To Michael on Our 7 Year Anniversary

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We stood under pine trees and spoke our vows seven years ago today. Do you remember how I whispered mine? I may have been voiceless, but my heart shouted.

Can you see us, posing for pictures among grapevines and sipping and toasting Sweet Oklahoma Red?

You were that brainy Kenyan, and I was that idealistic journalist. We didn’t know how much bravery and humility marriage takes.

I remember how Aunt Eunice wrapped us in matching Kangas and the reception that never really ended. Not until 4 a.m. and how my brother stayed to clean up after those crazy Kenyans.

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Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? You insist you asked first, but you have to remember how I blurted it out one night, desperate to know the answer.

Thanks for saying yes, and for saying yes every day since.

I still remember the day we met.

Your confidence filled the room during that first interview. Where would we be if I had not needed a second interview? Would our brown-eyed boys have ever been born?

Do you remember the morning I watched your eyes widen to see that pink plus sign?

“You’re going to be a dad,” I said.

You cooked me eggs when I couldn’t keep anything else down.

When the day came, you made me proud the way you raced to the hospital, breaking every speed limit.

I know what you’re going to say. You never got that birthday steak I promised. I gave you a son instead.

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Let’s not forget to tell our kids about San Diego, holding hands at Central Park and how I could barely walk back to the car after biking at Hefner Lake.

We can tell them about the Blue Atlas Cedar you slaved over and my indecisiveness. I have never seen a man dig three holes so happily.

Happiness drips out of you, and I’m thankful you’ve spilled so much happiness into my life.

Do you remember the communion we shared the night before we took our vows? Just bread and juice—made holy by our honest prayer. I remember your presence as we sat waiting, seeking and committing our lives into the hands of the Almighty.

How brave we were.

That’s how we need to live this married life—like the way we prayed that night all spread across my living room with splayed hearts and open minds.

Let’s live like those elements. Simple bread and juice—poured out by Love Himself. Let’s empty our lives—our love—for one another. Then we can enjoy the kind of thankful, Eucharistic life we were meant for.

We don’t know what God holds for our lives, but let’s always choose joy. Let’s always hope.

Here’s to hoping my life never has a moment without you.

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Don’t Settle on Your Dreams–4 Common Mistakes

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***The following is a guest post for Jessica over at The Pen and Needle blog. You can read the whole story here.

When I read the story of Terah, Abraham’s dad, I wonder if dashed dreams echo failure even from the grave.

Terah’s life speaks like an epitaph on quitting. I’m not surprised if you’ve never heard of him. He barely gets a mention outside of genealogies.

His one feat, leaving Ur of the Chaldeans, fades when we find out he settled. Literally.

His dream bit the dust only halfway to his destination. Here’s how Genesis puts it.

“Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there (Genesis 11:31).

Maybe you have your own God-sized dream, but your life screams at you to settle for “just enough.”

Circumstances lie to you that God is finished with you. Perhaps you’ve mistaken, “not yet” for “not ever.”

Does your call from God seems like a far-flung illusion, a dream of a dream?

I’ve come up with four possible reasons Terah settled without achieving his dream.

***You can read the rest of the post here.

Christmas in September

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It all started when I stopped to sniff the balsam candle in the hallway closet. Right there, behind the sheets, it called to me

Who doesn’t love the smell of a fresh-cut Christmas tree? I wanted to dive right into it.

After three weeks of homeschooling, I craved a holiday. That’s when the crazy idea hit me. Why not celebrate Christmas just for a day?

Yeah, I know we’re three months early. I know it’s 100 degrees in Texas. I’m just not very good a resting. So go ahead and laugh, but a pretend holiday provided the escape we needed.

So, the kids and I hatched a plan.

  1. Christmas pajamas.
  2. Christmas books.
  3. Presents (toys we sent on “vacation” to the garage a few months ago.)
  4. Christmas-style breakfast with dad.

While they prepared for bed, I snuck our “small” Christmas tree from the attic. By the time bedtime arrived, giddiness had reached a fever pitch.

Children stand ready to enjoy life. We can learn so much from them.

The morning arrived, and I dragged a plastic bag, stuffed with out-of-rotation toys, into our living room and parked them under the tree.

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We whistled to Christmas music and lowered the AC to one degree below chilly. What is Christmas without snuggling under covers and hot chocolate?

The pretense didn’t stop there. The kids piled on hats, scarves and gloves to add to the make believe.

I admit, I struggle at make believe. Heck. Sometimes, I struggle to believe at all.

Belief comes so easily to children. I want belief like that, and I think I have discovered a little of their magic.

1. Children don’t care what others think.

Adults think this kind of make-believe, Christmas in September is foolish. Not kids. They don’t need cold, hard facts like when a holiday actually appears on the calendar to celebrate.

2. Kids focus on the good. Kids gravitate toward fun and joy. What would happen if we all chose to focus on the good in our lives instead of the lack?

We all desire joy, but kids don’t have walls around their hearts to prevent this joy.

After breakfast we thanked God for sending His Son.

Tonight we’ll take the tree down grateful for our misplaced holiday. The kids didn’t want to stop celebrating. Who would?

“Are we going to celebrate New Year’s in September, too,” one of the kids asked.

“No, we aren’t,” I said, admiring that kind of audacious hope.

3. Kids always hope.

Looking back at the rare moments I find myself full of child-like faith I’m usually meditating on the good, forsaking what others think and hoping for the best.

How about you?

The Brave Song

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As I awake a tidal wave of anxiety rolls in and pins me to my bed.

I hear the kids downstairs, and that tone of voice means one thing—a fight will ensue. I pull the covers over my head and let the undertow of dread pull me under.

The kitchen needs cleaned. The laundry beast needs tamed. Church responsibilities loom. Is this my life?

I hear my husband break up the fight. The house quiets, but an unseen hand turns up the volume of negativity in my mind, lies amplified.

You’re a failure, the worst mom ever. Loser. Fat. Idiot. Hack. Poser. Socially Inept.

If “hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” as Emily Dickenson said, then my hope just flew the coop.

But then I hear it, my new war cry. An anthem I sing to myself when I don’t want to face the world outside my covers.

Be brave.

That’s all I say, but the whisper stirs in me courage to quit the bed and put feet to floor. I am brave, I tell myself. No longer a lily-livered girl, God made me strong, confident and full of faith.

I’m learning to speak kind words to myself—the words of God. These truth words don’t come easily. Sometimes they burrow through two tons of lies before they can settle in my mind.

On my darkest days these lies roar to me from my dreams. Singing the brave song helps. Faith quiets the lies like rain clouds part for the sun.

The Bible brims over with songs of courage. Some days I murmur these ancient brave songs to myself.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires

with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Pslam 103: 2-5 NIV).

Abraham knew about bravery. I can see old Abe leaving home when God said so, setting off for destination unknown. I see him stroke his beard and ponder. Does he overanalyze every bend in the road like I tend to?

I didn’t think so a few years ago. I saw Abraham as fearless—so patriarchal and perfect. I realize now perfect, is what I imposed on Abraham—it was the ideal I reached for. Perfect and fearless.

I’m sure Abraham had moments, seasons—maybe even years of doubt.

I can see Abraham having it out with God right there on the road to Canaan, maybe just like the fight I heard from my covers.

God, why are you making me move? Can’t you just tell me where I’m going? Can’t you see what a huge inconvenience this is for me?

Abraham, the father of our faith, probably knew better than anyone how belief and fear can mingle.

Watch him walk toward Mt. Moriah, wood on his back and his Isaac chatting innocently by his side. You think his heart wasn’t pounding out of his chest?

But somehow Abraham learned that faith is not the absence of fear. He learned to dance to the rhythm of his own fearful heart.

Abraham found his own brave song.

Maybe it was the sound of bushes in the wind mixed with the cricket’s song, the first time God appeared to him.

In the middle of crippling fear, faith can arise. It can be as simple as a tune that your heart hums and when all hope has vanished.

What’s your brave song? What tract do you play in your mind to overcome fear?