Yeah, I do

Do you remember eleven years ago, this month? We were leaving another game night at Nathan and Andrea’s house.  We walked outside together, but before we said good-bye you asked me a question.

Do you want to get lunch after church tomorrow?

“Yeah, I do” I answered, trying to play it cool.  “that would be great”

Okay, then see ya tomorrow.  And you got into your Chevy Lumina and I got into my Pontiac Sunfire.

At Chili’s I got the chicken crispers and we talked about our families and March Madness and when lunch was over I still didn’t know a lot about you, except that you were kind and smart and really tall which of course was a must-have on my list.  But I knew, from a whisper in my heart, that I was going to marry you. 

One of our next dates, you took me swing dancing but beforehand, in my crammed grad student office, Carolina sugar scrubbed my hands so they’d be soft in yours as we jitter bugged around the Student Union.  A year and a half later, after the dinner dates and movie dates and the first kiss and long walks and some hard conversations and meeting each others’ parents and falling in love, your dad asked me an important question, in front of God and our family and friends.

Kirsten, will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage?  Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

Yes, I will.  I answered.

I remember the first year of our marriage so vividly. The long hikes in the mountains and long games of Trivial Pursuit at The Wine Loft, a bottle of Elk Cove Pinot Gris always on our table.  Peaceful evenings in our little cabin, under the Flagstaff stars.  I loved popping into your office on campus and driving out to Chad and Joy’s house on Monday nights.  I loved cold mornings with you headed into town, sometimes we’d have to pull over again to scrape more ice off the windshield, both of us clutching our travel mugs and listening to Morning Edition.

Then, a move to Tucson that was scary for me, but we were in it together.  Finding friends, finding a church, finding a job, finding out we were pregnant only to lose that baby.  Finding out we were pregnant again a few months later only to lose that one too.  You loved me so well and endured the violent waves of my emotions with me, never minimizing or rushing or shaming.  I know you weren’t sure what to do with me at times, but you did exactly what I needed; you stayed by my side. 

Then this daughter of ours arrived on the scene, and new parts of our hearts were stirred. In under two years we had two babies.  It changed the way I loved, it changed the way I saw you, it changed the ways I needed you.  A blur of diapers and sippy cups and sleepless nights and temper tantrums – some by the kids and some by me -and for awhile there I knew we were just hanging on by a thread.  A very, very thin thread.  But you’d hand me my ipod and my running shoes and I’d mouth “thank you” as I headed out the door to find some peace and sanity on the pavement.

And we laughed a lot and yelled a bit, and tried to capture first steps and first words and first days of school and we bought a house and lost patience with one another over plumbing problems and money problems and life problems.  But always there would be a bottle of wine to linger over, or one extra cup of coffee in the morning, and while the kids ran around us like little monkeys we would talk about God and life and hurts and hopes.  Our song would come on the radio while cooking dinner and right then and there we swayed back and forth in each others’ arms.  Sometimes we couldn’t finish our dance because the oven timer would go off or our daughter would be tugging at your shirt wanting her turn with you.

And now we are busy and have oceans of thoughts and stresses and feelings keeping us like silos under the same roof, and days will go by where even though we are exchanging schedule information and jars of peanut butter for jars of jam – I don’t see you.

Eleven years later, after those chicken crispers at Chili’s, it’s true that there is more grit to us, more communicated when our eyes meet, and definitely more at stake than a first date could ever hold.  But then again, it’s still just us.

This morning you were headed out the door, but before we said good-bye you asked me a question.

Do you want to get lunch together this week?”

“Yeah, I do” I answered, trying to play it cool.  “That would be great”

 

Lean In, Chapter One: The Leadership Ambition Gap

I am pretty sure I have the best husband around.  I could go on and on about what a catch he is, his outstanding character, and how well he treats me.  One of the little things is that he tells me that I am beautiful a lot.  (We could go down a rabbit’s trail about WHY I need to be told this so often, but that is fodder for another blog.)  I, like most women, have days where I feel fabulous and days where I feel fat and frumpy and days in between and maybe I am just vain but I like hearing that I am beautiful.  It feels good.  It doesn’t always feel true, but I am glad my husband sees me that way.

A couple of weeks ago my husband sent me a text affirming once again that that he thinks I am beautiful but in that same text message he also called me intelligent.

Intelligent.

And that got me, right in the gut, in a deep and important way.  Being told I am beautiful feels good, and I am always thankful for those words -possibly because it is demanded and expected of me as a woman..ahh!  sorry! rabbit trail! – but being told I am intelligent really meant something.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s opening chapter of Lean In she sets up her case about how… SPOILER ALERT..men and women are treated differently, and she shares some interesting statistical and anecdotal evidence, including a story about a popular children’s clothing store selling onesies to baby boys proclaiming “Smart like Daddy” and onesies to baby girls proclaiming “Pretty like Mommy”.

After getting that text from Jon let me tell you I wanted to zoom over to Hobby Lobby for some puffy paint and make my daughter a shirt loudly proclaiming “Smart like Mommy!”

When questioning why women, who are beautiful and competent and SMART! don’t pursue their careers and callings in the same way as men, Sandberg acknowledges that it is not due to a lack of internal ambition or even inherent biological gender differences, but rather it is fear.

Fear that is only perpetuated and bolstered by society in both:

Blatant ways like sweet tiny baby onesies, pay inequality, poor childcare options, and poor maternity leave options.

and more subtle ways as well.  One that I never considered before was how working women are stereotyped in the media by these two extremes: the soul-less robot in pumps who can’t prioritize a personal life – she gives the example of Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, contrasted with a frazzled, guilt-laden woman letting everyone down – giving the example of Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It.

While I don’t completely agree with society-perpetuated fear being the only factor, as I do think that women and men are…SPOILER ALERT…different, it is true that fear absolutely clobbers women from both sides – from the side of ‘having it all’ and from the side of ‘losing it all’.   Sandberg words it like this:

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face.  Fear of not being liked.  Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of overreaching.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of failure.  And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.

Naturally as I was reading this chapter, which was excellent and covered many great points, I filtered it through my own experiences and my own biblical worldview, which obviously differs from that of a non-Christian woman in the business world.

I don’t aspire to work 40 hours a week (at this point in my life).  I don’t aspire to wear a power suit and heels.  I don’t aspire to climb the corporate ladder.  But one of the (many!) ambitions I have is to attend seminary.  There I said it!  But as soon as the words are typed here on the screen, wouldn’t you know it, that fear creeps in.

Fear of not being liked.  Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of overreaching.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of failure.  And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.

The fear is present.  The ambition is present.  Society is present. The Bible is present.  My heart is present.  So many factors and layers in how we live our lives!  Here are some of my thoughts:

The first is this:   We can be free from fear as we make decisions, as we seek God’s will with wisdom, humility and love.  God will shape us as we give ourselves more and more to Him.  Growing up I had neither the ambition to attend grad school, seminary, nor the ambition to be a stay at home mom.  God has changed me, a little bit here and there, each time I said ‘yes’ to Him.  But I also screw up a lot and still have many values in my heart that push against Kingdom Values.  What our hours look like from day to day can vary, and how I spend those hours will have good and bad consequences – but hopefully as I grow in Christ my fears of what others think and what ‘might happen’ will diminish.

The second is that I seek to Glorify God and serve others first.  Sometimes even though I want to sit and write a blog,  I end up folding the laundry because it really serves my husband when he doesn’t have to go on a scavenger hunt just to find a clean under shirt.   Although my family supports me and my ambitions, I am not accountable only to myself.  The best decision for us might be for me to work more, or work less or go back to school – but although they are MY ambitions and MY dreams and MY work – I am not queen of my own island, and I am definitely not God, and believe it or not I need to be reminded of that, frequently and gently.

Lean In gets into some nitty gritty with marriage and family dynamics, pay equity, career moves and the myth of “having it all” in the chapters that follow, but this initial part simply asks the broad but important question,

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Have you read this chapter?  What are your thoughts?

Simpler Times

The tent lay in a pile of confusing mesh-y fabric on the ground in front of us, along with a handful of poles and some metal stakes.  It had been a little over a decade since Jon had gone camping and much longer than that for me, and actually when I went camping as a girl I am pretty sure I stood around in my cut-off jean shorts and over-sized t-shirt while my mom and dad actually did all the work setting up camp.

“Okay, a tent is not rocket science, we can do this!”  we both agreed.

And we did, and it didn’t take very long at all. Later that evening as we were making dinner we marveled at the bounty before us.  Fish, a can of corn, and some dinner rolls.

“What a magnificent feast!” we proclaimed as we delighted in this delicious meal and gushed over the gourmet seasonings of salt and pepper and brushed flies off our fish and scooped more canned corn out of the pot with a plastic teaspoon.

We laughed and talked as we washed our dishes and cleaned up our dinner.

“I like talking to you.”  I thought.

Afterward, we pulled up our camp chairs to face the aspen forest that lined our campsite and sipped our Simpler Times beer from the can ($3.99 for a six-pack from Trader Joe’s, if you’re curious about where to find such a classy beverage) and talked about the kids and God and life as the sun set behind the mountains.

“We are so well suited for each other” I said silently to myself.

And it’s true.  We have always been in strong agreement on our political, theological and parenting views and although how we interpret and express them can differ (classic story, INTP marries INFJ), I have always known I have a true partner in Jon.

Jon and Kirsten.  Mountains and trees.  Canned corn and Simpler Times.

Why didn’t we fight while putting up the tent?  He didn’t annoy me.  I didn’t frustrate him.  We didn’t rush.  We just worked, together.  We accomplished, together.  

Why didn’t I mumble my over-used “sorry this isn’t anything special” apology over an under-seasoned meal of fish and canned vegetables?

 Why do I feel so content?

Why is it so easy to forget how much I love this man?

The easy answer is because it was just us.  No kids hitting each other while we are trying to clean up after dinner.  No students’ spiritual lives dependent upon whether we could put up our tent effectively (or not).  No busy bedtime routine moving us along.  No TV shows or blogs or podcasts calling our attentions away from each other.  The rocks and trees and wildflowers in our mountain meadow didn’t require that we attend to them in any way.

It was just us.

I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won’t you try to come

Come away with me…

Isn’t that the song we first danced to on our wedding day?  

So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me

Our seven year anniversary is just about here, and for such a relatively short time to be married, and for such a happy, like-minded, non-confrontational, Jesus-loving couple; baggage and scars and fatigue and fighting and hurting and burdens and failure have played their parts well.

“And I have missed you.” I think.

Come away with me and we’ll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I’ll never stop loving you

Not to serve, but to be served

It was just a few minutes after six o’clock as I walked in the door after a long day on campus.  As my little ones ran to greet me and showed me their gleeful and messy smiles my daughter exclaimed “Daddy is making you a peach pie!”.

Jon was in the kitchen and so I curiously poked my ahead around the corner, knowing that whatever he was whipping up in there was probably not a peach pie.

My daughter wasn’t too far off, as he was just getting ready to put a cottage pie in the oven.  Cottage pie is one of his ‘specialities’, inherited from his mom. Every time we arrive at my in-laws after a long day of traveling, there is a cottage pie waiting.  Jon knows that I love this dish and the emotional response it evokes in me of comfort, of coming home and of ceasing for the day .  He also knew that I was feeling particularly stressed and weary and so had already fed our son and daughter and prepared this dinner for the two of us to enjoy after the kids’ bedtime – along with a bottle of wine, and the promise of a back rub while watching one of my favorite movies (The Fellowship of the Ring, if you must know).

I have myself one darn good husband.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening but also couldn’t help but feel guilty,because I don’t quite deserve such treatment.  Because I don’t cook enough special dinners for him to reciprocate.  Because he went to too much trouble.

Earlier in the day, before I arrived home to a fresh peach cottage pie I had met with a student who was at her wits end, convicted of the fact that she cares more about other people’s relationship with God than her own.  “I feel really unhealthy, too” she continued “because I want to go running but don’t feel like I deserve to take time to myself”.

I cringed inside because I knew that my life reflected that exact sentiment.  For all my words to her, my actions were what was being emulated.  What kind of spiritual mother was I, to be passing on the idolatry of loving God’s work more than I loved God himself?

Why is it so much easier to serve others, than to be served?

I think most people drawn to leadership and ministry fall into this pattern, and certainly most mothers and fathers as well.

Jon shared this verse in our latest prayer letter from the Gospel of Mark; “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”

If it is easier for us to serve than to have others serve us, how much more is this true when it is God himself who desires to be our servant?

Jesus sets out to heal.

Jesus sets out to comfort

To touch.

To call.

To feed.

To get down on his knees and wash our feet.

To give his life as a ransom.

And oh how I loooovvveee this about Jesus.  This is what I share with everyone who will listen.  Yet when they are my own dirty feet that Jesus wants to wash, I squirm and resist and deflect like a stubborn child who is so extremely overtired, they can’t be calmed down enough from their manic state to take a nap.

So I am asking myself the question, “how does Jesus want to serve me?

How does Jesus the King want to serve me?

Asking myself that question stirs up a longing in me, that is matched perfectly with my Savior’s ability to fulfill. Yet it is only a momentary longing, a fleeting desire before the squirming and resisting and deflecting take over.  Guilt.  Unworthiness.  Busyness.  Scabs that don’t want to be opened for deeper healing.  Unconfessed sin.  Pride.

My dream is to say “no” to this resisting and “yes” to Jesus today.

Today I think this might look like letting the floor be dirty for just one more day so that I can take a bath in silence, stillness and solitude.

Tomorrow, it might look like something different.

What will it look like for you to be served by King Jesus today?

I Got You

Dear Jon

These last five years of marriage have been such a blessing to me. You have given me so much. Because of you and our life together…

I have a partner in life – some one who does the every day, nitty-gritty with me. Paying bills, doing dishes, changing diapers, running errands, eating meals. Its nice to not do these things alone!

I have real-life romance. Thank you for still pursuing me in the same way you pursued me when we first began dating. Thank you for valuing our time together, our relationship and our marriage.

I have two beautiful children. You have not only give me Evangeline and Zachary, but all the ways you love our little ones are really gifts to me, too. I couldn’t wish for a better father for the two little people I love more than life itself. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the kind of dad you are.

I have someone to lead me. I know I can be a feisty, stubborn, opinionated, sassy and difficult wife at times! Thank you for being so wise, Godly and strong in directing our family. I respect you so much.

I have someone to fight for me, someone to care for me, someone to laugh with me, someone to mourn with me, someone to work with me, someone to parent with me, someone to dance with me and someone to follow Jesus alongside me.

I have all of these things and so much more, all because I have you.

I love you and happy five year anniversary!

To celebrate Jon and I are going to enjoy a dinner (just the two of us!) at California Pizza Kitchen. We’re thankful for children who are pretty good at going to bed and friends who will hold down the fort for us while we go out.

Happy Fathers Day

Jon is a wonderful father to Evie and Zach, I am blessed to have such a Godly, strong, loving, fun and dedicated man raising my children.

My own dad is also a wonderful father. He has sacrificed for his children, always been present, available and reliable. And, Evangeline seems to like Grandpa, or “Pa” more than anyone else these days!

Jon and Evangeline

Jon and Zachary

Father – Daughter Dance

3:30 am

3:30 a.m. Awful leg cramp…ahhh! I had horrible middle of the night leg cramps while preggo with E and thought I had avoided them this time ’round. No such luck!

3:45 a.m. Should I eat a banana for some added potassium? I can’t decide. It would mean getting out of bed. I have been avoiding any food, including bananas, that could possibly counteract the massive amounts of fiber I have been ingesting to help with, um, another fun pregnancy symptom.

4:00 a.m. I think I am going to end up having a c-section on Tuesday. That is incredibly soon.

4:20 a.m. I can’t possibly leave Evangeline for three days for the hospital stay. She won’t know whats going on. She needs her mama.

4:25 a.m. What if my house gets messy between me going into the hospital to have the baby and me bringing the baby home? I don’t want to bring a newborn home to a messy house!

4:35 a.m. How will it work with me not being able to lift E after a c-section? She really just wants to be held by her mama all the time right now, how is she going to cope with me holding another baby but not her? How am I going to lift her into her crib or or her car seat?

4:55 a.m. Oh my gosh I don’t want to be cut open again. Everything went so smoothly last time – what if this time the epidural paralyzes me and the doctor cuts me wrong and I need a blood transfusion and almost die and my incision gets infected?

5:00 a.m. – What if I don’t fall back asleep? Evangeline will be up in an hour. What if I am exhausted all day and what if I just never get any sleep ever again because I am anxious and because we are going to have a newborn and what if my life completely falls apart?

5:30 a.m. That banana was good. So were the bran flakes.

5:40 a.m. Rambling in a blog hasn’t helped at all, and Evangeline is stirring.

5:45 a.m. Evangeline is talking to herself and laughing in her crib. The sun is up. My sweetie pie is sleeping – its his turn to sleep in until 7:00. Should I turn on the coffee?

Update: At 6:00 a.m. I crawled back into bed, ignoring the fact that Evangeline was up and my perfect husband told me to stay in bed and he would get up. An hour later, after having caught up on some sleep, he came into the room with breakfast in bed. I love this man.

Best. Husband. Ever.

The last week has been hard in pregnancy land. Nights are filled with heartburn, pain, discomfort and multiple trips to the bathroom – so sleeping isn’t really happening. During the day I am exhausted from lack of sleep, getting more and more emotional and overwhelmed by the day, and feeling frustrated that I can’t play and keep up with Evangeline and other housework. And I think I’m coming down with a cold. I have this week and next week left of teaching, I feel as big as a house and just really ready to have this baby.

I don’t remember feeling like this at the very end with Evangeline. I don’t know if its because she came at the beginning of the school year when I was just gearing up for stuff, and this little guy is arriving at the very end. I don’t know if its been all the emotional turmoil over his health. I don’t know if its some nasty pregnancy symptoms I have been blessed with this time around. I just know it has seemed a lot harder.

However, during this time my wonderful husband has been AMAZING! (I am so thankful we decided that he shouldn’t go to camp with our students this week – I would be losing it!). He has been doing the laundry, making Walgreens runs for me, taking over parenting duty even more than normal, cleaning, and being patient and tender with me as I make irrational demands and break down crying every other second.

I’ve always known that I married the best man EVER! I am so thankful for the ways he has been taking care of me, our daughter and our soon to be born (Oh God, please let it be soon…) son.

I love you Jon!

Views

You would think that living together and working together would mean that we would actually experience lots of quality time together.

You would think that two laid-back second children wouldn’t be such stressed-out workaholics!

Well, you’d be wrong!

With our crazy schedules and baby number 2 on the way we both agreed we NEEDED some time to ourselves before May – because goodness knows when this little bundle of joy arrives things aren’t going to get any easier!

So we embarked on a journey to Huntington Beach, California – leaving our daughter behind with Grandma Cindy – ready for a few days of R&R, ocean views and quality time together.

It was AMAZING!

We arrived on Sunday night, after an 8 hour drive (made better by books on tape and no toddler in the backseat!) and after checking into our beautiful hotel room that had this view:

And was surrounded by these poppies, which reminded me of my mother-in-law:

We took the ten minute walk up the beach to downtown Huntington Beach for some pizza and watched this sunset:

At this point I was deliberately taking deep breaths, having to put some effort into unwinding. But, it didn’t take long! The next day was sooooo relaxing. At first I felt bad that we hadn’t really planned anything to do while in the L.A. area (Jon and I are, as a couple, indecisive and non-planners), but then I realized that EVERY SINGLE DAY of my life I have to get up and go non-stop for at least 12 hours, always having something that I need to do.

So we took our time getting ready, had a yummy breakfast and then spent the rest of the day getting lost in the act of doing nothing, the novels we brought along, hotel luxuries, and of course each other.

This was my view in the morning at the pool:

And then at lunch (enjoying fish tacos. yummy)

and later in the afternoon:

By evening we were so exhausted from our hard day’s work of relaxing that we filled up on free hor dourves so we wouldn’t have to leave the hotel, and then went to the hotel lounge for drinks and dessert. I was very excited to see that they had a non-alcoholic wine selection, so even thought it was $7/glass I went for it! Let me tell you what non-alcoholic wine is. Grape juice. Expensive grape juice, actually. We then hung out and watched The Bachelor (don’t judge) and went to bed early!

The following day was more of the same. Sleeping in. Local brewery for lunch. Afternoon naps. And then some more of this:

We ended our last evening there by going out for Sushi (well, Jon got sushi. I don’t eat sushi even when I”m not pregnant, so I got cooked shrimp). I stared at my good lookin’ fellow all night, watching him enjoy his uncooked sea creature. This is the view our waitress had:

After dinner we headed back to the beach for a fire and s’mores. This was Jon’s view:

The next morning I woke up at 6am, unable to go back to sleep as the stresses of ‘real life’ had invaded my vacation brain and I was thinking about logistics of driving home, up-coming doctors appointments, writing report cards and ministry stuff. A trip to the jacuzzi (I couldn’t get all the way in, so I dangled my legs while Jon got the full effect) and final walk on the beach to watch the waves helped with that, though!

All in all, it was divine. I felt so well rested. Jon and I managed not to talk about work or money or even parenting very much at all.

The view that the citizens and tourists of Huntington Beach had of us all week was something like this:

The view of a couple very much in love after almost five years of marriage and 1 1/2 kids. A couple who seemed to be blissfully happy to simply walk hand in hand along the beach, take naps together, laugh, flirt, and talk about all things silly and serious with one another.

When we returned, we had the most beautiful view ever. One even more breath taking than the ocean.

Thanks to Grandma for watching E, for my dad who blessed us with free hotel nights (and so much more!), and for Paulo Freire Freedom School and the University of Arizona for giving us Spring Break!