Saturday, November 14, 2020

A month into marriage and here’s what I’m learning

He taught me how to make eye contact on our first date. 

A Sunday afternoon in February at my favorite coffee shop, we sat at a table for two, amazed. 

I talked his leg off, told him stories about living with African women in Hong Kong, cried, and continually averted eye contact.

His blue eyes were too much for me, so I’d glance at him but then do my chatting while staring off into coffee shop space; it was safer and easier and more comfortable. 

“Look at me.”

Kind, direct, strong. 

He knew about eye contact and he was determined to have it with me. 

I’d never felt so seen. 

Talking is a vital ingredient for a healthy relationship. But talking isn’t enough for a thriving romance. 

This new relationship with my husband (happy 1 month & 4 day anniversary to us!) is showing me all sorts of things about what God’s like.

Here’s the one I’m focusing on today; He wants eye contact. And eye contact takes time. 

It’s easy to pray without giving one thought to the the One we’re praying to. I can rattle prayers off a mile a minute, never once turning my attention to my Listener. That’s not the kind of praying God’s looking for. Sure He likes the sound of my voice, but He likes it best when I’m looking at Him. He made us like Himself, and we all like to be looked at when spoken to. 

Is it more meaningful for someone to talk to you while they’re so busy with their work they never even glance up at you, or for someone to stop their work and sit down with you, looking you right in the eye? 

Paying attention to God. Stilling your thoughts and turning them towards God, your heart’s attention on Him. Eye contact with the Uncreated. Possible for every human being because Jesus died on the Cross and rose again, defeating our sin. 

God’s heart desires our gaze. 

God’s heart craves our attention. 

I’m using romantic language because He’s a romantic God.

Whether you’re running 100mph or finding yourself at an abrupt halt in a cornfield with a new husband who insists you not get into a rush with filling your schedule back up and you’re kinda shocked at life’s changes and how uncomfortable you find the stillness (hello!), or if you’re somewhere in between—there is a most wonderful King wanting eye contact with you. 

Jesus calls the relationship He wants with humanity a marriage. Like my husband, Jesus wants my eye contact. 

I’ve had a few identity crisis fall-aparts since becoming a married woman. 

All this stillness. All this not running around. All this not being able to rattle off an “impressive” answer when someone asks “So, what are you doing now?” My heart has had a hard time with it. 

But this husband, my eye contact teacher, he keeps going to work and buying me groceries and telling me again and again and again he has no expectations of me except that I go slow and enjoy every day right now. Huh? 

God’s like that.

Way less concerned with my productivity and way more concerned with my being with Him. Simply being with Him. That’s what He wants most of all. 

On our wedding day, my brand new husband scooped me up and carried me. White dress and dirty feet, I could feel his heart’s thrill. I was his now. We were two giddy kids in awe of how wonderful life can be. 

My husband didn’t marry me because he was needing a full-time preacher or wanting to double his income or hoping to be impressed by my daily productivity. He married me because he wanted me to be his wife. 

To be gazed upon, to be carried, to be enjoyed; life starts here, like this with our Maker. 

So here I sit, in our trailer in the cornfield, drinking coffee and hanging more stuff on the walls and asking God to tell me who I am and reading the richest Words every written, whilst making eye contact with God Himself. It’s a strange & beautiful time. 

On that first date, by the time we left the coffee shop, we were holding uninterrupted eye contact. It was the first time in my life I looked into someone’s eyes without shying my eye contact away. Nowadays, I can stare into husband’s eyes all day long and not be intimidated. Progress. I’m learning how to be a wife and eye contact continues to be an important lesson. 

Maybe you think God’s wanting something from you more than He’s just wanting to be with you. Or maybe you’ve never heard He likes when you pay attention to Him. Or maybe you’re scared of eye contact. Or maybe you just got married and are questioning your identity. 

Good News for all of us.

God has our lives figured out. And He simply wants our eye contact today. 


Jesus, help us not be scared to look at You. And help us know it’s all You want.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

dead things come alive (romance blog #2)


Our friendship started in a parking lot on a Saturday night in our hometown. It was September 10, 2011.


He was high, I was tired. 


I’d been sitting at my piano playing God a goodnight song. God interrupted my singing with instructions to stop playing the piano and go to the parking lot where the high school kids hang out—-to tell someone that Jesus is God and loves them.  I didn’t want to. It was late and I was ready to crawl into bed, not to a street corner. But the instructions were clear and strong so I trudged out the backdoor in my pajamas and stopped at the first car I found; a silver Grand Prix wrapped up in marijuana fumes. 


I sputtered some quick Gospel words and the Grand Prix’s driver sputtered back his disinterest. But he was nice. I asked him to come to church with me. 

He obliged. 

I was glad. 

I went back home and fell asleep. 


Three weeks later, high in a church pew, God knocked loud enough on that boy’s heart that he heard it. He opened the door and God came in. I put my hand on his back and looked into his bloodshot eyes: 

“You just started a relationship with Jesus.” 


Over the next two years, we would throw his drug paraphernalia away, sit in my living room with our Bibles open, ask God for help a million times, become best friends, and fall in love with eachother. 


It was far from perfect. 


After realizing I’d fallen in love with the kid I discipled, I panicked and got prayer and laid that kid on the Altar, telling God He could have him and all my dreams of being with him. 


Over the next eight years, as the kid turned into a man, the crush continued. And so did my surrender. 


I’d see him and my heart would ache and I’d beg God for help. 


Jesus is a perfect leader. Perfect. And as I spent years jetting around the world, Jesus loved me and helped me and used me and changed me and I knew I’d be ok. I continued to leave that man on the Altar. 


I didn’t know what God was doing with Dylan Martin through those years, but I now know He was loving him and helping him and using him and changing him and telling him he’d be ok. And he left me on the Altar. 


Dead things. 

God knows how to make them come alive. 


Back at humanity’s beginning, the first human was a pile of dirt, laying lifeless on the ground. God put His mouth on him and breathed, kissing him into existence. Dirt became life and humanity started. It’s God’s way. 


After the years of surrender and heartache and growing, God said me and that boy could have eachother. God made our dreams come true. 


Dylan Martin is my fiancĂ©.

Those are words I didn't think I'd ever be able to say. 


God takes our messes, our mistakes, our heartaches, our surrender, and He makes life. What hope! 


“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

-Jesus

John 12:24


If we’d had our own way and jumped into romance as soon as we wanted to all those years ago, it wouldn’t have worked. It couldn’t have. It would’ve been disaster. There was change God wanted to do on the inside of us before He brought us together. There were lives He wanted us to live as singles before we stepped into marriage. 


Now what we’ve got is, by jove! A far cry better than any romance I could’ve dreamt up. We’re filled with God’s pleasure, dancing in the stuff. God Himself is spreading His Kingdom, building His family, right here with us, and we’re living on cloud 9. 


We’ve got honesty, inside jokes, prayer breakfast dates, thrift store treasure hunting, secrets, more learning, more growing, and giant Heaven-designed hopes. I’m delirious with happiness over the idea of being his wife. God writes the best stories. 


Yesterday marked eight years since I wrecked a motorbike in Thailand and laid for five days in an unconscious beat-up pile in a hospital bed in Bangkok. When August 25 rolls around each year, I remember Jesus can do anything. He really can. 


I'm still alive and Dylan Martin is my fiancĂ©

Ah.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Letting Your Heart Fall in Love (romance blog #1)


I’d never had a boyfriend til this one.


Long before he called me and confessed his love, he’d become my favorite person alive. For years. And for years, I tried to get over him. I tried. But it didn’t work.


The way he paid attention when people spoke to him, listened, really listened, how he held his daughter like it’s all he wanted to do, his sense of humor (seemingly as odd as mine), his freckled skin, his farming family, his thoughtful words, & the biggest atop of the very long list—how he kept letting God do what He wanted with him. 


I’d watch up close and personal for a couple years when he first started knowing Jesus, then I’d watch from a far distance for several years—he said “yes” to that King, would face hard stuff, trip, but always come back to Him again. 


I watched it and I kept falling deeper in love. But I kept staying away. 


He was younger than me. 

With a very different history. 

I had this run-around-the-globe independent tendency, he had a daughter and stay-put life in my hometown. 

It didn’t seem our lives could mesh.

So I kept staying away. 

And surrendering him to God, crying, grasping my aching heart, and surrendering again.


He let me know he loved me once. And I clutched the phone, fell on my knees, and cried the same heavy tears I'd been crying for years. The tears coming from my heart that was in love with him but determined it could never be with him. So I told heart "no" again, told that man I loved "no" again, and kept up with the surrendering, crying, grasping, surrendering, again. 


Then God met me in my car at the gas pump at Kroger. There wasn't any thunder or thick cloud or burning bush. 

Just an old gray steering wheel in my hands, a gas pump to my left, and a gentle God pulling my heart out into the light, into the open. God helped me start thinking these honest thoughts I'd never let myself think. It was February 15, 2020. A Saturday. Me and God had a heart-confronting conversation at pump number four and I sobbed. 


Years and pounds of fear started bubbling up to the surface of my heart. So I could see it. It had been hiding pretty deep. 


I was terrified to date. 

I was terrified of Dylan Martin. 

I was terrified of heart break. 

I was terrified of not being super-single-missionary girl who skipped around the world.

 I was terrified of people’s opinions.

 I was terrified of romance. 

You get the picture; I was terrified. 


And before that gas pump moment, I'd had no idea. 

So there in front of Kroger I started handing God fear mountains & slimy pride & He started setting my heart free. 


This happens. 

We’re going about our lives, fear & nasty hidden goop tucked down into our hearts, leading our choices, our days, while we just let it. Fear is an awful leader. And that stupid stuff robs us blind. Because that's what fear does. But this is what God does—shows us the fear and other hidden slime, & then blasts it all out with courage-filled love. If we'll let Him, God will help us directly confront what’s going on in our own hearts--hard and scary and freeing. 


I called Dylan Martin the next day.

February 16. 

A Sunday. 


“I like you, Dylan. And I have for a long time. I’ve got a lot of questions and I’m not sure how this can work out, but, I’d like to try.”


So we’ve been trying. 

And it’s been working out. 


He's nicer and funnier and more thoughtful and more generous and more handsome and more crazy about his daughter and the top notch of the list--more surrendered to that King--than I thought he was. And romance! It's delightful! 


Regularly, I cry at the sheer joy of this thought; 

"I'm dating Dylan Martin."

Then he looks over at his passenger seat to see my tear-soaked face, again, and wipes the tears off, again. And we smile at each other. 


Ah. 

I've been saying "ah" often lately. 

I feel relieved, thankful beyond what I've ever felt, and happy. Man I like being in love. 

God is nice!

God is romantic!

God loves us!

God made Dylan Martin!

Ah. 


Love takes risks.

Love doesn’t listen to fear.

Love pulls our hearts out into the light and cleans them up, frees them up, and teaches them how to fall in love. 






p.s. pictured: holding hands in the woods on a family hike. Like I said, "ah."


p.p.s. I got more romance words than one blog can hold. stay tuned for more learning & falling in love. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

how to find hope in a global pandemic

How often does the whole world get in the same boat? And here we are. Together. 

We can't go to the grocery store when we want. And when we do go to the grocery store, it's strange, with face masks and missing food. 
Talking to a neighbor on an evening walk, the question forms quick, "Am I far enough away? Do they have the virus?" We know people who are sick and we sorrow and we pray. We question how long this is gonna last and why it's happening and what we should do in response. 

 Is it fear? Is it wisdom? What trips out the door are really necessary? How do I pray for the whole world? What words do I use to ask God to eradicate a virus from the earth? How do I protect the people I live with? Am I gonna get it? 

And asking this big question; 
what really matters? 

I don't have many answers, but here's one God's giving me loud and clear; He wants to hold us close. 

Staying with God. Staying at home. Staying with our families. 
Staying. 

He's helping me remember what really matters. 

It seems God's doing what only God can do; taking something horrendous and bringing good out in the midst of it. There are deaths and risks and questions and right here in the middle of the dark, there are families coming closer together and dinner tables being used and compassion growing and light shining bright. 

We each respond differently, in the ways we think are best. Some of us are still going to Target, some of us haven't stepped out of our front doors in two weeks. 

Life's different. For you, for me, for the world. 

My friends in India need help getting food to the families who live in the garbage. 

This week I talked to a friend in Hong Kong; she doesn't get out of her house either. 

My pals in Kenya and Uganda: also staying at home. 

"The whole universe needs God's mercy," proclaimed a friend in Uganda today. Yes. God's mercy is the thing we all need. 

Are you sick? Are you grieving? Are you lonely? Are you terrified? Are you hungry? 

God wants to hold you close.
Here, staying with Him; this is where the questions are silenced and the hope grows. In His company. He's got loads of mercy (endless) and He's inviting us all onto His lap.  

It's simple. We read the Bible, we talk to Him (pray), we stay still and listen. Here, there's refuge. There's life. There's comfort. 

"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself."

-God
Exodus 19:4

That's currently my favorite verse in the Bible.
God ends slavery, He ends darkness. 
He sets us free. He carries us. 
He lifts us up, like we're flying on eagles' wings. 
And He brings us to Himself. 
Ah. 

Caring for you and me is our Maker's passion. 

And we can rest in that. 

Here is the safety. The comfort. The hope. The restoration. Right here. On this giant beautiful lap. In God's arms. 

We're invited! 

He has enough hope! He has enough lap! He has enough healing! He has enough Heaven! 
And He's generous!

If you're new to reading the Bible and talking to God, I've been liking Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40. You could start with those chapters, take your time, and talk to Jesus about what you're reading. I like playing some worship like this, too. His attention is on us. And He's good. 


Saturday, February 8, 2020

How to ensure you’re not wasting your life



If you're 14 or 32 or 89, God's purpose for you is this; to love you and to be loved by you. 

I become even more sappy contemplative around birthday time every year. Aging, closer to death, purpose, what am I doing with my life—things worth considering. 

Looking at my daily schedule, my relationships, my thought patterns, my heart’s activity, my priorities; inviting God to share His feelings about all of it. 

Am I living how He wants? 

I don’t want to waste my life. 

There’s not much that matters. Two things, actually. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Jesus
Matthew 22:37-39

God, am I loving you? 
God, am I loving people?  

Surrendering to God makes love grow. That's what I'm discovering. 

God is love. The more I surrender to Him, the more room I make for love in my life. A good trade. Surrender is like emptying your life of other stuff to make room for God, for love. Geeze Louise! I want to surrender everything I’ve got — to be all filled up with love! What could possibly be better than love? Some habit? Some idea? Some person? Some dream? God (love) is incredibly better than anything I surrender. 

Love. That’s what our Maker made us for. 

So as I wrap my arms around 32 tomorrow, I’m praying something like this; 

Jesus! Thank You! Have me. All of me. I surrender! Let love grow inside of me; loving You and loving people. Let love be every motive and every thought and every conversation and every decision. Love. All year long. Soak me in it. 

We’re all getting older. Death is guaranteed. So go with Jesus. He is love and He is forever and He wants you to know Him (1 John 4:8, John 17:3, John 14:6). 

He’s a kind Jewish Man with a heart burning in love for you and me. And we can know Him. 

And just to put words to it, here are some things not listed in the only two things that matter; 
how many friends we have, how much money we make, whether we ever "make it big," what our faces look like, the definition (or lack of definition) in our abs, how comfortable our lives are, and everything else other than those two love commands. Sighing deep relief.  

Here's what I'm currently finding beneficial and maybe you will, too: 

Give your life some thought, ask Jesus what He thinks about it, read some Bible truth (I just enjoyed psalm 65), and surrender. You may not feel love growing in your chest, but it is. 

Love God and love people and you won’t waste your life. Guaranteed.




p.s. A decade free from hair dye has been broken into with some blonde. Come on, aging. #ready