Forgo the Exclamation Point

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward; We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to get blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment. For those of us who rehearse tragedy, there’s a reason those images flood into our mind the second we’re overwhelmed with joy. When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can’t hold space open for the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure of joy.”

Eating out was a big deal in my family.  My dad worked the evening shift so it was just my mom, sister, and I for weeknight dinners.  Even though my mom worked full time she would make dinner at home, around the table every weeknight. Even if it was tuna noodle casserole.  Again.

I can vividly remember one of the rare weeknight splurges.  We were out later than usual – hanging around with mom at work while she finished up when it was decided that we would pick up food on our way home that night.

My sister and I had differing opinions.  I preferred Taco Bell, she wanted a local burger place.  I was so excited at the thought of going to Taco Bell that I left the most obnoxious phone message on our answering machine at home revealing my excitement.  I couldn’t help it! This was a big deal and I was ready to celebrate.

Although in my mind it was a done deal we did not end up at Taco Bell.  Lamenting the whole way home (I’m sure) we ended up at the burger joint.

And when we got home, I hid behind my bed in my room, mortified as they played the phone messages knowing that my overly-excited message would play next.

I was embarrassed.

I had let myself get my hopes up and when it didn’t happen I was crushed.

And for whatever reason, that memory claws its way out when exciting things might happen.

I leave the exclamation point off of events in my calendar just in case things don’t quite work out.

I don’t want to be the girl crossing it off later thinking, “Why did I let myself get so giddy about this? That’s so dumb.”

This happens with little things. And it’s laughable.

Not eating where you want to eat as a ten year old and pouting about it is not really that abnormal.

But I’ve realized that in some ways it’s almost a symptom of a deeper problem.

A vulnerability problem. 

I don’t want to be the girl hiding from embarrassment that she was too excited.

I’d rather shake my excitement off.
Pretending to not be.
So that in the end, if it doesn’t work out, I won’t be embarrassed.

There have been a lot of times in my life where life was good.
And I worried.
When will the other shoe drop?
What’s going to happen to my family or to my security or to myself?
This is too good.

And you know what?

I was right.

The other shoe dropped.

And then ten more dropped.

I lost things I wasn’t even preparing myself to lose.

So in my mind I had every right to worry.

I was preparing myself to feel grief.
I was trying to beat vulnerability to the punch.

There’s something deep inside of me that doesn’t like being vulnerable.

So I’m writing a few things with exclamation points.
Letting myself feel joy even when I might be disappointed in the end.
And mostly I’m dwelling on gratitude instead of rehearsing tragedy.

Someone I love says it like this, “Life is full of possibilities, not limitations.”

 

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A Few Questions for Your Thursday

I read this book a few weeks ago and the author asks some pretty great questions. (I know, I know…)

It wasn’t on my book list. It was in pure rebellion of my book list actually.

The middle of Jane Eyre is trying.

And this was a quick day’s read

Back to Jane soon enough though!

Ahem.

The questions…

What do I love?

What makes me angry? In other words, what makes me say, “Somebody should do something about that?”

What do I need to drop the “just” from to open myself up to the possibility that more is going on in whatever it is I do all day? (i.e. I’m just a teacher.)

What would it look like for me to approach tomorrow with a sense of honor and privilege, believing that I have work to do in the world, that it matters, that it’s needed, that I have a path and I’m working my craft?

What feeds my soul?

And my favorite, “Who are you to do this?”
This is a quote that the author turns into, “Who are you not to do this?”

Ok, one more quote, “You have your life. And your life is not her life. Or his life. And his life is not yours. Is there a way in which you’ve been asking , “What about them?” When the better question is, “What is that to you?” There will always be someone who’s smarter than you. There will always be someone with more raw talent than you. There will always be someone more experienced and better qualified and harder working and stronger and more articulate and more creative with more stamina who can sing better than you can. But who you aren’t isn’t interesting.”

Ok. I think that’s enough for today.

Yellow Wreaths and Health Insurance

My body is betraying me.

In more ways than one sometimes.
But lately, in its rebellion to nearing a quarter of a century, I awoke at 4:30 AM.

I tried lulling myself back to sleep by laying quietly.

Nothing.

Only thoughts of a sweet bungalow in one of our favorite neighborhoods with a perfectly cutesy blue front door.

This is Josh’s fault.

Normally I’m the one dreaming of bungalows, stalking them on Zillow, finding the one (albeit minute) detail that completely flaws the whole house rendering it useless to us. (“It’s not that we don’t have the money, it’s that those countertops are just ALL WRONG.)

But last night that man showed me the dreamy bungalow in one of our favorite neighborhoods with the perfectly cutesy blue front door and I did it.

I fell in love.

And at 4:30 AM I decided how wonderfully sweet that bungalow would look with a yellow flowered wreath on its door.

Which inevitably spiraled down to, “Well that’s not going to to happen. How are you going to afford a home when you’re not sure how to afford health insurance in a year? How are you going to have children if you don’t have health insurance? How are you going to have children when you will just have to drop them off at childcare for 80% of their day?” And so on and so forth.

There are a lot of things we have.

Healthy families.
(Reasonably) healthy bodies.
A place to call “our own” even if we are paying a landlord and not the bank.
Work we enjoy.
Friends and community to share joys and sorrow with.
Food in our cupboards and in our refrigerator.
(Reasonably) reliable transportation.

There are a lot of things we want.

Children.
And to be present in their lives.
A home.
Small is ok.
Travelling.
Internationally and around America.
A new bike.
Wait. That’s Josh’s.

So the fight for contentment and gratidude, while still working towards our goals continues.

Because sometimes it really does feel like a fight.
And you reason with yourself.
“There will be more dreamy houses in one of our favorite neighborhoods when the time is right.”

And sometimes you just get out of bed at 6:00 on a Saturday morning, adjust the dining room chair you’re using as a living room chair in the best position to see the sun come up through the classic sliding apartment window.

And sit with Scripture.

We have so much to be thankful for.

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^^This photo always sparks gratitude in my heart. Not because I was feeling especially grateful. Our “yard” is in the bleak brownness of winter and my husband is using a tiny grill on our front stoop which is an instant reminder of how long we’ve been in the same apartment. But I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for that tiny grill making some delicious hamburgers to share with my husband. I’m grateful even for this season of waiting and working.

 

In My Experience

Do not tell your husband that you’re sorry the chicken you have chosen does not look like chicken nuggets.

There’s always someone on your team. This is both good and bad.
Sometimes you’re wrong.

Tapping the ceiling with the broom handle is perfectly acceptable when you’re upstairs neighbors have woken you up at 2:00 in the morning with their yelling for the tenth time this month.
And not the angry kind of yelling I’m afraid.
My husband also says this is not ok.

 
Stop signing up for things you know you can’t commit to.
Josh and I survived a solid 2.3 days on Whole30.
We were not made for that business.
And have since adopted an 80/20 rule.

That’s Not for Me

Let’s get right to it:

Some days I doubt that God has good things in store for me.

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I look at women and their beautiful babies and marvel at the sweetness.

But there’s always a sub-layer of doubt.
This voice that says, “Isn’t that great? But that’s not how it’s going to be for you.”

I think the past year has shown me that God doesn’t owe me anything.

My family, husband, a functioning body, security, stability, and control over life in general are not mine.

I’m mixed up in the space between believing that God wants good things for me and that no one is guaranteed a healthy, easy life (or childbearing journey).

Perhaps our definition of “good things” is a bit off course.
Perhaps I overanalyze things.

“We often presume that trust will dispel the confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity to this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning)

Risk

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This week is Josh’s final week of undergraduate work.
The cap and gown are hanging in our bedroom.
The family arrives Thursday.

We’ve been in this awkward stage of life for almost three years where I’ve been out of school and he’s still a married college kid.  I’ve been at my “grown up” job for over two years and all the while he’s been at his college job.  That puts us in different, yet the same stages of life.

I’m settled.

He’s just on the cusp of a new reality.

The bias that our differing personalities bring punctuates those realities well.

His “college job” actually brings in a substantial portion of our income.
He’s seasoned, educated, and vital to that institution.

Yet the job also holds a lot of weight and stress that to be honest, Josh is really great at handling.

But it’s not what he’s passionate about.

So in true Morris fashion, this week has brought up lots of conversation (and number crunching) on what it looks like to pursue our passions.
It’s pretty safe to say that whatever his next job ends up being, it will mean a pay cut.

But it will also mean seeing my husband’s eyes light up with excitement.
Watching him squirm in his seat because he just can’t sit still.
Also, actually seeing my husband more than two days a week.

Hopefully it means an understanding and fair employer.
That work will be hard but good for him.

I’m not so good at risk myself.
With the option of risk or safety, I choose safety.
I’ll take the 9 to 5 desk job with a retirement plan, please.

But Josh is the complete opposite.
And I love that I get to be the one encouraging him to take the leap.

On Having Enough Faith

A young teenager, I sat on the couch with my mom, trendy magazine-styled Bible in hand as I proceeded to proclaim to her my new revelation. My parents had placed our home on the market.  The first home they bought as newlyweds and the only home my sister and I had ever known. They had put an offer on a house we all loved – down the street from our school, big rooms for each daughter, and a few blocks from a city park. Now all that’s left was for someone to sweep in an place an offer on our childhood home. “We just need to have enough faith!” I tell her.

It was so simple:
“…Have faith in God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.’ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, ad it will be yours.”

I believed it.
Probably then more than I would have now.
A decade of skepticism and life’s hardening have really worn down the simplicity of, “We just need to have enough faith!”

And that’s really hard to write.
It’s not what you’re supposed to say.
Everyone will tell you that.

And to make things even better – I still don’t have a neat and tidy explanation for Mark 11:20-25.

But it’s ok.

It’s actually a little bit refreshing to not have a neat and tidy answer.
To not be comfortable with God’s Word.
To have un-answered questions.

To trust God despite questions and pain and confusion.
To know that Jesus is what we hope for.
Not a sold house, or a new job, or even my family.

A sweet friend laid this book in my hands a few weeks ago and it has been facing all of my trust questions in a really painful but sweet way.

“We often presume that trust will dispel the confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity to this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Thankfully, the house didn’t sell.
Despite my deepest pleadings.

A Lesson in Progress Over Perfection from John Homer Bothwell

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This historic site near my hometown has interested me for years. Bestowed to the state of Missouri after his passing, attorney John Homer Bothwell constructed a spectacular lodge to share with an assortment of guests throughout the last half of his life. The motto, “Ye ornament of a house is ye guest who doth frequent it.” hangs above the music room to welcome his hundreds of visitors.  He was a fascinating and innovative man and walking through his lodge is like stepping into a ghostly scene from the early 1900’s.

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Growing up, the tour at Bothwell was a frequent stop for school field trips and family outings.  On this particular trip I had to smile as our tour guide described Bothwell’s woodworking blunders.  As a practical hobby he had constructed several pieces for the home that would rival a professional’s.  However, in his “basement” stood a few pieces that were of lesser quality.  The thought “progress over perfection” came to mind.  Even Bothwell fumbled. He fumbled quite a bit.  It was laughable the pieces he had created that leaned every which way with even an ounce of pressure.  Yet the revolving bookshelf he created as a bedside table is the essence of beauty, simplicity, and practicality.

He kept going.

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A day spent wandering through Bothwell’s many bedrooms, gazing at the impressive view from the bluff, and staring mesmerized at his impressive library collection will always be on of my favorite activities.

Plus, it holds a special place in my heart as it was the place where I saw Josh Morris for the first time on our wedding day.

Jesus, Give Me You Always

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My sweet mom ran to the grocery store for me while she was here last weekend and came back with these. She knows just how to brighten a dreary room. Love you always, mom.

Here is what I am really wanting to write:

“This year really sucked.”

Instead, I am pressing in.

That post may come.

Because really, this year was one for the books.
A year of change in many ways.

But today, well, tonight.
Because that’s when the fears always strike —

“Jesus, give me you always.”

After Jesus fed the 5,000 (and walked on water) he was talking with his disciples, irked with misguided motives. (John 6:22-40)

They wanted the sustainment, he wanted to give them the Sustainer.

His disciples ask, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?”
(Side note:  Recently, this has been my exact question.)

Jesus’ response?

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Then?

They said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus, give me you always.

And guys, his gifts are good!

I think of my husband, family, friends, house.
His constant provision for our daily needs.

But let me not be enthralled with his gifts, but with his presence.
With his nearness.

Jesus, give me you always.

Quiet

Things have been quiet around here lately.
Not real life quiet, just internet quiet.

Real life has actually been pretty loud.

Stressfully loud.

“There are so many things going on my life and I can’t handle it.” loud.

Family traveling for the first time out of the country.
A husband (who hasn’t gone to the doctor in years) having multiple doctor’s appointments to find out what’s making his stomach hurt.
Tough, but right work decisions that effect others.
And a grandparent diagnosed with brain cancer just weeks after my grandma passed away.

There’s a lot of tears.
A lot of asking, “Why God?”
And pressing in to Him even when I don’t “feel” like it.
A lot of saying, “Hard, but good.” when people ask how we are.
A lot of doing uncomfortable things, like sharing these struggles with others so that they can pray with and for us because I can’t do it alone.

Life is sweet.
And good.
But it’s not always easy.
And I’m not built to hold it inside and not share anything with others.

That’s what this year and this season of life is teaching me.

So, I don’t know what’s next.
But I’m trusting that the Lord knows.
And I’m pressing into Him.
Asking Him questions.
Telling Him that it hurts, although He already knows.
And trying my best to thank Him for all the sweetness.