I Stopped Trying

I was feeling quite proud of my little arrogant “I can do hard things” self until I realised something. A great friend had just asked me how I figured out how to be okay with a life in no way that I had pictured. Smug. If I’m honest my heart felt a tad bit smug. My chest puffed out and I was walking a bit taller.  I knew my gorgeous friend was just processing her life out loud and really didn’t want answers. We often don’t. We just want someone to hear us. But the next day as I continued to think on these lovely words I stopped in my tracks. Wait, you want to know how I figured out how to do life when nothing you expected happened and you are living no where near to the dreams you wanted? Hhmmm. Is that code for ‘man you are so good at failure’? Would a better more accurate question be, “It’s amazing how you failed to get what you wanted but you don’t want to kill people. How do you do it?”

After I pondered that I laughed as I walked to my car, that I don’t really love, in my jean shorts that I bought when I was too big for all my clothes after I had my son (4 years ago!) which are now semi cool because they are evidently called boyfriend jeans (shorts) now not “your too fat for your old jean shorts so you buy baggy ones” shorts. And apparently the holes in them from washing them too many times & accidentally ripping them in a hurry to throw them on to get out the door are very cool. Did I tell you I wear these almost every day? I do. And I got them at the cheapest store in New Zealand that most people don’t admit to going much less buying clothes. Yeah those shorts I had on that day. I digress once again. 
I guess my life isn’t at all, whatsoever what I planned or hoped for when I was younger. Guys, I was going to marry a youth pastor in my early twenties and change young hearts having four kids, a big house, being a sister/friend/mom/coach to young students everywhere.  Have people over at my house all the time, making dinners nightly, baking regularly and living in blissful chaos. I was also going to have a clean, organised house and live in America in a hot place.  All I can say is HAHAHAHA. My life looks nothing like that. At all. Whatsoever. Did I mention nothing like that? 
I got married in my thirties, to a man who lovingly calls high school students and college/university students, well, annoying, the worst possible age ever. We have one child. Not four. If I cook an edible dinner 3 nights a week we call it winning. By edible I mean just that. Not the dinner last Thursday my son and husband had to throw out. Or like the meal I made a couple months ago that my husband said I could not send to our homeless ministry freezer dinners. Standards. He said we have to have standards at what we give to the ones in tough times. Life is hard enough and getting a bad meal can’t be okay. My husband is an extreme introvert and I am an extreme extrovert. My husband is also a med student so having people over is just not realistic when the nights are devoted to study. So yeah we rarely have people over. By rarely, I mean never. And a clean organised house. Ha! Today I found bugs in the window sills in the kitchen. I’m not lying nor am I proud but it’s the God honest truth. 
So yeah my life doesn’t look like I wanted. There have been very tearful moments , sheer depression and anger that was ugly. It has not been easy and I really didn’t like being a mess and moving which required meeting new people in this state. So when my friend asked/processed about how I figured it out all I can say is, I actually haven’t. Some days I still go crazy and want to punch people in Kiwi culture. Some days I am SO completely over my old car and miss my cute SUV in America I could cry. Some weeks I feel like an utter failure as I chat to people with PhD’s or scores of kids that are all excelling or doctors and surgeons that are younger than me. Heck, some days I just covet people that cook dinner every night or more accurately can eat out every night. 
I tried all the tricks, every last one. I’ll do anything to feel better. I had a gratitude journal. Yeah that didn’t work at all for me. It seemed to make me more annoyed and less thankful (just to clarify it works wonders for others but for me not so much). I read my Bible. I volunteered. I tried to make friends. I exercised. Yet some days my life just looked nothing like I had hoped minus one very important thing: I lived at the beach. By at the beach I mean, take a walk daily on the beach that’s two blocks away. Then we moved after I finally found some friends. Holy freaking heck! It was another roller coaster of emotions and fear and anger and cold. Have I told you how cold it is where I live? Did I mention that summer rarely exists and when there is a semi good day or week everyone talks about the great summer we are having? Yeah, that’s just a whole new layer of bitterness. 
So how did I do it? I don’t know. I guess I just showed up every day. And the days I didn’t show up I complained and got lost in TV shows or food or Starbucks, then miraculously another day appeared. I stopped telling myself to stop complaining and just be happy. I stopped trying to like my different life. Then the pressure was just off. Now almost six years into my marriage and over five in a different country I am just me. Living in New Zealand trying to figure what I will do next.  Maybe it was a bit of a mourning process and now I can look back and see while I think I might have liked the life I dreamed of it was so limited by only what I had seen and known.
I now live a life in a health care world I didn’t even know existed. I have a husband that is brave and driven and going after the hardest discipline there is, that alone makes me swoon. I have one child that is hilarious and such a fun buddy. I am entertaining people not in my home so much as in my heart. I have quiet nights most nights of the week and I love it, and the nights I don’t my four year old and I are surrounded by a huge group of University students that we adore. And some days I do nothing of value at all except keep my kid alive. 
My answer to how I did failure so well or how I am okay with my life being so dramatically different is time. It takes time and a good friend or two that will let you complain and whine and swear and scream about the same things over and over again. Then one day you wake up and you say some stupid cliché that you hated with a burning passion months earlier. I am so glad I didn’t get the life I wanted. I got the life I love. Then the next day you wake up and still hate parts of your life and that’s okay too. Waiting out a hard season or hard life choice or circumstance can feel like it might destroy us. It won’t. It will feel suffocating and horrible and wrong some days, but I promise it won’t kill you and this my dear friend, is not your forever. I stopped trying and I think sometimes that was the smartest, most wise loving thing I did for my family and me. 

I Finally Realised I’m Almost 40

A couple weeks ago I ran a 10K. It’s one of my favourite ones because it ends at the beach. Anything that ends at the beach is worth it. Two years ago I ran this race for the first time. It was the first time I had ran a race post my son and in New Zealand. I was crazily nervous, sure I was going to come in last and fearful in general. I actually cried when the race started. Don’t ask. I’m just emotional on my best days, add a new thing, fear and embarrassing myself I’m a hot mess. 

Fast forward two years to the race this year, and I feel like an absolutely different person. I was decidedly slower. By a lot. (By “a lot” I mean my husband video’d me crossing the finish line where in my head I was sprinting and I saw this slow person in my running clothes jogging across the finish line. Clearly my body did not get the memo from my brain that we were sprinting) But it was way more fun.  I will remind you I live in a university city and within that university city there are females that attend said university. These females run. All. The. Time. And they look so cute and healthy and in shape, so naturally I think I look just like them when I’m out running. By “look just like them” I mean look nothing like them and look like an almost 40 year old mom that could actually be their mom. Whatever. Let me have my little fantasies. Now let’s put these two thoughts together. 10k race. Almost 40 in a university city. I think I have finally done it guys. I have finally come to realise I am not in my 20’s. I know, I know it’s hard to believe, but yes I often think I’m just a little older than these young ones. It was a heart stopping moment a couple of years ago when I realised that they were all being born while I was starting my university life. What?!? How is that possible I’m just a few years older? I am not. I’m not sure why this has taken me a decade (or 2. Stop judging.) but somewhere along the way I stopped thinking I was getting older. Yet at the same time I’m so happy my 20’s are over. Whew! Those were intense emotional years. Great. But man I can remember tears over not looking just right and stress about hair and clothes that at this point seems silly because I still might wear some of those said clothes. And to be clear said clothes were not that cool back then so now I’m just a really really cool hip mom like you can imagine. Plus all the emotions. All the time. Everything was new. I wanted to be an adult but acted like a toddler. Dealing with family junk and trying to “find myself and my career.” When in reality I just liked the fact that I could eat popcorn for dinner because I was an “adult.” I digress. 

This journey of Medical School for me has seemed intense and lonely and great all rolled into one life. Half way through that 10k race I realised something. People were passing me. A lot of people. But. I. Did. Not. Care. This is huge people. If you really know me you know I care about, well everything. What people think. Yep. I care. If people are better than me at things. Yep, care about that. If people think I’m funny or stupid. Yep. I care. If I’m winning at anything I try. Yep, care. I am competitive deep inside me even when no one can see it. What people say about me when I’m not around. Yep. Care about that too.  I’m not proud of these cares but they are always pretty present in my life. Some days I can silence them to a point, but they are there and on my worst days they own the heck out of me. So when I realised I kinda didn’t care about the fact that I wasn’t fast and people were passing me (by people I mean not just cute uni girls, but older people above 60 & children. Serious.) I sort of wanted to stop and yell at all these people passing me by and say “hey you, yeah you. I so don’t care that you are passing me. Go ahead. I’m okay. I’m grown up. Take your cute clothes and your in shape body uni girl and keep right on trucking. I am all good.” 

You will be happy to know that I did refrain from the above rant but I thought it. I thought the heck out of it! Then I remembered. I remembered two years ago. I was so scared in this race. I was terrified of being last. I was sure everyone would find out I was a fraud. I was crying. Real tears people. Real salty hot tears at the start line. This year I was trying to get the photographer of the paper to notice me in the huge group shot at the start line.  I might have been the only American, so what, who cares? I’m even okay with that stereotype now. 

So while my husband has been studying his butt off learning every single thing about the human body I have been evidently doing some learning myself. If you have followed along with this journey of mine you know I am fiercely independent and am not giving up my dreams for my husband’s, but we are figuring out how to both live in a place where we are being who we are created to be. The last almost 4 years (how is that even possible?!?) have been a place where I’m refinding my voice. Really understanding who I am and what I want to invest my time and energy in and what sacrifices I am willing to make or ask my family to make. I have realised moms don’t have to put their lives on hold they just blend their lives and passions and dreams. I don’t have the answer to so many of my “what’s next for me?” questions but I think that this Med School journey has been just as important for me. I needed to own my weaknesses. Find and embrace my insecurities in a safe place where I could see them as real but not debilitating. I needed time to wiggle and cry and laugh and figure out what my voice was. I needed to find my people and I have. I just heard a wise woman say it can take years for a woman to find her voice but when she does she is unstoppable. The amount of women right now reminding us that there is not one way to do life is phenomenal. I’m finding myself constantly reshaping the boundaries for mom and wife and creating new ways of seeing marriage and family and work life. I’m so thankful they have found their voice. It’s changing who I am and leaving a legacy for my family. 

So right now the thing I know to be true is people can do the things they think they can’t. I ran a 10k and did not care what anyone thought. I can say I am almost 40 and not just a “little older” than the uni girls, nor do I look like them when I run. Well, I might just keep that lie in my head. Who is it hurting anyway to think I look like that fit 20 year old? No one. So there. I’m keeping that one, stop judging it’s fine. I will deal with that little bit of a fantasy at another time. Or maybe I won’t. I’m in charge of me. I’m the boss of me and I’m going to take my almost 40 year old self out for a run and love the fact that I’m almost 40 and pretend my body is 20.  Or just go eat popcorn. Yeah maybe I’ll do that instead. 

Maybe This Generation Doesn’t Need the Church 

Or maybe it does. There’s seems to be a bit of controversy around this idea.  I read an article last week on why this generation is leaving the church in masses or not even showing up to church. I have a friend, April, that has dedicated her life to helping youth show up in church & stay past high school. There are books written about it, great initiatives and awesome churches out there, yet articles like this are written & might be true. Ironically, I think this generation is more open to God than ever. They aren’t disillusioned & bitter like my good Ol’ Gen X generation was (is). They love being generous. They are tolerant of people and ideas and therefore open to listening & learning. They want justice and people to be seen as valuable. They are the first to defend rights and ideals and the value of a human life. (Seems like those are exactly God’s heart too) Yet those that don’t follow Christ or know God seem to look at Christians and decide this religion of Christianity is not for them. Not all. But most. 

I think it may be less complicated & more simple than we might think. I’m not an expert by any means and I very well could be wrong, but what if it’s not OR but AND? BOTH/AND What if this generation needs churches that create space for people to encounter God AND other ways to encounter God. 

This will most likely take courage and a tiny bit of being silent and listening instead of dogmatically defending our particular church or defending how someone must encounter God. Maybe we say to this generation, “We hear you. We make room for your questions of us and our practices and we listen to your views.” It won’t be easy and it will take self control, but what could happen if we release people to encounter God through other ways than church? What if we champion those that create beauty or organisations to create and organise with excellence? What if we celebrate when someone misses church on Sunday because they were at brunch with friends or at a kids sporting event? What if we maybe ask people to lead or volunteer less at our churches so they have more time with their friends? I know scary right? I led volunteers at an incredible church in LA and have worked or helped in churches since I was 16, so I know the sweating & internal freak out just to hear those words, “tell our volunteers to stop.”  What if we take a deep breath and stop for a moment thinking of all the help we don’t have and the people that won’t serve and maybe just maybe see if there is a different way. If this generation needs BOTH churches AND different ways to meet God maybe there might be a different way for us church leaders. 

What if we help people be excellent at their jobs, celebrate them when they succeed (not make them feel guilty for missing camp or a church leadership meeting), support them when they create new businesses, and even challenge them to create environments of hope and love in their careers and entrepreneurial endeavours? Maybe just maybe this generation might meet God in those places and feel celebrated and known and not feel guilty for not going to a church they don’t relate too. 

This idea is scary, I get that. It puts a lot of the responsibility on us. I know it is way different than bringing a friend to church & the pastor does it. But what if it was us doing things we love? What if our hobbies were the new church? What if our conversations about hope and goodness and Jesus happened naturally while we created something that helps the world? Wow. What if we did things like my friends in Longmont, Colorado? They are about to open up a restaurant (The Roost) with excellent food and a place where artists can display their music and art with a desire to be an atmosphere and place of hope for people.  Wow. Just wow. That could be someone from this generations church. What if? 

Or what about my other friends who run a drive through coffee shop. (Don’t even get me started about how we need those in New Zealand. I can’t even.) They have the chance daily to invest in this generation because their employees are all from this generation. They hold them accountable for being excellent employees and guide them through the inevitable mistakes we make in our 20’s and do life with them cheering them on to become great. They teach their people to make their city better and teach their employees that important causes matter and doing something tangible is not only right but needed to change the world. What if? What if this was some peoples’ church experience and they meet God this way? 

Let me be clear I love church. “There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right” said by Bill Hybels, still makes me heart beat faster and I wholeheartedly agree. But what if it looks a little different these days? What if the local church looks more like what my great friend Banning shared in this article last month? What if those of us still doing the church thing do it with grace and create a safe space for those that will go to church? What if we openly challenge people to stay in their careers and champion them in those roles? What would happen if we didn’t have “new believers” classes because it was just part of our relationships and friendships to talk about that stuff. What if? What if at my weekend receptionist job at the hospital that means I miss church on Sunday mornings becomes just another place for me to cheer for people, hurt with people, do my tasks with excellence so doctors and nurses can do their jobs better. What if this was the only “church” my friends saw? Would they want the type of God I represent by my behaviour? 

In my city I go to a church (predominantly full of university students) I love that weekly creates space for people to question God, have encounters with God and on a regular basis people are choosing to give this God a chance that Dani (the pastor) talks about. There’s a new church in my university city that has come because they believe in this generation and they are creating an incredible environment for those thick into university and partying to investigate who God is to them. I couldn’t be more proud of both of these different approaches and the lives they are touching. 

So maybe this generation doesn’t need the church AND it does need the church. It will take a brave face by those of us working for a church. It might cause our defensiveness as church goers or church leaders to be exposed, but that’s okay because this generation (and I would argue most people) want to see the real you. Maybe we dogmatically believe that God is the only answer and church is the only way to God and in the process we accidentally hurt people or pissed them off. Not the good piss off that is talked about in the Bible where God & Jesus offend people. Maybe we accidentally again used those verses or ideas from the Bible to justify our dogmatism but forgot to show that God loves us no matter what. Maybe, just maybe, we forgot that those people we are irritating and offending are so important to the heart of God. It might take us letting out a deep sigh and saying okay let me hear you. Tell me what you think about the church and God. Promising ourselves and those around us that we will listen, we aren’t going to judge or defend but make space for another way. 

I wrote these thoughts down yesterday. I could be absolutely off base and that’s okay, these are just thoughts to ponder. Then this morning I scrolled through Facebook and saw the “dress,” you know the one, the gold and white one or maybe to you the black and blue one. As I scrolled I saw one of my favourites (Glennon at Momastery) posted this about that dress. At first I felt silly and even bugged I didn’t post this yesterday so no one would think I was copying her, then I put on my girl pants and shut the hell up. In that moment, I wondered if God might be saying, see this conversation matters to Me. This is important. Keep talking about this BOTH/AND thing. You all are on to something. So I bravely said yes. Yes I believe this generation doesn’t need the church AND it wildly does need the church.  Maybe for a moment we can stop fighting and competing as churches. Maybe we can stop making people so busy at church they have no margin left. Maybe we can just stop and see if there might be a different way. It’s BOTH/AND guys. Read the article Gleennon at Momastery put up today. Her heart as a peacemaker is straight out of the Bible.  She doesn’t have it all figured out and I sure as heck don’t have it all figured out, but maybe that’s the starting point. Maybe that’s how we start a conversation that doesn’t include shame and guilt but letting people know that God is good and in a good mood. Maybe we listen to our friends tell their stories where it doesn’t seem like God is good and instead of preaching at them or defending God we sit with them and allow God to show up and when He does we shake our heads in wonder at the fact that the God of the universe cares about each single person in and out of the church. That’s the kind of church I want to be apart of whether it’s in a bar or an old fashioned church. Let’s do that. Let’s make that together. It’s possible. Let’s do it together. It might just blow our minds at what will happen if we say BOTH/AND and not either/or. 

*disclaimer: I do not tolerate mean comments about me, any church, any people group or anyone’s idea. If they are negative or mean I will delete them and most likely you. This is a safe place and I will keep it that way. 

The Worst Day of the Year

The worst day of the year for me: the official last day of summer. This is no joke in my world. Saying good bye to summer is like saying good bye to my dearest friend. While the city I live in leaves MUCH to be desired in the summer temperature area the end of summer on the calendar still marks the beginning of the school year, the coming of winter (and you know how I feel about winter. I can’t even), and a new pace and rhythm to life.

Ironically, this new season means I get to slow down a tiny bit. Summer has been jam packed with work, passing my husband in the night as I head home and he goes to work, and lots of caffeine. I absolutely love my work. I am privileged to have a job, have sick leave, enjoy my co workers and earn holiday pay each week. But that said working 6 days a week for the last 4 months has been no joke. I was texting with a friend in America about a month ago and she said she wished we were sitting just chatting about life. I realized in that moment that I hadn’t actually done that all summer with a friend. Working full time is an amazing gift, but it does not leave much room for anything else in my life except my family and very few others.

One of our favorite friends came over with her kids last week and it was the first time since before summer began that we coordinated our schedules to hang out. She is my do nothing friend, my sit on the couch and laugh friend, my don’t have to impress friend, my house is messy friend, my effortless friend. Had it really been 3 months since we had laid eyes on each other? How does that happen?
Saying yes to people and things means you are saying no to other things. In the last 3+ years in Dunedin I have begun to be okay with the answer no. I said no to many opportunities this summer, to a lot of house cleaning, to most of the cooking and a big fat no to the gardening and no to most friends that were free to catch up.

I don’t work because I have to, I work because I am good at what I do, I love the place in people’s lives that I am privileged to be in because I put so many hours in at work and I work because I want my little boy to see me going after things that are important to me. So I am okay that I said no to about 90% of housework, but the downside of saying yes to work was the little time I had for friendships. Friendships look different in my late 30’s, but they are still so important. The way I make it work for me in this time of life is a lot of iPhone apps. Thank God for Apple. Seriously. I have had many a heartfelt chats over an app this summer, sent texts when I was beginning to lose it and had funny pictures and messages pop up at the exact moment I needed a laugh. It is good for my soul to stay in contact with friends with so much history. It has been over 20 years since I laid eyes on my closest friends friends for the first time as nerdy and nervous 18 year olds starting out at college. We have hit the stage in life when we will have known each other longer than we haven’t. That is a gift.

But. There’s always a but though isn’t there? As the summer ending rapidly approached and that last weekend feeling like that the last bit of sands in the hourglass, I found myself not talking to anyone. I could feel the sadness looming starting about Thursday. A change was coming, a new unknown, a Med School year that will be harder than the last. I felt my armor rising to protect myself, to brace myself for a year with a husband devoted to study. The healthy thing to do would be to let someone in, text someone and let them know the fear is hovering, the sadness is settling. Leave a message and let someone have the privilege of walking with me as I face a new starting line. I am beyond lucky to have the depth of friends in my life that would drop anything to hear my heart or at least see the message on their phone and make time to really hear me. So as Saturday afternoon hit I made healthy life choices. And by healthy I mean I did none of those things. I escaped in books and shows the entire weekend. I curled up with the iPad (the one that must leave me and go back to Med School with my husband) for one last beautiful weekend. And I felt more and more sad as Sunday night approached.

Weird I know. Of course taking myself outside of friends would not be helpful. As I laid in bed Sunday night I realized that in my fear of the unknown of this next school year I made a perfect little barrier to protect my heart from feeling neglected or too sad as a new school year started. Dang you fear, dang you old defense mechanisms, dang you life. The next morning I got up, had one of those comical crazy mornings, shoes couldn’t be found, clothes were not right, yelling that it is time to go over and over and then the rush to school to make sure everyone was on time. My husband was on time, barely, but as I looked at my little four year old in the back seat I knew what we had to do–go get a coffee. So while it was 9am, the official start to Kindy, I turned right instead of left and held my little boy’s hand while we strolled into Starbucks and then arrived 12 minutes late to school. I hate being late, but it was my way of being in the moment, my way of saying “Schedule you don’t own me I own you, I am in control and you are not controlling me this year.” I dropped my son off, waved at the window and took a deep breath. A new thing is usually less scary than the anticipation of a new thing, why do I always forget this?

I called two friends as I got in the car and told them about my morning and my fear and my silly hiding and invited them into my world of crazy and scared and unknown and then only then did I begin to feel a bit better. I love being authentic, I crave authenticity from others, but for me being vulnerable is tough. Being vulnerable when I am scared or unsure is not my best quality. This Med School gig is tough and if I don’t let friends in my heart will drown, so as the year started I said good bye to the weekend where I did it pretty bad and took one tiny brave step and let those friends into see how nervous I really was, I text my do nothing friend and made sure she could come over this week and I drank my Starbucks trusting that this year was going to be good, hard, funny, bad, stressful, hurtful, full and all the other true things that happen in life. But c’mon with friends and a Starbucks in your hand you can conquer anything, right? I think so! So third year of Med School with all your scary unknowns and financial questions and tests and study take that! I got this! Vulnerable, friendship, authenticity and Starbucks! Here we go, another year I am ready for you now!

If You’re Lucky Enough to be at the Beach You Are Lucky Enough

Dear winter,
Please don’t make me slap you with my flip flop.
Sincerely,
Beach bum
-beachy keen

One last morning looking at the waves. Feet still a bit sandy. Hearts full. Hair unwashed. Still in swimsuits. Being in Med School is no joke (being a doctor is no joke) so this little tradition of saving for a holiday at the end of the year was perfect.

I’m fiercely independent and the biggest baby you will ever meet. Marriage (and a great anti depressant) has helped me find a somewhat healthy balance of the two. I was single through my 20’s and didn’t want to be. I wanted to do married stuff, so I complained a lot. I mean a lot people. I so wish I could have or would have taken the advice before me and enjoyed it more. I did find the guy that made me smile, didn’t bore me and found my crazy a little attractive. We got married. Fast. Moved to New Zealand in our first year of marriage. Found a surprise was taking up residence inside of me and was coming out in 9 months whether we liked it or not. That year was brutal. Filled with very high highs (we lived at the beach for most of it so c’mon you know that kept me sane, and around the corner was a Starbucks. Sanity in chaos. Yes I think God helped me through those first 2 years in NZ…by placing me at the beach and by a Starbucks) but the year had quite a few lows. I was a hot mess. I didn’t know how to make friends all of a sudden. I thank God all the time for the antenatal coffee group he dropped me in. They accepted me at my worst. Made me laugh to tears almost every week and were so inclusive based on their character not my awesome personality that was hoovering around a high 3 (out of 10!). I wonder as I look at pictures still through our sneaky private FB page (we are SO techy!) and send funny texts and have them cheer for me & me for them from afar, if they really know the role they played. Emotionally I was in quicksand drowning in a new culture, new marriage, this new creature that was with me all the time who was adorably cute but who I had no real good connection with for months, yet each week Friday was my favourite day. I looked forward to it. I started counting down from Saturday. I kind of new I was pathetic and they all had other friends throughout the week, but I didn’t really and that was a first for this person that thinks checkout ladies are her friend. But I SO didn’t care. I was going Friday whatever state I was in and they were going to compliment me, say my baby was awesome and cheer for everyone. Sigh. I guess some years there is one thing or just a few that make those years great. I was starting to be a little less baby like & a little more independent again.

Then we moved. Very far away. To a very cold place. And my selfish coffee group did not come. Whatever. I can do hard things, right? Nope. I still wasn’t my independent self yet. I tried to just embrace it and not say “this isn’t really me” to every person I met, nor say “I don’t feel like myself” because this was me in this moment. It wasn’t my favourite version of myself but it was me. After a crazy tumultuous couple years, living in a new culture, before iMessage and apps were really out (praise God for Apple, seriously) now I had an amazingly brave husband shooting for the moon and trying to get into Med School. Whew. I get tired just reading my life. As my husband entered official Med School this year (year 2 of 6) my footing started coming back. I no longer was SO needy with my cute hubby but we found this beautiful dance of me living my dreams and searching for some new ones and he working like crazy for his and somewhere they began to overlap again. He headed to Med School day in and day out and my son and I had full days often collapsing into bed. We were connected most of the year even though our schedules were painfully different and our focus. I would like to say my doctor/medical sitcoms were part of understanding his life more, but he said that was a stretch and didn’t agree. Whatever. I still felt the healthy rhythm of being independent and interdependent come back this year.

As summer approached I went in with huge excitement. We would get to spend so much time together and I wouldn’t have to be strong and be okay with his time commitments and focus. Yeah, so that really didn’t happen. Summer has been rough. I’m working tons, he’s working tons, but the thing is we are working opposite shifts. I’m done at 3:30, he’s starting at 4 and I can’t say I’ve been the nicest most compassionate version of myself and I think he might say the same. So I panicked. I started being more bratty and weird and quite frankly annoying (even to myself). That would totally make it easy for us to connect, right? We have had a few discussions of the loud nature. And I dealt with some grief that slammed me for a few weeks. Yet I felt like I heard in my heart a promise of connection for us from God. It wasn’t audible. It was just this peaceful thought I knew was God. A provision that God knew what we needed because all my work and all his work was not adding up to the savings I envisioned and planned on.

That said I had no idea what this vacation would be like. Staying in a hotel ten minutes from your house made 95% of the people look at you like you were crazy. I doubted for a split second what we were doing.

Then we arrived. Views that fill our grouchy souls. Reminders of God through crashing waves. Someone making my bed, cleaning my bathroom, doing my dishes, doing and folding my laundry, and bringing me fresh towels daily. Amen and amen. All the while staring at the beach, seeing a little four year old run in and out of waves. And so much good time with my husband. Med School is hard, but life and relationships are hard not just for people in Med School. No matter what. It’s just hard. It’s why we say a lot around here “love you no matter what,” stolen shamelessly from my gorgeous friend April Diaz. This is what we needed, the rhythm of our life will never be 9-5. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. I’m looking forward to these family building holidays. I put on Instagram the other day after a hard year this holiday was perfectly perfect. Maybe it was my low expectations with having to work some days. Maybe it was exhaustion wondering if it was worth our financial sacrifice. Maybe I was too tired to hope. Or more accurately too scared. But around my neck from my beautiful friend Rebecca who passed into heaven last week was a key that said HOPE. It wasn’t exactly from her as for her in her fight for life on earth. At one point right before holiday I looked down at my HOPE necklace and said, “Damn you Rebecca you knew it, you somehow knew this hope wasn’t for you. You were good. You were heading towards the kind God you adored. You did this for all of us that needed hope this year.” Between Shannon’s clever creative mind to sell them as a fundraiser and Rebecca’s legacy, none of us were going to get away without hoping as we said good bye to 2014. And the beauty of it is that the story of these necklaces is to keep it until you see someone who needs it more than you. (Seriously the most creative loving cool company ever! Check it out

As my husband packs up around me and I sit here typing (I’m sure he’s totally thrilled I’m in denial right now not moving from the deck) staring at the ocean wishing for just one more night I’m just so incredibly thankful. Good bye beautiful ocean. Good bye sandy 4 year old toes. Good bye living in swim suits. Good bye not making meals. (Yes!) Good bye 2014. Good bye maid service. (Dang it!!! Might have been my favourite part of 2014. Don’t judge. I hate cleaning and cooking so this was a dream come true!)

It Is Not Well With My Soul

…and it’s ok to cry today…but tomorrow…well tomorrow we will keep fighting, keep believing, keep talking, keep declaring truth and hope and one day we’ll declare it to our adoptive sons and they’ll declare it to their sons until this present reality is a past nightmare.
-Dana Masters

There is a beautiful song, “It is well with my soul.” I’ll be the first to admit I love the heart and premise of this song: that God is good no matter what horrific thing happens. Yes! Unapologetically Yes! I do know that to be true. Even if you don’t believe God exists or Jesus is real, most people believe that life has a way of working out. Some call it karma. Some see it as time healing all wounds.

Last night after a very long day at work I was sad about a lot of circumstances. I probably should have snuggled my family and just sat in the sun, but I was not okay. So I ran. I ran farther and longer than I intended and was gone more than my family probably needed. Those that have followed this journey know depression is real for me. I guard what slippery slides I go down, but yesterday instead of listening to my favourite podcast and laughing I knew I needed to experience this emotion. As tears streamed down my face on this warm afternoon I knew I just couldn’t make sense of what I have seen and felt in the last few weeks.

I was listening to one of my favourite albums that help me regain faith and strength. “It is Well” began to blare in my ears. I love this song. I have loved this since I was a small girl in church and I heard the hymn version and the story behind the hymn. But yesterday, yesterday it was not well with my soul. Tears began falling which makes it very difficult to run and I looked like a freak but there I was running through my city fully invested in my present. Let me be clear God is good. Period. No question for me. Exactly for that reason I could not say it is well. And I don’t think God wants my soul to be well with some of the things going on in this world. Spouses should not die of cancer. Parents should not hit their kids. Ever. Humans should not be bullied and shot for their skin colour or race. Ever. Daddies should not die leaving their girls to figure out life. Terrorists should not hold hostages when people are getting their morning coffee. Spouses should not have affairs. Little girls should not be sex salves. Ever. University students should never hang black & brown people in effigy. Ever. Never. Babies should not die. Women should not have to convince men to let them use their gifts. Sigh. See it is not well with my soul when I see these things happening. Today. In 2014. What the heck?!

So today it is not well with my soul and somewhere in the quiet corner of my heart I think God agrees. He is good. It is precisely why I do not think it is well with my soul. It’s why I love that my friend Hayley is a surgeon training and always learning about the human body. Researching new techniques and new innovative procedures. It’s why I love that my friend Brandy is diving head first into the uncomfortable mess that is unfolding in America with people of colour and whites. Her dad is a well respected white American retired policeman and yet she positions herself to listen and learn and rallying more former students that she could have ever dreamed to do the same. Not debate but listen and make her theology active not just published in a paper or read in a book.

It’s why I love watching my friend Shannon not only hold hope and keep watch for our friends in the most difficult and hard moment of their lives, but also give others a chance to tangibly help. It’s why I love what my friends, Banning and Sea are doing out of a dream to give others access to hope. Real hope. A community of people that cry, laugh and are allowed to be real in the hardest moments of life. But most importantly they do it because they believe God is good and if people could just experience that goodness they know their life will be forever changed. It’s why I love watching my roommate from college and her friend group rally in tangible, emotional and financial ways around their friend that became a widow far too young. They give her strength, babysitting, and space to be this new version of herself. To see herself as strong and powerful even as she grieves and raises three young girls.

It’s why I love my wise friend Dana Masters who challenged me to press into the emotion and horror but not stop there.

So no it’s not okay with my soul. Don’t be confused, as I finished my run at the beach today I put that song on repeat and wrote these thoughts out. It is well with my soul that God is good. It is not well with my soul all that I see these days. That is the beauty of these awful ashes of pain and evil. We are the answer. Our passions. Our strengths. Our fire of injustice burning deep within us. Our ability to organise out of chaos. Our ability to write songs that comfort, inspire and lead. Our crazy desire to make an impact on the world. Our belief that we could end racism with understanding and listening. Our value that love always wins. Our gift to create business that gives others jobs. Our selves showing up like Glennon says.

As I leave the beach today my prayer is that you know God is good and not who some, well meaning but horrible representative of His love, showed you. My other silent prayer today is God, may my soul never become confused with believing your goodness and excusing injustice and bad and evil things. No God please don’t let my soul say it is well when it is not. May I change what I can. And may You see humans changing evil in this world and may You say it is well with Your soul.

Pause

It’s good to remind yourself daily to be kind to yourself. You have never been here before. You have never been married this long, done this kind of work, raised these kids or had these experiences. Give yourself grace to be the student and let God be the teacher. –Havilah Cunnington

Pause in His Presence. It’s the meaning of the word Selah. At least that is how it’s translated in a new book a precious friend gave me this week. The His indicates God, but I think regardless of if you believe in God or not it’s a good suggestion. My heart has been filled with emotion the last few weeks, my schedule filled with work, my mind filled with questions that don’t have answers right now and my home filled with Christmas and laundry and dishes and a million dinosaurs all over the floor. But that phrase keeps hoovering over my heart. Pause in His presence.

The holidays, and summer down here in New Zealand, are here and stereotypically those can be hustle & bustle, chaos & vacations, frantic & fun. That’s not what’s keeping me busy this year, though I’m loving the great stuff my favourite authors are putting out (Momastery, Brené Brown, Shauna Niequist).

This year, in this season I am busy with work. But here’s a secret about me: I thrive at life when I’m busy. I seem to get dinner cooked, washing done (or my hubby does it, but as I type this I realise a load that must be folded is still in the drier and I’m cozy in bed already done for the night. Dang it! Real life happened), school bag packed, groceries shopped, runs ran, Christmas decorated and still have time to catch up my favourite shows. It’s not perfect, per the parenthesis above, but I really do enjoy being busy. I like the rhythm of life when we have full days. But it doesn’t mean things go perfect or I do it all. I have said no to heaps of things lately encouraged by the women I mentioned above to keep the priorities the priority. Tonight I was lying on my sons floor holding his hand as he tried to drift to sleep (yes I swore I would never do this yet there I laid). A Jesus Culture CD was softly playing and I stopped. Pausing in His presence. The thing is, it was 24 hours before that I first read that line and I hadn’t thought of or done it since. That’s okay though, we must be kind to ourselves. I’ve never been married to a third year med student before. I have never raised a 4 year old boy so far removed from the culture I grew up in. I have never worked in a hospital system I did not understand before living here five years ago. But tonight I paused. Just for a moment. Then I went on to text my favourite nurse friends back (which actually took restraint as I paused in His presence), I sent some emails, I did not fold the laundry, I watched 20 YouTube videos with my husband and then looked at way too much Instagram comparing myself and coming up short. But I paused. Tomorrow I’ll pause more. Or maybe I won’t. But I love that in His presence His goodness never stops and His love for me isn’t dependent on my pauses. Pausing, whether in His presence or just to pause if you don’t believe in God is good. Hopefully in those pauses you hear kind things about yourself.

I’ll leave you with a Christmas pause story. Yesterday my son and I were taking his Christmas tree angel gift for a kid that won’t get a present to our local mall. As we headed up the escalator we heard one of our favourite Christmas songs. We sang along and chatted about why we were giving this gift. As we turned the corner my heart stopped. It was not a mall Christmas CD. It was Salvation Army Carollers, who were older than God I think, holding their song books belting out The First Noël. My son ran to drop his present for a kid that might not get one at the tree in the front of the store at the foot of a beautiful Christmas tree already full of gifts for kids who actually really need to know they are remembered this Christmas season all the while the carollers sang Noël. I paused. Sappy with Christmas cheer feeling like an ABC family Christmas movie. That was all I needed this Christmas. I’m so thankful for that pause and that human moment that I was allowed to experience.

Pause. Pause and see how far you have come in your career. Pause and see that you didn’t kill your kids today so that’s a parenting win. Pause and notice the stories passing you by in each heart. Pause in His presence. You won’t be disappointed.