14 years and counting

Today marks 14 years of wedded bliss marriage for Dave and I. In all honesty, there were many times in our relationship I didn’t think we’d make it. But I am grateful that here we are, together. When I think about the “how,” I am drawn to the insights of expectation, communication, adventure, and independence.

  • Expectation. If “comparison is the thief of joy,” then expectation is the nuclear bomb decimating a marital landscape. Early on in our marriage, we spent the majority of our time together trying to fit into some preconceived mold of a godly marriage. Me: domestic goddess, children maker, quiet and humble, meek and submissive, the puppy dog following the master. Dave: manly man, leader extraordinaire and money maker, choice taker and future determiner, calculating and decisive. (I may be exaggerating, but sadly not by much.) It doesn’t work…because it was not who we were. It is not who we are. And living an inauthentic life alone is difficult enough, much less with another person also faking it. We have learned that the minute “should” enters into the conversation (“we should be doing x; we should have y; we should look like z”), trouble breweth.
  • Adventure. We left the midwest for a lifestyle that drew us…a life of adventure. From naps during afternoon thunderstorms to reading lazily in porch swings to traveling near and far to climbing mountains to yoga to petting wolves to brewery tours to nights in a tent to feet in a stream to identifying wildflowers and birds to shared goals of running in all 50 states. We adventure big. We adventure small. We adventure together.
  • Independence. We also adventure independently. I have traveled to Puebla and London. Dave backpacks alone in a wilderness. Dave plays his guitar. I write. Despite the plethora of shared interests between my best friend and I, what keeps us interesting is our individual commitments to our private selves.
  • Communication. Dave and I make a lot of mistakes and have some issues with which we perpetually contend. However, what I am most grateful for is that we talk about them. All of them. All of the time. Nothing is off the conversation table. We openly and freely and deeply talk about politics, sex, finances, fears, regrets, work, what-ifs, frustrations, pet peeves, attractions, dirty jokes and divine mysteries. And above all else, this has saved us. It is the key to identifying and working through expectations. It is the key to fighting fairly. It is the key to moving forward. It is the key to feeling safe and connected. It is the key to adventures together and apart. Communication. Is. Everything.

To Dave, the one I get to live this glorious life with, happy anniversary. I love you.

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a recovering evangelical writes about homosexuality

I sit here at the computer, but my fingers don’t move. They are still, though my heart beats rapidly. I have wanted to write this since June 26th of this year, when a chasm already existent in America deepened to the lava core. But to be honest, I have been afraid: How many people in my life will defriend me for this post? How will I write this? How much questioning of my soul’s state will I bear? How do I even say what I think in any articulate or assertive manner? And then I was invited by the July 2015 synchroblog to write about gay marriage. A Divine Nudge. After all, what is writing if not a dangerous exploration?

I hope this dangerous exploration is sanctified by the truest Love.

Growing up, those of homosexual preferences were 1, foreign and/or 2, the butt of jovial jokes and insensitive insults. But this was out of ignorance, not fear or condemnation. That all shifted when I dove heavily into a strict, evangelical, conservative church during my formative years. The beneficial thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. The toxic thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. And so the decision, as ordained by the Words we leveraged to speak the words we declared as “the one true and only way,” was that to be homosexual was a sin: sad at best, disgusting at worst. Abominable.

I still cringe typing that. (Of course, we loved the sinner, even though we hated the sin.)

What I learned during that time of my life is undeniable in its treasure: discipline and self-control, true and authentic friendship, the art of leading, how to set apart sacred times for the Sacred, the skills of analysis and teaching that analysis, the delineation between superficial vs. deep, passion, social skills, humble service, etc. However, what I absorbed during that time is a subtle poison from which I’m still trying to detox:

  • Many Christian systems manipulate the bible to get what they want…and to feel good–or in true martyrdom, to feel guilty–about it. The fancy-pants term for this is proof-texting. This is the ability to condemn homosexuality while still allowing women to speak in church. This is the ability to declare one set of rules as softened by context (the Old Testament) while adhering to another set of rules more rigorously (the New Testament). This is the ability of a church to expect tithing while dismissing the need to walk around wounded in penance with one eye or one hand.  This sounds like: “Jesus was speaking metaphorically.” “Revelation is an allegory.” “Follow the spirit of the law, not the letter.” “It was a different time then.” “Pay attention to the audience.” “Paul was too radical.” “Now we have the Holy Spirit.” This looks like a myriad of Christian factions, each picking and choosing what’s important to them and then standing in self-righteous arrogance above the other “poor Christians” who just don’t get it. (This frightening lesson is exactly why I did no research in the bible, or outside of it about it, in order to throw around quotes and scriptures in this blog to back up what I’m saying. That was not easy for me, as this is still deeply ingrained.)
  • Many Christian systems judge the obvious sins on a much harsher scale as a way to distract from the internal, insidious “smaller” sins. How dare you love another man, look at porn, sleep around, and get drunk! That is murder against God. But meanwhile, please go ahead and oppress your wife, ignore your children, overeat, think in your heart evil things, speak half-truths, manipulate people to feel powerful, walk past those hurting, cheat on your taxes, talk shit about people on social media, change spouses like underwear, horde your wealth, envy the covers of Sports Illustrated and People, crave approval and advancement, and throw trash on the ground!

And we wonder why people avoid the church like the plague and leave it like a convict released from jail. I did, but I’m still recovering. I’m still wondering. I’m still questioning. I’m still healing. But I’m also still praying and seeking God. And what I have discovered on my journey as of late is that:

God. is. Love.

Where there is Love, there is God.

And so, a faithful and devout christian, who is full of judgmental hate towards something they have little experience with, well… where is the Love?

Meanwhile, a lesbian couple adopts a homeless and unwanted child, eager to give generously of their life and heart, well, there is the Love.

But, just to be clear, I’m not making blanket statements. I am DONE with that.

And so, a faithful and devout Christian, who is full of service towards the poor and spends Sunday mornings on the street passing out sandwiches, humbly and sincerely, well…there is the Love.

Meanwhile, a gay man misuses his position of power to lull in little children to his game of perversion, well…where is the love?

We are just people, looking for Love. We are all just humans, searching for Love.

So do I support gay marriage? No.

I support the marriage of two people, two humans, looking to get and give Love.

And in that place of Love, there is God. And ultimately, THAT is the “side” I want to be on.

***Other voices & opinions on this topic. Please note these posts are a part of the conversation, but not necessarily a part of my conviction.***

everyday easters

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these here parts. Dave has been busy focusing on some consuming work projects; our house is in a constant state of remodeling flux; work for me is picking up with both the testing and senior season; we’ve both been sick. This all adds up to a cacophonous version of the song “Strangers in the Night.” Like two ships that can’t quite find the harbor at the same time, Dave and I have been feeling very disconnected from each other as of late.

And so Friday, we remedied that. We spent the day devoted to each other. Less phones and internet, more face time. Less TV, more living.

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We tried new restaurants.

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We ran. And I managed to get in a few balancing postures.

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We checked out a new brewery.

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We battled on the bowling lanes.

We sat, facing each other, and get this, talked. Like new lovers do. Like best friends do. Like old-fashioned married people do. Part of what we talked about were assessments of our current status, as a couple and as separate human beings. We came up with a plan to tend to our own souls, as well as reconnect and stay that way. We laughed, we remembered, we made new memories. It was a good day. It was a resurrection.

Many Christians will wake up tomorrow (or in some parts of the world, this already happened), and they will go to church to celebrate another kind of resurrection, a much more dramatic resurrection: Jesus’. The prevalent idea is that two-thousand and fifteen years ago, a sun-burnt, sand-blown and dove-blessed God-man lived, loved, died, and then was raised–raised (he needs no helping verb)–from the dead, leaving stones unrolled and surprises unfurled. Whether this is the actual timing, or the actual way the story went, what I do truly believe without a doubt is that I serve a God of resurrections. A God who believes in perpetual transitions into new glories. A God never defeated, but always abounding in incredulous second-chances. And third… A God who wildly abandons the norms and conventions of ordinary with a flair for the extraordinary, for the special, for the miracle.

So… then… where does that leave little ol’ human me? Precisely where I want to be, where my faith and hope rests: that e’ry day, all day (YOLO), for the dirty underdog and bejeweled prince alike, there are opportunities for resurrection–everyday easters. Just like with Dave and I. We were in a microscopic tomb of our own, as all married couples are at varied intervals. But, thank God, we didn’t have to stay there. We could roll the stone away, step out into the sunshine with beer in our hands and gratitude in our hearts, and begin anew. And countless times every day, at home or at work, with my own heart or with others’, stones roll away revealing such resurrections. With the new morning sun. With forgiveness instead of bitterness. With honesty instead of gossip. With courage instead of complacency. With relentless love instead of self-seeking transactions. With discipline and honor instead of indulgence and short-sighted pleasure. With thankfulness instead of complaint.

As I think about the wonder of this all, I cannot help but ponder the idea of “everlasting life”…you know, that thing that is dangled before converts like competing greyhounds at the track. Have we misinterpreted everlasting life? Instead of a pie-in-the-sky fairyland of clouds and trumpets, perhaps it’s something much more simple, and much more tangible, and much more now, and much more mundane. Perhaps the best part of a life with the resurrected Jesus is that we live perpetually in a state of resurrection. Everyday=New. Everyday=Heaven. Everyday=Easter. Everyday=Glory. After all, if it’s everlasting, doesn’t that mean it’s supposed to have started already?

I wanna live that way. Don’t you?

childless by choice

I am mindful of the emotional weight a post like the one I’m about to write shoulders. In the proximity of both friends and acquaintances who have painfully toiled with infertility–some with success, some without–it is not fair that Dave and I choose childlessness. To Dave’s parents who long for grandchildren, it is not heartening that their son and his wife deny a course of parenthood. To a culture that views progeny as some form of social and/or religious duty, it is not moral that we enjoy and preserve our life without kids.

But we do. And at times we feel guilty for this, like it’s some secret we have to hide because our child-driven (or consumed; you pick the word which has the appropriate connotation for you) culture might look at us as if we have three hairy heads, twelve green warts, and zero wombs.

But most of the time, we find joy in our choice: vast, comforting, delicious, freeing joy. This is why:

  1. I don’t think I would make a good mom. I am ridden with anxiety and fear. When I spend time with others’ children, I am consumed with worry that they will trip, or choke, or die, or any other of the 100 catastrophes I can think up in the time it takes to wipe a child’s runny nose. The last thing I want is to raise a child in an environment of fear, for that is nothing short of prison, a life sentence of some variance of bred mental instability.
  2. We actively prioritize ourselves and our life together (or we are selfish, again, pick your connotation). When we want to travel, we go. When we want to get up at 7 on a weekend morning and go out for an early breakfast and then come back to nap, we do. When we want to be next to each other in a yoga class, we go. When we want to pull an all-nighter watching a TV marathon, we do. When we want to wander around our house naked all day long, we can. When we want the innocent laughter, light and love of children, we welcome them into our home or hang out with our friends who are parents. When we want quiet, we have it. When either of us wants to be independent and alone, we just disappear into our own hobbies. We are not consumed by diapers, school bullying, or college funds. We are 100% present to our lives, as we, and we alone, want them to be. We honor this as a blessing.
  3. I have already hit the mother lode, literally. Currently, I have 34 children, whom I teach. Add that to the 500 or so other students I have taught in the past. When I enter school, my classroom, I give everything I have to those students. They ARE my children. They are my heart. I work for them, pray for them, advocate for them, cry for them, sing for them… I live for them. I know my limits. I could not come home at night–after pouring myself out physically, mentally, emotionally, soulfully–and give equal access to my energy, my heart, my action to more children. Children from whom I can’t escape or establish boundaries.  I find fulfillment not in burping a child, but in believing in the underdogs of our society; not in changing a diaper, but in challenging an oppressive system; not in attending parent teacher conferences, but in hosting them; not in finding ways to raise a healthy and happy child, but in building healthy and happy relationships with students that help them achieve.
  4. I am a work-oriented person. My sister and I were talking this week about our parents and how we see ourselves in them (or don’t). I realized that our parents functioned as two completely different archetypes: the nurturer and the worker. My Dad was the nurturer. Soft, kind, loyal–he was the one I remember taking me to the playground, patiently waiting for my little eyes to reach up and over the 31 Flavors counter to pick my ice cream choice, and driving me everywhere in my teens…not my Mom. My Mom was the worker. Confident, sharp, strong, perpetually-in-motion, I remember her rising early in the black morning and leaving for work while I woke much later to the trail-scent of Aqua Net. My sister spent her entire life longing to be a mom; like our Dad, she is the nurturer. I, on the other hand, once I could discern and escape from the imposed expectations of society, have come to see–and embrace–my role as a worker, like my Mom.
  5. #2, #3, and #4 combined with motherhood can be explosive. Unfortunately, I have been witness to women who have sacrificed their children on the altar of their careers and selves… and I refuse to be one of those stories. I would rather not have children and be committed to my career (even if it is the unpopular or unacceptable choice), than have children for having-children’s-sake, and not be able to give them my first-fruits. I know our society likes to tote that working mothers (or fathers) can have it all… and they can, perhaps, but at what cost? I refuse to pay that price.
  6. Though cognizant of problems, we like our life; we like each other. Dave and I went into marriage like most people do…assuming kids would come someday. But then 3 years passed, and we said, maybe later. And then 8 years came and went, and still we said later. But later has kept arriving, alone, devoid of the desire for kids. Like every married couple, we have problems, but they are problems that we don’t think kids will fix (in fact, we’re sure they’ll confound them); problems we know we can chip away at more successfully without little lives depending on us. Ultimately, we are best friends, best friends who like to be lazy and like to explore, best friends who like each other and the little life we’ve created.

Perhaps someday we’ll change our minds (or God will). And we’re OK with that. But for now, we’re enjoying living childless by choice.

present. thankful.

bc90113e29ef351de769933bf5fbbb79Early in the lonely darkness, I wake this morning with a heavy heart; how can the absence of Something, Someone weigh so much? As in yoga, I will not fight this pain’s strain; I will lean into it. I will stay present in the sorrow, to the grief. And even in this, I will give thanks. Yes because it’s a holiday, but also because it’s a holy way.

  1. Though I don’t understand it fully nor embrace it completely, grace is more powerful than condemnation, compassion truer than judgment. The Divine, at the deepest core and at the wildest edges, is Love. For this, I thank God.
  2.  I live in a cozy house in the mountains, on a wildlife corridor–a glory this suburban flat-lander only imagined in daydreams. This house, once another’s outdated debt, has been made our beautiful home by my husband’s raw talent. For this, I thank God.
  3. I live and laugh with my best friend, a man of generosity, grace, strength, humility, adventure, athleticism, authenticity, wildness, industrialism, honor, spirituality, intelligence…love. For this, I thank God.
  4. I had a special relationship with my Dad. From playgrounds to cardinals to Frank Sinatra and Yanni to walks to movies, our spirits were woven together. Yesterday in the car, just like him, I whistled along and sang off-tune to a Christmas song. In his absence, he was with me in that car, in that moment. For this, I thank God.
  5. I had a special connection with my Mom. Our stories were written from the same words. When those stories are told now, in her absence, it is not only me–it is my husband. As we threw out bacon grease this week, we looked at each other knowingly, remembering and resurrecting Mom’s conniption fit at such a waste. His relationship with my Mom was a rare and precious gift, now a majestic river bird hovering above and between our love. For this, I thank God.
  6. Though my parents are gone, the utterance of “Mom” and “Dad” still floats up from my heart to glide across my lips. Dave’s parents hold a special place in my life–far greater than the empty label of in-laws. For this, I thank God.
  7. I go to work every day alongside people who fight for social justice. I teach students who teach me. I gift the power of words through stories that matter. My job is a ministry of empowerment for which I am equipped. For this, I thank God.
  8. My sister gets me. We are cut from the same cloth. Reunited by grief, our friendship’s foundation has solidified. For this, I thank God.
  9. I have friends of the soul variety. Tammy, who has been beside me and inside my spirit since I was 14. Laina, who when I am with, listening to her stories, makes me feel like I’m with my Mom. Libbi, who gifts me with the call to presence. These are but one small glint of a massive web of glittering connections spun around me. For this, I thank God.
  10. My body is strong and capable. My legs can take me to the hidden heights of the Rocky Mountains; my spine can bend and bow into peaceful poses of meditation; my lungs can fuel me through 13.1 miserably momentous miles. For this, I thank God.

Like beads on a Mala, I count my blessings. There are far more than this list; there are far more than I recognize with my eyes or name with my voice. For this, for the unseen and the unnamed, I thank God.

what I wish I would have known as a newlywed

This post, just like this one, is a part of the Synchroblog series, a group of diverse bloggers exploring through words what matters. This month’s prompt: If I could go back in time and tell myself something I wish I knew…


262678_10150279061752813_8244195_nThis month marks the 12th(!) marriage anniversary for my best friend and I. And like all relationships, ours was born of a certain context which defined the paradigms of “us.” Our marriage nearly ended after it begun; some of those paradigms created the toxic battle ground on which we almost imploded. So if I could, I would go back and redefine some of those paradigms.

Paradigm #1 Redefined–The only role you should adhere to is the one that works for you, for him, and for the both of you. Spending my formative years in a radical, conservative church meant that I was designated, as the woman, to be the “helper.” I was not to lead; I was to follow. I was to be subdued, with a gentle and quiet spirit, beside my man, nodding gracefully as he made the decisions. This fostered so much disharmony in me. I was a natural, dynamic leader…who needed a man to get anything great done.(?) Nothing in me was quiet and gentle. These innate abilities led me to question God frequently and doubt my role in His Kingdom. “Why would you make me like this, if I just have to diminish it, if I can’t really use it unless there is a man in the picture?” As one could imagine, all these predefined roles and the oppressive weight they carried walked down the aisle with Dave and I. Our natural personalities, obviously oversimplified, were: me, loud and obnoxious, the life of the party. Dave: quiet and pensive, the servant behind the scenes. And always I felt condemned by “the Biblical role,” for those roles were opposite what they were supposed to be!

After much struggle and maneuvering and talking, Dave and I have found our path away from those traditional, predefined roles. We just are. We just make it work. We navigate roles like some form of relationship code-switching. We are a true partnership.

Paradigm #2 Redefined–Let go of expectations. This naturally follows the first. What almost destroyed our marriage were the “supposed tos”.  He was supposed to lead. I was supposed to follow. He was supposed to make decisions. I was supposed to submit. He was supposed to come home to a warm dinner that I was supposed to have prepared. He was supposed to plan romantic date nights and I was supposed to give it up. We were supposed to have passionate, active sex lives. He was supposed to initiate and I was supposed to respond. He was supposed to seek leadership opportunities while I was supposed to stand behind him. We were supposed to have deep friendships. We were supposed to balance the art and science of being newlyweds while devoting exorbitant amounts of time to the church. He was supposed to do this and this and this as a model Christian, while I was supposed to do that and that and that. Dave and I were so consumed with what we were “supposed to be like” the first years of our marriage, we lost all track of what was actually happening and how it should be addressed. Most of our fights centered around:”well it should be like this, or I should feel this way, or you should be doing this…” The landmines of a marriage: should ofs and supposed tos.

The place we have come to now, thank God, is something along the lines of old adage: “we make the road by walking.” We needed to let go of expectations of what the road should be like and just be present together, carving it, stopping and rerouting after a good old-fashioned fight, napping along the way, noticing other roads without judgment, making and remaking companions, maybe pausing for fireworks–or let’s face it, just sparklers.

In the end, what I wish I would have known, is there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, or even an ideal marriage. The only thing that matters is two present people stubbornly committed to the  messy motto of: keep on keeping on.

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