that his convictions or his words were wrong; he simply apologized for speaking his convictions to me at a time when I wasn't ready to hear.

I think it was that one small act of humility that finally broke my heart. I realized that my friends, my boyfriend, my church, NFP itself, wasn't the problem. I was. I was selfish and stubborn and frightened.

Three months later, when my husband and I became engaged, I sought out a wise friend for counsel, and she promptly took this marvelous book*** off her bookshelf, rummaged around her medicine cabinet, and presented me with a brand new basal thermometer****.

So my husband and I began our married life riding the rise and fall of my fertility cycles. Looking back, we have to laugh; we often abstained when we didn't need to, and had way more sex during "safe" times than really necessary. (It was like we didn't believe we'd ever get to have sex again. . .) NFP helped us work through some fears of being intimate, totally naked and revealed to another human; as well as the "opposite," a fear of never being truly known or truly loved because of some imagined flaw. We discovered together unknown areas of hurt and wounding in our hearts, because we were not always able to go straight to sex whenever we felt unsure. I will not tell my husband's story, but personally I discovered that I was constantly trying to fill my heart's void with people, instead of leaning on the love of God. Of course we fought; but that is the nature of new partnerships, testing and trying their strength. I think I can count on one hand the number of fights that were about practicing NFP.

We have been married for over a year now. In that time, there has been only one cycle when we thought we had conceived. I cried myself to sleep that night. In the darkest hour of the night, I woke up in my husband's arms, still terrified, and the voice of God told me, "If you reject her, I will allow you. But if you accept her, she will bring you life you can't even imagine." At two in the morning, I lay wide awake and I let go of my final battlefield-- my fear that a child would overrun my life and leave me nothing for myself.

(As it turns out, we were being way over-cautious and there was absolutely no chance in the world we had conceived. I still have no idea why God so specifically spoke of a child as "her," when as yet "she" does not exist.)

We love practicing NFP for multiple reasons. It helps us choose pregnancy or not-pregnancy naturally, and if/when we decide we want a child, there is no period of waiting for extra hormones to clear out of my system. I've not had to experience the bloating, nausea, or mood swings that many women live through just to get a few more days of sex each month. I love that through NFP, I get to see every day what kind of man I married-- a man whose love for me is not rooted in how great I am at fulfilling his sexual desires, a man I can trust to control his urges and wants in faithfulness, a man who is patient enough to learn how to chart with me, a man who is kind enough to just snuggle when my hormones are messing me up. We've learned to function as a team, both in tracking and interpreting our cycle. We've learned to live in transparency with our mentors, having desperately needed their wisdom and advice as we embarked on a journey that was new and a little intimidating. (A hilarious memory, our friend leaning over our charts, and with his engineer's mind exclaiming, "You're definitely not fertile. Can't you see this pattern here?!?") We've learned to gently yet firmly stand together for what we believe, when questioned, challenged, rejected, and even attacked for our convictions on life. We have learned a little bit more what it means to be like Jesus, to sacrifice our own desires in the face of the needs of another. We have learned to live more fully in self control, saying no to the lies of instant gratification and lust. (Contrary to popular opinions in many religious circles, it IS indeed possible to have sinful lustful sex with your spouse. Lust is defined as a desire for another, fueled only by selfishness and intent to use them for your own good.) We have learned to redefine what it means to be a "good wife"(having sex three times a day??) and a "good husband" (never asking to have sex???). And, finally, we have learned more fully how to walk in humility and trust in the Trinity. Part of NFP is always understanding that sex might lead to a new life being created, and being okay with that. When everyone around you knows you're avoiding pregnancy, it is terrifying to think of "failing," ie. conceiving without intending to. In one of the ancient Creeds of the church, however, we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as "the Lord, the Giver of life." Practicing NFP has compelled us, again and again, to agree with Him that if He wills, life springs into being, and it is a very good gift.

That is my story. Hopefully, it doesn't smack of self-righteousness, or pity, or superiority, or arrogance. If that's what it seems like, please contact me personally and privately. (Obviously, I'm pretty open to discussing this . . .)

How has NFP changed my feelings on contraception? Contrary to the lies I believed, and the lies presented in the work I mentioned at the beginning of this, contraception has nothing to do with the preservation of life. It is very fully about death. In abortion, it has its most sobering manifestation-- causing the deaths of children before they have a voice to speak for themselves. More than that, however, I would like to propose this-- contraception in all forms is also about the slow death of adult men and women. I say the latter because I believe, as you may agree, that we kill a part of ourselves when we choose selfishness, when we put our own desires over the desires or the needs of others, or when we harm or destroy another human. Ultimately, we have to silence and extinguish part of our hearts, before we can bring ourselves to silence and extinguish another human life.

And when does life really begin, friends? When did you and I become thoroughly and truly human? Was it when we were conceived? When we breathed our first breath, screamed our first sounds? When we became capable of thought? Or, did we become human when our existence became convenient for another human being?

I think it is telling that a secular "artist" recognizes that barrier methods, hormonal birth control, and abortion are all the same sort of thing. (I disagree, very strongly, with her choice to include NFP, however, for it is much more than a method of avoiding pregnancy/birth). This woman knows that all these methods allow us the "convenience" of sex without the "consequences" of a child. This is horrible. Why is our own sexual "freedom" such an important thing that we would destroy our own bodies and hearts and in extreme instances, another human life to protect this "right"? Every day we sacrifice our "freedoms" to protect others. Sometimes it would be convenient to drive on the opposite side of the street; but I have no desire to head-on crash with an innocent driver. Sometimes I have no resources to buy the groceries I need; but that doesn't make it okay for me to slip money out of my neighbor's wallet while he's not looking. And someday, I may even think another person would make me happier, or love me better, than my husband. Yet I made him a promise, which I intend to keep until my last breath, and he has the right to believe that I will do so. My broken desires, strong as they may be, are no excuse for my violation of another's rights. Especially with sexuality, those I know who most tout their "freedom," are those whose lives are the most bound, the most oppressed, and the most unhappy. Having multiple sexual partners doesn't satisfy us; it just makes us more selfish. Copious amounts of sex don't make us happier; it just feeds our lust and gluttony. And defying the natural cycles and rhythms of our bodies-- whether with hormonal treatments, barrier methods, poorly timed intercourse, abortifacients, or abortions-- doesn't make us more free; it just makes us more foolish. As my extremely wise sister recently observed, any other human appetite-- food, alcohol, sleep, entertainment, exercise, possessions, work, money-- is classified as dangerous or obsessive if it grows outside certain boundaries. Why would we believe our sexual appetite is somehow exempt from this?

Here is where abortion and other contraception twine hands. The abortion industry is largely fueled by fear and a refusal to accept anything that's inconvenient to our status quo. At its root, so is the contraception industry. (In horrifying addition, most contraceptives are also aimed at suppressing and undermining ONLY FEMALE sexuality. Count it up-- how many methods for men? How many methods for women? This is a whole other discussion, but one worth having, too.) If both abortion and contraception stem from the same heart-sickness (selfishness and fear), then how is one really more sinful than another?

Some of you will now be thinking that women have been trying (with varied success) to avoid pregnancy and birth for thousands of years. I assume this is supposed to make me thankful that now, finally, women have access to "safe" contraception like the pill, diaphragms, etc. All I see, however, is poor logic. For thousands of years, mankind has also been engaging in deception, theft, slavery, ecological destruction, violence, incest, rape, torture, murder, and cannibalism. Perhaps we should legalize, regulate, and tax those activities as well, since we cannot blot them out? I don't think you could possibly agree.

Maybe you're thinking I'm one of "those" people, who want to stuff my womb and my house with as many babies as physically possible. (Lord, have mercy, that's an alarming thought . . . ) Not necessarily. NFP isn't about having as many children as you can, as fast as you can. Not every woman wants to be a mother, and though this thought saddens me, I cannot choose for anyone else. If someone decides to use hormonal or barrier methods, I grieve for this beautiful chance they forfeited. That is a wound mostly inflicted on our own hearts, I think. (Though imagine the gift to our children, of not having to wonder if they were an accident we got used to!) I simply believe, as already stated, NFP gives us the chance to fully enter into a special partnership with the Lord. God didn't make female bodies to trick and deceive us, to try to make us pregnant as often as possible. Instead, He gave women cycles that are (in almost every case) fairly readable. (And that includes cycles that are really long, really complicated, or really short. For the record, I do NOT have an "average" 28-day cycle, yet here we are, a full eighteen months after our wedding . . . not pregnant.) Do you think our Father did this accidentally, or just to chuckle at us? I believe that our cycles make sense because God wanted to give us the chance to enter into life-giving as His partners. He's inviting us to stand alongside Him and choose. He gives me and my husband the dignity, every month, of consulting each other, translating our chart, and searching out the motives of our hearts as we enter into His presence. Are we avoiding pregnancy because we are afraid, because we feel like we haven't had enough time to do what we really want to do before kids come along and mess it up? Or is it because I work part time, and my husband is in educational transition and only working seasonally, and we are never really certain if we can make ends meet three months from now, and my student loans aren't paid off, and having a baby now would be the selfish thing to do?
(Because we do want babies. Many of them. Seriously, we spend half our time in church baby-watching, and a lot of time just swapping stories about the kids we've run into during our week.)

Please know this as well-- in my marriage, I absolutely celebrate the gift of sex. I simply believe that, as with every good gift, there are certain boundaries and guidelines that make the gift MORE enjoyable. A sweater is no good if you insist on wearing it in July; a TV is not entertaining if you use it as a baking dish. In the same way, if we flout the guidelines God gave for sex, we may not only experience brokenness or painful circumstances, we will also miss out on the real depth and sacred beauty of our sexuality.

My prayer for every woman, and man too, is that we will grasp the full reality of our humanity, that we will see clearly the true beauty of our selves (body, soul, mind, and spirit), and that we will not settle for anything less than the glory we were created for. This is my prayer for you, friends, and no matter your response to the rest of this letter, I hope you can receive that.

Before I close, I want to apologize to you. I want to apologize for those who claim to know the love and power of Christ, yet have screamed judgment and hate and fear at you for your sexual choices, whether those choices were wrong or right. I want to apologize for those who have harmed you in regards to your sexuality, your heart or even your body, in the "name of God." (ie. telling you that "a good wife would always say yes," or "a good husband wouldn't ever ask for sex") That was wrong; it was not okay with God, and it is not a reflection of how He feels about you. I'm sure you've heard that Jesus loves you. Beyond that, though, I would like you to know that He really LIKES you. Yes, He likes you, personally and specifically, and He enjoys you; His deepest desire for you is not that you obey or fall into line or eradicate your sexual desires, but that you choose to give those desires to Him, to experience the love He has for you, and to love and enjoy Him as well. He knows that being close to Him will give you the power and freedom to ecstatically embrace and thoroughly enjoy all the good gifts He has for you.

Thank you for bearing with this extremely long letter. It was not my intention to exhaust you; as one who has lived in the desert but discovered living water, I simply want to share. 

Are you thirsty, too?


*Natural Family Planning is defined  by the United States College of Bishops as follows: "the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies. NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy." 

**FAM is nearly identical to the sympto-thermal method of NFP; the main differences are 1) the language and charts, and 2) barrier methods (diaphragms, condoms) may be used during the fertile days to prevent conception. However, if barriers are not used, FAM falls under NFP's moral guidelines. 

***"Taking Charge of Your Fertility," by Toni Weschler. This is one of the best texts for learning /teaching yourself the sympto-thermal method. It's also super entertaining! For more information, see this excellent website and book:

**** A basal thermometer is used to track a woman's fertility through her waking temperature. It is more sensitive and precise than a regular fever-thermometer. It also usually comes with a really funny set of disclaimers, warning that taking your temperature alone isn't going to cause or prevent pregnancies.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Trees ablaze

It was always there, as far as I remember, this longing for brothers. I wished I had an older brother, a twin brother, brothers all around me. I loved my baby brother, certainly, but I yearned for more. That desire (surprise, surprise) twisted and warped into such a craving for male companionship that I became incapable of maintaining it. My friendships, relationships, with men and boys were mostly fruitless, gnarled, rootless.

And I wished if I could only have a friend, one male friend, who just loved me for me. I prayed if I can just maintain friendships with men, I will be okay.

And I scorned the very real friendships I had with women, and I disdained the value of my sisters as compared to my potential-brothers.

Sisters, mothers, daughters of mine-- I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I placed less value on you than you ever deserved.
I'm sorry I stood next to you, holding my chin high in an attempt to stand just a little taller than you did.
I'm sorry I bowed my head in shame when you succeeded.
I'm sorry I turned my face away when I heard your drowning screams for help.
I'm sorry I have not loved you well.

Nearly two years ago, in a kind of dramatic way, I was initially set free from a spirit of comparison, and, as I stepped into the new way, it was disturbing and shocking how much of my life had been crippled and consumed by measuring. The freedom began slowly, with the ability to humbly receive from mothers . . . then learning to walk in silence in the face of offers to display my own "superiority" . . . then choosing to bare my soul and weep with sisters, without feeling humiliated or "more spiritual" . . . then a spirit of honesty and compassion toward women . . . then a tender concern for daughters . . .

This journey is not over yet, not for me, and I expect it will not be for years. But this year, in particular, has broken and built me more than I thought possible.

For in the past year, I've been cut off by sisters I thought were going to be forever . . . judged my own sisters who weren't doing things the way I thought was "right" . . . repented to sisters I had wounded . . . wrestled with the shame the world tries to put on me as a daughter of the Most High . . . opened myself to sisters who had every opportunity to wound and instead gave me the mercy of their tears . . . and stood before the burning eyes of I AM.

Today I read a fantastic and humbling post by Ann Voskamp, and I thought yes. This is it. This is what my Jesus has been teaching me all year.

What does it boil down to, sweet women?


And we don't like that, because love sounds boring, it sounds tame, it sounds like one of those things that we've been relegated to because we're not strong enough for the real stuff.

That's a lie.

To love is the hardest thing you will ever be asked to do. 

It is risky and it is painful and it is a long long task. It isn't easy and it isn't a quick fix and it isn't even very pleasant, sometimes.

To love is the hardest thing you will ever be asked to do-- and the roughest.

We don't like being told to love, because what if we're not loved in return? What if we're mocked, or gossiped about, or rejected? What if we can't fight back?

To love is the hardest thing you will ever be asked to do--and the quietest.

For in love, we find that our strength is not our own, and in love, we find that we must be still in order to conquer.

To love is the hardest thing you will ever be asked to do-- and the bravest.

But . . . when we love like warrior-women, a love that clings and can't be turned aside so easily by offense or misunderstanding, a love fierce enough to walk into the nasty ugly places, a love like shelters in a flood, a love that refuses to be bought by flattery . . . then we begin to have the love that is flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

When we love, we become a force that makes the foundations of the kingdom of darkness tremble.

When we love, we become mothers who birth life and peace and joy and all the fruit of the Spirit.

When we love, we become springs of living water for those who are thirsty.

When we love, we become unshakable, women who will be foundational in the building of the Kingdom of God.

My sisters. This is my prayer for us, for this coming year . . . and for always.

May we love each other shamelessly, bravely, strongly, until the very day we die, without comparison, without worry, without back-biting and rage.

May we be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

May we build up the ancient ruins; may we raise up the former devastations; may we repair the ruined places, the devastations of many generations.

May our children rise up and call us blessed, for breaking away from the lies of comparison, fear, and hatred; and boldly walking in the truth of love.

May we be made strong in the power of the Holy Spirit, and may our strength always be equal to our days.

May we, being rooted and grounded in love, have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and may we know the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

May we be so filled with the love of the Trinity that we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard and tasted.

And may our ceilings, the highest heights we reach, be only the floors for our daughters to dance upon as they stretch to new heights . . . because their mothers listened to God rather than to mankind.

The first woman listened to lies rather than to her God, became only a withered shadow of the fruitful tree she was created to be. Thousands of years later, a little Jewish girl undid that by saying yes to an outrageous God of love . . . and she bore fruit that would save the entire world.

Which will we do, sisters?

[The title of this post is a brilliant phrase from, again, Ann Voskamp. She is utterly amazing; read her work here. And many thanks to my humble and brilliant friend Amy, for, many many months ago, being the first to talk about the deadliness of comparison.]

Sunday, October 28, 2012

to be ezer

Every time he came into the shop today, he told at least one person she will be my wife soon. I should have gotten used to it, expected it. Instead, every time I found myself ever more undone.

I used to hate that word, wife. It felt degrading, a humiliation. Husband led, planned, named; wife followed, obeyed, answered.

Yet in his eyes, his arms, his voice, I have relearned my broken assumptions.

Wife is a treasure, not to be taken lightly. Wife is a gift, given with deadly-serious joy straight from the hand of the LORD. Wife is a helper, not second-class, but a vital member of the partnership. Wife is refuge; wife is rest; wife is water and new life itself in the dry dead times.

To him, I am not a nice little addendum to his life, someone to quietly cook wholesome meals and clean around the house and wash his dirty socks. I am not a creature to be controlled or dominated or ordered about. Neither am I the controlling factor of his life, someone to whom he grovels before making any decision or around whom his world revolves.

And for all this I am extremely thankful.

To him, I am precious. I don't understand; I do not, I cannot, comprehend why or how he loves me as he does.

But I do know that when he looks at me, blue eyes filled with adoration and delight, and says she will be my wife, that privilege is all I want. To learn to receive his love, and to love him with the power given me by my God. To be his wife. To be his ezer, his helpmeet, his partner, his love.

To be his.

It will be enough. For the rest of my life, it will be enough.

Oh, my Blue Eyes. How grateful I am for the way you have taught me to love. Someday, I pray I can give back to you even half of what you deserve.

How I love you, dearest man.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


We'd planned to surprise her,
            to have good food and fun,
          prayers and blessings,
                      all the things we knew she really wanted.

Then, there she went,
      planning a party herself,
   mapping out the exact things we'd wanted to give her.

[Half the surprise is showing Look, see, we know you and we care.]

So often I do this, too, I think.
        I plan things myself,
      because, quite frankly,
                        I don't believe anyone
                                           loves me
                                        hears me
                                                 well enough to throw
                                                                         a surprise party
                                                                                             just for me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

the cradle to the grave

         old men loved her--
        from the time she was just a wee little girl,
                    crinkling baby grins and trundling around and tumbling out her little words;
               to the days of long ponytails and short time,
                       when her eyes were dark-circled and she verbally outran them.
             old men loved her--
       always had, no matter what.
   Perhaps she reminded them
                 of someone who lived in their past life.
          Or someone who should have.