Winter Ends (I Promise)

Okay, okay, so this post popped up on my Facebook feed as a memory from 5 years ago. No I didn’t scour my site for a good one to re-post this week, it just fell into my lap and I took it as a sign. That I didn’t have to do anything. 🙂 And also that maybe this was a great time for this reminder.

This year’s a little different, at least here in Kansas. Easter brought snow and sleet and, therefore, an indoor egg hunt. The signs of life and warmth that usually serve as hiding places for eggs in our yard – the tulips, the daffodils, the green stems of day lilies not yet in bloom – were coated in ice rather than sunshine. Boo. Not my idea of the hope that Easter and spring usually provide.

But the sermon I heard at church spoke to this very tension. The waiting. The taut pull of a rope just before it snaps. The hebrew words that we translate to “hope” in English which mean so much more than “Gee, I sure hope we eat spaghetti for dinner.”

So I still wait. For warmer temperatures and the grass seed in my yard of mud to sprout. This essay was a good reminder of what I have to look forward to. The beautiful things to come…

Winter Ends

May They Dream Big

Today feels heavy. Like this scarf I’m wearing is full of bricks. But I refuse to let that feeling win.

I say today is a day for dreamers. As our new President is inaugurated, I am choosing hope over fear. Because I must. I want to scream, and maybe I will for a bit, inside my house, as a lamentation of what we have become. But then I will take several deep breaths, let my blood pressure drop a notch, and remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Today is a wrenching disappointment for many, but it is not the end.

I say bring on the dreamers.

We had a family double feature last weekend consisting of La La Land and Selma. Two disparate films, but with one important commonality. One is a bittersweet tale of chasing dreams, of fantastical and lovely head-in-the-clouds romanticism. And the other is a hard-to-take portrayal of a different kind of dream, and a struggle that seems so apropos in our current reality. Both are relevant. Both point to the way to handle Right Now.

After the increasingly combative election, and it’s aftermath which we all had hoped would settle the tension but instead ratcheted it up twelve notches, La La Land was like breathing again. The opening scene of joy-despite-obstacles (both literal (an L.A. traffic jam) and metaphorical (breaking into Hollywood)) made me smile so big my face hurt. It was needed, cinematic medicine. It was an escape from reality. But it also touched on deeper questions of dream-chasing. What is sacrificed in the effort? What about when the dream seems to have died?

And when they let you down
You get up off the ground
And it’s another day of sun


Selma is about dream-chasing too, though King’s dream was a loftier, more altruistic vision of the future by far. Clearly. The movie dives down into the grit of those days in Selma, Alabama without a hint of romanticism. King wasn’t a perfect person, and the film doesn’t pretend so. But it shows both his moral and strategic motivations for non-violent protesting. It gives life to that movement that is still so relevant today. Especially today. It was a lot for my younger ones to handle. But it seemed important. It seemed essential, as learning about history always is.

Many of my friends are headed to Washington D.C. this week to participate in the Women’s March. I thought of going but in the end decided against it. For many reasons, none of which is disagreement. Their tangible effort to express a belief in the rights of all those marginalized in our society echoes those of decades earlier. And it echoes my own heart. People are people, we have the same hurts and fears, we all bleed and love our friends and get sad when someone says we don’t count. These truths have been instilled in me since I was a child and I hold on to them today.

I go back and forth in my mind about how to handle our current reality in America. About what exactly I can and should do. Where my energies will be best spent. How I can be one of the helpers rather than merely a critic of everything I don’t like. How to be for things instead of against them, as a rule. I spend time thinking of this because it matters. Because I want to use my life well. On behalf of others, not just myself. But how to do that is the sometimes overwhelming question. Especially in the face of big obstacles.

I also believe in picking my battles. Because if everything is a fight with me, eventually nothing I do or say will be taken seriously. If I yell at my kids all the time, the yelling becomes normal and completely ineffective. If I only yell when something really awful is going on, my kids take notice. They feel the importance of the moment, of what I’m yelling about. The same goes for life in general. The squeaky wheel only gets the grease when the squeaking is out of the ordinary. What, then, do I squeak, or yell, about?

One battle I am determined to fight: teaching my children about empathy. It’s a battle of daily decision. Of impressing upon them our equality with everyone else and imagining what it must be like to be that other person. After watching half of Selma the girls were getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth and arguing about who touched whom with lotion on her hands. One felt offended at the other’s (moisturizing) assault. It was the perfect teaching moment.

“Can you imagine what it must have felt like for the people marching for their right to vote? They didn’t even have the power to choose their leaders. And then they were hit and kicked and yelled at. It must have felt awful. And they didn’t fight back; they were peaceful. That must have been so hard.”

They stopped and thought. I watched the wheels turning. They got it, in whatever nine and five year old ways they could. One more step toward an empathetic world view. And one small thing I could do.

Which brings me back to La La Land. Some will surely be angry at my comparison of a movie about privileged, white kids trying to make art, and one about poor, black people fighting for their rights. And if I were saying they were equally important in the span of history, that would be fair. But they’re both about dreams – not letting them die. One can assist the other.

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles…
Here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make


Here’s to my friends marching this weekend in D.C.

And here’s to raising up the next generation of dreamers.

May they dream big.


Inspiration to help the dreaming…

A portion of Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here” speech

Night Has Passed lyric video, The Brilliance


Finally, Hopefully, Eventually

My brother’s dear friend, whom he’s known since he was a child, died this weekend. He was 38 years old.

That sort of thing makes you stop and ask some big questions. It makes you sad and mad and confused and thankful, in waves. Like a spotlight, it reveals all that’s good and bad in glaring, brilliant relief. And for me, it makes Christmas, surrounded by family and pointing to a man who loved in total sacrifice, an even more welcome celebration of hope.

This fall I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in a Bible study. And let me be real here: I’ve been confused. I’ve read the Bible before (yep, the whole thing, more than once), but this year I’m looking at it through a more questioning lens. There are many reasons for this, but one is the simple belief that if my faith can’t stand up to questioning, to a deep, thoughtful wrestling match, it’s not very strong at all. I’m not interested in faith that ignores the mess of life. That puts up a wall against uncomfortable uncertainties. I want to meet those questions head-on.

As I’ve read this telling of the God of the Hebrews and pushed and pulled with my understanding of it, I’ve had to throw some things into the simmering pot of pondering. Stuff that needs more time to reveal it’s true flavor and depth. One fabulous take-away I’ve had is that God is not worried about right-this-second as much as eventually. He is not rushed, he is not restrained by our sense of time. So I’m trusting in the process and in eventually. I’m trusting that I’ll understand those simmering questions when I need to, rather than today. A friend recently said that my writing is like a crock pot – I have to throw ingredients in my brain and let it cook for a long while before the timer goes off and the dish (the essay in my case) is ready. So I suppose this idea of simmering is fine with me, by nature. I like it, in fact.

As the books of the Old Testament have simmered on the stove, they’ve given off an aroma of despair. If you have not read, say, the book of Judges before, it is full to the brim of sadness and scandal and bad choice upon bad choice. There’s a reason you don’t see inspirational verses on Facebook from Judges. It chronicles a pretty terrible stretch of time, and it, along with so many other books of the OT make you long for a reprieve from the violence and misery. And then comes Isaiah, the prophet, like a spark in the deep darkness, promising light. After hundreds of pages of human dysfunction, you actually sigh with relief to read “…for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Finally. Your shoulders drop, your back loosens and you feel the goodness of this news.

The questions remain, but even in the questioning over what exactly is meant by certain passages, even in the confusion about how the God of the Old Testament meshes with the God of the New, I’m left with something I do know with certainty. And that is my experience. These lines from a song by Housefires whittle it down to what I do not question:

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night

And you tell me that you’re pleased

And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father

It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are

And I’m loved by you

It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

I do not doubt this. No matter if I view the Bible from a Calvinist perspective, or a Wesleyan one, or from the point of view of the mystics, I know what I’ve heard in the dead of night (both metaphorically and in real-time). And this Christmas I celebrate that. It is more than enough.

Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show and podcast On Being, wrote something recently that felt like the crock pot timer going off, with a megaphone attached. An excellent summation of the glory and beauty of what we happen to celebrate on the 25th…

There is something audacious and mysterious and reality-affirming in the assertion that has stayed alive for two thousand years that God took on eyes and ears and hands and feet, hunger and tears and laughter and the flu, joy and pain and gratitude and our terrible, redemptive human need for each other. It’s not provable, but it’s profoundly humanizing and concretely and spiritually exacting.

She does not buy in to the gift-giving and capitalization of Christmas. I, on the other hand, love the gift-giving and all the hubub leading up to the birthday celebration of this God-become-man. So on this we differ. In fact, I’m about to drop everything non-essential to life (Do we need to eat? Yes. Do we need clean clothes? Pretty much. Do I need to blog? Nope.) to prepare for my favorite holiday. But we agree on this: that our celebration is not silly. It is not about Santa. It is not even about bubble bread, though that is a staple of Christmas morning at the Havener house. It is about the creator of the universe (the multi-verse, whatever we discover in time) sending love to the world in human form and all that means for us. It does not erase the sadness over loss of life. It does not answer all my questions in an instant or “fix” all the world’s ills today. But it points to eventually. The hope of eventually, which makes today better.

Merry Christmas, readers. Here’s to wrestling with questions, simmering pots of uncertainty, finally and hopefully and eventually. May they all bring you joy this holiday.


The Wounds That Bind

I wanted to write about anything other than the election this week. Maybe my kids. My marriage. A fabulous song I want to share. The change of seasons. Anything but the elephant in the room.

But my heart still feels a bit raw more than a week after the election. I thought that once the actual voting was finished we would feel a collective, national release of tension, but obviously that was wishful thinking. It seems blaringly clear now that whoever won, it would have been a difficult transition for our country, since half of us feel one way and half feel another. A drastic split down the middle – at least according to those of us who voted. Sadly, we’ll never know what the rest of our countrymen/women wanted. We’re left with the reality of a jagged tear in the fabric of our country. Not a clean cut, even, but a fraying, ragged mess of threads that must somehow be patched together if we want it to be one nation again.

The first step to healing is what is always the first step: empathy. To see the humanity even in our enemies. To actually go so far as to imagine what it feels like to be another person. It takes work. It takes stopping for a moment and considering. Playing pretend – with more significant ramifications than it had in our back yards as kids. It’s crucial to knowing how to respond to others. Even in our anger, even if we believe it’s righteous anger, we must take care in our reactions.

I know some will find fault in this way of thinking. Fight power with power. Don’t back down. We can’t let the bad guys win. And there is certainly a place for self-defense. Super Man and Captain America are heroes for a reason: they fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Against those wanting only to harm. But most people aren’t out to harm everyone, but rather, acting out of what they view as self-defense. If we can understand what they are defending, we can work toward changing their views. It takes longer than striking out, and sometimes there’s not time for time (i.e. the Holocaust).  But I believe that empathy is powerful. It changes hearts – yours and, like a benevolent virus, others’. It’s even logical – if you want to change something for the long haul, you make it attractive. Forcing others to agree never, ever works. Appealing to their interests and, eventually, their humanity does.

A song by the band The Brilliance says it like this…

When I look into the face

Of my enemy

I see my brother

I see my brother


Forgiveness is the garment

Of our courage

The power to make the peace

We long to know

Open up our eyes

To see the wounds that bind

All of humankind

May our shutter hearts

Greet the dawn of life

With charity and love

Being known for what you are for rather than what you are against will do wonders. On both sides. If you are for small government, get involved with or help support charities that solve the problems you don’t think the government should. Help your church house homeless people, or feed the poor, or support women with unwanted pregnancies. If you are for civil rights, get involved with or help support organizations that work toward them, or peacefully march in favor of something, or write on your blog to promote a way of thinking. We tend to think that little actions don’t matter. But the whole of history is built on small action upon small action – one moment plus one moment.

I’m starting here: writing this post. Then I’m going to write a meager-but-something check to Family Promise of Lawrence, KS. Then I’m calling my state representatives about a few things. Then I’m showing my son the movie Selma.

And most importantly, I’m going to try to remember that empathy rules the day. Each day. Even right now, when everything feels out of control and the us and them mentality is so rampant. Even if I’m not given the same respect and thoughtfulness. It’s a decision to act this way. It’s the harder route. But it can effect actual change-of-heart, which is the end goal. Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, my grandfather have all been examples of this. Love your enemies. Even pray for them. It’s so awfully hard, but so very worth the deep breaths it takes.

May we have this sort of empathy toward those with whom we disagree. Even those who seem the enemies of everything we are for. It’s a challenge – for me and for you. For all of us.

To see the wounds that bind

All of humankind.




Now watch this to get the song’s full effect…The Brilliance – Brother


A Mental Kick in the Pants

While looking at girls underwear at Target on Wednesday I saw something that stopped me in the aisle. A woman was walking with an older woman.  A mother and daughter it appeared. They were doing laps on the perimeter of the store, a favorite pastime for many people of older age: no obstacles for slower reflexes to work around. No issues with temperature and humidity. A seasonless, safe space to get legs moving. I’ve seen this often before, and I must say I’ve never thought it looked fun. But on this day, something was different. The two women were holding hands.

They walked and talked. And held hands all the way around. I watched for them as they lapped me in my hunt for girls soccer shorts, and I thought “That’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve seen all week.” They both seemed calm and content. The younger woman (fifties, maybe) didn’t seem anxious to leave and get on with the good part of her day; the older woman (70s or 80s) seemed glad, but not desperate, for her company. Maybe the younger woman held hands to offer balance to the older, maybe it was just a tangible form of connection, of expressing “I want to be here with you.” In either case, it was lovely. And I stopped and stood and watched for a long moment. It was instant, the smack-in-the-face beauty of the image. I wanted to take a picture, but that seemed weird. So I took one mentally and locked it away for safe keeping.

I happened to watch an AARP video on Facebook today – a friend had linked to it and it sparked my interest. When I clicked and watched, it sparked more: inspiration about living life until it’s gone. About the value of age, the worth of older people in our society, the importance of connection.

I fear old age, to be honest. Of becoming irrelevant to people, of the breakdown of my body and mind, of watching life go by without being able to participate in any meaningful way. But this video reminded me that “old” is more about your mindset. The body and mind might slow, but we can do some things to lessen those effects: eat well, stay limber, learn new things, and most of all, decide to remain in the mix. A 75-year-old man named George in the video summed it up: “When people start stopping, that’s when they start getting old.” I want to keep going. Even if it has to be in the climate controlled, sidewalk-crack-free aisles of Target. And if someone will love me enough to hold my hand while I’m going slowly, so much the better.

So much.

That daughter, in her calm, relaxed “I’m totally here” way was loving the heck out of the older woman.

Oh, that I would do that for someone, and that someone would do that for me someday.

Note-to-self taken. I’m keeping that image close to heart, and I’m putting George’s quote on a sticky note in my kitchen. A reminder to never start stopping; a kick in the pants to keep on going.

I need a kick in the mental pants sometimes.


The AARP video, for your entertainment and inspiration:

Happy Regrouping

You might have noticed I’ve been gone a while. There are a plethora of reasons: sick kids, sick me, days off of school, and more of the same, but the deeper reason for the long absence from posting to my blog is I’ve had nothing to say. I’ve tried. The few chances I’ve gotten I’ve sat for my allotted three-hours-minus-travel-time-from-preschool-to-Starbucks-and-back and written crap. Or nothing at all. Which in itself is depressing. But there wasn’t much to be done since I can’t apply the often touted writer’s rule “write every day.” My rules are more like “shower every other day,” and “get some sort of exercise,” and “don’t let the laundry start overflowing out of the laundry room.” I do fairly well at these.

It’s hard to say exactly why the drought in well-formed and interesting thoughts occurred – perhaps February is cursed, maybe I just don’t do winter well, or it could be the fact that my thyroid had decided to take a break from it’s busy schedule. But luckily, the drought has passed and I had a glimmer of an idea today. Thank you March, spring, functioning thyroid.


I was recently waiting for several days on some test results that could have been bad news. Thankfully, I received good news instead. But the space between not knowing and knowing gave me a new swath of gray hair. I tried to stay calm, aware that worrying about the unknown accomplishes nothing but stress dreams and intestinal problems, but waiting is not my forte. It is one of my many nemeses (cold feet, hunger and relational conflict being others). I prayed. I breathed deeply. I exercised. But worry crept in and took over a number of welcoming folds in my brain. It found a comfy home next to the concern over finances, unmade summer plans, whether Mae will deal well with all day kindergarten next fall. Fretfulness takes up a lot of the spots in there. This, too, worries me. If my brain is filled with anxiety is there room for anything else? Maybe that’s why I can never remember what it was I needed at the store.

And then there is our current political climate in America. I would describe it as scorching fire and wind swirling from the mouths of those with bitterly cold hearts. I don’t even think that’s being dramatic. All of which gets me riled to the point of heart palpitations and makes it clear that this has got to stop. Worry is getting me nowhere but down.

So I employed a tried and true coping mechanism. I put on my headphones. I found my new musical obsession on Spotify and with the first line came down a notch on the stress scale.

Foy Vance is an anomaly: an Irish guy with a penchant for American blues and soul. He is one of the best songwriters I’ve heard in a long time. And he has a raspy, world-weary voice that sounds like coming home on a cold day and wrapping up in a wool blanket – a little scratchy but warm and cozy and absolutely welcome. I’m soaking up his live album these last few days and I find it calming me, inspiring creativity, and hinting at the beauty that does still exist the world even if our own presidential candidates are making it uglier by the day.

For example. In his song Be, My Daughter I hear the wisdom of the ages, resembling the words of Ecclesiastes, but with a modern, personal take. He wrote it while on tour, after a difficult Skype session with his daughter who was back at home. Another girl was treating her badly at school and he penned a song in response to her worry. An admonition to simply be. It’s just lovely…

There’s a time to talk about it

A time to live it up

A time to sit in silence


A time to cry about it

A time to laugh it up


A time for stillness in the water

Be, my daughter


There’s a time to shout about it

A time to bottle up

A time for all time to be over


A time to think about it

A time to give it up


A time to burn up every altar

Be, my daughter


Tomorrow morning you’ll be slowly waking up

And I”ll be far across the water

But I’ll send reminders against the times it gets too tough

Be, my daughter


There’s a time to want a love

A time to need a friend

A time to put your hurts behind you


A time to chew it over

A time to make amends


You remember that time my baby jumped and daddy caught her

Be, my daughter

Be, my daughter


As a parent, I hear the kind guidance, the wise direction to be still, the reminders of his love. And as a person of faith I hear God’s voice saying the same to me. This is exactly my view of his love for us. If you think that’s bunk, well alright. Sometimes I simply can’t hold it in. I hope you can see the joy and stillness in the song. I hope it makes you smile, and think, and be.

I’m choosing to think about this for a while instead of all the worries. Trump will still be on every news outlet tomorrow.

There’s a time to enter the fray and a time to retreat. A time to engage in the madness and a time to regroup. Happy regrouping, everyone.


(Here’s the song, so you can come down on the stress scale, too:


On Paper

Relationships are so damn hard.  All kinds.  Every day.  It’s exhausting.

I can’t think of one relationship with a human being (I’ve never been that mad at a dog) that hasn’t involved tension at the least and heartbreak at the most.  In love, in friendship, even in acquaintance (though lessened) the opportunity to be hurt exists.  If you looked at it through the lens of pure pessimism, or self-preservation, or in weary defeat, interaction with other people would seem ridiculous.  A futile and even damaging endeavor.  From the just-touching-the-surface discomfort of miscommunication to the violent wrenching open of your heart, letting pain and hollowness pour in simultaneously, human contact is absurd on paper.

And then there’s the untouchable, indescribable, incalculable other side.  The part where your heart stops with joy.  Where you swear death-by-happiness is a thing.  Where a friend writes you a birthday card full of the right words that couldn’t be more tailor-made and you remember why you shouldn’t give up.  Or when the man you love hugs you tight in response to your snarky, hateful comment and you get a glimpse of mercy that you wouldn’t know if you retreated into yourself for good.  Or your blue-eyed four-year-old says with a lisp that she’ll take care of you when you’re old and your heart gets soft and open and ready to love the whole world in response.  This loving stuff.  This caring about others.  This willingness to be vulnerable despite how it looks on paper is actually worth every ounce of effort.  I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  Welcome to being homo sapiens.

Yes, if you looked at if from an evolutionary point of view, relationships have helped us stay alive, create communities, thrive better than we technically could as singular people.  Let alone the propagation of the species.  On paper it does seem scientifically sound to relate with others.  But science can’t put love on paper.  It can measure brain waves and how they change due to circumstances, how chemicals and hormones can affect the way we think and feel, how brain injury can make us completely different people.  But there has never been a scientific study that explains sacrificial love.  The act of putting another’s needs above your own.  And I would argue that loving people is a sacrificial act in general if it is really love at all.  That relationships take mercy, overlooking wrongs, or dealing with them head-on in a way that is uncomfortable at best, in order to continue for a lifetime.  Which is exactly how long I want to know my favorite people.

So this is how I choose to live.  To end my days knowing that what looked like a bad move on paper – setting myself up for pain by investing in other, jacked-up humans and not giving up on the whole thing – was energy and tender heart well-spent.  Even if it got bruised along the way.  Even if it’s wilted and used up at the end.  I plan to wring it out for every last drop of affection and call it a day.  Hanging around a few, equally beat up souls who chose the same hard-but-worth-it way of life.  Drinking tea and margaritas and reading and writing and watching movies together.  And laughing.  Always laughing, with our worn out lungs and our knees that don’t bend and our hunched over backs.  And I’ll head into the everafter having tasted, just slightly, the goodness of the love that is to come.  All because I decided way back when that the way things look on paper doesn’t always matter.

When I’m buying a house, yes.

When I’m giving away bits of my heart, not so much.

“Good luck with that,” you might say.  And I’ll reply, “Luck is for those waving cats.  I’ve decided.  It’s as simple and super-hard as that.”

Everyday Days

I had a hard time letting go of Christmas.  And I’m having to talk myself into facing the new year.

As I sat in Christmas Eve service, in the very back because we are always, always late, I had a view of the entire sanctuary full of fellow human beings, singing hymns I’ve known since before I could sing along.  My back row seat forced perspective on the experience.  Our inability to arrive on time was good for once.  This familiar, happy tradition was working it’s magic on me.  There was no place I would have rather been.  Even Hawaii.  It was warm, the lights were low, the excitement of present giving and getting was in the air.  But beyond all of the comfort of tradition, beyond the good feelings floating around the room, this was a solemn celebration of something greater.  Of the very hook on which my life hangs.  The fact that I got to share it with others who agree was sweet icing on the cake.  This was what all the hype is about.  

Then Christmas Day – the intense joy of giving my family gifts they will love.  One of my favorite ways to spend a morning.  Then good food with my people.  Remembering who made any and all of his possible.  Just. The. Best.

And after all the anticipation, the preparations, the world lit up with twinkly lights in shared revelry – it was over.  The let-down, for me, was heavy.  “Only 87 days until Easter,” Luke said cheerily a few days later.  Which fell with a thud on my heart.  I saw the expanse of cold, dreary winter before me and wanted to get in bed.

Not surprisingly, as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away and I had turned to face the next few months, my desire to travel kicked in.  It always does this time of year.  The internet conspires and sends emails about all the trips I can get – to Europe and the Carribbean and Mexico – for a steal right now.  Clicking on them and scrolling endlessly while I should be folding laundry is my addicted response.  It’s hard to decipher how much of the this is a good, natural longing to explore and how much is me trying to escape reality – the source of all addiction, though travel is less detrimental to my health than others I could choose.  Marc does not have this addiction/virus/inborn personality trait, so he can’t relate.  And he gave me a taste of my own medicine the other day – one of those times when your spouse tells you something you don’t like, to which you react poorly but later realize was wise and worth taking to heart.  He reminded me of the strategy of self-talk.  I preach this all the time.  Reminding yourself of what is true – in this case that we have a great family, a lovely home in which to spend time, that winter doesn’t last forever, that life isn’t only about excitement and things to anticipate.  Yep.  All true.  He was right.

So, I’m taking my own advice.  I’m telling myself what I need to hear to move into these next few months of wintery blah with, hopefully, contentment.  Maybe even happiness.  And I’m going to remind myself that the hook on which my life hangs doesn’t disappear when the twinkly lights are packed away.  The fanfare is gone – the everywhere and communal reminders aren’t present to help me – but these are the moments of truth.  The regular, everyday days that are full of smaller, less flashy hopes and joys.  When you have to look harder for them.  In the way your kids play a board game and giggle and grow a touch closer.  In the blessed warmth of long underwear and good slippers.  In your four-year-old’s desire to nuzzle noses.  In hot green tea and a scone, in your husband’s blue eyes, in a God who is not fickle like you.  In a new year to start small.  To go back to the basics and let that be enough.

So here’s to a new year and all it will be – big and small, flashy and simple, amazing and ordinary.  And the ability to appreciate every bit.


Weary World

I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain song, and how it applies to the world of late.  It’s the perfect song to think about this Christmas season.  I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a collective sadness over the state of the world these days.  No matter what side of the aisle you call your own (or neither, like me).  ISIS, racism, refugees, climate, mass shootings, terrorism, politics.  Yuck.  And then there’s my own heart, which consistently lets me down.  Pride, jealousy, anger, selfishness, a tendency to get grumpy when my kids all talk to me at once.  Again, yuck.

But as I approach Christmas, I want to get outside all of that.  I want to see above the madness of the world.  Behind it, around it.  Take a breath and get perspective on what truly matters.  And when I ponder that, I land exactly where Ben Rector does…


I used to think I needed all the answers

I used to need to know that I was right

I used to be afraid of things I couldn’t cover up

In black and white


But I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy

And I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here

That we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more

Like love


I find the farther that I climb

There’s always another line

Of mountain tops

It’s never going to stop

And the more of anything I do

The thing that always ends up true

Is getting what I want

Will never be enough


So I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy

I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here

That we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more

Like love

Like love


Ben Rector has a boyish, yearning voice, but a lot more wisdom than his years warrant.  It’s a lovely notion, to look more like love.  Imagining everyone has a picture they carry around that represents them, and thinking what mine might look like sometimes…well, it’s not always love.  But if it was, or if it could be, even a little bit more, what a fabulous thought.  And then if everyone else’s picture looked like love, too…wow.  That’s the whole reason we celebrate a little baby this month.  It’s why he came.  To tell the world about the author of love and help us find a way to Him.  So people can look more like love themselves.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

A weary world.  Check.  A thrill of hope.  Yes, please.

So here’s my song for the month of December.  Listen to it (More Like Love) because it sounds even better than the lyrics alone imply.  May it point to the “new and glorious morn” that has broken.  May it affect change in the way we handle the surrounding madness.  And may we rejoice this Christmas.

Even in the midst of our weary world.



Secret Heart

Marc and I had a decent sized fight last week – big and frustrating enough to actually make me at a loss for words.  You can ask him – that doesn’t happen much.  Words are my forte.  They flow from my mouth like a rushing river when I’m upset, my arguments clearly outlined in my mind almost instantly.  It’s a strange and mostly unhelpful skill since I’m neither a lawyer nor a politician.  My kids don’t use logic, so it’s of no use in that realm.  And I’m pretty sure Marc loathes my undefeated debate record from high school.  But I can’t help it.  I’m wired to present my case, defend my case, and end with a lengthy closing argument.  In this instance, however, I was so angry, feeling so hopeless, I just gave the hell up.  Whatever.  That was my closing argument.  That’s when you know things are bad – when you’re beyond mad, beyond furious, all the way to I don’t give a damn.

I saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few days later.  It was my fourth Lyle Lovett concert (I knew almost every word to almost every song), but the first time I’ve seen John Hiatt.  I’ve long appreciated Lyle Lovett’s gift of phrase-turning – his ability to be both funny and poignant in the same breath.  But I realized that John Hiatt is a master wordsmith, too.  Lyle has a creamy voice that sinks into your bones and a sweet, light touch on the guitar, so it’s easy to hear the words that sit on top.  In contrast, Hiatt’s gruff voice and hard-strumming guitar mask his wisdom.  But it’s under there, and worth digging for.

I sat in the fourth row, so close it was like being in a living room watching the two of them banter casually, each playing his favorite songs for a friend.  My proximity gave the lyrics a weight and immediacy they wouldn’t carry if heard from the back of a large theater.  When Hyatt sang what I’ve always thought of as his cliche song Have a Little Faith in Me,  I heard its’ cut-to-the-bone truth and how it applied to us.


An’ when your secret heart

Cannot speak so easily

Come here darlin’ from a whisper start

Have a little faith in me

An’ when your back’s against the wall

Just turn around an’ a you will see

I’ll be there, I’ll be there to catch your fall

So have a little faith in me

Cause I’ve been loving you for such a long time, baby

Expecting nothing in return

Just for you to have a little faith in me

You see time, time is our friend

‘Cause for us there is no end

All you gotta do is have a little faith in me


It’s a simple idea – don’t give up on me – but what a nice way to say it.  My secret heart could not speak.  My secret heart was pissed, and confused, and forlorn.  But the song says Remember who you’re dealing with here.  He’s not your enemy.  He’s your partner.  And this is forever.  You catch his fall and he’ll catch yours.  

It’s extremely cheesy, but I made Marc sit and listen to it.  And I had him follow along with the lyrics as the song played.  Yep.  I’m not joking around with this making-my-marriage-work thing.  I won’t settle with biding our time until a better day comes along.  I’m all-in, and that takes effort.  It takes sitting down with the lyrics of a song written by a love-embattled writer, with experience in the area of relational strife, and paying attention.  Whatever is no good.  Trusting that we’re on the same team, having faith in each other to catch our mutual fall is better.  Under John Hiatt’s scruffy vocals is hard-won wisdom, and I’m willing to listen.  Luckily, so is Marc.

I’m not dumb enough to think that a song is going to change everything.  The lyrics aren’t magical.  The tune tugs at the heart but it won’t save us when we’re beyond angry.  Which will happen again.  But the right words can point me in the right direction.  A well-written paragraph, or sentence, or phrase can stick with me forever and help shape my perspective.  Shakespeare has advised me.  Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.  So has Paul the Apostle.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  And now, so has John Hiatt.  Next time my own words won’t come I’ll remember this song.  And refuse to simply give up.  And have faith that Marc is my ally even when it doesn’t feel that way.

Here’s to the beautiful, difficult odyssey of marriage.   And to to all the writers who help along the way.