For Those Stuck in Good Friday

Do you remember when Saturdays were always about church planting updates? They will be again, soon, next week even… 

easter People

The year my Dad died Easter came early, March 27, only about a week after his heart attack and the Sunday after his funeral.

Because of this, a church decorated in purple crosses and white lilies doesn’t feel like Easter morning to me, it still loudly echoes the throes of Good Friday.

Every year, no matter when Easter falls in relation to the anniversary of my Father’s death, the songs and smells of Easter are deeply reminiscent of his funeral.

Faith gets real when you’re faced with Easter morning and your heart feels firmly rooted in the worst hours of Good Friday.

Sometimes Easter Sunday doesn’t happen in three days

Because in life, our Good Fridays last longer than a day, longer than the hour of a church service or the time it takes to reflect upon the stations of the cross. There are, in fact, entire seasons, even years of our lives that take place on Holy Saturday.

The day in between the ripping of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. A day of waiting, of wondering, a seemingly hopeless day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I remember visiting my fathers grave before the funeral flowers had a chance to wither and shrivel, begging God for some sort of miracle. Bring him back now, fix this now, I want my Easter Sunday healing now, please.

Make this all go away, cause me to awake in my bed back home, awash in relief that this was all a nightmare.

Please God, bring me an Easter miracle today or Surely the depth of this grief will be the thing that defines my life, that undoes me. I cannot live in a world where this is my reality.

But we do, don’t we? We live in a world with awful realities. 

We live seasons, even years stuck between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, where we wake up on Holy Saturday wondering if our hearts can weather another day of waiting and wondering.

Anne Lammott put it perfectly when she said “we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

So for all of us who feel the weight of the Good Fridays, the Holy Saturdays, who will experience Easter Sunday with more than a few bones to pick with God, with a laundry list of “but hows.”

To all of you I just want to say: “Hi and me too.”

I understand and it’s okay to lament more than you rejoice on Easter Sunday.

I understand how suicide, depression, infertility, hate, hunger and abuse can make you feel stuck, make you wonder if Easter Sunday is a real

Wonder where God is in light of this unspeakable pain.

For those of us who are kneeling of the grave of someone or something, skeptical that the pure light of the empty tomb could touch us.

For you I pray light, small, grace-filled light that sustains gently.

I pray God send gracious friends, able to sit with you in your black, Holy Saturday questions.

I pray God a spring breeze to remind your senses that there are miracles all around you, and they will meet you in your anger and all your “how could you Gods?” 

I pray that something about this weekend brings you all the hope you can handle, and no more.

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It’s not easy to live between the two, to be Easter people in a Good Friday world, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

I pray that you may experience Easter Sunday for what it is: A promise of healing that brings hope for our right now, a set it all right someday vow that isn’t always easy to to hold on to, but true and life changing regardless. 

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7 Great Quotes and 6 Thoughts on Festival of Faith and Writing

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Last week, along with a few thousand other writers, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing and Calvin College.

Can I tell you a secret? As I much as I wanted to go when I registered when the actual Festival arrived? I was terrified. I didn’t want to go.

I wanted to scalp my ticket, craft a lame excuse stay home in my bleach stained tyoga pants. I could hide from my online friends who’d be soon arriving in my town and ignore the internet with all it’s hashtag glory. Clearly everyone would be tweeting things like…  #FFWGRisawesomesauce #gettingallthebookdealsatFFWGR #myfriendsareawesomesoamI (as I suspected…)

I was exhausted, I had a chest cold and I was awkwardly pregnant. The sort where nothing fits you so instead you just look fat. This was no state in which to present my real live self to the internet world. “I always thought @LeannePenny was slim, Boy was I wrong…#layoffthebagelslady”

The issue with my stay home and hide plan was that my friend Abby was coming to stay with us and I couldn’t very well bail on my houseguest. I was that sure she would spill into my house full of excitement, ready to learn, be challenged meet all the people and rock all the networking.

However, after her arrival, over a plate of my friend Anne’s chocolate cake, I realized that she was (almost) as angsty about the Festival as I was. We sat around my battered kitchen table and confessed fears, talked about mean tweets, meeting people who’ve blown us off, publishers, proposals and fear that no one would want to sit with us at lunch… or anywhere else for that matter.

I don’t know about other industries but I’m finding that the writing feels a more than a little Teen Spirity.

On the day of the actual festival I pieced myself together in my most gracious clothing and we made our way downtown.

The best thing I did before going was make peace that I wasn’t nearly as prepared to meet with publishers as other, non-pregnant people were and that this was okay. I had cute business cards, my mostly whole self and an aqua Moleskine, this was all I needed to receive what festival had to give me.

And in the end? I am so glad I was able to mostly leave nervous, teenage Leanne in the van. I really did find refreshment in my experiences at Festival. Here are 6 thoughts and 7 quotes that I’m taking away, gems I collected to put above my desk.

1) Poetry that resonates deeply within you can fix your perspective with the world, with God and with writing, and shalom requires that these things be aligned.
“The Poem is opaque, you see yourself in it. Poetry contains no single, obscured, meaning to be gleaned and beat people over the head with.” ~Scott Cairns.
(Poetry is for everyone, it is what you glean from it!)

2) Living in fear of who you’re not in light of everyone else will destroy you and steal your perspective, your joy and your life. Live with eyes open, notice the world, listen upward at all God is whispering.
“I am a seeker, but not always a finder.” ~ Luci Shaw.

3) Lament and grief are something God never asked us to hide from or pretend away. More and more people, churches and writers are getting on board here. This brings me unspeakable joy as my experience 4 years ago was very different, I found little space for lament in Christian culture. I am happy to be a small part of this movement.
“You have to have Good Friday to have Easter.” ~Shannon Huffman Polson

4) Not all of the fruit and yogurt parfaits at Calvin College contain actual fruit. In fact. in the blueberry ones the fruit is just a chopped up blueberry muffin. Also they are top heavy, watch out or you might awkwardly spill them in front of a table of peers you were hoping to impress, at least a little.
“Dammit! Sorry for saying dammit…. I just spilled my yogurt on the carpet, do you guys have any napkins?” ~Leanne Penny

5) Writing is difficult for everyone, and it brings out your worst neurosis.
“You sit to write & all your unresolved psychiatric issues come to help you. They sit on your desk & they have some worries” ~ Anne Lammott

6) I don’t have to rely on my strength figure it all out, to find the right words. I do have to show up, but beyond that God can do things with my words that are beyond my ability alone. The Holy Spirit is a powerful agent between readers and writers.
“My insufficiency is the point, It’s about my getting out of the way for Jesus.”  
~Rachel Held Evans
“God didn’t say “take and figure it all out” he said “take and eat.” ~Anne Lammott

So this is what I brought home from the Festival of Faith and Writing.

Were you there? What did you love, take home? 

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A Nickel in November

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but things have been fairly quiet around here over the last month. There’s a reason for that and I think it’s about time we come clean.

First I’ll give it to you in a money-math problem and see if you get it.

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(Because when your name is a coin, you rock the metaphor.)

4 Pennys + 1 Penny = a Nickel, or 5 Pennys.

That’s right, we are expecting a baby in November and yes, after a few weeks of letting it sink in we are decidedly happy about it. 

Now let me answer some questions you might have: 

Q) Were you planning a third baby? No we were not planning this, clearly we weren’t trying hard enough to avoid it, but we were not trying in the classic sense.   Want to know how I know we weren’t planning this? Nickel Baby will be arriving about 6 weeks after our new church launches. That my friend is some wonderful comedic timing. 

Q) How far along are you? About 9 weeks, we found out roughly 4.5 weeks ago.

Q) How are you feeling? Really tired of feeling sick and tired. I’m not throwing up sick, but I’m nauseous and exhausted… so so exhausted… and coffee tastes gross to me most mornings which seems like a cruel trick because I need my one cup of coffee to function. Confession? Sometimes I choke it down for sanity’s sake.

Mostly I want to eat expensive bagels, fresh ones from Panera or Big Apple Bagel, shelf stables ones don’t count, the baby can taste the preservatives and he/she no likey. High maintenance bagel habits are not terribly convenient or frugal, especially for someone who tries to eat mostly grain free and now finds herself binge watching scandal while eating whole sleeves of Saltine crackers. This has been a very accurate snapshot of my last month. 

Also my mouth tastes bad, really bad like rotten banana morning-breath most of the time. Bad taste in your mouth is an extra mean pregnancy symptom if you ask me.

Q) How are you feeling ABOUT having another baby? Honestly, at first I was a little freaked out…. I was a LOT freaked out. After all I had grand plans of productivity when both Noelle and Caedmon go to half-day kindergarden / preschool in fall. There was to be much writing and dream realization and now there will be much exhaustion and re-learning how to breast feed.

Even now I find myself frustrated 80% of the time, I have so much I’d to get done in a day yet usually I find myself back on the couch after putting away laundry and unable to get a cohesive meal on the table, chinese takeout again? Sure, why not? Writing feels as realistic as mountain climbing and getting ahead is a forgotten concept.

But here’s the thing I keep repeating to myself guys: People are not problems, people are amazing, people are gifts, people are to be cherished. This baby is people, and so is to be celebrated with wild abandon.

And when I feel extra down I text my friend Megan who reminds me that facilitating organ growth is no small thing, and to accept the grace and the miracle in that. 

So, come on Nickel Baby, grow healthy and strong. Take over my world with your organ growing and your impending arrival. Do try to be a bit kinder to my hips if possible and together we shall do what we can and leave the rest for another time or season.

My timing was never the best in the end and already I cannot imagine a Christmas 2014 without your warm, snuggly bean-bag presence. I will most certainly dress you in ridiculous hats, please be prepared for this and cooperate accordingly. 

Love Showed Up- When Grief Unites

 

Today’s Love Showed Up post comes from the lovely Rachel Haas and it’s a topic that I hope you identify, that of grief binding together in love and memory rather than tearing apart. 

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http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/Free-Stock-Photography-/Architecture/Buildings/i-X6ShJ86/A

Two days before I turned 23, my grandmother passed away. The circumstances surrounding her death were a whirlwind. It wasn’t expected, it all happened so fast.

 

I stood in our brand-new kitchen and clung to my husband while I sobbed. We had just talked on the phone the week before, Grandma and I. She had asked about my daughter and we had laughed over an inside joke. There was no goodbye, there never was one when our phone calls ended. Only a “see you soon, love you much.”  

 

I texted my sister that night and we shared memories while tears dripped onto the screen. Everything ached. Grandpa had died when I was a teenager, and now Grandma was gone too. It was the end of an era. Nothing felt the same without her. I wanted to call her and tell her how sad I was. The missing was agonizing.

 

She wanted to be cremated. It had always been her wish. Grandpa had stayed on the top of the curio cabinet, among all the other pictures of loved ones. But now he and Grandma’s urns were placed side-by-side in the ground. Just their dust. Their souls were walking the beach with Jesus.

 

And so we gathered, all of us. All five of her children, all ten of their children, and their fifteen children too. Only six of us were missing. I wrapped my arms around my cousin’s wife for the first time and chased their toddler around the lobby. My one year old daughter met all her little cousins, who could not get enough of the littlest family member. My poor husband was dizzy with all the names and faces.

 

We were all there to remember Grandma.

 

At the end of the service, the family all stood together to sing the first verse of How Great Thou Art. It had become tradition at the funerals in our family. We’re a musical family, somehow, and it always seems to fit. We celebrate with song. We mourn with melody. It was just the voices, no piano in the background.

 

The love was tangible as it filled that auditorium. It was Holy Hands reaching down from Heaven to wrap us all up and hold us close. It was the most beautiful, the most heartbreaking, the most sacred celebration of life I have ever experienced.

 

Love showed up in the fingers of my family as we looped them together around the graveside, the air cool enough for coats. We stood around the plot and laughed. We must have been such an odd sight, the humor echoing off the stones. Love showed up for us that cold October day with tears streaming down our cheeks but smiling so big it hurt.

 

Love showed up in a cemetery filled with laughing mourners. Love showed up in a family gathered for the first time in years. Love showed up in connections and family love growing in bigger circles, like ripples in a lake from the stone Grandma and Grandpa dropped. Their legacy is still spiraling out.

 

Love showed up because there was no goodbye. There never was any goodbye.

 

See you soon, Grandma
Love you much. 

10264512_10152757894163642_1349287236_nRachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart Jesus craver. She is married to Jonathon, as she has been for the past four years, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon. You can connect with her on twitter, Instagram and her blog 

Love Showed Up: Love that Doesn’t Need You To Say It Back

Today’s post comes form the lovely Sarah Siders, who I happen to know because she works with my brother on an Army Base in Kansas. I hope you enjoy her lovely words today.

“I think we’re going to break up,” I announced to my new boyfriend after everyone else left the church that night. “I break up with all my boyfriends.” 

We’d only been dating two days, yet my previous relationships told me everything I needed to know about this one. Relationships with me end badly. I figured it was only fair to let this new guy in on my secret.

Ironically, I started this relationship believing it would end. But on the other side of my inner cynic was a hopeless romantic, one who hoped someday a man and I could love each other with a true and lasting affection. I’d just never seen it done. Not in my life anyway.

I don’t remember how he responded to my anxious forecast, but I have no doubt he calmed the storm with his trademark patience I would come to expect over the years. I do remember we left in the same car that night. And the next day, we were still together.

After barely a month of dating, or in my world, after 30 days of not breaking up, we curled up beside each other on a crusty, aged couch along his living room window. It was already dark, but we wouldn’t say goodbye for hours. I never wanted to leave him, even though he terrified me. No matter how dim my pessimistic predictions, I couldn’t make him go away.

As we lay there talking, he whispered the three scariest words, words I knew meant we were over. “I love you,” he said, his voice tender and sincere. But they sounded like the end to me.

I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t know how I felt. My mind flooded with all the fearful thoughts. It was too soon for the L word. Why was he being so pushy? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait on those words, like a year or something? The men who said “I love you” before wanted me to say it back. And then we broke up. The L word is a break-up precursor. Doesn’t he know the rules? Now we’re doomed.

As the anxiety whirlwind spun a dervish in my mind, I sealed the words inside my mouth. Eventually I mustered, “I can’t say it back yet.” I braced myself for the awkward guilt I knew would follow my confession.

“I’m not saying it for me,” he consoled. “I’m saying it for you. I don’t need you to say it back.”

What? Who was this guy? I didn’t know, but in that moment, he was the man who loved me, and he didn’t need me to love him back. I decided maybe I did not need to break up with him.

He exuded a disconcerting confidence, the kind that could give love without leaving behind a gaping hole in need of a refill. He didn’t need to coerce me into saying something I didn’t mean.

He was a strange man indeed.

He loved me with a thick, rugged kind of love, gently and slowly burrowing beneath the scales of my soul. His squinty eyes beamed affection and admiration at me, but his romance never showed up grandiose. It just showed up. And kept showing up.

During the coming months, I stormed, nearly ending our relationship on a monthly basis. I tried to find good reasons to write him off like the other men, but I couldn’t deny this one was different. His persistent love rendered me uncomfortably vulnerable. I wanted to crawl away to save myself from the inevitable pain, but every time I tried, he talked me off the ledge. Calmly, relentlessly. And down I came.

All the while, he showed me he wanted a grown-up life with me. He quit his job at the grocery store and took a new job at a bank, a job with potential for growth, something that could support a family. He bought a new car. He met my parents. At first, it didn’t go well.

At our gregarious family dinner table, he was awkwardly introverted. We all wanted him to crack jokes like the rest of us. Instead, he sat quietly with his thoughts, not competing for attention’s center. He drove me crazy, yet his quiet confidence was what I needed so desperately in a man.

His love persevered, present but never fancy. A love

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with nothing to prove. It confused me, but drew me at the same time.

We dated only eight months before we learned my brother would leave for his second deployment in May. It was less than four months away. We considered a wedding after he returned, but suddenly I knew. I wanted to marry this man, this sturdy, bearded man who I couldn’t convince to stop loving me. So why wait?

There was no time for the romantic proposal I’d dreamed of, an evening full of surprises recreating our relationship or a knee drop in a four-star restaurant. We started planning the wedding immediately, without a ring on my finger, and part of me felt cheated. But there was no time for doubt.

One night only weeks before the wedding, he whispered to me in the dark again. “Sarah, will you marry me?” His voice was timid this time, but still sure. And finally, I felt sure too. “Yes,” I replied as the ring slipped around my finger.

We married in the middle of May, a year and a day after our adventure began. After nearly six years of marriage, I doubt his love less and less each day. His love shows up in sickness and in health, in childbirth and mortgage payments, in diaper changing and lawn mowing. His love shows up even when mine doesn’t, just like he promised.

 

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Bio: Sarah Siders is a social-working writer in a Midwestern college town, where she unsuccessfully tries to keep her chocolate stash secret from her husband and son. Sarah is the author of the eBook, My Birthright For Soup, and is currently working on her biggest project yet, Dream or Die, a primer on recovering dreams and vision for our lives. She laughs and thinks out loud on dreaming, relationships and the hilarity of parenthood at her blog home, www.sarahsiders.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @sarahsiders.

Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it. 

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What I’m Into, March 2014

Month in (very brief) review:  March was basically a rhythm of: Take care of a sick person, check real estate website, read something, do dishes, repeat. I have some very big news that has dominated our March, sadly I can’t share it just yet, but soon. Really Really Soon. 

On My Nightstand: I read some really great stuff this month

 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- This book was well hyped and did not disappoint, it’s a YA love story but the story has a depth to it, so it doesn’t feel adolescent at all.  This was my first book by John Green but it won’t be my last.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I love Moriarty and this novel did not disappoint, it’s full of great characters and hard questions but overall a sweeping novel that is very hard to put down, like cheesecake.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven - (Yes I just got around to this book) This is my first Mitch Albom book and I feel as though one read through is not enough. It was a tear jerker to be sure and it forced me to see my life and lives of my children as narratives so much bigger and more connected that I normally do.

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On the Small Screen: This month I wrapped up two of the TV Shows I watch, those being Dexter and How I Met Your Mother.  The end of Dexter was ridiculous, illogical and quite honestly it set a new standard in horrible series conclusions. I have a friend who is now using it as a standard of measure. (IE: From 0 – Dexter how bad was the ending)

And then there’s How I Met Your Mother. It’s done, we know. And we know a lot more than how Ted met his wife (who’s real name happened to be Tracy which is funny because he joked that a lap dancer named Tracy was their mother in season one.) A lot of people didn’t like the ending, Kel called the huge plot twist about 10 seconds before it played out, but the more I think about it the more I like the way the writers took it full circle.

It’s always hard to have well loved series draw to a close, I always cry when good shows end and this week’s ending of HIMYM was absolutely no exception.

Also to fill the gaps of these two shows ending I have started binge watching Scandal, which is an intriguing show so far with two seasons online for me to scarf up, which is great for my productivity levels.

night snuggles, Noelle melts snow and I work on two word processing devices at one! without a net!

night snuggles, Noelle melts snow and I work on two word processing devices at one! without a net!

Best of This Blog- This month’s top two posts were guest posts by great friends, which I love. I love that you guys are so gracious about tuning and engaging with guest posters. We’ve good hosts people, with great friends. Double awesome.

Love Showed Up- When people say they’re hurting, believe them by Abby Norman There are things people suffer that we understand and can relate to, and there are things we just don’t get. (Mental health issues often fall into the second category.) I don’t know why some suffering is easier for me to dismiss than others. But I do know this: Love showed up for me when people believed I was in pain. 

Love Showed Up- When Love Drives You Home by Allison Luna 
Sometimes love searches you out. Sometimes love shows up in your hospital room. Sometimes love shows up with warm blankets. Sometimes love shows up to remind you that you are loved, that you are safe, that you are wanted. Sometimes love shows up and sometimes love drives you home.

God I don’t give this to you:  God I do not trust with you my children and I do not trust you with my husband. I do not trust you with our provision and I do not trust that you go before. But God? I want to.

In My Earbuds- We’ll I’ve been listening to Pharell’s Happy at least five times a day like I assume the rest of you all are. Other than that I haven’t added much in the way of new music but I do encourage you to tune in on spotify and see if our music tastes match up.

Non Verbal Creativity - I’ve whipped up a few baby hats for showers and plugged away at my Granny Square afghan. Soon I plan to turn all Noelle’s holey leggings into little shorts to help her stay modest with summer sun dress season approaching.

Most Liked Post on Instagram

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What can I say, everyone loves the little man, who came into my room that evening all drippy post-bath, just to make me smile. 

Honorable Mention:

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THIS TOILET SEAT which was found in a house we looked at during our marathon home search. Why? Who? I must know the story behind what causes a person to spend money on such a thing!

So what about you? What have you been writing, reading, watching, eating? 

This post contains links to my affiliates page, buying through those links helps support this blog, which is helpful.

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Love Showed Up: When People Say They are Hurting, Believe Them

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Abby Norman is a brave, dear friend with a voice that makes one feel stronger for bearing witness to it, I hope you enjoy her wise words today.

But you seem fine.

From 1997-2009  my body was not fine. I was tired and achy and just didn’t feel good. For hours, for days, for months at a time. I for sure was not fine.

But you look fine.

But I looked fine. I looked totally normal. I was tallish and thinish and smiled and laughed a lot . I was participating in class discussions and marching the tenor drums in the marching band and trying out for the school plays. I was bringing home trophies from the speech tournaments and dating boys.

Then, I would just up and disappear.

For a day, for two days, on a really bad stretch for a week. In my Junior Year of High school I missed most of the month of October. But I looked totally fine. I got my diagnoses a month after that terrible October, about 4 years after the whole ordeal started.  I got my miraculous healing 9 years later.

But in between? I got a lot of people questioning whether or not I was telling them the truth. What do you mean muscle disorder? You look totally fine. I get that you are tired Abby, but I am tired too. We are all tired, all of us have feet that hurt. What do you mean you can’t eat that? My mom has fibromyalgia too, but she doesn’t react this way.  I didn’t even hit you that hard, it was in fun, on the back. Stop crying.

Here is a piece of advice that is overlooked because it seems so basic: When people tell you that they are suffering, believe them.

With a cancer diagnoses, a parent dying, a baby coming, there are obvious signs that people are in need. But what about when it is a little less obvious, a little more constant. Is there space in your life for suffering that seems hard to understand? Or the kind a quick google says not all doctors can agree on?

When people tell you they are suffering, believe them.

Believe them when it is incomprehensible. Even when it feels like they are lying, when they tell you they are sick and 24 hours later show up to an event seemingly totally fine. Just because you don’t see the suffering, because it is happening in rooms that are behind closed doors, doesn’t mean the suffering doesn’t exist. Even if you don’t understand it, believe them.

There were a million moments where my suffering was invalidated, my pain not believed, my decisions about how to use my energy to have as normal a life as possible were scoffed at. That part sucked.

But love showed up a million times over.

In the ways my college roommate and my friend upstairs would just quietly go get my lunch or dinner when I told them I couldn’t really get out of bed.

When my speech teammates would quietly take the bag off of my slightly shaking arm, get up from their seat and quietly insist that I sit down. Now.

When the pastor of my church not only didn’t tell me I was a distraction, but thanked me for being willing to show up to my church with a yoga mat in hand when it was just too painful to sit in the pews. He said I was a visual sign to guests that everyone was invited.

Love showed up in the seventh grade when my friend noticed that I had been gone for a school for a month and showed up on Valentines day with a teddy-bear and a box of candy that let me know I wasn’t forgotten.

Love showed up in the forms of teachers who tutored me during lunch, excused a couple of quizzes, stayed after school to let me make up a test. Then, they applauded and congratulated me for the success I was having on the speech team. They didn’t question why I could show up for that and not class.

There were a million ways that people were the hands and feet of Jesus to me when I was chronically and somewhat mysteriously ill.

But it all started here: They believed me.

The most painful thing that happened to me during those years was being ignored, and not being believed.

Love showed up every time my pain wasn’t questioned. Every time how can I help was uttered instead of “why do you need that?”

I’m not the first or only to have an invisible illness. I am not the only one I know whose pleas for help have been met with an eye roll, a shoulder shrug, a why? There are things people suffer that we understand and can relate to, and there are things we just don’t get. (Mental health issues often fall into the second category.) I don’t know why some suffering is easier for me to dismiss than others. But I do know this:

Love showed up for me when people believed I was in pain. Even when I didn’t look like it. Even when I didn’t act like it. If you want to love someone who is suffering, believe them.

abby-norman

Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words. She believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. You can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.

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Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it.

Waiting Tables: Lenten Baptism Post for Megan Tietz at SortaCrunchy

Today I’m honored to be writing about my family and the promises of Baptism for my dear friend Megan Tietz of Sorta Crunchy. I’ll start you off here, then you can head over to her place to finish on up. And while you’re there, do dig into what she’s doing to observe Lent this year through her Waiting Tables series. It’s been profoundly helpful and encouraging for me in this season.

flickr.com user antique nature

flickr.com user antique nature

I was baptized as an infant in February of 1982, with my family gathered in the pews of the stained glass church on Baldwin Street. The same church where my parents were married and my grandparents were founding members.

I was baptized as an adult in late August, 2003 in the center of a large church, surrounded by plastic grey chairs with a few friends and family members scattered in the midst of thousands of others.

It was a profound day, full of awkwardness and freedom. There is nothing comfortable about standing in front of a crowd in cotton baptismal shorts, being submerged in a hot tub by someone you only know a little. There is nothing commonplace about leaving soggy footprints on church carpet as you tearfully make your way through the aisles. But for me this mess a thing of wonder, a miracle. After all, faith is not comfortable and baptism is such a profound gift that the dripping mess fits the radical newness it represents.

Dead with Christ and Alive in his resurrection, leaving the old behind in the water, grabbing breath as a new creation.

Imagine how much baggage has been left at the bottom of baptismal hot tubs.

As I mentioned above, I’ve technically been baptized twice which is a real church taboo. So, while my adult baptism was freeing and beautiful, it somehow felt a bit subversive. My entire family is Reformed and believes in infant baptism, so when it came to this evening I worried they would think I was invalidating the beautiful gift they’d given me as an infant.

It was out of this concern that I decided not to invite any family beyond my parents to the baptism, I worried it would cause an issue and I didn’t want them to fuss over it in the first place. So that evening, while spirit-led and memorable to me, went unobserved by most people in my life.

Please head over to Megan’s place to finish the story. 

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How to Meet and Marry an Okie on the Internet (Part 4)

I’m telling the internet our story, the story of meeting a boy I met online and how over time we fell for each other and made it work across the miles. For part 3 click here.  To start at the beginning click here)

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I woke up the next morning unsure of just exactly how to feel, I was dating Kel… officially. What did that even mean? It meant no more flirting or dating guys from Youth Group… and telling people as much I assumed.

But really… now what? 

It’s not like we could hang out…  I couldn’t even friggin call the boy before 9 pm CST for risk of using up too many of his family plan day time minutes.

I’m pretty sure I called some friends and told a coworker but other than than I think I just sat in excited shock mulling over what this step really meant for us.

I always knew in my heart that if we dated, it would immediately turn serious. The reality was that we wouldn’t be able to fully get to know each other unless one of us made the leap to live in the same area code and that was a scary, risky step…

I was about to restart full time college and he was set to graduate from OU the following spring so the logical mover in this scenario would be him, but could I ask him to do that?

We settled for having him visit at Christmas and he found an airline ticket that arrived on Christmas Day. I nervously / excitedly counted down the days and started prepping him with all the info he’d need for the whirlwind tour of meeting all my friends and family.

Part of his visit would be spent at the Lodge with my extended family, which meant my parents, grandparents my 8 Aunts and Uncles, my 13 cousins and a few of their wives and maybe significant others as well…. for two nights and two days… no big deal right? 

And he’d need to get to know a few of my friends, meet my siblings, get to know my parents a little better.

Oh gosh what was he going to wear? Was he prepared for a Michigan winter?

When I went to ask him these question he told me that he had a really nice trench coat and fedora that generally kept him pretty warm. This freaked me out appropriately and I immediately hit the mall and bought him a new coat, hat and gloves for his trip.

I wasn’t trying to change him per say… but he was already the weird new internet boyfriend, we didn’t need a Fedora in the mix.

In hindsight maybe I should have run with it but I like to think he was much warmer for my efforts.

Then all the sudden there I was, at the airport anxiously waiting for him to walk down the ramp from the terminal on Christmas Day.

People made their way down. Nope… not him. Not him. Not him.

Geez, I was nervous, I was still so unsure about this relationship myself but it was time to take all this huge and completely delayed step of seeing how he assimilated into my real life, all at once… during the holidays. Oiy what were we thinking? 

And then there he was walking down the ramp and grinning at me, we hugged and kissed before waiting at the magical luggage ride to gather his bag. After we drove home, I got him settled down into a basement bedroom at my parent’s house but not before he gave me my Christmas presents:

A memory foam mattress pad, (yes he’d crammed it in his bag  and because my back had been bothering me)
And a replica Lord of the Rings Evenstar necklace (Because we were nerdy like that)

The next day was Christmas with my family and I remember this part over all else: My Dad gave Kel had tracked down two out of print copies of two of his favorite books on faith (Real Christians Don’t Dance” and “Real Christians Don’t Ask Why”) because he felt like a pastor-to-be should read them.

I got mostly small appliances that year because I was preparing to move into my first apartment on my own.

He survived all the family parties as the internet boyfriend oddity and my family was warm and welcoming, albeit a bit skeptical. 

While he was there he walked through my new apartment and was still in town for my first day at my new College (Kuyper College, which would become my alma mater)

The only bad part of his trip was knowing that he wouldn’t be able to be there for the day to day once he went home. He wouldn’t be there to help me move int or flop on the futon for an episode of Simpsons or Scrubs, no random late night pizzas or move dates.

We’d be back to the phone calls. We couldn’t even text because well… there really wasn’t texting yet. 

Before he left he made me a commitment that he was “all in” and that after he graduated that May he would move to Michigan, get a place to live, put seminary on pause for a bit and find a job up in Michigan.

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I promised to spend spring break in Oklahoma and we both promised that we would do what it took to make it work, his deep brown eyes were quickly becoming my favorite sight in the world and putting him on a plane was dreadful… but we had a plan, we had hope.

Stay tuned for part 5 which won’t take too long, I promise. 

Love Showed Up: When Love Drives You Home

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I found myself, maybe not so unexpectedly, stretched out on a hospital bed in the emergency room of the local hospital. The night before was left littered with despair and confusion. As I looked up at the ceiling and felt the paper gown that wrapped my tired body, I wondered how I fell into this hole and how the hell I was going to get out.

There was a babysitter sitting in the corner. He was reading his book. I knew his sole purpose in this room was to watch my every move. The nurses and hospital staff had already taken everything I owned and tucked it safely away so that I would not be able to harm myself.

“Do you know why I am here?” he asked quietly.

In my defiance and anger I told him that I knew he was there because it was his job to babysit me. “I choose to be here, honey. You deserve to be safe. And so I am here. I am with you.” These words, words of love, were the beginning of hope peeking through.

~ ~ ~

Depression threatened to overrun me that night.

My faith was crumbling, my hope fading, and Love seemed to be sitting on his hands.

About three months before, I started questioning everything. I didn’t know why I believed what I said I believed or if it even mattered. Is Jesus who he says that he is? Did he really do what he said he did? And if he is and if he did, what does that mean for me, right now, in this moment?

And to add insult to injury my own body was betraying me. I was depressed. Depression seems to be the demon that continuously haunts me. For the three months leading up to this night I wanted out. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to die, I was just so tired of living. It was like I was standing on the top of a skyscraper, on the very edge, and I couldn’t step backwards off the ledge. I either had to stand there or jump. It’s not that I wanted to jump. I just was so tired of standing on that ledge.

~ ~ ~

The night before, the police showed up and I was put under close watch. Sleep was impossible. The dark hours seemed unending and the morning came reluctantly. With the arrival of dawn, I received an ultimatum: the back of a police car or the nearest emergency room. Seeing no other option, I chose the latter.

With heavy eyes and weary bones I asked the nurse to turn off the light. The curtain was pulled to shield my face from the sterile fluorescent lights in the hallway. The babysitter even decided to give me a few minutes to myself and settled in his chair right outside the doorway. After a few minutes I woke up to voices, a familiar voice, outside the door. A shadow appeared on the curtain and a hand pulled it gently back. The face I saw immediately shattered my defenses and the room, once drained of breath, was pumped full of oxygen.

On my way to the hospital I shot a text to the couple from my church that I live with. I didn’t know which hospital I was headed to but said I would contact them as soon as I was able. I told them not to worry. Lindsay was out of town but that did not stop Scott from searching me out. He searched until he was able to find me, tucked behind a babysitter and crisp hospital curtains.

“Hey, Ali. I am really glad you are safe.”

In that moment, I felt both immense shame and immense relief. It’s almost as if, because he could sense the shame, he spoke out against it. “You have done nothing wrong. You are not in trouble. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Warm blankets were brought in and Scott sat down. He didn’t pry. He didn’t push. He didn’t ask me open-ended questions. He knew I would never be able to answer them anyway. He assured me that Lindsay was thinking about me and praying for me. He assured me that I was not in trouble and there was no need for shame. When he did ask questions, he gave me options and I just had to pick. Picking was easy compared to conjuring up an answer on my own. “I am going to get you something to drink. Do you want coffee, tea, or water? When we leave, I am going to make you some lunch. Do you want this type of sandwich or that type of sandwich?” I didn’t have to come up with any answers. I simply had to choose.

After nine hours and a psychiatric evaluation that seemed to last forever, it was decided that I would be allowed to go home. Because the hospital had to release me into someone’s care, Scott talked with the nurses and made plans for my discharge. Clothes changed, belongings gathered, I began to prepare myself for the “walk of shame” out of the hospital. The shame I imagined was quickly extinguished after I realized I wasn’t walking alone.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes love searches you out.

Sometimes love shows up in your hospital room.

Sometimes love shows up with warm blankets.

Sometimes love shows up to remind you that you are loved,

that you are safe,

that you are wanted.

Sometimes love shows up and sometimes love drives you home.

934148_564066710800_1490501974_n copyAlison Luna, born and raised deep in the heart of Texas, is learning what it means to press in to the places that hurt in order to fight for joy. She loves her last name and finds promises written in the stars. You can find Alison wrestling with the idea of hope here and tweeting it out in real time at @luna1387.