he is one of the brave ones

After all the invisible confetti settled on the post-engagement ground in Brooklyn, I heard bits and pieces of the story that led up to the ultimate Easter proposal. Somewhere along the way, I heard about the conversation between Patrick and my Dad at the littlest steakhouse in Anita, Iowa. My Dad has never mentioned it, but Patrick shared a few things and I’ve stored them up in my heart.

Before my dad could settle into midwestern pleasantries and pretend this meeting was about anything else, Patrick said, “Dick, I’d like to marry your daughter.”

I suppose that set the tone for the conversation, but maybe more so when my dad said, “Patrick, I would be honored.”

I wasn’t there, but both men are great conversationalists so I kind of wish I could have been. In between the appetizer platter that I’m sure my dad ordered and the steak that is the best in the tri-county area, I guess they talked about life and marriage and love. I don’t know exactly how it came out, but at some point my dad shared this encouragement with him (and he paraphrased it for me):

Patrick, not many men want to pursue a strong woman these days. They are afraid or intimidated or something, I don’t know. Cindy is a strong woman and I am blessed every day that I chose her to love. And Caroline is like her mom – strong. 

It has taken months to let this conversation sink in – that Patrick flew to Iowa to ask my dad if he could marry me, that my two favorite men shared a meal, that my dad said I am a strong woman, and that Patrick loved me enough to pursue me.

I think my dad might be right – men are afraid to pursue strong women. I don’t always feel strong, but I know the Lord provides it in abundance. I am confident in a strength apart from me and maybe that looks intimidating – that I can say yes to crazy things or hard things or dangerous things because I know God has already gone before me and will sustain me with His faithfulness. I was humbled to hear my dad say he sees strength in me; humbled because it is the grace of God and it has much to do with growing up in his home.

More than that, or at least equal, came the realization that Patrick is one of the brave ones. He, too believes God is faithful and strong and sovereign. He is not afraid to pursue a strong woman and that makes me love him ever so much more.

Tonight, we are going to take my parents out to dinner to celebrate 35 years of their marriage and to celebrate the beginning of ours. We are strong women, I guess (by the grace of God), and the Lord has blessed us with brave men.

We will always be learning about God’s design – the way marriage reflects something beautiful about who He is and how He loves us. Today that lesson seems to be about God’s grace to give strength and bravery in order that two can serve one another and give God glory for His provision.

updates from Gram

These are my favorite and so I can only guess they would be your favorite, too. Take a peek into my favorite correspondence and see if it doesn’t leave you grinning from ear to ear.

/CAROLINE  we are seeing all these pictures from the East Coast, especially the ones about New York.  How are you?  Have you been able to get around> The pictures and stories here on the TV are awful.  Schools, office buildings shut down, the roads are emply!  Then they show us other cities that have been affected.  Guess we have lucked out again.  We have had the really cold weather but only a minimum of snow.  And our 93 yeaar old friend, is worried about her grass and the perrenials that come up each spring.  Another neighbor Bobbie and Harold were planning to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Sat. now yesterday she went to the dr. because she had such a severe cough and he hospitalized her with whooping cough. Oh, dear!!!!!!!  Grampa and I are fine , a little bit of the sniffles.  Bus and van driving going along as predicted.  Want to hear some stories?One  third grade girl gets off the bus and tears her homework up and lets the wind take it.  Another one threw up in the aisle and the kids climbed over and under seats to keep from stepping in it.  One of his kindergarten girls was in the pee wee wrestling  tournament.  She  won, she lost, she cried.  Remember us telling about William when he was at his first tournament and he wrestled his friend and won.  Then when the other kid cried leaving the mat, William walked with him with his arm around him.  Caroline, do take are, stay warm, hug Patrick, and bake something.  One of these days the snow will quit and you will miss it?   Here in Griswold, people think we need more moisture as the ground stores it up for the spring and we have not had very much snow.  Much love, Gram and Gramps
I have read it three times (twice out loud) and it is still the same kind of wonderful.
I’m fine, Gram. I hope your friend’s perennials are not too affected by the weather and I hope the kids on Grandpa’s bus will stop throwing up in the aisles and throwing homework to the wind.
I also hope you both get over the sniffles super soon.

The Feast of the Resurrection

It’s not a thing, yet.

Easter usually looks like pastel outfits, higher church attendance, and some version of ham taking center stage at the Sunday dinner table. At least that has been my observation of Easter in mainstream Christianity over the years. And even in more serious circles, Easter is always situated on a Sunday so that means less paid time off to reflect on deeper things.

The Feast of the Resurrection is not a thing, yet. But it will be this year, April 18-20 in my Brooklyn apartment, and you are invited. This is something Patrick has talked about for years – he believes Easter should be bigger than Christmas and certainly bigger than Thanksgiving. And I am all in. Regardless of what traditions or work schedules tell us, we know Easter is about death dying.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Jesus’ death and resurrection changed the course of our earthly and eternal lives. This seems like it deserves more than pastel colors, festive ham and a theatrical production on Sunday morning where a faux tomb is rolled away.

Enter the plans for The Feast of the Resurrection, a three day event with meals and Scripture and music and laughter. Slow mornings and lively afternoons and precious times gathered around a table to break bread, drink wine, and remember the life we were given when Christ conquered death on the cross.

If there was ever something to celebrate, it would be this gift. If there was ever a reason to cancel all plans to throw a big party, it would be to remember this event.

And so, it is happening. The first annual Feast of the Resurrection and I am already giddy with anticipation. I hope my preparations in Lent this year will look a little different, with this celebration in view. I am excited to see this vision of community and fellowship and joy spill over into a new tradition.

It’s not a thing, yet… but it is about to be and you are invited!

real life is in the flatlands

(I wrote this in the Chicago airport but the complimentary Wifi ran out before I could publish it. So, here I am at 1 am back in my Brooklyn apartment posting my last Christmas entry.)

Real life is not vacation.

It’s not the slow, beautiful weeks spent in between months of regular workdays. Real life is both I guess, but today I go back to the flatlands because there is nothing mountaintoppy about living regular life.

I’m making pancake monday plans and texting all the folks I need to meet up with and brunch in with and dream big with. I’m dreaming up new chalkboard designs for the business owner down the street and I’m summoning courage to fight regular fights.

Because real life is in the flatlands.

I read that phrase in my advent devotional yesterday and I’m convinced it will be my theme this year. Jesus was born a baby to no pomp and circumstance – certainly not to all the ceremony we give to this time of year – but then he grew up regular. He lived life in the flatlands. He worked and walked and greeted neighbors. He sat down to dinner and learned how to work an anvil in the woodshop. He participated in traditions and went to family reunions and walked through the markets and had sleepless nights.

I’ve noticed that on vacations and at family gatherings, conversations always seem to circle around to bigger questions about purpose and calling and hope. There is a herd of elephants in the room inside questions like, “Is this it?”

Because being engineers and doctors and teachers and ministry leaders and salesmen and bankers and non-profit workers and hourly wage earners… well, that’s something. But it is certainly not “it” or there wouldn’t be so many elephants. We all know that no matter how successful or stagnant our lives feel, we can’t ever win a bigger prize than what has already been offered to us.

That prize already happened. He was born in a manger and we just celebrated His birth. And He is holding all things together until we walk into eternity by His side. He is why life in the regular means anything and why it means everything. Christ holds life together (Colossians 1:17), all the ordinary everyday-ness of it, so that His glory is proclaimed.

Christ is with me now in the flatlands of real life because He has already lived the flatlands before.

I’m headed back to Brooklyn with a lot of questions. Every regular day in the flatlands is not exciting. Sometimes (most times) my days are just regular and I know God loves to make His name great in mangers and woodshops and plain, crowded city streets.

to look up and believe that anything is possible

We were all little underneath the bigness of the tall trees in the Virginian forest, but she was the littlest. Emma was an easy and obvious target for our attention, frolicking her 2-year-old self in the colorful, autumn glory.

I got a little bit caught up watching her eyes dart from leaves to trees to path to playground. I got a little bit caught up chasing the heels of her adventure – a present and ready endeavor. But it wasn’t thoughtful or intentional, because the adventurous spark in Emma’s eyes was intuitive.

What else would one do with a perfect autumn day underneath tall trees filled to brimming with all colors of leaves?

Emma told us, “I’m gonna fly to the treetops and touch them!”

And before I could think to say what I felt (Yes, yes you are!), she mustered a jump and extended her fingers above her head to squeal, “got one!”

Of course she did.

Today, a man was slicing up a giant fish on the sidewalk when I walked by the 2/5 train stop on Winthrop. Today, the sun melted into hot pink on the horizon as I watched from the subway platform on Crescent Street. Today, my students said I looked like I could be from the Bronx or Staten Island. Today, I watched my laundry eat my quarters and swish around in circles while I chatted with my laundry friend Mohammad.

Today, I lived in the city, far away from tall trees and wide eyes, but this past weekend I dropped off the city grid to walk on forest paths and step into the wonder that just comes naturally when you are two feet tall.

Of course she thought to touch treetops. And of course the treetops were within reach.

The world of treetops stopped being reachable somewhere in my adolescence. I guess I started to shrug it off when it became unreasonable and ignorant. I’m not sure how it became less okay to dream, but it just kind of happened. I’m fighting it, but it happens often in my concrete corner of the world.

I’m fighting it, but I need lessons with Emma in the Virginia forest to remind me about mystery and imagination and touching treetops.

Because the people here are mostly more than five feet, so they have forgotten what it is to look up and believe that anything is possible.

 

lemme give you some advice

I know, you didn’t ask for it – but it’s comin’ atcha anyway. You don’t have to take my advice, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t.

Don’t ever (no matter how confident you feel or how cool you look), EVER point your rollerblades down the hill in the middle of the Iowa State campus by the MU. Seriously – don’t do it. You might end up with matching 5 inch abrasions on either thigh, a twisted knee, a banged up elbow, and a severely bruised pride. Yes, that happened.

Apparently, I won’t hit my humility quotient this month for quitting my job and moving across the country without a job or an apartment. Everybody needs a good spill every once in a while, even if just to remember that walking a normal straight line without a limp is a precious thing that should be appreciated. The wipeout was unfortunately epic and witnessed by several innocent bystanders. Don’t worry – I jumped up quick and bladed off so they didn’t feel awkward about leaving a struggling, crashed blader spread out on the pavement.

But, let’s get serious (because all my advice isn’t rollerblade-related).

I had dinner with my Uncle Tom tonight because I’m crashing at his house again – this time for just a couple weeks. It was home for a year, so living here again feels like putting on a favorite pair of jeans. Right now my favorite pair of jeans is literally soaking under an ice pack, so I’ve got time to process some of the wheels spinning circles in my mind.

We talked about belief tonight over drinks and guacamole and pizza and lettuce wraps – about what kind of belief pushes out fear and worry and anxiety and shame. Because we’re all believing something, Tom said, but we’re not all believing the right thing. And it’s true.

Only the right belief can displace all the ugly monsters wrestling for space in our hearts. Only the right belief is comfort when you realize all those catchy phrases your fifth grade teacher told you about “shooting for the stars” sound way easier inside the imagination station.

Only the right belief about who God is will give us the right belief about the power of our circumstances.

I’ve had my share of breakdowns. I am familiar with the questions that pound like downpours. I know the rhythm of a panicked heartbeat.

But there is hope in the middle and not just on the other end of all these wrestling wars for my peace. It’s never about getting over a phase or through a season or on top of the details. It’s never about any of that because it’s always about having the right belief about who God is in the middle of it all.

He is Protector.
He is Provider.
He is Comforter.
He is Healer.
He is Peace.
He is Joy.

And He is not these things only when my life makes sense – He never changes. If I believe He is who He says He is, then my belief makes room for joy where ugly monsters once wrestled for my peace. By His grace, I believe He is Protector enough, Provider enough, Comforter enough, Healer enough, Peace enough, and Joy enough.

He is SO ENOUGH that in this uncertain slice of August, the joy is bursting out my rollerblade seams and climbing into my borrowed bed.

He is that good. And He never changes.

I believe, I believe, I believe.

And my right belief about God is jettisoning my doubts as I pick up more trust in the One who overwhelms me with joy.

long obedience in the same direction

Here’s an excerpt from my post over at Of Dust and Kings today (go check out the full post if you want the rest):

Christ, who holds all things together, offers Himself to be savored and then promises to make us look like Him.

My parents didn’t know just how narrow the gate and hard the way would be as foster parents, but they didn’t sign up for a short spasm of passion that they could forget after a while. My parents signed up for the long and tedious work, committing to trust God’s grace to light the way for their next step on the hard way. They aren’t doing it perfectly, but they are daily looking more and more like Christ.

If you want to hear Gary Haugen’s talk from The Justice Conference that inspired this soapbox of sorts, check it out below. The last few minutes are worth watching, so if you only have a bit of time start from 41:30. You won’t regret it.

I wrote previously about my parents’ experience here: “mid-life: exchanging crisis for calling” and here “the opposite of mid-life crisis”.