25 Years of Incompatibility

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. 25 years!

I remember thinking ten years was a big accomplishment.

Justin Taylor posted a G. K. Chesterton quote on Twitter last week. It made me laugh…and think. I’m not going to pretend to be well versed in Chesterton’s writings (I’ve only read a couple of Father Brown mysteries), but I did download the book from which this quote was taken (What’s Wrong With the World?) on my Kindle over the weekend. It was free, and I’ve been accumulating a few things to read on our trip to Greece which begins this evening.

It was over 100 degrees in San Antonio, TX that day. We rode off in a horse drawn carriage with all of that birdseed stuck to our sweaty skin. The air-conditioning at the reception venue went out, and the ice sculptures my mother insisted upon did not fare well. (Neither did our poor guests.)

Anyway, here are the tweets:

Don’t feel compatible with your spouse? Chesterton: “I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one.” >>

>> “The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable.”

This led me to look up the definition of compatible.

Compatible: (of two things) able to exist or occur together without conflict.

Chesterton was definitely on to something.

In my small hometown (Uvalde, TX), weddings got a half page write up.

Two weeks ago I watched Robert as he instructed us, a group of camp Bible study leaders, on the framework and theology of the book of I John. White paper ripped off its roll and taped to the wall in order to illustrate overlapping themes, he pulled out his marker.

A dry erase marker.

I thought I might have to leave the room hearing that expensive marker, meant to glide smoothly and quietly across a slick white board, spill its precious ink on that crude butcher paper.

“But dry erase markers work fine on paper, too” was his reply to my later (and incredulous) inquiry.

That “they work” is, of course, not the point. The point is, “is it best” to use them in this (savage) way. We discovered, after 25 years of marriage, that we have serious conflicts about the proper stewardship of dry erase markers. Robert’s sole concern is with necessity, practicality; mine contains both the practical and the ethical. (And is therefore much more pious, of course.)

And to think that he actually questioned my morals here. He may have even called me a “dry erase legalist” a couple of weeks ago. I’m just not sure I can submit to his leadership in the case of marker usage, and I know for a fact that many of you are with me on this one.

Rehearsal Dinner with the flower girl – my little sister, Melinda.

Even before this shocking dry erase marker debate, I noticed something that happens fairly regularly when we are in the car together.

He’ll be turning left, but my body is leaning right. Left is clearly not the fastest way to our destination, but I have gained a smidge of self control through the years, so I wait. But it happens again. This time he’s turning right, and I’m leaning left. Patience and self control all used up (it lasted at least two whole minutes), I ask him where he’s headed, because surely we’re not going to the same destination in our minds. I’m surprised when he assures me that we’re headed to such and such a place. Really? He must have  forgotten the route.

But, no.

He did not forget how to get to that place we go to on a regular basis. In fact, his route and underlying logic (though questionable in my mind), will get us to our destination. Our daughter, Kayla, claims to have directional dyslexia; Robert and I are just diametrically opposed, directionally speaking.

To-may-to, To-mah-to. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

We’re definitely not calling the whole thing off over markers and maps.

Our engagement photo. When my grandmother saw it she said “Why didn’t you comb your hair?”

But our incompatibility is not always over such minor things. (Though dry erase markers and efficient travel can become major if left unchecked.) We have opposing methods and visions for many things, some of which we didn’t even realize until recently. In fact, it wasn’t until about 23 years into our 25 year marriage that we realized how much differently we viewed our role as parents.

 “But you’d already raised your kids for the most part,” you might interject. True, but a lot of that child rearing was done with some unspoken and underlying conflict and questioning of each other’s methods. When we finally (or more fully) discovered this in year 24, it was not very pretty. Ugly attitudes were exposed, angry words were spoken, self-righteousness surfaced, contempt and disdain could not be contained, and I’m not proud to report that most of those sinful reactions were mine.

We needed help to navigate those volatile waters, and we found it in a fellow-pastor-turned-friend. He asked us questions, helped us understand the other’s perspective, gave us journaling assignments and scripture to memorize. He also marveled at our kindness toward one another, and complimented our mutual respect and love. Those were encouraging words in the midst of what felt like such a difficult time.

New Year’s Eve in Austin, TX
My brother’s wedding in Santa Monica, CA.
Anniversary trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Parenting, finances, extended family, friendships, free time, ministry, holidays, and more. I’m not sure how we didn’t realize for such a long time that we aren’t very compatible in many areas. Sometimes I think it’s a special mercy from God that we haven’t been fully aware of our incompatibility, because we very often have conflicting convictions, varying visions, and differing dreams. And it’s not just us.  If you’re married, it’s you, too. (In fact, you probably knew it long before me, and handled it with much more grace. Really.)

But here’s where we are completely compatible: The gospel is our go-to.

We each treasure the good news that Christ has died in our place. We both acknowledge that we desperately needed the forgiveness given at the cross. We know our capability to inflict wounds as well as our incapability of knowing and loving one another sufficiently.  We each realize that we are dependent on God’s power and strength daily. And really, even these things are not of ourselves. The ability to love God, His gospel, and each other are gifts straight from Him – “nothing but the dripping grace of Jesus” is how someone might put it.

Molly and Brian’s Wedding at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. (Photo Credit: Shannon Sarkisian)
Crested Butte, CO for Chris and Katie’s wedding.
Deerfield, MA Family Photo Shoot. (Photo Credit: Kylie Lynn Photography)

And I know there are very serious and seemingly insurmountable issues in marriage, even marriages between two Christians, but I’m convinced that if both partners receive and depend on the gospel, anything is possible. I’m not just theoretically convinced either.  I’ve witnessed it.

The gospel has the power to make incompatible people harmonious. Happy, even. Just look at the church and it’s assortment of all different kinds of people. I think it’s what Chesterton was getting at. An overarching mutuality and kindredness arises when the gospel is your go-to, but it still takes effort. There remains a necessity to choose and focus on gospel truths (i.e. I require grace and forgiveness as much as he does) and fight through the incompatibility.

In our marriage, Robert has led the way in this fight. Quick to listen, quick to ask forgiveness, slow to complain or accuse, he’s displayed a humility in our incompatibility that has softened my many sharp edges and given me a safe place to grow.

Sometime during our newlywed stage, I was introduced to Beth Moore and her Bible study workbooks and videos. If you don’t know who she is, it’s time to look her up and order her study on David, or The Tabernacle, or Daniel, or maybe the best one of all in my opinion, Jesus, the One and Only. In many ways, she continued into my adult life the depth of discipleship I had received during my college days at UT (Thank you, Laura, Cas, and Tracy) only via workbook and video and conference. (I did meet her in person once at a Passion Conference probably 23 years ago. I’m sure she remembers it well.)

Chris & Nicolette’s 1920’s Speakeasy 40th Birthday Party. (Photo filters by Jen Sinclair)
A 1970’s 40th Birthday Party for Lois.
Halloween. Taylor Swift and her rapper friend.

If I had to guess, I would say the following two pieces of advice came from her study on the life of David, but I’m not completely certain. Anyway, I tucked them away in my heart, have prayed them regularly, and believe God has answered powerfully. I suppose this has been one way I’ve fought through our incompatibility.

Beth said this:

Pray to always be thrilled by his kiss.

And now I’ll attempt to comment on this exhortation in true Beth form: (Read with a deep, serious Texas drawl)  Y’all. Let me just tell you right now, my man’s touch still thrills me to no end. His kiss sends my heart aflutter to this very day. Whew. Be careful what you pray for, sister. Y’all don’t need to wonder how we’ll spend the time in Greece when we’re not touring those ruins. MmmmmHmmm. 

In other words, I think (actually, I know) this is a prayer God loves to hear and answer.

Incompatibility and conflict have a way of dampening attraction and desire. This prayer is a remedy for that, and I can attest to its power. I don’t like for Robert to leave the room I’m in, let alone the house or the country. I never tire of being with him, and his kiss, embrace, and touch still make my heart beat fast. It’s a gift and a specific answer to a specific prayer.

Here’s something else Beth taught me about praying for my marriage:

Be shrewd as a serpent, innocent as a dove.

It comes from Matthew 10 and deals with persecution. Beth expanded this by urging us to remain pure of heart and to maintain all hope, but to face the fact that the enemy wages war on our husbands daily. She taught me to pray shrewdly that Robert would have eyes only for me and be able to resist the temptation that will inevitably come.

Imagine what happens when both spouses pray along those lines for each other? It’s something that transcends mere compatibility, I can tell you that for sure.

Whether it be silly things like dry erase markers or serious issues like parenting (and don’t even get me started on purchasing appropriate wedding gifts for others or timeliness in returning emails and phone calls), Robert and I are incompatible in many ways.

But we are happy. Happy in the gospel of Christ and therefore in each other – for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health – conflict or compatibility, until death do us part.

So today, and with much gratitude to God, we celebrate 25 years of happy incompatibility.

Crosswalk Camp “Flight Plan” photo – 2014
Allyson, our camp director, had all the campers and chaperones pray for us this year in celebration of our anniversary. Truly an overwhelming blessing.

P.S. Beth’s marriage has been anything but ease and compatibility. Want to be greatly encouraged regarding your marital incompatibility? Then read this post by Beth on their 38th anniversary.

Not convinced enough to click? Here’s an excerpt to help with that…

We don’t just kiss on our anniversary. We high five.

I’m really reluctant to do what I’m about to do because what if he and I get into the biggest fight of our lives tonight and I maniacally hurl all his fishing gear and deer heads and forty pair of unders in the front yard? I’ve never done that before but I’ve always known I had it in me. I’ve always kept my pitching arm in shape for such a time as this. And what if one of the neighbors videos us and I end up on the YouTube cussing? I’ve never been one to cuss much but, if I’m ever going to have a cussing conniption, it will be my luck to have it on the YouTube. One time I did try to leave Keith and he said, “Go right ahead. Leave me. But you’ll look in your rearview mirror and there I will be and not because I like you any better than you like me. Because I don’t. But because we are married and married we’ll stay.” Keith never was a great Catholic except about the one thing I wished he’d been more Baptist about: splitting.

(She cracks me up.)

And here’s a poem she wrote about marriage, in which she also urges a young bride to “pray to love his tender touch and want his gentle kiss.”

 

Greece Is The Word (One More Week!)

I couldn’t help myself with that title. You guys know it refers to one of my favorite childhood movies and musicians, because even at age eight I was already a big Olivia fan. Thankfully, almost all innuendos were completely lost on me at the time. Being in second grade meant it was all purely “isn’t she so pretty?” and “isn’t her voice so beautiful?” and “aren’t they so romantic?”

Now, forty years later, I can be much more spiritual (though I can still quote the movie) and say that my title here refers to the WORD (God’s Word in the New Testament, that is) being originally written in Greek. So, Greek is the Word…or the Word is in Greek.

The point is, we’re going to Greece!

(Lord willing, of course. And there have been a few twinges of fear and apprehension that it might not be His will, but so far, so good.)

 It’s an anniversary trip, and we leave on August 1 (one week from today!) which will be our actual 25th wedding anniversary.

One afternoon in April after an out-of town trip, Robert had a freshly cleaned house these things waiting for me on the table when I arrived home.

25 years of marriage seemed to us like something to celebrate, something to commemorate in a special way, and we’ve really never done anything quite like this before – well, except for that one time we went to Switzerland almost 10 years ago. (Hi, Romy!)

My memory is fuzzy on our 5th anniversary – probably because we had a two year old (Kory) and an infant (3 month old Cooper) at the time, but I think we may have gone to a bed & breakfast in Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Not exactly a romantic destination.) Robert’s parents stayed at our house in Stillwater with Kory, and we took Cooper with us.

On our 10th anniversary, a group of college students and grads from our church here in Massachusetts were helping us move into the house we still live in.  At the end of a hot and sweaty day, they gave us a box of Reynold’s Wrap (#10 is the aluminum anniversary 😉 ) and a gift certificate to a couple of nice restaurants in nearby Northampton. I remember hearing Twila Paris’ “How Beautiful (Is the Body of Christ)” in the background that day, and thinking that though it was not an “ideal” celebration, God had given us a family in these students and young adults. He’d given us laughter, too, in that box of tin foil.

Anniversary #15 was spent at The Copley Square Hotel in Boston and doing things in Boston we had never done because of having small kiddos – a Duck Tour and The Blue Man Group. It was three days and nights, I believe. We were so happy to sit for hours in cafes just talking or quietly reading.

Sunshine!

For Anniversary #20 we went to Bustins Island off the coast of Maine. I was very leery about this due to it only being accessible by ferry (all food and water had to be carried in) and not really having any electricity, but friends offered it, the price was affordable ($0.00), and Robert agreed to shop for and cook all meals. (I was pretty skeptical about that.) It turned out to be an incredible getaway, and kayaking around the island at sunset? Well, Sandy and Danny only came close to that kind of romance in Grease. (Oh, and Robert did indeed take care of all the food and even let me beat him at Scrabble a few times.)

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece for several years. I think it’s a combination of missing the sun so much after nearly two decades in New England as well as becoming more and more interested in biblical history and geography. Where better to indulge in both loves?

Greece is the word.

More sunshine! (So exciting, after a very rainy summer here.)

When we began dreaming about a vacation for anniversary #25 way back in October, our first thought was Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. (Greece seemed a bit unrealistic at the time.) That way we could stop for a couple of days in Palm Springs to visit our newest niece, Taya, and then head out for a warm, beach vacation. I texted my brother for some insider info on the resort island. He agreed to send me an email with plenty of ideas, but when he found out our other idea was to go to Greece, he said, “You’re trying to decide between Catalina and Greece? Go to Greece.”

In his mind it was a no-brainer.

Still not convinced, we looked up August’s average temperatures for both places.

Athens, Greece = 85 degrees.

Catalina Island = 75 degrees.

History, archaeology, architecture, and my brother’s advice aside, I was convinced. Oh, how I love 85 degrees. I can have 75 degrees on the beach in Massachusetts or Maine anytime, shivering in my hoodie all day. I’m not even packing a hoodie for Greece. (Well, maybe for the plane.)

We still didn’t think we could swing the financial aspect of  a trip like that, but an unexpected tax return and our camp paychecks enabled us to book all flights and Airbnb lodgings. It didn’t hurt that nearly every Airbnb listing in Athens said something like this: “$37.oo a night. View of Acropolis.”

Crazy.

It was so hard to limit ourselves to visiting only one island, but after much comparison and reading up on them, the biggest one, Crete (we’ll be in Chania), was the winner.

Having already booked travel to and lodging in Athens and Chania, Crete, last week we were finally able to sit down together and create a more detailed itinerary for our trip. It was so much fun, and we can hardly wait!

Here are some things we have planned…

Thursday, August 3: Skip the Line: Walking Tour of Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Attalos Museum

Friday, August 4: Gourmet Food Walking Tour in Athens

Saturday, August 5: Corinth Half Day Tour From Athens

Sunday we’ll fly from Athens to Chania, Crete (attend a church service?) and explore the city.

Monday, August 7: Hike the Samaria Gorge and stay overnight in Agia Roumeli

Tuesday, August 8: Return to Chania. Afternoon/evening Boat/Swimming Tour.

Wednesday, August 9: Half day trip to Monastery of Agia Triada

Thursday, August 10: Return to Massachusetts

You know, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Acropolis.

Out of curiosity, I looked to see if there are any Starbucks stores in Athens. Silly me. There are actually six, but we have agreed to not drink their coffee or tea. It will be strictly local cafes and markets for us over the next two weeks, however, I may have to purchase an Athens “You Are Here” mug.

As exciting as all of this trip dreaming and planning is, I can honestly say there is no one I’d rather experience it all with than my husband of 25 years, and I thank God for that gift. To be happily married and longing for more time together in faraway lands is a truly gift. We could never have maintained this kind of love and affection and devotion in and of ourselves.  We know it comes from God, and we can’t wait to celebrate His generosity toward us with a very exciting adventure next week.

So, now that I think of it…

Gift is the word.

And the Giver is so good.

He Asked For Her Number: Part Five

It was probably about ten or eleven years ago that a kind, well-meaning older woman asked Kayla, who was about five or six years old at the time, what her favorite Christmas Carol was.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” was her cute, but unfortunate reply.

By definition, a Christmas carol is a “song whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas,” and so Dean Martin’s catchy version does not exactly qualify, but Kayla’s choice was really my own fault.

A few years prior to the Christmas Carol question, I had read a book called A Return to Modesty. It was on the sidewalk clearance table of a downtown bookstore. Intrigued, I bought it, and soon found out why it made its way to the discard pile so quickly. The author challenges feminist notions regarding the unqualified equalization of men and women, and among other intriguing topics, suggests that there is a correlation between the rise in feminist teaching and the rise in the abuse, assault and rape of women. And though her argument is quite well-documented and compelling, this is not a town that tolerates that type of conservative logic (though embracing “tolerance and diversity” is its self-deemed claim to fame), and so the book had a big red clearance sticker on it just months after its publication. They may have given it to me for free now that I think of it.

A Return to Modesty is where I first heard of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The Jewish author, Wendy Shalit, uses it to illustrate a shift in the culture of dating and the protective devices which a woman used to have at her disposal. It’s a bit of a long quote, but here’s the excerpt in which this is explained:

“To appreciate the peculiar bind of a nineties girl who wants to say no to sex, first consider the 1948 song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” by Frank Loesser. In this fuguelike tune, a woman, “the mouse,” begins each phrase, and her suitor, “the wolf,” chimes in relentlessly, but sweetly, behind her. The man has a hundred reasons why his date should not “hold out” – including, but not limited to, the fact that it is very cold outside. If his poor date were to leave, argues our Wolf, she would freeze, catch pneumonia and die. That, of course, would cause him “lifelong sorrow.” If she allowed him to “move in closer,” on the other hand, then they would both be nice and warm.  Our Mouse has her own reasons for begging off, which she scatters between his invitations:

My mother will start to worry…and Father will be pacing the floor…the neighbors might think…my sister will be suspicious…my brother will be there at the door…my maiden aunt’s mind is vicious…there’s bound to be talk tomorrow…at least there will be plenty implied.

Now this song is very stereotypical because certainly not all men are hungry wolves and not all women are reticent mice. Indeed, I’ve known quite a few hungry women and mousey men. However, the simple fact remains that a young woman in 1948 had a hundred and one reasons to say no to sex, if she wanted to say no, and those reasons were credible. The story we are told today is that all these reasons, such as a father waiting up for you, were oppressive to women. And yet in their absence we can appreciate how an earlier generation of girls was made powerful by them. A father waiting up for his daughter gave her room to stand on.” 
(Chapter 3: The Fallout)

After reading this, I wanted to hear the song. It happened to be Christmastime, and I was shopping at our local mall which happened to have a music store – records, CD’s, and stereos – oh my! This was well before iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify. I even had to ask an employee if they had heard of the song and help me find a CD that included it. “Christmas With The Rat Pack” is the one he found, and it became a new family favorite.  Kayla and I still love to listen to the Dean Martin Pandora station while baking Christmas cookies each December. And while it does include traditional Christmas carols or hymns (you know, about the God made flesh, etc), “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was the one which stuck in my little five year old’s mind. Sigh…

Kayla’s response may have been a bit embarrassing for me at the time, but maybe it’s not all that disappointing. Maybe it’s helpful to have those lyrics in mind which reflect a time not so long ago in which there was accountability, responsibility, family unity, and an involved (even nosy) local community. Maybe it’s good and right that a father waits up for his daughter, meeting the eyes and shaking the hand of the man who brought her home. Maybe it’s good for the young man to know there is someone who is dedicated to protecting both the body and the heart of the young woman he takes out on a date. Maybe he should even have that father’s permission to do so.

You might think it’s sexist and patriarchal to send the boy to Dad rather than Mom, but just check the research on father-daughter relationships. Mom could be the most perfectly loving and supportive woman a girl (or boy) could ever hope to have in her (or his)  life, but if Dad isn’t all those same things, it really doesn’t matter as much how loving and supportive Mom is.

So, the fifth thing I want Kayla to know is that, for the young men who want to spend time with her…

5. Permission should be requested.

I’m not sure why this seems like such a crazy thing to require these days, but it IS crazy I’m told.  I’m not sure when we gave teens so much authority and autonomy or when we decided they have the maturity to always make wise decisions about dating. Can we not remember our own need for direction and protection? I love and trust the teens in my house very much, but the truth is they still make really foolish decisions and have extremely faulty logic. As much as they may hate it, it’s our responsibility to guide them and place protective boundaries in their lives while they are in our home and even beyond, if they will allow it.

So, I want my daughter to give the boy her dad’s number instead of hers. That’s right. It’s not a fool-proof sifting method for worthy men, of course, but it’s a good start at protecting her from unnecessary heartbreak and harm.

We made our boys do this. Want to take a girl to prom? Okay, great!  First you’ll need to call her dad and ask him if you can. Want to pursue a dating relationship with a young woman? That’s fine. But, you’ll need to ask her parents’ permission.

One young husband in our church loves to tell how grateful he is that his wife’s father took such and interest in him and really ended up discipling him in Christ and modeling how to be a godly husband.

(Here’s a great article on that very topic.)

We want our boys to know they are a steward of someone else’s treasure. We want them aware that they are accountable for how they care for not only the daughter of a human father, but even more importantly, the daughter of a Heavenly Father. She will not be his for selfish and destructive purposes. She first belongs to someone else and may not ultimately belong to him as a wife. In fact it’s likely that she will be someone else’s wife someday. We hope they will be sober about that reality, and that it will encourage them to greatly value and care for the woman they are interested in spending time with.

And we want any young man interested in our precious daughter to know the same.

It’s what God requires of husbands. Would the requirements for boyfriends be any less?

 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself: for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
Ephesians 2: 25-30

The End.

(Except that I have about a million more thoughts on each of these things.)

(And I highly recommend A Return To Modesty as well as, Authentic Beauty, Emotional Purity, Sex and the Soul of a Woman, The Mark of a Man, and Let Me Be A Woman.)

Will You Forget Me Forever?

The assignment was to memorize Psalm 13:1-2.  And 1 Corinthians 10:13 too, but I sort of knew that one already.  So Psalm 13 is where I turned first.

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
v. 1-2

The assignment was given by a pastor we’ve had the privilege of meeting with twice a month to talk through ministry, marriage, and parenting challenges. These meetings have been a gift of grace. Who knew there was a colleague nearby who was gifted and trained to come alongside of us for encouragement, wisdom, and support? We would now consider him a friend – a friend unafraid to step into the challenging role of mentor and counselor. We’re planning on a near-future double date with he and his wife. That’s how encouraging it has been.

But difficult, too, as you can imagine, and as the assignment reveals.

So, I started memorizing.  I said them aloud and copied down the verses to get them in my head and in my heart. The memorizing was not difficult.  I even decided not to stop at verse 2 (and on a fairly sad note), since the lines were coming so easily. Like a familiar cadence, the words and stanzas seemed oddly second nature.

Today I realized why.

I have the week off from teaching my 10th-ish graders today at Classical Conversations. When we plan the teaching schedule for the year during the summer months, I always advocate (beg?) for taking a break the week after Easter rather than the week of Easter.  Holy Week is so wonderful ~ my favorite week of the year ~ but also very full. I’d rather teach that week, packing in one more thing, and then take a true breather from teaching and extra church activity the week afterward.

So today, the day I would have been teaching, I’ve spent the morning reading God’s word, praying, and reflecting. I even re-read my entire current journal which began in September. Not at all riveting, it was six months of what seem to be the exact same cries, pleas, and prayers for renewal, healing, restoration, and hope. John Piper says that the one thing that causes him to question the existence of God is the slowness of his own sanctification and victory over sin. I’m not sure that would be my first answer (I am, sadly, not that godly in my perspective), but his response is certainly confirmed in the pages of my own journal. Sanctification and the putting off of sin are slow in my life.

I have friends who burn their journals when they finish filling one up. And though I love archiving, I guess I can understand that somewhat. I just can’t bring myself to do it yet, and don’t know that I ever will be. So, for those who may read them in the future, here’s a warning: Each one is simply more of the same. (Honestly, there is probably more regress that progress.)

When I got to the October 15th entry of my current journal, there was Psalm 13.  I had written out each stanza with my own prayers interspersed.

I remember it now. On October 14 of this past fall, I was driving to meet a friend for lunch an hour away. The tears had been brimming since I’d awoken that morning, and in an attempt to not spill them all over her during our Panera Bread lunch, I plugged my phone into the auxiliary cord and found the Psalms on my Bible App.  (Taylor Swift does not do the trick in moments like those.) Psalm 1-13 played aloud in the minivan as I drove along Rt. 2 headed for Eastern MA. After Psalm 13, I just hit repeat over and over.

Consider me and answer me, O Lord my God.
Enlighten my eyes or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say “I have overcome him,”
and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
v. 3-4

The words of David echoed my own longings and frustrations, and yet the gratitude of my own heart as well. I must have replayed it a dozen times.  No wonder it seemed such a familiar rhythm this spring. No wonder the memorizing came without effort. It was already there.

Five months ago, God had, unbeknownst to me, filled my heart and mind with a prayer that He would use in a very specific way this month.  A Psalm which He would literally assign me to memorize as a way to properly respond to the challenges at hand.

But I have trusted in your lovingkindness
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation
I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.
v. 5-6

If this isn’t proof that He deals bountifully with me, I don’t know what is. His seemingly harsh dealings with me were exactly what I was tearful about, and yet there He was providing the words to pray in such a situation. And then reminding me of it today.

No, He has not forgotten me.  (I really thought He might have.)

Yes, He has answered me and prevented the death of my hope and faith. (Not in the removal of the pain, but in the way through it.)

I can trust.

I can even rejoice.

Lunch With Lars: Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips & Holy Moments

The lunch date was July 15, so it’s been a little over six months now.  We were at our annual youth camp, held every year at Gordon College, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lars and Elisabeth’s home in Magnolia, MA. Elisabeth had passed away in June, we’d been to the memorial and graveside services, and even spoken with Lars there (he all but begged us to come over to the seminary and help them eat some of the 500 chocolate chip cookies he’d asked a local friend to make), but I really wanted to see him again and see how he was doing. I also wanted him to know that our friendship over the last 15 or so years wasn’t just about Elisabeth.
So, I called him from camp.  The line was busy. A few minutes later I called again. Busy. I waited a while longer and called again.  He answered.  He asked if I’d been trying to call earlier, and I said that I had been.  He explained that he’d been on the phone ever since he’d gotten up that morning, and could he get dressed and eat some breakfast and call me back? I said “Of course!”
Lars ALWAYS does what he says he is going to do. If you call him, he will always call you back.  If you write him, you WILL get a handwritten note in return.  It might be in a few days or it might be few months, but a response is a guarantee with Lars. And not only that, but the response will be a specific response.  He will remember why you called and follow up with that, or he will address something specific in his written correspondence. Last week this came:
He had received our Christmas card, read the accompanying letter, related to Cooper’s work on a golf course, and shared something from his own youth and experience with golfing. How nice. Really. In this age of technology and efficiency and urgency, I love picturing Lars sitting down with our letter, reading it thoughtfully, and then taking the time to write back in his own hand and from his own life experiences. Truly a treasure to me, and something I aspire to. It communicates true care, concern, and Christian love.
Lars called back several hours later. I told him we were at Gordon College for the week and would love to come by and take him out for lunch sometime. He said he would be available on Wednesday and asked Kea (the lovely live-in caregiver to Elisabeth) for some restaurant suggestions. Kea had told him that she and her dad had been to Cala’s in Manchester-by-the-Sea and that they have Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips on the menu. That sounded quite delicious to Lars, and so we decided that Cala’s it was.
We met Lars there, and were offered a table near the back of the restaurant. There was a bar in the center of the restaurant and unfortunately, even though it was fairly empty, it was pretty loud.  At one point, Lars requested that they turn the music down.  The waiter agreed to that request, but we still had to talk pretty loudly in order to communicate.
We looked at the menu and quickly found the Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips.  Robert decided to order them, but Lars went for the Chicken Caesar Salad.  When we acted surprised that he turned down the steak tips, he said he was sure Robert would not be able to eat all of his and would be happy to help him finish them off ~ ha!
Over lunch we asked Lars about how he had proposed to Elisabeth, and he happily and hilariously recounted how she made him move out of her house as soon as she sensed a romantic connection and how that made him mad.  (He had been a boarder there.) He told us about how he was still at the house every day painting something or fixing something. He explained how Elisabeth would spend summers writing on Cape Cod and how he had proposed in a letter during one of those summers while she was away. “I’d like to have you for a wife,” was the horrific way (his description) he had put it. “I don’t recommend that approach,” he said dryly. She did not respond to that letter right away, which also made him a bit angry.
She wasn’t necessarily playing hard to get. Rather, she was concerned about the “scandal” of getting married a third time.  The very idea lacked propriety in her mind. But Lars was not easily deterred, and she eventually gave in.
(There is a MUCH better rendering of this story by Lars and Elisabeth themselves which you can find here! Worth every minute to listen! Lars had a copy of this in his pocket on CD and gave it to us at lunch.  We listened to it on the way home from camp and couldn’t believe we’d gotten the story from him at lunch and then again on the way home.  That’s the other thing about Lars – he always has a book or recording of Elisabeth’s to pass along to you.)
Lunch was filled with catching up on the Krum kids and what Lars had done before (a hospital chaplain) he became Elisabeth’s book manager. When we finally asked how he had been doing since Elisabeth’s passing, it seemed to dawn on all of us at the same time.  It was one month to the day.  An anniversary.  He had lost her on June 15 and it was now July 15. There were tears (his and ours) as he recounted the night and early morning of Elisabeth’s home-going, and we knew it was a holy moment. A true privilege to have a glimpse into both the love of a husband for a wife and the raw pain of losing a spouse.
I had made him a card with pictures from our past lunches together, my visit to their home two summers ago, and some quotes, verses, and lyrics from the memorial service.  Here’s what the front looked like:

And the inside:

I re-read Passion and Purity on the days leading up to the funeral, and was tickled to find what she had written in the preface.  If you can’t read it from the bottom of the above photo, here’s what it says:

 

“In the providence of God, I have had three chances to reflect on and try to practice the principles I write about here.  I have been married three times: to Jim Elliot, killed by Indians in the Ecuadorian Jungle; to Addison Leitch, killed by cancer; and to Lars Gren, who is feeling fine on the day I’m writing this.  Lars has lasted nearly six years which is longer than either Jim or Add, so he says he is the ‘front runner.’ May he outrun me!”

 

I shared this with Lars after the graveside service and he cried.  He had outrun her, but he was grieving that reality. They were married for 37 years in all, I believe.

 

On the back of the card I wrote this under a picture of our family:

Dear Lars, Thank you for loving Elisabeth, and thereby Christ and His church so well. 
Love, Melanie and Robert

The family photo overshadowed some of the words, so I decided to read it out loud to him. This brought more tears. For a moment, it felt wrong to ask questions and share sentiments that made him cry.  I felt bad about that. I really don’t think he minded, though, and I don’t think I would have either. I think I’d much rather people delve into authentic conversation if I’m suffering a loss or facing a trial, than try and keep things unrealistically happy or not bring up the obvious out of fear or discomfort. I think I would be comforted by their interest as well as their shared memories. It seemed that he was grateful for the encouragement, even if it contained moments of grief.

Lars was getting down to the final bites of his Caesar salad, and so I motioned to Robert to be sure and leave him a couple of steak tips. He did, and Lars was more than happy to help Robert clean his plate.  They both agreed that it would have been nice to taste a bit more of that root beer marinade.

Deep pain, hearty laughter, great loss, treasured memories, loud music, and root beer marinade. The ordinary and the extraordinary.  All of it sacred though. All of it holy. I couldn’t help thinking that this is what life is all about ~ especially life in Christ who uses it all to His glory and to our good. Participating in these moments together as believers.  I came away understanding better how to love and how to grieve and how to look to Christ in all of it ~ resting in Him, trusting Him. And oh, how I long for these examples and experiences! I often feel so ill-equipped for life in general, and so to have this older, godly man share his frailty and as well as his strength was a great source of grace and equipping to me.

I regret to tell you that it wasn’t until we said our goodbyes and began driving back toward Gordon College that I realized I had forgotten to take a picture.  I hardly ever forget to take a picture in case you hadn’t noticed, and so I wanted to turn around and track him down in order to capture the moment. But then it occurred to me: the moment was not to be captured on film or by pixels. It was a moment to ponder, not visually, but in the heart and mind.

And that’s sort of been a theme the Lord keeps bringing up in my life: the need to ponder, to reflect, to remember.  I’m always moving on to next things at the speed of light, and consequently I often miss the message, take for granted the answered prayers, have to re-learn the lessons. I don’t want to do that anymore. That the Lord took my thoughts off the phone and camera and kept them swept up in the holy moments with Lars was good for me. Writing it all out here is good for me, and maybe for you, too.

So, there’s no photographic evidence, but I’m hopeful that there’s some heart evidence from the time spent with Lars over salad and steak tips. I am so grateful for those moments and look forward to many more.

Still The Best Convent

Mother’s Day 2009
This is a re-post from 2009.  Nothing has changed except that everyone is now at least 3 inches taller than me, and it’s not ice skating lessons, ballet, field trips, and Little League games, but coordinating the use of the car, track practice, job schedules, college visits and care packages. I still believe motherhood has been the best convent (a community of persons devoted to religious life under a superior) for my personal sanctification. My “community” being my marriage to Robert, and our “Superior” being Christ. 
In The Five Aspects of Woman, Barbara Mouser discusses the sanctity of motherhood – the setting yourself aside for the purpose of motherhood. She explores the reasons women may try and “fit motherhood in around the edges” rather than devote themselves to it as they would a career or a cause. The reasons are fairly obvious…no instant gratification, no accolades, acknowledgments, or awards, no salary, and yet the requirement of an all-out surrendering of your time, your body, your sleep, your mental energy…..in three words, your whole self.

This just seems like a very long, painful, and unnecessary route to maturity, respect, and security. And though there are other paths beside motherhood to these things, listen to the requirements of the early church for the taking in of widows who are in need of financial support. These widows were provided for by the church in return for their service in the church and ministry to other women.


“Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”  

I Timothy 5:9,10


Mother’s Day 2013
In other words, the best preparation for leadership and responsibility for a woman was not a college degree, or a career crashing through the glass ceiling, but the giving of herself to her own home, her own family, and her own church.

It reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward. In this exchange, Katy’s husband has asked her to visit one of his patients. The patient is a very young woman whose main ailments are boredom, apathy, and selfishness. The young woman talks of her efforts to help poor children (they were unruly and smelly) and mentions that she might have joined a convent, but those are now out of vogue….. (HA!)


“The best convent,” I (Katy) said, “for a woman is the seclusion of her own home. There she may find her vocation and fight her battles, and there she may learn the reality and the earnestness of life.”

“Pshaw!” cried she (Miss Clifford, the “patient”). “Excuse me, however, for saying that; but some of the most brilliant girls I know have settled down into mere married women and spend their whole time in nursing babies! Think how belittling!”

“Is it more so than spending it in dressing, driving, dancing, and the like?”

“Of course it is. I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles!”

“As you have spoken plainly to me, knowing me to be a wife and a mother, you must allow me to speak plainly in return,” I began.

“Oh, speak plainly, by all means! I am quite sick and tired of having truth served up in pink cotton and scented with lavender.”

“Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonor not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus Himself, who chose to be born of woman and to be ministered unto by her through a helpless infancy.”

Miss Clifford was a little startled.

“How terribly earnest you are!” she said. It is plain that to you, at any rate, life is indeed no humbug.”
I thought of my dear ones, of Ernest, of my children, of Mother, and of James; and I thought of my love for them and theirs for me. And I thought of Him who alone gives reality to even such joys as these. My face must have been illuminated by the thought, for she dropped the bantering tone she had used hitherto and asked with real earnestness:


(Have I mentioned that I love books that use the words “hitherto” and “earnestness?”)


“What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?”

I hesitated before I answered, feeling as I never felt before, how ignorant, how unfit to lead others I really am. Then I said:
“Perhaps you need to know God, to know Christ.”


Stepping Heavenward, pp.262-264


Mother’s Day 2014
Cooper went with me to Texas to move Kory out of his dorm last year over Mother’s Day weekend.
We went to Austin Stone on Mother’s Day and ate lunch at Whole Foods = Perfect!
I wish I could say that I have devoted myself fully to motherhood and not tried to just fit it in around the edges. It is the hardest job in the world, requiring the greatest sacrifice – and I am selfish! I want time to myself, to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them without having to take four other people into consideration! And it may appear that I have completely devoted myself to my family from this glowing blog and the fact that I homeschool my kids and therefore spend nearly every day, all day with them, but don’t be fooled! I struggle with this giving away of self every day. And yet, in doing it by faith for 14 years, I have grown. It has been the main avenue of sanctification in my life, and I can truly say I am thankful for the transforming power it has been. Within the walls of my own home, I have found my strengths and weaknesses, fought many battles, and learned the realities of life. I have had to cling to Jesus, and have come to experience Him in the intimacy my heart so desires.

It has indeed been the best convent for me. 


It has now been 20 years of motherhood for me. (That’s right.  Kory turns 20 next month. How did that happen???) Come August, I’ll only have Kayla at home. (Poor girl!) Kory will be a junior at Baylor, and Cooper will be beginning a “gap year” of work and adventure in California. It is both heart wrenching and exciting to watch them go.  There will be many tears, but also much delight in watching them move into the next season of life. I have plenty of regrets regarding my failures as a mother from the last 20 years, but none regarding the choice to be a mom, even a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom for all that time. Katy’s right, it is Christ who alone gives reality to such joys as these, and I know Him more intimately because of the both the joys and the regrets.





Last Tuesday morning Cooper woke up to a terrible stomach virus. 12 hours of vomiting, fever, aches, chills, back pain.  Just horrible.  We had to head to the pediatrician’s evening office hours for emergency meds to alleviate the nausea so that he could keep fluids down.  He was down for the count for three days and in some ways is still recovering. I hated that he was sick, but I loved one last opportunity to take care of him before he moves out. One last chance to rub his head and tell him it would be over soon. One last time of cleaning up after him and offering him comfort, a cool cloth, and an iced drink. One last tangible way to show him that despite my nagging and frustration with him at times (many, many times), he’s mine, and I love him so much. 

Oh, they’ll always be my kids and I’ll always be their mom, I know.  But the season of hands-on motherhood is drawing to a close and I’m treasuring and pondering every moment.
I hope this Mother’s Day brings you much hope in Christ knowing that the call is one of great challenge and self-sacrifice, but also one of great joy and rejoicing. And I pray that hitherto you will exercise great earnestness in setting yourself aside for this purpose, if you are so called.  It is worth every explosive diaper, pool of puke, bedtime ritual, and Little League game.  I promise.

Mondays, Prophetic Dreams, Piper Impersonations, & Senior Pics

Real pic from Monday’s morning run.

 I like Monday mornings, and yesterday’s was especially enjoyable. We were up just after 6am and enjoyed some time in a quiet house (before teens were awake) to read our Bibles and pray ~ Robert in his office, me at the dining room table. I guess I should say that the morning became enjoyable, because in those first moments alone with the Lord, there were fears and tears. The tears were a surprise, because I thought I was free from the minor disappointment. The fears were regarding something still yet to come.  Robert was told a few weeks back that something good was going to happen to him, to us on October 8.  It was a prophetic dream by a somewhat confirmed prophetic-dreamer.  I write it here partly so together we can know if there was really truth to this fore and forth-telling. We will be waking up on Cape Cod tomorrow for a mini-vacation, so maybe that’s the good thing, but that’s happened regularly in October for years.

  I think my fears involve the fact that sometimes God’s “good” is different than what  I might define as good.  Sometimes His good feels really bad for a time.

The view from where I sit at church on Sunday mornings.
I couldn’t get the picture to do the actual scene justice.

 What happened though when the tears and prayers ended and the Bible reading began was Hebrews 6 and the reminder of anchored hope. And as usual, I didn’t go searching my concordance for “hope verses.” They were just there in the next chapters of Hebrews which I’ve been reading on my way to Revelation.  I’m almost able to say I’ve read through the Book from cover-to-cover.  I’ve never done it that way before, and I highly recommend it. Have I told you that He meets you in His Word wherever you are reading and speaks to whatever it is you’re needing?  Well, it’s true.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you”… In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath so… we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…
Hebrews 6: 13-20
Totally unedited!  I had to stop running and capture these bright leaves
as well as the view of the path above. My running app even lets me store photos
along with the statistics from each run.
Hope.
In Jesus.
Who has gone before us in all things.
Sure and steadfast.
Promises of God unable to be broken.
Purposes unchangeable.
Take refuge in this.
Our soul is anchored in this.
I need not mistrust the “good.”  I need not fear the “bad” that the “good” is sometimes accomplished through.  His promise to me will not ever change.  In this I can take refuge.
So, I guess I’ll have to let you know what happens tomorrow.  There will be a “blood moon” I hear. Ugh.  I may be struggling with anger at the prophecy giver, because of the anxiety he’s produced however unintentional he may have been. 
Hope….anchor…refuge…Jesus.
But Monday morning was still good.  The quiet time was interrupted by the desperate need for a haircut by Cooper who had big plans for a hike and lunch with friends and a senior photo shoot later in the day. So there was prayer, Bible, hot tea, and a homemade (yikes!) haircut before leaving the house for my run and Robert’s Planet Fitness workout around 7:30am. (His back is getting better!  If you prayed, thank you.)
Kayla planted a tree on Monday, too! It was our favor from a wedding over the weekend.
Perfect timing to replace the one we said goodbye to last week.

 After an hour of exercise, Robert and I headed to Whole Foods for our typical Monday morning breakfast.  It was good to talk through the weekend and the week ahead over a smoothie and eggs and their delicious maple smoked bacon.  On the ride home, I got to hear about the John Piper sermon Robert had listened to while on the elliptical and treadmill.  It was on what Mr. Piper believes is the best chapter in the entire Bible.  Can you guess?

My first guess was Romans 3. Not quite.  Then John 15.  Nope. I should have known to stick with Romans.

The answer was Romans 8.  Robert was in complete agreement, and I suppose I am too.

I could not control my laughter, though, as Robert began to impersonate Mr. Piper and his Romans 8 endorsement all the way home.  Complete with hand gestures (as much as possible while driving) and booming voice intonations.  If you’re wanting a John Piper at your next worship service, and the real pastor in unavailable, my husband is your man.  So funny.  And laughter is such a good gift on a Monday morning or anytime really.

 Back at home an endless list of tasks awaited, the most pressing of which was apple butter making. The apples had been simmering in the crock pot for 18 or so hours, and needed processing. (Maybe I’ll share the photos and recipe on Friday. Unless…) Then there were seminary assignments, and emails, and phone calls, and an appointment for Coop’s senior photos with our sweet and talented friend, Ify. It felt like my 7 mile run turned into a marathon once back home. Thankfully we have a week off from homeschooling and Classical Conversations!

Somewhere in the middle of the day, I sat down to check email and Facebook and this was one of the first things to pop up on my news feed.  More hope. He wanted me to really believe it, I guess. He has this way of gracefully reinforcing the pertinent and necessary truths.

Later, we picked up Ify and headed to Northampton for photos downtown and photos at Smith College.  The weather was perfect yesterday, as I’m sure you could already tell.  And speaking of perfect…just take a look at this young man and these photos.  I couldn’t be more pleased, and these are only a few teasers from the hundreds of photos taken yesterday.

 Classic Cooper is what these are. His good looks and laid back personality perfectly captured. So thankful for him in my life and thankful for these treasures that will help us remember this special year of his life. He’s got big, exciting plans for after graduation that I haven’t told many of you about.  Maybe soon!

And modeling for American Eagle is not one of them.  At least not that we know of.

So, tomorrow is the 8th ~ the day of good news, good happenings supposedly. Last night I dreamt that someone close to me died.  Kayla also had a dream about this person dying not long ago. And I wonder, where do these dreams come from?  The proclaimed prophetic ones about good things to come.  The terrifying ones that leave you paralyzed in a dark room in the middle of the night too scared to even go and check the cell phones plugged in downstairs to see if you missed the grievous phone call. (All was well.)

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I know a lot of things I hope it will not bring, but I know that the unchangeable God who says “yes” to every promise in Jesus is the only safe refuge every day of the week.

“Adult Learner” or OCD? (or both?)

My schoolroom yesterday

I already told you that I did not do so well on my very first quiz in my graduate school career.  But what I didn’t tell you was that I failed the quiz. I got a 50%.  Out of a possible 100% ~ just to clarify.

I also didn’t tell you how completely terrified I was to finally log onto Moodle ~ the online platform/hub for all of my coursework ~ and take the plunge…I mean, quiz.  I had studied for HOURS.  I made flash cards.  I re-read and outlined the many pages of reading I had done.  Robert prayed for me on Saturday night just before I clicked “take the quiz now.”

The deadline for taking the quiz wasn’t until Monday at noon, but the deadline I had given myself was Saturday evening.  I didn’t want to be worrying about it on Sunday ~ you know, because of church, Sabbath, after-church lunch guests, etc.  And I wanted Monday to be a fresh start on the information for week 2.

So, he prayed, I clicked the tab, and the quiz appeared.  Ten minutes to complete ten multiple choice questions.  It was difficult, and I knew it would be, partly because I had lunch with this lady last Thursday in Boston. (Well, Cambridge, to be exact)

Cas discipled me during my University of Texas days through the ministry of Campus Crusade ~ or CRU as they call it these days.  It was Cas who expected the women in her small group to read the book of Romans 50 times and memorize two verses from each chapter, which had my suite-mate, Debbie, and me poring over stacks of index cards during lunch breaks in the dining hall.  We knew she would call on us, choose a random verse, and we would be expected to repeat it flawlessly. Oh, there was grace and joy and lots of laughter, but there was also a tall order for immersing ourselves in God’s Word, knowing it, and applying it, and for this I am so very thankful.

Cas and I have now been friends for over 25 years, and she just completed her Master’s degree at the same school from which I am now taking this online course.  Over our two and a half hour lunch (which was not long enough at all), we talked about many things, only one of which was seminary, but Cas confirmed to me that my fear of quizzes was not necessarily misplaced.  She took the same course with the same professor.  She even confessed to being angry over quiz grades after putting so much effort into preparing.

So, yes, Saturday night had me terrified to take the quiz and then angry at my results. Angry that the professor would choose questions that seemed so random and certainly not a faithful treatment of the actual material. Honestly, it felt downright unjust.

When Cas confessed her anxieties and apprehensions concerning studying, taking quizzes, exams, and writing research papers to a friend, the reply was, “Cas, you are showing all the classic signs of an adult learner.”

When she related this story to me, I felt better.  This stress is normal for someone my age.  Adult learners tend to be a bit more concerned and “in earnest” about doing really well in their courses. And this can even be positive.  I certainly wish I had been a little more “stressed” about my undergrad classes. Unfortunately, I was more attentive to room decor and what restaurant to eat at with friends over the weekend.

I was unable to shake my disappointment and sense of injustice, though. I mused about emailing the TA or professor to express my concern, but then backed down, fearing the thought of being “that person” ~ the nagging 40-something “adult learner.”

Then I logged into the syllabus review and online “chat” where the professor urged us to email with questions about the quizzes by copying and pasting each concerning question into our email, as Moodle selects questions at random and therefore no two quizzes are alike.  This seemed to be confirmation that I could inquire without making a fuss, and so I did.

I copied and pasted three of the questions to which I could not find the answer anywhere in the readings.  In fact, I discovered the answers for those questions in the readings assigned for THIS week, and shared the page numbers with the TA. Maybe I’m not crazy after all, but here’s where the OCD part comes in.

I spent two nights obsessing over both my failure and the unfairness of the evaluation. I decided seminary, or higher learning of any kind, must not be for me.  I just don’t “get” it. This thing I have dreamt about for years is misguided and not really from the Lord like I thought it was. I have now wasted a lot of time and money.  I felt foolish and angry.

THEN I went to bed and had a DREAM about the quiz and my email to the TA.  The professor contacted me, sat down with me (in a car parked in some random parking lot), and looked over each question with me, listening to my concern about the unfairness of each one.  He was taking notes and seemed to be genuinely receiving each complaint ~ desiring to improve his course. (HA!  This is truly a dream about my desired outcome!) In my dream, I was reluctantly shocked by this, not sure how to respond or go forward.  Then Sarah Abbott, a good friend from our Classical Conversations program walked by and started talking to me, and this is where the rest gets fuzzy.

I should mention here that Robert has only been thoroughly entertained by my angst, which did absolutely nothing for curing my inner obsessions and compulsions. In short, it made them ten times worse.

He found me in the kitchen early the next morning reading my Bible. He asked me how I slept. “Fine, I guess,” I said, “but I had a dream about the professor, and the quiz, and we were in a car, and Sarah Abbott stopped by…” I was almost in tears.  What am I doing to myself?  This is going to be the first and LAST graduate course I ever take.  I really don’t need any extra drama or sleepless nights. Got enough of that to last me a long time.  He wanted to laugh, I know it, but he did the right thing and said he was sorry. And he was.

Later, I checked my email. There was one from the TA just to me.

(Cue the fireworks and confetti.)

An apology! Moodle pulled the wrong questions! Everyone will receive a B! (or an A, if anyone was actually able to choose correct answers) Justice has been served!

And I am not crazy.  My sense of injustice has not simply succumbed to my own stubborn pride.

I am so relieved, but I’m not sure the O’s and C’s will be tempered until after this week’s quiz.  We’ll see…

I Dare Not Trust

My husband just confronted me about something I said to my children recently.  And for the record, this hardly ever happens, his correcting me or having issue with something I’ve said or done, that is.  In fact, I’ve worried before that he was secretly harboring all kinds of ill will and complaints against me and not telling me about them in the name of patience and as an act of grace.  He assures me this is not the case, and I have come to believe him, mostly due to his undying optimism and his tirelessly giving every person he knows the benefit of the doubt, and this long after my own suspicions about a situation or person seem confirmed. Anyway, he’s an ultra-positive-believer-in-people who reserves confrontation for what he deems the severest of cases and always for the sake of the other person, so when he’s concerned, I know to take it seriously.

What he heard me say to my teenagers was “There is no one you can trust.”  And yes, that statement is something to be concerned about. What I think I actually said was “There are very few people you can trust.” Either way, I needed to hear his concern and gentle redirection.

The interesting thing is that while I was out running this morning, and before the expressed concern, the words to the hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” kept coming to mind, especially these first lines…

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name

I’ve always wondered exactly what “sweetest frame” meant, and while I now understand that the phrase probably intends something along the lines of “frame of mind” or “emotional frame” and the fleeting nature of those things, I think it can also apply to people.  People have frames, too ~ sweet, or slight, or heavy, or kind, or stubborn frames.  And Scripture certainly warns that people are insufficient sources of validation, of salvation, of love, of loyalty, of anything really.  I was reminded of this recently while reading Psalm 60…

O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is vain.
Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our enemies. v. 11-12

Yes, deliverance by man and dependance on man is indeed vain, and though I am the slower-to-trust-one in our marriage, I am also the one quicker-to-bear-my-soul to an assumed friend.  I long to relate, to share deeply and intimately, to know and be known by people. I keep no secrets and I assume that those I’ve discerned to be kindred spirits in Christ don’t either. (How naive!) I’m ready to defend and to celebrate those I love, those who’ve come close in friendship.  (How silly!) Without intending any sort of boasting, I am fiercely loyal (the personality tests and my own experiences confirm it) but this loyalty has backfired on me so many times, and it’s partly due to my own sin, because loyalty is easily motivated by “fear of man.” So, I know for sure that some of my faithfulness to others is God’s good work in me, but some of it is more like this…

…for they loved the approval of men, rather than the approval of God. John 12:43

When I spoke the words about not trusting people to my children recently, it was in reaction to my own feelings of betrayal, and honestly, the betrayals, the rejections, and the inherent questioning of my character feel like they’ve been stacking up. It hurts deeply at first, but then I just feel foolish, incredulous that I have put myself in this position yet again.  Trusting others, entrusting others with information and vulnerability, serving others, sacrificing for others ~ others who will eventually distance themselves from me in word or deed in spite of the closeness between us that I assumed.

And yes, my grandmother taught me early on what “assuming” makes of “u” and “me.”  (I’ve used the dangerous word “assume” a lot in this post.) So yes, I must be a stupid donkey, because I have fallen foolishly prey to assumed loyalty more times than not. It’s in times like these that I begin to ponder all those surface-y, non-emotional, closed off, reserved folks I know and mentally beat myself up for not being more like them. They are so wise, so mature, so savvy, so spiritual.  What is wrong with me? When will I ever grow up?

One thing’s for sure: I must resolve to stop trusting others.

And evidently, I must resolve to teach my children to do the same.

Or maybe not, according to my husband’s rebuke this morning.  And I know he’s right.

Larry Crabb, the Christian counselor and author we love to hate around here (but mostly love), because of the painful, scriptural truth with which he exhorts, says that Christians are more like practicing Buddhists, denying all hope, all desire, and all positive anticipation in an effort to avoid any disappointment or pain.

“We Christians are often practicing Buddhists. We kill desire in an effort to escape pain, then wonder why we don’t enjoy God.” Shattered Dreams, p. 60

“In our day of feel-good Christianity, we have come up with a wrong view of our spiritual journey.  We think of suffering as something abnormal, as evidence that we lack faith.  We work so hard to escape suffering that we fail to realize what good things might be happening in us as we suffer.  But that’s wrong. That’s more Buddhist than Christian.”  p. 166

I lose sight of this truth so often.  My faith in Christ allows me to hope for and anticipate all the best things in people, in relationships, in circumstances, and then when they fail me,  I can be okay, because my sure foundation is not in those things, those people. Rather, it’s in Him, and He never fails me or forsakes me. It’s also an opportunity to identify with Him, albeit not exactly a fun one. Now that I think of it, a lot of our “opportunities” to identify with Christ are not that enjoyable right away, but they are good.  (“It is good that I was afflicted…”) And He’s been there.  He was misunderstood, rejected, falsely accused, and betrayed by those closest to Him. Really, it should be considered a privilege to be entrusted with any of the same sort of emotional pain He endured. I only wish I could embrace it more willingly.

So, Robert is right.  I need not, should not take up the “I dare not trust” mentality.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection enable me to entrust myself to Him as I risk trusting others.

I might be slightly more discerning in future circumstances, but there is no pressing need to withhold myself from relationships with those He puts in my life.

His oath, His covenant, and blood support me in the whelming flood
When every earthly prop gives way, (or “when all around my soul gives way”)
He then is all my Hope and Stay


(Kids, are you reading this? If so, please forgive my hardness of heart, and entrust yourself to those given to you in friendship, but entrust yourselves to Christ above all. Love, Mom)

Maine: Building, Running, Celebrating

I love this picture of my two big boys building a sand castle.  This has been happening every summer for 15 years.  The holes get deeper and the piles get higher every year. We just never outgrow the enjoyment of playing in the sand.  There were little kids all around us on the beach each day last week, and it was so fun to watch them do the same thing mine used to do ~ dig and build closer to the water, where the tide will inevitably fill up the moat, but then eventually destroy the entire castle.  They would squeal and scurry around building bigger walls and barriers, and this would occupy them for at least an hour, but always to no avail.

Building houses OF sand and ON a foundation of sand can not withstand the storms, it’s certainly true to Jesus’ parable. In fact, they can’t even withstand the daily tide. A dear friend said to me the other day, “It’s not the dragons.  It’s the gnats.”  So true.  The daily tide of life (conflict, work, parenting, relationships, rejection, finances, betrayal, people’s needs) can be so difficult to endure for the long term. This wasn’t supposed to be a post about trial, but the truth is that there was a bit of that hanging over this vacation. The good news, though, is that getting away granted a bit of reprieve from its disappointing, discouraging nature.

Getting out of the house and spending time in a different location always helps put things in better perspective, and we did have a refreshing time away, so back to the sand castles….

Kayla enjoyed hanging out in the one that Kory made one day ~ sort of an inverted one, built deep down in a valley of sorts ~ as well as showcasing her own masterpiece. We spent nearly three whole days (afternoons) on the beach, and two of them were fairly chilly. I had to wear a sweatshirt the entire time one day. Oh, New England… 
But on our last day, the temps were up around 80 degrees (sigh…), so we made the most of that one.
 Cooper built a castle, too, but his looked more like a Hershey’s Kiss ~ only slightly larger. (Sorry, no photos) He eventually gave up and took to simply sunbathing and well, just generally looking cool.
Everyone braved the 60 degree water except for me.  It actually didn’t seem as cold as usual, and I did make it in to my knees. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon shivering on the beach, though, so I stayed dry for the most part. Plus, I was being swept away via words on a page to both southern India as I read the biography of Amy Carmichael, and also to Depression Era New York City and Ireland, as I finally picked up Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  It’s been in a basket in my room or on my nightstand for years.
Robert thought the cold water might give him some relief from back pain, but sadly, it really didn’t.
Pretty sure they were just numb by the time they came out of the water!
An attempt to warm up. (Well, and avoid another photo.)
If you know my daughter at all or read the last post about Kayla’s birthday, you won’t be surprised that a unicorn made an appearance on the beach.  She also recently acquired a t-shirt that reads “I liked unicorns before it was cool,” and it’s true, she did, in her generation anyway.  I cringe at the latest fashions ~ high-waisted, button-fly, acid-washed jeans, cropped tops, rainbows, unicorns, and all things 70’s and 80’s.  Don’t these kids know how we 40-somethings look at old photos of ourselves wearing those exact same things with so much regret?
Kory working on one of his three sand castle designs over the course of our trip.

Our evenings were filled with grilling some yummy dinners, trips into town for ice cream, a movie on a rainy night (no need to pay good money to see “And So It Goes” ~ FYI!), and a nightly Spades tournament. Cooper and Kory beat Kayla and Dad in the best two out of three.  Mom couldn’t stay up that late, and somehow fell asleep each night just feet away in spite of their laughing, yelling, and arguing.

View from the Marginal Way

 Maybe my favorite parts of getting away were the early morning runs I was able to go on and our anniversary breakfast.  If you know Ogunquit, then you know the “Marginal Way.”  It’s a narrow mile-long walkway along the rocky coast and overlooking the ocean. It’s beautifully and naturally landscaped, and provides incredible views.

Sunrise

 From there I could run into the quaint downtown area and then access the sandy beach, running for a couple of more miles, enjoying the quiet, the sunshine, and the thoughts of our great, infinite, and majestic God.  One morning when I got back I looked up this verse:

For the Lord is a great God, and a King above all gods
In whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also
The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land
Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker
Psalm 95: 3-6
Low tide and a few other runners and walkers.
This map must show the high-tide view! Looks like I was running in the ocean ~ or swimming.
I returned “home” to this pretty view of Perkins Cove and sitting on the deck with Robert while
our three teens slept.

Robert’s back is still giving him so much grief. He’s been in constant and worsening pain since December, which means he hasn’t been able to run with me in months. We did go out for breakfast together after my run and while the kids slept to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, though.

We definitely cheated on our paleo diet for this breakfast celebration.  Robert had a toasted blueberry muffin along with his omelet, bacon and homefries, and I finally got to try a lemon-ricotta pancake.  I see them on the breakfast buffet at Whole Foods each week on our Monday breakfast dates there, but they are never gluten free.  I ordered one on the side of my two-eggs-over-easy, homefries, and bacon plate, and it was delicious! I’m craving another one as I type this.

When we returned, we made one pajama-clad child come outside on the deck and take our picture.

So thankful for some time away and some sunshine!

So thankful for this 15 year Maine vacation tradition!