Monday, November 16, 2015

fun

I did a study on personalities recently, and people with the personality type that best matched mine supposedly “have trouble focusing on boring things.”

Oh HAHAHAH I don’t relate to that at all it’s just exactly what my problem is every single day. I swear to you, I cannot clean and cook within the same week or my soul shrivels up and dies. It’s either a cleaning week or a cooking week and no matter how many tricks I try, this is how it must be if I am to stay nice and pretty and humble.

Even though we have been together for quite some time, Husband Luke is not as aware of my personality “quirks” as one might expect. Bimonthly he insists on educating me about four wheel drive, and I swear I CANNOT LISTEN. He just says “blah blah blah” or whatever (don’t really know, not listening) and then gets sad when he quizzes me after and I cannot relay any of the essential information. I feel kind of bad about it, but WHY IS HE TRYING TO KILL MY SOUL? Adelaide was playing with a toy car that said, “4WD” on it, and Luke was explaining to her (even though she is 19 months old and only cares about cats and crackers) that this means four wheel drive, a.k.a., his favorite topic to talk about especially with people who don’t care. Of course I thought “4WD” meant “forward” in cute texting lingo, and when I shared this information with Luke, he stabbed a fork in his eye and ran away from home.


Now that my two bebes keep me nailed to the house with their adorable little figurative hammers while Fork Eye is away at work all day, my compulsive need for fun stuff has gotten very out of control and is possibly making me crazy. So I fixate on odd tasks like making their donut and milk Halloween costumes, and then my conscience is like, “How did you find time to do that but every item of clothing in the house is dirty?” and I’m like “hey Conscience, you know if you talk to me about laundry I will forget to pay attention,” and then she's like blah blah blah or whatever. I don’t feel too bad about it because creativity is soul food, and souls need to eat. I want my soul to be nice and fat.

I think too many of us have skinny souls. I think we forget to have fun, or we feel guilty about having fun, or we care too much about being cool to have fun. (Here's how I feel about being cool.) Or we get confused and think fun is best served in a red solo cup, and the plastic cup becomes a crutch. 

You know, God invented laughing and dancing and singing, and I think He wants us to do that stuff. I wonder if He’s annoyed that His people keep forgetting that He came up with fun in the first place. I’ve heard it said that the heart of worship is joy—so I suppose we should probably be joyful, and I suppose that a life of joyful worship may require bit of fun here and there. Or maybe even a lot. 

I always tell high school students that I don’t think loving Jesus means staying home with their theoretical cats on Friday nights while all their peers have the red solo cup kind of fun. Shouldn't we, who know that plastic cups do not hold the joy we all crave, show the way to that joy? If the most creative of all creatives is our God, if the inventor of laughter is the one we pray to, shouldn’t we be having more fun than anyone else? Shouldn’t we be drawing people in with our smiles and parties and sense of humor rather than alienating them with aggressive Facebook statuses? Was God kidding when he said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22)? 

I mean, I think we can all agree that the world is hurting. Maybe the world needs medicine.

Monday, November 9, 2015

don't be cool

Dear Adelaide and Greer,

If you don’t know already, I think the two of you are the most fantastic human beings on the planet. Really. Your dad and I agree that there’s no one we’d rather hang out with than the two of you, and that’s a fact. Every day you get a little bigger, and we get to see a little bit more of who you are, and you know what? We like what we see. You are both so cute and funny and sweet that it makes me worry that my heart will explode like a confetti cannon and you’ll just have a messy confetti living room instead of a mother.

But here’s the thing to remember as you grow up: Don’t be cool. Just don’t. Coolness sounds like a good thing, but that’s a lie. The truth is that coolness is kind of a soul killer.
I remember a friend I had in elementary school. We always had a blast. But middle school happened and then coolness happened. (To her, not to me. I looked like this:



Yeah yeah yeah that's me, the crazy one in the middle holding hydrangeas for no apparent reason. As a side note, babies, people with frizzy triangle heads are not traditionally cool. Genetically, this may be your fate as well. We triangles have to learn how to be funny and then sneak in the back door of cool.  Which takes longer.)

My friend’s new tribe of people didn’t smile much, but when they did, it was a scary smile. The kind that makes your face turn red and wonder if you have something in your teeth or if your shirt is stupid or if you laughed too loud. The kind that makes you feel small and reminds you that you have fuzzy triangle hair.

I wanted to be in her tribe. Like REALLY bad. That’s the funny thing about cool. It pushes you down but you still want to cuddle up to it. Remember that, babies. You’ve got to always be careful around things that don’t hug back.

Cool shows up in different ways as we age, so you’ve got to always keep watch. Here are my theories:

In middle school it’s wearing the exact same thing as everybody else. In high school it’s appearing simultaneously low maintenance and hot. (Both are necessary. If you’re hot but not low maintenance, you’ll be mocked, but being low maintenance and not hot means you are irrelevant.) In college it’s being casual but carefully branded. (Specifically for us it was Polo v-neck t-shirt + J. Crew short khaki skirt + rainbow flip flops + Coach crossbody purse. Man oh man.) Post-college I think it’s just pretending to have your life together and never break a sweat because hey we are ADULTS now and we really need to appear to know what we are doing. A good job and the ability to take good Instagram photos doesn’t hurt either.

So in each stage we try to be cool, and when we pull it off, we feel vaguely superior and awesome, and that’s nice. But here’s the thing, babies: Cool takes more than it gives.

Cool takes away from who we are. It makes us forget ourselves, forget the things we like, forget the things that are important to us, even the silly stuff. Like how I kept forcing myself to listen to the right music to avoid the dreaded, “I can’t believe you’ve never heard this song,” but then one day, I realized that all I really wanted to do was listen to the soundtracks of like five Broadway musicals. So sorry babies, that’s why our car rides are not particularly cool, especially since more often than not I’m listening to an audio book and that’s even worse. Or how at some point it struck me that I had been trying really hard to not like pink too much because it seemed uncool to be so girly. Then I realized OH MY GOSH SHUT UP I LOVE PINK and my college friends gave me a pink KitchenAid blender and I named her Ms. Nancy Bobo, and we are best friends.

The other thing about cool is that it takes more than it gives. That’s one of my main takeaways from being a teacher and a student pastor’s wife—kids who want to be a certain kind of person find it nearly impossible in the face of coolness. And when they have to choose between who they want to be and coolness, they almost always choose coolness. Sweet girl and sweet boy, I hope you choose differently. The way you date, what you do on the weekends, who you hang out with – don’t let coolness decide. Coolness is bad for your soul. Be careful.

You know what’s better than cool? Weird. Weird is better. And Real—Real is definitely better. And Happy. Happy is better.

Be weird, be real, be happy, my sweet babies! Right now you laugh hard and smile big and dance silly. Don’t let coolness take that away from you. From us. You bring so much joy just by being you.

Love,

YOUR COOL MOM!! (JK sorry)

Friday, November 6, 2015

monotony


Anton Chekov supposedly said, “Any idiot can survive a crisis, but it’s the day-to-day living that gets you.”

Monotony is a scary thing—something that potentially threatens our parenting, our marriages, and our spiritual lives more than life’s crises.

I knew I was suffering from monotony when my 18-month-old daughter got barfed on by a random kid at Mother’s Day Out. My reaction was weird. I was giggly about it. Eventually I realized I was kind of excited—excited to have a story to tell. (Mother of the Year!) It’s because now all of my days are pretty much the same, and I don’t usually have much to tell. The lack of content is frustrating for someone like me who needs to say 50,000 words a day to stay sane. So I milked that barf story for all it was worth, and it’s pretty good, if I say so myself. Ask me about it sometime.

But some days we aren’t lucky enough to have our daughter barfed on. Some days are just a blur of yes-banana-no-banana-throw-banana and picking up the same toys over and over again until suddenly it’s dark outside and tomorrow’s to-do list is today’s identical twin. It’s the baby who will never NOT need a diaper change, the toddler who wants to read the same book over and over again. It’s having a friend ask, “How was your day?” and realizing you have nothing at all to report unless your friend happens to be interested in your children’s bowel movements or cute new trick. (Some friends are, thank goodness.) Sometimes monotony feels a lot like a lack of purpose, a lack of worth, a lot like that Greek myth of the guy who keeps rolling the giant stone up a mountain over and over again for all eternity.

But monotony is not just a stay-at-home-mom thing. It shows up everywhere. Often it’s a marriage thing. It’s the snatched conversations of calendars and trash day and I-thought-you-fed-the-dog. The huff over yet another sink full of dishes, inviting a silent contest of who’s the most tired (but it’s not really a contest if no one wins). It’s the absence of newness, of romance, of the whirlwind. And eventually the absence starts to feel pretty heavy. It makes it harder to pay the bills and harder to make up the bed and makes the pile of laundry seem a lot bigger than it actually is. It makes the baby’s cry pierce and the dog’s bark boom. And in relationships, carrying around heavy stuff doesn’t produce muscle, it produces resentment. Resentment is a silent boil, a monster with gritted teeth who sits right there in the living room, between two people who pledged to love each other even when they don’t feel like it. But that was easy to say twenty pounds ago in a white dress in front of a crowd of smiling supporters. It’s a bit harder to care on yet another inconsequential Thursday night on the couch with unwashed hair and hands fused to an iPhone.

Sometimes monotony settles dangerously deep into our hearts. It’s regurgitating old wisdom to a friend in need because we don’t have any fresh insight to offer. It’s mentally making lunch plans while singing “All my hope is in You, God” and “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” “How deep the Father’s love for us/How vast beyond all measure” is a beautiful melody but not much else. How could it be, when we’ve heard it a million times? Jesus asked us to drink his blood and eat his body in remembrance of murder, the death he endured on our behalf, but the request no longer jolts us. We’ve settled into the tradition of juice, a cracker, and a quick prayer. Monotony makes us forget that “Power in the Blood” refers to actual blood that was actually spilled by someone who suffered that we might LIVE.

Oh hear this, dear one—on a regular peanut-butter-and-jelly-for-lunch Tuesday, on a how-long-have-I-been-watching-Netflix Thursday—hear this with fresh ears:

He is making all things NEW (Revelation 21:5).
He called us out of oppressive darkness in his marvelous LIGHT (1 Peter 2:9).
He endured the unimaginable that we might LIVE (John 10:10).

Monotony does not have to win. Our hearts do not have to beat in rhythm to life’s humdrum. They can beat wildly because our God is in the business of NEWNESS and LIGHT and LIFE. He gives meaning to the menial, breathes life into monotony.


How grateful I am for a God who believes in joy. A God who believes we matter:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you." Psalm 139:1-18

(A passage God laid on my heart when I was anxious about and in labor with my son, Greer, a time when I couldn’t forget how much I needed Him. The parts in bold are the parts that always made me cry. Guess it’s a good move to try to remember what He pointed out when I couldn’t forget Him.)