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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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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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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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“Her attentions are divided (I Cor. 7:34)” was exactly what I didn’t want to happen in marriage. I wanted to stick it to Paul, show him I could be married and undivided in my affections for the Lord, undistracted by cares of the world. I could be married and still be everything I’d been in my singleness. What is marriage if not addition? One + one equals two. Double the ministry. Double the fulfillment. Double the impact. Double everything. Win, win.

The past few months I’ve felt the subtle pressure of a kind of feminism in my heart. As Nate searched faithfully for a job and I brought home the gluten-free, sugar free bacon and the paycheck, the belief that my job itself was reason to stay the course in Denver crept in. It was internal and it was external. I believed it and others enforced the belief. Lots of stories rolled in about long periods of unemployment for husbands and how in that time wives worked 9 to 5 and they made it work and God showed them much and then after a year, two years, three years, five, God finally provided a job. They made it work, see? We could too.

Here’s where the division of my attentions made itself known: My husband deeply desires to provide for our household. He loves to work and works hard. The only time I see him rest is on our self-proclaimed Sabbath, and even then, it is work for him to still and quiet himself as a reminder that God is everything he longs to be. My husband wants to work, can work, and feels called to work—even if the work means we move to a different location.

In every other season of my life, my employment or vocation was my primary calling. I felt called to the work of the local church, in the role of nurturer and minister, and to be faithful with my pen and mind. This was my primary calling and I tried my best to do it faithfully, with joy, contentment, and an undivided heart.

In this season of life, though, my household (Prov. 31:27), my marriage, and my husband is my primary calling. He does not take the place of God in my worship, but he takes the place of all the other things I had the freedom to do in my singleness. His dreams, his goals, his desires do not trump mine. They do not have the final word over mine. But they do set the course for the direction of our family.

Think of it like this: we’re setting out to move to DC in two weeks. We can drive or fly, use a moving service or a UHaul. We can drive on RT 70 the whole way or RT 80. We can get there in any number of fashions, but there is where we’re going. In the same way, Nate has a calling and we get to be creative together in figuring out how to fulfill that calling.

This is what it means that in marriage our attentions are divided. I don’t call the shots alone anymore. Hand in hand, eyes set ahead, we walk forward together into what God has called our family.

The creeping belief that as a new and liberated Christian woman I won’t wrestle through these divided attentions is always lingering around my front door. It’s not just in the world, though, it’s in the church. From every corner women in the church are being proclaimed to, preached at, and pinterested to death that We Can Do It! We Were Made For So Much More! Loosen Those Chains! Run Free!

And again and again women are exhausted, depleted, and tacking index cards above their kitchen sinks to remind them again and again that They Can Do It!

Here’s a truth I’m learning in this time of divided attention: I cannot do it and I was not meant to.

God, in his sovereign goodness, joined me to a man in my 34th year of life. He knew I would spend my life single and undivided up until that time, and immediately after marriage, he began the deep and difficult work of turning my eyes away from the good work of singleness and to the good work of marriage. He made provision for me, the one with divided affections, competing desires, and clashing goals. He promised me in his word that I would be divided. The tearing of my flesh from my spirit—the work I thought he’d almost completed in my singleness—has begun again within marriage.

A friend texted me last night after we made the move public. She said, “‘She looks well to the way of her household’ means you never have to wonder what to do; look well after the man you’ve been called to,” and for the first night in weeks, I slept the whole night through.

I am called to look well to the way of my household. In our home that means to encourage, exhort, push, challenge, and make space for my husband to thrive. He thrives in working hard. This is the way God made him and I love him for it. The desire God has given him is to work in the government, to live nearer to our families, and to plant our lives deeply on the east coast. The rest is just details. We get to figure that out together. And God is in all of it.

. . .

If you’re a wife and you’re expending yourself exhausted trying to figure out how to be undivided, free, and full of all the life and vitality you see out there, try this experiment for a week or two or three: Just look well to the needs of your household.

For some of you that means being the primary financial provider for your home, for some of you it means staying at home, for some it means caring for children and your husband primarily, and I don’t know what it means for others. You seek the Lord, ask Him what the needs of your household are, and how you can look well to them. Then put your hand to the plow and be faithful.

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It’s a good thing I got my latte only half caff. I’m not sure whether I need to wake up or take a really long nap. The woman at the table beside me is complaining to her coworker about how their manager hasn’t responded to her email. Correction: emails. Six of them as of yet unanswered. Thank God she’s talking about her boss at a vitamin supplement company for whom she works; she could be talking about me.

I’m supposed to be answering emails right now, instead I’m typing this. Actually, I’m supposed to be meeting with someone right now, but they’re late, so instead I’m taking these precious fifteen minutes to answer emails. The queue is long and full—and not with your run of the mill one line response-needed kind either. It’s a bastion of issues, concerns, real life struggles, fears, and a host of other things weighing heavy on hearts.

One of the things technology has done for humanity is press us closer to one another in a smaller world—Facebook makes me feel so close to you, right next to you even. Twitter makes me think I have the whole story. Email makes longform conversation seemingly simple. Texting demands instant responses. Voicemail. Voxer. Voice-texting. Facebook messaging. Chatting. We have more communication tools at our disposal than ever before—and nobody leaves unscathed. For the one whose initiation goes unanswered—or delayed—they’re crushed by their expectations. For the one whose pile of communication keeps building—they’re crushed by the expectations of others.

The answer isn’t to stop communicating, but the bible does have some things to say to the communicator that might be helpful for us:

There is no god, but God:

No matter how much we want a pastor, minister, or friend to solve our problems or the problems we see in others, they cannot. When we jot off a digital initiation to someone whose vocation is people, we tempt them to play God for us—and we are tempted to believe they can and should. Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Don’t believe the lie that technology makes someone always available to you. Press into their absence and work out your salvation.

It is the glory of God to conceal things:

There is actually much glory in keeping things quiet and bringing them only to God. The bible speaks so much of what happens in the heart, but we seem to be much more concerned with what happens with our hands and heads. The beauty of journaling is one more of us ought to take up. Within those pages we can pour out our hearts to God so much so that pouring them out to man seems less of a holy thing. Don’t make digital correspondence your mechanism for holy war. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to seek them out.

Secret the concerns of your heart, bring them first and mainly to God instead of an email message. Seek God’s glory, not a foolish king’s crown.

Take responsibility instead of passing it on to someone else even if it’s their job:

So often we dash off an email to someone because it’s their job to handle the matter. But—especially for those in ministerial positions—we cannot handle the whole matter. People are a constant waterfall of goodness and difficulty. The beautiful thing here though is that people are God’s gift to His people. Pastors are a gift, shepherds are a gift, but they are not the only gifts. You, reader, are a gift to the Church! Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” If we are tempted to pass off the work of the ministry to a pastor, teacher, or shepherd, let’s remember it’s we who are being equipped by them so we can do the work of the ministry.

Don’t jot off an easy message to someone saying, “We need this ministry!” or “Reach out to this person!” or “This person needs to be discipled.” Saint, do the work of the ministry.

. . .

When people bang up against the humanity of people they think are superhuman, it is actually a gift to everyone. We will fail and we will be failed. We will feel everything is either too much or not enough. Our instinct is to use quick tools to solve problems, but friends, our digital messages pile up under the weight of a thousand more pressing issues. We set ourselves up for disappointment.

How much better to start with the God of the universe, the caretaker of your soul, your heart, your circumstances, and your life. Today you will be tempted to dash off an email, a text, a message, or a tweet that will beg for response. Fight the inclination and find your shelter in the shadow of the Most High. He cares for you.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night, shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22

It’s a dark, chilly, rainy morning. Most of us were late for work, navigating city traffic among a people who are accustomed to 300 days of sunlight a year. All that sunshine makes a man forget how to drive through the rain.

One of the things I missed most about the northeast while I lived in Texas was four full seasons, each brilliant in their showtime. The neon green of spring, the evening breezes of summer, fall’s coat of many colors, and the stark cowlick trees against winter’s horizon. Moving to a state familiar with them all, even if it is farther from my native roots, is a comforting return of sorts.

Autumn is always my favorite. The food: roots, potatoes, squashes, apples, and pears; I crave the tastes of fall all year long and stretch it as far as I’m able, deep into December. The weather: chilly, dark mornings, followed by the last bursts of warmth, and sinking into early evenings with long nights. The clothes: moccasins and scarves and Smart Wool socks and flannel. I love it all.

God designed Autumn to slow us down, but we have hurried it up: school and classes have started, yearly planning meetings, hot caffeinated beverages flowing fast and furious into our systems. We rush through this season, and the next two, so we can get at last to summer and rest.

God didn’t design the year like that, though. He made the long days of summer to be our hardest working times so we would come to the dark days of winter and remember He is our maker and the Lord of rest. He made the land to produce in the Spring and Summer and the vestiges of Fall so when we arrived on the threshold of Winter we would stand awkwardly, not knowing what to do with our hands.

When Nate and I went home to New York a few weeks ago, one of our evenings was spent with one of the families who have most influenced my understanding of rest, sabbath, seasons, locale, and creation care. We sat at their table long into the evening, candles burning down to puddles of wax in pewter holders, and we talked. No one wanted it to be over and this is how God has made it, I think.

The world will tell you to work harder, to achieve more, and to not count the cost this fall. The Creator tells you through creation to rest more, achieve less, and to enjoy every small moment of every short day this fall. Don’t waste your autumn.

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I used to worry that God would make me marry a man who bored me or didn’t like to read or didn’t challenge me or who didn’t have a beard. You see my frivolity? A beard? I spent time worrying God would make me marry a clean-shaven, soft-cheeked, hairless-faced guy. But I stand by the other desires: I wanted to lay on a blanket by a lake and discuss church and Church, theology and Isaiah, politics and the shape of the clouds. I wanted to never get tired of talking to him. Or listening to him.

As I made my way through my twenties and then thirties, and dated good, nice, solid, kind men, I still found myself slightly stomach-knotted at the thought of tying myself to any of them for the rest of my life. I couldn’t imagine it would be worth giving up singleness (as difficult as it was and lonely as I felt) to latch myself to any of them—and latch myself to that stomach-knottedness—for life. They were good men, but they weren’t Nate.

A friend asked me the other day how a girl can avoid settling. The market is what it is, she said, and the pickings are slim. I hear her sentiments and shared them for 34 years and I hate the platitudinous answer I gave her, which was this: don’t settle.

And I wasn’t talking about settling for a man without a beard or a man whose physique may not be what you envisioned or who might have blond hair instead of brown and who may not play the guitar or write love poems for you—in this regard, women, settle yourselves down. No, I meant this:

Don’t settle in the belief that God knows what is best for you today and tomorrow and all the days of your life. He has given you the blessed-horrible gift of singleness today. One day you feel its blessedness and another you feel its horridness, but either way, it is the gift you have today. The question of settling is not attached to a man at all, but to the God whose job alone it is to give you the gift of a mate. So the question is not “Should I settle for a man who is less than what I envisioned?” and really, “Should I settle in the belief that God doesn’t hear or care about the desires of my heart?”

. . .

Nate and I have created a small ritual in our lives these days. At five o’clock, when the workday ends, we knot our sneakers, he slings a blanket over his shoulder, and we walk to the lake a few blocks away. We find a spot high enough up that we can see the sun set over the Rockies and we talk until it creeps down behind them. Sometimes one of us rants. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes he just listens, or I do. The other day we talked about Church history and architecture, and when the wind came blowing down the hill I pressed myself against his strong back, touched his beard, and I thanked God for not giving me the chance to settle. I thanked him for all the stomach-knotted uncertainty I’d had for the past 34 years. It was God’s good protection for me, and such a familiar feeling that when I knew I would marry Nate, I knew it with a surety and freedom I couldn’t have had without all those years of knowing it was not right.

Sisters and friends—and brothers, you too—do not settle for less than the belief that God has written your story before the foundation of the earth and he is the giver of good and perfect gifts in the proper time. He cares about birds and lilies and beards and you.

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One of the most beautiful things about the cross is that the ground before it is level. Not the actual ground, of course, we all know it was on a hill far away, but the spiritual ground before the cross is as level as the carpenter’s measure—a flat plane. From the third chapter of the bible we’ve been measuring our sins, though, and passing them off as another’s problem. But Christ came in flesh, lived as one of us, and died, so that once and for all, no man’s head can rise higher than another’s and no man’s head will ever rise higher than Christ’s.

This is the theological truth, but the practical working out of it is what catches us. Mountains, molehills, plains, and valleys—we are always trying to make our station lower or higher than what He has called it.

I did it this morning on my way to work: Well, no one else is in a season just like this, undergoing all this transition, etc. etc. etc.. If God was a mocker I could almost feel his mockery: Oh really, Lore? No one understands you? No one understands this season? No one could possibly get what you’re walking through? Really?

And then his chastening comfort:

The ground before the cross is level, daughter. Every person you know is walking through a difficulty you could not possibly understand—and do not need to because I have. I am.

For every young mom who feels isolated and alone in her season there is an older single who feels isolated and alone. For every man with the weight of the world on his shoulders there is a young man who feels the weight of nothing on his shoulders. For every woman struggling with infertility there is a unmarried person longing for a spouse. For every one in need of the gospel there is another person in need of the gospel.

We all, at our base, need the issues of our hearts captured by the understanding that God alone understands—but that He gave us the gift of the Whole Church to walk alongside on this level ground before the cross.

Your season, and mine, is no more unique or special or any other season. They are all beautiful in their time—and only beautiful because God has given His Son to us as an intercessor in the midst of them. Stop looking for people who just get you and look for people who get the gospel—and if they do not, teach them the beauty of this leveled ground, the beautifully equal need we all have for the cross in every season of life.