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I know this post will feel like whiplash after the last two posts and I don’t mean to do that to you. But this morning I read Psalm 127 and it’s sticking to my gut in an uncomfortable way. It’s sticking to my gut in a way that confirms some things that have been otherwise floating around:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

I read it through twice, three times, and then a fourth. I am no stranger to this Psalm, I know it to near perfect memory. As I read it this morning though, I pictured my life in it in a way I never have before. Until I owned a house, felt the danger of a city, lost the fruit of my womb, and had enemies, it was easy to picture this Psalm as it was sung in ancient days, but not these days, not my days.

Today though, I see my home in Denver, the financial loss we took on it. I see the gunman shooting six times into the police-officer on the ground in my new city. I see the year now of sleepless nights, learning to share a bed, putting a night person and a morning person on a similar schedule, waking with a new puppy every hour to few hours, a husband who rises in the four o’clock hour most mornings. I see the two tiny humans we lost in unceremonious ways, gushing away from my womb, out of our quiver, into their watery grave. I see enemies, accusations against me, us, our small family, our decisions. This Psalm infiltrates the fibers of my life this year and leaves nothing untouched.

. . .

Being a child of divorced parents left a undeniable impression on many, many, many things. One of which is I decided if the Lord ever gave me the gift of marriage I wouldn’t wait until our marriage was in trouble to get marriage counseling.

So, almost a year to the day of our wedding, we met with a counselor last night for nearly two hours. The first thing we said was, “We know you’re not our Savior, we just need help processing all of this.” We were a deluge of facts, bulleting down a list of All The Things. We sat close to one another and adored and loved one another not one iota less than a year ago, but with a heck of a lot more weight to all of it. We spilled it all. And at the end of it he said, “I’m wondering something: do you guys know how to feel emotions?”

I pictured the silly magnet on my Gram’s fridge when I was little for a minute. The grid of different faces we now call “emoticons” (as though our generation invented the smiley face…) with a “Today I’m Feeling…” title in some eighties version of Comic Sans. And I thought to myself, I don’t know how to feel anything except exhausted.

We said no. No, we don’t.

. . .

My personal challenge for this month is to Engage Emotions, but all this month has taught me is that I have no earthly idea how to engage anything. I’m like a whack-a-mole with my heart: the moment something foreign or heavy or scary or angry pops up, I pound it back down before it takes over with a force I can’t fathom. But I’m so angry. I am. I’m not angry like a raging fury, I’m angry like a rolling storm over a Great Lake, picking up rain and force as it comes.

I’m not angry at a specific person or even God, but I’m angry that two barely married kids were thrown into situations we had no idea about. I’m angry that Nate’s contract wasn’t renewed only a few months after getting married and a month after buying a house. I’m angry that in the face of all the stress my body couldn’t hold two new barely formed babies. I’m angry that a hundred applications and demoralizing interviews left us with only one offer—on the other side of the country. I’m angry that there is evil in the world and I saw it and now every siren and suspicious person ushers in a low grade anxiety. I’m angry that our house was worth what we had it listed for, not a penny less, and we ended up losing so much on it because we couldn’t float lives in two different states. I’m angry that my husband’s heart has been having issues for months. I’m angry that I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in a year. I’m angry that I went to the doctor yesterday and listed out all the things and she said, “Sleep is going to be one of the most important things you can do to heal and restore your body.”

I’m angry because God’s word says He gives His beloved rest and all of this makes me feel like I am not His beloved after all.

But I’m angry, like I told our counselor yesterday, in a standoffish way. As though I’m viewing an intricate painting in the National Gallery or a complicated sculpture or a biopic. That’s someone’s life but not mine. I feel angry on behalf of the girl I was a year ago and the girl I left behind somewhere along the way.

Today I shared a bit of that with some friends and fellow writers and one said, “I have often marveled at how detachedly you write about all you’re going through on your blog. Now I see from what the counselor says how you do that! Seriously, though, I wonder if writing about all this for the public while in the middle of it serves to exacerbate the emotional distancing. Writing inherently distances us from our inner life simply through the process of externalizing and reifying it. I wonder if this might contribute to that kind of detachment.”

She said the words Nate and I have been thinking and talking about for a while. And for one moment, it felt like permission to do what we’ve been talking about: putting Sayable on hiatus. To learn God’s word is about God and for those back in ancient times, also it is about and for you, and it is also for me. For my weak heart and disengaged emotions. For my inability to feel anger or sadness or frustration or joy for myself, for fear of what it might say about the Holy Spirit inside of me.

So friends, for the sake of my marriage, my home, my heart, and my love for the Lord, I will be putting Sayable on hiatus for a few months. I don’t know how long a few months is, it could be two, it could be six. It may seem easy to write about emotions and mourning and decision making as deeply as I do here, but it takes a lot out of me in all honesty. It takes a lot of me. Part of my problem is I’ve begun to write for you instead of writing for Him, and I’ve been brutally honest with you, but struggled to bring my everything and my nothing to Him.

I cried hard today while writing this and it was the most cathartic thing I’ve done in a year. I know it is the right thing to do. I will miss you, but I miss my heart more.

I need the Lord to build my house, otherwise all my labor is indeed vain.

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In a faulty attempt to improve the reading experience for those of you who are subscribed through email (Which is a fat lot of you—thank you!), I have switched the email delivery format of Sayable to Mail Chimp. Along the way (partially because of the fact that I’ve been blogging at Sayable since 2001, have eons of archives here, and haven’t updated my blogging platform for about five years), the process was clunky and I lost about a third of those who were subscribed via Feedly. If you were one, I’m terribly sorry. I love that you’ve come along on this journey so far and would love to have you continue, but it will mean taking action on your part to re-subscribe on whichever feed aggregator you use.

Through the amazing power of Twitter, the help of some quick-to-offer friends, and 2.5 hours with Mail Chimp support, we were able to muddle through and transfer most of the subscribed readers! Praise him. I was ready to throw in the towel (blogging is fun except for all the technical stuff).

I got a deluge of emails this morning from people thanking me for switching the email delivery to a more readable format. To give you an idea of what they were dealing with, let’s just say it was like a dash of 1996 in their inbox every morning. Here’s a screenshot:

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Not exactly a pleasurable reading experience.

Here’s what she looks like with the update:

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So! Thank you for bearing with me in the process. There’s always a bit of frustration when in order to serve some readers you end up sacrificing some more. At some point I will need to do a complete overhaul of Sayable from top to bottom, back to front, and hope we can make that a more seamless transition for all of you. Also, after a test post went through and it was looking like Mail Chimp was a lost cause, I made a snarky comment in the test post (image above). That’s my total depravity showing through and I’d ask your forgiveness. I really thought it wasn’t going to work at that point and was just trying to at least save Feedly subscribers. But God.

Forgive me?

If you’d like to read Sayable through the new and improved interface in your email, just insert your email address on the sidebar and voila.

You’re the reason I keep writing here. If I had my druthers I’d probably hang the whole thing up and out to dry, but you wonderful people who keep coming back and keep encouraging and keep praying and keep learning, you’re the reason I’m sticking it out. As long as God gives me freedom to do so, I’ll keep honoring His gift and showing up here. Thank you.

One of the best blessings to me in my singleness were friends who did not make marriage an ultimate thing in my eyes by only telling me the beautiful parts of their marriage, but who told me the difficulties of it as well. They also prayed for me actively to someday have the gift of marriage. I hope I am doing the same for my still single friends who desire the gift. I want them to know its not all romance and intimacy and good feelings and great conversation. But I also want them to experience the gift themselves so they can both see it and minister out of it.

One thing it is very easy to believe during the long fast from sexual intimacy that is godward singleness, is the option to have sex will make things better. Most of us wouldn’t be so foolish to say having sex makes things better, but it’s darn easy to believe the option and permission to will make it better.

But sex doesn’t make things better.

Not in the way you think it will.

Sex is good, God created it, he blessed it. He made it the integral piece in the procreation of humanity—science thwarts it and succeeds it but even science admits the masterful design of two humans making more humans. Sex is great, but it does not make all the angsts of longing for intimacy before marriage go away. All those angsts still exist within marriage, they just take different forms.

I know it’s easy for the married person to say this, you protest, because at the end of the day I can still have sex. But what I wish I could tell every unmarried person I know is until we realize our issues are much deeper and more profound than a sexual itch for satisfaction, we will still find our desires unmet. Within marriage and without.

The blessing of sex between a husband and wife is not to relieve stress, to make me feel desirable, or to make my husband feel strong and manly. It is not even to conceive and bear children. These are all benefits, but none of them are guarantees. God doesn’t owe us relief from stress apart from him, the guarantee I will always feel desirable (I don’t), my husband will feel capable and sufficient (he doesn’t), or children will be borne. God doesn’t even owe us sex within marriage. None of the things we think sex will accomplish (and indeed try to chase inside and outside marriage), are guarantees.

When I hear those who are not married say “But at least you get to have sex! And live with your best friend!” Well, first, I’d warn against saying at least in regard to much. But second I want to say your words betray a much, much deeper need and the fact that you think sex or living with your best friend fixes it tells me you don’t see your need as clearly as you think. If you think I’m just saying this because I’m married, trust me, I’ve been saying things like this for years and years as a single.

I’ve heard the illustration of the gift of sex for a man and woman in marriage like this: it’s glue holding you together. But in my limited view sex is more like a reminder: I am not my own anymore, I am part of someone and sex is a tether to remind, seal, and strengthen the binding. Outside of marriage there would actually be no reason or benefit for sex because union with this specific person—my husband—doesn’t exist. What I mean is, until he was my husband, he wasn’t my husband and sex wasn’t necessary (1 Corinthians 7:2).

I know this sounds very pragmatic but I want to be a bit pragmatic if I can. Our view of sex has been so colored by films and imaginations and images, and in many ways I want to sit down and say: sex just isn’t as great as you think it is, and we don’t need it like we think we do. It’s greatness is not in how it makes us feel or how it destresses us or how awesome our orgasm is. It is only truly good in relation to the person with whom our body is intended by God to be joined with. Can sex outside of marriage feel good? Yup. Can masturbation curb the itch? Yup. But do either of them express worship of God with the gift He’s given in the right context of covenant? No. Therefore, outside marriage it is not good. And inside marriage it is only good if it points to our incompleteness apart from God.

Unmarried friends, the sex you desire and think will satisfy your longing will not. Married friends, you still feel unsatisfied? Like your longing for something is never fully realized? All of this emptiness points to a greater need and a greater longing. Sex within marriage, if anything, makes the lack of complete culmination even more profound because no matter how perfect it is, it still isn’t enough to still the longing in our hearts for God. Fasting from intimacy outside of marriage is preparation for how even within marriage we are still apart from our Groom until the culmination of all things.

My need is for Christ. In marriage and out. Sex is a gift from God but it isn’t the ultimate gift and it certainly doesn’t come without baggage of its own. We live in a broken world, my friend. If it doesn’t feel perfect it’s because it’s not, and it’s okay. Christ, our perfection, knows our longings and knows we are dust.

And that’s better than sex.

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Wayne Irons was a tall man, long in the neck, broad in the shoulders and gut, and small at the feet, like an upside down triangle or an ice cream cone. He was the sort of man who seemed intimidating until he stood up and his spindle legs gave him away. His skin was the color of a scrubbed toddler after a hot bath or a high-school prom dress, pink and bright. Still, children were afraid of him (his height) and grown men ignored him (his complexion). The other students in his class were bored by him and he cared little for them too. Science was his master and his friend, his company and his mistress, his god.

This particular morning Wayne Irons was wearing galoshes and a raincoat. It was not raining, nor had it been, nor was it scheduled to be, but Wayne Irons was not wearing them for inclement weather outside. And as we have established, Wayne Irons cared little for the opinions of others regarding his person, his stature, or his clothing.

The galoshes were heavy and too large. The left one slipped up and down as he walked, his satchel under one arm and his lunch sack in his other hand. His limp slowed him and he stood on the corner of Beech and 34th to rest a minute, his left leg crooked at the knee. This stance felt most natural for him, even more natural than standing or sitting or lying down. He could still observe everything around him, above the heads of the crowd, while standing only on one leg. Most humans couldn’t do this for long, but he had adapted to his limitations, as all animals do. His own evolutionary process thrilled him. He considered himself a great testament to the truth

Wayne Irons was today visiting the city zoo which was just like every other day, but for one difference: he had been invited to tour the inside of the tropical exhibit, to see up close the animals he had studied for all his life. Invitations to anything were rare for Wayne Irons so it was not lost on him the exceeding good luck he had in procuring this one. It had not occurred to him that he neither tried nor cared for invitations to anything else, not parties, not holidays, not reunions. Being inside tropical exhibit at the city zoo was the pinnacle of all his years of study, the creme de le creme of his life’s work.

The walk to the city zoo was not long and Wayne Irons had walked it nearly every day of his life. He grew up in the same house in which he still lived, in the same bedroom in which he still slept. Wayne Irons was not a man who strayed far from his natural habitat and home. He was a man of consistent rhythms and knew his needs and his habits well. He considered daily visits to the zoo a need more than a habit, but understood others saw things differently. Being a good student of the evolutionary process meant being tolerant of the process in other lives and the bodies of others. He felt himself in an upper echelon of thought in this way. Human beings could be so intolerant of the simple biological needs and urges of others. Laws enacted, taxes attached, protests made, and elections fought—all of these because humanity couldn’t live with a greater understanding that all things eventually evolve or grow or change or die. It was a freeing way to live, Wayne Irons knew this to be true, as certain as he knew that someday he too would die because of an unseen limitation his adaptation would bring him too. “We are finite entities,” he would often say to himself, “But we are also capable of much more than we think.” He would usually say this before leaving his house in the morning or before doing something that frightened him in some way. He said it now, standing before the zoo gate, though he was not frightened so much as exhilarated. Certain he was wading into something deeper and more profound than he even knew.

It was early and the gate wasn’t unlocked yet (he knew it wouldn’t be), so he stood in front of it, resting on his right leg again, his left bent at the knee. The gate was rusting at the hinges and one side hung deeper than the other, so the O that was intended to connect the two gates at the middle was split. ZOO looked instead like zSo. It made Wayne Irons chuckle to himself and he decided he would begin to hunt for all the ways neglect made signs and words say something different than their intended word.

Neglect was another interest of Wayne Irons, to a lesser extent than science—although he would argue they were related. What we don’t need we neglect, he would say, and eventually we lose. He pointed to his left leg as evidence of this—its muscles atrophying and spider veins spreading from the back of his calf. His leg was eating itself alive. He found the process fascinating instead of disgusting. He was watching his own body turn into its best version of itself all on its own. He was eager for the day when doctors would amputate this appendage that had become strange to him in its neglect. Most doctors told him there was nothing wrong with his leg, it was all in his head, that if he would just begin to use it again, it would be fine. Wayne Irons knew better, though, the leg felt foreign to him and so he treated it like it was.

A zookeeper came to the gate to unlock it. Wayne Irons knew his name was Hopper or Harper or something, but usually gave very little indication that he knew or cared about the names of anyone. Names, he thought, were of little importance to the person. People were made of cells and blood and veins and organs—the same as animals—and we didn’t give names to all the animals. He nodded quickly at the man but did not meet his eyes and walked toward the tropical exhibit. To get there he had to go past the gorillas and the chimpanzees, humanity’s forefathers. He had little interest in gorillas and chimpanzees, but he did respect the process they had undergone to become what he was today and so he always slowed a bit at their enclosure to regard them and wonder what these exact gorillas and chimps might have become if they were not treated like the animals they were. In this way the zoo made him sad. It seemed to him a giant experiment in limitations. A bubble of possibilities that would never materialize. Glass walls and ceilings keeping the beings inside from expressing their true selves. He rarely lingered in the sadness, though, because the zoo was his only opportunity to be amongst the beings where he felt most himself.

The tropical exhibit was partially under glass with rain-spritzers intermittently spraying down and partially outdoors with all sorts of vegetation and water pools spread around it and an arched cage ceiling above it. Wayne Irons loved the tropical climate. He had been told by the keeper to wear the galoshes and poncho today, but if he had his way he’d have gone in barefoot and undressed, his pink backside and belly blinding the eyes of zoo-goers. He felt both his most vulnerable and his most secure with these living things. He ought to feel like he was walking into an exhibit, but he felt like he was leaving the exhibit and walking into home.

Wayne Irons followed the keeper (whose name he did know was Le Grange, but to whom he would never address as such) into the enclosed space and walked into a wall of humidity. It was cooled by the spritzing of water and by the presence of vegetation, but the air was thick and heavy. He liked it because it felt safe and he hated it because it felt oppressive. He knew he would feel better outside with the birds, even if it was inside a cage.

The keeper brought Wayne Irons with him as he opened doors and fed animals and cleared out weeds from the tropical gardens. Wayne Irons did not speak and the keeper did not speak to him. Theirs was a silent parade through the motions of the morning. Wayne Irons did not offer to help and the keeper did not ask him to. Whenever they paused, Wayne Irons rested on his right leg and lifted his left, crooking it at the knee. The heat was beginning to grow oppressive and Wayne Irons did not mind the rain water so he shed his poncho and soon his galoshes, then his buttoned up shirt and his socks too. They were outside now, feeding the alligators. He could see the birds in another caged enclosure and he rolled his pant legs up.

The keeper had a bucket of small fish in his left hand and a bucket of grey shrimp in the other. The food looked delicious and Wayne Irons knew he would rather the shrimp than his own brown bagged lunch. He and the keeper were walking toward the flamingos now, and Wayne Irons felt his belly growing sweaty and full with expectancy.

The flamingos were, for Wayne Irons, the most perfect specimens of any animal. He had spent full days staring at them before. They were graceful and awkward, audacious alone and camouflaged together. They were social in the exact way he felt most unable to be. He longed to be like them. He longed to be them.

Wayne Irons had spent his life studying flamingos, their patterns, their prey, their preening habits. He stood for hours in front of the mirror in his bedroom at home mimicking their stance, their grace, and their coloring. He could not thank any god for giving him a body such as his, tall and rotund, leggy and pink, but he thanked evolution for making it clear that he would never be as fully human as he was flamingo. They were showy in a way he dreamed he could be if he could be one of them. He had begun evolving himself into a flamingo in his earliest memories, lifting his chin and craning his neck to impossible lengths. All of the children in school thought he was haughty, but he knew the truth: I am really a flamingo.

Wayne Irons was running into the flock now and they scattered at his presence. He knew why of course: they did not recognize him! He began to shed the last of his clothing, the undershirt, the pants, and the underwear beneath. He heard the shouts of the keeper behind him but he did not listen, he no longer comprehended the words. He waded farther in, slowly this time, pausing to let them see his pink skin and lifting his left leg to show them he was one of them. They scattered still to the perimeter of the shallow pool, squawking and making a show of their feathers. Wayne Irons knew he did not yet have feathers, but in time, he would adapt, they would see. He could be just like them.

The keeper threw the bucket of shrimp and fish into the pool and ran to the enclosure’s gate. The flock of birds half ran half flew to the pile of food near Wayne Irons and he felt the warm glow of acceptance. They wanted to be near him. They didn’t mind his presence. Wayne Irons threw back his head, stretched out his neck, and felt at once glorious and free.

Then Wayne Irons held his breath and dipped his head into the water around him looking for food like the rest of his flock. They were catching the shrimp quickly and swallowing them whole but Wayne Irons did not yet know how to fish under water with just his mouth while holding his breath. He knew he would learn though, if his flock would just give him enough time down there and leave a few shrimp for him to find.

It was ten minutes later when Le Grange came back with zoo security and a small crowd had gathered at the bird cage. A child in a red and yellow striped shirt and fraying shorts was standing there pointing in, “Look mama,” she said, “that man in there looks like a flamingo but he isn’t!” “Hush,” said her mother, as the man who looked like a flamingo with his head in the water buckled under the weight of his body and the lack of breath to his lungs. “We don’t talk about people in such a way.”

The man in the enclosure who looked like a flamingo but was not one sunk to his knees and then his belly and then collapsed completely, his head still under water, searching for food. The flamingos around looked for a moment and then walked away, disinterested in the giant pale, pink, naked body with a head of black hair. They stood together in another corner, on one leg each, preening their feathers with no thought for the man who thought he was a flamingo lying dead in their water pool.

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Written in response to this article in the New Yorker.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done a weekly Link Love. Life got a bit in the way, and also social media (where I find most of my links) got a bit infuriating. Life is still in the way and social media can be as infuriating as ever, but I still come across gems and I still want to share them with you.

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This talk from Andrew Wilson on gender and intersex. Andrew is asking the question here: “How should we respond to people whose experience of their gender doesn’t fit with their biological sex? Or who have taken measures to change it? Or whose biological sex is unclear? What does love look like?”

This article from Cosmopolitan on an alternative to Planned Parenthood. “There’s this pressure that women have to go on the birth control pill. I have to tell you, it’s a very empowering when you realize, ‘I don’t have to put that synthetic hormone in my body. I don’t have to be chained to the birth control pill,'” she said. “There’s a movement of people for whom the birth control pill isn’t organic, it’s not green, it’s not holistic. We think we’re going to fill another niche or a gap that’s lacking, actually, at clinics like Planned Parenthood.”

This piece by Ron Belgua in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. I have, in the past, complained about the apparent allergy among conservative Christians to looking at the faces of LGBT people. In talking to friends, I am not the only one who has perceived a gap in the way Christians have responded to other tragedies, and the way they have responded to this one.

This article on Christianity Today about friendships in the world today. There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that friendship in adulthood is harder than it looks. Long-term friendships are a rarity. The reason is that they take work. Most of the time something else becomes a priority, either out of necessity or out of choice. As a result, I go back to dropping the bar of expectation. It doesn’t mean I don’t want good, genuine friends, but it does mean that I can’t necessarily assume that because I have all the right ingredients it’s going to happen.

This from Nicholas McDonald on eight different ways your marriage could function. And because we are complementation, I “won out” in the end: I asserted her desires over mine.

“You look tired,” he says when he walks in the door. I feel a pang of guilt, and then tell him the truth: “I was just crying on the phone.” He asks me was it my friend? Or was it me? “It was me,” I say. And then it’s another hour before we’re sitting at the dinner table with time to say more. A friend once told me I was a graceful crier, silent tears, choked voice—she compared it to her own wracking sobs, snot-filled, red-faced. Sometimes I wish I could cry like that, it would feel more serious.

My personal challenge for the month of June is to engage my emotions. I am well-versed in knowing my emotions, the full spectrum of them, talking about them, exploring them, but it is a rare day when I actually engage them. My counselor in Colorado would ask me how I felt about something and I would tell her what I thought instead. We rammed against this wall regularly. I only know how to approach an emotion by thinking through it.

A few days ago we’re sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. He rushed home from work, his dress shirt feeling uncomfortably tight. I’m wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts, the uniform of a stay at home wife whose days run dangerously mindlessly into one another. He catches himself about to say something critical (he’s had a long day; we’re certain we’re going to get more bad news; it’s hot outside; they didn’t check us in properly) and I say something along the lines of the danger in being two internal processors married to one another is we’re more likely to bury all the bad things than slough our way through them. I don’t say it well, though, and I think we misunderstand one another. Another danger of internal processors: we say less than what’s helpful instead of more.

We sit at the dinner table talking through my tears, his day, our year. We circle the same bushes we’ve been circling since we left our home and community in Texas. The same burning bushes friends have pointed out whenever they come visit for five days or ten. Beside those visits, though, no one has pointed to our marriage or our lives in a year with an eye toward hope. We left our home on June 25 and walked into triage. We watched my body bleed and a policeman bleed and our finances bleed and our new church bleed and our hope bleed and there was no stopping any of it. We bled ourselves out and now we’re shells of the people we were a year ago.

Neither of us feel at home here, we feel adrift, at sea, without anchor. He reminds me last night of the words in Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

He reminds me we’re called to be faithful here, for however long the Lord has us in this home, in this city, in this state. Even if we feel like exiles, even if we feel bled out. Nine long months stretch ahead of us in this lease and I am no stranger to moving often. It take nine months to grow a child and that child can change the world, surely we can gestate our hopes and longings and fears and birth something beautiful in that time too?

Every morning he sends me a verse or prayer or a quote he reads on his train ride into the city. I wake on the couch every day, having moved there in the still dark morning hours after he kisses me goodbye. I wake to the verse or prayer or quote and think about it all day. This morning he sends me this:

“It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when GOD returned Zion’s exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations—“GOD was wonderful to them!” GOD was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.

And now, GOD, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest. So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalm 126:1-6 MSG

I cry, snot-filled and red-faced. I cry.

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It’s hard to be far away from all the people I love. I grew up three hours away from here, the people who are most like family to me outside my natural family live eight hours away, my natural family lives all over the east coast. My group of friends from college lives all over the US. The people who have been my church family for the past six years are in Texas and the baby relationships I’d just begun to tend in Denver feel like another life ago. Nate and I have met a few people in the DC area, but we’re going slowly in relationship building, trying to work on our own marriage in ways we weren’t able to for the past year. I feel like a spider trapped in a web of my own making—threads of my life stretching out in every direction, too thin to be maintained well.

Sometimes it can feel like the only contact I have with friends all over the country is through social media. They read Sayable, comment or like or retweet images and quotes I post. I do the same through the channels they give me. It is limited, though, and can feel like an itch that never quite gets scratched. It can be easy to create narratives our heads about the details surrounding a snippet.

In the past few days a few friends have called me with some concerns. “We heard this, and didn’t think it was true, but wanted to make sure.” Or, “We heard this, but were pretty sure there was more to the story.” And, well, there was. Assumptions had been made about our lives, our home, our marriage, our puppy, our finances, and our friendships. Some of it meant I needed to make some follow-up calls with far away friends and clarify words I’d said, or didn’t say. The story isn’t finished yet, but the loose ends, to the best of my ability, are being reconciled as we try to be faithful to be at peace with all men.

Some of the assumptions above, though, came not from my own mouth, but the thin snapshots on social media and this blog. Russell Moore has a fabulous post up on Moore to the Point about how happy, clappy images and quips can send the message to others that we’re all happy and clappy, ruining an opportunity to show the whole picture. Much has been said before about the perils of social media. I’ve written before on why I think it’s important to show beauty in our lives, but it is true we are accustomed to only showing and seeing a thin veneer of what is below the surface.

In another era people were born, grew up, and died in the same place. Every bit of their lives was someone else’s business, but now we’ve made privacy a business in its own right. Social media gives the illusion that everyone is transparent and honest, but we’re all spin doctors, making the best things and the worst things better or worse, depending on the response we want to elicit.

King Solomon has some wisdom for us here in Ecclesiastes 12:

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

I love that the Preacher “arranged many proverbs with great care.” He was attentive to the beauty of how a thing sounded, what it looked like on the page, how it rolled off the tongue: he wanted to delight with the truth. He was a spin doctor in his own right. We emulate our Creator and Maker when we take truth and take care for how it displays beauty and goodness. There is nothing wrong with those thin veneers and snapshots we display on social media. Social media is a limited tool, but a tool used properly does its job well.

What a tool does not do well, though, is communicate the whole truth. For instance: when I post an image of our garden in its full June array, what it does not show is the labor we put into making it such. It doesn’t show sweat dripping down our backs, dirt under our fingernails, and weeding. It also doesn’t show the days and weeks leading up to its beauty today where it was merely seeds and then sprouts we wondered if would ever grow up. It doesn’t show the whole story of how a garden came to be. Each of those stages, though, are both true and beautiful in their own right—as ugly as they might seem in the moment.

King Solomon goes on:

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

King Solomon is saying: beware of making truth of what you do not see, what the Shepherd has not given. Our imaginations are endless, we can write books, blogs, tweets, and posts on something beautiful every day for as long as we live, and none of them are true and dear as the Shepherd’s own words. Even the words He gives us to say only show a limited amount because we cannot know the wholeness of all truth here on earth.

Friends, I hope if you use social media you use it as a tool, both as a viewer and a user. It can be a beautiful way to reach across the miles and be comforted that our friends and family think of us. But use that tool to create something more beautiful: depth and longevity. The next time you’re tempted to build your own narrative on a snapshot, pick up the phone, dial a number (I know…), and ask your friend how they really are, what’s really going on in their hearts and lives. Ask how God is blessing and disciplining them. How He is teaching and loving them. How you can be praying for them and thinking of them.

You might never get a like or a comment or an adrenaline hit from it, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

This past week I’ve gotten to have a few hard conversations, but they were all better than I could have imagined with my limited perspective and laptop.

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Look back at all the hardest things you’ve walked through in your life, as many as you can remember, make a list of them, do it now.

Here are a few of mine:

I grew up in a legalistic home.
I was secretly rebellious in every way I could fathom.
Yelling, shouting, and physical expressions of anger were commonplace in our home.
I was abused sexually at a young age.
I lost my younger brother in a fatal accident when I was 19 and he was 14.
My parents divorced in a messy and long process.
I was had to deal with ramifications of my parents marriage and divorce for a very long time.
I was single far longer than I imagined I would be.
I went for years in the church without understanding my sin or the cross fully.
I went through a period of unbelief in God, certain He had forsaken me.
There were times when I had 0 dollars in my bank account.
My mom was in a horrific car crash.
I moved more than 23 times in 15 years.
I lived with 38 different roommates.
I was overlooked for job promotions and not paid as much as my male counterparts.
I married a man who had been previously married—something I could have never imagined in my twenties.
I miscarried twice in five months.
We walked through a really difficult church situation in a new marriage in a new city.
My husband lost his job three months into marriage and was unemployed for the next five.
Within the space of four weeks we experienced three violent crimes and one vandalistic act on our property.
We moved cross-country twice in one year.
I have been lied about and slandered in public arenas.
We just walked through this.

There are more that should be on this list. They happened to me, to members of my family, or by members of my family. They’re part of my story, but not entirely my story to communicate. But they happened and they were hard.

Your list probably looks similar to mine—not the same things, but certainly the same level of difficulty for you personally. We cannot compare pain. If you take two men who have never experienced pain of any kind, and give one a paper-cut and amputate the leg of the other—both of them will still say their pain level is at a ten. For some of us, what seems to be paper-cuts to others are pains of the deepest kind. So this is my list of deep wounds throughout my life. Places where in each thing I was certain there was no end to the pain in which I found myself.

But look at your list again and this time view each of those things are tools in your arsenal for ministry. When a friend speaks to me of her longing for marriage—I get it. When I hear of someone who lost her sibling in an accident—I get it. When friends are walking through divorce or the divorce of their parents—I get it. When a sister miscarries—I get it. When someone loses their job—I get it. When someone walks away from the Church—I get it.

Praise God He entrusted you with the opportunity to minister out of your weakness, pain, loss, and life. You are 100x more postured to minister to others with those difficult experiences in your life than without them. So too, this hard thing you’re walking through right this minute, it is working in you a greater glory. Paul said,

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians  4:11-13

Each of those excruciatingly painful circumstances of your life cannot be wasted or thwarted by a King who’s on His throne. He doesn’t excuse Himself from the throne when you walk through all sorts of fiery trials. No. He is there, with you, groaning alongside you in your suffering, knowing each of the difficulties you’re walking through will become tools in your belt of ministry and are working in your a glory greater than you can imagine today.

Here is the secret to worshipping through the list you have in front of you: He strengthens you. He girds you up. He bolsters you. He restores you. He heals you. He sets you forward to minister out of what you have been through. And He will do it again and again and again for as long as we’re on this side of the new earth, for His glory and your good.

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Someone asked me yesterday if our house had sold and it occurred to me I didn’t give an update. We closed on May 23rd. I’ve already written about some of the things we’ve learned through the process, but I think one of the things we’ve learned the most is what I tweeted the day of the closing:

“Papers signed. We are 100k poorer, but rich in faith & belief. God always gives exactly what we need. If we don’t have it, we don’t need it. I knew someday I would look back at this year and see His sovereignty at work, but I’m grateful that day is today and not years from now.”

A few months ago, looking ahead at the monetary loss before us, I could only imagine the disappointment in my heart growing into a root of bitterness toward the Lord. I knew it would take a long, long time to pull out, its strings going in endless directions, stealing my faith in their journey outward. I am no stranger to disappointments, to unmet expectations, and to losing what I hoped to gain. I have been down this path before and I know the way out.

I drove to New York on Tuesday for a quick respite in the hills and valleys of home and used the driving time to catch up with numerous friends on the phone. We all have had hopes dashed and disappointments furrowed deep within us and it reminded me nobody gets through unscathed. We are all the recipients of Adam’s sin, all billions and billions of us. To believe we alone are the only ones who get it, who have experienced this kind of acute pain, who feel alone in a world full of people who get everything they want is the enemy’s oldest lie. He told himself it first and then fell, and has been telling everyone else it since. “If you can’t beat ‘em, make ‘em join you,” is his mantra. If you have ever felt alone—if you feel alone today—then you have been on the listening end of the enemy’s bullhorn.

To arrive at the day of closing, not a penny richer and many hundreds of thousands of pennies poorer, with a deeper trust in our Father and a greater hope of glory was not at all what I expected, and yet it was what He gave. He didn’t have to and yet He did. And this is what I have learned more deeply than ever: He gives us what we need, only what we need, and if we don’t have it, we don’t need it. And, if we do have it, we need it.

This is a difficult thing to believe, and more complex than a few hundred words can tackle (What about world hunger? Poverty? Health? Aren’t there so many unmet needs in the world?). We can logic our way through anything, but at the end of it all, if all it does is steal our praise from the God of the universe, I question our definition of the word need.

A pastor from my church in Texas always said, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen,” and it stuck to me like a burr—annoying and unrelenting. I knew it was true and had seen its evidence in my life a thousand times over, but I didn’t like it. The world is all about creating expectations and heightening them, after all. Making lists, goals, setting our sights on something, having vision for your life, and all that.

But what happens when nothing goes your way?

I know the concept of God wounding us so He can heal us is a controversial one, but it is one I take much comfort in. I tore my meniscus many years ago and my knee pains me still. It swells up at inopportune times and I keep meaning to get it fixed, but hate the thought of physical therapy. Here is what I know though, someday a doctor will slice open my skin and dig his scalpel in. He will do what seems contrary to all evolutionary logic and he will wound so my knee can heal properly. God does this too.

He does it with our dashed expectations, felt rejections, deep disappointments. He wounds so He can reveal the source of the pain, the brokenness, and the infection. And then He heals.

Zack Eswine, in his book Sensing Jesus (now The Imperfect Pastor), says, “We cannot expect to fix what Jesus has left unfixed.” We cannot expect to heal what Jesus has left unhealed. And we cannot expect anything on our timeline. He is the master surgeon, the master healer, not us.

It was a gift to sign those papers last week. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such relief signing my name seventy times over. But the greater gift is one God is still slicing me open and digging inside me to find. It’s the gift of His painful healing, the slow, deliberate, agonizing work of taking my eyes off what the world offers and putting them onto Him alone. The gift of showing me He is all I need.

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

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There are eighteen attributes of God posted on the walls of the Kids Village rooms at The Village Church. Learning those attributes, committing them to memory, and pulling them out whenever I have doubted the character of God throughout the past six years has been one of the most life-changing disciplines of my life.

After I posted this photo, several people asked for the full list or a link to the posters. A few of the guys in the Comm department told me they’ll think about getting something up in the next year, but until then, I asked for permission to reprint the complete list. It was written by Anne Lincoln Holibaugh, the director of Kids Village for years and one who worked hard to create a well-oiled machine in that area. She’s brilliant. If you know her, tell her (and all the Kids Village/Little Village people) thank you today.

Here are the attributes in list form. Below, if you click on the image, there’s a high resolution image I put together that you can print out and put on your fridge or frame or wherever it would be helpful for you to visualize the bigness of God on a regular basis. I really mean it when I say committing these characteristics of God to memory has been one of the most life-changing disciplines for me. They’re easy to remember, they remind me I am not God, and they speak to nearly every lie I am tempted to believe about Him.

God is:

Wise: He knows what is best
Generous: He gives what is best
Loving: He does what is best
Good: He is what is best
Unchanging: He never changes
Creator: He made everything
Provider: He meets the needs of His children
Holy: He is completely perfect
Just: He is right to punish sin
Glorious: He shows his glory and greatness
Sovereign: He has the right, will, and power to do as He pleases
Compassionate: He sees, cares, and acts when His children are in need
Merciful: He does not give what His children deserve
Attentive: He hears and responds to His children
Worthy: He deserves all glory
Deliverer: He saves His children from wrath
Refuge: He provides places of safety for His children
Almighty: Nothing is too hard for God

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On Thursday we signed the contract for the sale of our house in Denver and on Monday, God willing, the buyers will sign it. For many of you who had your houses on the market for years+, the relief we’re feeling can sound hyperbolic, but I’m going to be uncomfortably honest about why we are relieved. (Uncomfortable for you, maybe, I have nothing left to protect here.)

The Denver housing market (particularly where we bought) was more than double the market in Texas where we’d come from. We knew that being near to the local church where I’d be working was a non-negotiable for us. We wanted to practice hospitality, to have a home that was convenient for others to stop by, and where we could be invested in the life of the city community.

From the day we moved in, our house was just that. Not a day went by that there weren’t people at our house—sometimes three different people would stay in our guest room within a week. We welcomed a brand new baby and her parents home from the hospital for a week when their renovation project wasn’t done yet. We had people spend every holiday with us. We had many late nights with people around our kitchen table and on our back porch. From the moment the house was ours until the moment we locked the doors behind us (accompanied by a few friends who came to say one last goodbye) we tried to be faithful with the gift of the home.

It was an expensive home (for us), and a quirky one. It was a farmhouse from the 1800s that had been added on to multiple times. When we bought it, our realtor said, “This house doesn’t even have a place to put a TV, it’s going to be hard to resell.” We didn’t care for two reasons: we didn’t own a TV and didn’t plan on selling. And then suddenly Nate’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Denver job market for his skill set wasn’t as big as we thought it would be, and my paycheck (which we had planned on just squirreling away since his was enough for all our bills) wasn’t enough to sustain us in that house. We had to sell.

Everyone who ever came through our doors loved our house and we loved our home so we didn’t think selling would be hard. Our realtor set an amount that basically would have us walking away without losing money, but not making any. We were fine with that. We got a contract on it, but then they backed out. Then we got another one, and they backed out. One more, and they backed out. And then again, but they backed out. We were so confused—we weren’t being given reasons for the repeated back outs, and we were more than willing to fix things or adjust our price, but weren’t really being given a chance to talk it through with the buyers. Each time it just felt like a punch in the gut.

We were hemorrhaging money at this point: Nate had taken a major pay cut in this new job, we had moving costs for moving across the country again, to the fifth most expensive city in the U.S., even with a house as far out of the city as we could get commute-wise, our rent was the same as our mortgage in Denver. Plus we were fixing things along the way in the house in Denver, draining our bank account even more. There comes a point where you know the options in front of you are not only limited, they’re humbling—even humiliating. We were talking about foreclosure.

We had put down more than 20% on the house and we kept asking the question: “How much can we walk away with?” We wanted to buy a house in DC at some point, even if it was half the house we had in Denver. To even think about things like foreclosure felt so defeating for both of us. Nate has always has not only stable jobs, but extremely well-paying jobs, and I have tried my best to stay out of any kind of debt. We were not the sort of people who foreclosed. Or were we?

God began painfully, painfully, painfully pruning any assumptions we had about provision. He started that process when Nate lost his job, dug the scalpel in deeper when months went by without a job offer, even deeper when we began to put groceries and home repairs on the credit card, and it seemed he was gouging out all our pride by the time we had to ask the question: is foreclosure our only option?

In the midst of that process, we began to ask a different question: “How little can we walk away with?” At first the answer was, “Enough to pay off our credit card debt and the taxes we owed on Nate’s 2015 1099 salary.” But slowly the answer became, “We can walk away with nothing. We can lose it all.”

I’ve been in the church all my life and I’ve never heard anyone talk about this. I’ve heard people talk about it in a nuanced other people sort of way, or a testimony of how God restored all the locusts had eaten and all that, but I’ve never heard anyone process this in the midst of it. How painful it was. How humiliating and humbling. How there is absolutely nothing I could do to ease my husband’s anxiety about it. How there was nothing he could do to ease my fear about it. There comes a point when you just stand there desperate and empty before God and you can’t do anything and you feel utterly alone in the process. This whole year led us to that moment on the couch, with tears in our eyes, and the reality before us. We could do nothing on our own.

Losing a couple thousand dollars would be hard, but losing nearly 100K felt like a punch in the stomach we would never recover from.

In this process, we confessed all this to our community back home in Texas. We listed out the difficulties, we expressed we had needs only God could meet, and we asked for prayer. It felt humbling and hard. This wasn’t how I envisioned the first year of our marriage to be. None of this was. It felt like God took every imaginably difficult scenario for one of his kids to walk through, and put them all in front of us this year, a row of dominos each one leaning into the other in succession.

At the end of April we got an offer. It was far below what we were asking and had some expensive contingencies included (we’d put a new roof on), but it would leave us with almost exactly the amount needed to pay the taxes and the credit card, not one cent more. We accepted the offer and started holding our breath for the next month and a half waiting for May 23rd to come, and praying we’d make it financially through this month of bills.

A week later one of our best friends came to visit bringing with her a stack of cards from our church family in Texas. Inside were letters of encouragement and love for us—and as we opened each one, out fell money. It added up to the exact amount we’d need for our mortgage in Denver for one more month.

I cried.

This was not how I envisioned this happening either. Accepting those gifts from people who we love and who love us felt hard, but a good hard. We haven’t felt the enveloping love of our church family in a long time and to feel it in such a gutting way was—I can’t even explain it, it was hard. But good. But hard.

There’s no pretty ending to this story, friends. I can’t wrap this up for you. We wanted to tell you for a few reasons though: God gets the glory and He does it through His Church.

We moved to Denver for His glory and His Church, and we left feeling brokenness in both of those areas, but in the face of the brokenness, He still gets the glory and He still uses His Church.

But He also brings us to the point where we have to stop asking ourselves: “How much of myself can I keep?” and start asking ourselves, “How much can I give up?” Sometimes that’s easy, and we’re on the giving side of the equation, stuffing envelopes full of money to send to friends who need it more than we do. And sometimes it’s unbelievably painful and we look to all the world like we’re losing, losing, lost. But He empties us just the same and it’s hurts so good.

. . .

If I have to boil down this season of my life to one BIG lesson it is this: The Church is called to bear one anothers’ burdens. This means we enter into the mourning and rejoicing, confession and repentance process, discipline and discipleship, sharing all things in common—including but not limited to, finances, fears, joys, food, homes, cares, and prayers. If your politics, pride, personality, and proclivities don’t like the sound of that for some reason, it doesn’t change the precedence set forth in scripture.

If our politics of capitalism, of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, of each man for himself gets in the way of us admitting need, weakness, or inability to do something, this is what the Bible says: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

If our pride in self-sufficiency, independence, and self-righteousness get in the way of admitting we cannot accomplish something, we feel weak, or we physically cannot make something materialize where it is not, this is what the Bible says: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

If our personality limits us from asking for help, for admitting we feel disappointed and disheartened, for confessing we cannot see a way through what life is throwing at us, this is what the Bible says: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

If our proclivities lead to a stubborn or ungrateful demeanor to anyone who tries to help, this is what the Bible says:  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

It’s been hard to walk through this year in a way that holds both the hope of eternity and the hardness of life in tension with one another, to feel humiliated but also humbled, to recognize sin in my life and others’, and to say at the end of it: it’s beautiful and broken, but God’s way is best.

If you’re a regular reader of Sayable it’s no secret that regular writing has been, well, not so regular for nearly a year. Part of that has been the season of life and work for me—I’ve learned over the past 16 years of blogging that there are ebbs and flows, and no guarantee the words will always be there when I want them to. Part of it has just been how spiritually difficult this year has been for me. Maybe there are some of you out there who could make it through a year like this like a champ, I am not one of you.

A few weeks ago I was confessing to a friend how difficult writing has been and she encouraged me with these words: just write about what you’re learning in scripture. You don’t have to teach, apply, or prove anything, just read scripture and write about it. 

One of the places I have been writing for this year, She Reads Truth, has enabled me to do just that: write about scripture. In the lack of wisdom I have about any of the other things I’m walking through, the Bible never leaves me feeling empty. I always feel full when I have eaten at the table of scripture. The feast of the Word always fills its hearers—whether we feel like it or not.

She Reads Truth is about to begin a summer series on the book of Acts and they’ve graciously given my readers a code for a 15% discount on your Acts book orders. To be honest, I never used the books before Lent, they were primarily just scripture and I could just use my own Bible. But during the Lent study I used the She Reads Truth book and found it actually to be very helpful in that I could scribble in the margins in ways I don’t do in my own Bible. It was a refreshing way to look at scripture (how many of us just glaze over the words in our well-worn, well-read Bibles?). Plus, they’re gorgeous and I love celebrating the gifts of art and beauty within the Church.

If you’d like to order a She Reads Truth or a He Reads Truth book or bundle, use this code at the store and get 15% off your order: LORE15. The code is good until Monday, the 23rd of May.

I’m looking forward to reading along with you!

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She drew small circles on his back with her manicured nails. He sat up straighter and leaned forward. I averted my eyes and kept on singing about a God who satisfies all my deepest longings while feeling like a fraud of a worshipper: the single girl who longed for the kind of touch she saw in front of her.

What do we do about public displays of affection in the church? I faced this dilemma every week as a single woman, when it felt like the last time I’d been hugged, kissed, or back-scratched was when I visited Grandma. In church, I saw that affectionate touch knew no generational bounds, popping up among new couples, old couples, and middle-aged couples alike.

Now, I’ve always been a proponent of good hugs, muscle rubs, and kisses on the top of my head. Within dating relationships I was mostly a good Christian prude, but among all the other relationships I was the first to give out hugs. “A good hugger” will probably be my epitaph; among my circle of friends it’s been called the “Lore Hug.” (I could be known for worse and so I’ll take it.)

For all my love of hugging, though, there was something about public affection between couples, particularly in church, that always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not alone. A few weeks ago, I saw a friend posted her pithy observations on church PDA, and people flooded to the comments to declare “pet peeve,” “creepy,” and “get a room.” I knew where they were coming from—I’d felt that ick factor too—but I waited to respond, and another thought came to me: Shouldn’t the church be the one to reclaim healthy physical touch, even public expressions of it?

Continue Reading at Christianity Today.

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I’ve been lost for almost a year.

It has its perks, of course. I never would have known, for instance, the left turn I thought would take me in the general direction of home, would actually take me past a local gardening center I hadn’t found yet. Or the right turn I thought would head me toward the Super Target would actually end me up on a dead-end street. You win some, you lose some. Or get lost some.

They say moving is one of the most stressful things your body can do and they probably say moving cross-country twice in one year is like throwing yourself into a spin cycle and then tumble dry on high. “How do people do this well?” I ask myself almost daily. I have to look on the bright side, otherwise every wrong turn ends me up in tears.

Isaiah 30:19
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

I wander the aisles of the Super Target for an hour this morning. I have no agenda, no list, and no aim. “This is what lonely people do,” I think. “Crazy people.” “But I am not one of those people,” I say to myself, pay for my purchase, and leave. Then I get lost on 242 or 262 or 252 or one of those numbered roads around here.

Manassas is shaped like an oblong diamond tilted to the left, which is beautiful I suppose in its own right, but sure makes a fool out of anyone who has a good sense of direction, like me. Denver was sensible: numbered streets running east west, alphabetical streets running north south. Early settlers must have started life on the east coast and decided that kind of chaos wasn’t their style. A hundred years later and I was more than grateful for their future thinking.

Early settlers of Manassas had no such intention.

I’ve been lost for a year and I’ve also felt lost for a year. I wake every morning wondering if this will be the one, the one I finally feel like myself, feel awake, energized, purposeful, and curious. I did not waste my life before this year and now I wander the aisle of Super Target unseeing and bland.

There are details underneath this surface page we haven’t told you and won’t, and I’m sure some of you wonder what in the world my problem is and I honestly wonder too. It’s been a painful year, or in the vernacular, as one of our friends in Denver told us this week: “This year sucked.” It did, we laughed and then sobered: it did.

I could cry for all the sucking this year has been. Sucking us of life and joy and hope and roots. It wasn’t just us, it was all of the things put together, stirred, beaten, and battered, baked on high until the smoke alarm went off.

Isaiah 30:20
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

A friend told me today it’s okay to wear t-shirts and yoga pants all day these days. I feel guilty sometimes, like life isn’t worth showing up for. But she reminds me comfort isn’t always a sin.

Nate tells me maybe this is just a stopping point for us, we will plant ourselves here for four or five years, help this church plant in the area, see what God does. He is as full of faith and faithfulness as I am full of doubt and doubtfulness. I wonder if it’s okay to not be okay while still knowing someday things will be okay.

Isaiah 30:21
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

I pass a mom in Super Target today trying to calm her newborn who screams. She’s fretting and embarrassed, and I put a hand on her shoulder and say, “You’re doing a good job and it’s going to be okay.” Her eyes fill with tears and mine do too. We both know it’s true and it’s still the hardest thing in the world to believe.

All of us feel lost sometimes.

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