Monday, October 31, 2011

{Day 31} Why Real?

For 31 days I've spilled words onto a screen and hoped for the best. It's been a terrifying and wonderful experience. And now I'm exhausted and still a bit terrified because for better or for worse, what's written is now written. 

It's out there for the world to see. {Small world though mine is.}

Writing real is risky. There's no two ways about it. So many of my life's story-lines--whether it's motherhood, marriage, or the many vignettes in the middle--tell of a girl who's gotten it wrong as much, well...probably more than, she's gotten it right. Why would anyone in her right mind blow the whistle on herself for 31 days straight? 

Because she's tasted the sweetness of grace and once you've tasted grace, you want to share it with the world. 

Living a right and perfect story is no longer my goal. It's not about being impressive or lovely or strong. It's about taking a hard look at the life I actually have, accepting it in all of its loveliness and brokenness, and offering it up to the One who makes it all lovely.

I long to live real, free, and redeemed. 

Someone lived a perfect life 2,000 years ago and He did so because I can't. And you can't. That man 2,000 years ago changes everything for me today. And tomorrow. And all of the rest of my days. 

Because of Jesus, there is amazing grace, unconditional love, boundless freedom and unspeakable hope on the days when I get it right and on the days when I don't. 

He is the real truth and He's come to set us free.


Thank you, dear ones, for joining me for these 31 Days of Real. Thank you for your comments, e-mails, and messages. Thank you for your kindred encouragement. Really, you have no idea what a beautiful and emotional experience it's been to write from the heart for 31 days. I keep crying over this last post because it feels like the end and also the beginning...of what yet I'm not quite sure. 

Thank you, dear husband, for encouraging me to do this and for picking up some slack when I had to get another post ready. Thank you for reading every single post on marriage and giving your blessing to publish them. Thank you for telling me to write from my heart and not with an audience in mind. That was the best advice of all. 

If you haven't read all or any of the posts, here they are, all 31 of them. And I'll keep the 31 Days button up in the right sidebar so that you find the posts easily in the future if you care to. 

Keep it real. 


"Best of 31 Days Link Party" at Imparting Grace

Many bloggers {over 700!} have also written for 31 days. My friend, Richella, is hosting a "Best of 31 Days Link Party" today for any "31-dayers" who would like to link up their favorite post. I'm joining in and if you're a fellow "31-dayer," I hope you'll link up as well!


31 Days of Real

Sunday, October 30, 2011

{Day 30} Real Marriage Part 7: Choose Life, Even When It's Falling Apart

When difficult days come, there are often no easy answers or quick solutions. It's natural to want to delay real living until things are looking up. I mean, really, how does one go on living and find any joy in the midst of such difficulty? 

As we've gone through trials in our marriage, I haven't been all Pollyanna about things. Really, there has been a good deal of mopeyness. 

But life moves on with or without my permission. 

In the midst of disappointing days, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not let the days pass me by. I took my kids to our regular places. I smiled and made small talk with friends. I spent time with family. I laughed. I watched movies and read. I took pictures. I dressed up occasionally. I ate Ben and Jerry's. 

And it hasn't been just a solitary thing. Forging a new "us" hasn't happened in isolation. Over the hardest days and months, we still talked. We went places together. We joked. We ate dinner. We read excerpts of books out loud. We looked at the stars.

And we did these things smack in the middle of a life unraveled. 

I've savored the little things in a big way. Only Grace can give you the oomph to do that. 

I'm not naturally a joy-chooser but I am naturally a life-liver. 

In the better moments of my most discouraging days, I knew that healing would be slow. Things don't come undone all at once and they don't stitch themselves back together overnight either, not when you've been married for any length of time. 

If I waited for complete resolution before I gave myself permission to live full, a lot of life would pass me by in the process.  

One chapter of Grace for the Good Girl, "safe, even when it hurts," is a place I have returned to several times. These words infused my soul with much comfort and clarity:

When things break, something happens inside us. The routine is interrupted by the urgent, and the broken thing becomes top priority. Shake it. Tap it. Turn it upside down. Find the glue. Replace the batteries. Pull out the needles and thread. Return it to the store. Throw it away.
It isn't natural to just let the broken thing be broken. 

It's not, is it? But that's what I've had to do. Accepting the broken thing gives way to freedom. In my case it hasn't been a happy, smiley sort of freedom. It's been more of a necessary resignation. 

I simply dropped the heavy load I'd been carrying. 

This heavy load was our swept-up brokenness. I'd surveyed the shards of our broken life, a brokenness we'd both contributed to, swept up the jagged pieces, tossed them in bag, and carted them around. It was heavy and taxing and depressing because no matter what I did or where I went, the bag of brokenness was with me. 

It was and still is a bit of a process but somewhere along the way, I dropped the bag at the feet of Jesus and told Him that He alone could fix us. I told Him I'd surrender to the process, however long it would take. 

I "let the broken thing be broken" and determined to make the most of my days in the process. Because really, we all have broken parts our lives. To refuse to accept them is to refuse to be human.  

In the same chapter, Emily Freeman goes on to say this about healing:

Healing is messy and fluid and often unpredictable. I can't manufacture my own healing. It usually takes longer than I think, runs deeper than I wished, and involves more areas of my life than I ever imagined.

This has been so very true in my life. You can sit around and wait for healing to hurry up already so that you can be happy and savor life again. Or you can choose to see everyday beauty, embrace everyday gifts, and love in everyday ways today, no matter how tangled up life feels or how long the process may take to untangle it.

It will not be easy. There will be days when you pick the heavy bag of broken pieces back up and try to haul it around again. 

Keep letting it go. 

Keep choosing to live full in the midst of the broken.

Grace and Hope will equip you. And Joy will find you. 


It's been 30 days. Tomorrow will be my last post in this 31 day series and I can't believe it. Many bloggers {over 700!} have also written for 31 days. My friend, Richella, is hosting a "Best of 31 Days Linky Party" tomorrow for any "31-dayers" who would like to link up their favorite post. I'm joining in, though I have no clue which post I'll choose to link. If you're a fellow 31-dayer, I hope you'll link up as well!

{Click on the button for the list of all the days 
and topics thus far.}

Saturday, October 29, 2011

{Day 29} Real Marriage Part 6: Get Back to Dreaming

What are your dreams? 

That's what he asked me on a cold, crisp, starry night 18 years ago. We were in Colorado for cross-country camp, a two-week trip where we trained in high altitudes and ran up the sides of mountains. We'd been friends for two years already, but that night, teetering on the edge in so many ways, we ventured into something more. 

We shared our dreams under black-blue sky and dazzling stars. It seemed magical then and it seems no less magical now. 

He was the first one I dared to really dream with. 

We talked about God, shared our hopes, who we thought we were, who we hoped to become.

It's an intensely vulnerable thing to do. I still can't believe we had that conversation before we were even officially dating. He's not like that, not one to open up and share so freely with another. Maybe it was the high altitude. Or maybe we could simply see ourselves inhabiting one another's future. 

Years went by. Plans detoured and derailed. Babies arrived. Money was tight and the future was uncertain. 

Somewhere along the way, we stopped dreaming and focused on surviving. Dreaming seemed a luxury and I dismissed those early conversations as childish fantasy. What did we know about real life? We were 20, idealistic and full of hope, but not realistic. 

We've traversed mountains, valleys, and everything in between since then. Defeat, despair, restoration, and redemption have journeyed with us. 

And for the second time in 18 years, we're dreaming again. 

A while back we were talking late in bed about the deep and the real, our past and the future. This time it was my turn:

What are your dreams? What would you do if you could do anything? If the money was plentiful no matter what, what would you choose?

I thought I knew what his answer would be. Turns out I was wrong. His answer surprised me. We giggled over possibilities, dreamed about what ifs. I told him that I'll dream with him, that he has my support 100%, that I think he'd be amazing at his dreamed-up thing. 

Several days later he told me how that conversation changed everything for him, that any sort of change now seems less frightful and more realistic. The future became less of a scary unknown so let's play it safe. The future is a hopeful unknown so let's dare to dream

Because ultimately our trust isn't in one another or in some 20-year plan. It's in the One who brought us together and who has sustained us through the dark and ugly, dreamless years. Dreaming is better when you know you're not the ones responsible for getting the stars lined up just perfectly and "making it all happen." 

Entertaining possibility isn't as nerve-wracking when you know that whatever happens, wherever you go, God is still there. Dreams fulfilled? He's there. Dreams dashed? He's there. Often I have to remind myself that He never leaves or forsakes. He is always the safety net. He is always our hope. 

He makes it safe to dream and He invites us to discover.

Maybe it's been a while, years even, since you dreamed together. Perhaps now is the perfect opportunity to dabble in fanciful hope. Ask him what his dreams are. You may be surprised at his answer. You may even be surprised at yours. 

Dreaming together isn't entirely about the destination. It's about the intimacy forged in imagination.

Go dream together...and see what happens.  

{Click on the button for the list of all the days 
and topics thus far.}

Friday, October 28, 2011

{Day 28} Real Marriage Part 5: Laugh It Up

I got my funny back. 

That was one of the ways I knew my marriage was healing from the deepest-down place and that change was happening from the inside-out. 

I've always been the crazy one. {Which is ironic because I tend to take myself much too seriously.}

My friends always knew I'd pick "dare" over "truth," the more ridiculous the better. 

My senior year of high school, several of my Jewish friends dared me to steal a plastic Baby Jesus from a nativity scene while we were out one night. I put him back in the manger before the night was over. I may have been irreverent but I wasn't a thief. "Good" Protestant girl and minister's daughter that I was, I felt horribly guilty after the fact. At least I wasn't Catholic. I'd still be going to confession over that one.

But the whole story reminds me that I'm a little nutty. I'm not an obvious clown but those who know me well know I'm all about the laughs. I used to be anyway.

My husband knows this best. I was silly and spontaneous and he was a quirky sort of jokester back in the day. He's never rolled his eyes at my kookyness and he's always given me permission to be who I am. Even through the hard times, I knew he appreciated that side of me. 

Sadly, however, there were years on end when there wasn't much of that side to appreciate. I'm not sure when or why but somewhere along the way I became terribly serious. Terribly. I had plenty to be sad about but still, it's a real tragedy to lose the comedy in life. That's what becoming a grown-up and dealing with seriously hard stuff will do to you.

Oh we still had our laughs from time to time but as the years wore on, I laughed less and frowned more. I didn't look for the funny or try to be funny that often. The sorrow I felt hung around in the depths and instead of a wellspring of gladness, I exhibited a wellspring of negativity. He commented every now and then that I was too serious, that I'd lost my lightheartedness. 

I didn't want to admit that he was right but the truth was, I missed it too.

This year has been a difficult one. We've trudged through more than you care to know. And in doing so we've dug deeper, cried harder, talked 'til we were blue in the face, had a fair number of knock-down-drag-outs and finally, finally gotten to the root of so much. 

There's something about getting to the bottom of things that brings relief. And the relief brings freedom.

And apparently freedom brings the funny back. {Singing has returned as well but that's another story.}

He's noticed it too. We've both felt freer to be our crazy selves again and together we are having a lot of laughs. It may sound contrived, but I'm actually trying to be intentional about laughing it up. It is so good for the soul. 

Whether it's getting kids to bed early so we can watch a favorite comedy or belting out an insane song in the kitchen while I'm stirring spaghetti and he leasts expects it, it feels good to resurrect the funny after years of being far too sober-minded. 

There's something about laughing together that makes a relationship richer. I realize that funny can sometimes be a facade, a superficial mask to keep the real issues at bay. Funny isn't a cure-all or a telltale sign that all is well. 

But for us, it has been an unexpected sign of love blooming lighthearted again.


{Click on the button for the list of all the days 
and topics thus far.}


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