when identity is anchored outside of worry

It started like a subtle uneasiness, bubbling somewhere between my bulging belly and my disappearing collarbone. I am not nervous, exactly. Lost, treading, hidden, furrowed, heavy… but not exactly nervous. Whatever it is beats in the blood stretching out toward my fingertips.

“I am alive,” this baby reminds me with a flutter. I watch the rise and the fall, the ebb and the flow of the new life hidden in me that is starting to hide my toes when I look down. It must be so dark in there, like the sea or outer space or the deep underground. Someone once told me that my emotional state affects the babies I carry. But then, I was pregnant in grief and birthed a joy child. So, even if this baby is perceiving my emotional waves or my pregnant negligence, there must still be hope.

Can this baby feel my strange worry, hovering just above the first home God is building around his/her life? Or maybe the refuge inside this womb is absolute – a formidable, soft fortress against whatever ails me on this side of birth.

“By the way, you are evil. That is half the gospel. That’s half the gospel, you are nothing.” – Tim Keller

Um, thanks Keller. That’s like one of those demotivational posters, but way worse. I need affirmation and approval and good vibes. The antidote to strange worry, I am almost certain, is not a giant wa-wa-wa.

Baby is twirling now. Oh, little one – does your home feel like a safe place to dance? And swim? And dream? And be? Do you feel like you are nothing inside there? Does the whole or the half of the gospel reach you?

Do you have my heart condition already – the one where you constantly need approval and good vibes only? In a talk on Galatians 6, Keller calls this heart condition “empty of glory,” which is to be desperate for recognition and affirmation. Because, according to Romans 1 and 2, deep down we know we were made to serve and honor God and nothing else.

It seems unreasonable for the baby inside me to be empty of glory while also being so close to it, knitted and formed and covered by Glory Himself. But then, I guess, the knowing is knitted in, too. We don’t begin to know we were made to serve and honor God. It’s a knowing that’s just there like blood and cells, I guess.

Imprinted on us, between the DNA and eternity, is a knowing that God is full of glory and we are empty of it.

But back to that demotivational, half-gospel before pregnancy brain unravels me completely. I am nothing – disappearing dust, withering grass, a whole year of my life passes like a sigh (Psalm 90).

And I feel the dissonance. It is 6 am and I am hungry. My body is growing in mass around this baby. All the cells on top of cells amount to something or my eyes and all my clothes are playing bad tricks. Also, this strange worry. Something chemical or physical or emotional or maternal is making my brain and my heart crazy. It is not nothing.

Galatians 6:3, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

So, I guess this is different – this nothingness. At the root of things, deep in the underground of it, I want to know who I am and (maybe more) that who I am is important. And, in this particular moment, I want to be seen and recognized and known for all the complicated, strange worry that I cannot explain. I am not even sure how to ask for this kind of knowing – for something to crawl into the space between belly and collarbone and sort it all out. 

 “Nothing will heal your heart except God looking at you and saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” Keller says. We are wired to want to hear those words. And not just from a Prime Minister or the Pope or Bey. We are wired to desperately want to hear those words from our Creator because His approval upon us matters more than anything else. And in our sinful search to find approval, fill the empty glory, and feel that we matter, we see a distorted view of creation. Our eyes are too clouded to see the people who need care.

Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I can’t see to serve the toddling dancer who just dunked her cookie in milk before leaving it in a mess on the plate. I have no vision for friends and neighbors, each with bodies full of burdens, and even my husband fades behind my need. I cannot fulfill the law of Christ – to lay down my life for others. I cannot serve because I am in the middle of a constant search for who I am, hoping that who I am is important.

I still can’t find the words for this worry, but (praise Jesus) the words, the whole words, of the Gospel have found me.

And it is offensive. It is offensive to everyone, because everyone is empty and looking to be filled. Everyone is looking for affirmation – assurance that we are something and something important. Ideally, we want this kind of affirmation without God getting involved. We want to be so much something that we have enough to give away. But not a single person, even the most generous, has enough substance to serve out of abundance instead of need. 

But, God.

And Jesus. And the cross. The Gospel uncovers all the ways we look for recognition and approval in other things, but then it offers Jesus – our only hope of feeling the full approval we were designed to crave. Because, in Christ and “at the heart of creation and redemption,” says Keller, is Jesus saying “my life for yours.” At the cross, He embodied love in sacrifice. And, in Christ alone, we see past our need to be something so that we can offer all of who Christ is to the people around us. Real abundance.

Is this strange worry a tangled mess of approval seeking madness? I actually have no idea. But I do know that it is my human heart condition to swim inside it – to let it define, even a little bit, who I am right now and what I need. It is human to convince myself that, because I can’t explain it, it is incurable and requires endless and special attention. 

There is no darkness – anywhere – that is resistant to the light of Truth. The cross makes the midnight shine like noonday (Psalm 139). It anchors my identity outside today’s strange worry and enables me to offer abundance when I am completely empty. The cross is my only boast and battle cry, because apart from it I am nothing.

squash for zucchini | another episode of pancake mondays

I still want to make this recipe from Girl Versus Dough for zucchini corn pancakes, but it didn’t happen last night because Patrick couldn’t find zucchini when he went on the Pancake Mondays grocery run.

I was gone from 7:01 am to 6:20 pm yesterday and Pancake Mondays technically starts at 7:30. I received the “zucchini not found” SOS text before I left work, so I picked up what I could find (butternut squash – same gourd family, right?) with a gift card from the wedding. Every recipe seems to go that way on Mondays – a little bit prepared, a little bit improvisation, and a lot of Amelia Bedelia when measuring, substituting, and smooshing a small crowd of helpers into our Brooklyn hallway/kitchen. It’s good to be in the new swing of things, hosting friends, neighbors and strangers as a full fledged duo.

Our good friend Joel arrived early and insisted on cutting peppers and doing dishes. Patrick handled the bacon (as per usual) and also all the apartment clean up (as per the new usual and my sanity). We met several new neighbors, who just graduated from FIT and who heard about Pancake Mondays from our other neighbor Elsa. She has been known to promote our little breakfast-for-dinner gathering to anyone who will listen. Elsa reminds me of my grandma, and not just because she brought over the most adorable wedding gift (a set of towels), but also because her kind smile makes me sure she loves well. Our friend Ben provided philosophical kitchen banter and our friends Aaron and Christina came over from Patrick’s old apartment building to complete the crowd.

This is the stuff of Mondays.

Zucchini corn pancakes morphed into butternut squash griddle cakes with roasted peppers, southwestern black beans, sour cream and salsa. We dreamed up the bacon fried brussel sprouts for our gluten-free friend. And then when people kept hanging around, I sent out green grapes, watermelon and homemade orange julius for dessert. I love it when the kitchen feels like a restaurant. Anyone who insists on helping will hear me ask from the kitchen, “How does it look out there?” and “What do people need?”

My fondness for a full house and abundant table probably comes from my Grandma Avonell. Her eight children remember well her grace in adding places to the large oval table that now sits in my parents’ dining room.

We don’t have a large oval table (it would never fit if we did) and I’m sure I don’t have her grace, but every place we live will definitely have an open front door for neighbors, strangers, and friends. The joy of hosting gatherings is really too much to keep it closed, anyway.

According to our marriage manifesto, item number 7: we will host Pancake Mondays at least once/month. According to marriage manifesto, item number 3: we will never get cable. I think the two are probably related – with such brilliant company, I don’t know how anything could be better entertainment.

 

getting comfortable with being ordinary

The oatmeal wheat dough is raising in the oven and I’m on my 13th cup of tea.

It feels like someone just boxed my ears and if I knew who it was, I might just let loose some Scrooge on them. But, I don’t and that’s probably better. The upside of this whole sick thing (because there is always an upside) is that there is bread dough in the warm oven and I’m on my 13th cup of tea.

Making bread is a big commitment and probably why bread machines and bakeries and sliced situations are so popular. Who has hours to linger around a warming oven and who has patience to knead a ball of dough for 6-8 minutes? Few people.

And it might be easy to make assumptions about those few people with that kind of time on their hands – that they are smaller or less important or less interesting. Those ordinary folks with rugged hands and simple lives.

I’d like to be that kind of simple folk – just ordinary, you know.

I’m not saying I don’t want to be great or that I don’t want to pursue the passions buried in my gut or that I don’t want to marvel and chase dreams. I’m not saying that.

I just never want to make life more complicated than it was when God sent a celestial choir to a group of simple folks hanging out in the fields. These were the kinds of folks who spent long hours doing ordinary things and these were the kinds of folks God wanted to tell about the Savior’s birth. These were the folks who heard it first, in a glorious arrangement of God’s best choir.

Anyway, there are a lot of lights here – buildings and shops and trees lit up for the holidays. But the lights are always on and people are always working, always getting ahead and afraid of falling behind. The lights are always on and people are always looking for something other than ordinary.

I know I get sucked in just like everyone else. I want people to know me and like me and appreciate my creativity. But there is wisdom inside this slow day. And wisdom in an ordinary life, the most ordinary there is, that can point more easily to a Savior who makes all things glorious.

It was not the shepherds – their stature or accomplishments or reputation – that made that middle of the night song so superb. It was the Lord who sent the host of angels, the Lord who made the starry night display, the Lord who wrote the music and the Lord who directed the song.

Maybe if we can get comfortable with being ordinary, we’ll be more prepared to hear and listen and participate in what God is orchestrating in these days.

I’m going to go pour another cup of tea and see if I need to punch down the dough.

free printable | JOY

Welcome to the newest addition to MIM: printables!

I am SO excited to collaborate with my best friend from college Meghan French (freshPaige) for this new endeavor. I love her style and zeal for life that comes out when she laughs and mothers and encourages over the distance of three states.

We thought that we would take what we love and make something wonderful to share. I’ll be giving Meg quotes from the blog and then she’ll be transforming them into something people will want to frame, pin, post, and print. She works magic and I’m sure you’ll agree. I’ll be collecting the different printables in a tab up top, so check back for more in the coming weeks.

We’re excited and we hope you are too! Make sure you check out Meg’s stuff on freshPaige for all your custom invitation needs!

Here’s our first collab, ENJOY!

joy is in full bloom
joy is in full bloom

slow moments on Sabbath days

Today was not a silent Sabbath. It felt packed to the gills with morning and church and company and projects and movement. It almost felt like all of today was in motion, almost.

Gram and Gramps came up to tour our place and to lend a handyman hand for some of the little projects we’ve got going on. Of course, they came bearing boxes and gifts, odds and ends they’d assembled from their basement that we might have use for. Grandpa almost had the drill running before he took his coat off, madly determined to finish all the projects.

It felt weird to host them in our house – to welcome them into a space I desperately want to be as comfortable as their little house on the corner.

What is it about my grandparents’ home that makes it so wonderful? Those two steps up the landing before I swing open the wooden door in the entryway are always filled with anticipation. It doesn’t matter if I’m stopping by to pick up jam or sitting down to share some of Gram’s amazing beef stew.

I love it.

And so, I wondered today what it would take. What is that thing that makes a home feel so good and safe and welcoming? Like it’s a good time to tell stories and drink coffee slowly and spread a board game across the table for the afternoon. It’s that thing that quickly convinces that you are not in a hurry.

I want to have a home like that – where even the most packed of Sabbath Sundays have slow moments.

Hm.

Maybe that’s it – inviting people in to share slow moments with you. When all the rest of life is rushing, it’s about being still and knowing who is sovereign.

Maybe that’s the it thing.

 

the opposite of mid-life crisis

Some couples graduate into their 50s and revert back to their adolescence. Isn’t that what a mid-life crisis is? You know, extravagant spending and adventures because it’s “all about me” and I’ve got to a have a cultural norm to explain it?

Vomit car exhibit two

I know, I know.
I can’t possibly empathize because I’m in my late 20s and I don’t understand how practical and mission-minded expensive motorcycles are. But, I have a reason to pick this middle life bone. My parents are having the opposite experience. They would never tell you that, so I’m going to.

My parents have hearts the size of Texas and they are constantly looking for ways to grow them even bigger. Recently, my mom sent me a text that said, “What would you think of us fostering two freshmen girls?”

She had to expect my response would be, “Yessssss! Of course!” I mean, as a sophomore in college I sent my parents pictures of children who were awaiting adoption in the state of Iowa. Clearly I would be in favor of the idea, but I’m always in favor of dramatic life changes if they are in the direction of ministering with the gifts you’ve been given.

Then I talked to my dad. He was counting the cost – thinking about how his house would change and family gatherings would be different. He was thinking about curfews and possibly inviting two people to be part of our family forever. He was considering his role as protector for my mom who has spent herself in giving to others. He was counting the cost and it made me consider the magnitude of the life-altering adjustment.

I heard my dad’s prayer requests for unselfishness. I heard my mom’s prayer requests for these girls to have a future. I heard both of them ask for hearts enlarged to fit God’s purpose for them at this stage in their lives and I’m humbled.

My parents will never tell you they’ve got it figured out, because they don’t. Their lives are evidence of their humble posture toward what God is calling them into next. I count it truly a privilege to learn how to love my Lord better alongside parents who are doing the same. This might be the best lesson they are teaching me.

The opposite of a mid-life crisis is getting intentional about serving others to the point where it hurts… it means adjusting your life in a way that’s painful so that others might benefit. There’s never a stage in life where you arrive and can say, “At last! Comfort and relaxation and vacation.” That is not a life stage in God’s development plan for your holiness. It just isn’t.

The beauty is that the pursuit of holiness – the forever life stage – is also the most rewarding and satisfying way you can choose to spend your days. That’s not my guarantee, either.

“In His presence is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

when home is hard to… define

If you ever want to get good and sad, do a search in your iTunes for the word “home.” I trimmed the playlist to 50, but that’s 3:30:06 worth of accompaniment for where I’m not.

I’ve got quite the assortment – from the Peasall Sisters to Coheed and Cambria, from Matthew Mayfield to Waterdeep and from Eliza Doolittle to Trent Dabbs, from Mark Scibila to Iron & Wine and Mates of State to Sarah Jarosz. Simon & Garfunkel even make an appearance, followed by Phil Wickham and William Fitzsimmons.

And they are all singing, desperate and hopeful, about home.

I can’t really explain it, but these melodies rustle up a restlessness that says, “You’re not home in this moment” and it doesn’t even matter where my feet are currently planted. I could be standing in the middle of my childhood home or lounging in one of 10 places I’ve called “home” since then and it wouldn’t matter. There’s something distinctly not home-y about life and there are reasons to be discontent about it.

Come on, join in with me.
Throw your discontent in my kettle and we’ll stir us up some comfort food.

I’m not where I thought I would be at 27…
I really wish I had the kind of friends who…
It seems like nobody really knows me around here…
My laundry does not have the “this definitely came from my house” smell…
I can manage to go from Monday – Friday completely anonymous, if I want…
If only I could get away and have some time to think…
I would feel at home if I was a “regular” at the coffee shop…
Home feels more like a tractor when I’m at an office desk and more like an office desk when I’m in a tractor…

I don’t know what makes where you are not home, but it’s a funny science – this discontent. I think I realized as my heart beat along with the rhythm of these tunes that I need to add home and here and there to the list of “things to hold loosely.”

When we are tempted into discontent about the place we find our two feet (for all the pages of reasons we rush to number), it’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to sing sad songs about home and speak our discontent into the unforgiving air.

But discontent will become our sin when we hold too tightly and hope too strongly for what we don’t have…. then discontent becomes a bitter root or a seed of jealousy. Our comfort in the most desperate, sojourning moments is that our always home is not attached to location or city or nation.

In those kind of moments – when I think about all the places I am not – I breathe deep and trust that God is.

If you need to speak your wandering, sojourning spirit into the unforgiving air today, here are some tunes. But, please, don’t hold too tightly or hope too strongly for what you don’t have.

You have an invitation to always home.

Here is the one you listen to when you realize where you are always home.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

wherever your feet are planted in this moment