Tag Archive | God

Proverbs 31 Woman: Verses 10 – 13

Proverbs 31 WomanToday, for lack of a bible study at the moment, I decided to dive back into my favorite passage in the Bible: Proverbs 31.  As a woman and a wife, I love having a passage that basically lays down the ground rules. Even more, I love how it morphs and grows every time I read it. There is always something new to learn from it! Since many of my posts have been anxious or angry lately, I thought I’d share something a little more upbeat today.

The passage starts in verse 10. The NIV Easy-To-Read version (my husband’s) says, “How hard it is to find the perfect wife. She is worth far more than jewels.” Before, I always assumed that it meant literally perfect. Like, the 50’s wives with their cute little dresses, pouty red lips, and bright smile as they vacuumed. Or, the image I had of my own mother: balancing a million things at once, being a stay-at-home mom, and always having a spotless house. That was and will always be unattainable. Perfection cannot be grasped by us here on earth, and it seemed so unfair that it was one of the requirements to being that Proverbs 31 woman.

The passage, though, notes that “the perfect wife” can be translated “a noble woman.” So what is a noble woman? Webster-Mirriam Dictionary defines noble as something or someone “of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” The passage isn’t calling for a perfect woman. It’s calling for a noble one! Not, “who can be the perfect wife?” but “who can be a woman of excellent moral character?” After all, the writer knows that no one is perfect. How arrogant of me to think he was asking me to be perfect. The rarity of finding a noble woman, a woman with this moral excellence,” is what makes her “worth far more than jewels.”

Verse 11-12 in the Easy-to-Read version (EtR) were a little more confusing. I decided to open up the wonderful BibleGateway, and the comparisons were really neat!

 EtR – “Her husband depends on her. He will never be poor. She does good for her husband all her life. She never causes him trouble.”
NIV – “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

NKJV – “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

The Message – “Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.”

Originally, I read the verses to literally mean “she helps him make money, and she doesn’t make any trouble.” Sounded good to me, but it seemed a little flat. After all, what about the women who are stay-at-home moms, or who are not able to work because of injury, illness, or something else? Are they then not noble women? Are they making their husbands poorer?

The other translations, however, opened up an entirely new realm of this “depending.” It isn’t just in the surface level financial trust. His poverty isn’t in the bank. It’s in their relationship. He has “full confidence.” His heart “safely trusts her.” He “trusts her without reserve.” Her worthiness of his trust brings him “no lack of gain.” He “never has reason to regret it.  How beautiful is that! How many of us can look at our relationship with our husband and honestly say that he has no reason to regret giving us his heart? I know I can think of so many times I did not honor his trust, whether it was something simple or something huge. Think about it: when my husband says I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and I brush it off with a “you have to say that” comment, I am crushing his affection, saying he doesn’t count as a man to determine beauty. Simple. When I withhold my body from him, denying that sexual aspect of his being because I’m angry/resentful/hurt/apathetic/whatever, his trust that I will nurture him is damaged. (And yes, ladies, our husbands need that just as we need relationship.) And the biggy: when I look to the appreciation of the men around me, outside of my husband, it opens the door to resentment, fear, and hurt. And that one is the big one for me, because I have incredibly low self-esteem. While I am appreciating and acknowledging my husband’s compliments and genuine attraction more than ever, I still find myself wanting to go out and be the “trophy wife” on his arm. I crave the glances, the attention of other men to feel better about myself. Not because I’m looking to go to them, and not because I want to be a tease. Purely out of unconscious need to feel like someone wants me or thinks I’m pretty. That “need” devalues my husband.

The EtR verse 12, “she never causes him trouble,” especially stuck out to me. While I am purposely trying to moderate my tendencies to seek outside approval (cursed people-pleasing self….), I am discovering a new vice: gossip. And lord oh lord, does it bring my poor husband trouble. The verse actually made me laugh out loud. I am far from a noble woman for my hubby. My mouth likes to run away, leaving icky feelings, foot-in-mouth moments, and bruised relationships in its wake. Poor husband either has to listen to my blather or has to try to piece together what my carelessness broke.

Verse 13, however, was my favorite of the bunch today.

EtR – “She is always gathering wool and flax and enjoys making things with her hands.”

NIV – “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”

NKJV – “She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands.”

TM – “She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.”

What? Are we supposed to all sit in rocking chairs and knit all day? Or should we be crafty, scouring Pinterest for the next neat thing to make with the kids or to use around the house? No.

The verses show a deeper meaning to this idea of working. This noble woman is “always gathering,” “selecting” with care, “seeking” and shopping “for the best yarns and cottons.” She is selective in what she chooses and makes sure to get the best things for her chosen career as what appears to be a seamstress. And, she takes pride in what she makes. She willingly works with her hands, enjoying what she does. So then, do I have the same outlook as she? Do I take pride in my chosen career? Do I choose the best materials? Do I take joy in the activity? I was unsurprised to discover that I don’t. In a culture where women are often pressured to join the workforce, my decision and passion to stay home with kids and take care of my household has left me feeling second-rate. I have a passion for being a housewife and mother, but I don’t take pride in my children, my husband, or my home. I am definitely not living in excellence. And that goes for any career. Do you take pride and have joy in your chosen path? If you’re a nurse, do you welcome the sunrise each day, thrilled to work with patients and co-workers? If you’re a teacher, do you eagerly grade papers, knowing the impact you’re making every day in a child’s life? If you’re a bank teller, do you give your best effort behind that counter? Whatever your job, do you value it like this? And I do mean temporary jobs as well, since sometimes we cannot do or have not discovered our “dream job” just yet. For those of us who have found what our passion is, though, do we chase after it and do it to our best ability?

I’m only four verses into this passage, and I’ve already been massively convicted. Am I striving to be a noble woman, one with a strong moral character and the desire to live with excellence? Am I protecting and nurturing my husband’s heart, so that he has a safe place to come to? Am I bringing him good things, or am I living recklessly and bringing him pain? And am I living my passion as if it’s second-rate, or am I living it passionately, proudly, and eagerly?

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s verses bring.

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Those Three Words

I Love You by HaskinsJ, deviantart.com

I Love You by HaskinsJ, deviantart.com

I didn’t realize how much I refused to say it. I wrote papers in high school about how I didn’t believe it existed. I wouldn’t say it to anyone. I wouldn’t even let myself think it. And if I did say it, it was hollow, said just to please some romantic. When the hubby’s, then just the boyfriend, family said it all the time to anyone, I was shocked. Scandalized. Afraid. When I tried it with my family, those three words fell flat, and I again refused to say it.

I couldn’t say “I love you.”

I don’t know why. Really, I have no idea! It isn’t like my parents never said it to us kids. They said it all the time. My mom would whisper it while she tickled my back at night as a little girl. My dad would tell me on our daddy-daughter dates. They’d tell us randomly throughout the day.

Whatever the reason, whether something forming over my rebellious high school years or as a result of watching my parents’ marriage struggle, I decided that love was something precious and rare, maybe non-existent all together. I kept it locked in a little corner of my heart, with “Only Use in Emergencies” plastered across the front of the glass. Those words were only when I really, really meant it.

My husband’s family, however, had the completely opposite idea: they said it to everyone special to them. Family, friends, even me. I was shocked. Was love so trivial to them that they shared it with everyone? No, I realized, as I watched them. Every time, every time, my husband left the house, one or both of his parents would shout out “Love you!” and he’d shout it back. There was always a lightness in his walk, a slight smile after we left.

If they said it to me, though, I’d freeze. I’d cough and splutter and turn red, and then mumble an awkward, “Love ya, too” while desperately glancing at the hubby. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t allowed to open that case except in an emergency. It was currently only open to the hubby, and I was scared to say it to anyone else. I was afraid it’d cheapen it.

Over the years, I’ve watched the hubby have long-lasting, incredibly deep relationships with those around him. He is loyal to a fault with his family, willing to do anything and forgiving anything. He calls his best friends brothers and isn’t ashamed to say, “love ya, man.” He goes out of his way to make sure that they know he cares, helping friends’ little sisters move broken-down cars, offering help whenever he can and drinks if he can’t. My husband’s heart is huge. There is no one he cannot befriend, and he loves freely and openly.

I thought I was doing better. A recovering love-a-phobic. We always say “I love you” when we hang up, and if one of us forgets, we text to see if they were mad. It’s easy between us. And I love my boys ridiculously, saying it perhaps more than normal folks do. I even toss it into conversations with my family, even though I know they probably won’t say it back. (Not because they don’t love me, too, but because they either aren’t expecting it or because it’s just not the way we function.)

Wednesday at church, though, I had a revelation. One of my Bible study sisters always says, “Love you!” as the boys and I leave. I always awkwardly nod and pretend like #1 is doing something crazy so I have an excuse not to say it back. Emergencies only, and all. And I realized: love isn’t just romantic. It seems so simple, but it was why I’d kept it bottled up for years. I assumed that “I love you” was either romantic or for immediate family. I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around loving someone else. In that moment, I realized that I have a very narrow view of love, one that’s kept me stinted in my relationships and kept me much lonelier than I should be. I’d severed friendships because I wouldn’t allow myself to love. Cut off family because I was afraid of it being thrown in my face. Refused to open up to my new family-by-marriage because it seemed so foreign.

Yet God calls us to first love him, and then love others. My husband, who doesn’t go to church regularly and didn’t grow up going to Christian school or singing “Amazing Love” in youth group, understands the heart of God more than I do.

I was humbled. Beyond belief, I found myself staggering to my knees. Love wasn’t and isn’t about some thing that I give only to those who are worthy. Rather, it is something to be given to everyone, because I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve love from anyone, because I’m flawed. I tend towards micromanaging, controlling, and dominating. I want to have everything in its place, and think only I can do it best. (The biggest of my human flaws.) I, as a sinful creature, deserve nothing but separation. Yet for some reason, God loves me. He loves me ugly spots and all. If I can be loved, it seems only logical to love those around me.

Last Wednesday, I said “Love you” back to my friend. A weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt free. It seems silly, and overly simple, but I am realizing that love is for our sisters and brothers, our friends, and our family. It is for those we value, and saying it to more people doesn’t cheapen it. Rather, it makes it more precious, more beautiful than it could ever be otherwise.

Someday, I hope to have the kind of heart my husband has: one open to loving everyone, one that easily forgives and quickly forgets. For now, I’m so thankful that God brought him into my life, so I can have the nearest human example of what true love really is.

Avoiding Life’s Mudslides

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

My Bible study this morning had Psalm 40:2 in it.

“He lifted me out of the grave,

He lifted me from that muddy place,

He picked me up, put me on solid ground,

and kept my feet from slipping.”

I love that. It’s my husband’s (yet-to-be-read) Easy-to-read version, so the phrasing is a little different, but it spoke to me more than my usual NIV. The notes at the bottom say that “grave” is literally “pit of destruction” or “Sheol, the place of death.” It goes on, saying that the “muddy place” David mentions was Sheol, the place of death that was surrounded by mud. Sheol was the ancient version of hell, the eternal resting place for everyone – righteous or unrighteous – and was set apart from God.

I’m not going to try to interpret David’s meaning. It wasn’t David’s story that spoke to me. It was my own. It was my circumstances that God whispered to this morning.

Right now, my women’s Bible study group is studying the book Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver. It is a fabulous book that addresses our inner struggles as women (and people in general) to constantly be in control. We have to be in control of our image, of our family, of our career. We have learned flaws that drive us. My primary one is the flaw of performance, constantly needing to perform at a certain level to make sure I get others’ approval. Mom coming over? The house must look like a model home, not like I have two kids and a husband and cook from scratch. Stay at home mom? My kid must be able to read by Kindergarten. My food must be organic and made by hand, not out of a can. Going to church? My boys must be dressed to a T, I must be uber-involved, and I must sing beautifully during worship. Whenever I’m not serving in Children’s Ministry.

None of those things are bad things inherently. They’re all driven, though, by my desire to hit certain standards to feel good about myself. When I fail, because I will fail, I beat myself up and feel like a failure. The flaw is my worship of status and standard, rather than my worship of God and His power.

I’m learning to lean on him and try to reach his standards with him, rather than attempting to reach self-imposed standards on my own strength. Psalm 40:2 was like a balm on my bruised heart. I’ve not had an easy time giving up my selfishness or my standards, but it was like he knelt down, hugged me, and whispered, “Let me hold your hand. I’ll keep you from slipping back into that muck.”

Not three hours later, I discovered that the government aid we had been waiting for was denied. With it gone, we are facing the tough reality that we will have to get health insurance for all of us through hubby’s work. (Per law, though I’m on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26, I have to switch because hubby’s work offers it, meaning much higher premiums.) To top it off, #2 might have a serious allergy, meaning more finagling of the food budget. My first reaction was panic. And fear. The insurance would likely be nearly 20% of hubby’s take-home pay, and 75% already goes to housing costs and insurance. Anger soon followed. After all, we were just as deserving of help as all the other people out there! Why were we denied? What magical money do we have hidden, or is it the same excuse as last time, that “the system says we should be able to change our spending habits and provide well enough?” Are we supposed to live on Ramen and hot dogs?

Right in the middle of my panic attack, “David’s Song” came on Pandora. The last verse echoed in my heart.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Suddenly, I felt a stillness. In that moment, I cried out to Him. “Why is this happening? I know I’m supposed to trust in you, but in this moment, I don’t know what to do! I’m lost. Our family is struggling, and it seems like everything is against us.” I took a deep breath, and remembered Psalm 40:2. He had promised to keep me from slipping, to hold my hand and keep me on solid ground. “I trust you. I don’t know what else to do, but I trust you. Help us.”

The peace I felt then was humbling. Was I still scared? Yes. After all, I still don’t know what’s planned for us. The anger and worry, though, was slowly drifting away, to be replaced by clarity. I knew what I needed to do, even though my heart wanted to run away. And as I followed His lead, he began opening doors.

Soon, I will be a working woman again. As a wife, it’s my role to be a helper to my husband, a support and a partner in life’s ups and downs. Just as God will keep me from slipping down into the muck, I am called to help my husband and keep our family from sliding down into despair. Do I necessarily want to be working? No. I love being a stay at home mom. I love caring for my family in those domestic, traditional roles. I realize, though, that right now my husband needs me to step up and help financially. He and I are a team. Together, we’ll shoulder the burden and make it through. With two incomes, those budget issues we have will be solved, or at least massively reduced. The stresses he faces daily will dissolve. And I will grow even closer to God, because this will take a lot of self-humbling.

Someday, I hope to stay home with my children again, to take care of my family through making them my career. Right now, I will sacrifice made-from-scratch meals and perfectly organized kids’ rooms and a clean kitchen table for knowing that they will have food and will be on health insurance once this current one expires.

Most of all, I will remember that I can’t do any of this on my own. My desires will always have me sinking in the mud. All my efforts will only end in spiritual stagnancy and death. So, I’ll continue to pray for guidance and continue to lay my fear and anger and frustration and struggles at the feet of the only One strong enough to handle them, the only one who can keep me from slipping into my past self.

I will trust the solid ground he puts me on.

The Power of Shared Tears

The Child Who Was Never Born - Martin Hudacek

The Child Who Was Never Born – Martin Hudacek

It never ceases to amaze me how I feel when a friend or acquaintance opens up about their miscarriage experience. There is this feeling of awe, that they would trust me with such a powerful, painful experience. And sadness, because I know my own story, and so I can empathize. Even more, though, there is a sense of loss.

Perhaps many of you who have gone through this can relate. Maybe some of you who’ve never had a pregnancy but want one can chip in, let us know if it’s the same/similar for you.

I feel like we as a community of people have lost the ability to empathize. I don’t know if it’s an American/Western issue or just an issue with those around me, but crying with someone just isn’t really a thing. Especially if it’s anyone but your best friend or sister, crying is just… “weird.”

There is nothing else I longed for, though, when I had my miscarriages than for someone to cry with me. We all know that hollow feeling you get when you either say or receive an “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We just don’t know what to say in that moment. Really, words just don’t quite cut it. Actions, though. Actions are a literal balm to my soul. All I wanted was for someone to wrap me in a hug and let me let it all out. Someone to say, “It’s ok to cry. Let me cry with you. Let me be your protection so you can be weak.”

And yet, that’s so far from what often happens.

In my own experience, I thought I had to face it all on my own. Part of it was due to our history: 18 and pregnant isn’t a great place to start, and 21 and pregnant with no money isn’t much better. My mother, God love her, was and is and always will be very concerned with my welfare and that of our family. She is just one of many people who were and are, so this isn’t an attack on my mother. She is amazing in so many ways. I knew, though, that her concern for us would leave her very disappointed in us getting pregnant. I was afraid that she would say, “Honey, I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it’s for the best” or “It’s better this way.”  I couldn’t face that. Regardless of better or worse, it was a life. A life that I lost. I wanted to go to her and cry in her arms, let Momma kiss it better. But, I couldn’t be certain that she’d be honestly sad for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of even an iota of thought that the miscarriage was a good thing.

Then, there was the fact that both pregnancies ended very, very early. The first was 4 weeks 3 days in. The doctor was amazed I even knew I was pregnant. Ohhh… the words “chemical pregnancy” still make me tremble. The second passed at 6 weeks 1 day, but the sonogram at 5 weeks was so full of cysts that the doctors weren’t even sure which was the baby. Apparently, it never progressed from 4 weeks gestation. I’d gone in at 4 weeks when I got the positive because of the previous miscarriage (a case of incredibly low hormones). Turns out, I was wise to. Again, it was hormonal. One doctor told me that, at that early in the pregnancy, neither are actually considered pregnancies because they aren’t viable. It was so relieving to have my nurse squeeze my hand and say, “Baby, as soon as that positive sign pops, it’s a baby. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.” Her validation made all of the doubt and poo-pooing of everyone else bearable. To me, they were babies. They might never have gotten past those first stages, but they were still my babies. Every time someone brushed it off as my being dramatic, I died a little inside.

The worst, though, was the pain from those I did confide in.

One that I treasured as a confidant told me I had it better than her because I had a baby to hold when I lost the ones I couldn’t. She said it was worse for her with her miscarriages because she didn’t have a baby yet. I wanted to run away when I heard that. Neither is better or worse. The pain is there all the same. I might have had #1 to hold, but I knew the feeling of the first flutter. I knew the sound of a baby’s heartbeat impossibly emerging from my belly button. I knew the feel of kicks and heart burn and itchy skin. I knew that amazing feeling of birth and the moment directly after. I knew it all, was waiting for it, and lost it.

Another told me that “It just wasn’t God’s timing.” Granted, looking back I can see that it’s all been worked out for the best, but I firmly believe that God is not orchestrating fetal deaths. He might allow it, due to our fallen, corrupted world where our bodies and those of our children are not perfect, but I seriously doubt that God sits up there and rubs his beard and says, “Hmm… Grace needs to become more organized and needs to have more faith in me. Rather than let her have this baby, I think I’ll use it as a chance for her to grow.” The God I love is not cruel, nor is he manipulative. He uses what is presented. He does not force it to happen.

And the worst confirmed all my fears. “It’s better off this way.” File that along with the “You’re too young to have another kid” and “Y’all don’t have enough money for another baby” and “You’re not ready anyway.” I know mentally that they are meant in the best manner possible, and yet all I felt in the midst of my pain was condescension. I’m sorry, it’s not better off without my baby here beside me. And that comment of “there was probably something wrong with it anyway” is no better. I would give an arm and a leg to have a baby I could kiss, even for a moment, rather than not have them here at all. I know it’s selfish, since I do believe in heaven and I do believe that it’s a place of wholeness and perfection. Still, my human heart refuses to accept that away from me is better than with me. It hurts too much to think about.

The only response I really wanted was exactly what that nurse said. I wanted validation for my pain. I wanted someone to look at me and say, “It’s scary right now. It’s going to be scary for a while. But, you will make it to the other side.” I wanted a friend to come up, offer me a glass of wine, and let me cry. A few months after the second miscarriage, I got exactly that with a close high school friend who’d lost her baby at 12 weeks. It was the most healing thing I’ve ever felt.

I will be honest with you all. I’m sure a lot of my pain and suffering emotionally was because I did try to keep it all to myself. Those fears I talked about last post, the voice and the fears and the doubts? I didn’t mention that to my husband. The times that I screamed at God, demanding why? No one else was home. I couldn’t let anyone else see my weakness. After all, I had a toddler to care for and a career to keep up with and a husband to not freak out. So I sat in the bathroom with the door locked screaming into a towel.

It’s not the way it should be. We women (and the men who love us) should learn to empathize more, to break down that invisible personal bubble and offer a shoulder to cry on. How drastically less would my heartache have been if the words I heard had been, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry…” or “Come here, let me hug you.” I don’t know, honestly. And before I hear the “give it to God” comments, I did. It kept me sane. And lemme tell you, it was one of the worst, most beautiful moments of my life. It was one of those prayers where the pain is so much that there just are no words. Where your mind is so fractured that all you can do is scream. And scream I did. If God were human, he’d have slapped me silly. He’s not, though. Instead, he wrapped his arms around me and comforted me. He let me vent all my anger and fear and shame and feelings of failure on him, and he just held me.

We should do the same for our sisters. Maybe you haven’t experienced the pain of losing an unborn child. Have you lost a child after? Have you lost a loved one? Lost a marriage? Lost anyone important to you? The pain of relational void is something we have all experienced to some degree. I’m not saying we should all try to be in her shoes. No one can know exactly what you’re going through, and that’s ok. All you need to do is remember your own pain and then share that pain with hers. Silently is usually best, I’ve found. Just knowing that someone else has hurt like you have is so amazingly healing. And more than that, knowing that you have someone who knows what happened and is willing to be there to listen, to check up on you, and to be your strength when you have none left: those are the greatest friends I have.

The fears left from those sweet babies of mine may never go away. I feared I’d lose #2 up until the moment he arrived. Part of me still fears that he was a fluke, a miracle given to heal my heart. I know, now, though, that I have people who will stand by me regardless. The women I’ve met since who opened up about their own miscarriages have become a refuge from my fears. My husband has been amazing, blowing me away with his compassion and grace and understanding. Without him, I’d still be lost. Most of all, I’ve discovered that for every misplaced comment and painful minimization from one person, there is another personout there who has the wisdom or the longing to connect with me and bridge that gap.

It hurts. It always will. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it merely pulls them away from the front of your mind. As soon as it comes up, though, it’s like it never left. I will not hide that pain anymore, though. And I hope I can be brave enough to break the wall and reach out to someone hurting.

Flawed Intentions

I need to apologize. I put my own self before the true reason for this blog: to share stories and feelings relatable to all. I got my panties in a bunch and posted a few blogs that not only segregated many who might read this blog, but also muddled my own message.

If I am to be a true ambassador for Christ, as I hope to be despite my flaws, I cannot be purposely stirring the waters. I am sorry. I put my own human agenda before a much higher, more important one. I put my own thoughts out there, determined to “stand up” for people like my friend because “no one else was.” Instead, I just continued the debate raging through the interweb and beyond. I did nothing for her except polarize anyone who might read. And that, I have realized, is fruitless. I say I love all, but my words say that I only love those who agree. And really, there’s no reason for me to attach a sign to my forehead and parade around, pretending to be righteous.

So, I apologize. I let my human heart get in the way. I still believe that we, as the church, are called to love whomever may cross our paths. I’ve just come to realize that I wasn’t doing that.

There Goes My Life

The sky outside today is stunning.  Even a blue sky cannot compete with the mystery of a pewter-colored expanse. It always calms me, leaves me mellow and contemplative. A blue sky is energizing, never quite the same color. I remember the first time I realized that a blue sky changed color. I was 10, standing on Mt. Egmont in New Zealand. There was a soggy, icy plastic bag in one hand and snow-soaked mittens slowly numbing my fingers, but all I could do was stare up. It was the deepest blue I’d ever seen, a blue I could get lost in. It faded to a lighter blue, then nearly white at the horizon, disappearing into the blanket of clouds below us. I was mesmerized. Today’s sky, though, holds a different allure. Grey skies have one color, a blanket of grey that mutes the soul, makes the green of the earth vibrant, and promises something, though it’s never clear what. I can just as easily get lost in it.

Today, the sky matches my mood. I’m hovering on the edge of nostalgia and contentment, desire and depression. The house is strangely quiet. The washing machine swishes away in front of me, Luke Bryant plays on Pandora, and #2 is playing on the carpet. The husband is still sleeping after a hard night of over-time. #1 is with his grandma, about to head out on a 4 day trip through America.

I miss him. Watching his brother, I realize just how much #1 changed my life. It might not always be stress-free. It might be full of bumps and bruises and temper tantrums, but I needed him. I like to pretend that he needed me, too, but we all know that our children are really sent to us, just at the moment where our hearts are most open, most vulnerable to love.

In some alternate universe somewhere, I’m in graduate school pursuing my academic dreams. I’m probably debt-free, alone, and focused on myself. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, if I hadn’t left school for my new family. And then I get dive-bombed for bananas or drooled on by a happy, toothless creature.

My teenage pregnancy was something I struggled with for a very long time. Some days, I still do. According to my plans, it was horribly timed and totally insane. It tore me in half, leaving part of me longing to hide it while the other half wanted to rejoice. After all, I was 18. I was supposed to be a “good Christian girl.” My cover was shattered.

I’m learning that God’s plans and timing are much better than my own. He gave me the option to have free will and choose to act as I did. He loved me enough to use it to bless me. Would I change it? Before, a part of me would have cringed in shame and said, “yes…” Now, though, as I look around my house at the toys scattered across the floor, the dishes in the sink, and the baby biting my pj pants, I can 100% say, “Definitely not.” That alternate self would never have found love so unconditional, so unchanging, or so challenging. She would never have been forced out of her comfort zone, never experienced what it meant to depend wholly on God, to rely solely on one other person to make it through.

I will be the first to tell any young person that sex is for marriage. Of course it’s wonderful. Of course it’s addicting. The consequences that come with it, though, namely that of pregnancy, are not something a young person should be having to shoulder. No one should have the responsibility of another life until they are ready. Life happens, though, and thankfully, with help, we were able to become ready. It isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. Bills sometimes don’t get paid and fights are sometimes had, but this is a beautiful, wonderful life.

Today, I feel very much like the sky outside, blanketing my heart with memories I hold close. I might cry, I might blow away. I’m not sure. How I’m feeling exactly is a mystery, but I know that I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

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Does the LGBT Community Deserve Our Love?

churchI have a confession to make. I have no idea whether homosexuality or bisexuality, or any of the non-heterosexualities, lie in the realm of right or wrong. I don’t know how to tackle that particular topic within the realm of theology or anything else.

But you know what? I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter. Let me say that again. It doesn’t matter. Why? Because. Because we aren’t called to love just the people who are heterosexual. That would be like saying, “We Christians only love people who don’t cheat on their taxes, don’t murder, and don’t commit adultery.” Do we actually do that? I hope not, though I suspect it might happen. But the issue of the LGBT community is a very clear-cut case within the church. It is brought up again and again, plastered across Facebook pages like some kind of sad wrapping paper of the soul: homosexuality is bad.

The most frustrating thing I see is this idea that homosexuality is a choice. What if it isn’t? I don’t know if it isn’t, but if the tables were switched and heterosexuality was the new “blight,” I don’t think I’d be able to change my orientation. Girls just don’t “do it” for me, and if someone tried to force me to change that, I don’t think I could. Some have said being gay is just a preference, forged throughout childhood and brought on by images or pop culture or Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” Others have said it’s an actual genetic predisposition. Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, what if it is genetic? What if it’s coded right there next to blue eyes and brown hair? Right next to your freckles and your big ears? What if, genetically speaking, a gay person is “born gay?” What then? Is it wrong, just like a certain group decided that brown eyes and brown hair was genetically wrong? That was ludacris then, and it would be the same now.

I don’t know. Whether it is inherent or developed, sexuality seems like something incredibly personal to me. I resent those who tell me how to run my sex life, and I’m straight. How much more frustrating, degrading, and downright abusive is it then to get involved in someone else’s sex life unprovoked?

I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with me, and I know there are multiple Bible verses out there proclaiming that homosexuality is wrong. I haven’t studied them, though, and they seem like they’re talking about the act, not the person. Like I said, though, I don’t know whether it is right or wrong. It isn’t how sex was created to be to fulfill the act of procreation, so as sin is defined in the Hebrew – “missing the mark” – I suppose it is. But so are many things we do throughout the day. I yelled at #1 today because he was flopping on the couch. Once. I yelled so loud the baby’s face crumpled. Was that right? No, #1 was just having cabin fever from two days stuck inside. Two nights ago, I did my darnedest to get out of “Mommy Daddy Time” with my husband, because of any number of excuses I can come up with, all boiling down to my own selfishness and resentment. Is that right? Most definitely not. So how is one example of missing the mark worse than another?

What is more, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t see “God so loved the world (except for the gays) that he gave his one and only son.” For Pete’s sake, Jesus hung out with the low of the low as well as the average joe and the Pharisee. He gave everyone equal attention and love. Am I called to love only the select few, when God loves us all?

I have a very close friend who is a lesbian. She and her girlfriend have been together for years, but have yet to come out. Why? My friend already has to a few, and she has been burned by the very people who are supposed to be examples of Christ, the Church. What kind of testimony of the church is it when the secular world is more loving than we are? She has been abandoned by mentors, told that it’s a “phase,” and ridiculed. Behind her back, people have made comments and speculated. She was “straight” once, so it must just be a choice. If she really wanted to be close to Jesus, she’d “become straight again.”

The worst thing about that paragraph is that I was one of those people. I still struggle with it, but I’m doing better. Still, I doubted whether she could actually be a Christian since she was doing something so blatantly “against God.” I completely ignored the fact that I, in my straight marriage, was denying my husband of some of the very foundational needs he had. How am I any better or worse?

I’ve begun to have a transformation of heart. Does LGBT community deserve our love? Yes. A resounding yes. Why? Because they are God’s creations, people made in the very image of God. As one post on Rachel Held Evans’s blog stated, they were “knitted together in [their] mother’s womb… fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) Every person, every person, is fearfully and wonderfully made. Every person, regardless of orientation or identification, was held in the palm of God’s hand, loved from that very first moment. Jesus didn’t just die for the people in the Church. He died for every single person ever. And who am I to butt into someone else’s walk with Him? If asked, I can give my input. Otherwise, my only job as a Christian is to love them. Again, my only job as a Christian is to love them.

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I am learning not to care. People are people. We the church need to stop creating a latticework of weighted sins and instead look at the person themselves. My friend is more devoted and loyal to her girlfriend than the majority of unmarried couples I know. They have issues just like any other couple, and they face the same life steps as any other couple. They are deserving of love just like any other couple. And I, for one, plan to give them just that.