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.”

 

Summer So Far

It’s 2:30 on a Monday and I planned to have all of this posted mid-morning.

Have you guys noticed that life has a lot of interruptions? A hospital visit was not on my long to-do list this morning, but that’s where I spent a good portion of the time. If you think of it, pray for a friend who is there. An “interruption” to my carefully planned day, yes, but also a planned-by-God privilege to be able to bring some encouragement, reassurance, and prayer.

I can’t believe we’re in the second half of June. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but while I always long for summer and a break from the busyness of the school year, it definitely has a fullness all of it’s own. It probably feels especially crazy, because there is no pattern or routine – just a lot of events and happenings and random activities.

We are five weeks in to seven weeks of small groups at church (one of the “routines” of summer), and I LOVE MY GROUP. You might have noticed that we ordered the wrong version of the Seamless workbook, but we decided to proceed with the teen girls’ version.  It has worked out just fine, and we’re all learning or re-learning a ton. Vi (pictured below, right in the middle) made us these awesome flash cards of the icons used in the workbook to help get a visual for the timeline of the whole Bible. (Crosswalk Chaperones, you may see these again next month!)

(No, we are not learning the Bible backwards (though I think a lot of us do!), it’s just that they organized the cards from their left to right, not ours.)

We’ve hosted a couple of Sunday lunches, one of which held an impromptu birthday party for Joseph, age 2. And you know I love a crowd around my dining room table – especially when they are this cute.

A couple of weeks ago, Robert and I found ourselves in Indianapolis for the second time in three months – The Gospel Coalition Conference in April and Grant and Melissa’s wedding this month. It might be appropriate to call this The Year of Indianapolis, because Robert will be back there to perform another wedding ceremony in August. We’d never even been to Indiana until this year.

We’ve enjoyed running about a 4-5 mile course on the Cultural Trail both times now.  Getting our bearings a bit more this time, we ran more along the canal, which is really beautiful.  Then it was breakfasts at outdoor cafes, coffee stops, enjoying our downtown hotel, carpooling to the wedding venue (about 45 minutes out of the city) rehearsal dinner, and wedding.

These two…

They worked so hard to create a wedding venue out of a field of weeds which happened to back up to a pretty brook.  They mowed and weed whacked and moved tree trunks and planted flowers and watered flowers and mowed some more and arranged chairs and I’m thinking they could rent that field out for future weddings now.  It was just gorgeous. And if I had time and space to tell you their stories, you’d find them even more beautiful.

It’s yet another privilege of being in ministry and close community with so many…spending wedding weekends with students (and others) who’ve been a part of your church. Really.  Such a joy.

One guest was especially encouraged by the faith of these young college students and recent grads. He pulled both Robert and me aside at different times to express his delight. “They get it!  They love Jesus and know how to give Him glory.  These kids are going to change the world.”

I totally agree.

We toasted with milk and chocolate chip cookies. (And if that’s not world changing, I don’t know what is.)

The sad part about that wedding weekend was that in between morning runs and late night dinners and rehearsals and sometimes during all of those things, we were texting and talking with dear friends whose marriage is falling apart. Dear friends. Covenant friends. 30 years of friendship friends. Children confused, hurt, and angry. Hearts ripped apart. Just so difficult to process the darkness and complexity of the seeming end of a marriage while experiencing the light and joy of one just beginning.

Pray for my friends. I still have hope for them.

My days have been filled with lots of coffee dates with women from church, and a special DIY project that I can’t wait to tell you about. We’ve also been slowly making our way through some much needed home improvements. I have the pics of an almost brand new kitchen and mud room and will post soon.

(Also, DIY projects, home improvements, and plenty of time to meet with women means I dropped my summer seminary course.  The first assignment was due the week after Kory’s graduation and the final exam would have been during a special 25th anniversary trip we’ve planned. It had to go. More on our trip later, because we might need your suggestions.)

Father’s Day was really fun.  Also Child Dedication Sunday, we dedicated 15 children – and had well over 40 children at church. So crazy and so wonderful – especially when you take into consideration that my own kids were the only kids in the church from 1999 until just about seven years ago.

Later it was ice cream at Flayvors – our local dairy farm…

…and burgers by Cooper wearing a 1987 vintage (i.e. older than Cooper by 10 years) Texas FCA shirt. I honestly think it might be worth some money to a handful of folks, but we’re not parting with it anytime soon.

I’ll close with this:

Yes, he does love the SnapChat filters.

Thanks again for joining me here and being patient as I learn to navigate this new space.  (It’s not quite as easy as it was before, but maybe I’ll get the hang of it soon.)

Happy Start-of-Summer to you!

My Sad & Lonely Life (a.k.a Holy Ground)

 I have lost count of the number of times I was on an airplane this summer.  It was a lot, but I didn’t really mind. A change of scenery is always refreshing. New places, new faces – I love it. The airport is one of the best places for people watching, too, and I even kind of enjoy/dread seeing who will be seated next to me on the flight. I’ve had some memorable seat-mates to be sure, the most recent of which was the older lady in the aisle seat on a flight from Dallas to Austin.

I considered stealing those eyelashes for the upcoming wedding.

“Are you from Austin? I’m a pet sitter there.” she asked/told me immediately upon buckling in. No “Hello,” just a firm question and statement.

(I never know quite how to answer this question.  Where exactly am I from? The window seat girl was off the hook by saying she lived in Marble Falls and quickly putting in her ear buds.)

“No ma’am, I don’t live in Austin.”

“Well, do you have pets?” she asked. Again, focused and firm. No niceties.

Hanging out in the waiting room while Daddy gets his staples out.

 “No, I don’t have any pets.” I said, feeling bad for not mentioning Kayla’s Betta fish, Buckaroo.

“Oh! What a sad and lonely life you must be living!” she exclaimed in all earnestness.

A bit shocked by her sweeping conclusion regarding my life, I couldn’t speak for a moment, but then my summer flashed before my eyes. Things just passed, and things still to come whirled through my mind, and all I could say was…

“Definitely not lonely.”

“Well, you just don’t know what you’re missing,” was her sharp reply before promptly securing her eye mask and falling asleep before we were even in the air. And though it is a very short flight from Dallas to Austin, she never said another word to me.

It rattled me a bit. 
I noticed that she had been reading some sort of a Christian novel, and even had a bookmark with “Jesus” written on it. A Christian? No wonder we often get a bad rap. She cares more about her business and a pet-less life than the living, breathing soul sitting next to her? Why not ask the occasion for visiting Austin? Or if I had any human family? Or why I had found myself in Dallas? Her eye mask sent the message that she wasn’t interested in further conversation, or I may have gotten past my shock and frustration to inquire about her pet-sitting career.
But any anger or frustration quickly turned to pity.
My sister and niece preparing to host a bridal brunch and tea party.

And the phrase that had been on repeat in my brain for the last couple of weeks started again: Holy Ground. 

No, I don’t have any pets, but I have a lot of humans. Like, A LOT. And no, they are not really mine, but we belong to each other in community in a way. Many of those humans had recently allowed me to be an intimate part of their lives, and to me it felt not sad and lonely, but like I was on holy ground.

Not the literal burning bush, take off your shoes, God is speaking audibly kind of holy ground, but a privileged position from which He allowed me to participate in some of the things He is up to in the lives of human beings. Things involving great fear, deep pain, and long term suffering, and also times of gladness and celebration.  Places of strife, raw emotions, of surrender and weariness, and also places of great faith and much joy.

Holy, sacred ground. That’s the way I was seeing it.

The bride gave us all Kendra Scott necklaces ~ floral robes, too!

A last-minute, nine-day trip to Tulsa allowed me to care for two little boys (one adopted and one about to be), their dad who had recently spent about 35 days in the hospital due to complications from Crohn’s Disease sporting a scar down the middle of his belly, which has now been opened up about seven times, and their mom who is working full time and trying to maintain hope and strength in the midst of it all.

I got to change diapers, read books, play outside, buckle carseat straps, do the naptime routine, drive to doctor visits, and cook a couple of things. I got to see and feel the tensions of marriage and parenting in the midst of great trial. I got to have fun conversations and hard ones. I had to be bold and walk on egg shells. I got to have deep fellowship with two friends who are steadfast believers and watch them walk a path of long term stress and suffering with great faith.

It was holy ground.

Mr. and Mrs.!
Being in Tulsa also allowed for a girls’ night out with a couple of other dear friends and a stop-by-the-house visit from another. These nights were not filled with laughing and chick flicks and junk food, but were laden with each woman’s battle scars and filled with stories of fear and grief. One whose own parents are already (and too early) gone, now facing the brain tumor of her father-in-law. One working, homeschooling, and raising 3 biological children and one adopted – all of whom require unique care in a family who advocates daily for the orphan and widow. And another who lost her dad suddenly and unexpectedly in January, who now has to care for her mother in many ways, who works full time, raises two boys and now faces the recurring stage three melanoma of her own husband who is not even 40 years old. (Major surgery this week. Please pray.)
There were updates, and tears, and shared pain, but even still, hearts full of faith.
My own faith grew from their example. Our 4 hour dinner at IHOP was holy ground for me.
My siblings minus the bride.
(I’m not even telling you about my day trip to Stillwater where I saw two other dear friends and spent the day laughing and crying and catching up. Mexico Joe’s and a back porch with an iced tea and a warm fall breeze. Holy ground, both.)
The California brother and family! (Coop’s surrogate parents from last year!)
 Got to hang with the little guys at the pool and give Mom, Dad
and soon to be little sister a break!

The reason I was flying from Dallas to Austin (really Tulsa to Dallas to Austin) was because I needed to meet up with the rest of my family for my littlest sister’s wedding. Robert performed the ceremony, my other sister and I were bridesmaids, my brother was a groomsman, and my boys were ushers. There were rehearsals, and bridal brunches. There was immediate and extended family. There was drama. There were prayers and fights and teary poolside conversations. There was laughter and reminiscing. There was a beautiful bride starting a brand new life.

It was privileged and holy ground.
After party – Comfy clothes and french fries!
We returned to a church overflowing with students back in town for a new semester.  This is always holy ground. People seeking, people growing, people hurting, people worshipping. I’ve met with at least six different women since being home. They’ve entrusted me with their passion for Christ and desire to serve Him on their campuses. They’ve shared their darkest, most sinful and rebellious moments. They’ve cried tears of deep shame and regret. They’ve reached out for help and hope. They’ve told me their life stories, their salvation stories. I feel privileged each time.
Second Service the Sunday we returned.
If I ever write a book on life as a pastor’s wife, a friend, a mom, it might be called Front Row Seat: The View From Up Close or something like that. A long time ago I took my kids to see the theater production of The Music Man at UMass. We were only three rows back from the stage. We could see the tiny microphones and the sweat running down the actors’ faces as they sang and danced. My kids were mesmerized.
That’s kind of how I feel. I’m mesmerized by the people in my life who take up their crosses and follow Him moment by moment. I’m in awe of the ones who continually deny themselves the option of anger and bitterness and selfishness and embrace His call, no matter how painful it is. I’m struck by the sweat of their service.
First we did brunch after the first service, and then we did a taco bar for lunch after the second.
Long shopping list and a half day trip to Costco. Also, cracking about 200 eggs!

It’s like the Lord always buys me the best tickets to the show. The ones where you can see for sure that those folks are really human. The ones where you see all the tiny flaws and tools for presentation and have your own heart strengthened by their performance.

So, I guess my life is sometimes sad as I watch loved ones walk through trial and loss. But it’s definitely not lonely. It’s filled with privilege and perspective and people truly in Christ.

Maybe my pet-sitting seat-mate doesn’t realize what she’s missing.

I, for one, am thankful for a summer of walking on holy (and human) ground.

Dress Alterations and “All Those Republicans…”

I did not sleep well at all last night. It was cool outside but warm in the house, and the window unit in our room doesn’t think it should cool our room in that situation.  I was hot and achy and tossed around all night long. I’m telling you this, because what follows might just be a result of my sleep deprived crankiness today. I don’t know. I’m asking for forgiveness ahead of time for any rash words.

(Also, I’ll be outing myself politically, though I’m sure it will be no surprise to most. I’ve revealed my leanings on my blog before, but try and stay away from talking about them in church and on Facebook, etc.  I truly want people to hear about Christ first and foremost, and I know that politics, especially conservative politics, is often something that keeps folks from truly understanding Him. Robert, too. We agree on politics, but we also agree that they should not be tied to sharing the Gospel in any way.)

Today was Kayla’s first day of Classical Conversations.  She’s a junior this year and in the Challenge III level with one of my sweetest friends as her tutor – Aimee or Mrs. Gould. (I am not tutoring this year, and though I love CC, it’s so nice to have a break.) I knew I would be dropping Kayla off this morning at 8:15am, so a week ago I made an appointment to have the bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding altered just after getting Kayla settled in for her first day of class. My appointment was at 9am, so I read my Bible at Starbucks for a few minutes over hot tea before heading over to the appointment.

Ours is the strapless one on the left. With pockets!

I was greeted by a lovely petite woman with white hair in her late fifties, I’m guessing. Really, she was just so pleasant. I could even tell from her website that she was a gentle and kind person. It’s part of why I chose her shop. We took a look at the dress, and then she left me alone to change.

When she came back in, she began pinning and chatting some more. A few years ahead of me in having a crown of white hair, she asked me if I was highlighting mine.  When I said no, she went on and on about my hair – it’s color (or non-color), it’s cut, it’s length.  It was so sweet, and I love it when people are so free with their genuine and complimentary thoughts. (Though hard to receive!) It’s something I’m trying to get better at myself.

Then the conversation turned to the wedding.  She mentioned hardly ever seeing wedding party dresses with floral prints, but when I explained the outdoor Texas venue, she thought it would be a perfect match. And after telling me about her niece who recently moved to Dallas, she said something about Amherst being so liberal.  At first I couldn’t tell if she thought that was good or bad, but then it became all too clear…

Me: Well, yes, Amherst is very liberal, but I think what pushes it to the far left of left are the colleges and the university.

Seamstress: Yes, because young people finally leave home and get educated.

(I could have been mistaken, but she seemed to be glad that the education led to the liberalness.)

Seamstress: I don’t know if I could live in Texas with all those Republicans. So many Republicans there. It’s so diverse here.

Me: You know, I am originally from Texas, and I find Amherst to be much less diverse than where I’m from – ethnically, ideologically, and politically, but I also lived in the cities of San Antonio and Austin for many years, so maybe that’s why.

Seamstress: Oh, you’re from Texas? Well, I mean we have so many nationalities here because of the colleges. I guess if you lived in a city in Texas, you had some diversity. Dallas seems to be all white Republicans though, or at least the area my niece lives in.

Me: Well, my husband and I both grew up in very small towns in Texas.  He was one of the few white kids on his football team.  Many of my closest friends were Mexican, my head cheerleader, Rhonda, was black, as was the cheerleader, Bernie, from whom I inherited all of my cheerleading uniforms.  My computer science partner, Takeru, was Asian. So was our valedictorian.

(Or something like the above comments, but I’ve tightened them up here for effect.)

Seamstress: Really? Well, I guess it just depends.  There must be a few pockets of diversity there.

Me: Yes, and there are Democrats, too, but I don’t find quite the same diversity of ideals and politics in this area. Everyone here seems to vote the same way.

And then we got to talking about our kids, and being in-laws, and grandparents.  When she heard my oldest was 21, she said not to worry, that kids these days get married really late – even after they’ve bought a house together and settled in, which is nice, because then they often pay for the wedding themselves.

As lovely as this woman was, I couldn’t help but think that this type of presumption and narrow-mindedness is part of what has gotten us into our current polarized political and cultural situation. (By the way, I will be heartbroken if my kids buy houses with their girlfriends or boyfriends and then get married years later. I wonder if she knows how high the divorce rate is for those folks.) And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a similar situation since moving here. Don’t get me wrong. I know it happens in Texas, too – or wherever there is a majority of one ideology or ethnicity. But no one is exempt! Liberal New Englanders don’t get to look down their noses at Conservative Texans and create a narrative about their obvious ignorance and lack of relationships with people of other colors. (We moved here during the 2000 Bush election, so being from the same state as the president automatically meant I must be an idiot. A downtown restaurant changed it’s menu to mock the administration at that time. Diverse? Tolerant? No, not at all.)

So, yes, I am a registered Republican from Texas. I think the government is too big and controlling. I think taxes and spending are out of control. I don’t want babies aborted or laws that encourage it. I desire traditional marriage to be upheld, because I believe it’s by original design and what’s best for kids, and the culture. I want freedom of speech and religion. I think people are better off when they are given a hand up rather than a hand out. For all you political scientists and junkies, I’m sure it all sounds rather simplistic.  (And I’m sure it is maddening to some, too.)

However, I have not voted for the Republican nominee (or the Democratic one) in the last two elections, nor do I plan to vote for the current nominee. (Or his democratic opponent, to be clear.) I have indeed voted in every previous election, but in my opinion, the Republican candidates have not been true conservatives, and I’ve felt pretty discouraged and disillusioned by it all. Voting has been no fun at all. (And my vote doesn’t count for much in this state anyway.)

I’ve never prayed for this country like I have in the past several months.  Prayers of confession mostly – in the same vein as Daniel on behalf of the rebellious nation of Israel. We are truly a mess. It grieves me and causes me to hope for heaven more than ever before – which is our only real hope anyway. So many Christians forget that – including me.

I have been watching and reading up on the election and candidates as much as I can, depressing as it is.

(I honestly thought the Democratic National Convention was very well done – as if that counts for anything. Michelle was the wise woman, wife, and mother she usually is, and Bill was as eloquent as ever. He left a few glaring issues out of his speech, but Slick Willy has never been so convincing.)

I have to thank my friend Josh Torrey for keeping me abreast of great articles on the topic via Facebook. (Thanks, Josh!) Here are a few I’ve read that cause me to think that it’s okay to keep voting in a non-traditional way. If we say we want change, then I think this is what it’s going to take. (And yes, I know you can find articles that say the exact opposite.  I’ve read many of those, too.)

How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis

Conservatives Don’t Owe Trump Their Ballot

Four Issues To Consider Before You Support Trump – What Is Really At Stake

Al Mohler and Russell Moore Explain Why They Can’t Support Trump

Though I don’t know if I’ve ever been overly presumptuous (mostly because I’ve never been overly comfortable with religious and political conversations, so be gentle if you choose to comment), my 17 years in New England have helped teach me that presumptions (which are really judgments, and discriminations in disguise) are not helpful. In fact, they are hurtful. Even my sweet seamstress has fallen prey to the narrow-mindedness she accuses the other side of having, but I really don’t think she’ll take it out on my dress. She did like my grey hair after all.

Wild Summer. Good Father.

Just returned from this gorgeous scene on Friday night. I don’t know if any U.S. coastline compares to this particular stretch. Maine is just beautiful, and I have to pinch myself when I’m there. Truly the stuff of dreams, I can’t believe this is how we’ve spent about one week of every year for the last 17 years. Between skiing in Vermont every winter and hanging out in Ogunquit, Maine every summer I try and emphasize to my kids that some people only fantasize of this life, but I think it’s lost on my New England-raised-kids. This Texas girl, however, continues to be in awe of my surroundings and grateful to God for all of it.

 Prior to our arrival home on Friday,  I had been in my own home and bed only about 72 hours between July 6 and August 12. Summer is always kind of wild and crazy, but this one may top the list.

I spoke at a Classical Conversations Practicum for 3 days in June. It was wonderful.  Not my speaking, but my worshipping over the things I was learning as I prepared to speak on a Christ-centered, Classical curriculum.  Wow. More on that later…hopefully.

Our oldest turned 21 a week later.  That seemed crazy enough, but then we decided on a Monday to go and surprise him on Friday of the same week. He only has Saturdays off, and so it seemed perfect.  We’d fly in on a Friday evening and spend all of Saturday and even Sunday morning with him.  Turns out it was the worst weekend we could have chosen. It was a staff change weekend.  First half staff was leaving and second half staff was arriving.  As a senior counselor, Kory was required to work all day on Saturday re-training staff on the ropes course and more.  We got to participate in the closing ceremony for that week of campers on Saturday morning and go to the staff meeting afterward, but then we had to say goodbye until around 8:30pm.  We grilled steaks for a late dinner and had a pancake breakfast together the next morning and did a lot of laundry, and our 18 hours together flew by too quickly.  No regrets though!  It was SO good to see this kid in his natural summer habitat!

I could go on and on about the excellence of Pine Cove and the high level training in leadership
and ministry that Kory has received here.  So grateful!

 Then we went to camp again!  Crosswalk Camp at Gordon College.  I think this was year 15 or something.  I know I was pregnant with Kayla the first time Robert was on staff and we skipped a year here and there.  We took our largest group of campers ever this year and had a blast.

 The camp pastor (a.k.a. my gifted husband) did an incredible job of teaching through the Sermon on the Mount…

 …and I had such a great time with all of the female chaperones working through the Sermon on the Mount by using the inductive Bible study method.  Here they are discussing and making posters of their “observations, interpretations, and applications.”

 We got home on a Saturday evening from youth camp and left the next Tuesday morning for this:

 When we got the invitation to Chris and Katie’s Colorado wedding, I knew we needed to go. So, months ago, we decided to make a week’s vacation out of it, and we are so glad we did. It doubled as a 24th anniversary celebration for us, since I would be in yet another state for the actual day. The trip was made even more do-able because of a generous gift given to us by members of our church!

Chris, the groom, has been a student at our church for the last four years.  An Amherst College football player from Texas, he and Katie have been dating since 8th grade. She graduated from UT Austin this May, and their wedding was in Crested Butte, CO – a favorite family vacation spot for her. It would take several paragraphs to describe this incredible wedding weekend, and so I’ll spare you all of the amazing details (I’m still basking in the beauty of it all!), but this is where the “Good Father” portion of my post comes in.

This crew.  Football players.  Groomsmen. Great friends.
And powerful witnesses for Christ on the Amherst College campus.
The handsome pastor on the right enjoys spending every Tuesday afternoon with them in the dining hall on campus.

The above photo was taken at the rehearsal dinner. A literal mountaintop experience. The cocktail hour had a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks, and the dinner itself  – a white tablecloth affair under a nearby tent –  lingered with the most heartfelt toasts to the bride and groom that I have ever experienced. Both fathers spoke at length about the bride and the groom, but it was each father’s toast of the bride that had me close to sobbing.

Both her own father and her soon to be father-in-law spoke of her beauty, her kindness, her faith.  They each treasured her femininity, her intelligence, her character. They gave specific examples of those things.  They expressed joy in knowing her. They thanked God for her. They sincerely celebrated her. They acknowledged her great worth and delighted in the gift she is to both families.

I could not hold back the tears. (I wasn’t the only one!)

I stole this photo from Facebook. Katie looked like a princess.
The ceremony was at a private river valley resort. Absolutely beautiful.

I went to bed that night still rejoicing over the beauty of that dinner, those toasts, the humility of each father, their great affection for their kids. But there was this underlying sorrow still with me the next morning.

To be treasured like that.
To be built up and honored.
To have your femininity called beautiful and celebrated.
To have your faith and acts of service noticed with gratitude.
To be thought well of.
To be loved and cherished by the older men in your life.

Those are things I have not known from any earthly man but my husband. I’m sure it will sound a bit dramatic to some, but I was grieving the absence of those fatherly sentiments in my own life. (To be fair, those men who could and should be giving it, never received it themselves, and so I understand, but it doesn’t remove the desire.) Just a few days later, a forty-something acquaintance posted on Facebook about a call she got from her dad telling her how proud he was of her, of the family she is raising, and the new business she just started. She mentioned that no matter how old she gets, she never outgrows the craving for fatherly love and approval. Upon reading her post, I felt less silly about my own emotions. The longing is real and deep. And when it is satisfied, there is true rest and security and freedom. When it is absent there is striving and insecurity and bondage.

With a still-heavy heart, that next morning I opened my Bible to what just “happened” to be the next chapter in my reading plan.  It was Psalm 36, and God the Father spoke to me so clearly and specifically:

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.

And there I was in Crested Butte, Colorado, literally surrounded by His mighty mountains – unmoving, lifting eyes to the heavens – visible images of His ability and willingness to faithfully and righteously love and protect me. As I was taking in the abundance of His creation, He was also saying so clearly and so personally, that HIS house is like that: abundant in love, a strong, affectionate refuge, and full of delights.
Whatever I grieve as a loss or scarcity on earth, He makes up for in abundance. The fatherly approval I long for He gives extravagantly.  The fact that He had me read that Psalm on that specific morning is only further evidence of His intimate love and affection. I was in tears again.
And when we climbed the highest of those surrounding mountains the next day, it was difficult not to think of His goodness, faithfulness, and unwavering love for me. 
Truly beautiful. 
A gift.

Our flight home was canceled due to severe weather in Houston, so we had to spend another day in Colorado.  Rough life, I know.

But what that meant was that instead of being home for two days before leaving again, I would only be home one day, and that day happened to be Kayla’s 16th birthday.  Not at all the way I wanted it to happen, but we had a fun day celebrating with the time we had.

A nice new camera was what she was hoping for, and we loved surprising her with it. (Well, sort of.  The box was delivered and sitting in our mudroom while we were away in Colorado, and there was no question what was inside, due to the markings on the box.  Oh well…)

We went to the Montague Book Mill for lunch (a great place for picture taking!) and the Esselon Cafe for cupcakes and coffee on the way home. For dinner we drove to West Hartford and her favorite restaurant – P.F. Chang’s. (Passing the airport that I would be back at only about 6 hours later.) I’m so thankful we had at least one day together, because…Sweet Sixteen!  Wow, can hardly believe it.

In total, I was home all of about 27 hours, as my plane to Texas left the next morning at 5:45am. I am always shocked to find hundreds of other people at the airport at 4am, and I barely made my flight because of the crowd. I arrived on a Friday night and was able to attend a bridal shower on Saturday for my youngest sister, Melinda.

I also got to meet the groom’s parents and spend lots of time with them over the weekend ~ such kind-hearted people. The following week, I spent at my dad’s house and helped my sister with a few wedding things – namely going along for the food tasting at the wedding’s resort venue. Not only did I get to eat a lot of delicious food, but then Melinda and I received a complimentary afternoon pool pass. A waiter brought us cold drinks and chips and guac while we sunbathed or floated in the lazy river. Such a rough  life, I know.

The following Saturday Bachelorette Party Weekend happened! It was the culmination of over 100 back and forth emails between 6 bridesmaids to coordinate the activities and venues for Melinda’s last hurrah as a single lady.

First there was a pontoon cruise on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin…

Then there was hanging out in the singles’ bar pool at the Hilton…

Had I been by myself or just with my other forty-something sister, we would have taken one look at that scene and headed straight back to the room.  Seriously.  But not only did we squeeze into the only two lounge chairs left on the deck, we also GOT IN THAT POOL and stood there in a circle with the other gals, chatting and acting like it was totally normal. Like we do this all the time. I really don’t think I was fooling anyone in my as-much-coverage-as-a-bathing-suit-can-offer swim attire, and I would be willing to bet that I was the only homeschooling pastor’s wife there. And why the massive, expensive downtown Hilton only offers this one tiny swimming pool is beyond me.  Oh, except for that whole singles’ bar vibe.  Now I get it.

And then there was a lingerie shower in the hotel.  Is this not the cutest, prettiest bride you’ve ever seen?

Then, we were off to dinner at a downtown Austin hot spot ~ Second Bar + Kitchen. So good.

I had to come back and edit this post to include what we did after dinner: Karoake at the Highball.  Our reservation was for 11:15pm.  We had our own private karaoke room (complete with pews, stained glass, and pentagrams.  I just prayed) and I cracked up at the group of 30year old former cheerleaders singing “I like big butts and I can not lie.”  Somehow I missed the 90’s rap era, but I’m telling you, it was alive and well until about 2am that night. Ha!

Sunday morning found us at a popular brunch spot ~ Moonshine. Amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. I even managed to go for a morning run along the lake with all the other Austinites – mostly because I no longer have the ability to sleep past 7am.  It was hot, and I thought I might die.  I prayed for Robert and Cooper while I was running, because they were also running ~ the Rockport, MA Half Marathon.  It was the same temperature in Rockport, MA as it was in Austin, TX, and I don’t know how they did it.  I can only run half-marathons in absolutely perfect weather conditions i.e. crisp, cool air with a steady breeze.

Here they are after the race – which was also the morning after Robert did our friend Pedro’s wedding in Worcester, MA. Impressive, huh?

They stayed at an Airbnb rental in Marblehead that night so they could pick me up in Boston the next morning. My flight from Austin to Boston was even earlier than the flight to Texas – 5:20am. I stayed in a hotel by the airport that afternoon (they let me check in at 1pm after brunch!) and overnight. It was a glorious 9 hours to myself. I read, walked to Starbucks, bought a salad at 7-11 for dinner (which was surprisingly good and fresh), had the pool all to myself for a couple of hours. I watched a bit of Texas Game Warden (quite interesting) before I caught up on two episodes of Blue Bloods since my family betrayed me by watching FOUR episodes while I was away – including the episode in which Erin is shot in the courtroom and the secret family code is revealed when Danny begs the shooter “Please don’t hurt my family.” Oh my goodness. More tears.

From Boston, we headed to Maine and our annual stay in Ogunquit. The cabin we typically stay in was only available two nights, and the kids wanted more time in Maine than that (they have come to love that time away), so Robert found a great place downtown and we stayed two more nights.

We had two great beach days and one rainy shopping day up in Freeport. 

The afternoon we arrived home, Robert had to go straight to a wedding rehearsal and dinner for these two. He was home earlier than expected, because the poor bride fainted (it was very hot and steamy) just before the rehearsal and ended up in the Emergency Room. There ended up being no rehearsal and no dinner, but you wouldn’t have known it by the beautiful ceremony the next day.

We had so much fun experiencing a Russian style dinner and dancing, and we are thrilled that these two will be staying around for a while.

Oh, there are so many other things to report on.  It was a wonderful whirlwind of a summer.  And of course I’m only telling you the glowing parts.  There was drama, there was strife, there were doctor visits, there was anger and disappointment, and there were LOTS of texts and phone calls with dear (and much too young) friends facing serious, life-threatening illnesses.  Climbing mountains and running marathons are also metaphors for the difficulty of this life and the stamina required. I thank the Good Father for providing both the glorious gifts and the grace to endure the not so glamorous parts.

Tomorrow is Cooper’s last day at home before leaving for college. There will be a cookout tomorrow night ~ hamburgers as requested, and then we’ll head to Gordon College on Friday morning. My van is currently loaded down with everything Target has to offer for dorm living. Pray for his transition if you think of it!

Kory begins his senior year at Baylor on Monday, which is just crazy.  And Kayla will be a junior ~ doing Challenge III at Classical Conversations this year.  I won’t be teaching at CC this year, but my 6th seminary class begins tomorrow – Christian Philosophy.  I am looking forward to it, and two of my textbooks are books I’ve already read for CC! (Sort of.  One is an almost identical title and premise.)

Robert is gearing up for year 18 of our church and the return of students to the area.  We are excited about being a part of what the Lord has planned for this year.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday: Chicken Tenders With Creamy Cider Sauce

Last Saturday was the perfect day for apple picking.  It was even hot outside, which I always hope for in September.  We went to an orchard we’ve never been to before called Cold Spring Orchard which is actually the one run by UMass.  I remember having someone from the orchard come and speak at The Amherst Woman’s Club years ago.  He brought samples from a large variety of apples.  It was my first time to try a Honeycrisp and a Macoun.  Both are delicious.

 I don’t remember the variety we picked last weekend, but they were large.  Very different from the Macintoshes we typically pick.

Kayla and Cooper were thrilled about picking apples, or was it that they were thrilled about what came after apple picking (a trip to the mall) and just decided it was a necessary evil?  Oh, they really didn’t mind it at all, but it’s so funny to watch the transformation over the years ~ from toddler giddiness to teenage nonchalance.  At least they don’t try and climb the trees anymore and throw apples at each other. Actually, I’m a little surprised about that last part.

 The big apples filled our two half-bushel bags in no time at all.  Robert headed home to finish up sermon and other work for Sunday, and the kids and I headed to the “big” mall to meet up with the McCullah family girls in search of wedding clothes for this weekend.  We did not have any success, and I told my crew that the six mile run I’d been on earlier that morning was a breeze compared to walking the mall for four hours with five teen and tween girls and one baby.  Oh my.  And to leave empty-handed….

The wedding is tomorrow, and none of us have any clue as to what we’ll be wearing.
Monday night we returned to our tradition of having Lois over to watch The Voice.  She made bouquets for the bridesmaids while watching.  I made some homemade applesauce and also a paleo version of this recipe from about three years ago for our dinner together.  The only differences are that I did not “bread” the chicken tenders, but rather baked and broiled them, and that I substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream.
This pic is of the GF “breaded” version from a few years back ~ and before the cream was added and sauce thickened.
And here’s the paleo version:
Chicken Tenders with Creamy Cider Sauce
10-15 chicken tenderloins
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, finly chopped
1 apple ~ peeled, cored, sliced thin
1 tsp thyme
2 cups apple cider (not juice)
1-2 cans coconut milk (or cream) ~ I used two because I wanted extra cream and sauce overall.
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
For chicken: Place tenderloins on a baking sheet.  Rub with olive oil (or coconut oil) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake in a 375 degree oven on middle rack for 15 minutes.  Turn the broiler on after fifteen minutes and move chicken to top rack.  Broil about 2 minutes each side.
For Sauce: Heat coconut oil in skillet adding onions, apple slices, and thyme.  Sauté 3-5 minutes until apple and onion are softened. Add cider and bring to a boil.  Keep boiling until liquid is reduced a bit.  Stir in coconut milk (or cream), dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.  Continue simmering and stirring until the cider sauce is slightly thickened.
Spoon sauce over chicken tenderloins to serve.
Our side dishes were sweet potatoes and sautéed kale.
Enjoy ~ and have a great weekend.  We’ll be rehearsing for the wedding tonight and spending most all of our day wedding-ing tomorrow with a wonderful couple from our church.  Kayla and her friends will be serving during the cocktail/appetizer hour as well as throughout dinner.  We’re praying for no rain and a beautiful outdoor-among-the-gorgeous-foliage ceremony.  S’mores and camp fire will be the grand finale if the weather cooperates.
Now…to find something to wear for all the boys and girls here at my house!