Refocus

Confession: Yesterday when Jackie sang Se with two cellos and the rain etched slow tracks down my window panes, I made a lot of mistakes with my body and got lost in my mind.

Wondering if I was doing it all wrong. Missing a child so badly I could hardly breathe. Longing for His clear voice telling me which way to go.

I needed this. Maybe you do too.

Who Am I in Christ?  not condemned, bought with Jesus' blood, continually sanctified, forgiven, created for a purpose, not alone, the temple of the Holy Spirit, part of the Bride, part of the Kingdom, HIS.

We are in Him. It’s a truth worth soaking in for years.

The In-Laws

Last weekend my husband’s parents came to visit. We love them. We love their visits. And I started thinking about the relational stages of in-laws. I wrote this post as a laughing tribute to both the Incredible Man and his family (hereinafter referred to as the Smiths), who love me as their own and who have put up with me in all my stages. The illustrations given below are purely fictional.*

I think also of the men and women who married into my side of the family, and had a Smith culture of their own to adapt to. They’ve been brave. And it’s been rich.

In short, I love everybody. It’s all good. And no way am I willing to hang for writing this.

*****

How We Feel About In-Laws

Stage One—In which we are dating/ engaged/ possibly newlywed

Here we are just getting acquainted with the Smiths, the lords and ladies of creation who produced the incredible man now pursuing us. We are slightly overcome by the fact that the Smiths like us; it’s so generous and noble of them. They accept us unconditionally, they reserve the spare bedroom, they roll out the red carpet. They prepare to freely offer us the priceless boon of becoming a part of the Smith legacy and culture. We blush and we smile and we don’t know what to do with our hands.

Stage Two—Perhaps one year into the real thing

[It is, as T. H. White points out, impossible to explain how these things happen…]

Here we have rubbed shoulders considerably more. We see the incredible man is really a step ahead of the Smiths in every way. He’s the cream of the crop and no mistake. We are so glad he doesn’t hold forth on politics like Uncle Henry or pick his nose like Cousin James. And that’s not even touching the way the Smith men treat their ladies. Considering his family, it is really amazing that he turned out so well!

Stage Three—Some time later

Here our eyes have been opened rather farther: the famous Smith legacy and culture is about to choke us. As far as we can see, all the issues in the incredible man’s life are his by direct lineage. He holds forth on politics exactly like Uncle Henry and was taught nose picking by the nose picking master, James himself.* And you know he treats women the way he does because it’s in the blood of those Smith men.

The only solution, so far as we can see, is to … well… that is… you know, at this stage of the in-law game there doesn’t seem to be any solution but gritting the teeth and hanging on.

Stage Four—We pray by the mercy of God it comes soon

At some point, quite unexpectedly, we realize that we have caught hold. We’ve found a handle—the fact that we and the Smiths all like camping together; the fact that our mother-in-law once struggled with doubt (back in the 1950’s); the fact that we adore our sisters-in-law. We find the outstretched hand and catch hold, and suddenly we are dancing. We find our place in the Smith line, waltzing in and out among the complex relationships rather more peacefully than not, smiling at Cousin James there in the corner. His back is turned and we know exactly what he’s doing but—oh well. He is a dear. And we’re all going camping tomorrow.

*

As far as I can see, life from here on out will be a continuous cycle of Stages Two through Four. The Lord may in His mercy grant us a brief return to Stage One, but I’m not pinning any hopes on that.

Perhaps there will be a Stage Five down the road, in which their faults and ours have so mingled that we have forgotten we were ever non-Smith ourselves. We will be both forgiving and blind. Perhaps.

People are like onions: layers within layers. As we move down into relationship, we get to a skin after a while through which we think we cannot penetrate. Call it misunderstanding, call it irritation, call it natural resistance; it seems the bottom of the well. But we push through it, somehow, down to a whole new level of sweetness and flavor… and on to the next skin, where we rest for a while… and then on to the next depth…

And all is well.

In any case, we married into the Smiths. How much better can it get?

*****

Posted with the permission of my lovely mother-in-law.

*He doesn’t actually pick his nose, although he does occasionally hold forth on politics.

Drinking in

This week has been unbelievable, one gift after another. I spent time with teenage girls. I had pizza and salad with a friend. I spent time with town kiddos. I had Sunday dinner with his parents and a weeknight dinner with mine. I sat in a graveyard in the sun with no one but God and my thoughts. I had lunch with my mom and husband and brother. I had tea and cranberry scones with another friend. I walked the dam and ate ice cream with my church ladies.

#toomuchamazingfood

And this morning as I prepared to go for a coffee date with my husband, our babysitter showed up at the door and I learned that our “date” was her brainchild… That she had come prepared to give me six hours of solitude. That I could start the day with coffee with my husband, and the rest of the time was my own. That she had packed a backpack with everything I would need.

A water bottle

Energy bites

A warm thick blanket

Five books

A beautiful blank journal

An iPod with headphones

A pen, pencil, and eraser

Lunch and coffee money

She made me leave her a task list of what I want done today. She brought a stack of books to read to my preschooler in my absence. I started crying.

solitude

I am sitting in a library looking out at the mist, silence humming around me. I have never been so rich.

*****

How has Jesus met you in His people?

Daisy project and template

Confession: I love parties. Especially parties celebrating new stages in life—birthdays, graduations, first babies, true love.

Last month I was privileged to help with a bridal shower for a friend: planning games and gifts, decorating for spring, and baking pretty cupcakes. Here’s one little idea I thought you might enjoy adapting for a party of your own, perhaps a baby shower or a high school grad.

whole daisy project

Our bride-to-be loves daisies, and grows beautiful ones each summer. Building on that theme, I cut daisy parts out of cardstock: white petals, golden centers, and green leaves. As our guests arrived, we gave each of them a petal, and asked them to write on it one sentence of advice for the bride in her new life.

daisy project 1

Afterwards, I arranged the daisy parts in a frame, and glued them into place. A large piece of poster board would make a nice backdrop, but since I forgot that small detail [oops] a piece of freezer paper did the trick, doctored with sky-blue sidewalk chalk and a clear coat of hairspray.

daisy project 3

Now our bride can keep it forever.

whole daisy project 1

I love all the different styles of handwriting, and the timeless words.

Let go of resentments.

Prepare his favorite food often.

Light a candle and put it in the window for him before he comes home.

Wear matching outfits to church.

Let him say “yes” to things that do not include you.

Talk about irritations while they are still small.

Find someone to mentor.

Go on dates even after your wedding. Take turns planning your times together.

No matter how [he] does a task, never go back and redo it.

daisy project 2

I don’t know, but there were some smart chicks at that party…

*****

Posted with permission from the bride.

Would you like to try the project? Or just have fun with paper daisies? Here is a printable template for your enjoyment.

 

Displacement

The main caution I have about blogging (reading or writing) is a traditional conservative-Christian concern about—well, really anything new. What is it replacing? Isn’t that a nice conservative tack?

“Not so sure about that there new-fangled tractor. What’ll I do with ma horses?”

Blogs take time, no argument there. You heard in the interviews a few different ideas for filtering them, streamlining them, evaluating them, and making them work. But there’s also the issue of displacement. Any time you add something into an already full life, something else bumps out. For me, there are several things I don’t want bumped out.

Better reading

You take a book. Any book. I’ll guarantee you it’s been written, honed, polished, fine-tooth-combed, turned inside out, and above all funded by dozens of dedicated people with a lot at stake. You take a blog. Any blog… Uh. Do you have it already? How’d you get it so quick? Oh. You just grabbed what was cooking at the moment…?

Fresh-squeezed juice has a charm all its own, but don’t go there for the mellow richness of aged wine.

Better relational connections

We all would rather get together for coffee. Me too. I have ten friends within five miles who would go with me in a heartbeat. Except that they’d first have to check with their hubbies, arrange sitters or work schedules, and haggle with me about when and where. Then we’d have to carpool, or not, and figure out who’s paying, or not, and then somebody’s kid will get sick last minute or the weather will dump snow on us.

Whew.

In the meanwhile, it’s deceptively easy and connecting to see what’s online.

Real life is messy. And better.

Better mentoring

Where do you go when you want to learn to bake bread? To grow sprouts? To sew an apron? Whom do you seek out when your child has a rash? When you disagree with your husband on an issue? When you just got hurt bad?

God can speak to you anywhere, through anything. He can absolutely use a blog to grow you, even a blog by someone like me whom you’ve never met. But I’m going to suggest argue insist that you’ll learn more with the older women in your community. For one thing, they’re smarter. They actually know more. For another, they’re stupider. They don’t say it all right and they have that annoying tick above their left eye and they show up at the darndest times. So you’re growing already, just by living through being with them. You can’t ex them and ignore the content you don’t like. They’re in your life to stay and you gotta make this work, sister.

Better occupation

You know, we can spend our lives watching other people live. All I have to say on this one is two lines from a gospel song.

“Rouse, ye Christian workers, be ye up and doing!
Must the Master’s kingdom suffer at your hands?”

Don’t get me wrong here, please… The online world is a semi-real place in which Jesus is desperately needed. So bring your blog to the Kingdom, and the Kingdom to your favorite blogs. Use them well, to the very best of your ability.

And then, as Marlene so aptly said, get up and live.