Messy Love

Messy Love

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

A couple days ago, Lydia and I were reading The Velveteen Rabbit. As I read those words to her, tears toppled over my eyelids. I remember my grandmother reading those same words over and over to me, and I thought about my own sweet girl and her beloved pink kitty cat with the faded fabric and tattered tail. This world glamorizes new and shiny, glossy and first edition. But Love isn’t slick or polished or gleaming. Love is messy and dirty and bloody and ragged. And the greatest example of Love left heaven to enter our mess, hung on a cross to save us and rose from the dead to give us victory. This weekend I will celebrate Love that changed my life. Love that changed my marriage. Love that changed my parenting. Love that changed my every interaction in life.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look like I’m a well-preserved version of my twenty-year-old self. I want to look like Love, and that means I’m going to keep getting messy. Messy looks like vulnerability and facing fear and pressing on. It looks like seeing people for their heart and their place in God’s Great Story. Messy looks like pain and sacrifice and holding on to hope. Messy looks like Love.

We chase beauty that can be bought in a jar or a syringe, but nothing is more beautiful than Love poured out. Christ entered our mess, our struggles and temptations, our pain and tears, our everything. And He entered our death so that we could be free to live. And free to get messy showing others how much He Loves.

Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life; scared to death of death.

It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself–all the pain, all the testing–and would be able to help where help was needed.

Hebrews 2:14-18, The Message

The Wrong Battle

The Wrong Battle

“We are either going to fight each other or fight the darkness. But we can’t fight both.”  Beth Moore

That person who thinks the polar opposite of you isn’t darkness. That girl who votes for a different president or senator or governor isn’t darkness. That man on the street corner who smells different isn’t darkness. That child in your kid’s class at school who acts out and hurts people isn’t darkness.

Darkness is darkness. Sin and brokenness and shame and injustice–that’s darkness. And, yes, shards of that ugly darkness break off and lodge within us. Sometimes a tiny, dark speck burrows its way under the skin–mostly concealed, mostly hidden. Sometimes a dark log splits us in half–maybe as the result of pain or loss or deep, wounding hurt. But instead of recovering, the log becomes a part of us like a tree whose roots wrap around the sidewalk. Yes, darkness can splinter its way in, but those people who think differently, believe differently, choose differently–they are not darkness.

It’s important to remember because we go around swinging our swords, using our status updates or our 140 characters, and we cut, slice and dismantle people. We call it truth or standing up for our beliefs, but we are fighting the wrong battle. And meanwhile the darkness keeps on spreading, slithering its venomous hate because we are distracted. Because we are fighting the wrong battle.

Gay people are not the darkness. Straight people are not the darkness. Pro-abortion people are not the darkness. Pro-life people are not the darkness. Democrats are not the darkness. Republicans are not the darkness. People are not the darkness. Darkness is the darkness. And we are all born into darkness because of sin. We all have our issues. We all screw up. But the message of the gospel, the message Christ came and lived and died to share with us is that He is Light. And we can have light. And we can share light. And we can walk in light.

In John, we read the story of the adulterous woman surrounded by scribes and Pharisees who wanted to stone her. They asked Jesus what he thought and he responded, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they all went away. Just a couple verses later Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Every day I get the choice to walk in darkness or walk in light. Every person I encounter is faced with the same choice. And when I see a person walking in darkness, I have another choice. I can choose to fight that person or I can choose to fight the darkness. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

Which battle will we fight?

Donuts, Pink & Rodents

Donuts, Pink & Rodents holiday that incorporates chocolate and the color pink is a favorite for our oldest. Lydia has been counting down the days to Valentine’s for two weeks now. While Matt and the kids were still asleep this morning, I snuck out to the donut shop to surprise them with a sugary start to the day. I’m sure I will pay for this in a few hours when they’re bouncing off the walls, but Daddy gets home at lunchtime on Fridays so at least we can go back to man-to-man coverage then.

A little Valentine’s Day happy for you… the photograph is from Kelli Trontel, a crazy talented photographer. Every month she puts out a new photograph to download and use as your lock screen or home screen on your iPhone or as the desktop image on your computer. I love change and I get a little giddy when I change out my lock screen photo each month. You can follow her on IG so you’ll know when to go download the new one each month.

The first Valentine’s Day Matt and I celebrated together he made reservations at our favorite restaurant. Archestratus no longer exists, but they had the most delicious crab cakes and I could drink their comeback dressing out of a pitcher. When we showed up on the evening of February 14th we were shocked when they handed us a menu a quarter of the size of the usual menu and double the regular price. Excuse me?!? That was our first and last time to dine at a nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day. The next year we swung to the complete opposite side of the restaurant pendulum and went to Chuck E. Cheese and ate bad pizza and tried to beat each other at Skee Ball so we could rack up tickets to buy the other one something *real nice* at the ticket counter. Much more our style. Some people like diamond earrings. I got a slap bracelet and a spider ring. Perfection.

Ironically, we kept the Chuck E. Cheese tradition for many years, but after two kids we decided to skip the scary rodent and just eat pizza at home. Last year, I baked Ina Garten’s White Pizza with feta, mozzarella and goat cheese. This year, I think I’ll swing by Coletta’s and celebrate Memphis style with a BBQ pizza. Later, after the kids are in bed, we’ll pull out the glasses and toast to this sweet life we share. This will be our thirteenth February 14th to share together, and we’ve definitely made our fair share of mistakes but we’ve also learned a few things. One being that true love isn’t necessarily found in expensive meals with limited menus. True love–be it crab cakes or Chuck E. Cheese pizza–is a daily choice to die to self, to love my spouse more than I love myself. We love because He first loved us. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why 50/50 Doesn’t Work

Why 50/50 Doesn’t Work

cakeIt looks like it would work. Two individuals, one marriage. Two halves, one whole. Two forks, one slice of salted caramel cake. Math was never my forte, but one hundred divided by two equals fifty every time. If 50/50 looks good on paper, why doesn’t it work in real life?

A few years into our marriage, Matt came home from work one day, and I had a sheet of paper hanging on the refrigerator. We were both working full-time jobs, and we would come home from work exhausted and ready to sit on the couch and do nothing. Meanwhile, our outfits were getting “creative” since all the clothes we owned were in dirty piles in our bedroom. The dishes were overflowing in the sink. We had missed a couple weeks of trash pickup because we forgot to take the can to the curb. And dust bunnies were propagating as good little bunnies do. I’m the control-freak, slightly OCD one (although becoming a mom has pretty much broken me of that) so I was the one noticing all the chaos. I was the one feeling the stress, and I was the one feeling like I was the only one doing anything around the house. So, I came up with a list of chores, divided them into days and assigned each chore to “M” or “E.” When Matt came home, I had the list prominently displayed on the fridge so he had no excuse not to see his assignments each day. He didn’t say much when I showed it to him, much like the reaction I expected, but I pressed on. I reminded him that marriage is a 50/50 relationship, we ended the very one-sided conversation, and I felt  much better having gotten some tasks off my plate. Splitting it 50/50 looked awesome on my detailed, color-coded chore list, but a few days later it blew up in real life.

The problem with a 50/50 mindset is that we come into every situation asking the question, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” Approaching marriage with a 50/50 perspective creates an atmosphere of competition as we continually try to “one-up” each other.

You think you’ve had a hard day… let me tell you what happened to me.

Couldn’t you do this one thing? Look at everything I’ve done for you.

There you go again… not holding up your end of the deal when I’ve busted my butt over here.

I’ve learned the hard way that a 50/50 relationship doesn’t work in real life. It leaves you feeling frustrated and isolated. It turns out the only percentage that works in marriage is 100%, both of us giving our all to the marriage. And the kicker is… we can’t wait until the other person gets on board to start giving our 100%. It’s easy to jump on the spinning Ferris wheel that says, “I’ll start giving when he starts giving. Or I’ll start serving when she starts serving.” But we could circle around and around on that Ferris wheel for the rest of our lives. Someone has to be the first one to get off that wheel and find a new ride, a different game or, better yet, a funnel cake.

We have to change our question from, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” to “How can I do more, give more, speak more life?” We have to out-serve and out-love our spouse. It’s unconditional love. We know what this love looks like because we demonstrate it to our kids often. When they wake us up in the middle of the night, we tuck them back in with a kiss and a hug. When they break the special keepsake we told them a dozen times to leave alone, we forgive them and let it go. Even with our kids, though, we don’t always choose unconditional love, but we see this kind of love demonstrated perfectly for us through Christ. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still screwed up, ridiculously imperfect and crazy selfish, He died for us. He didn’t wait for us to get our act together. That’s what it looks like to give 100% to a relationship.

Let’s be honest. Giving 100% isn’t easy. Especially when the baby is teething or your meeting at work was just awful or the dogs escaped from the back yard again. These are the times when it’s hardest to give 100% to your spouse because you’ve spent all day giving to everyone else and now you just feel empty. The good news is that giving is infectious and energizing. I love those insurance commercials where you see one person go out of his way to do something nice for another person and then that person does it for another person and so on. I can remember many times when I’ve been having a pull-your-hair-out-hide-in-the-bathroom-pass-the-brownies kind of day and a friend has sent me a text just saying she’s thinking about me or my best friend calls with a funny story and makes me laugh or my husband brings home a big cup of iced tea, half and half, just the way I like it. That one act of kindness can completely alter my day. That simple gesture breathes new life into my weary soul. Let’s be that person. Let’s give 100%.

Appreciation instead of demands.

Encouragement instead of insults.

Grace instead of chore charts.