Thursday, December 24, 2020

Cheers to you, Dad


I introduced him to everybody because I wanted everybody to know him. Never once in my life did I wonder how Dad would treat someone I introduced him to.


Like his family. 

I always knew that's how he'd treat them. 


I watched Dad take men addicted to drugs out to eat and treat them like sons. I saw Dad show women working in prostitution the pure love of a father. I listened to him joke with Muslim men. Amongst people who live in trash in the Philippines, Dad scooped kids up in his arms and made them laugh. No matter who Dad was with, he was loving them.


He once summed up his life advice in two words; "Love much." 


There's an obvious lack of good dads in the world. So Dad did what he could to love as many people with good dad-love as possible. 


 A missionary Dad loved in Thailand writes, “He loved my family well, let my kids call him Grandpa Randy, sent gifts to my children, sat at our dinner table and told great stories. He was the perfect example of the love of God: humble, kind, gentle, and abounding in love...The loss of your dad is felt around the world.” 


A friend who spent a summer at our house in junior high remembers the clothes Dad bought her, the love she felt from him as he treated her as his own.  


A lady from Uganda who Dad helped move into a new home on a hot sweaty day; “Can't just forget that day. We were very tired but Dad was always making us not feel it. Jokes were his nature. RIP Dad."


He made people feel seen, important, loved. 


For the three of us lucky enough to be raised by him, we never once wondered if he loved us. He made it clear every day. 


A week before my wedding, Dad asked, “What if I don’t want to give you away?” He was joking, sort of, and after a discussion, he decided it was best if he let Dylan have me. 


When he walked me down the aisle, he escorted me with his left hand, while with his right, he held my hand that was tucked into his arm. 


That’s a good picture of how he made me feel all the time. 

Held. Protected. Safe. 

He took me scuba diving in the Philippines, on a father-daughter vacation to Mexico, he made multiple trips around the world to visit me in Hong Kong and India, and he stayed by my bed while I recovered from a brain injury in Thailand. 

The big adventures with Dad were gifts God gave me, but so were the normal everyday days.  

The handholding, the coffee dates, the pulling out my phone to jot down the clever funny thing that had just come out of his mouth so I could share it with my brother and sisters. The everyday is what I miss the most. 


Dad was an everyday wonder. In a simple but most wonderful way, he made every day better. Consistently, day after day, calling his daughters, taking his family to the movies, chasing his grandkids through the house while yelling in a deep very non-scary monster voice then tackling them in a tickle fit, the early morning notes scribbled on paper plates left for us on the kitchen counter saying things like this one I recently found, "I'm going to get my oil changed. Love love love you!", the sincere and constant interest he showed in us, the recent cute thing a grandkid had said that he'd replay in his mind on repeat, talking about it with all of us several times; I feel wonder at having been given such a Dad. 


Every year on his birthday, we’d read his birthday Psalm together. His last, birthday number 63, we read Psalm 63 while we drank coffee. 


His relationship with my mom.  

Like a comic book and fairytale mixed together in a real life romance. “Where’s mom?” and “What’s your mom doing?” are questions that came out his mouth about 65,000 times. “Look at that Jennie!” are four words he repeated for years, exclaimed every time he saw something that interested him (and everything interested him). 

He appreciated the stars. 

And American history. 

And architecture. 

And every word that came out of his grandkids’ mouths. 


He was so good at conversation. His word choices were creative and descriptive and entertaining. I often looked forward to what he’d say next. 


I drug branches to Dad’s backdoor from all over the earth and asked him to make earrings out of the wood. He always did. I then handed them out to friends all over the earth. 


He never met most of the people he made earrings for. Ladies in Uganda, Thailand, South Africa, China are wearing earrings made by Dad. One such earring receiver in LA, “It just seemed like he had no prejudices. Like he loved everyone.”


My kids won’t meet my Dad. 

That’s one of my saddest thoughts. 

He was thrilled that I’d moved back to my hometown a few months ago, 6 miles down the road from him. He talked about it often. And man, he was going to be real thrilled when I started having him some grandkids that he could hold every day. 


I'm discovering I'm no grief expert. "How are you doing?" gets answered by me muttering something about being sad and I'm usually crying by the time the sentence is over. So. I'm not sure how I'm doing. But I'm together with the rest of my crying family and we're loving each other and eating a lot of food. And I keep asking God to show us what Heaven's like. And to help us think about Heaven all the time. 


My Grandma Nita made it to Heaven last week, too. And she was also a rare and wonderful human being. I'm guessing she's hanging out with Dad and they're probably discussing how they somehow managed to enter Heaven within 27 hours of each other and asking God to help all our hearts recover. 


Forever

We're here for a forever rendezvous with our Maker. Dad's rendezvous has begun. So has my Grandma's. It's my best thought these grieving days, and the other non-grieving days; God wants forever with us. That's why we're alive. 


Thankful Dad did such a grand job living his life. 

Thankful he did such a grand job showing me, and many others, what God is like. 


I hope you have a very merry Christmas, think often and true thoughts about Heaven, remember that life is short, squeeze your family often, and know God became a Baby so we could be with Him forever. 



God is the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me.
-Psalm 91:2



p.s. here are a few quotes from the "Dad" section in my phone notes. 


“What are we doing today? Should I just wear this? So people can see me?” (as he posed in a neon shirt) 


“They say you can smell better when you’re pregnant. Couldn’t prove it with me. But that’s what they say.” 


“When I was in school, the Cold War was going on. So we had drills for a nuclear attack. Get under your desk. Like that’s gonna help."


“Minks will chew your face off. I ain’t kiddin' ya.”


“It’s tasty. Really tasty. They make this stuff to taste, to really taste." (at Wendy’s)


“It’s something I really look forward to” as he dipped his honey out into his coffee


"Thanks for calling and telling me things."




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.