My Blog List

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mr. & Mrs.

One year ago tonight these vows marked a new chapter of our stories...

Mr. to Mrs.

Sweet Kaysi,

When we met near five years past I had no reason to believe that I would know you in any way different from the many who had come and gone from my life over many years.

Even as I got to know you and discovered what a creative, curious, and caring person you were, I could only be thankful to God for giving me the great gift of a friend, co-laborer, and kindred spirit with whom to work and serve.  No longer one of many, you were one of a few.

There came a day when a series of heart-breaking scenes began to unfold.  As I struggled to accept and adapt, to find my footing in this new reality, you refused to turn away.  You refused to ignore, to allow yourself to pretend I wasn’t there as life moved on.  You embody the very essence of friendship—as so many in this room can attest—you were there, present, ministering, encouraging, and not just to me only, but to my sons as well.

Out of this darkness of great hardship a new realization dawned, new life where devastation had just swept through, like the first sprigs of green on the floor of a blackened forest.  There just wasn’t anyone I enjoyed talking to more than you, who I enjoyed reading with, watching movies with, who shared so many of my passions, my frustrations, my dreams, my impossible idealism, my love for the outdoors, my quiet introversion, who might be, if it were possible, an even bigger nerd than I am (I thought I might try to get her to wear her LOTR cloak with the elvish pin for this day, the one that she made).  You weren’t afraid to feel deeply even after your own years of waiting, aching, and hurting.  You refused to stop feeling to stop believing, to stop loving or serving.  Your presence allowed me in time to begin to believe again, to awaken hope, to think it possible that joy and laughter and ideas and heartaches and failures could be shared in a place of quiet, peaceful, accepting, intimate, and attentive friendship.  Out of that darkness I realized I had a best friend, and I began to sense the possibility that I could be married to my very best friend.  I think you sensed it, too.  No longer one of the many, or one of the few, you are the one.  As the one God used to bring light into darkness, you are forever my Kaysidawn.

By God’s grace, without which I will certainly fail:

I promise to continue to learn Jesus, how he loves, gives, heals, and restores, that I might love you as Christ loves his church, that I might love you as the daughter of Jesus you are, as both he and your earthly parents would long for you to be loved.

I promise to ever be learning you, who God is fashioning you to be, so that every day you are loved well and faithfully served, sharing this journey with you as your ever-present companion, your travel buddy in the continuous journey of life.

When times are tough, I promise to keep my heart turned toward you.  I will be a safe and dependable place for you to share the deepest places of your heart.  I will not take your trust for granted, rather I will guard it and foster it, and I will share my heart with you.  I will not withhold myself from you; all I have to give is yours.

I promise not only to love you, but to love with you.  I will partner with you to build a home that overflows with loving warmth that draws people in, a place from which to go to share the love of Christ, and to which to return to share this love together, I’ll be your partner in and for the reconciling work of his Kingdom.

I promise to discover and explore new places with you on warm summer days.

I promise to cuddle with you on cool autumn evenings.

I promise to hold you as you sleep, even when you’re sleeping through the movie we’re cuddling up to watch.

I promise to read to you and write to you, to enjoy beauty and art and music old & new with you.

I promise to be a faithful steward of the magnificent example of God’s handiwork and your family’s beautiful love that you are.

By the grace of God and the power of the Spirit, I am yours in Christ, your loving and faithful husband, and will be so until death do we part.

Mrs. to Mr.

My sweet Eric, standing here with you today is the realization of a lifelong dream for me.  The one thing I’ve known since I was a little girl was that I wanted to be a wife.  I had no idea it was going to take this long, and at times I truly believed a day like this would never come, but if I could go back in time now I would tell myself it is absolutely going to be worth the wait.

Not only has it been worth the wait to be standing here with someone I love so much, and someone who loves me so well, but it has also been worth the wait because of how I’ve grown over the past 34 years -- and especially over the past 3.  And you had so much to do with that even before I ever could have imagined sharing the rest of my life with you.

I honestly have very little recollection of what I thought of you for probably at least the first year I knew you, but I do remember the message you preached on Mother’s Day your first spring in Reno - a message that honored all women, not just mothers or even wives.  It spoke to the place in my heart that ached and often felt excluded from both what I longed for and what seemed simply to be “normal” for most everyone else around me.

As time passed and I began to participate in the young adults group, and then as I took part in the “worldview group” you formed in the summer of 2012, a new hope started to grow in me -- a hope that had nothing to do with my dream of being a wife, as it seemed as far away as ever, but a hope for something bigger & even more beautiful...God’s Kingdom.  I’d already begun to see His Kingdom in a new light when I took Perspectives in 2011, but through countless discussions in these groups of which you were a part, a bigger vision really took root in my heart & mind, a vision in which God had created a good world, and even though it broke, He had been working ever since to redeem & restore all that had broken.  It was a vision full of hope and devoid of fear, which was different from what I saw in so many circles that claimed to follow Jesus yet constantly manipulated people with fear & guilt.  I started to experience freedom, hope, joy, & peace like I never had before, and my ongoing conversations with you & Cassidy & our young adults group & our worldview group were the ground in which that new life grew.  There is no doubt in my mind that apart from your time here in Reno, I likely never would have experienced the fullness of life I now know -- and I’m confident that holds true for quite a few other people who join us in this room today.  God has used you to bring life & freedom & hope to so many, and even if our stories had not converged in such a way as to bring us to this day, I still would have counted my life as being deeply blessed & forever changed because of your presence in it.

I also would have counted myself blessed by your friendship long before I ever dreamed of this day.  Again here, I know I am not the only one in this room who has found you to be a friend of the most trustworthy sort, and I’m quite confident this is due in large part to the fact that you give people a safe place to express disappointment and frustration.  You don’t discount heartache or try to jump to a quick solution, you identify with people’s pain.  In doing so you’ve helped me (and probably others) to feel less “crazy” and less alone.

And so it is you were to be a significant character in my story no matter what; yet here we are in a moment neither of us could have foreseen when our paths first crossed at the end of 2010.  Strangers became acquaintances, and eventually acquaintances became friends, but now as our friendship has grown into love, you’ve come to care for me with more tenderness than I ever imagined any man besides my dad having the capacity or desire to do.  You affirm who I am, you see beauty in how God designed my personality & gifts & hopes & dreams, and you encourage me to walk in those things without fear or insecurity.  You see me, and you love me exactly as I am, flaws and all.  I feel safe with you, treasured, enjoyed, protected, encouraged to grow, and loved.  I know this isn’t the story either of us would have imagined or chosen for ourselves; we both had hoped for resolution to our aching loneliness in other ways, long before now, for years & years.  And yet I’m so grateful God saw our pain and redeemed our stories by giving us one another.

As I become your wife today, I promise I will also continue to be your friend.  I will be the girl sitting across from you in the cafe, talking with you about anything & everything under the sun.  I will happily share space with you even when we are silent -- reading, writing, or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook.  I will be your travel buddy, for hikes & for road trips & for life itself.  We will adventure together, even if our adventure is just trying the Beijing beef for the first time.  :)

I will be a listening ear when something is weighing on you, and when you’re excited over something, and yes, even when you’re recounting stories from officiating that I can only half follow.  :)  I will laugh with you and I will cry with you.  I will dream with you.  I will always be in your corner, supporting you & cheering you on.

I won’t forget or neglect the foundation on which our friendship was built -- our shared love for God’s Kingdom.  I will continue to grow with you as we pursue greater understanding of one another, of others, of the world, and of the heart of God.  I will pray for you & with you, and I will welcome your prayers for & with me.

I will be honest with you when something is troubling me.  I won’t leave you to guess how I’m feeling -- you know I’m not good at hiding it anyway.  I will choose to believe the best of you at all times, and I will only ever speak well of you to others.

I will always remember where you came from, the experiences that helped make you the man you are today, and I will comfort you when any old ghost comes back and tries to haunt you.  I will give you a warm, loving home to come back to each night -- a refuge where you can find peace & rest.  And I will hold your hand & hug you & kiss you every day for the rest of our lives.

As far as it depends on me, I will never allow you to feel the pain of loneliness again.

My sweet Eric, I will be your girl, your fellow grammar nerd & INFJ, your princess, your “shared brain,” your fellow dreamer & idealist, your best friend, and your love for as long as we both shall live.  In the words of those great poets Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt, “I love you and I like you.”

One year in and I still love you and like you as much as - no, even more than - I did when I first read these words to you.  I'm so grateful we get to share this wild journey of life with each other.  May our hearts continue to grow in this mutual tenderness for many, many more years to come.  
Happy Anniversary to my long-awaited sweetheart.  I love you so dearly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

May we have hope in the days ahead.

Having grown up in conservative evangelical culture, I became well acquainted long ago with the forecasts of doom & gloom & judgment that accompanied every.single.Democratic.presidency.  Such forecasts have been cluttering my Facebook news feed for weeks on end leading up to this year's election despite the fact it hadn't even been decided yet.  For much of my life I bought into this despair-oriented groupthink, but I began to realize a few years ago it was nonsense.

My husband & I both have had the label "Democrat" dismissively slapped on us in recent weeks despite the fact we consider ourselves nonpartisan and will examine every candidate before making a decision about who we're supporting.  I've come to understand that every candidate from every party is complex.  Each one represents some things I believe in as a follower of Jesus, and each one represents other things that make me cringe as a follower of Jesus.  And in this election, like it or not, Hillary Clinton made the Christ-follower in me cringe way less than Donald Trump did.

As my journey of faith has progressed in recent years, I've become increasingly aware that my understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to follow Jesus is fundamentally different from the understanding held by many modern American evangelicals.  I recently read a statement from someone claiming that individuals being held accountable for their own actions, "reaping individual rewards when they make good individual choices and paying the costs when they make bad individual choices" is the reason for "American greatness," and that "the Christian way" is "individualism, individual responsibility and individual accountability."

I'm not sure if I could possibly disagree more.

This notion first of all defies the reality, both presented in Scripture (hello there, Job) and evident in the world around us, that our circumstances are not an indicator of our righteousness or lack thereof.  On the contrary, as verbally illustrated by Jesus Himself, the rain falls & the sun rises on the righteous & unrighteous alike.  "American greatness" as described here is nothing more than a depiction of karmic belief.

This supposedly "Christian" way also completely ignores the central Christian concepts of grace & mercy -- receiving good things we don't deserve and being spared bad things we do deserve.  "American greatness" can build itself on individual responsibility if it wants to, but there's no way to mistake it for anything remotely like the Christian way, not when the latter is modeled after Someone who demonstrated selfless sacrifice on behalf of those who neither earned nor deserved anything whatsoever.  

And yet this theme of personal responsibility is what many American evangelicals have come to understand as Christianity.  We are too busy relying on ourselves and pointing fingers at others to realize we're dismissing Jesus by not simply and humbly relying on Him.  And so it begins to make sense to ostracize Muslims for choosing a "violent" religion.  It begins to make sense to build a wall to keep out neighboring folks who might take jobs we have a right to since we were born in this country and they weren't.  It begins to make sense to cling to our guns because someone might threaten us and, well, then they deserve the bullet that's coming to them.  It begins to make sense to vote for Donald Trump and his platform of self-preservation.

Nothing in this reflects the Jesus I read about in Scripture.  But sometimes we forget that Jesus is the clearest picture of God we've ever been given, and we opt for other versions of God that justify our attempts at self-preservation.  We let fear, rather than love, drive our thinking and our actions.

And then people think you're out of your mind for seeing any merit in Democratic social policies that call for those of us who have more to share what we have with those who have less.

But alas, I do.

No candidate is ever going to be a savior figure for America, despite the fact that each candidate will be championed as such by some of his or her supporters.  I never thought Hillary Clinton was the answer to all of America's problems, and I sure as heck don't believe Donald Trump is.  I do have fears about what the future could hold under his leadership.  But I also refuse to do what I've watched conservative evangelicals do for years...I won't offer my own forecast of gloom & doom & judgment for America just because a candidate I believe to be ill-equipped for the presidency is the candidate that won.

What I will do instead is give credit to many of my friends who have supported Clinton, some with hesitation but others with great enthusiasm, because your responses to what I know has been an incredibly disappointing night for you have been overwhelmingly gracious and even hopeful.  You have expressed sadness, shock, and fear, but you have not been hateful or judgmental.  You have continued to express love toward your fellow man.  And it has moved me.  I hope & pray you will continue to love others in the face of such hardships & disappointments, because I truly believe that kind of stubborn love, far more than any elected president, is what will shape the future for the world around us and continue to bend that long moral arc toward justice.

May you, and may we all, see beyond ourselves in order to love others, and may we continue to have hope in the days ahead.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"Celebration of Love" Day Seven - SURPRISE!!!

I was challenged by Amanda Barone to participate in a seven-day "Celebration of Love." Being the idealist that I am, I took the liberty of altering the conditions of the "challenge" before passing it on (read more here).  I'm inviting those I tag to spend seven days celebrating anyone who makes your life richer -- your friends, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, and sure, your spouse!  Or, do nothing except know that I am celebrating you!

SURPRISE!!!  Eric & I found out a little while ago that our family is going to be expanding this coming January!  We had talked about the possibility of having children of our own, but we weren't set on it, and either way we had thought we would give it a few years first.  But life doesn't always unfold according to our timing, does it?

The day we found out we sat on one of our love seats in shock for hours and binge watched Halt & Catch Fire, too dumbfounded to say or do much else.  We did not see this coming and the timing seemed rather inconvenient for multiple reasons.  Eric & I both moved about in a fog for the next few days, but as reality sank in, shock began to give way to love.  When we announced our news to my family a couple weeks later during a pre-planned trip to Reno, their joy multiplied our own as we grew increasingly excited about our little nugget.

I've been reflecting with amazement on how much love I already feel for this tiny little human despite the fact she or he is still only as big as the palm of my hand and we haven't even met yet.  It has caused me to think of the love my own mother must have felt for me when I was still so small, and it has stirred feelings of awe & gratitude as well as sadness in me -- awe & gratitude at the concept of being loved so deeply by someone, and sadness at the recognition I haven't always been loving toward the one who loved me that way.  I know we're all human and we all let each other down.  And if we're healthy, we forgive & forget & grow & move on.  I know this baby will one day let Eric & me down, and we will do the same.  But this doesn't diminish the love in my heart for this little one even in the slightest.  It has been so amazing to me to recognize this aspect of parenthood, even this early on.  What an incredible gift!


So today I am tagging my mom & my dad, who both have loved me so deeply for the past 35+ years, as well as my brother, who they also have loved just as deeply, and who, along with his beautiful wife, now deeply loves three precious little boys of their own.  I am crazy grateful for the family God gave me.  We are not perfect, but we have managed to love each other throughout the course of our lives despite the hardships & disappointments & frustrations & trials any family might face.  And I couldn't be more grateful that this is the family we get to bring our little one into.

With all this said, I cannot write this post without acknowledging that there are people who crave but lack the things I'm celebrating today -- both the joy of a child & the warmth of a loving family.  I have dear friends who have ached to have a baby of their own yet haven't been able to do so, and I know they represent so many others in the world who share the same struggle.  I also have friends who ache for a mother and/or a father who genuinely, demonstratively shows love & support but face the reality of absent parents or parents with whom the relationship is strained.  I just want to take a moment to tell those people my heart hurts for you, and I pray with & for you for the miracle you long for.  Sometimes our hearts break living in a broken world where our bodies can work against us and our relationships can go unresolved.  To you, I echo the words I extended in my first post toward people who long for a healthy marriage but don't have one:

You are not forgotten.  You are seen.  You are loved.

I pray you find peace in your journey and resolution for the aching places in your heart.

Reflecting on so many different people in my life over the past week has been something I've treasured.  Despite the late nights I've spent writing out some of my posts, it's been a gift to be reminded of how many wonderful characters God has placed in the story He's given me -- and I didn't even get to all of them!  I want to make clear the fact that my life is not without struggles or disappointment.  If it seems like I've spent seven days writing only about good things, it's not because that's all there is; it's simply because I've learned through the years to look for the silver linings, to find things to be thankful for, and it has created in me a sense of deep & authentic gratitude for the good even when there is also bad.  I believe there is always beauty to be found if we just keep looking for it.  Thanks to all the people I've tagged this week as well as the many others I count as friends & loved ones for being reflections of beauty in my life even on dark days.  I love you all dearly.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Celebration of Love" Day Six - Inspirations

I was challenged by Amanda Barone to participate in a seven-day "Celebration of Love." Being the idealist that I am, I took the liberty of altering the conditions of the "challenge" before passing it on (read more here).  I'm inviting those I tag to spend seven days celebrating anyone who makes your life richer -- your friends, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, and sure, your spouse!  Or, do nothing except know that I am celebrating you!

Today I am tagging Alex, Jason, Lisa, and Sherry.

I first met Alex probably six or seven years ago when he started
coming to our church youth group with one of his best friends.  He always had such a kind spirit, and it's been an honor getting to know him better over the past few years.  He just graduated college this spring with a degree in social work, a field that was inspired by his faith and his care for people.  I remember him telling our reading group that as he read the code of ethics he wondered why Christians weren't coming out of the woodwork to pursue that line of work because it so aligned with the values Jesus gave His followers.  That's the kind of heart Alex has.  Alex's family is from Mexico, and in addition to graduating with a degree in social work, he also recently passed his U.S. citizenship test -- something I'm quite sure many natural-born Americans (myself included) would probably struggle to do.  Eric & I are both so proud of him and so blessed to count him as our friend.

Jason is closer to Eric than he is to me, but we, too, have participated in a couple of reading groups together and I've gotten to know him well enough to develop a deep sense of admiration for him.  Jason truly has one of the most brilliant minds of anyone I've ever met, yet he's also one of the most humble people I've ever known.  I've read some pieces he has written in the past and have been blown away by his intelligence, yet he is amazingly accessible.  He takes people under his wing and befriends them with such great care & sincerity.  He's also been a wonderful friend to Eric, and I'm so glad he's in both our lives.

Lisa was one of my brother's closest friends in college who became a close friend of mine as well.  Upon graduating she taught school in Atlanta for a while before going on a year-long mission trip that took her to a different country each month.  Along the way she fell in love with a community in Nicaragua, and she moved there permanently over six years ago.  Reading about her life & ministry there is a constant source of encouragement to me.  She is in the process of building a home where she will provide a family for children who have none.  It is her dream and it is a beautiful reflection of God's heart.  Lisa lives her life with so much joy & freedom.  I often feel so much of American evangelicalism is rooted in fear-based behavior modification -- we are taught to do or not do certain things merely because they are "right" or "wrong" -- but Lisa loves Jesus and she loves people, and everything she does flows from that, not just a sense of right or wrong.  I've become firmly convinced over the past few years that is how Jesus really intended for us to live.  As He said and as Paul echoed, love fulfills the law.  If we only truly loved one another, "behavior modification" would be unnecessary.  I think a lot of people don't believe that's possible, but I believe Lisa's life demonstrates that it absolutely is.  I love this girl and her heart so, so much.

Finally, Sherry was one of my co-workers for many years when I served on a church staff in Reno, and she has become a very dear friend over time.  A former nurse, she has a special gift for being present with people who are going through health issues.  Her demeanor is incredibly calming, and she is wonderful at explaining things in laymen's terms when a person may be feeling overwhelmed by medical jargon.  She's been there for both of my parents when they faced various medical issues over the years and her support has been invaluable to them (and, as such, to my whole family) -- and I know many, many others who would say the same.  Eric & I have enjoyed some very sweet times of fellowship with Sherry and her husband, Craig, sharing meals around their kitchen table, telling stories, expressing disappointments, and most of all laughing together.  I've sought her wisdom when going through difficult times, and I've had the privilege of witnessing her "happy dance" when sharing good news.  She is truly a gift to everyone who knows her, and Eric & I love her dearly.

I am so grateful each of these people has been a part of my/our story.

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Celebration of Love" Day Five - Birthday Twins & Portland Friends

I was challenged by Amanda Barone to participate in a seven-day "Celebration of Love." Being the idealist that I am, I took the liberty of altering the conditions of the "challenge" before passing it on (read more here).  I'm inviting those I tag to spend seven days celebrating anyone who makes your life richer -- your friends, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, and sure, your spouse!  Or, do nothing except know that I am celebrating you!

Several years ago I was part of a rather elaborate plan to surprise my friend Alina on her birthday with a big gathering at her parents' house.  It turned out that was actually part of an even more elaborate plan her mom had cooked up to celebrate FOUR birthdays, including mine!  Alina and her twin sister, Alona, were born on August 11, and our mutual friend Patricia and I were both born on August 18.  When we showed up at Alina & Alona's parents' house, we found probably 40-50 people gathered in the back yard, a wooden photo cutout that had been painted to look like the four of us (hilarious!), and food & games a plenty waiting to be enjoyed.  I already tagged Alina this week, but I wanted to tag Alona & Patricia as well -- especially since it's birthday week for all of us again right now!

I've had some great times with these girls.  They sort of introduced me to thrift store shopping -- or at the very least they're responsible for getting me hooked on it.  I've probably bought at least half my clothes at Goodwill since the four of us went together that summer.  We've had more than a few movie nights, sleepovers, and even s'mores parties at Alina & Alona's house, and Alona usually made sure a chocolate fountain was involved because she is obsessed with chocolate (and why shouldn't she be?!).  Patricia & I also really enjoyed being part of a couple of different reading groups together over the past several years with some fellow deep thinkers.  It was always invigorating to get together and discuss what we'd been reading.  I love thinking back on the times I've shared with these girls!

In addition to my & Alina's "birthday twins," since I'm running short on days but still have plenty of people I'd like to celebrate, I decided to double up on my themes for today and tag some new friends as well.

Eric & I have been living in Portland since February.  We didn't really know anyone when we moved here, but the past couple of years had been pretty crazy and since we're both introverts anyway, it's been kind of nice to feel like we're somewhat off the grid here.  Nevertheless, even we two introverts would probably be feeling pretty isolated if we hadn't made ANY connections over the past six months, and I didn't want to let this whole week go by without celebrating some of our newer friends.

So today I am also tagging Karen, who we met through a small church in our neighborhood that has become our spiritual home here in Portland; Tracy & Dustin, who were the first of my co-workers I really got to know at PSU; and Kirsten, who also just moved to Portland from Reno with her husband right about the same time Eric & I did.  (Her father-in-law also just so happened to officiate our wedding really is a small world!)  While Eric & I are generally pretty content with spending quiet evenings at home as much as possible, these people have given us some connections and made us feel welcome in our new home.  And we are most grateful for them!