Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Easiest, Almost-Not-Fair Resolution We're Dying For This Year

Blueberries swell inside vanilla cake batter, creeping higher in the square metal pan. The oven and refrigerator hiss and hum a rumbling life behind me. My family's voices lilt and lift throughout the house, readying for a New Year's Eve party out with church friends in an hour.
Photo: Mike, Creative Commons, cc license
Toppling on a pile of papers beside me, I see the dvd collection of a Bible study series by Beth Moore on First and Second Thessalonians. I've been binge-watching the last three episodes, racing to finish the messages before our church must pass them on to another group that has reserved them. In a Texan accent, Beth animatedly talks nodding-women-viewers through the last chapters of Thessalonians, and I scribble notes in my workbook, pausing to carefully spell out the occasional Greek words she displays on the screen.

And this is it, I can feel it. This hunger in my bones. If ever there was a resolution to be chased, this is it: To make consistent time to dig deeper in God's word; to sink deeper into a God who whispers his delight in us, his love for us, and his promise that he is enough; that we are made whole in him. 

In a world where men censor this fear behind mute mouths, and women whisper it in tremulous words to safe friends, the fear of Not Being Enough reigns high. Not being good enough, not being man enough or woman enough, not being the spouse or the parent you long to be -- the terms vary per person but the sentiments remain. The anxious, nagging lie sinks teeth deep into our hearts: You are not good enough. You must do more.

And we hear it, this push to Be More, to Do More, To Accomplish more. And you can, if you want to! I will cheer you on warmly. We all have goals and dreams, I agree.

But, if this anxious fearful lie has sunk its cold into your heart and spirit, sapping energy and hope, then it is not dream's vigor. It is not motivating or encouraging.

You are delighted in. You are loved, smiled at, desired, chased after, pursued, and wooed. You have a God who is running after you. Stop. Sink into his presence and his love for you. Find rest. 

This year, push aside the distractions, the voices. Grab your Bible and pen and slide into the Creator's presence. And me? I will be right there with you, pen in hand, nodding and scribbling to keep up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Dukes of Hazard Morning

 I wasn't expecting the Dukes of Hazard.
Photo: DatarkNZ, Creative Commons, cc license
On a misty, balmy Minnesota morning, we walked up and down a concrete forest of balsam and fraiser firs, inhaling the giddy pine fragrance.

"This one," Mark declared, pointing to a chubby fraisier fir in the second row of leaning trees.

Daniel and I peered closer to see if we agreed. Despite its branches still frozen high in the air, we could see a full-girthed beauty and shape to the Christmas tree he had chosen. We cheered and agreed. Mark ran into the hardware store to pay, while Daniel and I stomped around the lot, bounced dewdrops off the rows of trees, and sucked in fresh rain-wet air.

Slicing three inches off the bottom of the tree, the store clerk helped us tie the Christmas tree to the top of our small car. Suddenly, we noticed it. Due to unusual twine-wrapping skills this year, Daniel and I were locked inside the car, doors tied shut in twine. Mark was trapped outside the car.

I laughed. "You'll have to jump through the windows like the Dukes of Hazard," I said, flashing my eyebrows at him.

Without hesitating for a second, my handsome man broke into a husky first line of the song, and slid feet first into the car! I cried out with pleasant surprise, impressed and delighted at his quick wit.

"You should sing some more," I flared my eyes at him, smiling slow into his eyes. "I like your deep voice."

He grinned and put the car in gear, backing around the corner and pulling onto the road. I stopped him, leaning in for a kiss, and we joked the rest of the way home.

There's something about choosing the way we see our husbands, huh? On a weekday morning during a short break to decorate the Christmas tree before the eldest dashed off for finals week, and my daughter's high school geometry and biology coursework piled up, we get to choose. With dishes stacking high, laundry unfinished, and a workweek just minutes away, we always get to choose.

We choose how we see our men, how we respond to our kids, how we frame our days.

I wasn't expecting Dukes of Hazard, but I loved that glimpse of my man, and chose to see him that way all week. It wasn't about a television show or any actors from the eighties. It was the sudden glimpse of a quick-witted man, singing to me in a husky voice, and jumping feet-first into the car.

We get to choose what we remember and focus on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Unstringing Peace from the Rush and Riots this Advent

Jazzy guitar and brass ring out Merry, merry, merry Christmas in a bluesy "Carol of the Bells" while Daniel and his cousin pull on winter gloves and stalk through crunchy snow. A red cape unfurls as he leaps down the stairs. The boys grab duct tape swords and fight invisible warriors in the snowy yard below.

Saxophone slides in mellow and I breathe in the excitement of the season. At the windowpane beside me, my tiny toddler nephew presses face close and motions to the boys outside. "Zzzzz," he intones, waving three chubby fingers.

The warriors in red and gray mount stairs, switch out boots, and return to the yard.

Whatever made us think that peace meant calm inactivity?

I grin and glance at the wet spots scattered on green carpet behind me. A six-hour stomach virus tumbled through the three little boys this weekend, and zealous lemon-sanitizer still dries in some spots on the floor. The boys' health returned, and looks like blanket forts and rosy cheeks over hot cocoa. Mittens and boots drip snow drops by the deck door.

Piano keys trip-trap scales around "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and it hits me. The peace we clamor for at Christmas doesn't come with checked-off gift lists, tiered cookie trays, or idyllic settings. Peace at Christmas is in a Who.

Two thousand years ago, our God-King stepped into a wind-swept, war-torn land, his regal cape trailing invisibly behind him. To a pregnant teen mom and a scandal-chased carpenter on a government-mandated road trip while nine-months pregnant, Peace arrived. In a violent world racked with rumors and virulent prejudices, Peace sailed in, trailing red behind him, and our lives have never been the same.
Photo: Brandy Shaul, Creative Commons, cc license
In our season of lights that need to be strung, Christmas letters awaiting yellow ink, and countdowns to Christmas, our Peace isn't locked impotent behind cardboard Advent doors. He is here. He is now. And the peace settles in.

Friday, December 5, 2014

What the Mirror Can't Tell You

The scissors snipped.

Photo: Astrid Westvang, Creative Commons, cc license
A chunk of hair slipped into the sink below, and instantly I knew. This was something best left for the ones who know: the pros who can feather and layer hair styles, not leaving a gaping column of hair, slashed off in error.

Have you ever just wanted a change? I wanted subtle face-framing layers. Studying hair styles for a few days, I found some ideas, and grabbed the scissors Tuesday night. Halfway through one side of my head, I knew, and a laughing dread slipped chuckles out of me while I stared into the mirror.

Mark walked in after I finished the second side. Seeing the seven inch-long locks of hair in the sink and my sheepish grin, he groaned and laughed with me. "What did you do?"

Shyly I flipped the hair in front, and we stared at the forlorn results in the mirror. Big brown eyes framed by two painfully-obvious haircut fails looked back, and we laughed. He hugged me, and I shook my head, giggling and pressing in deep.

There's a safety in a marriage love that is breath-taking and stalwart, that settles deep into our bones. This love, modeled first by our Creator God, seeks to love unconditionally, to see beauty in a soul that whispers, moves, breathes, and lives, unhindered by outer accouterments.

I showered the next morning and arranged a quick haircut appointment, but our beauty is never limited by hair styles or clothing or jean size, women. Your beauty flows out from you in the way your laughter dances in your eyes, the way you sneeze so uniquely, and the way you treat the people in your life. You are loved and delighted in by an Artist God. And the loved ones in our lives? They strive to love as well as this God Being, who models it first to us, and then watches it trickle down to the people around us.

Into a dark six-thirty morning, my six-year old crept quietly around the bed to whisper in my ear. "Hi, Mom, I'm awake."

"Hi, buddy. You can play in your room. Dad and I are going to sleep a bit more, okay?"

The door clicked shut behind him. Mark and I moved sleepily to the center of the bed, and snuggled into spoon mode. His right arm slid under my pillow. Pulling me close, he wrapped his left arm around me. We slid aside my long hair from tickling his face, and adjusted our pillows in automatic mode. There is a rhythm that sinks deeply into loved ones, where nestling in can come without thought or much wakefulness. I slid back, feeling his chest rise and fall in slow breaths against my back. My breathing soon matched his, the warmth of his body wrapping my frame, and we dozed.

There is a safety in a love that is breath-slowing, breath-forming, and stalwart. It settles in, deep into our bones, freeing beauty, freeing us to see love and give love, modeled first to us by our God.