when the city fades to watercolor

My regular Wednesday plans got canceled about halfway through the work day and they were beautiful plans. The five of us get together to share / encourage / challenge / laugh / pray and it’s called Club, named after the way older ladies in my rural childhood would meet up for coffee on simpler afternoons. We all love Club, so it didn’t feel right to just leave my Wednesday night empty.

Three hours of work, a couple phone calls, and two train transfers later, I was meeting up with Patrick on Bowery Street for dinner. It felt a little cliché, making dinner plans in Manhattan after work on Wednesday with the man of my dreams, but this is the real life I’m living right now.

And he is the best dinner companion. We share laffy taffy jokes and theology questions in the same conversation… over fancy mac & cheese. I don’t receive compliments well, but he gives them anyway while I blush and squirm in my seat.

We swap work stories – inside jokes from the photo shoot at a corporate office and the student at my work who was researching (for fun) the difference between weasels and ferrets. Somewhere in the mix of laughter, we talk about the beauty of trusting God’s promises. It was a carry-over conversation from Tuesday night’s home group discussion on the centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:5-17.

What does it mean to have faith that what God says is true? And what does obedience look like if we believe Him?

We took turns saying, “I don’t know” and “but maybe it means…” and dinner went by slowly.

Our well-groomed, hipster server had to be curious when we prayed before the meal and when our conversation topics jumped from food to theology to relationships. But our little conversation inside that little restaurant on the Lower East Side made the rest of the big city fade to watercolors for at least a while.

There is something special about believing God’s promises with someone else. It is good to get lost in the mystery of our Creator – good to be in awe and good to not know it all. We went separate ways at the corner of Bowery and Delancey and I let the city look different on my commute back home.

This morning I woke up thankful for slow dinners and dreamy Manhattan plans and when the big city fades to watercolors for a couple hours with a most amazing man.

hey love, why you gotta be so hard?

Sooner or later, twitterpated wears off.

Maybe some dating couples sneak into marital bliss before this happens, but I’ve heard few of those true tales. I’m still asking around. But when the twitterpated wears off, by some miracle, I’m supposed to remain satisfied in my first love while trying to love someone else well. Truly, this love dance must involve miracles.

Because all of a sudden, it’s not just about moving across the country to see Patrick more than once every couple months. All of a sudden, it’s about weekly routines and juggling independence and fighting demons well hidden in my singleness. Turns out, I’m not as flexible or as humble or as generous as I had made myself believe.

Turns out, being supremely content and fulfilled in the Lord is not a milestone you run past toward a far off finish.

Of course, I knew those things when I was flying solo. I knew where joy came from and that it never runs out and that I need new doses every day, all day. But somehow in the mix of a cross country move and getting to know an amazing man, I forgot.

I forgot that God has called me beloved and I am His. I forgot that His promises are trustworthy, but His trustworthiness only feels abundant if I believe it. I forgot there are pleasures forevermore in His presence. I forgot that depending on anything or anyone else for life and breath is foolishness.

I’m living through that lesson – the lesson that love is hard. Unattached, involved, or committed forever – love is hard. The vantage point does not matter, because the object of our highest affections is most important. If I really believe that His love is best, my heart is full before I go on a date with Patrick and before I miss him when he is away. My heart is full because I am called beloved by someone who has the power to grant true contentment – the kind you can sigh into on a snow day in your favorite flannel shirt.

Being satisfied in Jesus is a miracle, but it is not an event.

It is not a part of my chronological love story, the part where I say, “…and then I just felt so content to be single…” God’s provision is too good and His love is too precious to be a tick mark on a timeline. I’m learning a lot, about being vulnerable and honest and bold as I let someone else see my messes. But what I’m learning most is that I will only love well if I love Christ first.

When I want to be selfish or sassy or secretive, the answer is not to love Patrick better but instead to love Christ first. When I feel insecure or scared or anxious, the answer is not to expect Patrick to hold me up but instead to believe God already has and promises to remain steadfast. I’m learning I am just not strong enough to reform myself. It never works out in the end.

The crazy thing about this whole humility lesson is that it frees me to really enjoy the gifts in front of my face – like his laughter and our spontaneous adventures and the way he says, “Hey” when he opens his apartment door. 

Being satisfied in Jesus is a miracle and I hope my heart is always ready to receive it – unattached, involved, or committed forever.

So I kind of get it, I guess. Love has to be hard because we would miss out if it was easy. We would not see how brilliant or sovereign the Lord is when He orchestrates the miracles that make love happen. If love was easy, my heart would forget completely how much I need a perfect Savior.

if my heart wrote my soul a telegram

This is, ahem, very personal. If that makes you uncomfortable, you might want to read something else today.

Remember in the Sound of Music when Leisl tells Rolfe about the telegram she would write him as they exchange teenage love declarations in the gazebo? She started with, “Dear Rolfe (stop)” and then he called her a baby.

If my heart wrote my soul a telegram yesterday, it went something like this:

I have two fears (stop)

I wasn’t prepared to feel what I felt or to feel it so intensely. But, the telegram didn’t get sorted until about 11:00 pm last night when I finally stopped the repetitive rhythm.

Yesterday, Patrick and I trekked up to the INHABIT conference on the Upper West Side, sponsored by the International Arts Movement. We listened to plenary speakers and attended breakout sessions with several hundred other folks from across the country who care about the ways art intersects with faith and how that translates into culture care.

And in the middle of all the note-scrawling and introductions and processing, I realized I had never invited someone into this space before. This very metaphysical, very precious and precarious space I had tucked deep away where it couldn’t get broken.

Maybe it’s what a comic book junkie feels at a comic book convention or what a car enthusiast feels at a car show or a musician feels about the symphony. I know I’m not the only one who feels uniquely at home in a very unhome-like space because I am surrounded by people who speak the same language.

This is what I feel when I pack my notebooks and pens, when I check in at registration, when I listen to the philosophical implications of architectural structures and the words communicated through a brick used in its traditional function or adapted for a new purpose. This is what I feel when I am around people asking questions about beauty and meaning and longing – people who wrestle and wander and wonder because it feels right to do so.

Eric Liddell’s painful conclusion in “Chariots of Fire” paints well the picture of this affection and deep delight, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

I’m not sure how exactly God made me – I am not fast like Eric Liddell, nor am I particularly brilliant in a profession, nor am I an established or even struggling artist.

I just know that when I work the muscles in my brain and respond with the muscles in my heart and typing fingertips, I feel His pleasure. I feel His pleasure in a strange and not altogether happy way, but in a way that I do not feel anywhere else. There is a familial comfort in knowing that other people want to use the same language, to plumb the same depths, to wrestle the same lions – believing it is a worthy pursuit and even a pursuit that reflects and delights our Creator.

These types of gatherings have been home to me for years and there are few people who share the same affinity. But that’s never mattered before. I do not expect people to understand this language and I’ve learned to filter my excitement and my conclusions and my muddled processing.

But yesterday, the fear-filled telegrams pushed up behind my eyes. I felt a bit like my self-confident exterior got cracked like an egg and all my fear dripped out. So, I have two fears.

I am afraid of being misunderstood.
I am also afraid of being dull.

I am afraid that my love for beauty and questions and doubts and language and words (and all those things I have hidden in a precious and precarious place) will not make sense to the person I love the most. I am afraid words won’t come and when they do, that they will tumble out incoherently.

I am also afraid that my rambling and circular processing and childilke chasing will make my favorite person bored. I am afraid he will not enjoy the moment in a superlative way and that his lesser enjoying will be my fault.

I am not saying this is rational, I am just saying this was the telegram that I was finally able to communicate to Patrick last night after we rode his motorcycle out of Manhattan. Between sighs and frequent pauses in our late night, neighborhood pizza joint, I tried to explain that I didn’t need him to love what I love or to understand why this language feels like home. I explained that I didn’t need him to be someone who loves conferences and note-taking and the cultural implications of the functionally changing purpose of bricks.

I just don’t want to feel crazy.

I just want so much for him to experience the superlative delight I feel when I’m around this language. Whatever that is for him, I want to say yes to it. Part of what pained me yesterday was thinking that I had asked him to live less in the full delight God prepared.

In his typical and patient way, he told me I wasn’t crazy. He really said a lot more, but I think I just needed to hear that I wasn’t crazy and that I hadn’t ruined his day by making mine great.

I didn’t expect to learn this lesson along the way of love. I really didn’t expect to struggle so sincerely, but I guess I didn’t know how precious or precarious this language was to me.

And in this lesson learning, I am bending to the beauty of Christ’s love. Alone, I can hide things and keep them safely hidden. Alone, I can pretend my vulnerabilities are transparent and my guard is appropriate. But in love, I can see how tenderly Christ completes my affections – how perfectly he understands my needs and how patiently he provides.

I did not know my soul required this kind of care and I was overwhelmed yesterday when I realized Christ has been caring for me in this way all along.

As I receive love (by way of opening up my hidden spaces), I can boldly believe it casts out fears.

Two fears is too few, but it was the number needing cast out yesterday and I believe Christ is able. Not only that He is able, but that He promised to be the One who casts out. I believe that.

I am so thankful for these hard lessons, for these painful purgings of what I didn’t know was hidden.

My uncle sent me the above song today, a song I have returned to when I need a reminder of Christ’s sufficiency. Today was a beautiful day to be reminded.

the Light by which I see anything lovely

This Saturday is perfect, down to the perfect timing of a perfect rain after a perfect rollerblade in the park. Too perfect?

As we walked around the Farmer’s Market this morning, my friend (and aunt) mentioned that she and her husband had noticed the rose-colored glasses I’ve been wearing on this blog lately. Apparently, my rosy shades make every post sound too perfect. Can e-v-er-y-thing make a smile stretch across my face?

She said something like, “I mean, you are always joyful… but this sounds different. We can tell.”

My aunt and uncle are two of my most favorite people in the world. Their hammock chairs on the back porch have hosted some of my favorite conversations. They are also numbered in the very small army of people who suffer through this blog regularly. So, when they say they can tell my tone has changed, I listen.

As it turns out, twitterpated is a real thing. You know, from Bambi? I’m not sure it happened to me quite like this, but it might be why everything looks so rosy. Maybe.

But, can I get personal? I don’t do this often… or ever, I guess. I try to keep things at a healthy, ambiguous distance when it comes to life’s precious details. I probably overshare about spiritual inspiration and my embarrassing escapades, but I tread more carefully when it comes to love.

Oh, I can write about singleness all day. It’s been my life for – well, for most of 28 years and it is a beautiful place to be. Truly. And I am not just saying that to encourage my lady friends who get sick at the twitterpated spring season. I believe singleness is beautiful for the same reasons I believe being in love is beautiful. All beauty springs from the same well, which is maybe why it’s hard to get specific.

all beauty springs from the same well

There is a story to tell, though. It’s actually still being written, but I guess I’m wearing rose-colored glasses in this chapter and maybe you’ll want to look through them, too…

When a certain young man from out of town showed up on my doorstep, I forgot I had known him for 16 years. I forgot that he knew my heart so well. I forgot how our laughter made so much sense together.

After a week wrapped in prayer and blessing, he said a lot of things, but this one thing was what really melted my heart. He said, “Care, I know that you will always love the Lord more than you love me. And that’s what I love most about you.”

Maybe that doesn’t sound romantic, but it reached a place in my heart Hallmark will never find. Yesterday, I said that same thing about him, but to my boss as I explained why I would be moving to New York City soon (she assumed it was because he was so good looking).

Yes, love is a many splendored thing. It can make bad days and good days feel like heaven days. But, there is an anchor for my soul and it is not this many splendored thing called love. It is not this love that is chasing away my fear of the future and anxiety over unknowns. It is not this love that wakes the sun and illumines the moon.

This love that melts my insides is merely a reflection. A very wonderful reflection that does sometimes make me feel light as a feather, but is still a reflection of the greatest Love that is every bit of the security and joy and abundant life I seek. It is more than weak-in-the-knees and more than twitterpated seasons. This greatest Love teaches me how to love by way of brokenness and sacrifice. Jesus was broken, battered, and bleeding so that I might feel His greatest Love that brings me to repentance and restoration. Forever a sure and steadfast anchor of my soul.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19, ESV

I wish I could say I will always love the Lord more than I love Patrick. I wish I could say I’m not swayed by being weak in the knees. I wish I could know that I will never get swept away with my own ideas and expectations of this many splendored thing. I hope all these things will be true of me and true of our love.

But, then I remember how an anchor works. I remember that God is a promise keeper and my hope is secure in His promise to make me holy. He is my sure and steadfast anchor when my soul is silly in love and when my soul is drowning in heartache.

His love is the Light by which I see anything lovely.

And yes, this twitterpated season is very lovely. I smile more and giggle often and I do all the things I thought I was too rational and down-to-earth to do. But, all beauty springs from the same well, whether you’ve gone to fetch water for one or two. And I know that this beauty is about discovering another way the Lord is good to us.

Love is what has brought us here
with the courage to come near
chase away our pride and our fears
with the Light to carry on

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

my heart will never not be His

There is not a depth that can reach the deeps of the excellencies of Christ.

Not a friendship or a family or a lover or an ocean avenue view; not a single created thing can plumb the depths of His glory or compare to the riches of His grace.

There have been times when I’ve wondered if I lack a very womanly and essential thing. I’ve wondered why I am not more emotional or more dramatic or more anticipatory about love in this life. I have wondered and worried why I am not wooed by the chick flick storyline, waiting for my world to shift when a dapper young man spills his drink on me downtown. I have wondered why I am not a hopeless romantic.

I have, up to this point, credited the amazing men in my life as largely responsible for my (mostly) reasonable approach to relationships. They still get kudos, but I realized recently why there is a steadiness in my step that is anchored as deep as the unplumbable depths: Christ.

I’m not trying to explain the pinterest-popular slogan, “a woman should get lost in Christ so a man has to seek Christ to find her” or some other version of the same idea. What I mean is… I am just content to be lost.

I do not need to be found by anyone else because the depths of Christ’s love are too deep! They go on and on and on forever. I am not singing with Beyoncé, “all you women, who independent throw your hands up at me,” so hear me out before you point and question my biblical view of complementarianism.

I am questioning the encouragement we give women to get lost in Christ as a means to an earthly end in a man. I was running around Gray’s Lake recently, considering my contentedness and questioning my relationship readiness when I realized,

“my heart will never not be His”

I remember my dad gave me a locket when I was thirteen. We were in San Diego on the “girl trip” that my sister and I took individually with him to mark our “coming of age.” It is as embarrassing as it sounds (well, more embarrassing was the camping trip I blushed my way through with my mom to listen to all of Dr. Dobson’s tape series on sexuality). The “Dad and me” version in San Diego was embarrassing (isn’t everything at 13?), but it was so very special. It was rare to have occasion to fly anywhere, but his being on the board of directors on the little rural electric cooperative made it possible for my sister and me to accompany him to (what we thought was) paradise.

He had left the details of our coming of age to the “tapes” (as us kids now call them), and instead over a nice dinner one night gave me a heart shaped locket. I don’t remember the exact speech, but I’m sure he labored over every letter. What I remember is something like this,

“Caroline, your mother and I love you very much. But God loves you more. This locket is a symbol to show that He will keep your heart safe until He sees fit to share it with someone else.”

I’m embarrassed to say gold was not my color as a junior high girl. The locket sat in a little chintzy heart shaped porcelain container on my shelf for years. But, that night when my dad shared his and God’s love for me, I started to understand what it meant to have a heart that is guarded and protected. I had trusted Jesus as my Savior at a young age and junior high was the first refining fire I blazed through, so knowing my heart was held in the hands of my Maker could not have been better news.

Though I can’t say high school and college were without drama, I rarely shouted girl power anthems with windows down and fists pumping the air. I think deep down I knew and believed that God had my heart and that was the safest place for it to be. I was secure, protected, loved, and cherished – even if those weren’t the words I would use to express it.

Now, running along Gray’s Lake in the too-bitter chill of Spring, I have peace that my heart will never not be His. Even when I do get married, my love for Christ and Christ’s love for me is the only and best anchor for my soul.

Marriage is one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s love, but it will always only be that: a picture. God’s love is the only thing that can reach the unplumbable depths and secure my spirit with an anchor that won’t disappoint.

My heart will never not be His and I trust Him to share or not share it.

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson and as I consider unmarried life at 28 years old. Read this related post: seeking the greatest Treasure.

 

grace for the grumps

I like my second job because of the people.

I like to ask questions about their lives and find out what makes them laugh. I like to listen to stories from their growing up years and I especially like when the stories keep going after the time clock packs it’s punch.

I don’t like drinking a fountain soda without any fizz.

What I mean is… I don’t like it when things that are supposed to be awesome, aren’t.

The main reason I’ve held onto job #2 is because of the relationships I never would have had otherwise. And I love it. I love biking through campus to get there, throwing out my hellos when I walk in the door, catching up with Jeremiah and learning about Derek’s newest future plans. I love meeting new co-workers and seeing them smile. I didn’t really know why the print shop was the only part-time work I could find in the city of Ames back in December, but now I’m convinced it’s because I needed to meet Jeremiah and Ann and Derek and Mike and Paul and Katherine.

They are the fizz in the fountain soda called job #2 and yesterday was missing the carbonation. I came in with my usual bounce, but fell promptly into a rut of work orders and frustrating design dilemmas and a case of the workplace grumps. All my answers were short and the space between customers was silent.

I fumed because I love my fizz (have you had ever fountain soda without it?) and then the dissonance got too great.

I punched the clock, walked outside with Ann and thought, “maybe the fizz is here after all.” I invited her for dinner and then to a prayer class at my church.

Later on last night, when my new friends Ann, Alyssa, and Nicole (all new or new again to Ames) sat around a table playing Taboo, I thought about all the flat soda I’d been drinking… all those days that seemed ruined because they didn’t go as planned. And then I thought, maybe it’s a mental thing. Maybe when I expect a day to go flat, it does. Maybe there’s a lot more fizz in my days and I just have to train my taste buds to recognize the flavor.

Maybe God grants grace for my grumps so that flat days still have fizz.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy