Tell me about a time…

You were on a team and it impacted your life.

The pastor leading the group discussion sits down to my left and angles toward me. I’m already uncomfortable. I’m sitting in the second seat, stage right of a U-shaped seating arrangement. It only occurred to me after I sat down that it was most likely left untouched for one of the two pastors leading our group. To think, I nearly took a seat in the back. I wish now that I would’ve but as my hand skimmed the top of one of the furthest open chairs, my eyes squinted toward the screen. I should have brought my glasses.

The pastor leaning in was too polite to concede that I’d displaced the unwritten seating arrangement but the fact that I’m now sandwiched between the two speaks volumes. Whether he senses my internal dialogue or not is unclear as he opens with small talk. How far was my drive? Am I from here?

“Not far but I’m not from here. I’m from a city outside of Detroit. My husband is from up north. We met at school and live here now.”

I catch myself before nerves propel me to divulge more unprompted facts but my halted speech is abrupt. I parrot his questions, asking him the same as if he didn’t give us his story last week.

“Oh right. I knew that,” I confess as he tells me again.

After more get-to-know-you conversation, the pastor brings my attention back to the group question he posed earlier: Tell about a time I was on a team that made an impact on my life. My thoughts come quickly, stumbling over one another in attempt to move the “right” answer to the forefront of my mind. I’ve been on plenty of teams. What type of team? What type of impact?

The pastor senses my struggle. He wants to know if I’ve been on a sports team where we worked to accomplish a united goal. I have.

“I was on a volleyball team that was conference champs,” I shrug. It was fun but it doesn’t feel too impactful outside of the adolescent lens. I rifle through more sports memories and one stands out: Soccer.

“I was on a soccer team in high school. Our coach ODed during the season. It made the news. So that was… pretty impactful…” I trail off.

Discussion opens up and we share our stories across the room but I keep coming back to my response. Did I go with the right one? Everyone else shares about teams where they built each other up and leaned on each others strengths to cover their own weaknesses. They’re beautiful stories of teamwork. But mine? How was I impacted? I replay it in my mind…


They called us into a room. I can’t remember the details but we were making jokes, coming up with theories on why we’d been called together instead of heading out to practice or the game. I think someone might have made a joke about someone dying. It could have been me.

Our head coach’s eyes were already puffy when he walked through the door to tell us the news. Our assistant coach had died over the weekend and they would let us know all of the details for the funeral arrangement as quickly as possible.

Our assistant coach was young with the biggest smile. It always made sense to me because he had the biggest heart as well. For his love of the game and his players. For his fiancée who was coming in from out of state the same week the team clustered together in a classroom to learn of his passing. He was funny. He had a way of getting your head back in the game when high school drama threatened to come onto the field.

The funeral service was short. Too short. Perhaps in homage to a life not aged but I wager it had more to do with the fact that his OD made local news. No one seemed to know how to reconcile his death and his life. At least we didn’t. We looked to each other. To our parents. To our school.

The soccer team, well, we wanted to donate a permanent scoreboard in his memory; we were denied. I went to a small Lutheran high school and, although I wasn’t in any of the official conversations, it was relayed to us that it came down to politics. We shouldn’t honor the way he died. I think that’s what they said. We wanted warm up jerseys with his name on them. We got pale blue t-shirts with a white letter at the bottom of the shirt that was hidden if we tucked it in.

It might as well have been red.


I sit in that second seat and absorb as much as I can about the conversation at hand. We’ve moved on from telling our team stories to race and the gospel, the topic we’re meeting on today. We talk about what it takes to have difficult conversations and how important they are to our relationship with God and to each other. We talk about the cost of those conversations. We talk about unification and reconciliation. I think about soccer.

I think about soccer all the way home. I’m angry. I think back on my shared team story and on everything I didn’t say to the group of individuals sitting in a U today. About how those high school girls were failed by their faith community. How we mourned in isolation and conflict because they focused on politics over people. Sin over grace. Separation over unification.

I’ll tell you this: I don’t think we can change as a Church until we can see ourselves as the villains in the stories we read. I know all about how we’re the lambs from Sunday School but I’m older now. God providing, wiser. And I’m learning about all the ways we’re Pharisees too.

Life has been a little hectic lately.

Life has been a little hectic lately. In the last 7 weeks or so, I have worked in inordinate amount of overtime. Do you still call it overtime when you’re a salaried employee? Not just a few late nights here and there or a few early meetings but multiple days’ worth of time. Leading up to our project launch, I was in the office for a 14 hour Saturday backed up to a 17 hour Sunday and back in by 7:30am on Monday (but only because I slept through the 6:00am scheduled start).

I have never before and hope to never again experience the kind of exhausted, not-enough-eye-drops-in-the-world, mental/physical/emotion strain of that kind of timeline for a project launch. Take it from me, you should never attempt to launch before you’ve completed your mock launch activities.

But my project team and I did it. We’d been preparing for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software implementation. We were already using a previous version of the same software but instead of looking at this change as an upgrade, we pulled out all of the data that had been erroneously entered over the past several years and sifted it out. We remapped table keys. Restructured business processes. Rewrote code and reports and work instructions. And despite a few misses that we’ve worked to clean up over the last two weeks, this project has been considered an overall organizational success!

But can we zoom out a little?

I’m exhausted. Still, almost two weeks later. My husband, who pulled all of the weight of family life during this period, is now fighting off his first illness of Autumn. My house is full of tiny fruit flies from a misplaced can that wasn’t properly recycled during my usual cleaning routine because, well, there was no routine. I worked out this past Saturday (taking it slow) and it nearly killed me. Fast forward half a week and I pulled a muscle playing with my daughter; my body is wrecked. And my beautiful little girl wants “Momma, Mom, Mommy, Mom, Momma. Did you hear me calling you, Mom?”

We’re all a little drained from the chaos. And to be honest, there’s no way we all would’ve made it without these things right here:

  • My Tribe
    • Friends who continue to pour into me when I go dark. Friends who continue to text or Snap without a response. Friends who send flowers to work for encouragement.
  • My Husband
    • Who allowed our roles not just to flip flop, but to completely shift onto him. Who put his career behind mine for a period. Who bit his tongue – a lot. And who continued to encourage me even if he felt like I should be waving the white flag.
  • God
    • For putting those people in my life. For continually tapping me on the shoulder with scripture or songs about being a light or a door for others to experience his goodness. For keeping me from completely morphing into a troll at the workplace.
  • Whole30
    • For categorically denying my desire to stress eat. For minimizing the impact of skipped meals, small meals, or late meals on my system. For giving me the energy that I needed to make it through a 17 hour shift at all, let alone without getting sick immediately following. For giving me something else to commit to when the project felt all consuming. For teaching me ways to cope without food.

So really, this post is a gratitude post for those things that kept me going. At work, we passed the project launch, cleaned up the few misses, and we’ve already started sliding back to normal. But me? I’m changed. I’m exhausted and more experienced and more filled with gratitude. It took overtime and high stress and looming deadlines to remind me that my focus is really on people, and that includes me.

Thank you, tribe and Freddy, and God, and Whole30, for shaping me during this time. For showing me grace. And for teaching me about my priorities and the balance that leads me to my best me.

Without you, I am a lesser me.

Looking Back at 2016


I’ve struggled to put this past year into words. It’s been the worst as a whole with the brightest spots of beauty, joy, love, and grace perfectly placed to create a #2016bestnine.

In truth, the moments were much more than posed pictures. They were divine intervention. God’s hand placed heavily on my heart, proclaiming his presence.

In a nutshell, the following words to describe the year are:

Miscarriage. Surgery. Allergy tests. Blood work. Stitches. Autoimmune disease. Scleroderma morphea. Exhaustion. Toxic work environment. Four-day work week. Husband’s dream job. Grandpa’s strokes. Weight lifting. Growing friendships. Toddler musings. Biltmore touring. Lifeline leading.

Miscarriage

We had a miscarriage at the beginning of the year. It felt so perfectly timed to have kids 2.5 years apart but while it was still a vague reality, we had a haunting miscarriage.

(I have tried pouring it out into words several times this year but it’s so much easier to write about the gory details of birth than death…)

It was never viable so I don’t even know if I can call it a death. Isn’t that something? A molar pregnancy. It’s characterized by extremely high levels of the pregnancy hormone (at 7 weeks, my hormone level was that of a full term mom of twins), excessive bleeding, and a risk for cancer-causing cells.

I thought the effects of a normal pregnancy were awful but a molar pregnancy is 100x worse. A week after the miscarriage I was still throwing up constantly which was a warning to my doctor to order some blood tests.

The office called me twice the day after my blood was drawn and left a message to tell me I needed to come into the office immediately. That’s where Fred and I learned about the possibility of a molar pregnancy and what that meant for us.

Surgery

I had an ultrasound without pictures to show. I had more blood drawn so the hospital could get blood reserved for my surgery; it’s standard procedure with a molar pregnancy due to the risk of excessive bleeding but I was already low in blood volume from the week prior.

I lost a liter of blood in surgery. I don’t know how much I lost the week earlier but it was a lot(I learned through all of this that most miscarriages don’t look like the scene from Carrie. Live and learn!)

I also learned that when you lose a lot of blood you don’t feel quite like yourself for a long time afterwards. When everyone else has moved on, you still drag. Mostly physically but that affects you emotionally as well.

Oh, and the risk of cancer-causing cells is monitored post surgery with 6 months of weekly blood work. Which means you don’t really get to grieve the loss after surgery because you’re still in it for half a year. It’s exhausting.

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There was so much good in the year but the bad seemed stacked up. I mean, it was. It overlapped. It overwhelmed.

God was with us the whole time, reminding us of his promises, bringing people into our lives to speak his truth. But still, 2016 was hard.

I’m looking forward to leaving it behind me.

New Moms, Blog Posts, Social Media, and the Need to Impress

While preparing to be a first-time mom, I devoured articles and blog posts on childcare, child health, child learning, child do’s and don’ts, parent do’s and don’ts, breast-feeding, pumping at work, etc. I learned some amazing things from what I read but I also read through a lot of personal opinions presented as fact. I scoffed at some people’s approach while others’ made me question my capability as a soon-to-be mother.

I knew I wouldn’t start Emma off on formula without first giving an honest try at breastfeeding but I also had to admit that my love for the planet and fear of chemical burn was surpassed by my desire to throw away a poop-saturated diaper as it occurred. And I’m still deciding if I’ll be a mom who makes baby food from scratch or buys it; currently, I’m leaning toward both.

Emma is over 4 months and I can now write the above paragraph without any hint of self-loathing or doubt. Yes, I wanted to try to breast feed. No, I didn’t want to try cloth diapers. But the past 4 months haven’t been quite so easy. Blog posts and status updates show us the best of our peers and social media makes no apology for touting the image of the flawlessly styled and capable mom, whether working in or outside of the home. If someone else can make it look so easy, surely I can be a runner-up, right?

Here is what I’ve learned so far in motherhood:

  • Stop obsessing.
    • When I left the hospital with Emma, I was given a chart with diaper goals to keep for the first week or two of Emma’s life. I kept that chart religiously until Emma’s first doctor’s appointment. There I pulled out the sheet and started pointing, “Here, she missed 1 wet but she had an extra dirty and the next day she was 2 over on wets and shy of a dirty! Is that okay? I am feeding her all the time!” Do you know what he said? He said, “Is your child relatively happy? When she cries, do you change her, feed her, rock her, add a blanket or take one away? Yes? Then throw out the sheet.”
    • We are inundated with information today. Goals. Averages. Ideals. We can get so caught up with the numbers that we miss the big picture. I’m not saying that the charts aren’t helpful but I am saying that our information overload can drown out our own intuition, our self-sufficiency. And it’s okay to put the chart down and rely on ourselves as new moms. Even if it’s our first time doing it.
  • How to make the right decision FOR ME, not for you.
    • Emma would not sleep a lick in her bassinet. She was born 22 inches long and I think her height may have had something to do with but it could have just been personal preference (Who could say? She’s a baby!). The point is, my husband and I were constantly waking up to her crying, her head or feet resting on one side or the other of the bassinet. Maybe as early as two or three weeks in, Fred took Emma into her “big girl crib” in the next room and laid her down. We were desperate for an hour straight of sleep but I was consumed with guilt. I spent that hour on Google, trying to look up how early you could safely transition your child from your room to her own room. I read posts of parents that transitioned as early or earlier and more that didn’t. Then I stumbled across a comment thread where someone stated that a child must hear her mother’s breathing to regulate her own breathing during the night. My heart stopped. I got up several times to check on her, certain that I was putting my child in danger. Do you know what happened? She slept until my alarm went off to feed her. I tried to get her into the bassinet after that but she just didn’t want to be there. The crib worked for us.
  • Break some rules for sanity.
    • Around the same time, I was trying desperately to keep pacifiers away from Emma. I was told to wait at least 4 weeks to reduce the chance of nipple confusion, which could cause an issue with breastfeeding. Wouldn’t you know it, at 2am with a screaming baby in my ear, I was boiling pacifiers. The pacifier helped Emma calmed down and she’s still breast feeding like a champ today.
  • It’s okay if it’s not “The Best Thing Ever.”
    • People constantly asked me in those early weeks, “Isn’t it [motherhood] the best thing ever?” I so wanted it to be. And I wanted to believe it when the words left my lips but to be honest, I was just agreeing with them so they didn’t see me as unfit or label me with postpartum depression. It was really hard at first. It was exhausting trying to recover and take on this new role. It was frustrating to be met with a tiny, grumpy, crying face for what felt like no reason  (which I later learned was the face of gas…gas feels like no reason). At 6 weeks, I realized how beautiful my daughter truly was. At 3 months, I was downright in love and at 4, I’m finding more and more laughter with Emma every day. But at 4 weeks? The best thing ever sounded like a break. Like deciding at 7pm that my husband and I were going to try that new restaurant and split a bottle of wine, no baby schedule to keep. It didn’t sound like diaper changes, late nights crying, and a perpetually grumpy baby.
  • Motherhood is really hard.
    • Motherhood is the most difficult thing I’ve ever taken on. It’s quickly becoming the most joyful and rewarding too but it is downright hard just the same. It’s hard without all the blog posts telling you you’re doing it wrong or could be doing it better. It’s hard to set alarms in the middle of the night to feed or pump. It’s hard to go back to work and worry about your child’s well being and it’s hard to be home and worry about her socialization. It’s hard to go to work and measure your success by the ounces you pump and it’s hard to be at home and measure your success by how many meals you’ve cooked or rooms you’ve cleaned. It can feel isolating. Even with the most involved husband, I carry the majority of Emma’s well being on my shoulders. A lot of that is probably perceived responsibility but the weight is real.

And lastly…

  • Support other parents.
    • I started learning this lesson with Emma’s birth. My story was not at all like I imagined and I took it pretty hard but I also started to realize that a lot of life is out of our control. We do our best. If my best is a non-emergency c-section, a big girl crib, early pacifier, and a daycare center then good for me! And if your best is an epidural, a Moses basket, formula bottles, and leaving your job, good for you! If we love our children and help them to grow and learn…if we protect them and feed them and bathe them…then good for us! Organics or generics. Breast milk or formula. Stay at home or work. In-home daycare or center. One child, many children. New clothes or hand-me-downs. Do we love our children and help them to grow and learn? Do we protect them and feed them and bathe them? Then good for us!
  • Give it to God.
    • Don’t get caught up in the blog posts, the social media images, the need to impress. Follow the path that God sets out for us and let the rest of it go. He gives us a pretty solid model for parenthood. So far, it’s the only one that hasn’t left me feeling inadequate or judged. Mercy and grace, folks. Receive it. Give it. Encourage it.

Day of Washing

Today is one of those wonderful winter days we long to have after the days start to feel short and the nights feel long. It’s one of those days that breathes new spirit into our lungs and brightens our perspectives. It isn’t just the fact that after several days of negative degree wind chills, we’re experiencing a summertime high of 39. And it isn’t just the fact that the sun has broken through the clouds and is melting away last week’s ice storm and freeing up our trees from the heavy weight they have come to bear. Today is the day my husband made his public proclamation of faith in Christ. Today my husband was baptized.

Romans 6:1-4

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

What a wonderful testament of God’s work in our lives. What a wonderful gift to our unborn child to have (spoiler alert) her father washed clean in the year that she will be born. I don’t believe there is a parenting book out there better than the B-i-b-l-e and I am blessed to share that same belief with my husband.

Happy baptismal day, my love.

Too Many Too Young

This year is a hard year.

We have lost a lot of people this year as a family, a school, a neighborhood, a community, a state, a people. We have lost Brian, Fred Sr., Paul, and Lindsey – to name a precious few.

They were all too young.

Lindsey was one of my sorority sisters and I was shocked to learn that she passed away last night. We weren’t best friends; there were 80-some girls in our chapter at the time and I wasn’t close with all of them. Yet you wouldn’t know that if you saw Lindsey walking up to me before meeting or on campus. She always greeted me with the biggest smile and one of those greetings that you only use with your closest friends; the ones that make your friends feel like they are so loved in just a few words. She was always full of uplifting energy, compassion and kindness, which are wonderful qualities to possess – especially for someone so outwardly beautiful as she.

Lindsey was a wife. I think of what her husband must be going through and I have no words of my own to express how my heart breaks for him. I think of her as a wife and I think of Fred Sr. as a husband. When I think of her in Greek life, I think of Paul.  And when I think of that contagious smile, I think of Brian.

I am reminded through Lindsey’s passing that this isn’t just a tragic death of one friend. It isn’t an isolated event. It’s a hard year.

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When we talk about death, we say that we lost these people. But they’re not lost. They are wrapped in the arms of a loving God and they have never been more found. We are lost, left trying to define our new norms. But in our grief, we can have hope.

In times like this, I think of a passage that I have had to turn to too many times this year:

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message): “…God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans…”

What a beautiful sentiment.

If you have experienced grief, you are too familiar with that deep ache. The one that resonates through the body, mind, and soul – incapacitating you of words. And yet here we are promised that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and gives words to our suffering. The Spirit speaks out our prayers for us.

The passage is significant to me not just because it tells me that our sighs and groans have meaning to God but because it means that we are in the presence of God when we are most vulnerable to feeling isolated.

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Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned about faith so far in my adult life is that we can be utterly broken with God. I think a lot of times we focus on the good attitudes and the feelings of joy when we talk about our faith. But we can come to God with our anger, our grief, our feelings of vengeance or anxiety – or our silence – and He hears us. And we can be angry at God. If we keep that dialogue with him open, we can express our anger to him until we are ready to turn it over to him and he will take it up for us without hesitation.

I hope you find as much comfort in that as I do.

Amen.

Wedding Season and Marriage Advice

Anyone who has been through it before will tell you that there is a season in life when the majority of your friends get married. And while I can’t definitively say that this is it for Freddy and me, I’m thinking this it! So far this year, Freddy and I have been honored to receive 8+ wedding invitations. We aren’t able to attend every single one, unfortunately, but the commitments being made among our friends are awesome! Freddy and I are huge advocates of marriage and will be the first ones to tell anyone that marriage can be an incredible blessing when you put the work into it!

The number of upcoming nuptials has really gotten me thinking about marriage; the wedding process; choosing a life partner; and the power of centering that marriage on a strong, shared faith. There are so many opinions regarding marriage out there and what make up the keys to success but I’m going to ignore all that research and tell you about my experience – albeit young experience.

Our preparation for the big day started with a 6 week marriage prep course at our church. We met with other couples preparing for the plunge and talked about all of the hot topics: money, family, expectations, roles, sex, children, etc. We covered it all in a faith-filled environment and I highly encourage anyone considering marriage to do the same! Of course some of the assignments seemed tedious or better geared for some other couple at times, but in the end, those courses are what you make them. Freddy and I decided up front that we would take the course seriously instead of view it as a check box on the wedding list and it led us into some deep discussions as well as a ton of lighthearted laughter.

We shared our wedding day with the friends and family that could attend and vowed to God, each other, and our guests that we would have a God-centered marriage until one of us is called home. Begin our year+ of chaos. Despite our discussions about expectations early on, those expectations still managed to overshadow reality and create conflict. We butted heads over a lot over topics that ranged from clothes on the floor, to organization vs. cleaning, and how to love each other in a way that filled the recipient. We stormed out and came back, yelled and got quiet but we continued to go to church on Sundays to keep us in line. This is important because although God is with you in the week, it can be difficult to see that connected triangle between God, you, and your spouse when you’re fighting with him. When Sunday morning rolls around and you share the same ride home from the church, however, you cannot help but be humbled and connected. (That’s the amazing thing about a God-filled marriage – God is more powerful than our pettiness or hurt or sin and He will work to grow your relationship with your spouse).

Along with the difficulties of year one, Freddy and I also had more laughs than you could count, more learning and growing, and a new look into love. Falling in love is awesome but it can be clumsy and haphazard and full of fleeting emotion. Developing love takes more time and effort but it has become one of my favorite activities. Another way to look at it is this: Falling in love is all about the rapid movement; admittedly, developing love can feel like you’re in the same spot until suddenly you wake up and look at your spouse and think, “Lord, you have blessed me through my partner in a way that I could never imagine. I love him more deeply than I have ever loved him yet and I love the person that I am becoming while sharing this life with him.”

And it always goes back to God. It has to. I don’t know how people can commit to a relationship that requires you to be as selfless and giving as marriage should without the example that Jesus set before us. It doesn’t make sense! I had someone tell me recently that he thinks (Christian) religion is for the weak but I tell you that it’s for the strong! It challenges us to seek a counter culture – one that puts aside our selfishness for a partnership – with God and with our spouse (if we are called to marriage).

But please don’t think that you have time to develop that counter cultural relationship later on after you’ve lived the life you want to live. The God foundation of your relationship is so important; you need to dig in and seek to understand starting now because there will come a time when you are so shaken by something that you need that solid foundation in God, those hours of deep conversation with your partner, of learning and growing, of taking pride in your commitment, of love and of faith to get you through. We aren’t promised an earthly forever. We aren’t promised the health of our parents or our partners. But I can promise you that if you build your foundation of God, you will find blessing. And I can promise you that if you build your foundation on God, you will begin to live the life that is full of cherished memories instead of hidden regrets. I can promise you that because it’s been promised to me and I am living the proof right now.

Freddy and I are honored to celebrate the marriages of our friends in this coming year and we are praying for each and every couple as they commit to this rewarding life in marriage!

I Cannot Deny that He is Present

I start off my day with an alarm clock chirping to warn me of the impending workday. It’s not just any workday, however; it’s Saturday.

I roll over in an attempt to ignore my alarm clock and realize that sometime between going to bed and waking up, I’ve been joined by my handsome husband. The thought of leaving him so soon on one of our mutually free mornings seems cruel.

He gently reminds me to get up and I finally come around. No time to shower. Start the coffee and grab a bowl of cereal. Who knows how long this day could be.

I borrow the Jeep for traction and head off. When I arrive, I’m not surprised to see that I’m the last one in.

Five hours sneak past me and I look up to find myself no longer surrounded by a team, but rather I am with only one other woman who has stuck out the day with me. I tell her to pack up and head home. I need a break and I’ll come back to finish.

One hour is all I can afford to see my husband before he goes to work for the evening. I plan to shower him with attention but by the time I walk in, my stomach is growling. I need lunch.

He makes me a lunch and patiently listens to my exhausted babble before sending me back to work to finish out my day. I hate to leave again but I go, knowing I have less than two hours to meet my deadline to ship; FedEx should have later pick-ups on Saturdays.

I get to work and the door doesn’t open. Locked as locked can be. I pull out my extra set of keys to trigger the unlock and remember I took the pass off during the week. It’s on my main set now so I can have them when I need them. But I took the Jeep today. A week too late.

A phone call and a few minutes later, Fred pulls up and hands off my keys, giving me a small pep talk before zooming off to work. I truly love that man.

Race the clock. One hour down. After losing so much time with my key debacle, I now have to cut my losses. I pack up the Jeep and head off to FedEx to make the 4pm delivery. On the way, I call Fred for reinforcement. He tells me to back and finish the job. Whether FedEx delivers or not, I’ll have done my part.

I know he’s right so I head back to work for the third time today. I let myself in and this time, I turn on the radio. Black Keys. I get into a rhythm and start to feel a little rush of energy now that my deadline’s blown. I go over the paperwork for the shipment carefully and, once convinced that I have everything in order, I head back to FedEx.

The woman smiles when she sees me. “You again?” she asks.

“Last one of the day.” I reply and turn to leave.

“Just in time.” she says. “They haven’t come yet.”

I, forty-five minutes past pick-up, make the deadline. The rush of relief is tangible – formed into tiny droplets that well-up under my eyes.

I hastily exit with a smile and tears on my face and take a deep breath of the cold air outside.

God is ever-present in our lives.

I don’t know how people can go through life denying His hand… He is there.

My heart is humbled and joyed on my ride home and my head is full of thankful prayers. It might seem simple, but it is the simple things that make up our days.

I turn into our apartment complex and see “reverse” lights coming toward me. She’ll see me. I’m driving a big, red Jeep. She has to see me.

I reach for the horn to tap a warning but the horn hasn’t worked in over a year. It’s not my car and I’ve wasted precious reaction time.

CRUNCH.

I look down my driver’s side window and see a hood dented up toward me. The driver drives back into her parking spot and I park on the opposite side. I open the door, expecting the worst.

The door swings freely and I shut it with no extra force. I look at the door. Then I look at the front. Then the back. Then I rub my hand along the side. I crouch down and look at different angles.

That car did hit my driver’s side, didn’t it?

I replay the collision in my head and I’m certain she back up into my driver’s side door.

At this time, she walks over. She’s young. She seems apologetic and admits that she didn’t see me. I continue to look at the car and ask her how she is. She was doing fine until now but I tell her my day had started poorly and that unexpected things happened to make it better.

“It’s weird.” I tell her. “I don’t see any damage on my car. I think this is another one of those good things.”

By this time, her mother has come out to join us. She asks what happens and her daughter explains the situation. Now all three of us are looking at the car. After some disbelief and relief, an offer to come over if I see anything later, and well-wishes, we part ways.

This is strange. Strange, but good. Strange because it is unexpected. And certainly from God. I am not deserving, but He loves me. And it won’t happen to me often (though it might), but He wants me to feel His love in my life.

I am loved.

I started my day with stress, regret, and guilt. After blowing my deadline, I started to struggle with the choice between husband and work while conflicted that the deadline wasn’t entirely my own to begin with.

I believe that God used the snow’s delay at FedEx to let me know that He values my relationship with my husband. To remind me that I am a hard worker and that I should find some peace in that, even if I miss a deadline. I believe that a car collision without damage or harm is a definite warning that the horn needs to be looked after – that God gives us the tools to be safe and that we need to empower ourselves to use them. I also believe it will be a warning for the young woman who backed into me – a “painless” lesson in the importance of staying alert.

I believe that today has been a very loud message from God to say nothing more than: “I am here. You are looked after.”

And that says it all.

Building a Foundation

As of this past Sunday, Freddy and I have started the process to become members at our home church of the past year+. Yay!

We’re building a foundation for our lives together. You may not be religious, but I assure you that the closer Freddy and I are with God individually, the closer we are as a couple. It’s tried and true for us. Fact is: When we go too many weeks without attending a church service or too many days without praying with one another, we start to pick at each other’s seams.

It’s strange to write about this “out loud” because I think we live in a religious world that yearns to be secular or a secular world that yearns to be religious – either way, I think that many of us hold onto a “private faith.” And sometimes that feels good. Because 1) We could be terrible examples of God’s love at times and people will think that’s acceptable or 2) People will start to watch us to make sure that we ARE good examples and that is, quite frankly, a lot of pressure!

Well to heck with it!

We can’t do it alone. Freddy and I have some powerful love but we also have some powerful faults…which means that we will be terrible examples of a faithful couple (or individuals) at times. I apologize in advance. We promise to try.

And that’s why we’re laying a foundation. And becoming members of our church.

You should know this, because it’s very important to us behind closed doors – and hopefully open ones too. And it’s one of the most important steps in marriage, I believe. To set a foundation.

Pick up the pace. Lub-Dub. Lub-Dub.

Yes, it’s time to pick up the pace, to take a leap of faith.

I, for one, believe that faith is a funny thing. (Note that I’m not commenting on religious faith here but rather the generally applied definition of faith which we feel free to place in people, situations, goals, or time frames. That faith, the faith which has no real foundation or source, is funny. Some might even say it’s laughable.)

When we claim to have this sourceless faith, we train ourselves to believe in something without question. And tell me, what right do we have to view something so concretely? To promise others or ourselves of some truth we’ve conjured?

None.

I have a big heart. I like it that way, but big hearts have a lot of faith. A lot of sourceless (along with spiritual) faith. And sometimes that sourceless faith can be breathtakingly painful. Despite my best efforts to question or doubt, this faith remains. Even when it shouldn’t. Even when it doesn’t really, when I know better.

It can be crippling, but I believe that faith in people and circumstances is one of the best qualities of a big heart. I believe in the good of others and in the good within me. I believe that there is good in my situations. Good in my pain. And learning as well. Believing that makes things seem necessary. And forgivable. And understandable. Even if they don’t seem to be any of those things.

Big hearts don’t start out big, I don’t think. I think they start out tender. And tender hearts feel for others in a way that other hearts could not.

I like to think that my heart is big because I let people in there and I hold onto that love. People say that you need to let go, but I think they’re wrong. You can let go of hope but never faith. Even if it’s laughable. Because I believe that people are good and deserve to be loved. And I have faith that things happen for a reason and I have faith in the people whom I have let into my heart.

I think you’d have to, to call it love.

Big faith from a big heart.

“Fix You” Coldplay