10 Lessons I’ve Learned From Being Broken

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In order to appreciate what I’m about to tell you, you have to understand how I got here.  Some of you already know this story, so bee patient (pun intended…you’ll see why!).

Back in July I did something that I rarely do: I weeded my garden. I deeply regret my poor decision to partake in this activity, and I have already promised myself never to do it again. Under the best of circumstances, weeding is a mundane and terrible task. On this particular occasion, however, my garden weeding actually changed the course of my life.

I had been weeding the flower beds in front of our house and I was nearing the end of the final bed when I decided to pull up a clump of dead/dying flowers/weeds (Don’t ask me what the plant actually was because I know next to nothing about plants. It was ugly, though, so I decided it had to go.). I was in the zone (which is code for I was trying to get this horrendous chore over with as quickly as possible), so without thinking–or even really looking–I stepped into the garden bed, reached both hands down to the base of the plant, and pulled as hard as I could.

Now, usually what you would expect to happen next is that I pulled up the plant and went on my merry-little-weeding-way.

But that didn’t happen.

Not exactly.

You see, when I pulled up the plant it did dislodge from the ground. That part was fine. What wasn’t fine was what else I dislodged from the ground when I pulled that plant with all my might. Specifically, an entire nest of (very disgruntled) ground wasps.

Before I even knew what was happening I had an entire colony of wasps attacking me (Which I really can’t blame them for because I would do the same thing if a giant came and pulled up my whole home with all of my buddies in it.). The wasps started stinging me and chasing me and stinging me again. And again. And again.

So I did what any rational adult would do in this situation: I ran flailing through the yard yelling obscenities while I stripped off all of my clothing. My children, who had been playing nonchalantly in the yard, were witness to the whole wasp escapade. I’m pretty sure we’ll now have to take them to therapy for PTSD after what they witnessed on that fateful day. Thankfully we captured the whole thing on our surveillance cameras, so if paying for the therapy becomes a burden I can always submit the videos to AFV and use the prize money to pay off our bills.

All said and done, I had been stung close to 20 times. My entire body swelled up for a week and I developed a close relationship with Calamine Lotion and ice packs.  But I’m a fighter, and I pulled through The Wasp-pocalypse of 2019. I am a survivor.

Which brings me to my present predicament. You see, when I was flailing my body through my front yard trying to ward off the wasps I actually did some damage…to myself. Somewhere between karate chopping the evil bugs and twisting out of my t-shirt I managed to pull some muscles in my back.

I’ve had back injuries before (basically non-stop since babies decided to inhabit my womb and pull all of my joints out of place), but this time was different. My back pains before had come and gone with enough time and rest, but this bugger wasn’t ready to move on.

By October, 3 months after the Wasp-pocalypse, I was still experiencing chronic back pain. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. It hurt to move. Heck, it even hurt to think about moving. I’d tried resting and stretching and thinking good thoughts, but nothing was helping.

So, finally, I decided to take action. 3 weeks ago I started Physical Therapy (PT) to *hopefully* build back up some strength and get along with my life. My PT journey has been fun so far, mostly because literally every person in my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, even a cousin) are PT’s and I finally get to see things from the other side of the workout room.

But it’s also been hard. And uncomfortable. And not always fun. It’s a lot of work building yourself back up when you’ve been broken. Through my being broken I’ve learned a few things about myself and the process of building myself back up. Wisdom I will now share with you, my friends:

  1. Give Myself Permission For Healing
    This was the hardest thing for a long time. I’m so used to taking care of others and attending to their needs that it was difficult to allow myself the time and space for my own healing. I figured if I brushed my own needs aside for long enough, eventually they’d take care of themselves. Not true, and not what’s best for me.
  2. Admit I Need Help
    I tried (haphazardly) doing things on my own. And when that wasn’t enough, I had to humble myself enough to ask for help. In my case, this was professional help from PT’s who have spent 5 or more years of their lives learning how to put broken people like me back together.
  3. Patience
    Healing takes time. I’m definitely a subscriber to the immediate gratification model, so this one is difficult for me. But I’m learning. I’m learning to do what I can do now, with the hope that a payoff will be coming. Some day.
  4. Don’t Sweat the Setbacks
    One of the activities I want to return to is running. I’m a former marathon runner who literally can’t even make it a mile before I’m doubled over in pain. So when my PT told me to try incorporating a bit of running again I decided to go jog a few miles. Not a good idea. In fact, a very bad idea.By the time I’d hobbled back home I was in so much pain I didn’t know if my back was even still attached to my body. But I didn’t let that deter me from trying again. After resting for a couple of days I tried again, this time just running for 1-2 minutes at a time and then walking. And do you know what?! It worked! It still hurt and it was still incredibly discouraging to see the failings of my body, but I made it. And I’ll keep trying until I finally get it.
  5. Allow Myself Rest
    Oh, this one is the actual WORST! Sometimes I view rest as a 4-letter word in my mind, and it is so so hard for me. On an intellectual level, though, I know that rest is one of the parts of my program that I need in order to heal. So I do the most Type-A thing you could do and I literally schedule rest into my calendar. I even have an alarm on my phone. In fact, as I write this post I’m sitting on a chair propped up by pillows with an ice pack on my back…hey, whatever works!
  6. Be Kind To Myself
    This process has not been easy or pretty and nothing is happening on the timeline that I would like it to, but I’m trying to think positive. I’m being my own cheerleader and I’m encouraging myself. A huge part of healing is mental, and I’m going to use that to my advantage.
  7. Consistence + Persistence
    I have to do my exercises every. Single. Day. If I slack for a day, the losses start to compound very quickly…and the only person this hurts is myself. Consistency.And consistency requires persistence, even when it’s not easy or convenient. Sometimes this means I have a preschooler stretched out on my yoga mat with me during my exercise block. Sometimes this means sacrificing 2 of my 4 “solo hours” a week while all 3 kids are in school at the same time to go to my PT appointments. Sometimes this means saying no to an activity that I want to do because I know that it wouldn’t help with my healing right now. Healing requires persistence, one small decision at a time.
  8. Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself
    May the truth set you free.
  9. Accept That Things May Never Be The Same
    As much as I want things to be “back to normal” I’m quite aware that I may never be able to return to some activities or perform at the level that I once did. Whatever my new normal is, however, I can adapt and embrace it for what it is.
  10. Find Joy In The Process
    I’ve tried to find small ways to make this awkward process more enjoyable. I watch cheesy TV shows while I do my exercises (Did you know that Randy on Say Yes To The Dress is finally designing his own bridal gown collection?!). I pretend that I’m at the spa while I’m getting (incredibly painful) deep tissue massages at PT.  Heck, I just think about the ridiculous way I got myself into this predicament and I can’t help but laugh. And when all else fails, I remind myself of why I’m doing this, and it makes it all worth it.

Whatever brokenness you’re healing from–be it a wasp-related injury or something more profound–I wish you the best on your journey. Be persistent, be kind and, above all, find joy in the process.

The Ultimate Veteran

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Today is Veterans Day, a day that has always held a lot of significance for me. Both of my grandfathers were veterans, and I deeply respect the sacrifice that they made on my behalf.

I took my kids to a Veterans Day parade this morning, and as we were waiting for the festivities to begin I opened the Facebook app on my phone. As I scrolled through my news feed I came across a photo of my friend, K, dressed in full combat gear. The photo was taken several years ago when she was deployed as an active duty Marine, and the caption read simply: “Freedom isn’t free.”

I clicked on the photo and, when I did, an arrow popped up at the top of the page beckoning me to delve into the Social Media abyss. Out of curiosity, I clicked the arrow and it took me to the next photo on K’s Facebook feed, a photo of K snuggled up with her three young children. As I toggled back and forth between those two photos–K in combat gear, and K cuddling her babies–I was struck by the depth of those words: Freedom isn’t free.

As I pondered this, I realized a few things about freedom.

First, Freedom always has a price, and that price comes in the form of extreme sacrifice. The depth of sacrifice that is required to leave home and comfort and safety is absolutely unfathomable to me. My veteran grandfathers still bore the literal scars of battle 70 years after they’d returned home. And they were the lucky ones. Many pay the ultimate price of freedom with their very lives. Freedom is costly in every sense of the word.

Secondly, in order to truly be freedom it must be all-encompassing. Freedom is not for the Us or the Them, it is for the everyone. K is a veteran, and she knows the price of freedom first-hand. With boots on the ground and flesh in the game, she literally fought for freedom. She fought for the freedom of people she knew and people she would never meet. She fought for the freedom of her friends as well as for the bullies and the people who don’t signal in traffic and all the rest of the types of people. She fought for the freedom of people who hadn’t even been born yet (like those kids in the photo with her). She fought for me. Her sacrifice paid the price for those of us who have never paid the price. Although we have never donned tactical gear or carried a military rucksack through the desert, our price has already been paid.

Finally, the price of freedom can never be fully repaid. Sure, I can tell veterans “Thank you for your service” and I can wave a flag in a parade and I can send care packages over-seas. But is that any comparison to the sacrifice that has already been made on my behalf?

Freedom is costly. Freedom is all-encompassing. The price of freedom can never fully be repaid.

And then it struck me: Jesus is the ultimate veteran. He fought Satan, sin, and death and he came out victorious. The freedom that resulted from this victory is the ultimate freedom.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world. He laid down his own life so that we might be free.

The freedom of Jesus is all-encompassing. His freedom is available for all people in all places at all times. No fine-print or exclusions, everyone.

The debt that has been paid on my behalf can never be repaid. Not by my good work, but only by trusting in the work that He has already done.

So this week as we honor our veterans, I will remember this. Freedom isn’t free. It never has been, and it never will be. I am so grateful to the men, women, and savior who have paid for my freedom–now, and forever.

Happy Veterans Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

Image result for life ring in waterEvery week I listen to one of my favorite podcasts (Sidenote: podcasts are one of the greatest inventions ever. Especially if you’re a stay at home mom who usually only hears other adults speaking between the hours of 5-9PM.). Each episode in the current series ends with the host asking that week’s guest a single question:

What is saving your life right now?

The guests answer’s range from the mundane to the profound, but it’s always interesting to hear what people consider significant. I’ve been thinking a lot about that question myself, but I can’t come up with a single answer. So instead, I’ll give you my list of 10 things that (really and truly) are saving my life right now:

  1. Preschool
    This year I have entered a new phase of my life, a phase that I have been greatly anticipating for quite some time now: The “All My Kids Are In School” Phase. With my youngest child entering preschool, we have ushered in a new era of Mommy-Freedom.  For any of you with multiple children–really, for any of you with any children–you understand the significance of this phase. Because not only are my children’s lives being enriched every day with education, but I get a break. Can I get a Halleluja?! Granted, by the time I drop all of my offspring off at their respective schools my “break” comes to a total of only about 3 hours per week. But 3 hours is 3 hours, and I’ll take it.
  2. My Stroller
    Over the course of the past 9 years since we’ve been toting around our babies, we’ve gone through approximately 597 bajillion strollers. We’ve had umbrella strollers and double strollers and snap-n-go strollers, and jogging strollers. So. Many. Strollers. So last spring when my trusty BOB started falling apart (Literally. Bolts and screws would fly off every time I opened the thing up.) I seriously debated just getting rid of strollers for good. My husband in his ever-present wisdom, however, convinced me to get one more stroller to pull us through to the finish line of toddler-hood. I reluctantly bought yet another stroller…and, boy, am I glad that I did. Every single afternoon I toss Hannah into that stroller with a snack (and, let’s be honest, her favorite “baby show” to watch on my phone) and I go out for a walk/jog/whatever. In this way, my stroller offers me freedom and, literally, a breath of fresh air.
  3. No
    This has already been an interesting school year for our family, and we’re only a few weeks into it. Some of the changes in our schedule and commitments have meant that I have to say no quite often. Sometimes I have to say no to really good things or things that I really want to do. But I’m learning to embrace that “no” is an acceptable answer. No allows me to keep my sanity, to be there for my family, and to focus on what is most important for me right now.
  4. Yoga Pants
    I made a decision quite some time ago that my comfort trumps fashion. As a result, I have relieved my wardrobe of pants with confining buttons and zippers. After all, what am I doing in my life that is so important that I can’t bring yoga pants along for the ride? Dropping the kids off at school: yoga pants. Taking my favorite stroller out for a walk: yoga pants. Steamy date night: yoga pants with a dress on top. I am yet to find a solution to life’s woes that is more appropriate than simply replacing jeans with yoga pants.
  5. Waterproof Cast Cover
    As I wrote about here, my 7-year old son broke his arm a few weeks ago. Beyond the physical limitations of having a broken arm and a ginormous cast, there are some very real emotional issues we have come across. For poor little Jacob, one of the biggest hurdles he’s had to face is not being able to take a shower with his cast. This kid loves his showers more than anyone I’ve ever met, and it was crushing his soul to know that he couldn’t take a shower for approximately 1/80th of his life. I was sharing this heartbreak with a friend recently and she told me about a waterproof cast cover that she’s used with her sons when they’ve broken their arms. Being the loving mother that I am, I went on Amazon that very moment and ordered the cast cover. Two days later (Thank you Amazon Prime!) Jacob was back to taking his beloved showers and our life has blessedly resumed a sense of peace.
  6. My Minivan
    I’m not gonna lie, I love my minivan. Like, really, really love it. Sure, it’s not the coolest car on the road, but it appeals to my practicality like no other object in my life. At the push of a button I can open or close doors and windows. There’s enough floor space to conceal 3.8 bags of crushed goldfish crackers. There’s room in the trunk for a load of groceries, soccer gear, and the family dog–all at the same time. There’s a built-in child-quieting device (Some refer to it as a DVD player, but I choose to think of it as my rescue inhaler). God bless the designers who took my motto of comfort over fashion and applied it to the automotive industry.
  7. Barry’s Tea
    I got turned on to Barry’s tea when we were living in Ireland, and now I’m officially addicted. My day does not officially begin until I’ve had my cup of tea, and you probably don’t want to know what I’m like until that happens. Let’s just say that if you ever find me lying unconscious in my living room, the likely solution is an IV of Barry’s tea.
  8. Freedom From Nap Jail
    This summer Hannah (my youngest) officially gave up naps. When my children were younger I loved the break I would get if I could (miraculously) get them all to nap at the same time. As they got older, however, nap time became nap jail. I was forced to stop whatever activity we were doing and rush home for nap time, then wake up a cranky toddler so we could rush off to whatever other thing we had to do. Now that all of my children are officially done with daytime naps I have been released from nap jail, and it’s kind of amazing. I can stay places for longer than 2 hours in the morning, I can relax if there’s traffic because I know my toddler won’t fall asleep in their car seat and have to be unsuccessfully transferred, and I can plan activities that have a start time after 12:00PM. Buh-bye, nap jail, and hello all-day freedom!
  9. Miss Veronica
    I have a housecleaner, and she is one of the most important people in my life. Miss Veronica comes to my house once a month and I am not joking when I say that the day she comes is my very favorite day of every month. When Miss Veronica comes she re-sets the physical space in my home which, in turn, re-sets my mental space. The fact that I can see through my smudge-free windows again and rest in the knowledge that dust bunnies are no longer inhabiting every corner of my home gives me an absolute sense of relief. For one day out of every month I can walk into a clean house and know that all is right in my little world. And that is worth everything.
  10. Grace
    Over the last few months I have been learning the importance of grace. Grace for myself, and grace for others. Sometimes this looks like admitting I was wrong or that I stepped out of line. Sometimes it looks like pushing homework out until tomorrow morning because the kid is just too dang tired to put forward any more mental effort today. Sometimes it looks like stopping to hold a screaming toddler instead of screaming with her. Sometimes it looks like letting the laundry pile up so I can go for a walk on a sunny day. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

And now it’s your turn–what is saving your life right now?

How To Survive Washington Winter

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I grew up in Washington state and, with the exception of the 10 years we spent trying to live in as many different cities as we possibly could in a decade, I have always called Washington home. There are many things I love about Washington, but winter is not one of them.

You see, for a small sliver of the year we get to experience a magical time called Washington Summer. Fleeting as it may be, Washington Summer is a bit surreal–the weather is divine (Unlike some places where the summer heat is so unbearable that you actually have to retreat indoors!) and the people are the happiest gosh-darn people who you’ve ever laid eyes on. And why, you might ask, is everyone so happy during Washington Summer? I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve decided that the only reasonable explanation is Survivor Syndrome: Summer Washingtonians are happy for the simple fact that they’ve already survived Washington Winter.

Washington Winter is one of the most depressing seasons imaginable. The nights are long and dark, and the days are short…and also dark. And when I say season, I mean half of the year. Between the months of October and May most days in Washington go a bit like this: wake up in the dark, trod through a dark gray day, welcome the return of the dark sometime between finishing lunch and thinking about making dinner. It’s also cold, but not cold enough to make snow which would actually be exciting. Yes, this is the time of year when I long to be anywhere but smack-dab in the middle of Washington Winter.

However, long as dark as Washington Winter may be, there is hope! Here are a few ways that I have found to help cope–and maybe even enjoy–Washington Winter.

Enjoy sleeping in
Since the sun doesn’t come up until after breakfast during Washington Winter, your internal clock will be all out of whack. If you’re lucky, your kids will be so confused about how late it is that they will actually sleep in, too. So enjoy the sleep-ins while you can–it may even make up for the fact that your kids woke you up at 5:30 every morning during Washington summer.

Buy a light with the same name as your mood
On the 4th day God created the Sun…and on the first day of Washington Winter, man created SAD lights. You see, there is this thing that depressed people in Washington get in the winter called SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder)–even the names of diseases caused by Washington Winter reflect the mood of everyone living through it. But no worries–if you have SAD you can hop over to your local Costco or Amazon Prime and, for around $40, you can buy a SAD light to set up your own mini-sun in your bedroom. After all, nothing says nirvana like staring into a desktop lightbulb!

Play flashlight tag…
…on your walk home from the school bus stop! When the sun sets before your kids amble off the big yellow bus, there is ample time for night games, even in the middle of the day! Other fun Washington Winter middle-of-the day-dark activities you might consider: snipe hunting, star gazing, glow stick waving, capture the flag, sleeping without an eye mask.

Catch up on everything you neglected all summer
During Washington Summer everyone basically lives outside and, even if you still have a 9-5, you’re living like you’re on summer vacation. Beside being exciting and exhausting, Washington Summer leaves plenty to catch up on during Washington Winter. Now is the time to clean your house, fold your laundry, organize those closets. And, once you’re done with all of that (since you’re stuck inside approximately 28 hours a day during Washington Winter) you’ll still have time to perfect a skill or take up a new hobby. Needlepoint, anyone?

Answer your toddler’s questions truthfully
When she asks you at 11AM if it’s time for bed, say yes.

Get outta here
Plan a vacation to somewhere not-Washington during Washington Winter. It doesn’t even really matter where you go, as long as it has daylight and *bonus points* some hope of warmth. Even Iceland with all of their hot springs and volcanoes would be an improvement in the warmth department. Seriously, though. If it is at all possible, just leave.

Rant
Sometimes you just have to get stuff out in the open so you can move past it. Don’t hide behind your hatred of Washington Winter–just get it out there! Rant to your friends about how much you miss your flip-flops and how you don’t even remember what skin pigmentation looks like any more. Complain about how your favorite shoes haven’t dried out since October and you’re pretty sure that new color is coming from the fungus that’s started to grow on them. And who knows–maybe after a good ranting you’ll even find camaraderie with another Washington-winter-weary friend who can’t remember where they put their sunglasses either.

Embrace it
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Sometimes you just have to leave your hopes and dreams at the door and surrender to reality. Washington Winter is here, and it’s not leaving any time soon. So zip up your big girl parka and enjoy it for what it is!

After all, Washington Summer is coming…

 

 

 

My 2019 Not-a-Resolutions

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Six years ago–on New Year’s Eve 2012–I started this blog with a post on my New Year’s Resolution for that year (You should go read it right now–I just did and I think it’s even more true now than it was 6 years ago!).

At the time, I was a mom of two young children (who were then aged “maniac toddler” and “needy newborn”). The blog was born out of my necessity to share the ten million thoughts a day that I didn’t usually get to hash out with people who had yet developed verbal processing. I needed a way to share my ideas, my questions, my realizations, my struggles, and my triumphs…all while juggling dirty diapers and midnight feedings. I had no idea then how cathartic writing would actually be for me, but I loved it so I kept writing.

And now here we are–6 years later–and I’m still writing. I wanted this, my 354th post, to be a tribute to some of the lessons I’ve learned not just this past year, but in the years since I started writing here. A few tidbits to live by. Or not (That’s one tidbit to live by: Don’t do something just because other people say you should. Live your own life, man!). And since I absolutely loathe the term “New Years Resolution” I will share my Not-a-Resolutions: A few rules by which I will strive to shape my mindset moving forward.

Don’t wait for later
There is no time like the present, and whenever possible I will not wait for later. Is there a simple task that will literally take me a minute to do? Then just do it. Now. Wheter it’s replacing the toilet paper roll or actually taking the time to wipe the breakfast crumbs off the table before lunch, I will not put it off. I see finishing these little tasks now as a gift for later-me who won’t have to do them then.

“Don’t wait for later” does not just apply to tasks. If one of my kids is upset, I need to take that minute to physically stop what I’m doing and give them a proper hug and word of reassurance. (Ironically just after I wrote that last sentence I could hear of my kids crying upstairs–I abandoned my writing and went up to comfort them despite my natural inclination to just ignore the “disruption”. Don’t you just love it when you get opportunities to practice what you preach?!).

Be picky about your plate
We’ve all heard the phrases “I’m juggling a lot of plates” and “my plate is full”. These phrases describe the things we fill our life with–the tasks, the activities, the commitments to friends and family and community and self. I am one of those people who often juggles a lot of plates (too many plates) and who fills my plate as if every day is a Thanksgiving feast.

Moving forward, I will be more picky about what goes on my plate. Think of it as a New Years diet plan for my soul.

You see, a plate (my time and energy) is finite–there simply is not room for everything. And I don’t like my food (the “stuff” of life) touching so there needs to be some empty space, too. I will take the time to look at my plate on a regular basis to see if any changes need to happen as I go through the buffet line of life. There are always more choices available than I will have room for. I am also fully aware that adding something else to my plate will usually mean I have to first take something else off of it to make room. And since I don’t want a plate full of Cheeto’s when I could have French cheese instead, sometimes I will say no to something good so I can have what is best.

Make small changes
I have discovered this year that a few simple changes have made huge differences in my life, and I want to keep that momentum going.

I will buy the expensive dish soap that smells like a spring meadow because it actually makes me happy when I’m washing the dishes (Which happens to be approximately 28 times a day when you have 3 kids who view eating as an all-day marathon, not a 3-times-a-day sprint.). I will go to bed on time because I value not being a zombie-lunatic. I will read books (the kind with more words than pictures)–even if it means I won’t have time to check Facebook before bed because I’m otherwise occupied. I will not cancel on myself: I will still get outside for a run when I say I will, even if it’s cold and/or rainy (My post-run shower will just feel that much better!).

Change does not have to be monumental–it can be a simple shift that helps you see and interact with the world in a whole new way.

Be kind
Above all else, this is the mantra I want guiding my life this year. There is so much hurt and misunderstanding and injustice in the world, and we could all do with a bit more kindness. Whether it’s a simple smile or finding a way to make a huge impact, there is always room for more kindness.

Being kind may mean forfeiting a fight or asking for forgiveness. It may mean giving them the benefit of the doubt or trying to see things from a different perspective. It may mean sacrificing your time, your talent, and your treasures to help others. It may mean keeping your mouth shut, or it may mean speaking up.

There is already so much good to be found, and all we need to do is build upon that. Every little bit of good we do will multiply–and soon enough, each of our little bits of kindness will change the world.

So as we ring in this new year, may you find the good and be the good. May you find joy in the place where you are now, and find hope in the adventure that awaits before you. Welcome, 2019–I’m ready for you!

I’m Not Cut Out For Marriage

wedding photoNext week Jon and I will be celebrating a milestone anniversary: 13 years of wedded bliss! Thirteen. Thirteen YEARS! I hear that number–THIRTEEN–and a lot of thoughts go through my mind: Where did the time go? Why does that number sound so big? Does this mean that I’m getting old? How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

And the truth is, thirteen years is both a long time and not very long at all. Thirteen years is a teenager, which seems kind of old. Yet at the same time I joke with Jon all the time that he’s still got another 50 years or so left with me if we’re anything like my grandparents, so he’d better get comfy and enjoy the ride. And whether 13 is a long time or a short time, it is a time…and with time, you tend to come out on the other side knowing a bit more than you did going into it.

If I have learned one thing in 13 years of marriage it is this: I’m not cut out for marriage.

You see, marriage is tough. No, tough is too soft of a word…marriage can be grueling. Marriage will challenge you and push you and test you in ways that nothing else on this earth can. I am not cut out for the grueling nature of marriage.

Marriage requires supreme sacrifice. You must sacrifice your time, your energy, your finances, even your very body to the mate you choose in marriage. I am not cut out for the sacrifice that is required of me.

Marriage requires vulnerability. You have to be willing and able to share your strongest hopes, your deepest fears, and your most desperate longings with your spouse. You have to share the thoughts and desires that you thought would be safe harbored in your own mind forever. You have to be willing to hear and support your spouses hopes, and fears and desires–and they may not always be the same as your own. I am not cut out for the raw, honest vulnerability that is required of me.

Marriage requires repentance–gut-wrenching, true-to-the-bones repentance. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And we have to admit that: to ourselves, to each other, to our friends, to our family, to those affected by our actions. Confessing your own wrongs, and supporting your spouse through theirs, is painstaking work. I am not cut out for the repentance that is required of me.

Marriage requires forgiveness. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes he screws up. Sometimes we screw up together. And yet we have to forgive each other and move forward in that forgiveness. In marriage, grudges and vendettas are outlawed. I am not cut out for the forgiveness that is required of me.

Alone I am fully unequipped to enter a successful marriage, let alone continue in one for over a decade. I 100% can not do this on my own.

But here’s the good news! Even though I’m not cut out for the challenges or the sacrifice, the vulnerability or the repentance, the forgiveness or anything else that comes up in marriage–I don’t have to be. I don’t have to be because I can’t. But together with Jesus? Ahhh…that’s where it all comes together. Jesus has already faced every challenge and lived a life of perfect vulnerability. He made the supreme sacrifice in order to offer forgiveness. And through Him, the One who is perfect, even my own marriage can get a little closer to perfection.

Alone–even together–we are not enough to make a marriage succeed. It turns out that two people who make mistakes on their own don’t suddenly quit making mistakes once they’re together. But with Jesus even two imperfect people can get a little closer to perfection.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that once you have Jesus and make it to your 13th anniversary everything is all sunshine and roses. In fact, this year has probably been the most challenging year we’ve ever had in our marriage. Amidst the triumphs and the joys, there have also been struggles and unforeseen circumstances. This year we have been blindsided by the unexpected so many times that I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected. There have been tears and questions and worries and now-named fears. Yet through it all, there has been hope.

Just as iron is refined in fire, this year “within the fire” has sharpened and strengthened our relationship. Without a doubt, this year has made us stronger than ever before. Stronger because we have each other and, more importantly, because Jesus has carried us through when we were simply to exhausted to carry ourselves any longer. We have learned to support each other better because He has supported us. Even though I am not cut out for marriage, He is. And with Him, our marriage is stronger today than it ever has been.

So, like an awkward 13-year old 7th grader who is finally discovering who they are as an individual, I feel like this year we are finally discovering who we really are as Mr. and Mrs.. It hasn’t come without some bumps and bruises and missteps along the way, but that’s just part of normal development. And with the growth comes maturity, and with the maturity comes more freedom. Freedom to love and to nurture and continue growing together.

I may not be cut out for marriage, but I sure am grateful to be stuck with another person who isn’t cut out for marriage either. Together we make a pretty awesome couple. For 13 years already, and forever more!

The Angel on the Train

train

The Angel on the Train

A couple of days ago a local tragedy occurred, and it gave me great pause.

In the early hours of Monday, December 18th a passenger train was traveling south from Seattle when it derailed onto I-5, the largest interstate freeway in the state, near DuPont, Washington.  At least three people died in the crash, and dozens of others were taken to local hospitals.

In the moments directly after the crash two witnesses rushed onboard the train and began administering first aid and moving the trapped passengers to safety. For at least 20 minutes they were the only first responders on the scene.

I saw a video clip of our local television news station doing a phone interview with this good samaritan first responder, Dan Konzelman (Watch the video clip here). At about 6 minutes into the interview, the news reporter asks Mr. Konzelman why he ran into the train. His response? Because I was there and I could (Sidenote: I am adopting this as my new motto for life.).

But there’s more. The interview continues and Mr. Konzelman described the work that he did onboard the train while they waited for help to arrive, and it is nothing short of heroic. The things he was able to do were not things that someone could do on their own. The peace that he had during this time of crisis was unnatural. And there was lots of prayer.

Then something really interesting happens in the interview, the thing that made me stop and go, “Wow!”. After hearing the unexplainable strength and fortitude showed by this young man in this moment of great need, the reporter–on live televised news–concludes the reason behind his super-human strength and super-calm state of mind:

“I mean, a guardian angel, honestly. What else can you say?” (minute 8:30 in the clip)

And I know it’s true. I know that there was a guardian angel helping Mr. Konzelman that morning in DuPont. I know, because I have met that angel myself.

The Angel in the Car Crash

I went to college in a small town located in the very northwest corner of Washington state. I was studying to be a teacher, and during the fall of my junior year I found out about a unique teaching opportunity for after graduation.

There was a missionary organization that was looking for teachers to travel to mission sites around the world and teach the children of missionaries. It sounded amazing and I wanted to learn more about it–the only problem was that the closest informational meeting would be happening in DuPont, about a 3-hour drive from my university. And I didn’t have a car.

Luckily I had just met this kind, outgoing, silly, smoking-hot guy who had a car (that guy is my husband now, so we all know that turned out well). When I told Jon about this info meeting and how I really wanted to go but had no way of getting there he offered to give me a ride. And, not being one to turn down free rides from people I barely know, I accepted.

Before we left school that afternoon I remember sitting in his car and he asked me something that nobody had ever asked me before: Would I like to pray with him for protection over our journey? Sure, sounds like a fine idea.

So, as we sat in Jon’s car parked in the garage under his apartment, we prayed for angels to protect the front and back of our car and that they would keep us safe.

And then we left.

We drove for a couple of hours, and as we got closer to our final destination in DuPont the weather turned for the worse. It was already dark outside and a storm had been picking up all afternoon. It was raining hard now and, with the darkness, it was hard to see the road well.

When we were just a few miles from our exit off I-5 chaos broke out around us. About four cars ahead of us we saw the crash begin. We could hear loud screeches and the tell-tale crunching sounds of metal-on-metal. We could see taillights ahead of us stopped and skewed off of the roadway. A car accident was happening in real time, and this was a big one.

Jon slammed on his brakes, but nothing happened. Literally nothing. For some unexplained reason, when he slammed on the brakes everything stopped. The car engine turned off. The lights went out. The radio stopped. The power steering failed. We were just in this little black hole-of-a-car in the middle of a car accident and we were completely powerless.

When it was all over we looked up and were shocked to discover that we were totally and completely fine. We could see 4 or 5 cars piled together in front of us. Jon’s front bumper was inches from the rear bumper of the car ahead of us but, despite his brakes going out, we hadn’t run into the pile-up. There were a couple of cars crashed to our right, and several behind us. But us? Nothing. We were in this bubble of absolutely nothing. In a dead car. In the middle of a storm. In the middle of I-5.

And we knew. We knew that the angels we had prayed for at the beginning of our journey were there. We knew that they had protected us and that the reason we were able to turn the key in the ignition, start the car back up, and make it to my meeting in time was because our prayer had been answered. Totally and completely answered.

Fifteen years later, Jon and I still reminisce about the “angel car crash” story. We joke  that our guardian angels have skid marks because of us, but the reality is that on that fateful night our lives were changed forever. On that little stretch of I-5 near DuPont an angel intervened for us.

I think that the same thing happened this week when a train crashed in that exact same spot on I-5. I think that an angel was present when lives were spared in what could have been an even greater tragedy. I think that a prayer was answered when those two witnesses ran onto the train and did what nobody else would do. I think that God intervened when he gave those two witnesses the strength and wisdom to care for people in their hour of greatest need.

Although this train crash is in and of itself a tragedy, I find great hope in this story. Hope because God intervenes in our tragedies. Hope because He can use even the most ordinary person to accomplish great things in His name. Hope because there are good people in the world who are willing to sacrifice in order to help others. Hope because prayer works.

Hope because the angel who saved me all those years ago is still busy at work–skid marks and all!