belief

I read a book called Lamb over the weekend.  The author, Christopher Moore, put together a hilarious take on Christ’s life as told by Christ’s best friend, Biff.  It was gritty and colorful (both in its telling and in its language – read: lots of swearing and sexual situations).

I loved that the story was gritty because I believe that life is gritty and raw.  I believe that more often than not, life is messy.  Life is change and evolution and growth and development and loss and loosely controlled chaos.

We are all on the verge of being tagged out of this great game of life – and yet we mostly live our lives with a somewhat misguided belief that we are immortal.  That’s why we’re shocked when something bad happens.

Sure, there are some of us who are better at faking the control.  There are some who might say, “aw, Em, cute – but I have this all wrapped up!”

But I believe for the rest of us, despite our best efforts, we often find ourselves putting out more fires during the day than checking things off of our “to do” lists – and that’s ok.  My dad liked to quote a Beetle (or someone) who said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

So I loved the grittiness of Lamb.

And I loved that Jesus had a sense of humor in the story.  Yes, the book still portrayed him as innocent, but I loved that his best friend taught him sarcasm (which he used very moderately in the book).  The Bible is great at telling us a lot about Jesus – what he did, his virtues and character – but I kind of wonder about his sense of humor.  Was he playful?  Did he ever play pranks on the disciples?  I wonder if he ever short sheeted Peter’s bedroll or teepeed John’s tent.  Did Jesus spend time on the banks of the Jordan, hanging out with his friends and pondering some of the great mysteries, like: if Elijah and Moses were in a cage match – who would win?

Why does it matter if Jesus had a sense of humor?  I dunno.  I guess I just like the idea of knowing the person of Jesus – I like to imagine what it would be like if Jesus walked in the door and said hello.  Would he have a booming voice or a quiet disposition?  Would he shake my hand or give me a big hug?

I loved that Lamb painted a picture of Jesus that was so much richer than what I am able to glean from the Bible because so much of the Bible gets lost in cultural translation.  Perhaps there ARE elements of Jesus’ sense of humor embedded in the stories about Him – but humor in each culture is so subtle, it’s hard to pick up just by reading without studying the culture further.  And we all know that when you have to explain the joke, it really becomes less funny anway.  I am sure “That’s what she said” would be completely lost on ancient Jews.  And I can only imagine how future generations will interpret our jokes.

But I also felt convicted while reading Lamb.

Not because I was reading a story that was an irreverent and somewhat scandalous telling of Jesus’ life, but because as I read this story,  I was struck by Biff’s unbelief.  I don’t want to ruin the story in the case that you decide to read it, but generally speaking, I was surprised that this character Biff could literally WALK with Jesus for practically of his life and so miss the point on so many occasions.  It reminded me that I often miss the point.  It reminded me that I so frequently forget who Jesus is and get distracted by my own selfish desires.

I don’t know if the author intended for this result – I think the author wrote this book to provide a humorous explanation for what happened to Jesus between the ages of 6 and 32.  And perhaps the author knew enough Christians to know how many of us often spend all of this time learning about Jesus and God and MISSING THE POINT; there are so many of us who KNOW much, but BELIEVE little.

The disciples didn’t always understand what Jesus meant, but they believed in Him.  They were willing to stake it all on Him.  They believed He was who He said He was.

So yeah – I liked Lamb. It’s not for everyone, but it’s great satire.

so much to say!

Ok, in no particular order:

1.  I am running again.  Well, jogging.  Very, very, very slowly.  At this point, it’s as much for my physical health as it is for my emotional health.  I find that when I run, I am able to process things better and have more energy.  So I am committed to running/jogging/moving my booty every other day.

2.  For anyone wondering about my sugarless lifestyle, yes, we are still sugarless in the K House.  I have to say, there have been quite a few moments of weakness, but we are proud that we haven’t caved.  The only sweets we had were for FK’s 30th birthday.  Hey, that’s a pretty special occasion, right?  So we busted out some cinnamon bread pudding and homemade whipped cream.  Soooo good.  I was worried that it would become some kind of gateway drug – you know, leading to other sugary delights – but we stayed the course and did not venture any further into Candyland.

3. There have been lots of different themes floating around in my life.  I want to write extensively on every single theme, but right now is not the time.  Here are some highlights:

a. Definitions.  I’ve been wondering a lot about how to take control about how I’m defined, both by others and more importantly by myself.  This concern is on a personal and professional level.  Personally, I’m not afraid of being defined as someone who has had a very difficult time having children, but I AM afraid of being defined as ONLY that.  And maybe “afraid” is the wrong word.  I think if people only saw me for this trial, that would be a very limited way of looking at me and that I, and others, would miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life.  I also think about this a lot professionally, too – the woman who did my job previously really only focused on one particular area, whereas I’ve branched out and brought an entirely different skill set to the game.  I’m concerned that my success is being defined only based on area, without taking into consideration all of the other things I’m bringing to the table.  I have ideas on how to resolve my professional dilemma, but it’s a little bit more difficult to resolve the personal side of things.

b. Attitude. I’ve been battling attitude a lot lately.  For a great many reasons, it’s been particularly difficult for me to keep my attitude in check.  The running is helping with cleaning out any emotional overload, allowing me to refocus my energies when I feel myself slipping into a swirling vortex of sadness.  I think it’s a difficult one to balance, though, because I do believe that I need to be where I am, and not rush through it.  Said another way, I’ve spent a lot of my life checking things off of lists.  I like to do that.  But living a life of checking things off of lists sometimes means that I rush through things to just to get through the list.  A conversation I had tonight reminded me that life is really a series of processes and experiences, not a neat and tidy notebook of lists with check marks next to each item. Discontentment is being in one place, but believing that I should be somewhere else.  I kind of wonder if I would be more content if I just said, “Ok, this is where I am today, and that is ok” – with an understanding that I would not be in this same emotional place forever.  What does it look like to live a more contented life?  Hm.

c. Fluidity. In 2004/2005, I was working a lot of hours.  A lot of hours.  Even when I was not at work, I was mentally at work.  My brain was constantly thinking about things going on at the office; looking for solutions to problems I was having.  It doesn’t help that I worked in advertising and our world is inundated with ad messages.  Even if I didn’t want to take work home with me, it was everywhere.  But when I look back at that time and remember trips we took or things we did, I don’t remember the pervasiveness of work.  I just remember the fun things.  It’s amazing how my brain can edit out work and make my memories into a nice, clean 30 minute montage.  So why do I bring that up and what does it have to do with being more fluid?  Well, I realize that I have a selective way of remembering things.  I remember the joys of the simplicity of life being young when I feel overwhelmed.  But when I really remember what it was like to be me in second grade, I also have to remember that I was totally overwhelmed by simple things then (which were not so simple to me at the time).  I remember lying in bed one night, tossing and turning because I forgot to bring a worksheet home from school.  I knew I would get a “zero” for the assignment.  I finally went into my parents room really late at night (probably 10 p.m.) and told my mom what I was thinking about.  She laughed and told me about times when she felt the same way. The adrenaline from worrying about that worksheet left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  The same taste I get even now when I realize I forgot something or am on a tight deadline.  We edit our memories.  Things do seem better in the past and more hopeful in the future.  Life is constant change.  People are born, people die, people move away, people move in… The sooner that I am comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in this life, the easier it is to roll with the punches.  I was not born as a person who is comfortable with being fluid, but over time I’ve come to be better with it.  I think being married to a pilot has expedited my personal growth in this area.  Let’s not go crazy though – I have hardly mastered being fluid and I still love a good check list, but in the realm of things I cannot control, learning to be fluid has been an excessively helpful trait.

So yeah.  Just a few thoughts.  No particular order.  More on some of them later.  Or maybe not.  Well, you can be 100% assured that I will likely talk about running and sugar again.  I’m predictable like that.

weather

It’s raining and overcast and cool here in Chicagoland today.  It’s about 50 degrees, which is below average for this time of year, although, that is to be expected since we hit 80 last week, well above the average.

Isn’t that what an average is?  Some days are higher, some days are lower… but it all averages out.

Brilliant.

So what does the Chicagoland weather have to do with anything?

“The Weather as a Terrorist”

If you listen to any meteorologist or Chicago native discuss the weather, you’d think that the weather was a terrorist organization.  In the winter we have vicious cold snaps and brutal winter storms.  Truth be told, the winter of 2010 was pretty mild, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the news promos and conversation around the water cooler.  I’ve totally fallen prey to the “Weather as a Terrorist” mentality, often heaving reluctant sighs as I bundled up to go out into the cold.  And in the summer, we have blistering heat and suffocating humidity.  In the spring and fall, we have floods of epic proportions and hail the size of off-road dump trucks.  But an even worse offense than “violent” weather patterns is when the weather is just about 5-10 degrees too cool or too warm.  Oh, the hand wringing and sobbing that happens on the radio and in offices around the city – how could the weather be so cruel as to be BELOW average!

I actually had a conversation with an older woman that helped put me in a more accurate perspective.  I was lamenting about how rainy it has been and she said, “Well, we need it!” And then I remembered that the weather was not just about me and my immediate comfort, but about a whole world that needs seasons, rain, snow storms, and heat.  There are sweet little daisies that are ecstatic to get watered and happy little ducks paddling in the full ponds.

I look at God like the weather sometimes.  In the winter, I forget about the lovely warm sunny summer days and I wonder, angrily gripping my steering wheel, if it will EVER get warm again.  I think that’s how I sometimes go through the trials of this life: wondering if things will EVER get better.

And I can’t help but wonder at myself. Life is full of seasons and cycles and weather.  Sometimes I get into a particularly bad pattern of weather (like now), but unless I lived in Antarctica (and I clearly do not), it’s bound to hit 70 again in the next 365 days.  It is this attitude that I have (and many others have) that explains why God gave us the desire to write down stories.  And not just Pollyanna/sunshine stories, but the stories about times where life SUCKED.  Nearly every single life situation, featuring both suffering and joy, is documented in the Bible.  And guess what?  Sometimes the forecast calls for more “suckage” before it gets better.

The Small Rudder on the Big Ship

So even if you probably wouldn’t have thought much about the weather (unless it was particularly good or particularly bad), we TALK about the weather so much, it’s unavoidable.  “Crappy day outside, hey?” “Yah, bummer, hey?” “Yah.” (I miss Wisconsin!)

What I say about the weather impacts how I feel about the weather, in the same way that what I say about my situation often impacts how I feel about it.  I know, for those of you who THINK before you SPEAK, this probably doesn’t apply to you.  Since I often think out loud, this is totally appropriate.   Just a simple change of my attitude, changes my perspective.

the one where i use an aviation metaphor

Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

stopping the insanity

So, clearly, this weekend appeared to be a weekend of excess.  And could I have eaten less pasta and bread?  Yeah, probably.  And could I have eaten less candy/chocolate/ice cream?  Probably.  But I would also say that I didn’t eat as much of the candy/chocolate/ice cream as I wanted. And that poses a problem for me.

As I learned back in January, I am hypoglycemic.  This means that carbs are a particular problem for me because my body absorbs and distributes the carbs so quickly that I CRASH after carbo-loading.  Eating carbs causes me to have a blood sugar low within an hour or so that makes me FEEL super hungry.

As a matter of fact, when I eat candy mid-afternoon, by the time I get home at 5:30, I am irrationally hungry.  I don’t even bother to stop at the store because I am SO hungry that I am not sure how I will make it through the store without A) forgetting half of my list or B) maiming the first person who tries to abscond with my cart.

And don’t get me started with the parking lot.Let’s just assume there would be much carnage.

So anyway, I do not make wise decisions when I am on a sugar low.

Plus, my body converts these carbs to fat faster than you can say “Put down the butter Paula Deen!”  And if that wasn’t enough to make me pass on the sugary delights, the fact that we would like to get pregnant again means that I am at high risk for developing gestational diabetes.  While a high birth weight for our babies has always been a real possibility (my dear husband rocked the scales at a mighty 13 1/2 lbs and 24 inches of pure baby delight), gestational diabetes ups the ante significantly.  If that was the only serious side affect of gestational diabetes, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, there are several other unfortunate potential by-products of gestational diabetes that give me pause for concern.

I realize that the idea of giving up all sweets seems … well… un-American.

I mean, who does that?

But after taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, reviewing the scale, and looking in the mirror again, I decided that I need to do just that.

Oh, not to worry, the idea of giving up all sweets did not come without serious mental protest and angst.  My poor, sugar-addicted brain said, “But dear Emily, what about BIRTHDAY cake?  What knd of person says NO to BIRTHDAY cake?? What about having something sweet to make eating healthy worth it?  Just a little bit of sweet stuff won’t hurt!”

Does a birthday cake make the birthday, I ask you?  Do I need a 3 p.m. sugar fix?  Do I need dessert after EVERY DINNER?  The fact that I tried to find reasons NOT to give it up was the biggest indicator that I SHOULD give it up.

I submit to you this: the celebration is to be augmented by the food.  The food is not to be augmented by the celebration.  This is a VERY difficult decision for me to give up sweets.  But I realized I was putting my desire to have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ahead of being healthy.  I was putting a slice of amazing, gooey chocolate cake ahead of feeling good.

Not any more.  Starting tomorrow (I had ice cream before I made the decision today), Frank and I are quitting the sweets cold turkey.  It’s going to be difficult because I am going to have to be really honest about what is a sweet and what is not.  I thought about buying some Fiber-One bars for their fiber-related benefits and because… wait for it… they also have a chocolate product.  Houston, I have a problem.  Using a Fiber-One bar to “replace” candy is not right.

And, of course, I realize that my eating habits are causing a rift with God and in my marriage.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but bear with me.  When I eat poorly, I feel bad about myself.  Instead of focusing on becoming the person that God wants me to be, I focus on how bad I feel about myself.  And if that’s not enough, I happen to have a wonderful, sweet, adoring husband who thinks that I am beautiful, no matter what, but I turn him away so I can have a self-loathing pity party.  Now, Frank muscles through it, but I think about how much BETTER my marriage would be if we avoided these kinds of pity parties all together.

So anyway.  This is my new adventure.  Anyone else want to join me?  I plan on discussing this frequently on the blog as I am anticipating a lot of withdrawal symptoms that may include “the shakes” and inexplicable crying/anger.  But once I get through the detox portion, I expect that I will feel MUCH better.  Right?  ::scratches arms, looks for a candy bar:: Right??

brave

I am not a brave person.

Ask Frank.

When I am walking up the stairs and he chases after me, I sit down on the stairs and curl up.

True story.  It’s like my knees stop working.

Fight or flight?

Is laying down and dying an option?

And this transcends into other areas of my life.

The amount of effort it takes for me to do things often seems monumental.

And sometimes, I wonder why things fail and I realize that my fear stopped me from taking a critical step.

I know that I am smart.  Maybe not genius IQ, but I know enough to be dangerously effective.

But fear of disappointing people stops me in my tracks.

My dear friend and fellow blogger, Heidi, found out that she is expecting.  This baby is so wanted!

But she has been hurt a lot – four years + of infertility and two miscarriages are stunningly difficult things to endure.

She vocalizes something I’ve worried about since we realized that this fertility biz was not looking awesome for us: that once we get pregnant, what if there is more pain?

And I wonder, do I have what it takes to make it through the first 9 weeks of pregnancy without wondering if every ache and pain is a sign of another loss?

Can I be brave?

And not just in pregnancy – but in all areas of life: work, family, friends, missions, finances, etc?

I think I can.  I am pretty sure I can.

And I have a God that says I can.

I think about the disciple Peter a lot.  The oldest of the disciples.  The one who Jesus regularly used as an example.

One day, the disciples were in a boat in the midst of a raging storm, and Jesus walks on water to them and quiets the storm.

Wanting to be just like his teacher – and believing bravely that he CAN be just like his teacher – Peter follows Jesus out onto the water.

And Peter walks on water.

Pastor Rob Bell points out that it is when Peter hesitates – when he lets fear creep in – when he stops believing in himself – that he starts to sink.

Pastor Bell points out that Jesus BELIEVED in Peter.

But Peter did not believe in Peter.

And I wonder, is God walking along side me telling me, “You CAN do this!”

And I am not failing at things because God didn’t answer a prayer or give me enough or teach me enough or instruct me enough: I have to own up to the fact that I might be failing because I don’t believe that I can do it.

God has already provided me with everything I could ever need.

Supplying the bravery is up to me.

God smells like grass

Walking out of work today, there was a smell on the air that smelled like summer and sunshine and softball and Saturdays at dusk.  It was the smell of grass.

I breathed the smell in deeply and I smiled.

If God had a smell, I think it would be fresh grass.

This has been a long winter.  I feel like last winter never ended and it just bled into this winter.

Maybe that says more about the emotional situations that Frank and I have been dealing with than the actual state of the weather around here.

But there was a peace in the air, sweet like the smell of the grass, that made me feel hopeful that while it has been rough, it is far from over.

The world will be new again.

sucks.

Sometimes things just suck.

In big, big ways.

My appointment with my OB triggered big anger in me tonight.

The appointment itself was fine, but the perceived injustice of this situation just exploded in my brain.

I swore and cried and yelled at God the whole way home.

Fortunately it’s not a long drive.

And it’s ok to be angry, and even to be angry at God.  He’s a big boy, and He can take it.

But at the end of all of my anger and frustration and fury at our situation, God quietly and calmly reminded me that I am His child.

I’m a little less angry.

That’s not to say that I’m not going to have bouts of anger about the situation.

But God can handle this.

the stories our lives tell

Donald Miller spoke at church Sunday. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, since unlike most of the world and my husband, I had not read Blue Like Jazz.

The thing is, and perhaps I hadn’t admitted this to even myself, I hadn’t expected to hear from God on Sunday. From the loss we experienced this week, I was still feeling a little alone and a lot sad. I didn’t think that God would speak to me. That he could speak to me.

The first thing that Donald Miller said was that basically God has a general purpose for us – that we would know Him and share His love – and that God helps us figure out our giftings and talents, but that if we are choosing between a becoming a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, that is pretty much our own decision.  It takes a lot of the “rightness” and “wrongness” out of the way that I sometimes look at those decisions. I am free to be me and to figure out who I am.  That was pretty cool (although, kind of a “duh” moment too).

Donald Miller spoke about stories and how our lives tell a story. That all stories are essentially about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

He said that what we want tells our story.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)

If we want material things, that is what our life story is about.  Some people choose to make their stories about pursuing the next best car, the next best fashion, etc.

His sermon made me take a step back from our loss this week and think about it in the context of a larger story. And it made me wonder about the story that Frank and I are telling: what is that bigger thing that we are constantly moving towards and wanting?

Where is our story going?

All along, one of the greatest things for Frank and I is that we’ve just wanted eachother. Time together. Every week is the saga of making, finding and fighting for time together. The greatest feeling for both of us is falling asleep together.  That is why, when Frank is gone, I just don’t sleep as well.  I have to talk myself into going to sleep.

For us, having children was not just the next logical step in our marriage, but over the progression of our fertility treatments and related successes and disappointments, we realized that having children was truly an extension of our love for eachother.

I remember when we were dating Frank texted me after an early morning flight and said, “looking at the sky, I realize that my love for you is even bigger than that.”

To be able to say that almost 8 years later that our love is bigger than it was when we first fell in love sounds almost ridiculous – how could that be? I can’t even believe that it is possible, and yet it is.

And it is the biggest desire of both of our hearts that this story that we started together would continue. That future generations would be blessed by this big love that we have for one another.

That is what helps us move forward.

There have been little signs and big signs in the past week that life goes on.  Just this weekend, the sun came out and the world warmed – spring is just around the corner.  I’m not totally convinced we won’t have one last blast of snow, but the worst of the winter is behind us.

It will get warm again.  The sun will shine.  Frank and I will go on long walks.  I am going to start running again.  (seriously – once I get the green light from the doc… more on this later)

The point is, even though it felt like life stopped for a while, it continued on for the rest of the world.  That’s what happens.

On the day I had my D&C, I woke up from a nap and made a few work related phone calls.  Nothing major.  The people I talked with had no idea what had just happened that day.  I took care of what I needed to and then I snuggled up against my husband.   It’s ok that those people don’t know what was going on with the girl on the other end of the phone, but as I was having the conversations, I thought, “how many times have I spoken with someone whose heart was breaking while we were speaking – and yet, I had no idea.”

And there is strange comfort in knowing that life continues on, even when my heart is broken.  Life continuing is God’s way of reminding me of a few things: first, that I will be ok and second, to be tender with all of His creation because I don’t know what kind of day or week or month someone else has had.

But most importantly: our story is not over yet.

small steps to feeling better…

So, as you can tell from my previous post, the recovery from the D&C hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.  There are a few *minor* side affects that are still working their way out of my system.

But in an effort to return to normal, Frank and I took a few steps towards feeling more normal.

First, we left the house.  Not that I haven’t left the house, but I’ve really only left in order to go to work or the grocery store.  I haven’t gone out on social visits, really.  So, first step was to visit my parents and see my sister’s new townhouse.  It was really nice.  I think it helped that the sun was shining and it was over 40 degrees. (side note: there comes a time in every winter that I think, “it will NEVER again be above 40!” and then, miraculously, it is above 40 degrees).

Then we went to get my oil changed on my car.  I know I should be better about changing my oil. I know that.  But for some reason, I have a mental block when it comes to changing my oil.  So a few hundred miles over the limit and a few *ahem* weeks over the date limit, my oil is changed and dear George (the name for my car) is a happy camper.

After the Midas adventure, we went to check out cars.  Not because we are buying a car right now, but because I like to see new, shiny cars.  We sat in a few vehicles, looked at a few certified used ones on the lot and then did the next thing that came to mind: we took a nap!

My dear friend Allison brought over some delicious baked mostaccoli – YUM!  We also stopped by Frank’s friend Jeff’s house for a Loser Party.  Yes, that’s right, a Loser Party.  Everyone who came received a “loser” ribbon and a take home gift of Easy Mac and canned Spaghettio type food.  Yum.

Such a typical Saturday, yet I felt the best that I’ve felt in a week.  And that is awesome.  Praise God for great Saturdays!