The Evolution of “Us” (A love letter to Kel)

This week I’m writing about marriage, mine mostly because that’s the only one I’ve been in.  I’m still working on the details, so for now I’m just writing a love letter to my stud muffin, the bacon to my BLT, the brown eyed okie boy who took my life by storm, The Kel.  

a goodbye, nose-smooshing, airport kiss.

Wow babe, six years eh?  Six feels like such an odd number, it’s not tiny and it’s not a multiple of five, it’s just… six.

Six years ago my uncle walked me down the aisle and we cried, you more than me.  We slow danced to a song about a broken road, not because it was popular but because it was just right for us.

We had no idea then how many winding roads we would take together and how soon we would fall apart, side by side.  In a way we both know that this is a getting up place for us, that for the first time since our cross country move, Noelle’s birth, My Mom’s Funeral and Caedmon’s arrival we have our bearings, maybe, probably.

And yes, we know that it could all change tomorrow…

We’re learning to laugh again, you and I, and we’re daily giving each other handfuls of grace, even on days when the sink is broken and the AC has gone out. We’re learning to look across the table and see each other as perfect in the moment, even in paint stained shorts and frizzy hair and always it seems, with bags under our eyes.

We had no idea what a marathon parenting would be, we dreamed it would happen in soft, hazy blips, but the constant march has been a steep learning curve.

So we’re perfecting at art of the “at home date” and the humor that can be found in just how wrong things seem to go some days. Such as babies who build tacos on their head and then poop on the floor without us noticing because we’re Just. That. Tired.

Mostly I just love you and lately I feel like I love you all over again in a new and fresh way that’s come clean of all my unfair expectations.  My heart is full of passion to love you as the man God created you to be.  I’m dropping all my silly notions of who you should become.

I’m seeing you beyond my own nose, taking you into my newly tender heart, surrendering to all the ways that I can’t earn or control love.

In year 7 I’ll keep buying you super hero underwear because I want you to feel strong in spite of all the ways the world can tear you up.  I want you to wake up and believe you’re able to work miracles in his name, because you are and you do.

As the days go on I say screw the lawn, forget the theological bickering and all the high expectations I used to put on everything.  Let’s just draw together, skin on skin in the moments of life, not as we imagined or planned them but just as they are.

And of course I’m half awake writing this, and of course you’re 1,000 miles away finishing up your masters but baby, I love you like whoa.

Bring on 7, 17, and 47.

Tears on the Steering Wheel

Yesterday morning I loaded up my two kids for the library, because when life gets crazy there is something about taking them to the classic haven of the library that feels just right.  The smell of paper and wooden puzzles ground me and I can feel the weight of questioning and wisdom of all the hearts behind the pages, every one with a soul just like mine.

As we pulled in the adjacent lot and looked for a spot that would shade our black van from the heat my head swam with the weight of this week.  So many words lodged in anger, hate and misunderstanding.

Without planning to I plopped my head down on the steering wheel and wept and Noelle pleaded with me to “be okay and take a deep breath.”  There are no words I can give a three year old that communicate how much bigger problems can get.

She lives blissfully unaware that mental illness can cause someone to shoot children at a movie theater and an off handed interview comment can flood the world with days of divided raging.

When she walks into preschool every kid hugs her and shouts “Noelle!” like she’s Norm walking into cheers.  Why can’t it stay like that?  Those three year olds will likely tear each other apart before graduation day, the hugs will stop and the differences will seem to be the most important.

I wept because I am head over heels in love with the word of God and also in love with the gay teenager whose history of bullying makes suicide sound better than returning to school.

As I cried, I longed for heaven.  I marveled at how burying my parents didn’t bring this deep a desire to be done with this world as these two weeks of ugly violence and hate have.

Then I stepped into God’s shoes and shed a few more tears.  My children often bicker over the ball popping elephant or who gets to close the front door but they’re too young to really hurt each other.

I hope I never have to reflect on a day when they rip each other’s hearts apart, because I imagine that’s what heaven’s feeling after this week.  You see, chicken man, terrified gay teen, self-righteous pastor, Lesbian Activist and me, we are all his kids.  Loved more fiercely and deeply than I love these two kids strapped in car seats, eager to tear up the library.

And in this hot, painful week, more than weigh in with an opinion, I am burdened with his heart of love that seems to go sadly unnoticed in the fray.

So many voices rising up in protest to tear down people they’ve never met and certainly don’t understand.

I want to feast on his word and at the same time encourage all of us sinners that no one with a mega phone or a can of spray paint can steal God’s love for them.

My sweet friend Joy Cannis shared this with me during a quote giveaway and it’s shaping the way that Kel and I love and teach our children to love:

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded and to say, “I was wrong.” ~Sydney J Harris

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?

He’s home, for ME.

This is my man. swoon!

Last night we painted welcome home signs complete with a stick figure daddy to welcome home my husband Kel.  Today he rolled in just before 1:00, tired and dragging his suitcase.  I promptly jumped on him in delight and squealed like a monkey.

I’ve told him at least 22 times already that I’m so glad he’s back, that he’s mine and I’ll never stop annoying him with reminders of how glad I am to be reunited.

You see, this time he’s home for me.  Not to take care of the yard or resume bath duty. He’s home for me, because he’s my sexy hot papa and I’ve missed him.  For the first time in a very long while I was delighted that we were together again, just to be us.

3 days and 2 hours might not seem like a long time to be away, but you have to realize that we left in the midst of a fight and had another one over text message, you know, for good measure.

I always get a little irritated when he leaves and I’m left with everything to do at home and no one to share it with.  I grumble things like, “those conference planners never asked me if I wanted to pull three triple shifts.”  or “I bet he’s out to lunch right now, laughing and eating a gourmet sandwich while I’m cleaning up a broken salt shaker and trying to convince our daughter not to eat the ceramic remains.

After the kids were born,  I began to miss him not for who he was, but for the things he did.  That view of him eventually drifted into our day to day life as well.   “Great, you’re home, fire up the grill, Dizzle needs a diaper and I’m going to need you to run back out for milk later.”

I saw him as the relief pitcher, the extra help, the lawn guy.  Not Kel the guy with the deep brown eyes who cried through our wedding vows.  Not Kel the one who romanced me with poems about sitting on a couch in the front yard.  Not Kel the one who held me through funerals and breakdowns, weddings and births.

Somebody smack me, for I reduced him to “the help.”

Screw that, the help?  No, that’s nothing like what I swore to on our wedding day and it doesn’t line up very congruently with God’s plan either.

I want sexy friendly funny fabulous union again, not just two people with different to-do lists.  Two roomies always moving around each other, rarely intersecting.

Marriage and relationship growth will always require shifting and changing as our circumstances morph around us and God continues to grow and whittle us beautiful.  We straight up can’t think that just because we’ve found ourselves in a rough patch or unhealthy rhythm that we can’t squeeze through to a better tomorrow.

Good old fashioned elbow grease and determination can free you from any jam you’re stuck in, even and especially marriage.

And if you’re going to view your husband as the yard guy, at least make a fun game out of it.  Sit in a lawn chair with some lemonade and shorty shorts watching him like he’s the ice cream truck on a steamy summer day.

Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you see your spouse as what they do and not who they are?  Let’s get together and high tail it out of there, it’s a sucky place to dwell.