A Selfless Man in a Selfish World

IMG_20170814_061957_246I’ll never forget the night we met, the way we fell into conversation seamlessly and became friends almost instantly. There was hardly a moment from that first meeting when it didn’t feel right having you at my side. It’s surprising then, how long it took me to decide for sure that I really loved you, that I really wanted to marry you. Looking back though, I’m glad I took my time. Not because you’ve disappointed, but because we were so, so young and because I realize better now than I ever could have then just how significant that choice of life partner really is. IMG_20170814_062137_610We’ve been married for nine years and together for twelve. I hear those numbers and think I must have done the math wrong—how are we old enough to have been together for twelve years? But then I look at the life we’ve lived in those years and it hardly seems time enough to contain it all. Moving across the country, a condo we could barely afford to heat, a tiny downtown apartment, our first house, and our ridiculous farmhouse remodel. We’ve traveled, made two babies, worked various jobs, and started a business of our own. In all of it, I’ve learned something significant about you, about the man you are and what a lucky girl I am to have you at my side. IMG_20170814_061844_794I’ve learned in a loud world preaching self-promotion and a me-first mentality, a man who is humble, who is self-sacrificing, who sets his own wants aside to better serve his family—that is a rare find, you are a rare find. If I had understood just how uncommon your character is when I was 19 and toying with who to marry, I would have made my decision much faster.IMG_20170815_074139_745You have always loved me well but never did I realize how well until we had children. These years with little little ones are intense. We don’t sleep through the night. Someone always needs us and the margin of time left for each other or anything else can be thin. But in a time when I’ve seen many men step away from the intensity of home and family, I’ve seen you step in and stand up. IMG_20170721_215341_888You work a high-stress job all day followed by a long commute each night. But still you walk through our door ready for the next job—the kids and house and wife still needing you, still wanting what’s left of your time and attention. You get on the floor and play with our son, sit and give a bottle to our daughter, show up with ice coffee and a warm hug for me because you remember not only yourself and your own hard day but think of me and what my day might have been like as well. You mow the yard with our son on your shoulders and help wrangle two children on different schedules into bed. You give from the moment you get up to work and provide for us until the moment you hit the bed again at night.IMG_20170721_215210_339We are old enough now to see the marriages of friends and family crumble. It stings, watching people you love fall out of love with each other. I realize when a marriage or family falls apart, there is likely some level of fault on both sides. But I’ve seen too that many of the marriages I’ve watched disintegrate have done so because a man who took on a wife and family and all that home life requires decided one day (or many days over and over) that he didn’t want that life after all. It’s not that he didn’t love his wife and kids, he simply loved himself more. So he left.

But you have stayed. You have been humble. You have been selfless. You have listened and served and worked on behalf of others when your time and talent could have easily been used to promote self or to earn more money or to have more hobbies and things. You could have bought that boat and spent your days on the lake like you’ve so often talked about—but you’ve chosen our family first instead a million times over. There’s nothing in the world wrong with a boat, but a man who can discern where his time, energy, and money are most needed and who is selfless enough to live accordingly is a rare find indeed. IMG_20170707_211648_100How incredibly humbled and thankful I am that you are mine. I hope I love and serve you half as well as you love and serve us ❤

When Motherhood Isn’t Your Thing

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I always knew I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Before Darren and I ever decided to marry, I told him what I wanted to do and he agreed–someday, when the time was right, I would leave the workplace and stay home. And that’s exactly what I did–after 6 years of marriage, work, home buying, and traveling, we decided it was time to start a family and whole-heartedly welcomed a baby into our lives.

I loved the first year at home–though of course, at times, it was very hard and was a huge adjustment from my former office job. That first year was just me and Roman most of the time as Darren was working, going to school, and remodeling our house. From sun up to sundown (and plenty of times throughout the night) Roman was in my arms or at my side. I was zeroed in that first year, present and focused on enjoying my baby boy before he was no longer a tiny little thing in my arms. I am proud of that first year and have very few regrets about how I spent my time with our son.

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But this year, with a now 18 month old toddler, things have been different. I’m struggling. No, I’m drowning. I’m starting to realize that the baby stage was my happy place but this whole toddler stage just isn’t my jam. Roman is a wild, busy little thing and we are both going a little batty being stuck inside during these long winter months. He’s bored and I’m bored and we’re both driving each other crazy.

Truth be told, I want to put him in daycare and go back to work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m just surprised to find myself feeling this way after so many years of wanting to start a family and stay home.

Maybe I’m just tired, discouraged, or disillusioned. Maybe it will pass as things often do.

Or maybe motherhood isn’t my thing and it turns out I’m really not all that good at the one thing I spent my whole life preparing for.

I don’t know.

I know Roman isn’t going to daycare because it makes no sense for me to go back to work right now. By the time I settle into a job and know what I’m doing, I’ll be pregnant again. That’s just where I’m at in life right now. I want more children and I want to stay home with each child for at least the first year and you can’t just hop in and out of work at your own leisure. So for right now, my life is at home.

I don’t have a problem with committing my life to home for as long as this is where I need to be. I’m just struggling to figure out how to make this whole home all day every day with a cranky toddler thing work in such a way that there’s some peace and happiness in our lives again.

I want to be a good mom, not the cranky, frustrated one I’ve become of late. But how do I reconcile who I am and how I’m struggling with patient, loving parenting and a happy, healthy home?

Beats me.

If you have answers, I’m all ears.

I’m sorry this isn’t my usual “life is beautiful and magical” type post but I’m just not there right now. This isn’t a mommy blog but I’m knee-deep in motherhood and struggling to find my voice in this space as I once did. I miss writing and photographing and I’m determined to get back to it. But in the meantime, this is where I’m at, this is why I’m absent, and until I can come back with something nice to say, I’m not coming back at all :]

Tis the Season…of Consumerism

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond and writing his work of the same name he said that “men have become the tools of their tools.” He wrote that in the mid 1800s so I imagine he might have had a mental break had he ever met the internet.

Just imagine Thoreau with an iPhone for a minute; it makes me smile.

I went to Walden Pond once. I drove out with a friend and together we sat by the water’s edge with journals in hand and wrote about the beautiful, quiet place we found ourselves in.

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We walked in the replica of the tiny cabin Thoreau built for himself and I snapped a few pictures of Mr. Thoreau reading my very own copy of Walden Pond :]

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I like Thoreau. I like what he stood for and what he did by example. But I’m not very good at following that example. I’m much better at online shopping and Angry Birds, truth be told.

It seems like simple living should be, you know, simple. But the world we live in is awfully glittery and I choose consumerism and material things far more than I would like you to know.

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I think about this a lot this time of year. Not only because of Christmas shopping but also because my birthday is a month before Christmas and Darren’s is a month after. So for three months straight we are thinking about buying and getting things. I have nothing against birthday and Christmas presents; I think both can be thoughtful demonstrations of love for the other person and that is certainly what we hope to accomplish by giving each other these gifts. Still though, it’s easy to get carried away by it all, by all these shiny, glittery, latest and greatest things that we convince ourselves we simply must have and give each other.

Fortunately this year we are broke.

Not really, but we are building a house…in the woods…with a big garden beside it…with all the hope in the world that it will help lead us to simpler, more meaningful living. But even houses in the woods built with good intentions cost money so this year we have to really stop and think about every dollar we spend.

And you know what? It’s been super wonderful. Seriously. I like not worrying so much about what I’m giving and getting for birthdays and Christmas. I like that every single gift I bought for Darren this year was picked out based on what I know he’s good at and will love. I like that this year feels a little slower, a little less about things, and more about building dreams together. I like that on my birthday Darren gave me a remote-controlled monster truck because every time we end up in the toy aisle I drool over them. That’s a nutty thing to give a girl but he knew I would like it and it made me smile that he remembered and did something that felt hugely thoughtful to me.

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how hectic and frantic these last few weeks before Christmas are. About how people are stretched and stressed to the max by all the shopping and parties and decorating. And I think that’s really sad. Because the shopping and the parties and the decorating are not what this is about. I’m a Christian, so foremost I think this is all about Jesus. But even beyond that, this really should be about people and love and thoughtful, heartfelt giving–giving of gifts we picked out with something special and specific in mind, gifts of our time just to be with people and to enjoy each other….gifts that matter for more than the glitter.

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I’ve let the beauty of Christmas get away from me many times before by focusing on all the wrong things. But this year–this quiet, slower year–is teaching me something I hope I won’t forget.

Let’s not be the tools of our tools, okay? Okay :]

That Time I Almost Blew It

I tend to take things very literally. Like, way too literally sometimes.

So here’s what happened.

Darren and I had been on one date. That one date was the only time I had ever seen Darren in my life but I liked him. We were in college and one evening after that first date I walked past him in the library. He was standing at a computer and when I walked by I punched him in the back, grinned, and kept on walking. When I walked back through the room Darren was still standing at the computer and I stopped a few computers down to check my email.

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Handsome Mr. Darren walks over and asks me if I want to go get an ice cream. And I was like, “no.”

That’s it. That’s all. No explanation, just no. Because, here’s the thing, I don’t really like ice cream and at that particular moment I literally didn’t want ice cream so the answer to his question was just no.

If he had asked me if I wanted to go out with him again, I would have said yes.

If he had asked me if I wanted to get a coffee and talk, I would have said yes.

If he has asked me if I wanted to go running around the building in the dark, I probably would have said yes.

But ice cream? No.

Poor guy. The time between the first and second date can be quite delicate, you know, when you’re waiting to see if the other person likes you enough to ask you out again or if they just sort of dodge you instead. So being the kind, sensitive person that I am, I flat-out turn Darren down the very next time he tries to talk to me. Ayy, yayy, yayy.

Lucky for me Darren is very persistent and kept asking me out…and he must have asked me the right questions after the ice cream mishap because here we are.

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Oddly enough, it was a while later on an ice cream date when I realized that I loved him…but I still don’t like ice cream so the answer to that is still no :]

You & Me

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Dear Darren,

Five years ago I said “I do” to you. That was pretty smart if you ask me. I love you for lots of reasons…some reasons I can’t always pin down or articulate, some I can. Here’s a few—I love you {in part} because:

268012_10150229426821517_7391311_nYou make  me smile

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And you make me laugh…a lot…sort of foolishly at times…until I can’t stop and everyone is staring at me…so thanks for that.

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I love you because you are silly and don’t take yourself too seriously.

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I love you because you are gentle and kind and good to every living thing. Your heart is huge and I love every inch of it.

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I love you because every winter, the first time it snows, you build me a miniature snow man and leave it on the counter for me to find.

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I love you because, hello, those arms are absolutely fabulous…oh, and you built that frame to go around the mirror for me…but mostly I like your arms.

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I love you because you work so hard and because we have invested ourselves in so many projects together. Thanks for teaching me how to sheet rock, babe.

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I love you even though you throw me in the lake sometimes.

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I love you because you are adventurous.

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I love you because you pick flowers for me…and you get kisses for it too :]

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I love you because you are the best uncle to our nieces and nephews and I know someday, you will be the best dad too.

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I love you for so many reasons and am thankful for each day we’ve had together and I look forward to each day to come.

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P.S. I love you very, very much for agreeing to build a fort on the living room floor and stay up all night watching movies to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Seriously, do they even make men better than that? I say no.

Sweet Love

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“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

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“If you’d never been born, then you might be an Isn’t!
An Isn’t has no fun at all. No, he disn’t.”

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“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”

DSC_0724“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”

All quotes by the fabulous Dr. Seuss

Laugh Together, Cry Together

We are asked to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep; easier said than done.

It’s difficult to relate to people who are going through vastly different circumstances than we are. It’s hard to know exactly what to say or do when everything in my life is good and someone I care about is just trying to keep their head above the deep waters. It’s difficult to be happy for other people when our own hearts are breaking.

How can I connect and relate when my life is so different? Does someone struggling even want to talk to someone who’s breezing by? I know from times of struggle just how annoying and patronizing it can be to have someone who’s doing just fine stop by and say, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I know what you’re going through.”

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Either way, looking at your pretty little life doesn’t make me want to tell you about my problems.

And yet that is exactly what we’re asked to do: We’re asked to enter into each other’s lives—bright and beautiful, dark and ugly—all of it without regard to what’s going down in our own lives at the time.

We’re asked to rejoice with those who rejoice—even when our heart are bleak and weary.

We’re asked to weep with those weep—even when we have great joy we want to share.

We’re asked to go beyond ourselves and find our way into the beautiful mess of each other’s lives.  We’re asked to be there for each other when everything is right and when everything is wrong. We’re asked to empathize and understand the joy and sorrow all around us in the lives of those we love.

I’m trying to learn how to do this, how to set my own life and circumstances aside and enter into the array of beauty and sorrow that paints each of our stories.

Using Prayer as an Excuse for Inaction

It’s easy when we hear about needs and problems in each other’s lives to promise we’ll pray for one another. Prayer is of course a very powerful and important resource in our lives. But sometimes prayer can be misused as an easy way out of taking action in the lives of those who are hurting. We misuse prayer when:

1) We fail to see how we can help each other by taking action: We mean well when we promise to pray but it’s easy to overlook the practical ways we can help on a physical level too. In addition to our prayers we could:

  • Take a meal toa new mother, someone who is sick or injured, someone who is grieving, or to a family struggling financially.
  • Listen to someone who just needs to talk through feelings and be heard.
  • Volunteer time to help around the house or yard or to run errands.
  • Babysit for a busy mom or someone who is sick or grieving.
  • Write a letter to encourage and let someone know they’re being thought of and aren’t alone.
  • Say yes as much as possible when asked for help or a listening ear.

“I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules. It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel—‘God with us.’ I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us. It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people.” Bob Goff (p. 8 Love Does)

2) We use prayer to turn a blind eye: Sometimes we don’t want to get involved in other people’s lives or in problems that seem too big for us. We hear about kids being run through the foster care system needing loving homes and families but we’re afraid or overwhelmed by the idea of bringing a child into our own home—so we say we’ll pray instead and never really stop and consider if there’s more we should be doing. We notice the mom who always snaps at her children in public and never stop to consider if she needs rest, help, or encouragement. We don’t want to get our hands dirty. We’re too busy and too tired to get involved in the messy lives of others so we say we’ll pray (and perhaps we even do) all the while turning a blind eye to the physical needs all around us.

“Jesus told the people he was with that it’s not enough to just look like you love God. He said we’d know the extent of our love for God by how well we loved people.” Bob Goff (p. 15 Love Does)

3) We use prayer to guard ourselves from heartache: Getting involved in people’s lives can get messy. When you open your heart up to love and action, you open yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt. It’s so much easier to say, “I’ll be praying for you” than it is to get in the trenches and ask, “What can I do to help?” But the love of God is a love deep enough to take action—to take risks and offer love in spite of the potential for heartache. God did not guard his heart from us; we should not guard ourselves from others. God’s heart was broken for us—will we let our heart be broken for him?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves

4) We use prayer to cover wrongs rather than dealing with them: Sometimes when we say we’ll pray, all we really need to say is, “I’m sorry.” I know of a situation where someone has been wronged and hurt by someone else. The wrongdoer tells the wronged that they’re praying for them but those prayers (however sincere) are falling on deaf ears. Until the wrong has been made right, prayers will only add insult to injury. The person hurt does not want to be prayed for; he wants only to be apologized to. And until an apology is made, prayer comes off as arrogant and insincere. If you have wronged someone, make it right with them—not just in your prayers to God but in your actions toward the one you have hurt.

“We don’t like to put hands and feet on love. When love is a theory, it’s safe, it’s free of risk. But love in the brain changes nothing.” Donald Miller

God’s love is played out in verbs as should be the love we have for each other. So, the next time you tell someone you’ll pray for them—do so—and then ask what else you can do to demonstrate your love in action.

Night Mail

You want to hear a story? Oh good.

So, the husband and I attended a university where guys and girls still live in separate dorms across campus from each other. You can call it old-fashioned but having separate dorms led to something rather adorable in my book: Night Mail. You see, the guys and girls each had a wooden box rigged up on wheels with a rope on the front to pull it around. In these boxes the students would leave letters and packages addressed to each other and at night, after we were all back in our rooms for curfew, a couple of guys or girls (depending on who’s turn it was) would grab the wooden box and roll it across campus through the dark laughing and giggling about all the love letters and cologne drenched envelopes being sent from one heart to another. Once to the other side of campus, the boxes were exchanged and the letters dropped off in stacks at each of the dormitories. Then a couple more students would take the stacks of letters and slide them under Romeo or Juliet’s door. It was a hoot…and quite romantic, really. I remember how exciting it was when a letter with my name came sliding under the door. I would snatch it up, hop in bed, and pour over the words of the man who would later become my husband. Darren and I now have boxes of letters from our dating days. So much of our relationship is scripted out in the words we wrote back and forth as we came to know and love each other. Darren the artist filled his letters with drawings and illustrations that still make me smile when I come across them. My favorite picture he drew was of me calling him:

The little guy jumping in the air–gets me every time :]

Between night mail and all the time we spent living across the country from each other, written letters became a staple in our relationship–and we still write each other letters today. Sometimes old fashion is the best fashion of all, kids ;]