When mutuality turns to selfishness turns to a chance at true love

I’m going to try to write through something that is so very much still in progress so bear with my until the end, agreed?

I’m in the midst of becoming better at marriage, the hard way. Or at least the pinching, uncomfortable way… which describes most life lessons that I’ve gone through.

Kel and I believe in mutuality (definition here) when it comes to marriage, which means that we both submit to each other equally, to each other’s hopes and dreams and work and passion and time.

All of it.

holding-hands

Over the last few years with this concept, I’ve experienced a shift when it comes to what I believe about gender equality and marriage. And it’s set me free, it’s made sense of the gospel in a way that the old teaching never did.

But here’s the sucky part… there is a chance that I took it a step too far. There’s a chance that I’ve tipped the scales of mutual submission in my favor and straight on into selfishness.

Because mutual submission only works when you’re both submitting mutually and I’m beginning to suspect that in my marriage it’s been more Kel than I. I say that with a lump in my throat and fourteen tons of shame.

Yet, there it is.
Some people might use this as ammo for why mutuality doesn’t work, to them I say, read on…

When I look back on my thoughts, words and actions I’m coming to realize that there’s been a lot of blame shifting, finger pointing and “I’m not getting mine-ing.”

And this isn’t love, and it’s not mutual submission. In fact it’s become a power struggle in a way that marriage was never meant to be. It’s hell to be involved in a relationship where you both feel like you’re playing a game of tug of war for time and importance.

It’s exhausting and unsustainable.

A few weeks back I very seriously considered giving up writing, quitting my job with Young Life and no longer pursuing speaking stuff. Simply put it seemed easier to shrink, to give up the ghost that keeps me at this keyboard, to move into other things, simpler things.

It just seemed easier than figuring out what both AND looked like for our marriage in this season.

Kel didn’t want that, he recognized that this is who I am, that it’s one of this biggest ways in which God is redeeming my story, but I did. It seemed easier to stop trying to make it work to stop seeking out the balance and just give up.

But that’s not God’s plan for me, for our family.

It takes me back to the days in which Kel and I were falling in love over the phone, I had every intention of going to seminary alongside him and we’d regularly joke and dream about tag team preaching and doing ministry together.

Wherever God leads us, together side by side. That was the dream.

And you know what? It still is. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you quit. That flies in the face of every inspirational poster ever sold at Staples so it can’t be true.

No, it’s not about my giving up writing, but it is about me giving more. Putting others before myself and getting out of the rhythm where I’m constantly griping about not having enough time for myself.

It’s about getting back to gratitude, because gratitude is everything

It is about prayer, I need God to lead me to a better place of love and encouragement.

It is about asking for a heaping portion of gentleness and bravery.

It is about putting Kel before me and trusting that he’ll do the same.

It is about scheduling, because when time is on your side… you win.

It is about an inner paradigm shift.

But it’s not about my becoming smaller
It’s not about giving up
It’s not about throwing away the dream
It’s not about putting my marriage farther down the list

It’s about being a part of something in which you both say: “I want you to go through this life free, called and fully alive in a way that only Christ can invite you to.”

Some people say faith is a childish game
Play on, children, like it’s Christmas day
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Live Forever (go, listen, love)

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Ugly Cabbage Bowl

I’d packed soup for lunch but forgotten a spoon. Again. Packing lunch AND the silverware to eat it with eludes me utterly.

So I walked next door to the thrift store with a pocket full of dimes in search of a used fork and spoon.

The one-block walk to the thrift store turned out to be a good choice, sometimes you can get so cooped up in your office that you forget there’s a whole other world going on outside, one with sun and weather.

I hurried inside to the housewares and kitchen section and was soon rummaging through caddied of donated, hodgepodge silverware.

As I looked over my shoulder I could hear two silver haired women with perms speaking to each other loudly, through heavy dutch accents and hearing aids, about the finer points of used tupperware.

There was something about those two old women in the kitchen section of the thrift store that made me smile.  

I think we all start out on our high horses and end up completely happy with an old friend in a thrift store. That’s grace, and it smells a little musty.

Did they set out good with thrifted housewares or did they pick up the habit along the way, after life mandated that pricey, new bakeware was out of the question?

When we were newly married I was fanatical about tableware, everything had to match and I found plastic cups tacky.

I was snobby about thread counts and towels.

I had a clear vision of how things were supposed to be in a marriage and a family.

My current reality looks nothing that.

The factory that produced our Crate and Barrel dishes burned down, before we could complete our set.  And our fancy square drinking glasses went the way of the garbage as well, because they didn’t hold up in a sink full of dirty dishes.

So much of what I thought mattered went the way of the trash can, piece by piece and year by year.

cabbage

Now when I go for water, I ignore the sparkling clean glasses and head for the plastic mugs with the handles, because they hold more and don’t condensate.

I haunt thrift stores, looking for old furniture, funky home decor and used clothing.

And I have a ridiculously ugly cabbage bowl on display in our dining area, mostly for irony but also for personal reasons.

I thought that those things mattered and that they were the reasons my family would feel safe and loved in your home.

Turns out it’s night and day.  Babies don’t care about nursery decor and husbands don’t care if their fork matches their spoon.

Turns out that your people are far more interested in your ability to love well, to be tender to their pain and to encourage them even when you don’t feel like it.

They’re far more interested in the state of your heart than the state of your kitchen.

But it’s so much easier to throw ourself into the easy surface work than to keep delving into the hard work of soul health.

It’s easier to cultivate muffins and clean sinks than it is to learn about real, lasting Joy.

But I want to laugh in an ugly sweater when I’m 80 over tupperware and used cookie sheets.

So my only choice is to keep showing up before a God who loves me in spite of my many chips and cracks rely on him as I’m remade and patched up, ugly beautiful all over again.

In many ways I’m an ugly cabbage bowl, loved, cherished and enjoyed whether I deserve it or not.

31 Letters to my Mother {Day 31} Healing, Forgiveness, Stars and Dandelion Fluff

 Dear Mom,

Late letter, only two hours to spare. Forgive me but today was a mad dash of a thing.

We were in Oklahoma City early to take Noelle to see a specialist  (Don’t worry she’s absolutely fine.)

Then we rushed home only to run out the door again for Halloween and Trick or Treating.  It was a gorgeous evening graced by a foggy Harvest Moon.

The stars above us were so clear that Caedmon kept trying to reach up and touch them.  He squirmed in my arms straining for something so beautiful, ethereal and clearly out of his grasp.

What a fitting picture to close these letters with because so often in grieving the loss of you, I have felt like a child reaching for something I’ll never grab hold of.  All the components and pieces that made up your life and death will never come together cohesively for me.

I won’t ever really understand why.

And now, through these healing days of writing, I’m done grasping and striving for things out of my reach.

As I wrote and questioned, wondered and wept something inside of me changed.  The hard barbs and anger softened up into dandelion fluff and sort of floated away in a breeze of grace and forgiveness.

 I forgive you, I forgive me.  I know that at your core you were always the cheerleader, the one who loved to laugh, the woman who longed to be a mother, the mother who tried to make it work.

And now you’re spirit, light and free.  I feel you always in the corners of my life, no longer the heavy, burdened soul but a gorgeous presence in my life. One who laughs and rejoices at what she sees in her daughter and grandchildren.

The little child in me will always long for the comfort of your lap and the safety of your arms. The grown woman in me longs partner with you in the struggling and striving of adulthood.

We stand Mother and daughter, one on each side of glory.  You know fully and I squint into a mirror most days, hoping for a glimpse of the divine that you are surrounded by.

And this is how we shall be until we meet again, until we can see each other fully, as God intended.

Forever and always I love you, I miss you

LeaRae

31 Letters to my Mother {Day 30} Peacock apologies

Dear Mom,

My house is a weird and cluttered mess of coffee cups and laundry right now.  My floors are sprinkled with dead leaves, cheerios and little people toys.  My sinks need a good ol fashioned “soft scrub” treatment and our toilets well, let’s never mind those.

Life has gotten away from me again and I have the piles of dishes and laundry to prove it.

I don’t have anything pretty or polished to show off and my eyes are purply baggy-saggy from all our recent sleepless nights of coughing and fitful dreams.

Remember when I used to come through your house in a huff?  I would strut around like a snooty peacock making snarky comments about what you were eating, wearing, watching and the state of your refrigerator.

I know that I made you feel awful about yourself and I claimed that I wasn’t doing it on purpose.

But you know what?  I think that I was. 

I think somewhere in my messed up head I thought you’d see me in all my fake perfection and want to make some healthy changes in your life.  

Yet, I know now that no one ever inspired positive change in others by rubbing it in their face.  Real, loving help comes with side by side humility and oodles of patience.

And honestly, I’m not sure that would have worked either.  Some days I’m not sure if I ever could made a difference in your overall health and then other day’s I’m certain that I could have, but went about it all wrong.

Some days I blame myself and other days I blame you.  I always blame the depression but I’m still not sure where the line is between what you could control and what was beyond you.

Yet none of it excuses the bitchy peacock treatment I so often gave you.

So for the strutting around, I’m sorry
For the talking down, I’m sorry
For the lack of love I am ever and always sorry sorry sorry.

I hope you felt loved, I hope that somehow your mother heart could see that my behavior stemmed from feelings of abandonment and confusion and not malice or hate.

It was love mom, confused, misspoken love.  I’m not sure you could have ever interpreted it that way.

Tomorrow I will sign off, our letters in this space are nearly coming to a close but I think they’ve started a conversation between us that will never end.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae