Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The years, how they fly!

We've been goofballs since the beginning!
Five years ago, I put on a dress, prayed my family wouldn't come ruin the day, and got married.

Five years. In some ways it feels like forever, and in other ways feels like we married only yesterday. It's certainly been a journey, and not at all like I thought it would be.

The truth is, Dave isn't the husband I want.

He's the husband God knew I needed.

And there's such a difference. He doesn't leave me love notes on Facebook (a good thing; it would do nothing but prod my pride). He doesn't agree with everything I say, or let me get away with crap. Marriage is so hard because it's a mirror, and a lot of times, the reflection isn't pretty. Because I'm not. And it's agonizing because you wound each other, and hello, this is the person that more than anyone else you do not want to hurt! But you do. Time and time again. And despite my ugliness, he is married to me anyway.

No wonder me and Dave are the perfect metaphor for me and Jesus. Because sometimes I don't see how Dave stays married to me. And most days I don't know why Jesus sticks with me, either.

I'm so shocked by Dave's love, sometimes, and I think I always will be. Because deep down, I still find myself so unloveable; someone only God could love. I'm so thankful for the gift Dave is to me. For his silliness and his leadership. For how he can read past my shroud of indifference and know when I'm upset. For being an open place for me to dump the truth of how I'm feeling. For tickling me and picking on me, because that's flirting at its best, and it lets me know he still wants me.

He is my best friend. My compliment. He is strong where I am weak, and when he cannot go on I pick him up and carry him. So much of marriage is one of you being that wounded soldier on the battlefield, and the other hoisting them up and carrying them. We've rotated that role for five years now. And I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

It took us so long to figure out that we loved each other, or even liked each other (I think most of you knew it before we did). There was no moment of head-over-heels for either of us; no staggering realization that we were in love. It happened so fast we didn't see it coming, and so naturally that once it did happen, it was like it had been that way all along.

I lived so many years expecting to fall in love, and waiting for it.

You know how when the seasons change, you wait and look each day for the trees to change? I do this every season, peeking at trees on the drive to and from work. You wait and watch, then go to bed and wait and watch the next day. Then all of a sudden you're driving to work and realize, "Wow, the trees changed!" This thing you were waiting for and expecting, but it managed to sneak up on you anyway.

Falling in love with Dave was like that.

He came along right when I needed him. And he stuck. He brings so much joy to my life; so much laughter and rest as he calls out my fear and helps me trust Jesus.

The first book I wrote was about a girl named Rie and a guy, Marus, who loves her and rescues her. Dave (who abhors reading) never read the story, but he heard me talk about bits and pieces of it. I was giving him a hard time one day about not having read it, and he said he knew what it was about. So I said, "Ok, what's it about?"

And he said, "It's about you and me, and how I rescued you."

Yes, baby, that's exactly what it is. Funny how you show up in every story I write...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Now I lay me down to sleep

We bought our house exactly two years ago. She is, as I affectionately call her, a rehab house. She was in rough, rough shape when we got her, but so far she's cleaned herself up pretty well. I forget sometimes how far we've come with her because we have so much we still want to do. But then I step back and think, wow, look how things have changed.

Case in point: our bedroom.

This is what the master bedroom looked like when we bought the house:

Peeling drywall, mirrors on the wall (??), and do you see the white spaces where pictures had been hanging? Notice the filth on those walls. The previous owner smoked in this room, and I scrubbed the walls no less than six times, pulling off layer after layer of nastiness. 
We primed the walls, ceiling, and floor of the bedroom with Kilz primer, and after 2 coats of that, the smell was FINALLY gone!
The dirt and dog-hair-clogged carpets were one of the first things to go!
Then we painted! Dave wanted to wake up and feel like he was in the Caribbean. So a bold blue was our pick for this room.

New carpet!!!  

And now, today. (This was a rare occasion when the bed was actually made) Everything clean and crisp and beachy! We're so thankful for this house God has given us. It's not Pinterest perfect, and we don't want it to be. It's a good house, and it's cluttered and full of our lives. And that's just how I want it to be. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Life lately

It's been a while since I did an update! Here's what's been happening in our house lately:

This is what my dining room often looks like when plotting out a new story. Chalkboards, whiteboards, index cards, and butcher paper are everywhere, as if my brain oozed out of my head onto various things. But, this is how my brain gets organized. One day I want to repaint the entire top half of the dining room with chalkboard paint so I can write notes all over. 

Notice the "he's a CHNM", which is a description of a bad guy in my story. This acronym stands for Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins. ;)

Ah, powerful quote that shows up in the story. 

Embroidering is my new jam. This is my latest project. You only get a sneak peak 'cause it's for someone, and I don't want to give it away :)

my sweet friend, Julia, made this wreath for my birthday gift. Isn't it so pretty??  I love, love it!

We added Ultron to our collection of Marvel action figures. Not pictured is Captain America who is on the other side of the living room fighting off the Terminator ('cause we have him, too). 

Ah, the basement. Up until now, we've used this space to make furniture and paint things. Now that (most of) those projects are done, we cleaned and set up our home gym area. 

We have our old bathroom mirror down here, and I couldn't help pretending I was 15 and taking a selfie. Notice the adorable puppy in the bottom of the photo. He's our shadow. 

Ungleich home gym!

My dad built me this dollhouse and I finally got around to unpacking it. I forgot just how pretty it is!

Doggy love is the best kind. 


He abandoned the kisses quickly because he knew I had food up there. And his stomach is bigger than his heart ;) Not pictured is his brother who was running around chasing squirrels in the backyard. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Today is my birthday

I turn 33 today. I'm taking the entire day off to celebrate. Even now I have a blueberry muffin (one of my favorite things) and coffee by my side. I am immersing myself into a new story for a bit this morning then going to see the new Avengers movie, and I made Twix cheesecake to enjoy later.

I love birthdays. Adore them. I know so many of us cringe when the next birthday comes around. It's understandable. Youth doesn't last as long as we think it does. Our bodies start falling apart at the ripe old age of 25 it seems. And sometimes each passing year is harder when life hasn't turned out like we wanted or thought it should. Birthdays can be invitations to grief and disappointment. Or invitations to hope.

Age is such a gift. I have cellulite and wrinkles and love sleep more than anything these days, but it's worth it compared to the knowledge I have. I was reading 1 John 4:16 last night and it says 'We have come to know and have believed the love that God has for us.'

In college, this was my friend Jeremy's favorite verse. I liked it but I didn't get it then like I get it now. Because even though I knew that God loved me, I didn't understand it. I didn't understand that when I would make horrible choices or endure the horrible choices of others, that God would be there to love me. That His love never wavers. That I don't have to earn his love by doing right or performing well. His love has nothing to do with how I act or what I'm like. Isn't that amazing? The freedom in that love should daily make us stand in awe...the Creator of the Universe, the one who holds galaxies in his hand and orchestrates the details of every single life on the planet, is in love with me. He called me his daughter and wanted to adopt me before he even split the earth from the sky. I am his daughter. And nothing I could ever do could change that.

I get this verse now. Because yes, after so many years, I have come to know and do believe in the love God has for me. Not fully, because I think as much as I trust that love now, it is just a fraction of an understanding.

Do you know that love? Oh I want you to. To know that God loves you upside down, backward, and forward. In ways you cannot imagine with your little human brain. You were made for Him. Not to obey rules and get things right and be moral. But to show him off by letting him love you. Abiding in his love - letting him love you and sitting in the reality of that love and trusting on it - that is the best way to commune with God.

So today, I am 33. A child of God. Believer. Sister of Christ. Loved - completely. I'm a wife, a friend, a writer, a storyteller. A reader, worshipper, interceder.

I love coffee and good workouts. A book is my favorite place to get lost. Cleaning is my drug, baking is my therapy. I love snail mail and hot baths. I love that the God of Genesis is the same God of Isaiah, the Psalms, and James. Sometimes all I need is an hour to clean, or a good cry in a hot shower. Being with my husband fixes most of my bad days. Boundaries are something I am still learning. I love making up stories - it is the best kind of worship. Lists make me sane, summer is my favorite season, and I still get excited on Christmas morning. God shutting doors in my face has turned out to be the biggest blessing of my life. Grace is something I'll never really get. I hope that someday I'm as brave as the girls I write about. I think God chuckles at me a lot. I know He loves me to pieces.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Which is God?

Today I am trying to reconcile Big God and Little God.

Big God is the God of the Old Testament. He is Abraham and Isaac and Jacob’s God. He comes when he comes. He goes when he goes. He loves His people. He is big and terrible and powerful. He speaks from a burning cloud. He turns rivers to blood and makes kings out of nobodies. He opens wombs and conquers lands. He does what He wants, because He is a very big God.

This is my God.

Little God is the God of the New Testament. He is Andrew and Peter and John’s God. He knows their thoughts before they speak it. He knows where to find them. He shares meals with them. He lets them lean on his chest. He makes them breakfast. He loves them. He is personal and loving and involved. He knows details of their lives and works within that.

This is my God.

This feels like two different Gods to me. As though my circumstances and heart right now straddle the distance between Malachi and Matthew. I feel like Little God is absent. Big, fearful, comes-when-he-comes-God rules my life right now. He does what He does. I cannot summon Him to myself. I cannot change His mind. He does what He does.

But Big God and Little God are the same.

Big God comes when He comes, but Little God knows when I get up in the morning. He greets me in the morning and tosses a pink sunrise in the sky right when I left the gym this morning. He whispers things in my ear almost too soft for hearing. He holds me when I cry. He lets me throw things at Him. He never leaves.

But Little God and Big God are the same.

How can that be? How can Big God drown out Little God, and how can Little God seem to contradict Big God? It’s like I can’t them both in my head at the same time. They crowd each other out.

But this my God. 

Big God is my God. 

Little God is my God. 

He is all at once everything, and He all at once seems to cancel Himself out.

Clear as mud? Exactly. My brain is a scary place right now.

Friday, April 3, 2015

When I retire...


So, I've been camping out in Romans 8 lately. When you get to say verse 18 or so, it starts getting pretty intense. 

We have to share in Christ's suffering.
All of creation groans under the weight of waiting for God's glory to be unveiled.
Likewise, the Holy Spirit inside us longs to be at home with Jesus.
And we wait, too, for that day when our bodies will be made new and we will get our inheritance. 

It never ceases to amaze me that we are God's children. His kid! And as such we are unconditionally loved. Cared for. Protected. Looked after. Cherished.  We have the fullness of our father at our disposal. His name is ours. His house is ours. His treasures and wealth are ours. 

Just not yet.

This life is just a waiting room. Why do we set our hope on this lifetime? And I think in a 'churchy' way, we get this. 'Oh yes,' we think, 'There is more after this life. We get Jesus then. We will live forever with him and people won't die or get divorced and no one will be sad anymore. Hallelujah.'

But I still don't think we get it. 

I am not meant to be fulfilled in this lifetime.

Let me say that again, I (and you too) am not meant to get fulfillment out of this life! My fulfillment will come. Just not here. Not now. 

Jesus wasn't meant to be here either. Yes, he came to save us, but a perfect God in an imperfect world? Can you imagine how hard it was for him to bear? He had to wait and live knowing it wasn't supposed to be like this. All the brokenness. the emptiness, the unfulfilled longings - he suffered through the waiting. Through the day to day grit of living a long distance relationship with the only one who could make his soul at rest. 

One day, Paul tells us, all the crap of life will be gone; unable to exist in Christ's presence, which rights everything. Life is hard. Sometimes it  may seem peachy. Or, you may look at everyone else's Facebook and Instagram and think their life is pretty 'blessed' while you're struggling to see God in yours. But here's the thing: no circumstance in life is shitty enough to negate God's love for you.

His love is not driven out by cancer, or miscarriage, or unemployment, or porn, or depression, or singleness, or infertility. Delayed hope, shattered dreams, wreckage, wounds, scars - none of it is enough to mean we are not loved.

Sometimes I think we confuse good things God gives us with him loving us. A husband buys his wife flowers because he loves her, right? Does that mean that the man who doesn't bring his wife flowers doesn't love her? 

Of course not.

It's dangerous when we mistake God's blessings for His love.. When we lose sight of things and think life is supposed to be blessed here and we are supposed to have things here that are good. Hard times happen, not because He doesn't love us. But because we live in a broken world.

A broken world He saved us from. And that one day, we will leave.

I am meant to long for Him, to be loved by Him, and to tell His story of redemption as He sees fit - until I go home. And then, ah, then. THEN. I get all I long for.

So often we see heaven and eternity and life with Jesus as a nice, cozy ending to a well lived life. But no. Heaven is not retirement for Christians. It is not the relaxed, peaceful ending of our lives here on earth. We do not ease into it with a farewell party and a cake.

Heaven is not retirement. 

It is our wedding. The day we long for. The day we can't stop thinking about. Our end goal. The Big Day.

And I want to freaking elope and get there already. With Him. Because here's the thing; life doesn't end when we die and go see him. Life (the way it was meant to be) won't really start for me until I die and am with Jesus.

So scrap that idea that a peaceful, full life is supposed to happen. That you're supposed to be married by 30 with a big brick house in a nice subdivision and have three kids and a small SUV. That you're supposed to have a happy thriving marriage and great health and these bumps in the road...geez, they're not supposed to be there, but you have Jesus, and will get through the bump until life smooths out again into what it should be.

Because here's the thing: the bumps don't matter. Not that God isn't intimately involved in our lives (because He is) or doesn't give us good things (He totally does). But do you see what I mean? Stop living life as though this is your big thing right now. I remember in high school when things got all girl drama and weird and I hated it, my Dad told me: "High school is nothing. College is great. Adulthood is even better. This is not the end all."

He was totally right of course.

And you know those people we all talk about behind their backs who treated high school as if it were the pinnacle of their existence? I think as Christians sometimes we do this with life. Life here is high school. Who cares if it sucks? One day we'll grow up and go to college. We'll get married and have babies and have long, full lives with Jesus in his dadgum presence. We will get EVERYTHING we long for, because, well, nothing will matter in comparison to him.

I had a binder in high school and college of wedding ideas. Things I wanted and dreamed about and hoped for my entire adolescence and through my twenties. And you know what happened? The only thing I wanted on my wedding day was Dave. The. Only. Thing.

Hang on dear sister and brother. One day, we will get there. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

John 3:16 in a way I never thought of before

So, I've been doing my new way of Bible journaling and I've been going through the book of John since that's what we're talking about right now at my church. Last week I was in John 3 and was floored at how, though I've known John 3:16 for most of my life, I had never considered the context it was in. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus here and when he had told Nicodemus that he must be born again, and Nicodemus questioned it, wondering how this could be, Jesus answered with this:

 For only I, the Messiah, have come to earth and will return to heaven again. And as Moses in the wilderness lifted up the bronze image of a serpent on a pole, even so I must be lifted up upon a pole,  so that anyone who believes in me will have eternal life.  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.
 “There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him to save them. But those who don’t trust him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God.  Their sentence is based on this fact: that the Light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the Light, for their deeds were evil. They hated the heavenly Light because they wanted to sin in the darkness. They stayed away from that Light for fear their sins would be exposed and they would be punished. But those doing right come gladly to the Light to let everyone see that they are doing what God wants them to.”

We miss that Jesus is saying this. He sees the desperation of mankind firsthand, because he is here walking among us. He sees the things we keep in darkness, rotting away our souls because they do not see light. Here he recognizes not only His purpose and mission, but pauses to comment on the love His father has not only for him, but for us. In the midst of commenting on the darkness in us, Jesus speaks of God's immeasurable love for us - that he would do everything necessary to buy us back. There is no ransom He will not pay to get us out of darkness.

For God so loved this mess, He gave everything for her.

Jesus says here: He sent me to buy you back.

I wish we did a better job communicating this to the world. That it's not about following rules or being good or getting things right. It's about being prisoner to our own darkness, and someone coming who can set us free. All because of love. Not obligation or duty or to drag us around as a slave afterward. He simply loves us that much, and wants us free from darkness.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bibe journaling

So, I've always been one of those people who liked marking in their Bibles. Lately I've seen lots of people on the interwebs doing Bible journaling, where they draw and do other cute things in their Bible. I'm in awe.

And I want to do that!

But here's the thing -  I don't draw. Well, I do draw, but it's mess. I can't draw or paint. And I definitely do not write cute (Alas, the one skill I wish I had more than anything!) So, yeah, as wonderful as I think it is, drawing in my Bible would just result in a mess. Plus, pictures aren't my thing.

Words are.

And not in the Greg Pinker "this is what this means in Greek" type of way. Goodness knows I am no theologian. But I love stories more than anything. So instead of putting my thoughts on the Bible page, I thought "Why not do the opposite?". So I found an old Bible, got a journal, and now cut and paste passages of Scripture that speak to me and write around it. Thoughts, stories, prayers, sometimes I make a modern day story out of what I read.

Perhaps not everyone's way of getting the Bible in, but this is how I soak it in. I share this to say: find how the Bible speaks to you, and ingest it that way. Some people eat their vegetables in salads. Some people like their veggies cooked. Others blend theirs in smoothies. The point is that you're getting vegetables. 

Everyone has their way. And this is one I am loving. I'll share my random thoughts on here in case anyone's interested. I love seeing different takes and angles on Scripture. Mine may be quirky, but maybe it'll get you thinking!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Follow the bee


So years, ago, my pastor Rick Dunn spoke about how following God was like following a bumblebee. Bees don't fly in straight paths. Instead they buzz here and there, suddenly changing direction and coming to stops so suddenly you almost can't keep up. They are very erratic, those bees.

(Though, let's be honest. If there is a bee somewhere within a three mile radius of where I am walking, he will make his way to my face and buzz there enough to cause a pretty spectacular spastic fit. Really, hide somewhere and watch me walk or jog outside. Bees inevitably find me, and my reaction is pretty hilarious).

Anywho, back to bees. I loved this analogy of following God being like following a bee, because it's such a great picture of what walking with God looks like. Sometimes I swear God is leading me one way then we veer and head toward something completely different. Something that I probably would have run from if I'd seen it a ways back on a linear course. If you had told me seven years ago I'd be married to Dave, working as a financial secretary, and have two dogs in my house, I would have doubled over laughing at you.

(I am pleased to report, by the way, that I love all these things. That God, He knows what He's doing!)

I was going through an old notebook this weekend and came across a poem I wrote in response to Rick's sermon. It reminded me again of the truth of following God on His heels, so wanted to share.

Follow the Bee

Follow the bee - 
when he zips along at a frenzied speed,
No account for rest, no account for need.
Follow the bee - 
when He changes His course
without apology, and without remorse.
Keep your eye ever on Him so that He can always be found.
And if you do lose sight, just follow His sound.
His movements are swift, sometimes too hard to see -
Keep right up with Him! Follow the bee.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

So, it's a new year


Man, it feels so futuristic to say it, right? TWENTY FIFTEEN. I like it though. I like things that are divisible by 5. They seem neater.

*Side note: What's up with God liking 7?
7 is uneven!
7 cannot be divided in two!
7 is not tidy!

Clearly, God is not as type A or psychotic as me.

I always get excited about a new year. About possibility. I've always been a dreamer and an idea person. And a task oriented person, which means most of the time I am exhausted trying to do and experience all that I come up with. (See, this is why writing fiction is perfect for me. Right now I am living out 5 or 6 storylines in my head. It's like a version of split personality disorder that does not involve medication)

I have been writing lists of projects and goals, and crazy things I'd like to see happen this year. Most of which I cannot accomplish one tiny bit without Jesus.

I've never had a word for a new year, but have decided that 2015's word is AUDACIOUS. "Faith is the audacity to believe that God's promises apply to you." This is the backdrop for my year.

I was journaling the other day about all the dreams, etc on my lists, and I told God that more than anything this year I want to deeply know and rest in His person.

Not what he does.
Or can do.
Or will do.

I do not want to know and depend on God's activity or response. I cannot rest in that, because it's often not there in the way I want.

But what I can rest in, is Him. Who He is. Not what He does.

More than anything, this is what I want. Life swirls and twirls like a raging river some times, but the one thing that stays constant is the boat I'm in. I don't know why most of the time I whine to my raft guide that I would like a change of scenery and that I'm scared and worried. To which he rolls his eyes, smacks my head with his oar, and says "Geesh woman, get to know this boat you're on. It's a rock solid cruise ship full of safety and good things, but you treat it like an inflatable raft and you're driving me nutso!"

(Jesus totally talks like this to me. God is a little more fatherly and tender. Jesus is my brother and knows what's up, so when I'm praying and get a verbal bonk on the head in return, I know it's Jesus. Evidently I am such a delight to talk to via prayer that God and Jesus have to divide me out because I am telling you, I pretty much exist in a constant state of emotional distress.)

Anywho, what was I saying? Ah, yes, resting in His person. A new year. With new dreams and new hopes and a longing to discover more of God above all else.

I read a wonderful post by Jen Hatmaker where she talked about doing things that 'keep your insides calm'. Yes, I need more of that, too. Which (ironically enough) means that I need less. I need to streamline. Declutter. Keep a routine. Eliminate some ok and good for what is really worth it to me.

So here's to 2015 and some audacity in your dreams and hopes. And to God, who puts up with us and is so pleased to do whatever it takes to get us to him. Including some rough waters, just so we hunker down in that boat all the more.

I don't know where he's doing this year. But I know he'll take me with him.