Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
I preached this sermon at church last week, and then I figured why not just put it on the ‘ol blog. So, here it is. This has been edited for readability. If you’re interested in checking out the church plant I’m involved in, the website is right here. The passage this message is based on is Matthew 17:1-11 (The Transfiguration)
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
I have some doubts.
I have doubts that God is good. I have doubts that God is good to me. Sometimes I have doubts that God is even who He says he is.
And, at this point, you may be having doubts about what gives me any authority to be speaking about God at all.
But, I would argue that I am simply a human being living in a world that is blemished by sin and sometimes that sin becomes overwhelming. The suffering sin causes makes hope in a good God pretty hard.
Here is the thing about doubt: I believe that it is less a loss of conviction in the promise of Jesus and more a confusion about who God is.
When I think of the many Christians I know that experience doubt, there are two things that come to mind.
The first is a song by Audrey Assad titled “Help my Unbelief.” The song says, “I know, I know, and I believe You are the Lord. I know, I know, and I believe You are the Lord. Help my unbelief.”
She sings of the tenuous space of our Christian walk in which we know God is God but yet we have trouble believing what we already know.
The second thing is that these doubters, myself included, often just want a sign. A breadcrumb of evidence that God is here and He is listening and He is good. They want what we just read in Matthew 17.
I like the way that the Message translation recounts Jesus’ transfiguration, it says
“His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.”
This is what theologians call a theophany. Theophany is a word with roots in Greek that basically translates to “appearance of God.”
In verse 4 Peter is overwhelmed,
“Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
The Message translation says Peter is babbling; words are just falling out of his mouth and he doesn’t know how to process what is happening. Peter is seeing confirmation that Jesus is who Peter believes he is. If you know what has been happening in Peter’s life, then his overwhelmed reaction makes sense.
And now we are going to hang out with Peter because I think we can all relate to Peter. The disciples knew Jesus and followed Him around and yet they were just normal human beings that acted a lot like you and me.
If we look a few verses earlier, in Matthew 16:15, Peter confesses that Jesus is, in fact, the son of God.
Jesus says, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”’
Then, starting in verse 21, things start to go downhill. Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer and die and be resurrected. Well, Peter has been following Jesus around and learning from him and he has just finally had his lightbulb moment and now Jesus is going to leave him. And, basically, Peter gets mad at Jesus and tells him that he won’t die.
In reply Jesus says in verse 23
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Ouch. Then, he tells the disciples in verse 24 that following him will ultimately bring suffering. His followers must take up their own cross, lose their life, for the sake of Christ.
A week later, Peter finds himself terrified in the face of God’s glory on this mountaintop. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t really want to trade places with Peter right now. The poor guy has had a very intense couple of weeks.
Peter is seeing Jesus in all his glory and he offers to build some tents. He wants to construct a few shelters so that they call all hang out on this mountain top a little longer. Peter just wants to be in God’s presence.
He wants to hold on to this transformation he is seeing happen in Jesus that is undoubtedly fueling transformation in himself as well. Can you even imagine having this same experience- your whole life would be flipped upside down.
If you are a believer then you have likely had what Christian culture likes to call a “mountain top experience.” This likely happens while on a mission trip or after a conversation with someone leads to their acceptance of Christ or maybe during or after a great conference weekend or worship session. You feel like you could reach out and grab hold of God-His presence is close. You believe He is good, you’ve seen a glimpse of what Christ in the world looks like.
And then you go home.
Suddenly, you have rapidly plummeted from this mountain top place. You arrive back in your everyday reality and see that hate still exists, death still touches your life, the world is still broken and marred by sin.
It feels like one minute you were so close to Jesus and his goodness but then you stepped off the edge of the mountain and landed smack into the middle of your life and now everything is sore, not least of which your spirit.
I think that Peter may not have been ready to go back to a world in which Jesus was going to die and the disciples were going to suffer.
Indeed, he had reason to be apprehensive. In Matthew chapter 17 verse 22, Jesus again tells the disciples of the suffering and death that he is going to endure.
The transfiguration story is bookended by foretelling and promises of death and suffering.
But that is the point.
Right in the middle of suffering and death you have this incredible vision of hope. Right in the middle is foreshadowing of the eternity promised to believers.
Right in the middle is Jesus.
Here, now, in the middle of your suffering, of your doubts, of your unbelief, is Jesus in perfect glory.
Jesus is not outside of your circumstances, he is tangled up within them. But we have a really hard time believing that, don’t we?
How can Jesus simultaneously be in every line of our story yet not be the author of our pain and suffering?
I believe we ask ourselves that question because our glimpses of glory in this life are fleeting. Indeed, Jesus’ transfiguration was likely pretty short. Peter was not allowed to build tents-he didn’t get to stay.
Jesus shone, God spoke, and then they left the mountain top.
Some of us may go years without feeling like we get a tangible glimpse of God. If you notice, not even every disciple got to go to the mountain to see Jesus shine with glory.
I have spent a lot of time the last few years asking God for my own mountain experience. I have cried to Jesus in the midst of feeling like I couldn’t see him, couldn’t hear him. I have a feeling that many of you may have also asked “where are you, God?”
I have come to believe that asking God for a sign is the wrong response. What we should be doing is asking God for more faith.
Hebrews 11: 1-3 says,
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”
The world today is able to prove so many things. We have come to expect concrete evidence, tangible reasons, for everything we experience. It is hard to accept the mysteries of faith.
The Transfiguration certainly seems like a mystery of faith- it is hard for me to personally imagine.
Faith is understanding that, even though you’ve asked for your own theophany, you already have one on which to draw strength. The theophany in Matthew was recorded for all Christians for all times.
In faith we can come back to God’s word and say, “I don’t need my own because I believe in your word. I believe what it says.”
I believe that Peter’s soul may have gotten weary. I believe there may be many weary souls reading this that long for the faith to read about the transfiguration and believe it as though they had seen it with their own eyes.
I’d like to leave you with the words of the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
“O Soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
In the light of His glory and grace. His glory is here. Turn your face to Jesus.
Monday, January 9th, 2017
I wasn’t even planning to set a word for 2017, but a gentle and persistent nudging has led me to put words to paper (and screen, as it may be) and set a “Word for the Year.” I have never set a word for the year before but, if someone asked me to tell them what word(s) seemed to permeate my life over the last several years, my answer would look a bit like this:
Resilience, pain, growth, doubt, victory
These years have brought with them the lesson that my life isn’t happening to me. I am happening to my life.
I am resilient and strong, I overcome; that is who I am.
God and I have wrestled quite a bit the last 365 days (and the 365 before that and the 365 before that, If I’m being honest). I’ve never wrestled to the point of unbelief but I have certainly allowed anger and doubt and pain and confusion to enter the ring with me.
Some of the events of the last three years truly shook my core. The things I thought I knew and was sure of were turned upside down. It happened slowly but, as I lived through it, it seemed that all of a sudden nothing was as it used to be. It seemed that my cries to God went continually unanswered. Where was He? Where was He in my life, my circumstances, the world?
Everything needed to be sorted again.
People that knew me four or five years ago might be wholly unable to recognize me now. For better. And for worse.
But 2016 was a year of reckoning. I never stepped out of that ring and I see now that God didn’t either. And, over the last couple of months it became clear that I wasn’t interested in wrestling anymore.
I wanted to struggle less. I decided to surrender. Maybe I could stop working so hard for a while and let God do the fighting for me.
Maybe I could just try trusting that He would walk me through this season of upheaval. Perhaps He isn’t absent in the upending of all the things I thought I knew and believed and understood. Perhaps He didn’t abandon me.
Something inside of me is being pruned and plucked, re-seeded and watered as though a determined gardener has decided to walk through the prickly and dusty fields of my soul. The Holy Spirit has been wending its way into my life for months now, and I feel that with the birth of the New Year so also is something being birthed within me.
Those close to me, and maybe someday I’ll feel ready to share with others, know that the last few years have had some incredibly bleak moments.
A new morning dawned on January 1, 2017.
I am grasping for the clean slate it offers.
For 2017 I am working toward:
Less in exchange for more.
That shall be my mantra, my prayer, my intention.
…of the material for more space.
…screen time for more book time and face-to-face time.
…takeout for more home cooked nourishment.
…busy for more fulfillment.
…doubt for more ease in the mystery.
…anxiety for more peace.
…mindless consuming for more thoughtful purchasing.
…dreams for more realities.
…sitting still for more exploring.
…taking for granted for more cherishing.
…apathy for more justice.
…complacency for more ambition.
…routine for more spontaneity.
…”too tired, too busy, too stressed” for more love and memory and laughter making.
…rushing to do dishes for more time spent in relationship building around the table.
…comfort for more reaching outside my comfort zone.
…religion for more Jesus.
…noise for more peace.
…worry for more trust.
…status quo for more moving against the flow.
…frustration for more forgiveness.
…grudge holding and judgement making for more grace, more mercy, more love.
…Martha for more Mary. Oh that I could quit working so hard and just sit at the feet.
More laughter, grace, mercy, justice, forgiveness.
More love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.
Less of everything else.
I’m so tired of the everything else.
My spirit is weary. My heart is overburdened.
This year I will not be afraid of less.
Monday, June 13th, 2016
Countless loved ones.
An entire country.
49 people gone from this world forever.
49 families left with nothing but a hole in their heart and the hope for a reunion in eternity.
Countless loved ones left hurting and scared.
An entire country rocked by the violence and the pain and the horror that mars this human existence.
My heart has been heavy since I woke up yesterday morning to the horrifying news of the shooting in Orlando. With each news story, each social media post, each picture and update, my heart sunk lower, and my anxiety increased. One of the things I handle worst in the world is stories of death and harm. Being so acutely reminded of the fragility of life and the evil of the world gives me anxiety attacks. My mind fogs, my stomach knots. I worry for no reason at all and every reason all at once. My hands go cold, my brain beckons me to give into the fight or flight response. I want to hug my loved ones and never let go.
Perhaps my brain reacts in this way in part because I can imagine, if only in a small way, what those in Pulse were feeling that night. Please, before you go on reading, imagine for a moment the terror those club goers must have felt. Imagine for a moment the despair experienced by their loved ones. I know it is hard to do that. But you should do it anyway.
Do the hard things and experience the hard feelings. Don’t try to separate yourself from this event. Don’t harden your heart towards this event because you don’t want to identify with your fellow Americans.
But this isn’t really about me or my anxiety. Except that it is.
It is about me, and you, and all of us, and the way we respond to acts of terror.
It is about how the media insists on plastering the name and the picture of the gunman on every available media outlet. Giving him what he would have wanted. Recognition. And power. Power over our hearts and minds and emotions.
It is about the disgusting way that some would use this event to push their anti-gay or anti-Muslim agenda.
It is about the way that there were far fewer social media posts about this event than there were about a dead gorilla.
People are dead. DEAD. They aren’t coming back. They were alive one moment and brutally murdered the next.
49 people went out for a night of fun and never went back home.
53 people were left wounded and putting the pieces of their life back together.
What is wrong with this country? What is wrong with us that this senseless violence continues to happen? What is wrong with us that some would say “Good, the less gay people the better.”
What kind of savages are we that some might side with the gunman because he killed gay people, and they hate gay people?
You know what? The “gay” part of that sentence matters in the context of the shooting (because it was a hate crime) but it isn’t the most important part of the phrase “gay people.”
“People” is the most important part of that phrase. Other human beings, just like you and me.
Other human beings with hearts that beat and veins that bleed. Other human beings that need and desire relationships with other people. Other human beings that feel fear and insecurity and joy and pain. Other human beings that deserve to be loved and treated with dignity and grace.
I don’t know if you believe in a higher power, but I do. I believe in Jesus. I am a Christian. I don’t hate gay people. I do hate evil, and I hate the hate that we level at each other every. single. day.
If you believe in a higher power, then perhaps you will relate to what I am about to write. And, even if you don’t believe in a higher power, you will probably relate if you are a decent person with a functioning moral compass.
Because I believe in God, I also believe that he created every single person on this planet.
Psalm 139:13-16 sums up my feelings on the workmanship evident in all of humanity.
Each person is covered in the fingerprints of our Creator. He doesn’t make mistakes.
If God doesn’t make mistakes then I must conclude that every person has infinite worth and potential. Each person deserves to be viewed the way that God views them: as beautiful creations that need love and grace and compassion.
I fall short all the time of treating others in this way. But I do try to live my life in a way that reflects my belief that I am no better or worse than anyone else. I know all too well that every person is fighting battles that I can’t see or know.
I know that every person I encounter is living life just like I am in a mess of feelings and experiences and intersectionality.
When will the hate stop? When will we decide to start removing the walls we put up between each other? When will we learn to view each other as partners all fighting the same battle?
Orlando victims, you didn’t deserve this. I love you. This was senseless. Your life was valuable.
Orlando survivors, you didn’t deserve this. I love you. This was senseless. Your life is valuable, and I hope you get the love, and the support, and the help you need to move through your life as a survivor dealing with what you experienced.
America, we can do better. I love you, and I want to live in a world where fear doesn’t lurk in all of the shadows. This senseless violence that we foster is despicable.
Make it stop. Make it all stop.
I don’t understand it; I can’t understand it.
I will do everything in my power to spread more love and grace, everything in my power to stand with those who are marginalized and those who can’t stand on their own.
I will stand with my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community because they have been wounded. I will stand with them because they deserve support and solidarity and community just as much as anyone else. Their sexual identities do not inform how I treat them because I treat them as I work to treat all people: with dignity and love.
Friends, we are not islands. We need each other. Don’t let the horrific events in Orlando foster hatred in your hearts. Let the events foster even more love and compassion for our hurting and broken world that needs you to be a beacon of hope.
Monday, May 30th, 2016
Every year, Memorial Day comes to pass, and I never quite know what to say.
By the grace of God, all of my loved ones in the military have always come home.
But, I know people that cannot say the same.
It is unbearable to think of the pain that must accompany learning that your loved one is gone; knowing that your last goodbye was really the last.
Year after year, my various social media platforms are flooded with photos and status updates thanking and remembering those that lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom and peace. Year after year, I am wrecked by the bravery of our service members and the strength of their loved ones.
In my journeying on the internet, I came across a speech by Ronald Reagan. While he gave this speech on Veteran’s Day, there is one section that addresses those service members that made the ultimate sacrifice. It is that section that I will share.
“Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four Marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we’re never quite good enough to them-not really; we can’t be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.
It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.
There’s always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate. They say, “Hello, Johnny,” or “Hello, Bob. We still think of you. You’re still with us. We never got over you, and we pray for you still, and we’ll see you again. We’ll all meet again.” In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones and remember. It’s not so hard to summon memory, but it’s hard to recapture meaning.” Ronald Reagan, http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/speakers/1985remarks.asp
So many of our military men and women give up more than their lives when they leave their last breath on the battlefield. They give up the lives they were building before they left and the lives they would continue after they came back.
Is there a right way to remember? Is there the perfect thing to say to the spouse or child of a fallen warrior? Is there a proper way to feel as a bystander; as someone who hasn’t served and doesn’t really know?
Sometimes anger seems appropriate; “How many more of our country’s sons and daughters must be sacrificed on the altar of war and conflict?”
Sometimes overt patriotism seems like the best response; “They died defending the greatest country in the world. They made the ultimate sacrifice so we could all be free. American heroes, all of them!”
Perhaps gratitude or melancholy or anguish.
Maybe acknowledgement that, just like all death, it is okay to not really know what to say or how to act.
Definitely grace as we stumble over the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Grace as we don’t know what to say. Grace as we inevitably say the wrong thing or the weird thing.
There is really no way for anybody to “make up for” the loss of a loved one. There is no way for most of us to understand what it is to embark on a mission or deployment and be willing to give our absolute all. It is difficult to comprehend the bravery or courage or patriotism it takes to sign up to do a job that might ask for one’s life in exchange.
Memorial Day seems particularly hard, at least for me, because all we can do is remember. All we can do is hurt with those that hurt. All we can do is pray for less conflict.
And it just doesn’t seem like enough.
Monday, September 14th, 2015
Five years ago, Nathan asked me to be his girl while we were standing outside his car in the Eat n’ Park parking lot. We had eaten pie and talked about who knows what, and then we wandered outside-neither of us wanting to leave just yet. It was still cold in Sewickley. We were both in sweatpants, and I leaned in close to him so that I could capture his warmth. And then it happened. In just those few seconds, I went from “single” to “not single” for the last time in my life. Sixteen year old me definitely didn’t anticipate that this guy with his shaggy hair made crunchy by sweat from football practice would end up my husband.
I remember our first few months of dating so fondly. We used to text each other in the middle of classes and make plans to meet up at our lockers (under the guise of going to the bathroom, of course). We would sneak kisses and hurry back to class feeling so satisfied by our covert lip-locking. Those first few months that you date someone are filled with smiling stupidly at each other and finding any excuse to see one another. Every time Nathan would brush his hand against my arm or kiss my forehead, my whole body would be filled with butterflies.
Perhaps our first years of dating were fueled by raging teenage hormones and a generally naive view of the world, but I am so glad that we got our start within the walls of Quaker Valley High and the protective bubble of Sewickley. We got to grow into adulthood together. I feel as though we kind of beat the odds. Being together in high school was easy. Being thrown into the world of college, far away from the familiars of home, was hard. Wading our way through talking about marriage when we were still teenagers was hard. It is a weird and difficult thing to come home from your freshman year of college and tell your parents that you are gonna get married. You are barely out of the house and able to vote and now you want to jump into the deep end of adulthood. And jump we did. I grabbed that man’s hand and ran off the cliff into the deep, cold water that was planning a wedding and pulling through our first year of marriage. Truth be told, we were doggy-paddling through a lot of it. My head was barely above water there for a while. But Nathan was always there. He was strong and he pulled me up and pulled me along.
If you told sixteen year old me what the next five years would hold, she would have laughed in your face- or maybe she would have run quickly in the other direction of all the things you told her. There have been times in the last five years that I wasn’t sure everything was gonna be okay. Life has a funny way of pouring everything out on you at one time. But perhaps the most beautiful thing about those times, is that I always had Nathan to fall into.
When I look at pictures of us at our junior or senior prom I think, “Wow! How young!”. I feel as if we have grown ten years in the last five. I am in a way different place at twenty-one than I ever imagined I would be. And I am so thankful for that. God has used Nathan and marriage and college and bills and work and life to turn me from a girl to a woman to a wife. I look forward to looking at pictures of us now thirty years from now and thinking, “Wow! How young!”.
Five years ago, Nathan turned me into somebody that was loved unconditionally by someone other than those related to me. He has loved me well every single day since then. When life is hard, I know that I am loved. When we are fighting, I know that I am loved. When I am wrong and mean and angry, I know that I am loved.
A year ago, Nathan turned me into a wife. Learning to love each other as husband and wife has been one of the most difficult and rewarding challenges yet.
I love that man. I love the way that his eyelashes start to droop around his eyes when he is sleepy. I love the way that he pulls me close to him every morning before he leaves for work. I delight in his ability to drive for hours and make me feel like the inside of a car on a road trip is my favorite place to be. I love the way that he encourages my dreams; he has never told me that my dreams must be sacrificed for the sake of his. I especially love the way that he still kisses me on the forehead. And the way he interrupts me when I am cooking dinner so that he can pick me up and put me on the counter and give me kisses. I am grateful for his willingness to work long hours and go to school so that we always have enough in the bank.
It is my desire that as one September fourteenth passes, and another one approaches, that I would be deserving of the love and the relationship that I have been so profoundly blessed with. You (hopefully) only get one spouse. One partner until death do you part. I want to cherish that and nurture it. I want to be a wife that encourages and loves with every part of herself. I want Nathan to be excited to come home to me. I want to keep laying good foundations for our marriage. As we build a life and a family together, I want to ensure that it keeps getting better and stronger. Twenty, thirty, sixty years from now, I want to look across the table at Nathan and say, “Gosh do I love that man.” Nathan is worth loving and marriage is worth fighting for, and I want to do each in equal and abundant measure.
I married a good one, guys. The Sydney of five years ago totally knew what she was doing when she locked down that football team captain. It has been a wild, passionate, silly, hard, crazy, wonderful half a decade. I can’t wait for a lifetime more.
Thursday, June 11th, 2015
My sweet Dad helped us load and unload the whole truck.
If you ever have the wild idea to move during the last three weeks of the semester, just don’t. It will be exhausting, and disorganized, and rushed, and you will never feel caught up. You will live out of boxes until the semester ends, and you will keep moving piles of stuff (because you have SO MUCH STUFF) around the house so that you have a place to study. In short, just extend your lease by a month and move once summer starts.
Although moving at the tail end of a truly chaotic semester was nothing short of insanity, I do appreciate the ability to start fresh in a new place that meets our needs so much better. All of a sudden we found ourselves with more space, a patio, two bathrooms (TWO), and a beautifully landscaped apartment complex that isn’t in the middle of downtown. We also found ourselves eternally grateful for all of our friends and family that came out to help us schlep our poorly organized mess from one side of town to the other.
As we started packing up our old apartment, I couldn’t help but marvel at the way we attach ourselves to things and to places. We pack the entirety of our material lives into a box, and we lock the door, and we hope for the best. We hope that we will come home and things will be as they were. We hope that nothing bad will happen while we are gone. We hope that the maintenance guy won’t let out our pets. We hope that we will leave for work each morning and we will come home to a house that has been warmed all day by the sun. We expect that all of our pictures, and childhood stuffed animals, and our sentimental clothing items, and our electronics that we saved for and hoped for will be right where we left them.
But what if we lost all of that stuff? I mean, that’s what we buy renter’s and homeowner’s insurance for, isn’t it? We select the policy with reimbursement as close to replacement value as possible so that we can feel as though we have some sort of control over the material possessions we cling to. Yet, in the back of our minds, there is a nagging. We know that our insurance policy may replace our TV or our pots and pans. We trust that the insurance adjustor will make it right and replace our bed or our computer. But, insurance companies can’t write a check and bring back our grandmother’s class ring or the external hard drive with years of photos on it. The things that really matter aren’t replaceable.
No one could ever write me a check and expect it to make up for the loss of the bunny rabbit that my grandmother made for me years and years ago. No amount of money could ever make the loss of Nathan or of our sweet, furry cats bearable. The human connection is what we really seem to be holding onto. When we lock our doors as we leave each day, we are turning the key with the intention of grasping at the bits and pieces of the people that we love that we have sewn into our material lives.
When I fret about the security of a home or the best way to pack a box, I’m not really concerned that a measuring cup might shatter or a picture frame may crack. I’m worried that the ring that once belonged to my mother and to her mother before that may not make its way back onto my finger. The ring probably has very little monetary value, but it is the only worldly possession I have left of my grandmother. My childhood bunny and blanket are not the first things I unpack because I need them to sleep with, but because they remind me so tenderly of my Mimi. The jackets that were given to me by the widower of a woman that I admired to no end bring tears to my eyes as I remember what an incredible person she was-and how much I miss her.
That is what I worry about. The bits and bobbles that bring me back to the people I love. Artworks from my sister, the Bible my parents gave me for graduation- none of these things mean much of anything to anyone else. But, I fret over them. I have come to believe that, for me anyway, the reason that I work to fill my home with things that are functional and beautiful and sentimental is because it truly is all about people.
I want to have people in my home. I want to make them food and pour them glasses of wine. I want them to stay in our guest room, and I want to stay up too late talking about important things that matter (and silly things that don’t). I want to welcome people with a hospitality that is unbridled. I want to form those human connections that characterize the things we own. I want people to gather together on our worn couch, I want them to eat their fill at our dining room table. I want them to feel at home in our kitchen. I hope that no one goes away from our home hungry (spiritually, physically, or mentally).
I want to be reminded daily that no matter what insurance premium I pay each month, and no matter how well I lock our doors, the material things aren’t really what I am worried about. I am worried about losing those relationships, worried about having those connections stolen from me. A loss of privacy or possessions be it from natural disaster or human maliciousness, would be a blow because it would tear down the wonderful, warm bubble that I want my home to be. When I lock the door each morning, I want to lock in all of the good and keep out all of the bad.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter which t-shirt I am pulling out of the boxes that are still largely unpacked. What matters is that every day I come home to Nathan. Every day I step in the door to see two cats waiting for me. What if we kept in mind that the majority of things we pack into boxes each time we move aren’t really the things that give us life and happiness? What if we remembered that the memories and connections and love we create are what makes our houses into homes? What if we worried less that our house was spotless and worried more about loving people well when they are in our home? That is my goal for this year and for this new space we live in. I want to love people well, and I want to make our home a shelter from the chaos of the day-to-day.
Monday, June 8th, 2015
Well, it’s been months since I sat down and wrote anything for this space. I have thought about it a million times, and Nathan asks regularly when I will be writing something new. Honestly, it just hasn’t been possible to write anything for a while. It isn’t because things stopped happening, or I stopped taking pictures, or I no longer get stuck in my head long enough to draw out something to write about. It’s just that, well, these last eleven months have been hellish. And, yes, you may notice that eleven months pretty much exactly lines up with how long I’ve been married. And, no, the hellishness has nothing to do with my marriage. Nathan and I are great. He has been one of the only things in my life over the last year that has been good and stable and happy. While my marriage itself wasn’t the source of the emotional drain that spanned this year, the actual act of getting married certainly contributed to the stress. Our wedding was beautiful, and we were surrounded by loved ones, and marrying Nathan was the best decision I ever made, but the wedding was also very stressful and overwhelming and some of the things that resulted from it have been really emotionally damaging.
I know that all of that is so so vague. I’m sorry for that. The reality is that a lot of the negative energy that lingered after the wedding is gone now. It has taken almost a year, but things are getting worked through and getting back to normal. There are people that are close to Nathan and me that know all about the trials of the last year, and I am happy to talk with people about it individually. But, it has been one of the toughest times of my life, and I just don’t feel like the whole internet needs a backstage pass for that.
For many people, when life gets difficult it becomes easier for them to share with others or to write out their thoughts. For me it wasn’t like that at all. I got so stuck in my own head. I kind of just shut down. I want this blog to be a positive space, and I didn’t see a lot of positive for a while. The good things that were happening seemed less important to share here and more important to hold onto just between Nathan and me. That is the thing with blogs and instagram and facebook- they aren’t at all as they seem. This point makes it’s rounds on the blog circuit every few months, but I believe it is worth repeating. If you were to look at my instagram feed for the last year, you probably wouldn’t have any idea that anything out of the ordinary was going on in my life. Instagram literally filters the bad out of our lives. This blog, my status updates, every picture I run through VSCO Cam, it is all a tightly edited sliver of my life. So many of the brutally hard things, and many of the heartbreakingly wonderful things, never make it past my own brain.
In some ways, this edited version of my life is great. I can look back at my instagram feed, or read old blog posts, and I only have to relive the good moments. In other ways, it seems wrong that we try so hard to present a fake reality to the world. We try to eliminate the vulnerability that we experience. These conflicting opinions make it hard for me to draw a line on this blog. The difference between authentic, vulnerable, and relatable, and only documenting the good things for the sake of having an archive of happiness, is fuzzy for me.
Someone told me the other day that if I could invent a “fast-forward” button for life then I would be a millionaire. If people had a tool to use to just skip over the hard times then perhaps there would no longer be any hard times. This thought has been rolling around in my head since, and it still makes me uncomfortable. A career counselor once told me that if I chose to go into a field like social work, then I would learn how not to feel so much. They would teach me how to mute my emotional attachment to the people that I worked with. That concept was completely at odds with the way I wished to live my life. The “fast-forward” button bothers me in the same way. Would I ever want to relive the last eleven moths? HELL NO! But, I wouldn’t have wanted to skip over it either. There was a lot of true anguish that characterized these months. There was also a lot of growth and love and God. Nathan and I fought our way into marriage and into adulthood. We came out alive and we came out loving each other more than we did when we started. Our community came around us in ways that still make me teary with gratitude.
All this to say that writing hasn’t been on my radar. I do miss it, though, and I want to write more. So, I guess I am back. I don’t know what a posting schedule might look like or what I’ll write about. But, I do know that it feels good to hear my fingers clack against the keys and see the strings of thoughts appear on the screen.
Friday, February 6th, 2015
Oh, hey. 12-13-14 was over a month ago, you say? Well, I don’t care. How about that?
Our city has a display of lights at the botanical gardens around Christmas time, and it is my most favorite “date night” of the whole year. I love the River of Lights. It seriously makes me giddy. It was raining and cold the night we ended up going, but it was still wonderful. I had grand ideas of using my real camera and having gorgeously composed images, but rain happened instead. IPhone photos it is-only the very best.
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Let me start off by saying that Grand Cayman is my favorite place in the entire world. My heart and soul live in Grand Cayman. It was our family vacation spot of choice, it is where I learned to dive, it is where I had my first rum punch, it is where I saw my first turtle in the wild. I love it. All of it.
Grand Cayman played no small role in my deep desire to be a professional beach bum. Give me a bikini, some dive equipment, and a bottle of sunscreen and I am good to go. A bottle of tequila or rum wouldn’t hurt either, come to think of it.
Naturally, when we realized that Cayman was on our cruise itinerary, we knew we had to get in a dive. We ended up booking a shore dive that left just outside of Georgetown. A shuttle took us from the port to the dive shop, and we just jumped in the water and swam out to about sixty feet or so of depth. It was gorgeous, of course. Ninety percent of the beauty of Cayman is underwater. To go to Cayman and not dive, or at least snorkel, would be a crime.
After the cruise we were hungry and not ready to go back to the ship. We asked the dive shop for a recommendation on a place to grab some food, and were directed to restaurant back in George Town.
We wandered back into town, found the restaurant, and ordered something to drink, and a bucket of fried shrimp.
One of the drinks was a Hurricane Five-very popular on the island and not very kind to lightweights (ingredients as follows):
5 shots of rum (we were told they used five different kinds of rum…)
Two drinks, one bucket of shrimp, and probably the best forty dollars we spent on the entire trip later, and Nathan was ready to find a cigar shop. Cubans aren’t illegal in Cayman- can’t miss that opportunity (or so I’m told).
Tomorrow I’ll post the few pictures that I took in Mexico and give my tips for getting the most out of your cruise!
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
The first stop on our cruise was in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We booked a shore excursion that toured a pineapple plantation in the mountains on the island. The tour bus picked us up from the port, and we set off on an hour long trip on a winding mountain road.
Once at the pineapple plantation, our tour guide spent the day explaining the ins and outs of pineapple and coffee farming and beekeeping. The plantation is known for it’s many different kinds of pineapple (you can only buy one in the US), but they also had a thriving crop of coffee berries.
Fun fact: both of those bunches of bananas are ripe.
A coffee berry.
Red Stripe because, Jamaica.
See you tomorrow from Grand Cayman, the next stop on our cruise!