Balls & Beds

Catching my eye as I passed our Tree of Gratitude, a leaf etched with B A L L S. Balls. I giggle and ask the youngest about that one.

By far the most prolific appreciator of our Tree, she responds, “You know, play balls, soccer balls, footballs.”

Expressing thankfulnesses in construction paper leaves. So easy and neat and clean and Pinterest worthy.

But as I sit down to fill out my own leaves, uncertainty sinks in.

Am I truly grateful? If gratitude is more than a feeling, then something more is required.

Gratitude and ungratefulness coexisting. Oil and water, seemingly at odds, sloshing about and filling in the cracks.

What am I thankful for? Intrinsically, everything. Breath inhaled, life, warmth. Family, love, encircling. Shelter, home, sustenance. My daily bread. Jesus, grace, mercy. Breath exhaled, rest.

What am I not thankful for? Conversely, everything else. Am I less grateful when I cannot feel joy? When I crave something more? Does my uncertainty negate all I have been given?

 

The hubs talked to the Christmas family we’re sponsoring with his work team. He told me the dad asked him if they were going to be able to get a bed. A bed. These parents have been sleeping on their apartment floor in sleeping bags. Their children, on an old couch.

And suddenly, even little things seem too much. My gratitude for a working dishwasher, a hot cup of coffee, seem trivial. I don’t deserve any of it.

We love to argue just how deserving we are. We worked hard for the things we have. We are. We have. We deserve each and every one. Gold stars awarded, pats on the back given. Leaves on our Tree of Gratitude.

 

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” John 9:1-5

While the sun shines, the leaves may wither, but the One who sent me is at work.

And so instead of looking within for thankfulness, I look gratefully to what God can do through me.

There is no reason my neighbors should sleep on the floor, and if you agree, I humbly ask for your help. Partner with us on giving this family some beds. A place to rest their weary heads and hold their bodies up off the floor.

We’ve set up a GoFundMe if you’d like to donate.

And in doing so, may they feel the love and light of the One who sends us.

On Twelve Years

This past Sunday, the better half and I marked twelve years of marriage. Twelve years. That’s 4,380 days and nights. Plenty of time for the messy, the hard, the hurt; but also through it all, the sheer unyielding work of God binding souls to Him and together.

This gritty job of being married stands one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life and continues to be so. Because when you marry at 20, raising your empty champagne glass, toasts covering terror, you don’t want to be holy, not really.

But God calls us to holiness. “It is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:16). And I’m learning, I truly am, that the holiness God desires in me is not the holiness I seek to achieve through my own efforts, but rather the holiness that is produced through the Spirit’s work in my life, further refined in the struggle, the pain, and the hardship.

The man I fell asleep beside last night is not the boy I married. I am not the same girl I was 12 years ago, either. And I am so grateful, because that girl was self-reliant and proud. She has a tendency (even now) to keep the escape hatch open, one foot out the door, in case things get a little too messy and raw and uncomfortable. But the nature and ultimately the beauty of marriage is in the forever, the moments of pure joy carved out of the struggle, moments when God and one another are all you have to cling to. And in admitting the pain and imperfection, the death to dreams and hopes deferred, you still fight. Praise Jesus for giving my husband the long haul mindset that I lack.

Because if I had bailed when it got tough or steeled my heart against my husband, I would have missed out on the holy. Through my husband’s love for me I get a front row seat to understanding Christ’s love for me, for His bride. And there is so much grace, grace upon grace, in marriage. There has to be.

My husband is my champion. He is patient and kind. At my best and my worst, he loves me through it all. He helps me to confront the things in my life that hold me (and us) back, often spiritually. He inspires me to be the best version of myself. The real version. Not the one I think I have to be to please and impress the rest of the world.

And when we do brush up against one another, it is good. Being married is not about my way or his way or trade-offs, but doing what’s best for us, together, with forever in mind. This is not compromise. This is death to self. And it is not futile. It is noble. When we both die to self, there is a glorious new becoming, not of two better selves, but truly one.

And in twelve years of this becoming, I’ve realized that our love story, this gift of being myself with the one I love most, this is marriage.

Happy anniversary to the enduring love of my life.