SEE

I stood in the aisle trying to find a card that matched my husband or my dad for Father’s Day.  The cards either had a grill or a golf club.  The one card I did pick up and read pitted the poor recipient as the butt of the joke.  It said something like “The thing I like best about you is your taste in women.” Wow.

I left.

You really missed the mark, greeting card industry.  There’s more to dads that what you are giving them credit.  Yes, they like meat and sports, but I’m surrounded by dads. I have a husband, a dad, a granddaddy, cousins, a brother and countless friends that I get to watch being fathers.  And I see more. I see more than a grill master or a sports junkie.  I see more than a beer-guzzling, careless, uninvolved, unrelational, passive workhorse whose only role is ‘provider’.  Let me tell you what I see:

I have seen his eyes gaze tenderly and anxiously at his newborn.

I have seen his knuckles white, clutching the steering wheel with all the weight of the new responsibility of driving this living being home from the hospital.

I have seen his hand steady the bike, cautiously letting go and sending him on his own way.

I have seen the approving nod and thumbs up from the bleachers, the only one for which the jagged-tooth grin begs.

I have seen his steel frame twisted in grief.

I have seen his misty eyes as she twirls at the recital.

I have seen his protective glance over his home, and his double checking the door is latched before bed.

I have seen his heart swell and overcome with compassion when his child is in pain.

I have seen him pierce right through to the core when he asks, and genuinely cares to know, “how’s your heart?”

I have seen him rock them to sleep, carry them up a mountain, change their diapers, read them Scripture, warm their bottles, toss them in the air, wipe their noses, calm their fears, apply their band-aids, stroke their hair, pray for their needs, scoop them away from danger, wrestle ’til they hurt and giggle ’til they cry.

I’ve seen men who accept the call to fatherhood, and live it out with patience, integrity, and purpose.

That’s what I’ve seen.  And this isn’t new-age mumbo jumbo where men are all of the sudden jumping in and helping more with the kids.   It’s no surprise that men are relational.  In Genesis, God saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone.  And they were instructed to be involved from the beginning (Deut. 4:9, 6:7, 11:19), teaching their children and bringing them up in the way they should go.  I think Paul especially knew the importance of a father in the life of his children:  “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col. 3:21).

I’ve seen that.  I’ve seen them put the courage in their children, bring them up as they should go, and teach them diligently as they walk along the road.

I am so eternally grateful for all I get to see.  Dads, watching you father is a joy unspeakable.  Thanks for all you are.

BECOME

I remember being in the concrete driveway of your old house. You had effortlessly set up an entire play land of activities with hula hoops, giant homemade bubble wands, a crazy sprinkler, and a little kiddy pool. You were quietly keeping order while sun bathing, and eventually you stood up, picked up a hula hoop, and began to hula. You had managed to get at least 4 hoops going simultaneously. One was around your waist, one on each arm, and one around your neck! Suddenly, we all wanted to hula too!

‘I want a turn, I want a turn!!’ we yelled impatiently.

‘These hula hoops have been laying here all morning, and no one has paid them any attention,’ you responded in your calm, firm way, which we didn’t dare question.

Those hula hoops were boring rings of plastic before they were set in perpetual motion, at which point they became the most fascinating things in the driveway. The same scenario played out with the bubbles, as you took the rope and dipped it into the homemade solution and created the most giant bubble circle I’ve (still) ever seen.

And we’ve been watching you quietly create a life full of beautiful masterpieces with your gifted hands ever since.

I can’t express what your constant presence in my life has meant. For sisters, you and my mother couldn’t be two more different people. She with her exuberance, you with your calm spirit. She with her everyone, you with your each one. She with her drive, you with your patience.

But you have the same Joy, the same Peace, the same Love. Because you know the same Savior. And it is invaluable to behold the wisdom you both possess and to see the manifestation of the Word through both your unique lives. She with her vision, you with your voice. She with her unwavering encouragement in a culture of despair, you with your unwavering testimony to Truth in a culture strife with lies. To witness what God can do no matter your personality, no matter your size (you’re so tiny), no matter what.

What if you had never used your gifts? What if you had never sung your songs? Made your cakes? Painted your masterpieces? Written your children’s books? What if you had never become what God created you to become?

The little 8-year old girl who gave her life to Jesus while reading The Merriest Christmas Ever wouldn’t be who she is. And so many others who have been touched through your music and your art wouldn’t understand our Savior the way you have helped them to understand Him.

And I wouldn’t be who I am either. I’ve needed to see you stand for Truth. I’ve needed to see you take a risk to follow a dream. I’ve needed to see you pay attention to things. I’ve needed to watch you patiently hold up your hand so still and so high, a sea gull would brave the decent for a morsel of food. I’ve needed to see you watch the animals in wonder and in awe. I’ve needed to see you create something wonderful from something plain. (Lord knows I needed you at my wedding. The dress, the flowers, the cake, the music, is there anything you cannot do??) The lessons you continue to instill in my life are plentiful and precious. The hours we get to spend over coffee, over Russian Tea, over the driveway, over nothing, are some of the sweetest moments I’ll know.

Grandmother once told a nine-year-old Jonathan to fix a mistake on his picture by making it into something new. She said, “Gaye always just makes something new out of a mistake. That squiggly line can become anything you want it to be. That’s what Gaye would say.”

Thank you for allowing Him to make beauty from ashes. For becoming the beautiful, wise, amazing, artistic woman God created you to be, despite being a merely a human in fallen world.

I love you.

GW_Gaye

 

SOULMATES

Recently, when I was brushing my teeth, Michael uncharacteristically leaned in very close to me, shattering my tooth brushing bubble of space, stared at my toothbrush and said,

“how long have you been using that toothbrush?”

“since I bought it a few months ago.”

“I thought that was mine.”

“It’s pink!”

‘What color is mine?’

“BLUE!”

I love being married to Michael.  We’ve been best friends for 16 years, married for 9.  We laugh so much.  I think almost everything he says is slap you in the face hilarious.  The other day he told me, ‘I hashtag at the END of my words’. Which I think is the funniest thing I have ever heard and I laughed so hard at that coffee shot out my nose.  I still think he’s the hottest guy in the room.  I still can’t wait until he gets home.  I still melt a little when his name pops up on my phone – ‘It’s him!’ 

But Michael is not my soul mate.

I don’t believe in soul mates.  I think that we met because we lived in the same geographical area, had a similar socioeconomic status, and several mutual friends.  I think we had a mutual attraction, and we made a decision, and so on and so forth, and it’s 16 years later and we’re still choosing each other.

Because all the gush.  But also…all the stuff.  There are days.  And you have them too, so you know what I mean.  Choosing self seems so enticing.  Because there are days, doggonit, when I am right.  And it would feel so good to waller in that.  Ok, and sometimes I do for a bit.  But I usually come around, or he does.  And there is forgiveness, there is seeking to understand rather than to be understood, and there is a continual melding into one flesh.  There is surrender to Christ out of reverence for the covenant we made August 21, 2004.

And it is darn hard honest to goodness bone fide work. 

Michael isn’t my soul mate.

I once had a friend who was in pain because of a broken heart.  She was seeking.  Seeking something.  She was seeking, but never finding, her identity through relationships with men.  She seemed so confused as to why she wasn’t able to find herself in them.   And I mustered up every ounce of my infantile wisdom that I had found in Christ and said to her, “you have a God shaped hole in your heart.  Christ is the only one who can fill that space.”

It was a lesson I had to learn as well.  Because I don’t know how you fared in algebra, but 16 years together – 9 years of marriage = 7 long stinking years of waiting for a ring.

I don’t like to wait for things like the coffee to make, the microwave to beep, or the boyfriend to propose.   Just come on already..everything!  Obviously, I was impatient.  And you need to know that we weren’t one of those couples who talked about marriage all the time before we were engaged.  We literally never talked about it.  The subject was off limits pre-proposal.

So I was in a bit of turmoil, especially that last year of ‘dating’.  Finally, one day amidst the turmoil, I sensed God say in my spirit,

“Who do you desire more?”

Who, indeed.  I had some serious perspective shifting, prioritizing, and soul searching of my own to do.  And I am not going to tell you that God waved a magic wand over Michael to speed things up.  He didn’t.  Michael, my sweet tortoise, did eventually propose, and when he did I was ready.  But only because I had already found my Soulmate.   When I expect ‘man’ to fulfill a role only God can fulfill, man will fail every time.  Because it’s not his job, as popculture would have it, to ‘complete’ me.

My soul has a mate. Your soul has a mate. It’s Jesus. No one else will do.

jesusismysoulmate#

FIRST

I was in the middle of doing two good deeds.  Donating money to the Pregnancy Care Center and donating much needed bedding for incoming refugees to World Relief.  I was feeling so accomplished.  I had been meaning to do these things for several days and I hadn’t gotten around to it, but woah can I get some stuff done when my kids are at school.  My list was long that day, and I just killed the whole thing.  It was beautiful really.  And orderly.  And I was prancing to my car to finish my last errand before work when I was approached by a man.

‘Can you spare a few dollars? I am really hungry.’

Crap.  I don’t have dollars.  I never have dollars.

‘I’m so sorry, I don’t even have a dollar. I’m so sorry.’

He looked at me with disdain.  Like ‘whatever lady’.  He even said ‘psh’ as he walked away.

Dangit.  My do-gooder bubble was officially busted.

Suddenly, I remembered my lunch!  I had Josiah’s Thor lunch box full of homemade chicken-n-dumplings and green beans, which was to be my dinner.  So I hurriedly unlocked the car, reached over to get the lunch and thought,

‘I wonder if I should just give him the granola bar?  He has no way to heat these dumplings up (I know. Don’t even).  Plus is it weird  to just give him the lunch box? And what will he do with all these containers? I don’t even have a fork in here.’ My thoughts were racing at about 10,000/second.

I opted for the safe pre-packaged granola bar.  Additionally, I admit, I’m a scaredy cat.  This was not the best part of town.  I had already scanned the area, aware of all surroundings, in broad daylight.  There were 3 construction workers within spitting distance.  There were two people with a phone within yelling distance.  I had my keys between my fingers.  Public universities ran some sort of campaign in the late 90s that trained women to fear being abducted and tortured.  And because I was born nervous, I stay prepared.

This whole thought process took about 15 seconds.  I turned around with granola bar in hand and my best servant smile and started to yell, ‘you can have this!’

But he was gone.

He was nowhere.

I looked all around in every direction and couldn’t see him.  I got in my car and drove around and couldn’t find him.

Gone.

Gone the opportunity to serve.  Gone the opportunity to love.  Gone the opportunity to practice what I had literally preached just a few short weeks before.

For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…..

UGH!  

I finished my last errand, and went to work.  I couldn’t get a handle on this.  I couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t get centered even.  I failed that one.  FAILED. I could have taken him to get a meal.  Or the safer ‘wait there, I’ll be right back with a meal.’  I could have done a number of things.

I was feeling so defeated.  Like an utter failure.  For several months my heart cry has been, Lord! I want to love the least of these! the way you did!  the way you commanded us to!  Lord, I want to love my neighbor as myself and keep your commands!  I’ve been consumed with these thoughts. Consumed.

And in His infinite wisdom and abundant grace He whispered in my spirit,

First thing’s first.

What do you mean Lord?

First thing’s first.

What?

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 

This is the first and greatest commandment.

First thing’s first.

How can I love others well if I don’t love God more?  He is love. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have [God], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have [God], I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have [God], I gain nothing. 

Lord,

May my human doings be replaced with my human being.  May I be consumed with You, and only YOU.  And then, and next, and second, and only after I am filled with your all-consuming-fire, may I love others.  May I serve and love and help and witness and teach only from a heart that is so full of You, that loving others is the only possible existence.  But in so doing, may I never neglect to first seek You, to first know You, to first love You.  

Amen.

BROTHERS

Growing up should take longer than it does.  I needed more than 18 years to appreciate what I have in my brothers.

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I didn’t see it as a young girl on a Saturday morning who didn’t want to watch Thundercats or WWF, but was voted out every time.  Or as an adolescent who just got tired of all the toothpaste always being on the outside of the tube, so thick and dried up that the lid wouldn’t close.  Or as a teenager, going through the grunge phase, who couldn’t find her favorite flannel shirt, because her brother was wearing it!!!

But I saw it today, when my heart ached because I miss them so much.

When my boys fight, I find myself saying things like ‘Don’t you know how lucky you are to have each other???’  ‘So few people get TWO brothers!  And ALL of you get TWO!’  ‘You better love each other!’  One day you might live far apart and you might miss each other!!! (I don’t actually say that last part, because I fully expect my children to always live right beside me…. – daughters-in-law, take note.)

Boy did we used to fight.  There were three of us and two would always gang up on one.  Jonathan and I used to run by the bathroom and throw things in the tub while Jeremy took a bath.  Jeremy and I tormented Jonathan simply out of duty as younger siblings.  Jeremy and Jonathan did all sorts of terrible things to me, like take apart their motorized cars and put the little spinning thing in my long thick hair….creating such a tangle it had to be cut out.  Or decapitating my Barbies.  Or making faces at me during dinner which made me laugh so hard I had to be excused from the table, and forego supper!  (I still sometimes laugh at inappropriate times.  I blame them.) Or making fun of me for listening to Mariah Carey’s “Always be my baby” for the 276th time. (I kinda get it now, by the way.)

But the fighting must be all part of it.  There must be something in the wrestling, the fighting, the arguing that makes the bond stronger.  Maybe because the bond has already endured such turmoil, it is mega-ultra-super strong.

That bond sure came in handy in my young adult years.  Like when Jonathan had to help me get out of a situation I shouldn’t have been in in the first place.  Or when Jeremy called to comfort me when my dog died, the sheer compassion in his voice bringing me to tears.  Or when Jonathan spoke at my wedding.  Or when Jeremy anointed our home.  Or when they baptized me.

They baptized me.  Do you know what that meant to me??  There was a time in our teenage years when I didn’t know if they would make it.  As in live…  We had all strayed so far.  And 2 years ago, they led me out in the ocean and prayed over me and commissioned me to service in the Lord.

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Mega, ultra, super, strong bond.

It’s that bond that makes me rejoice in their joys.  Like when my nephew was born and I held him and thought I was going to fall to pieces because I instantaneously loved him so much.  But it was more than “I really love this baby”.  It was like, he was a piece of me, like he was my heart, just a little further away.

It’s that bond that makes their heartaches mine.  Like when a relationship failed, and it pierced me to the core.  And when I was told the ultrasound showed no more sign of life, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.

Their pain is my pain, their joy my joy.

They’re the only ones I can make fun of my parents with.  They’re the only ones who really understand why I turned out the way I did.  They encourage me.  They strengthen me.  They challenge me.  They bless me by the way they live their lives every single day.

Some days I just wish they weren’t so far away.  Looking forward to eternity with you.

Love you, brothers.

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MARRIAGE

I found out how strong my grandparents’ marriage was a few months before my grandmother passed away.  It was my wedding day.  We were all staying together at a church conference center; my entire family had driven from North Carolina to Indiana to help me celebrate.  My 84-year old granddaddy was the pastor conducting the ceremony.

I was in my room getting ready and I heard my grandparents talking in their adjacent room.  My grandmother was going over the ceremony with my granddaddy, who had retired from full-time pastoring a few years prior.  He, unbeknownst to me, had been struggling with early signs of dementia.  Unbeknownst to me, because my grandmother took such care of him.

“No, you have to emphasize this, not for, for this reason shall a man…”

and so on she went through the entire ceremony, again.  She wanted it to be just right (because she really loved me), and she wanted it to be just right for his sake as well.  She really loved him.

Just a few months later, she was ill.  I found out more about their marriage then.  They were so tired.  Grandmother had been struggling with restless legs, and Granddaddy had been up in the night with her, every night walking up and down the hall.  Up and down, up and down, up and down for hours.  Until she could rest.  He really loved her.

When she was very very near her home going we were all there.  Of course we were all there.  We are a pack, a clan, a seriously enmeshed glob of a family who really really adore one another.  We had been keeping vigil all day and all night.  We had left her room so she could rest, and were in the living room talking and feeling sad.  We were using baby monitors to listen when we had to be in another room.  Through the baby monitor we heard him praying over her.  She was unaware of anything around her.  He prayed out loud for her anyway, as I suppose he had probably done the entire 56 years of their marriage.  They really loved each other.

These were precious, precious moments I will always treasure.

But in considering their marriage I think it was probably hard, very hard at times.  I remember that they bickered.  Honestly, they had…spats.  Looking back I can see that my grandmother was probably a little stern and my granddaddy was probably a little needy.  He was in full-time ministry for 65 years.  Being a pastor is hard.  He didn’t miss Sundays.  They always came to the beach on Sunday evening instead of Saturday, so as not to miss church.  She waited for him and they came together.  She could have come with us a day earlier.  She didn’t have to wait, she just did.  He sometimes left for a funeral.  She never complained.  That must have been hard.

He was an early bird.  She was a night owl.  He was punctual, she was not.  He did not come from a Christian home, she did.  He was a talker, she was a writer.  He was in the forefront, she in the background.  When she worked in a doctor’s office, he cooked dinner and ran errands.  When she made a list, he completed it.  When he wrote a sermon, she typed it.  She was a planner, he was a doer.

She raised 2 small children while he traveled as an evangelist in the early years of their parenting.  That had to be hard.  There were no cell phones…my husband has always answered every hysterical phone call I have ever made.

“I don’t know babe, I think it’s probably very unlikely that hiccups can cause brain damage.”

“You’re right, I’ll call mom.”  (If my mom didn’t live right next door to me there is no way I would continue to be a whole entire person.  I would have fallen completely apart when my 3rd boy was born.)

She couldn’t call him on a whim.  She had to be patient.  Granddaddy told me how he came to realize how hard his traveling must have been for her, so he stopped traveling as much and stayed home more.  He also told me how he thought she was an angel.  He said that a lot.

I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face on their 50th wedding anniversary.  The morning of which she came literally strutting down the hall dangling the golden necklace he had given her.  From it hung a modest solitaire diamond.  She was so proud, but not in a prideful way.  I think she just felt treasured.

The greatest gift I received on my wedding day was not wrapped in pretty white paper.  It was a conversation not meant to be heard through a paper thin wall.  It was a conversation that exuded an entire marriage of mutual sacrifice, mutual submission, and mutual love.  The gift was a shining example of what marriage is meant to be.  I am so blessed to have received it.

Marriage is hard.  Stay married anyway.  In the end you will need her to keep your wits about you.  You will need him to walk with you up and down the hall.  And when one of you prays the other into the arms of your Heavenly Father, the difficult road will have been worth it.  And I’m pretty sure the difficulty will fade in comparison to the gift you leave to the generations that come behind you.

Happy Valentine’s Day