double surprise | double love

Two nights ago, Patrick and I were walking home from one of our favorite places in the neighborhood.

He was gnawing on a 5 pound vegan chocolate spelt pound cake log and I was slurping the last bubbles out of a decaf iced coffee with almond milk under perfect summer clouds. Emily, the owner and our new friend, wouldn’t let us leave without giving us that giant loaf and Patrick’s sweet tooth couldn’t wait to try it. He had just moved the last bit of his belongings into my little room in my little apartment and I had just picked up the most adorable plantable wedding favors. We were a sight at that café on the corner of Midwood and Rogers, clicking through lists and speaking assurances and sharing our fears that all the celebration will slip by too soon.

Anyway, the funny thing about all that emotional commotion in the coffeeshop, is that we parted an hour later – him to go to the gym and me to go for a run, with plans to meet up after he got his hair cut. Nothing extraordinary or special about the night before he was to leave for Iowa.

Meanwhile… I had been planning a surprise for him on the roof of his building with a bunch of our friends and neighbors. It was organized like a ragamuffin. As I sprinted back from the park and jumped in the shower, I kept up text conversation with everyone to make sure nothing was spoiled. I confirmed the plan with the neighbors, dropped off blankets and ran to the store to pick up summer snacks (watermelon and finger foods).

I showed up to his apartment in one of my new white dresses and I blushed when he said I looked nice. I have to find reasons to work all the white into my regular wardrobe in order to justify cost per wearing (thank you 4-H). Anyway, after our friend Rebecka made him look extra handsome in his new haircut, he suggested we go to the roof.

I thought he was playing right in to my surprise until HE surprised me with stargazing and proposing a second time with the perfect ring that finally came back from the custom jeweler. I said yes the first time, but I melted all the same when he started listing the reasons he wants to love me forever. And there we were – just the two of us looking at the big ole Brooklyn sky – still on this side of marriage and claiming every moment for joy.

Then I texted the neighbors (who I thought only knew about my surprise) and up they came. Patrick was so confused as they all filed out through the door. We had the most wonderful gathering of folks we love – huddled around candles and covered in the Brooklyn night sky.

roofparty

Aaron, our friend and neighbor and the most faithful pancake Mondays eater, said, “When I found out you were both surprising each other on the same night, I said ‘Of course. You would do that.'” Of course we would double surprise each other, using the same friends to make it happen and confusing them all. 

And it’s okay for love to be like that, just wild and ridiculous and ready to tackle naysayers.

It’s good when love makes a double surprise that ends with friends glowing on a little roof in Brooklyn. I’m learning that not every love proclamation needs to get results or have a purpose. Sometimes, gifts of love are extravagant and just because.

This is how God lavishes His love on us – it’s His kind of plan to double over surprises without condition or desired result. There is no reason to overflow a glass that is already full. A glass can only hold so much and a heart can only receive so much love. But, God loves us abundantly “just because.” He overflows us where we are full and where we are empty. He sustains us where we think we need it and where we think we don’t. He is unbelievably faithful and kind – too much so. He is good just because He is good and His love makes me melt.

This is the kind of love we want to double in our marriage – the ridiculous, ‘just because’ kind of love that brings glory to the only God who could author it.

 

we are chance creators

There is this thing in soccer called “chances created.” It’s a statistic that tracks how many times a soccer player has created chances for plays. I heard about it yesterday at church because our pastor’s favorite soccer player is known for his “chances created” statistic.

And this matters because the friends of the paralyzed man in Matthew 9:1-8 were about creating chances. They knew that carrying their friend to the door of the home where Jesus was preaching was not enough. The crowd craned their necks from all windows and doorways to see and hear the teaching; there was no way to get their friend to the front where Jesus stood.

Oh, sure, they could have turned back and no one would have asked why. But they were about creating chances – they were determined to get their friend to the feet of Jesus because they thought something unbelievable could happen.

There was no guarantee, just a chance to witness something beautiful.

And that belief was big enough to motivate their deconstructing a roof and their Macgyvering a lowering system to interrupt Jesus’ teaching with the presence of a disabled man.

The presence of Jesus was that important.

They created a chance for their paralyzed friend to meet Jesus because they believed it could change his life forever. Even just the chance was worth the sweat and trouble and questioning stares. Worth it.

Do I think getting uncomfortable and awkward and tired is worth the chances it creates for others to meet Jesus?

Good question.

Sometimes I waste time weighing out my options. I wonder if the invitations will be received well and if the conversation will be offensive. I wonder about future conversations and wonder if I will keep or lose friendships. I wonder about looking silly and feeling ashamed. I wonder about how much the other person even wants a chance to meet Jesus.

But these guys, they were relentless. And when their paralyzed friend finally got lowered down with the Bible times version of duct tape and WD 40, Jesus surprised everyone.

He looked past the paralyzed man’s obvious and most debilitating physical need. He looked past the years of struggle and got inside his heart… and what He saw needed forgiving. Whatever it was, we can all relate. We are all the paralyzed man, inside. We all need to get to the foot of Jesus so He can expose what is dark apart from any physical anxieties that knot us up on the outside.

So, this was the man’s chance at the feet of Jesus – his chance to experience something that would transform everything else about his mat-constrained life. And then Jesus healed this paralyzed man of sin. He forgave him for all the darkness hiding out in his heart. That was the magic and that was the mystery – the play that happened as a result of the chance created.

After the crowd backlashed and questioned, Jesus also healed the man’s physical body so that “you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He is Lord over the spiritual and the physical. All of it, everything.

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” – Abraham Kuyper

This is why we are chance creators.

Because God is the best at unearned surprises – the eternal and physical, the now and future, the simple and complex kinds. He is the best at surprises and we must be about creating chances for friends and neighbors and strangers to sit at His feet.

We don’t know what will happen, but it will never be bad.
God will always be glorified and it will always be worth it.

Definitely love your local church, but if you want to be encouraged by mine, listen to this sermon from Sunday by Vito!

we are friends!

We lost track of time Friday night, circled up in that curiously high-ceilinged Williamsburg living room. Some were strangers and some were friends, but I am growing to love all combinations.

In high school, we had a phrase among my friends that may sound a little silly. In the middle of adventures or as a way to say hello/goodbye or just blurted out because it felt right, we would say, “We are friends!”

It feels foolish to type it out.

Of course we were friends. We spent every weekend together at the coffee shop our church bought for a dollar. We wasted gallons of gas together cruising the loop in our small town, hanging out the windows with punk and indie music blaring. We crowded into basements and bedrooms and living rooms together to watch movies or play games or just to be.

Anyway, something about that statement bubbling out of all the things we did together made our friendship beautiful. And it still is. We all think it is a miracle, really. The group of us from the rural backroads in Iowa are now carrying on shenanigans in different parts of the country/world but whenever we get together it’s the same excitement and “We are friends!” comes rolling out.

Last weekend, our good friends Dusty and Barb were visiting from California. It was kind of like hanging out with the rural backroads of Iowa, even though Barb was born in New York and grew up in California. Friendship is funny that way. It is a wave rippling out from the ocean, reaching further and further up on the sand.

At least that is how I felt driving upstate with Dusty and Barb last weekend and that is how I felt sitting in that curiously high ceilinged living room Friday night in Williamsburg and that is how I felt huddling around a table at Rosamunde Sausage Grill last night at 1 am.

Honestly, my high school friendships are still the best kind. That’s a miracle. But, I am always surprised when I want to blurt out the same silly exclamation when I am far from home. That’s a miracle, too. I leaned in to tell a story to three new pairs of shoulders Friday night and my delight made me squeal. I was so excited to be in their company – to consider them friends – that it came out like adolescent giggles.

It shouldn’t, but sometimes it surprises me how good God’s good gifts are. Friendship is one of those surprises. I never expect for the friendship wave to reach further on the shore, but it always seems to claim more ground.

And even though it takes energy my heart says I don’t have, I always end up squealing with delight – on rural backroads or crowded city streets.

miracle: a guest list of practical strangers

Let me tell you about a miracle that happened last night.

It happened in one of those warehouse-turned-apartments in Williamsburg because that’s where my new friend Schuyler lives. That’s the address we took two buses to find because the trains were a mess.

She’s been here three months, a transplant from San Diego and she happened to be sitting behind me at church a few weeks back with her friend and recent transplant from Texas, Grace. Grace lives far from Williamsburg on the Upper West Side, but the two of them work at Patagonia in Manhattan. When I turned around for the “passing of the peace” we almost instantly talked like old friends. We followed up after the benediction and in those short 10 minutes we had exchanged numbers and agreed to throw a pretend thanksgiving party together.

I didn’t try to temper the excitement I felt. It was more like we were reconnecting than just meeting for the first time, more like we couldn’t wait to get back into the groove of friendship than just starting a series of awkward introductions.

Because this is usually how it goes:

“Hi, nice to meet you… what was your name?”
“Caroline, yes so good to meet you – have we met before?”

“I’m not sure but good to meet you again, now what do you do?”
“I work for a non-profit in Cypress Hills, working with middle school students. How about you?”

“I’m a freelancer (video editor, producer, photographer, actress, animator, painter).”
“Wow, that’s really cool!”

“Yeah, well good to meet you – again, I guess! We should get together sometime.”
“You too and that’d be great!”

It sounds pretty normal, if it only happened once. But it’s a constant conversation in this city because how does anyone have time to follow up with people, to invest time and treasure, to sit down and listen to the longer version of stories? So, instead, we run into people at church or in the apartment hallways or at the corner store and we have these same conversations all over again.

The emails flew across the interwebs in preparation for our pretend thanksgiving. We shared the recipes we would be “trying out” (because everyone needs a practice run before setting the real Thanksgiving dinner table) and confirmed the date/time/address. Invitations went out to more people and our pretend thanksgiving party of practical strangers grew to ten.

Yes, strangers throw parties together and this is what the menu looks like when they do:

To Drink:
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Mulled Holiday Wine
Pinot Noir

Appetizers:
cheese and meat plates
fresh sourdough bread
bacon wrapped dates

Dishes to Pass:
buttered, roasted chicken
mashed maple sweet potatoes
cornbread stuffing with mushrooms and herbs
roasted butternut squash with brussel sprouts
fresh bean and couscous salad

Desserts:
Classic Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie a la mode

What makes this a miracle? you might say with your skeptical spectacles pulled down on your cynical nose. Well, let me tell you.

may have been the only photo snapped all night... too many other wonderful things to think about
may have been the only photo snapped all night… too many other wonderful things to think about. My new good friend Grace is taking the picture.

Ten brand new friends held hands around two pushed-together-tables last night to say grace over a delicious spread of humble, homemade offerings. Ten brand new friends laughed and toasted and slowly savored small kitchen victories on paper plates inside the concrete city that never sleeps. Ten brand new friends reclined with full bellies, drawing the joy of the night out into the morning.

This is a miracle.

God made a way for friendship – for ten new friends to linger over fellowship and to let laughter seep out the warehouse windows into the night.

He planned and ordained gatherings such as these before we ever made our first introductions. I imagine His delight as we act out the miracle He authored in friendship – as we celebrate around a table and enjoy one another.

Delight is the taste on my tongue this morning – Lord’s delight and mine (I imagine) are intermingled as I think about the next menu, the next guest list of practical strangers, the next gathering to glorify the One who ordained friendship in the first place.

Coming soon: the Amelia Bedelia kitchen experience leading up to the pretend thanksgiving party.

an empty seat where I should sit

He said it so casually I didn’t realize why I was smiling.

“….don’t mean to sound curmudgeonly…”

I think my brain giggled with delight a bit and when I went back to retrieve a reason, there sat “curmudgeonly.” It was more than just that word, but it could have been just that word as well that tickled my imagination like the first sprinkles of a storm. The conversation rolled on and the excitement came like waves on waves.

What is this? This thing that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t make money and doesn’t return anything but bubbling delight that wells up from my innermost soul? And how can I get more of it?

C.S. Lewis spoke of the unique chemistry of friendship that exceeds our efforts to manipulate a similar result.

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” ― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

This man on the phone is still a stranger, but I can confidently say his words were no accident – even if just to wake up a part of my imagination that should not have been sleeping. As we talked about writing and creativity and living slowly to savor the beauty, it was like seeds scattering on freshly wintered Spring soil.

This one silly, long-syllabled word was that dusty ray of light peeking through a crack in the door to salute the sun outside. After I hung up, I stopped pacing the floor to look at my scribbled notes. What a beautiful and funny thing, language. It is reminding me there is an empty seat where I should sit among those who act as instruments through which God reveals His beauty.

This. I need to do more of this and talk with people who bring out the beauty of God’s fingerprints in me while I watch God reveal His fingerprints on them. 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

handwriting

Whatever happened to all that penmanship our elementary teachers hounded us about with dotted lines? All those rewrites and all that time spent with my tongue hanging out to get the curve just right. Whatever happened to handwriting?

A few days ago, I got a letter in the mail. Well, not technically in the mailbox, but in my email inbox. I glanced at the message from a dear Honduran friend, but didn’t stop to click on the attachment. I knew it needed more time, so I postponed until today.

I found this letter after clicking on the “document.pdf” file and I’ve probably read it a zillion times since.

There’s something about pen to paper that can’t be imitated in typed script. No number of fonts can capture the haphazard curve of the “s” or the way the “i” doesn’t have a dot hovering over it’s rigid line.

There’s something very special about handwriting and about the kindred spirits who use it to communicate a stronger emotion than can get lost on the keyboard.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy