Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stories: The Tale of The Many Mini Candy Bars

 **This is a funny story. If you find yourself in a deep in reflective place, you’ve gone too far and missed the turn.

We used to do this ministry thing in the apartment complex where we lived in our early days. Basically, we planned and carried out events for our complex with the intention of building relationships. I was pregnant with our first, Lyric. But for the sake of this story you should know that I was almost equally pregnant with a very large….sweet tooth. A sweet tooth like no other sweet tooth, this sweet tooth could send me into tears at a moments notice until I was driven to the nearest self-serve frozen yogurt establishment. Cushioned atop billowing swirls of delightful vanilla and chocolate yogurt with an occasional strawberry ribbon, were carefully selected peanut m&ms and chocolate sprinkles. Ah the delight! Oh the satisfaction! The initial sweet crunch of victory followed by the cool embrace of delicate dairy.  Uhh..err…pardon me. Back to the story.

I had a part time job, and Austin had a few part time jobs. This left me with ample time in the apartment. So I planned a Halloween event for our big monthly shin dig. We made food and I got the high school small group I led to help me make like a million black foam bats to hang around the apartment office along with egg crate spiders. (This was pre-pinterest, people. This is craftiness you actually had to work for, no one handed it to me on a silver platter of cuteness.) I put together a myriad of fun games and a costume contest, put the flyers out for the party and hit up Costco. (Oh Costco, how I long for you. You are the superior bulk shopping store.) No…wait…I was distracted by my bias for Costco vs. Sams Club. I did not buy the candy at Costco I bought it at Target. And yes, that detail does matter. You will need to have an idea of the approximate size of the bags of candy I bought…and I have a sweet tooth, but not quite at the Costco level. Anyway. One of the nice things about our apartment manager was that he asked that we only buy name brand products. He didn’t want the events looking janky. (janky: homemade but not in the good way, unprofessional, pieced together, makeshift. Pronounced: jane-key) So I arrived home with four, count them- four variety bags of name brand candy. The afternoon of Halloween we set up our adorable party and waited for the party goers and trick or treaters to come by on their way out for a night of fun. And we waited….and we waited. And then our two couple friends who lived in the complex came by. Then thankfully a really sweet family with a really sweet toddler came by (we could always count on them). And then…the occasional resident paying their rent would notice our party and grab a little candy while they waited. Seven. Seven people and one dog. Seven people, one dog, and four bags of candy. Nine people if you count Austin and me. We waited it out for the painstaking two hours that the party was scheduled for and then packed up and went home.

Maybe it was the pain of event failure. Maybe it was the pregnancy. I’m almost sure it wasn’t my utter lack of self-control. Whatever the reason…that candy haunted me in the days following the party.  One bag of candy had been left in the office, one bag of candy had been prematurely opened in anticipation of a big turn out for the party, and two bags remained unopened. It made perfect sense that we would save that candy and use it at future events. In fact, now that I’m writing it out…I think I might have actually stolen that candy by technicality, since it was for our residents. So in my weakness I started treating myself to a little lunch time mini candy bar or two. Then eventually that became a lunch candy and a mid afternoon candy. Then, before I knew it, I had found the bottom of that bag. I needed more. So I dove into the next bag of variety candy. It was the good stuff people, Kit Kat, Snickers, Butterfinger, M&M’s. I quickly realized that Austin would never approve of the complete and utter gluttony I was entertaining. So I did what any good wife would do when she is faced with the decision between her man and her sugar. I hid the sugar. This kept my man in blissful ignorance and my sweet tooth satisfied. I would give this marriage advice to anyone. We had a ridic-U-lous kitchen with the best storage EVER. It was so easy to hide that candy. All wadded up in the back corner of the lower cabinet beside the pantry, I can still see it. When I started eating more than two four six candies a day…I began to hide the wrappers between different trashcans or bury the wrappers under at least three other larger pieces of trash. As you can see…it was a problem. And that problem came to (some) light one fateful prenatal appointment. Like any good dad with a weird hodge podge of jobs, Austin came with me to every appointment but one. At this appointment I was supposed to gain between one and two pounds. I gained at least six. And that’s when my wonderful, Christian, cowboy, fatherly, doctor told me blunty in front of my still newly wedded husband, that two pounds of my weight gain was for my baby and the rest was just me.
That’ll get ya.
So I finished up that bag of candy and then decided that I wouldn’t buy more. Wow, I can just bask in the light of that discipline and wisdom. I mean really, that took guts.

And so was the tale of the many mini candy bars. A couple of YEARS later, I confessed to Austin. And it went something like this “Remember how I mysteriously got so huge with Lyric and with the other kids I haven’t had that happen? Well…..” And to this day I have to take extreme measures to keep my addiction under control. If you follow me on instagram, you are almost guaranteed to see a picture of my three self allotted Halloween candies. I’m already excited! I love you, candy.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stories: Garlic, Butter, and Marriage

Last night I used a spoonful of minced garlic for dinner. As soon as the garlic hit the hot skillet, I was taken back to the kitchen of the house I grew up in.

“Ok, alright. You’re leaving now? Ok, see you in a minute. Love you.” My mom hung up the phone and almost simultaneously opened the fridge and pulled out a jar of minced garlic. She started heating up the blue skillet with the wobbly handle, which I think was probably ceramic? I’m not sure, I just know the thing was probably older than I was. She pulled out the butter and generously put two or three tablespoons straight into the pan to melt. Then went in a spoonful or two of garlic. She stood there stirring it all around and around and hollered out “Girls, make sure the front of the house looks good. Daddy had a hard day!” I’m sure we reacted reluctantly. Then I came through the front study into the kitchen and saw my mom sautéing and staring into space.

“What’s for dinner?”

“I’m trying to decide.” My mom answered with her lips pressed together with her head tilted back, like when she is trying to remember something.

“But you’re cooking it now.” It seems like when a person is two steps into the cooking process, they know where they are going with it, right?

“Well I’m just heating up this garlic and butter so that it smells good.”

“What? Why?”

“Because Dad loves the smell of garlic and butter cooking when he comes home. It’s like a comfort smell or something. But he likes it so when he has a bad day, I do the garlic first and then I figure out what we are having with it.”

And that friends, was my first big lesson in marriage. That’s what love looks like over time. Love that lasts through triumph and trials knows when to heat up the garlic. I’m not sure if my dad ever knew that my mom did that. I’m not even sure if my mom realizes that she does it either. But every time I smell garlic slowly sautéing in a sea of butter, I think about my parents. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stories: My story

This new series was born out of inspiration. Our small group has been starting off the year by sharing testimonies from each couple one week at a time. Since we are a new group, this has been such a great time of getting to know each other beyond the surface. And by great time, I mean it has been awesome. We have also found ourselves making some new friends as well as getting to know old ones a little better. There have been so many stories exchanged over the pasted few months. It’s made me get the itch for a few good stories. I’m starting with the most important one, and from there…they are in no particular order. If there is one story from my life you need to know, it is this one.

My family always went to church and I knew that my parents loved the Lord. Every morning before school I woke up to my mom putting on her make up in the living room while she watched the news with her bible study book open to the day’s study she just finished with her bible and journal stacked over it. On car rides home from youth group I would talk about certain worship songs from the night and if the lyrics for some reason didn’t sit right with me. My dad used that as an opportunity to try to explain basic theology to me. I vividly remember my dad driving on this huge dark curve in the road near Berry Middle School while he explained TULIP to me, and where our family stood with Calvinism. So now that I have gotten a little ahead of myself on the timeline, you can see that faith was a staple of my life as a child and teen.
When I was seven, I decided I was ready to follow Jesus. It’s funny because I don’t remember where I heard the gospel for the first time, but I knew that you had to pray and talk to God about it. Another thing I don’t remember any detail about is that for some reason my mom had been babysitting a couple of kids for a short amount of time in our tiny duplex. I remember being the oldest and announcing that I was going to become a Christian and asking who wanted to pray with me. Later that day I told my parents, and they decided that I should sit down with them and our pastor and talk about what that meant. Now that I think about it, it’s really sweet and touching that our pastor would do that. Our church wasn’t enormous (at the time), but it was still pretty big. I can picture the conversation with Pastor Steve happening in two different places. I vividly remember sitting in a conference room around a huge, long, shiny, cherry wood conference table. But I also remember eating Fritos in a plastic bowl on our tiny concrete porch, waiting for Pastor Steve to arrive at our home. So like I said, I don’t remember the details well at all. I do remember this little booklet that illustrated a little stick person (me) and the word “God” on two cliffs facing each other. The only way to get across the divide was by Jesus who would bridge the gap. I carried that little booklet with me everywhere. After I prayed with my dad, and knew for sure what I was actually praying about…I looked at that booklet with such happiness because I knew I was on the other side.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I was able to discern between wanting to look good for people and wanting to BE good like Jesus and for Jesus. At my last summer camp after my senior year of high school, there was a worship night out in the mountains in Colorado in May surrounding a big wooden cross. I don’t remember any of the sermon that was preached that night or any of the songs we sang. What I do remember is kneeling face down in the dirt, praying and feeling absolutely overwhelmed that Jesus, being who he was, endured death for me, just as I was. I think it was the first time as a young adult that I really let myself think deeply about the pain and sacrifice of the gospel. I will never forget the beauty of that moment. As I lifted my head from prayer, I looked up to see snow flurries falling down. I know that in Colorado, especially in the mountains, it probably isn’t that crazy for a few snow flurries to fall in May. But to me, it was like hearing God say “I’m so glad your mine.”

When I went to college, I was working out the difference of “God the Savior” to “God the Lord of all my heart and life”—I just didn’t know it yet. I had grown up my whole life with a special needs sister, and had no idea how deeply ingrained her life was into mine. I didn’t realize how different our family was, I didn’t realize how much harder it was for us to get out and do things; I didn’t realize how far reaching the differences in our daily life really were. When most kids go to college they get kind of intoxicated with the bliss of their freedom. When I went to college I got that…and then I got mad. When I realized how much freedom and spontaneity were missing from my life and my family’s life, I was mad. When I realized that my sister would never experience the ecstasy of independence that I had, I got mad.  When I realized that most people are naïve, and lots of people are plain ignorant about anything outside of perfect health, I got mad. I had many crying, screaming, ranting conversations with God. But you know what? It was the first time I had passion in my relationship with God. I kept pushing to find the Truth and find Jesus and find goodness in the midst of my confusion. There were moments I wondered if Christianity was just a cult that threw clichés solutions at trite little problems. I wanted to find the people who fought for the hard answers, I wanted to find the churches that went further than emotion, I wanted Jesus to be real and I wanted him to give me some answers. One day in the car, waiting to pick up a friend from the dorms…I got my answer. It came clear as a bell. And you know what? It brought peace beyond my understanding…because honestly when you see what it was…you will wonder why it didn’t just make me more mad.  For the (probably) one thousandth time, I shook my proverbial fist at God and asked “Why her?!” And then it came. “Because I’m bigger than her. You need to see that I’m bigger than all of it.” And that was it. As painful as it was to hear, the truth is that God is no less God because my sister has special needs and He is no less God because I don’t get how it all adds up in the end. That was when I started believing that God hadn’t forgotten or overlooked us. That was when I cracked the door open just a little bit, to believing that God could still be a big sovereign God and be good and be loving, and not heal my sister.

I want to be very clear that my process was not an over night thing. But this was the catalyst of change for me. This was when I took ownership for my own relationship with the Lord, regardless of how it looked to the outside world. This was when the grace of God stopped being about checking boxes and starting being about authenticity. Over the next few years, there were a few more catalysts of change for me. Transferring to a large liberal state school changed my approach to spiritual discipline. Moving across the country to do ministry with my husband changed the way I viewed obedience. And the list goes on.  I struggled very much when I started writing this out, because I wanted to plump up some parts and make sure that people saw that just because my story wasn’t dramatic, didn’t mean it wasn’t interesting. But the truth is that my story is somewhat simple, and yet still miraculous. This is the story of my soul’s life.