The Final Countdown

You are loved.You are cherished.You are worth it.

Gentle Reader,

Thanks to the band Europe for the post title. (If you don’t know the song, head to YouTube immediately).

Twenty-four inches worth of snow covers my area, with more falling as I type this. Long, fat icicles hang off of the rain gutters. Paths snake this way and that through the drifts in the backyard, blazed by doggy paws. The roads are covered with a thick layer of ice, turning a simple trip to the grocery store into a death-defying event. I am inclined to stay home, curled up under a blanket.

I sense the Spirit stirring within, drawing me to something different. I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I know He’s guiding me to make certain changes. For example: Buy an alarm clock and leave the phone in the living room. (He’s quite specific).

Everything within me responded with, “Oh, yes.”

I’m tired of busy. I’m tired of being constantly connected. I’m tired of not being able to turn off my mind. I appreciate technology (obviously) but I want some space. I want some quiet. Because who cares if I miss a Facebook message? I can answer it tomorrow. What does it matter if I don’t keep up with the Twitter feed? Or see the Instagram post? Or get the text immediately?

For two nights I’ve read a book in bed instead of scrolling through a social media feed. And it’s fantastic.

I need to unplug.

Another thing I know I need to sort out has to do with building up a skin barrier thick enough that a certain person isn’t able to get under it. (No, I’m not referencing my husband). My temper is the long-fused, slow-burning sort. It takes a lot for me to get genuinely angry. In this situation, with this person, the flame is dangerously close to the powder keg.

We’ve all got someone like that in our lives. Someone who just knows how to press all the right buttons. It’s awful. I’m tempted to set aside my pacifism and just get in one good punch. (I’d probably break my hand).

I need mental distance.

In the last twelve months I’ve done more writing than at almost any other point in my adult life. Between this space, guest posts, The Book Project of Which We do Not Speak and my private journal, the words pour out. And I know that I am being gently, painstakingly led to say “no” to some stuff, some good stuff, in order to devote more time to the words.

I need courage.

All of this is wrapped up in a single word: Rest. My life looks nothing like that of those around me  – and it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s even designed by the One who spoke the universe into being. When I lose sight of that, when I stray into the swamp of keeping up with others or into the desert of comparison, discontentment drops like a hammer.

It’s time to step away. Get quiet. Listen.

So, dear reader, as we mark out the last days of 2015 and step into a fresh year (with no mistakes in it, as Anne Shirley would say), my encouragement to you is this: Rest. If you need a nap, take one. If you need to go to bed earlier, crawl under those covers. If you need to say “no,” do it with firmness and don’t look back. If you need to get out of a toxic relationship, go. Turn off the computer, ignore the phone, catch that episode another time. Remember:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Don’t pick up what He has not asked you to pick up. Lay down the heavy loads, the worries that keep you up at night. Be you, the you He has made and called you to be (Ephesians 2:10). Most importantly, get your focus off of yourself. Look up. Look around. See what there is to see. Find where He might use you. Because somehow, in doing the work we were designed to do, in letting go of the other, the greatest rest is found.

Let’s leave the old struggles behind. Let’s make the choices we know we can make in His grace and power.

You and me together, walking the road of faith.

Following close behind the Lord.

My journey to faith. (15)

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7 Years

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Gentle Reader,

Tomorrow Chris and I will be going out to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, the weekend being more conducive to such things than a Monday, when the actual date falls. We are inaugurating a “competitive anniversary” tradition by engaging in the sport of bowling. Say a few prayers for him, as he’ll surely need encouragement after getting pounded into the ground.

I can’t believe that it’s been 7 years. Some days it feels more like 70, but today I wonder where the time as gone. Probably flown away to the same place that missing socks go, I suppose.  It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously clutching my father’s arm as we made our way from the dressing room, out to the garden and past the motorcycle accident (I kid you not) up to the doors of the chapel. I’ll never forget how he patted my hand and told me that we could leave and go get a hamburger if that’s what I wanted to do. The offer was tempting, but I moved forward.

I’m glad I did.

We don’t have a perfect marriage. In our first week together we had a fierce argument and I hid in the bathroom, sobbing. Not too long after I asked my mom if I could come home. She said no. I didn’t think that was very fair.

There has been agony. Adjusting to living apart from my family for the first time. Learning how to make a new home with this big, gregarious guy in 450-square feet  of harvest gold and pumpkin orange awesomeness. Both of us sick our first Thanksgiving. Waking up on Christmas morning to the awkwardness that is establishing new traditions. Extended family tension on all sides. Chris’ descent into depression. Buying a house we couldn’t quite afford. Losing close friends. Leaving a church. My own struggles in the area of mental health. Broken down cars, overdrawn checking accounts, surgeries.

There has been fun. Locking myself out of the house in a snowstorm and having to wait for Chris to come to my rescue. Watching him compete in a hula dancing contest at a work function – and winning! Thursday evenings with popcorn and the NBC comedy line-up. Our failed experiments with short hair. Chris running, full force, through the fence he’d just finished putting up. A family of birds building a nest in our kitchen vent. Our dogs: Bugsy’s “cookie dance.” Blue’s obsession with the ball. Benny’s need for perpetual petting. Regular trips to thrift stores.

There has been sweetness. Taking walks together at dusk, not saying much of anything. Discussing our days as we make dinner together. Flowers for no reason. Little notes of encouragement. Pondering Scripture together. Praying. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets. Secret (or maybe not-so-secret) glances across crowded rooms.

This relationship, this togetherness, takes a lot of work. A LOT. We don’t agree about everything. Each of us is convinced that the other is wrong most of the time. If we ever buy another house, it has to have a larger bathroom. There’s some passive-aggressiveness on occasion. He snores. I steal blankets. But in the hustle and bustle that is life, I am thankful to have a husband who makes this marriage a priority, who inspires me to make it a priority. There are days when we both think, “Really? You’re still here?” but those moments pass. When they don’t pass quickly, we talk about it. And usually end up laughing.

I have a great deal of respect for Chris. He works hard. He has a genuine desire to live a godly life and to be a positive influence on everyone he meets. He has a fabulous sense of humor. No man I know dresses better. He likes to learn. He builds things. He cooks (major bonus) and he doesn’t complain too much about doing housework. The sadness that dogs his days moves him to choose joy. He takes my innate pessimism and spins it to the bright side. Encourages me to have fun when all I want to do is yell at someone. And he never eats the last of the chocolate.

Seven years of hope, sorrow, laughter, struggle and growth. We are not the same people who made that covenant before God on June 17, 2006. We are…better, I think. Stronger for having experienced some intensely difficult things early in our marriage. Gentler with each other, less expecting of perfection. Possessing a deeper understanding of the reality that love is often more a choice than a feeling. Blessed.

My journey to faith. (15)