2017 Collins’ Summer Reel

Our summer was fast as it usually is.

We saw family and made new time for friends and bike rides. We fought because we were bored and drank wine while watching Netflix and the lightning storms roll over the mountain. Kyle worked so hard on the yard you would think he painted the grass green and we finally had flowers blooming in the right places. But the thing that I will remember most from this summer was how much we laughed, reminding me of our freshly married selves almost five years ago.

In the midst of family graduations, weddings, and camping trips, this summer helped us find our footing again. Because having a baby is really like leaving the country for a year and losing all sense of the person you’ve come to know as yourself. Every day, you must learn something new, try something new, ask something new, doubt everything you’ve learned and known, all while trying to have at least one adult conversation without zoning out or falling asleep with your eyes open.

This sweet summer, we strapped on our adult shoes and learned how to travel with a baby and camp with a baby. It’s a big deal, please be proud of us. We threw our routine out the window and let Logan show us how to laugh and be grateful for our lives.

We grieved the days of newlywed bliss while changing diapers and stepping on yet another trail of cheerios. But, in some weird way, this made us realize the need to be present over the last few months. To rest and find small, purposeful moments had to be at the top of our list because the bittersweet truth is we will only get one summer with Logan at this age. And I know there will be a summer down the road where I will look back at this one and grieve its passing, jealous of the mom with one baby to look after while I’m learning how to parent a teenager.

These are the days of Logan crawling and laughing at pretty much anything and reaching out his hand toward you when he’s talking to you. These are the days of finding babysitters, washing bottles, and slowly catching up on a good book (or my tan) during nap times. These are the days of putting a baby to sleep at 7 and then crawling into bed ourselves because exhaustion trumps spontaneity. And, these are the days of being married for almost five years, finding newness in date nights, and being grateful for the life we’ve been given together as a family.

These are not newlywed days and they are not new college days. But, they are good and make us feel greatly known.

We’ll never get this one back again and that makes it sacred and very much ours. There are a lot of moments not captured, but here are some that were.

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Turning 30

Today is the first day of my thirties. I still remember sitting with my roommate ten years ago when she was leaving her teens. We laughed about feeling old and felt like it was the end of an era (we also learned how to fit a FRIENDS quote into every conversation). So much has happened in the last ten years leaving me more nostalgic than I’ve ever been on a birthday.

I have a love/hate relationship with my twenties. They made me into the woman I am today by breaking me apart. The first half was a season of thick learning and growth followed by a season of being stripped of all my control, perfection, and hope. And somewhere in all of that, I found the difference between who I was trying to be and who I wanted to be.

Over the last year especially, I’ve noticed the twenties moving me out of their group. For the first time in my life, I’ve felt my age. I choose my couch over fun things the city is doing most nights, I say “no” more than “yes” now, I can barely keep up with social media apps, and I look forward to going to bed at 9.

Also, last week I walked the clothing aisles of Target three times through hoping there was an option between shorts that would reveal my full backside and shorts that would hide the fact that I’m a woman and have a backside. The struggle is real, people.

I’m actually okay with it. I’m learning to accept this season of little people and figuring out what’s most important to us as a family. It’s breathing life into me.

There are things I want to let go of and forget from the last ten years, but there are a few that I will pack in my bag and take with me into my thirties. So, I made a “Top Five Things I Learned in My Twenties” list, because I would live in a world of lists if I could.

  1. Imperfection. I began crumbling around age 25. Anxiety, depression, burn-out, and the daily reminder that I wasn’t perfect began spinning in my life while doing full-time ministry and planning a wedding. It was a season of Jesus teaching me His Presence and my dependence. Although I often felt like God was a bully pushing me down every day, I realized shortly after He lifted the weight that I deeply wanted to be imperfect and needed to welcome it into my life or I was going to become someone I didn’t like.
  2. I am loved. Speaking of that season, that’s right after I met Kyle. Proof that Jesus knows me, Kyle exceeded my expectations and ridiculous high standards. He had me from the first cup of coffee he made me (which was the first time I met him). He teaches me how to be loved and believe the best about others. He brings out my gifts and heart and also clashes perfectly with my sin, forcing me to deal with it. And, he has taught me how to laugh when I don’t want to. I need him and he is my favorite gift.
  3. Vulnerability. “Come Messy” was a phrase I read about 4 years ago and have held onto ever since. It begs me to let people into my unfinished story, fighting to be present in a world that loves to look and feel perfect. Losing the ability to fake my emotions has given me freedom to do life and ministry in a real way.
  4. Adult friendships are different. Leaving my college community and traveling a few states over felt like going to high school all over again. Who is like me? Who will I connect with? How long will it take to find “my people?” Every new season adds a different layer to friendship, too. Get married…less time. Change jobs or churches or neighborhoods…new routine. Babies…you’re a zombie, congrats. Jesus has slowly walked me through new friendships here and I’m still learning how to put in the work because unfortunately, we can’t all live in the same house.
  5. My thoughts control so much of me. I’ve had to learn and relearn how to take my thoughts captive toward myself, others, and situations. EVERY DAY. You can read me like a book. If I’m in a mood, ask me where my thoughts are because they’re likely in the land of insecurity and believing the worst. Practicing gratefulness for small things is what pulls me out. If I can’t find the good in the hard times, I’m not going to be able to find it in the good times (Rebekah Lyons, You Are Free).

Surely, I learned more but this is where I’m dwelling today. I feel as if the last ten years were a warm-up to what God is just beginning to do and that’s exciting.

Cheers to you twenties, I’ll miss you. But, not really.

 

Our Fourth Year

Can I start by saying this year was really hard?

I always look forward to writing for our anniversary. It’s a small tradition that lets me playback the fun moments and give purpose to the growing pains. But this time was different. Put simply, our hearts are fragile after walking through our fourth year. We’ve been bruised and stretched and we’re rolling into year five exhausted. As if God has been wringing us out like a wet towel, He’s taken every emotion, thought, comment, and situation to bring us to the rawest sense of dependence and worship. We’ve been our ugliest selves and our most gracious selves which makes it difficult to describe who we have become this year.

This was a year of miscommunication and bickering, not out of anger at one another but because we’re both really wounded. It was about counseling sessions and the kind of hard conversations that wipe your energy within ten minutes. Each night was tempting to numb out completely. We had to accept grief’s demand to ride itself out in our hearts. We’ve been spinning on a speed cycle, being forced to grow up in every way possible.

I’ve felt fear creep back into my life as I’ve watched depression set a tone over my husband’s heart. We’re not surprised by the sadness, that’s a known feeling. And fear is my well known companion that helps me wander in and out of circumstantial faith. It’s just that our emotions had new faces we had never seen before. Sadness was deeper, fear was stronger, and weary, well weary just sums it all up in one nice nutshell.

At least once a month, I ask how to reconcile our joy and grief. How do you experience the aftershocks of the death of a parent and the anger that’s only fixed by escape tactics while experiencing the deepest delight you’ve ever known all in the same day?

Being a pessimist at my core, I’ve struggled accepting good and bad in the same moment. It’s been an uphill battle to see grace in everyday life and then let that be enough.  But, as the Lord has made us come as we are and be what we’re feeling because we don’t have the energy to fake it, I’m seeing more goodness than not.

God knew we needed a baby this year. Though purely exhausting, we needed consistent reprieve in the form of a tiny human who could love us physically and emotionally. Logan helps us show up for life every day. We needed vacation time, family visits, stable finances, finished house projects, time off work. We needed to watch each other become the best version of ourselves in the form of a parent and we needed to get back to quiet living for awhile, binge watching shows and obsessing over our growing boy.

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We’ve been held this year. Jesus was always present when we weren’t. He handed out grace when we couldn’t do it anymore. He provided financially when we exhausted all options. He forced community on us, people who made room for themselves in our home and hearts. He loved us individually when we didn’t know how to communicate to each other. And He pursued us as a couple, holding our commitment and love in a safe place.

We’re not done, though I wish we could simply wash our hands of this last year and turn a new corner. We’ll forever have relapses as we press into tomorrow and the day after that.

We are sad and hurt and hardened and vulnerable. We are also strong and in love and receptive and thankful.

And I’m convinced God is telling some sort of beautiful story here.

“It’s a new year. It’s a new song. It’s the same mystery.” ~Drew HolcombIMG_0338

 

Dear Logan

Dear Logan,

Six months. We’ve had you for six sweet months and for some reason this seems like a bigger milestone than most. Like you’re about to grow up and be a little boy who becomes a teenager and grows into being a man in the next five seconds.

These last six months have been a blur and there’s a reason you aren’t created to remember anything from this age because you would surely be ruined by my projected fear, attempted control, and sleepless emotion.

You are my favorite little human, I hope you know, and I will forever be your student. You have an ability to teach me daily about what’s important, how to treat someone fairly and want the best for them, and that there is nothing more valuable than doing everyday small life with you.

There are moments from the past six months that I’ll never remember because of the haze we’ve been walking in. I’ll rely on countless pictures to recap our time together. But, there are moments like the one last week where the picture is permanently etched in my mind and heart.

A snow day phone call is always welcomed in our house and this one gave us a slow morning on the couch. I opened the curtains and held you while you grabbed my face with your small explorative hands. I felt Jesus there. He was both in the room with us, kissing our cheeks and looking out the window to point out the small beauties we hadn’t seen yet. And, He was outside watching us like a slow motion movie. Content, elated, and adoring us, He looked in and smiled as we did nothing to prove ourselves. This is life’s point sweet boy and I pray you have another snow day like this when you’re older and understand more.

You’ve crept into every part of our lives and changed everything. Something you’ll learn about me is that I love to decorate and create and fill your dad’s mind with projects for the house. I’m always putting something on the wall or making a new bucket list or writing on pallet wood to make me feel satisfied and accomplished. But, I’m never content and always starting something new within seconds of finishing a project.

That part of me has been on pause for the last half a year as I realized this morning that it was Palm Sunday and my usual Easter décor is still sitting in its box in the laundry room. Walking out to that room then made me see our chalkboard door with the words, “Merry Christmas” at the top with a bucket list of holiday activities.

You’ve created space for me to just be your mom and keeping up with the culture holds no comparison to keeping up with you. You’ve shown me what it means to be content and enjoy what I’ve created. And although I had help, you are my best creation.

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Someday, we’ll get back to those things and I’ll show you how fun it is to paint and write on a chalkboard. But, until then, let’s enjoy this season.

I love that when you make eye contact with someone, you grin big. I love when you sit on our bed in the morning as we get ready for work. I love how whenever the TV is on, you decide that then is your moment to talk loudly to us. And, I love that you laugh and you let your tiny giggle get the best of your tiny body.

You’ve become a little person since October and you keep claiming and defining your place in this family.

Here’s to six months of life, Logan. Don’t grow up too fast.

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Being a Mom

My heart is forever changed because of Logan. He’s wrecked me in the most beautiful of ways. On one of our first nights home, I couldn’t stop watching over him as he tried to fall back asleep. I knew I should’ve been resting before he woke up again in two hours, but there’s this matched awe and fear as you watch the tiniest of humans breathe. I needed him to be comfortable and I needed him to stay alive while I took my eyes off of him and slept. It was in those few moments at 3 am where I understood more of God’s heart for me and for my new son. As my parent, He was watching over me, making sure I was comfortable and safe and giving me peace.

And I wondered then if He loved me so much it hurt too. If He feels so elated when He simply looks at me yet extremely sad because He knows I have to experience pain. Does He really love me no matter what and just because and when I sleep and haven’t started the day or done anything to be proud of?

Yes. He does. It was all sinking in deeper.

Being a mom is hard and maternity leave is no vacation. It has revealed shame I carry and freedom I don’t live in. It’s made me weary from constantly being in tune with Logan’s “schedule,” emotions, needs, and feeling bad if I put him down because it “goes too fast” and I don’t want to miss it. I’ve been easily overwhelmed when interacting with people, by comments, by maintaining cleanliness, by giving myself grace, and walking in a new level of grief around the holidays. And let’s not even talk about the thought of going out with a baby (because let’s be real, that is one of the hardest adjustments to parenthood and I’m usually sweating by the time I get to my destination making me wonder why I even bother showering). Add in the reality that my brain is mush and I have little to no recollection of the conversations I’ve had in the last two months (other than saying “hi” a million times to Logan).

I fall victim to feeling like a failure and treat success as an idol. Over the past two months, I’ve needed to eliminate those words from my vocabulary. As I abruptly stopped a full day of teaching and ministry to doing every day with a baby, I kept coming up short in my mind, feeling not enough in every way.

Becoming a mom changed the bar on everything, asking me to surrender all the things I’ve placed my identity in and strip me down to the core that is a mess when given free time and no agenda. “Doing it all” couldn’t be my expectation of enough anymore. With every day being unknown and its own kind of crazy, it’s impossible to keep up with my standard of success.

I’m learning there is no such thing as the right way to parent or the perfect use of my maternity leave time. Some days I shower and other days I go to sleep with more spit-up on me than I thought humanly possible. Some days I feed the dog breakfast before it’s time to feed her dinner and some days I watch Netflix all day while waiting for Kyle to get home just to watch TV with him. And some days I read about Jesus and others I read Facebook.

However, every day I keep a little boy happy and alive and that is enough. This is the most successful thing I could do and it is nothing close to failure.

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And while my sole job has been to love my tiny human with everything I have, the Lord has been giving me perspective into His love for me, willing me to accept it, rest in it, and let it be the only nourishment I need for each day.

He watches over me like I watch Logan in his sleep, making sure he’s comfortable and breathing because I am His delight.

He is quick to comfort me in my tears and pain and restlessness because He loves holding me.

He lets me feel my pain from my choices because He loves me.

He meets my needs because He is always with me.

He listens to my cry for help and He answers me because He sees me.

He loves when I smile because He loves giving me joy.

He is patient with me because He is committed to me.

He loves me at every second and His love doesn’t alter because He created me.

He loves being with me; it’s His favorite thing.

Being a mom has changed me. And though every day is full of bittersweet moments lately, it all seems right and it all seems worth it. Our Christmas season has begged us for a slower pace with the simplicity of watching Hallmark movies and staring at out sweet Logan. It’s allowed healing to slowly seep into our cracks and point us back to our purpose.

“The drought breaks
With the tears of a mother

A babies cry is the sound
Of love come down
Come down, Emmanuel
He is the song for the suffering
He is messiah
The Prince of Peace has come
He has come, Emmanuel”

Light of the World, Lauren Daigle

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**Featured Image photo cred: Celeste Elizabeth

Becoming Something New

On April 14th, I wrote here about our third year of marriage, about feeling like we’ve been swimming in a deep ocean with no shore in sight. Little did I know that two weeks later, we would be forced under water by huge waves of death and grief and have to take the next however long to figure out if we were swimming down or up so we could grasp for breath.

The adventures I hoped for in this year and the dreams I had for our family quickly became hushed in the quiet and constant presence of sadness.

We had our ultrasound scheduled for that Monday, three days after the accident. We had been counting down the days until this appointment that would tell us if we were having a son or a daughter. We cried with joy hearing our nurse tell us it was a boy and simultaneously cried with heartache knowing he would never meet his grandpa. This was the first of many moments where we experienced the most extreme of emotions at the same time. And, this was the first moment when I realized I would be surrendering my ideas and visions to a new and unknown trajectory. My grief took a different turn from Kyle’s here. There would be different losses for both of us and we were about to head straight into the turmoil.

From dumb things like a fun gender reveal and slowly crossing off our summer bucket list to bigger things like going on vacation and resting together, excitement seemed lost because of death. Everything we do has a tinted feel to it, asking us to relearn how to enjoy life.

Death robs you of joy in moments you anticipated. Death surprises you with its reoccurring presence. Death wounds deep, making you wonder if fully healing is even a possibility. Death changes you.

Being the wife in our death story has given me a new role. As the spouse, you don’t fully understand the impact of loss, but you carry your husband’s like it’s your own because you are so woven together. Our marriage feels stronger and yet like it got flattened and is being rediscovered because we are changed people now. I’m asked to be strong and look to Jesus as my true husband so I can be what Kyle needs and not blame him for my needs getting put on the second shelf for a little while. Being the spouse creates layers of loss. The hardest layer being that I lost part of my husband this summer and I don’t think I’m getting that back. I’ll get new and changed and in process, but never again the husband I knew before April 28th.

I’m learning about the God of trauma, tragedy, chaos, and fear. He’s a stronger God than I’ve known before. His grip on you is different and His presence is thick.

“This is the most profound pain in my life. But it also feels sacred…I need this. I need to know the God here. It feels important….God gives us permission to feel. There’s no demand on your life to bite the bullet and be stronger than the hurt and pain.” Annie F. Downs

I had a friend who was going to take maternity pictures for me to surprise Kyle with (because let’s be honest, men love pregnant bodies more than women do, go figure). Quickly after asking, I realized I didn’t want to take these. Reasons being, the vain and insecurity of not feeling like I want to be photographed because it’s the least I’ve ever liked my body, I felt stuck in between wanting these pictures for a real reason and wanting them because the culture takes pretty pictures in the woods and at coffee shops and I want to keep up with it, and I felt pressure to push through and pursue grace in the mess, covering up the hard and not fair feelings with a nice, positive saying and outlook. Sometimes though, we just need to let the hard and unfair be what they are, hard and unfair.

The leading reason, though, is the ugly truth that I don’t want to remember this time. I don’t want to look back at pictures of me being pregnant when pregnancy and all surrounding it have sucked the life out of me. I don’t want to relive moments where our son’s presence wasn’t fully recognized and cherished. And I don’t want to trigger grief.

With every moment lost this summer and with every future moment that is out of my control, I’m learning and trying to remember the point of the story. That life always comes from death. That God’s purpose is about sacrifice and change, character and surrender. It’s not about comfort or plans or getting to the goal before you die so you can live easy and stop learning. He asks us to follow Him and die to ourselves, our plans, our dreams, our lives.

I’m still asking the question of how to reconcile grief and joy and what life looks like today. It’s unknown and hard and usually unsettling and unsatisfying. But, I’m also beginning to see the good, the real and raw goodness that comes from watching my husband and myself become something new.

Shauna Niequist describes it well,

“If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They’ll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter. Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and also the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you.”

 

Collins’ Summer Reel 2016

These kinds of mornings are coming to an end for a long season. I sit here with a few books laid out on my bed, Kyle already off to work, sun gleaming in through air that is fighting both summer and fall. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I love my quiet and alone moments, letting my thoughts be messy and open. But, I also can’t wait for my little guy to interrupt our lives with cuddling, dependency, and a new comfort.

I want to introduce him to the mornings that I love, showing him my favorite part of the day, when God breaks through the darkness and brings relief. I want him to know stillness above restlessness.

Our summer was nothing I expected it to be. It’s my own fault, I hold really high hopes over them. They are my favorite part of the year, bringing the things I miss most from California: heat, swimming, farmer’s markets, and the simplicity of being outside all.the.time. But our summer began with unexpected death and kept us fighting to hold each other and ourselves up the entire time. I’ve described it to some friends as feeling robbed of my summer, as if I am entitled to have the experience I deserve because God owes me after all the snow (true thoughts). And, I do feel robbed a bit, but I know that can’t be where I settle.

Job 5:18 says, “For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

God gave me a promise this summer that He would bind us up. However first, I had to really allow wounding in; unexpected, not-timed, ugly and constant stress, anger, hurt, and fear. I’ve also learned that binding up can take a long time and several bandages.

Our wounds bled out all over the place the past few months. They have softened us to big blows and given me a new perspective on fearing the other shoe dropping. Because after feeling like the shoe drops at the end of each hopeful week, you begin to realize it may not be dropping at all, but tightening your grip. My quickness to blame God turned into running towards Him.

Our summer reel is a bit different in my lens this year. I’ll share our pictures with you, wanting to put a final cap on this season. But, there is so much depth behind our pictures and moments this time. Like Kyle’s trips to Ethiopia and Haiti and how you’ll see him playing with kids and I’ll see God healing His heart for ten minutes that day. Or like a baby bump picture where you’ll see a growing cute belly and I’ll see the hardship behind what it’s been like to be pregnant in a deep season of grief and insecurity.

Our summer was full of moments where we experienced deep sadness and deep joy simultaneously. And, it’s where Jesus welcomed and taught me stillness and quiet and sitting. I rested most in the wire chair under the gazebo sipping on sweet tea and I want to remember those times where He met me in books, crying, and unanswered questions above all.

So, here you go! Our third Collins’ Summer Reel, thanks for sharing in it with us.

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A visit to California and endless hours in this pool.

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California trip for the graduate

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A baby book shower hosted by my mama

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These two were quick to be my roommates while Kyle was gone.

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My favorite bump outtake

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Home Sweet Home

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Kyle in Haiti

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PValley Pedalers

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4th Party

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Cabo Babymoon

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Farmer’s Market Goodness

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30 weeks

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Reality

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My play date most days

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Nursery ready

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One of our many projects this summer

Bring on the Fall and an entirely new season of babies, football, and healing.

Year Three

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs came to life in my heart the other day, hitting me in the face like a cold bucket of water.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.

I’ve sung these lyrics countless times over the past year, but it was in this moment of singing when I realized God had answered me. Taken aback at His understanding of my life and heart, I had been praying this, singing this, and the Lord had actually placed me where I’m daily searching for borders to rest my trust on and in water without shore or sand anywhere in sight. I’ve been swimming for a while and I didn’t see it.

Yesterday was our three year anniversary. Our third year was full, abundant in memories and trial. Unlike our first year where trials were many, but had to be dealt with individually and year two where we experienced so many new memories and adventures and grace, our third year has given us new companionship. Calming down after year two, we settled into reality, or rather, reality settled into us. Something happened this year where we learned a deeper knowing of each other. Accepting faults seemed easier and our ability to read each other became natural. The overhanging hint of desiring to please each other was replaced by freedom to let patience and delight win over our expectations and desires.

We became partners this year. Not that we weren’t, but the healing from year one and the fun from year two gave us perspective into handling whatever life gave us, together.

Working in ministry with young women and having a handful of single friends, I always hear their desire to get married because then life will be amazing and full. My heart (and hopefully not my face) aches every time I hear that. The hidden message of culture and media beg you to believe that once you’re married, life is easier and good and romantic all the time. I don’t want to be a part of that system. In the midst of my posting to Facebook or Instagram, I walk the line where half of me wants to portray a life of ease and satisfaction and the other half fears that you will assume something about our life or time and be prone to compare while looking at our pictures.

Because, although marriage is beautiful and wonderful, I’ve learned time and time again that marriage isn’t a fix all.

It doesn’t fix jealousy. Within marriage, we still compare and find insecurity, it’s just shifted. Jealousy enters a new realm and just because I go home to a husband after work, doesn’t mean I wasn’t just comparing my story to yours. I experience jealousy daily of something that is within my reach.

Marriage doesn’t fix loneliness. Loneliness isn’t a physical condition as much as it is one of our heart’s needs. My husband will never fully understand how I think and feel and process and work and vice versa. I think that’s beautiful, unless I’m stuck expecting him to perfectly do so. I can be sitting in the comfort of Kyle’s arms and still feel lonely. I can love him and miss being single in the same breath. I need more than my husband in my life, I think that’s human of me.

Marriage doesn’t magically make your relationships with the Lord the same. This has been a year of questions. From ministry to money to our home to each other to our future family, we haven’t stopped asking the Lord for wisdom. As God has answered us or has delayed on answers or has chosen to give only one of us peace, I’ve learned how different my relationship with Him is compared to that of Kyle’s. We pursue the Lord and desire to grow with Him, yes, but we learn, see, and hear completely differently. I love and hate it.

Marriage doesn’t fix your unstable finances.

Marriage doesn’t fix your tendency to procrastinate and fear.

Marriage doesn’t give you abundant grace or power.

Marriage doesn’t build you up without breaking you first.

Marriage doesn’t make hurt feelings easier to handle.

Marriage doesn’t look picture perfect, the best moments actually can’t be captured.

Marriage doesn’t provide constant understanding.

Marriage doesn’t give complete contentment.

It does, however, offer you Jesus at His finest. And grace, lots of uncomfortable grace.

Marriage asks you to be creative. Create romance and love and new perspectives. Fight for spontaneous joy. Get back to the simple luxuries that made you fall in love instead of expect more from each other. Ask new questions, deeper questions that might hurt to hear. Find new hobbies instead of forcing old ones to click again. Constantly fight to see the best in your changing spouse. Let small moments be the big moments to remember. Create space to breathe and rest with each other. Create less Pinterest and picture worthy moments and more authentic moments. And so much more.

So, to my sweet man,

This year built companionship in us because marriage didn’t fix our issues and make us perfect. Together, we’ve learned how to meet each other’s needs before wants. We’ve experienced really good and really hard. And, today, we’re still in a place of trusting in an ocean deeper than we could imagine with some pretty big adventures ahead of us in year four.

And, you’re worth it all.

Happy Anniversary.

Janae + Kyle 366

 

 

giving up my resolution

I was sitting in my room of our termite-filled, zero-ventilation college house writing a paper on my relationship with God. Writing on how I was going to do a relationship with Him well and bragging about all the “good works” I was doing for Him. Somewhere in that paper, my writing shifted. I began to feel questions popping up into my head like, “What is grace? What does God’s love actually mean?” And by the end of my paper, the deepest question I’ve ever walked through…”What if God doesn’t exist?”

I remember two professors stepping into my life with wisdom and patience through that year. Their constant ability to see me and want to help me is humbling. But the most significant thing I remember them doing for me was asking me to put my Bible down and close my journal. Stop trying and bending over backwards for a feeling, Janae. For the first time in my life, I was told to stop pursuing God and let Him pursue me. I needed to see how much He loved me, I needed a deeper purpose to why I should pursue Him back.

I thought of those moments this morning as I drove into work already feeling like a failure. I made a goal this year to wake up early and sit down with Jesus before I did anything else.

It’s been 6 years since I’ve made a routine out of opening up my Bible and journal, since my professors challenged me. After watching Jesus pursue me and show me where He was outside of my small boxes, I guess I grew a fear to put Him back there. I don’t want a routine because I don’t want to limit Jesus. So, I don’t force myself to read or write or praise. I work through that surely, but as a list-maker and Type A personality, I need to keep Jesus off of my to-do list. I don’t just want to check Him off, I want to sit with Him and talk to Him throughout my day.

The Lord has re-created my relationship with Him, teaching me about the places where my heart meets His and showing me the moments He is always present with me in.

I realized that in just 13 days, I was able to place a ridiculous expectation on myself that says,  “If you don’t do this, God will be upset, you won’t have a good day, you won’t be successful, and you won’t grow.” That is NOT the Jesus I have spent time getting to know outside of my boxes.

I’ve always hated being put in a box. Telling me about my personality type and WHY and “oh that makes so much sense” and yes, I know my Myers Briggs is the only type that hates being put into a box. I get it.

I fear not being seen. It’s my biggest fear. And placing me in a category makes me cringe because it places me with other people and I lose a hint of my unique creation.

It’s no wonder my brain can’t get God back into a box when, 1) I hate boxes and 2) The Lord has been crushing His boxes in my life since I can remember.

As I wrestle through the idea of creating a new routine this year, I realize it needs to look different than the rest of my life has looked. It may not be scheduled to a tee, but lack of routine means lack of control and that is probably the most healthy place for me to be. And, in my drive to work, feeling like a failure, I heard those same words from 6 years ago,

“Stop trying to please me, love me, feel me, work on yourself. Let me pursue you. Allow a messy routine today. It’s worked for us for awhile now, breathe.”

I’m not sure where this year will take me, but I’m giving up my resolution 13 days in and I’ll be okay. And so, I give Jesus my assumptions and goals and trust because I’m done being weary of trying.

 

 

living with the grit

My life is unstable, I have so many dreams that sit on a piece of paper, I have a deep connection with my warm bed in the mornings and fight to get up into the cold to read and do life, our marriage has ups and downs e.v.e.r.y. day (even though I have signs of love and forever and all the time written in our home), and I constantly fight the urge to perform.

I was venting to my friend earlier about another woman who seems to have a pretty cush and perfect life. This isn’t a new concept, us women constantly stuck in a comparison cycle because of social media. I’ve learned and slowly grown through some serious perfectionist traits and have adopted the mantra of coming messy into my life, allowing my home to be less than perfect for guests and my heart to be less than put together for my people.

Our Christian generation is all about the gritty mess. You be real, I be real, let’s all seriously take off the masks and show up. We realize the life-changing effects of authenticity and we say words like brave, dream, lead, surrender, rest, etc. We are a generation of words, yet I continue to see heavy fear in our actions.

Even this year, God has been giving me this idea of “Brave Adoration.” To not approach things with simple courage, but to be brave enough to LOVE what I’m doing. To push past my childhood stereotypes of Christian schools, women’s ministry, and network marketing and to fall in love with the places and positions the Lord has me in. To stop loving the doors that aren’t open right now and to love the one’s I’ve already walked through.

But again, these are just two words. I can say them all I want, my actions are still in my throat. My heart still walks on the line with wishing on one side and moving on the other.

And as I sit here today, allowing myself to get caught up in the perception of other’s lives, I gain restlessness. I roam facebook and feel twinges of jealousy over your pictures and moments. Somehow believing that peace comes with less mess and the perfectly captured engagement/wedding/baby/date night pictures, the life of ease and financial comfort, a life with ALL the new clothes, books, time, coffee, and moments. How perfectly human and broken this is.

We just ended a five year season with college ministry and if I’ve learned anything from those students, it’s that they need to see me in my honest self instead of my pinterest self. They needed to see the grit, the gravel and loose particles of my life, marriage, and heart.

I have to remind myself and believe that grit is GOOD.

Because grit has two meanings. Yeah, it’s gravel and mess and represents the passive aggressive comments, bad habits, selfish attitudes, fear, hard conversations, rejection, constant dirty dishes and laundry. But, the other meaning is to have grit…courage, bravery, to have strength of character. It’s one of those simple but deep Jesus things that I drool over.

Our grit, our messes and loose imperfections, create room and movement for grit, bravery and strength.

So as I was venting to my friend this morning about discontentment in grit, she reminded me how she didn’t want the pinterest/facebook Janae, she wanted the disaster and brokenness because the broken Janae is quick to accept the broken her.

“But God often seems unconcerned with helping us maintain same, simple lives where everything fits and works. I don’t know what God’s plans are for you, but I do know that we don’t hear from him until certain things die. He doesn’t compete. And when he does speak, it typically costs something. Following God is flat costly. It always has been. It doesn’t make sense to us, but since this life, these few years, are not the climax from God’s perspective, he’s okay throwing a little wrench into the short plans we have to be normal here.” ~ Jennie Allen, Anything

We have a choice. Live in the grit and give everyone a ticket to the show that offers messiness, grace, imperfection, humor, and story. OR, live our lives sweeping the grit under the couch so not only the world won’t see us, but sooner or later, we’ll lose sight of the real us too.