10.06.2014

A Life and Death Situation


 
(the following words are bits and pieces from a chapter in the book I am currently writing. many people have asked what kind of book it is, and I thought maybe this would give people a taste. I particularly wanted to share parts of this chapter, because it is raw and real to me right now more than ever. it also seems appropriate because October is miscarriage awareness month. sorry it is so long!)


***
 


Today my soul hurts.

 

My husband’s family and mine sat around a table in a little Mexican restaurant last night and feasted on dollar tacos.

 

I was fine. I was happy. I sipped my Mexican soda and joked around with Dad about his new health diet. I made faces at my baby sister and peeked around the table to watch my brother-in-law and husband talk animatedly about their work.

 

But then someone accidentally sent a baseball through the window of my heart.

 

With a few words, I could feel the glass shattering.

 

“You know what I want?” this someone said, “I want you and Christian to have a baby.”
 

 
***
 
 
My grandparents’ property out in middle-of-nowhere Iowa has been the epicenter of many of the stories I have written (and wanted to write and probably will write) in my life.

 

It is alive. It is breathing. It clothes itself in green in the summer. It wraps a quilt of crisp orange and yellow and crimson around its shoulders in the fall. It puts a pure white coat on in the winter. and makes a crown of flowers for its grassy head in spring.

 

It cradles a huge stretch of the sky each day and rocks it to sleep each night in a blanket of bright reds and pinks and golds. And then it takes the night shift and holds the moon and a billion stars.

 

One moment, you are hiking along a narrow strip of grass between a humming-with-life alfalfa field and a dark-green forested ravine. The next moment, you are tripping over sun beams slipping through the over-arching branches and you have to stop in your tracks to catch your breath. You run your hand through the shifting light rays and notice the dust mites and pollen slipping through your fingers.

 

If you are a very good listener, and if you close your eyes, you can sometimes hear thousands of untold stories being whispered as the wind sweeps over the fields and into the forest. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cicadas are simply screaming for no reason. They also are telling a part of the story. Don’t think that the snap of a twig underneath your boots is meaningless. It’s also part of the story.

 

What story you may ask? And I’m glad you did.

 

Everything is part of a story that is older than time itself. Part of a story that was there when it was just God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit hovering over the void, talking about creating a little thing called the universe.

 

Everything is part of His story. The hipster guy sitting across from you in the coffee bar is part of it. The church with four families is part of it. The sinking of the Titanic is part of it. The first kiss of a father to his newborn daughter is part of it.

 

But why does it matter if everything is part of His story or not? Once again, I’m glad you asked.

 

This is where things get sticky and some may cringe and plug their ears and shake their heads and walk away. But I hope you don’t. I hope you listen. At least for a moment.

 

If everything is part of His story, then EVERYTHING is part of His story.

 

Think about it.

 

The death of a loved one is part of His story. The cancer you are battling is part of His story. The loneliness you feel is part of His story. The friend who walked away from their faith is part of His story. The abuse you’ve experienced is part of His story.

 

If you’re cringing, know that I’m cringing too.

 

Because how on earth could a loving God have those things be a part of His story?

 

Oh I have screamed at Him before.

 

The day my mom miscarried several years ago, I went out to our camper and I threw myself down and I wept and I shouted between clenched teeth.

 

Why God, why? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US?

 

My family had been so excited.

 

I’ll never forget the pain on my mom’s face as she sat in the recliner and bled out a life. I’ll never forget the hurt. I’ll never forget my sister weeping. I’ll never forget me standing there at a loss for words. At a loss of what to even do.

 

I cleaned the house more times that week and cooked more food than was necessary. Just trying to find something to fill up the emptiness.

 

And somehow this was part of God’s plan? This was part of God’s story?


I didn’t want to accept that. I couldn’t.

 

But in the months that followed, something began to scare me more than the idea that pain could be a part of God’s plan…

 

What if such pain couldn’t be a part of God’s plan?

 

What if God was just sitting up in heaven watching bad things unfold without any power to stop them? What kind of God was that?

 

Of course, God would be sitting up in heaven meaning well, but when bad things happened… He just couldn’t stop it?

 

This was frightening to think. If God only controlled the good, then my life was one big unpredictable step. Anything bad could happen at any minute. Bad things that weren’t part of God’s plan.

 

I wouldn’t be able to trust anyone or anything. My life would be directionless. Hazardous.

 

Some would say “Now, now, Renee, aren’t you being a little dramatic? Wouldn’t God still have the power to use bad things for good?”

 

Sure He can use bad things for good. He does all the time. But if He has no power over the bad things and can only sort of try to gain control of them after they happen, is He only partly Sovereign? Could something bad happen to me at any moment without Him knowing? Or without Him being in control?

 

Was Jesus’ own crucifixion not part of His plan? I mean, that was bad. Really, really bad. Was God just watching powerless as His own Son was nailed into wood? Did He just sort of throw a last minute redemption plan together as they carried Jesus’ beaten, bloody lifeless body into a tomb?

 

Or.

 

Or was it part of His plan? Was the bad only a step into something good? And was that good so much better than the bad could ever be bad?

 

I think I said that weird.

 

What I mean is, doesn’t God’s goodness triumph over even the most terrible of situations? And can’t the most terrible of situations lead us to God’s goodness?

 

Having a God who is not in complete control would be scary. Scarier than accepting that everything everything is a gift from Him. Even the things that break our hearts.

 

But still. Bad things hurt so much. And where is the hope in knowing that bad things are a part of God’s plan?

 

***

 

Many years ago, a young accountant and his wife had a baby boy.

 

This baby boy was the firstborn in their family and oh how he was loved. He was named after his father. Johnny. Johnny Paul.

 

This young couple and their baby were quite happy. They had their health, they had a home, they had each other. They didn’t have God in their lives, but they didn’t really need Him. They had all that they could ever want right at their fingertips.

 

One day, the young wife’s friend stopped by the house. I don’t know how long she stayed or what she said or what they laughed about.

                                               

But I know that after the visit was over, the wife’s friend got in the car and backed out of the drive.

 

What she didn’t see was two-year-old Johnny. He was killed. Instantly. Right there on the driveway of the young couple’s house.

 

Why, God? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?

 

Heartbroken and empty, the young couple found themselves in a pit of anguish and turmoil. Their happy life had been uprooted in one terrifying, soul-wrenching moment. Their center of gravity had been ripped in half and now they were floating without direction. What was the point of anything now? How could they ever be happy again?

 

A pastor reached out to them as they lay in their grief. And for the first time in their lives, from the bottom of this pit, they saw a need for God. He opened the eyes of their hearts and they believed in Him and His grace. The pain didn’t vanish. But they had hope again. Hope in the goodness of God.

 

Meanwhile, there was a woman in town who claimed she had been raped. She was pregnant and looking for someone to adopt her baby.

 

With a home suddenly empty of small feet and with souls that had been newly adopted into the family of God Himself, this young couple decided to take this child as their own.

 

They got connected to the pregnant woman, and when the time came, the baby was born, and the young couple took home a sweet baby girl.

 

This baby girl would grow up in a Christian home. In a home with parents who had been saved into grace and love in the midst of the hardest trial of their lives. She would be raised by parents who had been adopted themselves. Parents who would turn from the heartache and raise up a little girl with the knowledge that God is good.

 

And this little girl who had come during a time of so much bad, would grow up in so much good. Would grow into something so good herself.

 

You see, this little girl grew up to be my mother.

 

***

Does the good lessen the pain? Not necessarily.

 

When the author of Creation stepped into His own story as Jesus, He Himself cried at the death of Lazarus. He wept for His friend. He wept for the family and friends of Lazarus. He wept over death and sadness. 

 

And yet He wept knowing that in a few moments, He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

 

Knowing that bad things can be and are a part of God’s plan, shouldn’t mean we can’t cry, can’t feel, can’t grieve.

 

But it should give us hope.

 

Because of the curse, because man chose to disobey God, because we are sinners, we deserve no less than death. We don’t deserve any good at all.

 

But God. (Oh how I love that phrase.) But God IN HIS MERCY has written our stories with “HOPE” scrawled all over them.

 

Even in the darkest hour, He is there.

 

Even in the sharpest pain, He is there.

 

Even in the deepest valley, He is there.

 

And He is writing your story. Yes, with dark hours, but also with HOPE. Yes, with pain, but also with HOPE. Yes, with valleys, but also with HOPE.

 

What kind of hope, you ask?

 

Hope of no more dark hours! Hope of no more sharp pain! Hope of no more deep valleys!

 

No more tears! No more suffering! No more agony!

 

Yes this world has those things! But that’s because this is a fallen world!

 

When Adam and Eve chose themselves over God, this world was cursed. When they disobeyed God, weeds filled the gardens, screams echoed throughout childbirth, weeping followed death and more death followed more weeping.

 

But those things should only drive us to God! Because He is the author! And He has promised good to us!

 

Not prosperity gospel goodness. Not fancy cars and mansions and diamond rings and perfect marriages and cancer-free-lives kind of goodness.

 

But He has promised us a life where there is no more bad. He has promised His children heaven. He has promised us eternal goodness with Him.

 

Is there bad now? Yes, of course. Is God watching it, just hoping that somehow we make it through all that badness and to Him? I can’t believe that.

 

Even though I have felt sadness that reaches the very core of my being, I believe that God has fully written my story. Even the hard parts. Even the sad parts. Even the bad parts. And that through it all, even through the times when I am screaming at Him, He is saying “Child, have hope. I am here. I will always be here. This is part of my plan. This pain? It’s temporary. It is only a part of the story. And let me give away the ending to you again… you will be with Me in glory and you won’t ever have to suffer again.”

 

Pain is temporary. His love is everlasting.

 

***

 
The seemingly harmless comment about wanting Christian and I to have a baby was still resounding in my head. 


My insides had ripped apart over a few words.

 

“I want that too,” I barely managed to say.

 

I didn’t look at this person’s face. I couldn’t look at this person’s face.

 

I spoke to my plate…

 

“Remember months ago when you were teasing me about being pregnant?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

“I miscarried that month.”

 

I said it. Just like that. I hadn’t really meant to say it like that. I don’t know if I ever meant to say it at all.

Instantly tears filled my eyes and I could feel my face burning. Burning with pain.

 

Back in that month when I was first feeling some of the symptoms, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

 

Then there were the mornings I didn’t want coffee because the thought grossed me out.

 

Then there was the night at 10:30 when I wanted Chinese food so so bad.

 

Then there was the car trip when I had to roll the window down and stick my head out in order to suck in fresh air and fight the nauseas feeling in my stomach.

 

There was the tiredness. The tender pain. No sign of my period. The slight cramping.

 

I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. But I had heard and read that so many times the pregnancy tests are wrong.

 

And the symptoms were still all there. Majorly there.

 

But I tried not to believe I was. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up.

 

Christian was convinced I was. One night he put his face right up to my belly and spoke to it. My heart reeled with mixed joy and worry. After my mom’s miscarriage I was so afraid to even hope.

 

And yet I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was pregnant. Everything about the way I was feeling pointed to the obvious.

 

On a Sunday, I finally let my hopes up a little. I had talked to my best friend who happens to be a nurse, and she had listened to me with excited eyes as I described how I was feeling. “It sounds like you are pregnant!” she had said.

 

So I had finally looked down at my stomach and held it and quietly asked if anyone was in there. I wondered for a moment whether there was a little girl or boy inside. Would she look like me? Would he have his father's nose? How would we tell everyone? Everyone was going to be so excited!!

 

And then Monday morning, I got out of bed. And my heart sunk to the floor. I rushed to the bathroom and bled. Bled like crazy. Bled more than ever before.

 

I was in so much pain from intense cramping. I laid curled up in a ball and held my stomach close to me. And I wept.

 

I cried all day. Because this wasn’t normal pain. This wasn’t normal bleeding. And somewhere deep inside, I knew I was miscarrying.

 

But the frustrating thing was that I didn’t actually know if I was miscarrying or not. All of me said yes. But how would I ever know for sure?

 

I wept for a baby that I hadn’t even “met”. That I couldn’t even know for sure had existed.

 

I tried to tell myself to be okay. That I was crying over something I couldn’t know.

 

I sobbed myself to sleep that night as Christian held my hand.

 

And the next morning, I locked everything up inside. I didn’t cry about it much anymore. I didn’t even mention it anymore.

 

For a little while I was okay.

 

But the pain was still there.

 

And it kept showing itself in little ways.

 

When I heard that a friend of mine was pregnant, I sobbed. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely happy for her and her husband. But I cried for a good hour.

 

Then another friend got pregnant. Then someone I knew through Instagram. Then a cousin. And each time, I cried as I remembered the pain I had felt. The deep sadness that dwelt inside me rather than the baby that should have.

 

And today, my heart still hurts.

 

Because of a small comment  that wasn’t even meant to hurt.

 

Because of a baby that I know was there. Because of a baby I didn’t even let myself get excited about. Because of a baby I won’t get to meet here on earth.

 

It hurts. So bad. I cry as I write these words.
 
 

But I know my Father well at this point. I know that this pain is only a sentence in His plan.

 

Yet even though this pain is just a sentence, He cares. I know He is catching my tears. He is holding my hand and my heart as He guides me on to the next sentence. I think He weeps with me even as He wept for Lazarus. Seeing the pain of grief, but knowing that there is healing.

 

I don’t know why He does things the way He does. I don’t know all the chapters He has planned.

 

But I know the ending.

 

And the ending makes the hard chapters worth the read.

 

Because the ending of this story is just the beginning of the next.

 

And the next story?

 

Well let’s just say it’s going to be a good one.

9.11.2014

A Remembrance

a few years ago, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I wrote my seventeen-year-old heart and soul into an article. this morning I went back and found it, and now I want to share it again.

I debated whether I should retouch it or add more, but honestly, I think I said it all the first time. maybe in a simpler, less rambling way than I would now...

but somehow that's okay.

***

I kicked it into auto-pilot as I automatically reached for my sandwich, mechanically shoved a bite into my mouth, and instinctively chewed. swallowing required a bit of manual strength as my pb&j reluctantly slid down my throat.

you see, lunch had suddenly became a chore as I listened with all my might to what my dad was telling us. and swallowing had become extra difficult because of what he was saying.

imagine this:

you are aboard United Airlines Flight 93. it is the year 2001. and the date is September 11. you have two sons at home and a wife who is expecting your third child. you are thirty-one years old, went to high-school at wheaton academy, and were known as the soccer player who was always smiling.

your name is Todd Beamer, and your plane has just been hijacked by terrorists.

now imagine this:

your name is Lisa Jefferson. you are a supervisor for GTE and the man on the phone with you is disappointed that you are not able to connect him to his wife. this man is aboard a hijacked plane and quickly relates to you how a passenger has been stabbed to death, the pilot and co-pilot were kicked out of the cockpit and possibly injured, and the plane has just taken a south-easterly turn. he also informs you that he and the other passengers are planning a revolt. they have heard what happened earlier that morning in New York and at the Pentagon and are ready to die if it means saving more lives.

now imagine this:

you hear Todd Beamer say, “are you guys ready….? then let’s roll.” and those are his last audible words.

United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. all 40 passengers and crew members onboard were killed. but how many lives did they save? speculation is that that plane was intended by the terrorists for Washington D.C. and possibly for the white house.

my dad knew Todd Beamer. he went to school with him, and my dad was the one who recalled that Beamer was a soccer player, a good kid, and one who was always smiling.

Beamer was not a fictional character. he was a real-life, living-breathing hero. and he wasn’t the only hero on that horrendous day ten years ago.

many others sacrificed their lives in order to save others. many firefighters’ wives went to bed that night without a husband and many moms and dads suddenly became single parents because their loved one had put others first.

it was a devastating time.

but in the midst of the devastation, people came together, worked together, cried together, rejoiced together, and prayed together. our nation cried out to God. during the seventh inning stretch at baseball games, we stopped singing, “take me out to the ballgame” and began singing “God bless America”. people were down on their knees praying to God for help. everyone seemed to sense God’s presence and many turned to Him in their bitterness and sadness.

ten years later, have we strayed from that? have we forgotten what it means to rely on God? it would seem so. our nation has become like the Israelites in which we complain to Him and run to Him in the hard times, but when things seem under our own control, we think we can handle anything and don’t need to be dependent upon Him.

to many, the pain of 9/11 is still fresh. a woman on the news this morning sobbed as she told of the high-school sweetheart she was engaged to being killed in the attack.

I myself, cried as I watched, read, and looked up information on 9/11.

last night, a friend of mine and I were talking about where we were when the attack happened. he said that he had been sitting in his family room watching the news on tv. he saw the second plane hit.

I was at school. only seven years old at the time, I remember that the teachers were rather frantic, but trying to remain calm. whispers of two towers in New York getting attacked reached my ears, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I remember my best friend’s mom made her come home from school early. and I remember the strained look on my mom’s face as she picked me up from school, brought me home, and put me in front of the television. I saw the footage of the towers falling, but I didn’t comprehend exactly how horrible such an event was.

it wasn’t until several years later, as I watched reruns of the towers falling, that the magnitude of the attack struck me. I spent the rest of the night sobbing. Sobbing for all the brave men and women who had died. Even sobbing for all the cowards who had died.

where were you when our land was attacked? do you remember?

I think it is good for us as Americans to remember September 11th. we need to be on our knees praying for this nation that we love. we need to turn to God not only in the hardest of times, but in the best of times. we need to thank Him for the heroes like Todd Beamer and pray for those who are still hurting.

tomorrow, I plan on dedicating some of my day to praying for our nation. for this land that I love. for our president. for our people. for our future.

and I pray that our nation will remember to honor God and turn to Him at all times.

God bless America!

8.01.2014

An Answer

this is an answer.

an answer to a question I get a lot and never know how to answer.

how is married life?

***

Christian and I were already in bed. checking our phones before we slept like they were the evening news. the lamp was casting warm light over our cozy, cream colored blankets. it was beautifully still in the summer world outside. but I could hear my husband's breathing get a little bit heavier beside me. I looked over at him and his eyes were sparkling. sparkling with tears. his glance found mine and acknowledged my unspoken question.

"Papa sent out an email. I'll read it to you."

his usually powerful voice was quiet and choked. I moved closer and put my head in the nook of his arm as he echoed the words of his grandfather. an aging grandfather who had invested so much time into my husband's life.

"Good morning to each one of you. I get a lot of time to think as I sit in my chair all day and don't do much that is constructive. The use of my legs and arms are slowly getting poorer..."

Christian's voice went out for a moment. I stayed silent. he gained control.

"The words of a song often come to mind to challenge me, and they are 'When the Trumpet of the LORD Shall Sound'. This is a challenge to me, and will I be there? Am I trusting Jesus Christ and what He did to pay for the sins that I have committed against GOD and man?

a tear threatened to tip over my eye-lid and plummet to his shoulder.

"Then it comes to mind, have I done anything that would keep my wife, children, and grandchildren from trusting Jesus Christ for their salvation? On the basis of what Jesus Christ has done, and what HE alone has done, 'I'll be there'. My question to each of you is 'Are you trusting Jesus Christ alone?' so that you will be with me?"

his Papa went on to write out the words of the song that had challenged him. and my husband read them slowly.

he put his phone down and wrapped his arms around me. neither of us said anything.

quietness pervaded the room for several minutes. each of us lost in our thoughts. not needing the comfort of words. simply needing the comfort of knowing the other one was there.

Christian turned the lamp off and softly began to tell me as much as he knew about his grandfather's past. about how he was on the team for building the first cell phone ever. how he had met his wife. the kind of dad he had been to my mother-in-law. how he loved God. how he knew his time was approaching when he would meet his beloved Savior face to face.

he quietly talked and I asked the occasional question until we talked ourselves to sleep...

him with his fingers wound into mine.

that's how married life is.

***
I was angry. very, very angry. why? oh, do you care to see my list? no? fine.


just fine.

I stormed out of the house. tears scalding my cheeks. they were literally hot. I knew I was overreacting. but I didn't care.

I sat down at the marsh crying and thinking. then on the back step feeling remorseful. then in the car hoping he felt remorseful. hoping he felt worried and was wondering where the heck I was. hoping this would teach him a lesson.

why was I so mad, you ask? had he slapped me or yelled at me or threatened me? nope. it was over something small. something small that I had let build up in my head for too long. so long had this particular subject had been teetering precariously on a scale in my mind, that the fact that he had done the same small thing again tonight had tipped the scales and sent them crashing into one spit-fire attack being launched from my mouth.

I began to cool down. I severely scolded the general (my stupid heart) who had so hastily called for war and sat down on the battlefield (or you know, the stairs) to nurse the wounded (my pride).

I was still angry, but I was starting to realize how foolish I had been.

I finally slunk a little bit sheepishly back inside still half expecting him to rush over to me and apologize for whatever he had done wrong and beg on his hands and knees for my forgiveness. still half feeling like it would be right if he did.

but he was asleep.

quietly snoring.

of all the frustrating things in the world.

this wasn't what I expected. this wasn't what I had planned for.

my war strategy was completely ineffective on someone who was sleeping.
 
the enemy-side lay sleeping before me. suddenly, I wondered why I had gotten so mad at all. I mean, I remembered. but was it worth this? it had been over something so small.

I thought about how someone had long ago responded to me in a similar way. how physically sick it had made me and how I had sworn never to do that. never to storm out. it made me physically sick now to realize I had done it myself.

oh Lord. how much I have to learn! forgive me!

my hastily built wall of anger came crashing down all at once.

I was crying again now. crying tears of "how terrible can I be to this guy that loves me more than he loves himself?"

I crept into bed next to his sleeping form and willed that he would know that I was sorry even as he slept. I couldn't really shake him awake and be like, "hey sunshine! sorry to wake you! I know this is probably bad timing, but I'm a nutcase and I'd really appreciate it if you'd forget that little tantrum and forgive me?"

but I prayed he'd forgive me.

and the next morning, he did. at first a little hesitantly (I don't think men understand how quickly women change their minds or how quickly they can realize they are wrong, so it took him a minute to make sure I was serious). but then sweetly, completely, he forgave me just like that.

"no really. you don't have to forgive me. you can probably send me back and get a refund or something," I wanted to say.

but he didn't hold it against me.

instead we talked for four hours straight. about both of our strengths and weaknesses. about what had set me off in the first place. him apologizing. me apologizing. encouraging each other. promising prayer for each other. me promising not to respond like that again.

he forgave me. I forgave him. we don't bring it up and shove it in each other's faces.

because we both have so much to learn. and we both get to learn together. we can't keep tabs on who got angry when. we can't keep tabs on each other's weaknesses and faults. 

relationships are not perfect. relationships are so vulnerable.

relationships are having fights and saying sorry and forgiving completely.

that's how married life is.

***
 
we love breakfast for dinner. we get out all the pans we have and fry up bacon and eggs and pancakes and hash browns. biscuits brown in the oven. gravy thickens on the stove.
 
we work side by side. occasionally whacking the other and pretending we didn't. or dutifully reminding the other that that is against the rules. what rules? we don't know. but there is an imaginary rule book to our marriage and we bring it up whenever a new pretend rule needs to be stated.
 
we are ridiculous. but we don't care.
 
"HEY. TICKLING IS AGAINST THE RULES."
 
we pile up the dishes in the sink. we test the bacon for crispiness perfection. we get out plates and heap everything on. he grabs the salt and pepper. I grab us tall, cold drinks of apple juice.
 
napkins? got 'em!
 
we sit at the dinner table and hold hands. he lifts up a prayer to heaven, thanking God for food and another day of living.
 
we shovel down deliciousness and don't even speak at all. we are comfortable with silence. we are comfortable with stuffing our mouths with food in front of each other. I point out the egg on his face. he watches my biscuit crumble all over my lap.
 
we are ridiculous. but we don't care.
 
we slow down towards the end. dishes are waiting. but he offers to dry. and so while I scrub plates and forks and pans and more pans, we talk. about anything. and everything. what needs to be done. and how maybe it can just be done tomorrow because having a movie night sounds way more fun.
 
so we watch movies. and he puts his arm around me. I complain I'm cold. he tells me to scoot closer. I remark that I'm already up against him. he whines that I don't really like him or else I would come closer.
 
halfway through the movie, he tells me he thinks we should get married. I tell him that I'm already married. he moves his arm away and looks shocked. "how could you!" he says and looks disgusted with me. I laugh my heart out and gently remind him that I'm married to him.
 
"when did that happen?" he asks.
 
"a long time ago. in a dream."
 
"oh," he says. "that must have been a good dream."
 
he sits close to me again and holds my hand and kisses me with an overdramatic lip-smack.
 
"I love you," I say.
 
"I love you too, Nay," he says back.
 
we are ridiculous. but we don't care.

that's how married life is.
 
***

we make up pretend situations and act them out.

sometimes at restaurants, we pretend we are on our first date. we ask each other basic questions and make up answers in a rather bored tone of voice. half-way through our first date, I suddenly interrupt to ask him if he wants to move in with me.
"isn't that a little forward!?" he asks. I shrug. "I like you," I say and give him a wink.

people around us probably think we are crazy.

when I cry, he knows that it's better if he just holds me. trying to make me make sense of why I'm crying never works, because there's never really a good reason. besides. I calm down faster when I think he understands.

when he insists that his way of doing something is better than mine, I give in and do it his way. (I'll never make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same way again...)

when we eat chocolate coconut-milk ice-cream, I have learned the best way to hog it is to run all over the house in a zigzag pattern, eating while I run. that way when he catches me, I've already eaten quite a bit.

when he gets home from work, I know that he needs at least an hour to unwind before I bombard him with questions.

we split the radio station between country and... whatever it is he listens to.

we know when the other one wants to be left alone and when the other one is just pretending they want to be left alone but in reality needs someone to pay attention to them.

we say I love you way more times a day than is necessary. but we mean it every time.

we know each other backwards and forwards. we know each other's dislikes and super likes and super dislikes and yet we are still learning about each other.

I like him more everyday. and I have this hunch that he likes me more everyday too.

we pray about what's happening in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Psalms is both of our favorites and I love when he reads them out loud at night.

are you starting to see? married life has a lot of different aspects, and none of them can really be wrapped up in the word "good" when someone asks how it is.

it's good, but it's also great at times.

it's good, but it's also hard at times.

it's good, but it's also everything I ever wanted at times.

it's good, but it's also a challenge to all that is in me at times.

you know what married life really is?

it's waking up and depending on Jesus Christ every single day. just like I did when I wasn't married. just like I'll do for the rest of my life. just like Christian did before he was married. just like Christian will do every single day of his life.

the only difference is you get to do it with someone else.

so if you're not married yet and everything I've written (even my tantrum) sounds dreamy to you (I hope my tantrum doesn't sound dreamy to you) or if you are married and you relate to the good and the bad and the really good and the really ugly or NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR LIFE I just want to say...

right now is a good time to put Christ at the center of your life, of your marriage, of your schooling, of your family, of your trials, of your blessings.

at every season in your life, in every minute of your relationships, in every hour of your marriages... put Christ first. trust Him in all things, all situations, all times.

He has to be the anchor of your soul. because life is a sea of ups and downs. right now I'm riding a wave of happiness, but when a challenge comes and I go speeding down down down into the depths, it is Christ who raises me up and gives me strength.

am I happy I get to sail this sea with Christian? you better believe it. happy doesn't even cut it. he is my favorite human being in the universe and I thank God for giving him to me on this journey.

but even if you haven't found your travel companion yet, even if I hadn't found mine yet, even though I have found mine...

as you walk on the unpredictable waters of this life, don't be like Peter and look away from Christ's love. don't sink below the surface in your franticness to be in control. keep your eyes fixed on Him. in every day and every thought.

He will guide you through all things with His steady hand.

because that's just how God is.

I hope this answered your question on how married life is.

If not, please accept a semi-blank look on my face and a "gooooood!" the next time I see you. ;)





5.21.2014

A Drum Beat

the world is vibrating with a message.

a message that penetrates the toughest skin.

it infects us all.

your very heart beats with the message.

it has been the cause of too many tears. too many headaches. too many worried sleeps. too many people starving themselves or hurting themselves or hating themselves. too many heartaches. too many inward battles and depression and bitter cries. too many insecurities. way too many insecurities.

the message is simple.

you aren't good enough.

your face isn't pretty enough. your car isn't new enough. your house isn't big enough. your education isn't good enough. your dreams aren't big enough. your body isn't thin enough. your stomach isn't muscular enough. your clothes aren't cool enough. your personality isn't exciting enough. your social
life isn't busy enough. your job doesn't pay enough. your daily life isn't inspiring enough. your character isn't perfect enough. you don't look young enough. you don't act old enough.

you aren't good enough.

let's go back a few years. or maybe more than a few for some.

you take your first few breaths and you are immediately rated. and on a large scale at that.

"why, he is the smallest, most beautiful baby in the world!!"

welcome to a planet where small and beautiful is a good thing. and you are the smallest and most beautiful. in the world.

until ninth grade when you are trying out for highschool varsity basketball. where they want you to be big and tall. and could care less if you're beautiful.

you see, keeping up with being "good enough" is a tricky thing. as you grow, what's expected of you changes.

when you learn to walk, it's a good thing. when you walk into the street, it's a bad thing. when you start to talk, it's a good thing. when you say, "NO MOMMY!" it's a bad thing. when you get good grades in school, it's a good thing. until the other kids don't like you for it and bully you... then it's a bad thing. when you tell your best friend a secret, it's a good thing (to them). when they go and tell someone else, it's a bad thing (for you). when you are excellent at something, it's a good
thing. when you talk about yourself being excellent at something, it's a bad thing. when you have energy, it's a good thing. until you are at a fancy dinner, then it's a bad thing.

there's also the issue of balance.

if you wear too much make-up, you're trying to attract attention. if you don't wear any make-up, you don't care about yourself. if you wear a skirt that's too short, you're trying to be sexy. if you wear a skirt that's too long, you're a hypocrite. if you eat a lot, you're fat. if you don't eat
a lot, you're annorexic. if you're outgoing and friendly, you're a flirt. if you are reserved, then you have an attitude. if you talk a lot, then you're self-centered. if you don't talk a lot, then you are probably judgemental. if you try to do what's right, you're a goody two shoes. if you don't try to do what's right, then you're probably a bad word and other parents keep their children away from you. if you struggle with your emotions, then you are a drama queen. if you don't, then
you're heartless and cold.

and don't forget to throw in expectations and the speed of life.

you're in highschool so you're immediately asked about your college choices. you're in college so you're immediately asked about potential girlfriends/boyfriends. you get a girlfriend/boyfriend so you're immediately asked about when you're getting engaged. you're engaged so you're immediately
asked about wedding dates. you're married so you're immediately asked about having children. you have children, so you're asked about your work. you have a good job
so you're asked about your children's education. you get old, so you're asked about your grandchildren. you get too old, so you stop getting asked anything.

life is all about what's next. and if you're doing it good enough, fast enough, balanced enough. you've felt the pressure almost since you were the smallest, most beautiful baby in the world.

feeling dizzy yet?

while I was working at a BBQ restaurant a few summers back, I had a complete stranger ask me about my education. he was maybe in his fifties. I had just graduated high school a few weeks ago.

"so where are you going to college, young lady?"

"I... um... I'm not really sure yet. there are a lot of different things I want to do, but my mom just had a baby, so I think I'm going to take a year at home and help..."

"just make sure you DO something about that college education! you don't want to be a burden to your parents."

really, sir? really? were you listening at all, or were you listening to the constant beat of life? the drumming statement in your own mind... "you'll never be good enough."

his words haunted me nonetheless. because I can hear the beating in my head too. the insecurity arising. the I'm-out-of-control questions pounding at the door to my heart.

life begins to feel like a juggling act. we feel secure about where we are, but oh! not with who we are.

and there is a difference.

some days, I'm just so happy to be here, married to Christian, running my own house, making my own food. but then it hits me. "I sounded like a little old married lady the other day talking with
so-and-so. they seemed normal and exciting and busy. but did I? oh gosh, am I getting boring!? oh no... EVEN MY CLOTHES WERE BORING THAT DAY! I wonder if people think
I'm boring. I wonder what they think I do all day... do they think I'm lazy? what do they think of me?!"

other days, I'm happy with who I am, but not where I am. "I am a wife. I am married to my best friend. what more could I want?" *Pandora ad comes on about a local college* "what am I doing here!?!?!? being a wife isn't enough!!!!! I need a career too! I need fulfillment in my life! who cares about washing dishes or folding another load of laundry!!! there are way more important things to be doing! show me what I'm supposed to be doing, Lord!"

and other days, I'm happy about who I am and where I am, but I feel unbalanced deep within myself. "I don't text people often enough. I wonder if they're mad at me for it. I wonder if they even like me anymore? I wonder what they say about me. I wonder what people say about me in general. how do I come across? I wonder if I sounded rude when I said that the other day. I was only kidding. they knew I was kidding right? do I come across as too much of a jokester? but then I post way too many serious things... maybe people think I'm too serious or dramatic. maybe they get tired of my pictures or think I'm being self-centered. I wonder if they think that? I wonder if they can see
all my struggles? if they could see what those struggles are would they still like me? if they could see how I've messed up, would they still give two pennies about anything I say? am I good enough? how can I ever be good enough?"

and the world beats on with it's message. it beats on your heart, mind, and soul. from without. from within. because most doors are two-ways like that.

will I ever be good enough? for others? for myself? for God?

I guess if we are asking ourselves what "good enough" is, we should be asking ourselves what "good" is.

and maybe we should ask the God who created the word and the meaning behind the word.

it's simple really. have you kept all His commandments perfectly?

no. no you haven't. you have lied. you have stolen. you have disobeyed. you have wanted what someone else has. and I'm sure you have broken more of God's commands. I know I have.

so actually, you really aren't good enough. because God is holy. and accepts nothing less than perfect.

in fact, you and me? we deserve Hell and eternal separation from God. complete separation from the source of goodness. for as long as you can imagine. and then that length of time again. and again. and again. forever. eternity.

it makes my concern over face acne and how it affects my beauty in other people's eyes seem a bit... lame. and dismally pathetic. and pointless? yeah. pointless.

we aren't good enough.

but that's actually okay. because we don't have to be. because someone else is.

when Christ took our place on the cross, He became our "good enough". when His flesh was hammered and nailed into a piece of tree, His perfect blood was our "good  enough". when His dying words were uttered "it is finished!", they became our "good enough". when he bore God's wrath for our "not good enough", He became our "good enough".

why is it that we who believe and have been made righteous in God's eyes through Jesus Christ, still sit around trying to be good enough?

isn't He good enough? who are we trying to impress? what are we focusing on more? ourselves and our "not good enoughs"? or Christ and His "good enough"?

God made the grass. He made the ocean. He made the whole freaking world, and the whole freaking sky. and by made, I mean He spoke and there it was. He said a word and the sun and the moon were born from nothing. not made from some particle of dust evolving over millions and billions and trillions of years. they were born instantly. born of the very voice of God. He said a word, and all the stars hung themselves throughout the night. He said a word, and there were living land creatures. He said another word, and there were living plants.

He took some dust, and formed man from it and breathed His own breath into him "and
the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7)

He breathed into dust and we were living. we are dust. but we are dust made living from God's own breath.

isn't that good enough?

the very same God who made everything around you with His words is still speaking. He's telling a story right now. and you are exactly at the part of the story He is telling you into. and He's not making you walk that story alone. He's holding your hand through it, fighting the battles alongside you, catching your tears as they fall, pulling you closer in the scary parts, loving you desperately in the desperate parts, using each sentence He tells and you walk through for His glory. He has
spoiled the ending. He has promised you a life of eternal goodness with Him at the end of it all.

isn't that good enough? isn't right where you are in His story good enough? isn't who you are in His story good enough?

instead of worrying or complaining or trying to push ahead to the next part, shouldn't we just stop and give thanks for right. now. ?

"lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower..."(Psalm 61)

when we are not balanced, He is the rock that is higher than our insecurities. He is the refuge from our fears. He is the strong tower against our own silliness.

we spend too much time being insecure, when we have security.

we get caught up in the rythem of trying to be the best, look the best, have the best.

even as Christians, we get caught up in looking like we have it all together. many a Sunday, I have tried to quickly "pull myself together". sometimes I've been spitting out angry, bitter words in the car, only to rush into service and look the part of a happy worshipper.

most of us honestly want to have it all together and not just have to act like we do. when we let ourselves down though, we get caught up in bashing ourselves and telling ourselves what? that we're not good enough. we should be telling ourselves that Christ is good enough. we should be telling others how good HE is and how much WE still have to learn.

because no one has it altogether. everyone has been sinking at times. and I'm pretty sure we've all been to that point where we feel unworthy to even speak to God. a friend I hadn't spoken to in a while was messaging me back and forth a few weeks ago and telling me about her life. "I don't even feel like God can forgive me," she said. "I know all the 'Christian' answers, but still, I don't feel worthy of God's forgiveness."

it broke my heart because I have been there too. I have been on my knees crying and literally telling God that I'm not sorry, but that I want His forgiveness and I certainly don't want Him to give up on me. I opened up and told her about a time in my life in particular when I felt beyond God's grace. and you know what? it was hard for me to tell her. because what if it changes her opinion of me?

but God. He knows we aren't perfect. He sees our struggle. He knows our hearts. He knows we're going to walk away from prayer and sin two seconds later.

and still He loves us. and no matter what we feel, He really does forgive us. because Christ. Christ covers us. Christ is good enough. we don't have to be.

as Christians, we get discontent over where we are. we get caught up in thinking that the only way to serve God is through missions in far away places or in loading our lives with ministry or in having some outstanding testimony where we can say "look where we were before Christ & look where we are now!"

but right now, right here is where you are supposed to be. right now is your testimony. right now is your ministry. your ministry can be helping the homeless, or it can be speaking kindly to your family or taking a moment to pray for someone you barely know. it really can be doing dishes and folding laundry. it really can be being a super young wife with no idea what's going on. it really can be being a young person in college who still isn't sure where they will go after their studies are complete. if you are a mom, then be the mom Christ is calling you to be. right now. if you are a child, then be the child Christ is calling you to be. right now. if you are a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, then be that to your fullest. exalt Christ to the fullest. through your attitude. through your joy. through your thanks. through your heart.

you don't have to be great to be a servant. you have to have a servant's heart.

and as Christians, we still will struggle with personal insecurites. knowing that Christ is good enough, doesn't mean I suddenly am happy about the shape of my chin or my skills at friend making. but as Christians, we need to work on setting those insecurities aside, and focusing on others instead.

insecurities are selfish. focusing on others is selfless.

it will take a lifetime of practicing, but keep laying those insecurities at Christ's feet, and set Him and others first in your mind. you'll find there is less and less time to be insecure.

it will take a lifetime of not feeling good enough. and you know what?

on our own, we are not good enough.

but He?

He is good enough.

and in Christ?

you are more than good enough. you are a child of the King.

4.03.2014

A Chapter of Our Story - Part 1


God's life-writing is my favorite. His sense of humor woven throughout His stories is overpowering. His descriptions are beautifully painted in sunsets and hands being held and deeps breaths and fireflies and long nights lying awake. His verbs aren't always what we would choose. Wait. Stay. Trust me. His pen travels places we didn't expect. It works in ways we didn't see. In ways we didn't see for years and years. In ways we still don't see and perhaps never will. His patience. Oh His patience! He develops us characters in ways we don't always like. We fight battles. Some we win. Some we lose. He so often writes "Christ's blood covers you" over us when the battle is lost and we lay in a gross heap of sins. He grabs us by the hand, pulls us to our feet, holds us in His arms. He forgives. He walks with us into the next battle we face. We are never alone in our battles. He's the author who never leaves our side.

The following is one of His stories. And it also happens to be mine. Christian and mine.

I've struggled with writing our story out, because parts of it are hard to explain. Parts of it I regret. Parts of it I love so much I'd rather keep to myself. So I may not write it all. But what I do share, I hope touches your heart and encourages you. God doesn't require perfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. His grace is unending. His forgiveness is free. His love is abounding.

This is not a typical love story. But is there such a thing? It's not the cookie-cutter example of what the perfect relationship should look like. But somehow, I wouldn't want that.

So this. This is our story.

***

We met when I was born. At least, I’m told we did. Not the exact day I was born, of course. But most likely a few days or weeks later.

I don’t remember it at all. Being a squawky, sleepy baby when I first saw him, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. I probably closed my eyes throughout the whole meeting. And being two, he probably glanced at me for half a second and then toddled away.

At the baby shower our church had held for my mom, his baby brother, Calvin, stole the spotlight and got a ton of pictures taken with MY clothes being held up to him. Whenever I look through those pictures now, I shake my head. I guess Calvin and my teasing rivalry started before I was even out of the womb. Sixteen years later, it would be Calvin and I betting who would get their license first. I won, for the record. But to be fair, he won our long standing practical joke contest by dumping vinegar into my coke and causing me to spit it out all over the table in front of the adults.

I’m not sure where Christian was while Calvin was stealing the show at my baby shower. Probably at home with his dad. I’m told they used to eat dinner in front of the tv and watch Wheel of Fortune together when Mrs. Higgins was out. (basically the cutest thing ever.)

Sometimes I’m sad that I don’t remember meeting him. And my first memory of him doesn’t even come for a while. I remember vague details about our early years and play-dates, but most of them come from pictures and I can’t tell if I’m remembering or just imagining I’m remembering. I feel bad for not remembering him more. But that’s just how it happened.

Our lives were already intertwined, but not significantly enough for me to have noticed.

He was homeschooled from the very start. But I was sent off to public school. While he was learning at home & roofing houses with his dad & going on field-trips with friends, I was at school begging not to be at school.

For awhile, our lives were very different. And they would have only grown further apart if things hadn’t changed.

But they did change. All because I would cry about going to school.

Even in third grade, I would cry. It was embarrassing. None of the other students cried. But I couldn’t help it. And my parents didn’t know what to do.

Looking back, I don’t even know why I didn’t like school so much. I didn’t struggle with the schoolwork. My teachers all liked me. (One of my teachers even kept a picture of me up in her classroom for years and years afterwards.) I had friends. (And they were the best too. One of my friends was a boy from Denmark and we could barely communicate with each other when we first became friends. We spent a lot of time playing basketball together and slowly he learned more English. My other friend was a tall, hilarious, red-headed girl I thought looked like a Barbie doll. Her, the Danish boy, and I made the funniest three friends you ever saw.) I didn’t get picked on. But I wasn’t super popular either. I just sort of existed and tried to keep peace with all.

Due to my good grades and peace-keeping skills, I often got seated between the “bad-behavior kids.” Because I was supposed to rub off on them somehow.

Instead, they made it even harder for me to go to school. My third grade teacher would get so angry at them, and because I was seated between them, it often felt like I was getting yelled at too. The two boys I sat between would say all sorts of nasty things, and I would often go home and ask my mom what such and such a thing they had said meant.

Besides having a rough time with those boys though, I didn’t have any reason to hate school. And yet I begged and begged to be homeschooled. I see now that it was God all along. Because finally, at the end of third grade, God changed both of my parents hearts on the matter, and they pulled me out of school.

I still barely knew Christian. But now we were both homeschoolers going to the same church. Our parents had known each other since high-school, and our grandparents had known each other since they were new parents themselves. It would seem like our paths were bound to cross soon.

But then the Higgins had to up and go to Mexico to do missions work there. And I honestly forgot all about them.

Until one day they were back and we were having them over for dinner.


“How old are their kids, mama?”

That was a super important question as a child. The fun-ness level of the whole visit depended on the answer.

“They have three boys that are close to your age and two little girls,” mom had answered.

Boys? Oh boys. What was I supposed to do with a bunch of boys?

I had neighbor boys that I was super close with. But that’s because we had spent years playing basketball & getting muddy & imagining we had a time machine together. I knew them. I felt comfortable with them.

I didn’t know these boys. What if they liked legos or something equally frustrating? What if they were quiet and awkward and weird?

I didn’t want them to come. I dreaded them coming. I thought about how awkward it was going to be. And I wondered what on earth we would do.

But they came. And it was awkward. Because I was right… they were quiet, awkward, weird boys. What could we possibly have in common?

The adults wanted to eat outside and told us young ones to eat inside at the big dining room table. So we ate. And didn’t say anything. And avoided looking up from our plates lest we accidentally make eye contact and be turned to stone or break out in warts or something.

Mom came in to get something and commented on how quiet we all were, then left again.

Now Lauren is cursed with the desire to giggle during quiet situations. Especially when someone points out that it's quiet.

So she started to giggle.

And when she starts to giggle, I start to giggle.

And Caleb, well, he giggled too.

Suddenly we were all laughing. Hard. We were looking each other in the eyes now, and laughing at the other's awkwardness. Every time the laughter would start to die, and things would begin to get quiet again, someone would let out another giggle. And then we were all laughing all over again.

And that’s how true friendship is born. When you can laugh about absolutely nothing with someone for an entire meal.

I’m pretty sure we played a game that night. Because I remember Calvin helping me clean it up, and saying “Don’t you hate how your parents make you clean the house before guests come, and then the guests get everything dirty?” I couldn’t have agreed more.

By the end of the day, they weren’t just boys. They were friends.

Christian, however, was kind of old (I mean, he was like thirteen! A teenager! Practically in his grave!) & I didn’t know exactly what to make of him because he was pretty quiet and didn’t really notice me. Calvin was good-friend material. He was only a couple months older. He was snoopy like me & had all sorts of cool equipment we could use to make movies or spy on people. Caleb was three years younger. So he was slightly annoying and easy to fight with. But he was also hilarious. Him and I could (and did) laugh until we cried over the stupidest things. Once, we made up a story about a buck-toothed woman from Walmart and we still laugh about it to this day.

I didn’t realize how close we would all become. I didn’t realize how our friendships would grow. I didn’t realize that the oldest, mysterious Higgins boy would notice me one day, and that I would notice him back.

***

Flash forward a year or two.

We’re at a campground. Their uncle’s campground. Our little pop-up campers are set up & the parents are working on dinner.

One of the most important things about camping, is building a fire. It’s not important because you need to build a fire. It’s important because you want to build a fire. As a kid, it’s a contest and a way to show off.

I literally used to wake up as early as possible while camping, just so I could rush outside and be the first to build a fire.

That way (in my head anyways) everyone else would eventually wake up, come out of their lazy beds, see my roaring fire, and praise my super crazy impressive woods-woman skills. Quite possibly they would build me a throne made of oak and moss and bring me a crown of flowers and a cape of fur and all the little woodland creatures would rest on my lap and everyone would know that I was the best at building fires in all the land!!!!!

Christian, Calvin, and Caleb always beat me to it though. Joy killers.

They went fishing at unearthly hours.

The only time I actually remember succeeding at being *the one* to make a fire, was the time I built one in a neighboring fire-pit, forgot about it, went to the lake, and almost burnt the campground down.

Fortunately, someone saw it as the grass was catching on fire, and they put it out. Unfortunately, no one praised my fire making skills or built me a throne.

This particular camping trip stands out in my head though because of our hunt for firewood.

The five of us older ones went out on a firewood search-party. It was the best when people left free stacks of wood they hadn’t used behind. We would gather them up and proudly carry them back to our own fire-pit. Any large sticks & small dry twigs or leaves were added bonuses.

We searched for quite awhile, and finally found the jackpot. A whole pile of potential s’more-making wood stood stacked in a lonely, empty spot.

We didn't have a wagon with us, so carrying it by the armload was how things were going to have to go.

Christian began hauling his share away, while the rest of us gathered ours.

This next part gets a little confusing. It happened quickly, and being a child, I’m sure it was a lot worse in my memory than it would be if it happened to me today…

There was a man approaching us from across the campground lane. I remember him looking dirty. And dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that he looked like he wanted our treasure. And duh… there was no way we were gonna let that happen.

“Is this your wood?” he asked with a greedy smile mysteriously similar to Captain Hook’s. (or so I remember it seeming that way…)

“We found it!” we said challengingly. I'm surprised I didn't add an "aaarg!" It felt like we were dueling pirates now.

“Well I hope you don’t mind if I take some for myself.”

It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.

He picked Caleb right off the ground and moved him out of the way. Then started taking OUR wood!

Somewhat disappointingly, not much of a commotion followed. I was horrified. Some of us complained. But we were only a couple kids. So we gathered up as much wood as we could and ran back to our campsite.

We were angry at what he had done. I was angry that he had even DARED to touch Caleb! We were fuming that he had taken our precious find!

But obviously, It really wasn’t that big of a deal, and you may wonder why I even brought it up.

That was the first time I remember really feeling protective over my Higgins boys. Over us. We were a team. And we had all stuck together. I remember feeling SO CLOSE to them on that camping trip. The kind of closeness that has zero motives or reasons. I didn’t have crushes on any of them. I knew that they could be annoying. They knew that I could be annoying. But we were like brothers and sisters.

My desire for brothers suddenly felt appeased. I had the Higgins boys. They had us Smock girls. It was good.

The more years that went by, the closer we all grew.

We saw each other so frequently that occasionally we ran out of things to talk about because not much had happened since we last saw each other. In those instances, we would all gather round and watch movies together.

One of the most memorable movie nights was when we watched Fiddler on the Roof. Lauren and I hadn’t seen it before, but they all had.

We squished on and around the couch. I remember Christian singing “If I Were a Rich Man” in his deepest voice. I hadn’t seen him be so funny before, and I laughed my head off. We all laughed and talked through the movie. We passed around pillows and fought over blankets. And once again, I felt so close to them.

One evening we showed up and found Calvin and Caleb working in the backyard. They had built a miniature log cabin out of firewood. Complete with a fireplace and an actual fire and a roof and a door. It was close to dusk and the little cabin looked beautiful in the fading light. I remember being so impressed I could hardly keep my mouth shut. We played with the fire until Calvin became concerned that the whole cabin would burn down. He told me to grab a nearby bucket of water so he could put it out, and the magic of it all was just too much.

During this time, Christian was still that old, semi-mysterious person who didn’t really pay much attention to me. Sometimes, I spied on him with Calvin. because Christian often talked with the adults, and the adults usually had interesting things to say.

One afternoon, I sat at the kitchen table with Aunty Beth (as I called Mrs. Higgins) and told her that Christian wasn’t ever going to get married. She looked shocked but laughed and asked why. I explained that he didn’t notice girls and liked hunting too much.

“He would sooner notice a deer than a girl,” I said.

Mom joined in that the girl who caught Christian’s fancy would have to be wearing antlers.

We all laughed, but I really did believe what I had said.

Funny how it wasn’t long after that that our whole friendship suddenly bloomed. Funny how one afternoon at their lake house could launch us into becoming best friends. Funny how one summer of talking could propel us towards now. Towards forever.

to be continued….