On Friendship

We need each other.

I love how we can be drawn to those who are most unlike us from varying walks of life, job situations and backgrounds. We juggle the joys and weightiness of the day-to-day, while none of us has it altogether (as much as we’d like to). We speak truth to one another, extend grace when we mess up and cheer one another on when jumping or easing into a new adventure.

We fill our too-short time with catching-up stories and laughter but also our failures and worries, fears and struggles when there is too much real life. And just like that, the isolation we somehow settled into dissipates and renewed connections soften our hearts (harder only seconds before). Friendship filled with transparency builds bridges from one soul to the other, doesn’t it? There is just something about the closeness and comfort friends bring to the realities of life.

We need each other.

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Just For You

photo(3)There’s something about being up before the rest of my world awakes. Birds gather in the trees and flutter this way and that, seeming to chat about where to find the best morning snacks. I leave the warmth of my house with dogs in tow, and the chill of the winter air whips at my face. Still, I am warmed by all I experience around me, the things I’d miss in the busy-ness of the late afternoon. I notice intricate, frosty patterns on my windshield, soon to melt with the rising sun, while the usual roar of the interstate traffic is only a slight hum in the background. My dogs happily lick the moisture off the grass, leaving a winding trail of paw prints behind them. And I breathe in the chilly air, which seems fresh and alive with the newness of the day.

I love the quiet and stillness of the morning. Here, I get away from the weightiness of the day that ended hours before and will soon begin in a frenzy all over again. This is when I relax into the good that surrounds me. In this stillness, my thoughts are uncluttered and my mind moves towards God and his love for his creation.

I heard someone say God knows exactly what speaks to us and hands it to each of us in a way that we can understand. I’d never considered that before, but it makes sense when I think about what I believe about God. We are his works of art. He knows exactly the number of hairs on your head and mine (which is different before and after a shower and hair drying and all of that getting ready, so he’s really something). He is always ready for us to tell him about just everything. He has time for us to pour out our sometimes endless web of worries, fears, hurts and doubts but also listen as we gush about all the good. And he doesn’t just act like he’s listening.

So if it’s true–if he truly knows what gets to us, he speaks to one person through relationships and another through music or art. He speaks to others through written skywords, quotes, verses and a multitude of other ways at just the right time. It’s many of these things for me, but in these early morning moments, I feel his love in the stillness. And when the night breaks into day, and the sunrise is a mixture of purples and pinks mixed with blue, I choose to believe he’s saying to me and to all who marvel at the beauty of nature,

“This is just for you.”

Just For You was first published on Hope Walks In on 2.9.14.

We All Are Beautiful

snowglimpseThis is for…

those of us who are learning to be ourselves

those of us who have love to share, but the parent/ spouse/ girlfriend/ boyfriend/ baby won’t come even though we are ready

those of us who are spent from sharing all our love with everyone else and need time to just be

those of us who are dealing with the ongoing stuff of abuse or addictions and want to feel okay

those of us whose past is not something to be proud of

those of us who don’t know what is nextsnowylove

those of us whose mind or body is challenged with brokenness

those of us searching for our place in this world

those of us who want to heal from what’s holding us back

those of us who have a secret (that would change everything) but are terrified to speak it out loud

those of us who work hard and receive no thanks

those of us who don’t work hard enough and need to keep trying

those of us who make mistakes

those of us who are braver than we think

those of us who keep on wading through the hard stuff

those of us who are learning to love every inch of who we are

This is for all of us who are living.

In the chaos of brambles and thorns, we are ever breathing and growing.

This is for all of us, for we are beautiful.

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You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

We All Are Beautiful was first posted by Hope Walks In on 2.14.14.

Calling It Quits

Rain water dripping over a window

Even on this freezing morning, chirp, chirp, chirp was all I heard before pulling back the comforter and putting my feet on the floor. Those birds know spring is almost here, even though it doesn’t look (or certainly feel) like it. Masked by huge snowflakes, sleet and rain, new life is springing up behind the scenes. Still, those giddy birds have chirped every morning for the past week.

In an odd way, it reminds me of a time years ago, when Brian and I sat in a cozy room surrounded by friends, many of whom had children or openly shared their hopes for a baby. It was he who also spoke it aloud, but I just sat there with my mouth shut, wanting to store away that part of our journey. I’d been open about so many personal things, but for some reason this felt like too much. We want a baby, too.

Eventually, each of those couples surprised us with their creative version of happy pregnancy news, and we cheered. Many times, though, those joys came with a lurking heaviness. “Do you think God is playing some kind of joke on us?” I laughed bitterly at the irony. Each time we talked about going to a fertility specialist, something always seemed to get in the way, and so we just did our thing–sex on the right days, ovulation tests and temperature-taking. For two months, I tried Clomid, and it made me feel crazy-angry and annoyed at everything, with rashes and stomach issues, so sex was the last thing I wanted (and let’s just say Brian was a saint to stay instead of spending those nights at work or even in his truck in the driveway). Those days, I cried more than anything else. I blamed it on Clomid, but I’m sure the emotional release was exactly what I needed.

In the back of my mind, nothing seemed right.

Still, each month I got my hopes up, but either all the pregnancy tests and thermometers were broken or something was wrong with me (those days I felt like it was always me. He was fine, they said). Seriously though, when would it be our turn?

It was the when are you having kids questions that felt like too much from those who had no idea of our struggle (as if being a parent is the only way to live an adult life anyway). It was the well-meaning you can always adopt suggestion, as if we never knew that was an option. It was the baby showers that felt wildly different than in my 20’s (when most of my friends didn’t have babies). But in my 30’s, everyone it seems has kids along with multitudes of stories to tell about their water breaking, the birth, the best infant and toddler products–breast pumps, bottles, diapers, potty training and on and on. Having zero stories to tell can be tough, especially if you desperately want them. It was cruel irony that PMS and pregnancy signs can be practically the same. It was starting my period like a slap in the face before multiple baby showers, praying that I could be happy for the almost new mom and just be okay with me. I usually cried once I was back in the safety of my car.

I was furious at my body with all its rashes and stomach issues (continuing long after the devil Clomid days and proving there was more going on than I could see). “It’s so hard for a woman who can’t get pregnant,” I told Brian, who assured me I’d be surprised at how hard it was for men, too. All that trying for a baby began to feel like an expectation that unfulfilled, left us feeling like ashamed failures.

Yet…slowly, somehow our feelings and prayers for a child began to change. No longer was it

we want a baby,

we want a baby,

please give us a baby;

it was this– we want a baby if it’s right for us.

And over and over, I was reminded God created me a work of art, whether my body was able, ready or willing to have a baby. As that truth sunk deep into my soul, my face was red and splotchy with tears.

So after major downsizing and moving, Brian and I stood in the kitchen, lights low, as we dried the dinner dishes. We looked at one another, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This had nothing to do with dinner or dishes, it was more than that. It was peace, even though the water heater broke, the dead refrigerator was hauled away, and water leaked through the window while we were out of town. I’d realized an excitement, an odd stirring deep inside. I couldn’t explain it, but it was there just the same. Maybe the moving craziness had something to do with it? There was an awful lot going on then. After so much time, I just couldn’t believe it!

And I was scared, but I took a deep breath and said it, “What if we don’t try anymore? What if we just live and have adventures and be happy?”

And just like those birds, chirp, chirp, chirping on cold, rainy late February mornings, giddy about what’s to come…

I felt free. I felt worthy, unashamed and beautifully free.

Sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.–Shauna Niequist

On Marriage: I Wish I Had Known

Years ago, someone called marriage a blessed challenge,* and I’ve always liked that. It reminded me it’s necessary for things to be hard at times, but it’s amazing, too, especially after making it through all that tough stuff. Since I am not a relationship expert but quite the expert on my own marriage, the following is some of what I’ve learned over the past 11 years. I wish I had known all of this… well, 11 years ago.
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  1. Alone time is good for together time. During married years #1 – 3, we thought we would hurt one another’s feelings to get the heck away from one another, but now we have learned to say we need it when we need it. And then when we return after a couple hours (or days), we enjoy one another again even more. On the other hand, if we feel distant, we call it a no TV night and focus on quality time.
  2. Laugh everyday. It used to drive me crazy that Brian could make a joke out of anything. “Can’t you be serious?” I would say with a roll of the eyes. Now, I appreciate it more than ever because sometimes life gets way too complicated. I am thankful this man makes me laugh every single day, and he doesn’t even try.
  3. Making plans is a good thing, but flexibility and openness is better (which I re-learn everyday). We didn’t want children. Then, we decided we did and expected at least one by now. And now we are trying to sell our house because we haven’t grown into it…unless getting a second dog counts.
  4. The person you married will be different in the future (and so will you).  It stung to hear, “You aren’t the same person I married,” but he’s right. I’m less controlling, more authentic, stronger in the ways that count, and well, I eat differently. Years ago, the employees at the local pizza place knew our names AND our order! Now I juice and eat things like kale and beets, and he’ll actually drink a shot of green juice, too. I’m sure that’s what he meant.
  5. How you deal together during tough times makes all the difference. I hoped things would never be as hard as they were when we first married, that we would be immune like having chicken pox, and never face that craziness again. But tough times come and go and then come again. When words like hypogammaglobulinanemia and autoimmune became part of our vocabulary, Brian took my hand in his and said what was playing as he cleaned the garage. Hold on to me as we go/ as we roll down this unfamiliar road…(great song, Phillip Phillips).snowprints
  6. Listen. Trust. Speak what you love and value in the other person. I used to compete for final decision-making rights on practically everything. Several years ago, I realized my skepticism (words, yes, but even body language) tore Brian down little by little and took time to rebuild. But he is more than capable, and sometimes it’s less work to sit back, trust him and see what happens. Other times, we make decisions together. And when I see something amazing in him that he may not yet see and then speak it aloud, it is powerful and affirming.
  7. Appreciate the thought even if you don’t love the gift. I failed when Brian bought an old two seater bicycle after hearing me talk about the tandem bike I rode with my brother years ago (I didn’t exactly want one). But Brian listened to my stories, put time and money into the bike…and we actually figured out how to ride that heavy thing without falling OR yelling. And that is a marriage accomplishment.
  8. Having fun together is important, but so is doing what YOU love. Brian went skydiving and took two stand-up comedy courses. Both of these sound as appealing to me as having my toenails plucked off one by one. I watched him skydive, started a book club and meet with a writing group. We give one another space to grow by having an I-believe-in-you-even-if-it’s-not-for-me attitude.
  9. Schedule sex. Our society laughs about married couples losing the excitement of sex, but little is said about a solution that actually involves staying together. We tried spontaneity, but our schedules usually took over. So now, together, we put it on the schedule to be intentional, and everything else is bonus.
  10. Reach out to one another. There is something about sharing our fears when life requires moving into unknown territory and figuring out the next step. Brian going skydiving, fertility issues, getting and waiting for more diagnoses, surgery, waiting for our house to sell and knowing we’ll eventually move have all been big things. I can’t imagine wading through all of this by ourselves, so we connect with friends and talk to God about it, too. It’s hard to wait, but it’s brave to trust and see what happens. And you know, I didn’t always see it this way, but I am amazingly overwhelmed by our blessed challenge.*
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    We’ve come a long way…baby. 🙂

    *author unknown

Miracle in a Teeny Tiny Package

Here’s a God-turning-bad-into-good story because I think we need some positives these days!

My younger sister was expecting a baby near the end of June. She was in a minor wreck a couple weeks ago, drove away with only damage to her car but felt fine. Thinking she should check in with her OB, she called and let her know what happened. Her OB fussed at her, saying she must go to the emergency room ASAP, and so she went.

Thank God she did because her liver enzymes had been fluctuating at very high then very low levels, and her blood pressure was high. The next afternoon, she was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and then borderline HELLP syndrome, which is scary-dangerous for momma and baby. Late that night, the doctor performed an emergency c-section, and all are doing better than expected.

My three pound niece is spending the first weeks of her life in the NICU, but she is alive and so is her mom. As you can guess, we are thanking Jesus for his protection and for things like fender benders these days.

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Miracle in a Teeny Tiny Package

Here’s a God-turning-bad-into-good story because I think we need some positives these days!

My younger sister was expecting a baby near the end of June. She was in a minor wreck a couple weeks ago, drove away with only damage to her car but felt fine. Thinking she should check in with her OB, she called and let her know what happened. Her OB fussed at her, saying she must go to the emergency room ASAP, and so she went.

Thank God she did because her liver enzymes had been fluctuating at very high then very low levels, and her blood pressure was high. The next afternoon, she was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and then borderline HELLP syndrome, which is scary-dangerous for momma and baby. Late that night, the doctor performed an emergency c-section, and all are doing better than expected.

My three pound niece is spending the first weeks of her life in the NICU, but she is alive and so is her mom. As you can guess, we are thanking Jesus for his protection and for things like fender benders these days.

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Happy WOMEN’s Day!

As I walked into our favorite breakfast restaurant this morning, I was wished a happy Mother’s Day and given a rose by an employee. “Thanks, but I’m not a mom,” I said, and the girl let me know the flowers were only for mothers. So, on the way out the door, my sweet Brian handed me the prettiest lavender rose. He got it from the same girl (who was just doing as she was instructed). “I need one for my wife,” he told her.

photo(10)SO, happy WOMEN’S Day to all women, not only in the U.S. (where we have this joy and pain-filled Mothers Day) but everywhere. This includes those who are single and those who have partners. Those who have given birth and those who don’t want to, those who adopt or foster and those who don’t want to, those who work with children and those who don’t want to, those who love pets and those who don’t want to, those who are trying all they can to have children and those who don’t want to.

This includes those who are fighting for their voice and their freedom.

This includes those who have lost special women in their lives, and EVERY woman…for simply being who you are.

My heart is with each of you, with us.

You are loved (and don’t let Mothers Day make you think you aren’t)!

God, Humor and Organic Jasmine Rice?

Do you think God has a sense of humor?

Sometimes I pray over and over and over again about something. And then, the 17th time right in the middle of a lot of explaining, the answer pops into my mind–mid-sentence. Just like that. I imagine God hanging out in the same room with a smile on his face, thinking, “You know, Jen, you told me these things three months ago, again last week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so stop…before you use all those words before 6:00 A.M. Here’s your answer.”

If this happens, which isn’t often by the way, I stop talking and can’t help but smile and say in a surprised voice (because this is always shocking to me), “Okay. Um…thanks.” And I stop and ponder the what-just-happened-here of this, and then I keep the rest of my words for later use, since it’s early still in the day.

These rare times remind me of many conversations Brian and I have had or heard about the huge number of words women tend to use versus men on the same topic. Maybe God is a man being of few words?

Listen. I am not saying he doesn’t want to hear us or respond. Instead, I believe he hopes we’ll continue pursuing and expecting answers from him. Sometimes, it feels like he’s playing hide and seek with us, quiet and far, far away.

It’s this– the waiting is usually long and hard and many times, wildly frustrating.

Usually.

And maybe God isn’t always so serious. Maybe he gets a kick out of being different than we expect and surprising us with his beautiful whimsy.

For example, things around here have been heavy and emotional. There’s just a lot going on these days. So, I prayed I could release and receive. You know, release control of everything I keep doing that gets in the way of peace and then, in turn, receive the good that comes from letting go and trusting that he’s got it all.

And then, I dropped my phone into the toilet, and well…let’s just say it was a shitty time (a time of…release?).

Really?!

All I could do was laugh and stare uncomfortably. I had no choice, I guess. So, I fished it out, decided to wash it with soap and water, and wiped it down with peroxide before putting it into a bag of organic jasmine rice for the next 36-48 hours. And you know what? I’ve giggled about this forced disconnection…releasing what’s been competing for my attention and receiving the gift of time (away from my phone), peace and quiet.

Does God have a sense of humor? Oh, yes.

I think so.

photo(7)Happy Easter, everyone! We are loved more than we can imagine.

~Jen

 

 

 

 

Something Special Along Our Usual Path

“Are you going to be here soon?” I said into the phone, hoping he’d be home to walk the dogs with me. I crave this uninterrupted time with Brian. Like most marriages, we’ve had spaces when it seemed we’d rather be alone than together, but this is not one of those times. In the middle of what seems like a million unsettled things in our lives, being with Brian is home.

And so, he arrived just as the pups and I were ready to walk out the door. It was one of those beautiful spring days when being outside was heavenly, so the warmth of the sun on our faces and bare arms was welcome. We started out on our usual path, which seems to bore Glory (it’s like walking a turtle on a leash). Walking Journey is just the opposite. Getting distracted by everything he sees, he kind-of skips along, wanting to see everything now. And that’s another good reason for the four of us to walk as a pack, I like to say. There’s safety in numbers, right?

Talking about something serious like the negative effects of childhood bullying on adults,  we had one of those meaningful I. love. you. moments that seem to come out of nowhere. So with dogs in tow, right there on the side of the road, I flung my arms around him and hugged him. almostkissingAt that very moment, a black SUV slowed down right next to us. The driver stuck her head out the window, smiled at us and said,

“I love your love.”

Then, a couple days ago she passed us, calling us her favorite couple, and I wondered. All this time, all these years we’ve walked our usual way, and I’ve hardly thought twice about what others think when they see us. Apparently, she has noticed us with our slow-as-can-be turtle and perpetual puppy. What is it she sees? The way we hold hands? Our smiles and laughter? I’m guessing, she hasn’t witnessed our disagreements on many of those walks or maybe she has. I’ll probably never know specifics unless I go to her door and ask her (and well, that might be uncomfortable).

Really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this began a conversation, a speaking out loud of our gratefulness for one another.

Everything else might be unsettled still, but, it’s right here in the middle of this complicated life that four powerful words nudged us to more fully appreciate the joy of being together, being part of a pack.

And that’s home for me.

B&meThanks for reading!
~Jen