Photo cred: Molly Townsend, my sister, queen of photography.
These are our babies, my sister's and mine - all spectacularly unique and still so little that they only know how to be - and make space for exactly who they are. My mom, in fact, overheard an interchange between Emily Ellen and Marilee a few months ago that still gets us tickled. They were coloring happily together until someone did something that escalated into the exchange of ugly words. They paused and Emily Ellen said to Marilee, "We should probably say we're sorry," to which my Marilee quickly replied, "I'm not sorry." At which point Emily Ellen responded, "I'm not either." And it was over. They went back to coloring. And while they may have some things to learn about apologizing when you don't feel like it, they also have some things to teach us about making space for each other. They had their tiff, said their junk aloud to one another, and then moved right along in their relationship with one another. They are so, so good at making room for each other's ugly, and I am just about smitten with it.
Can we just talk, for a minute, about how challenging it is to become the person we want to be? But seriously, I was just looking through my Evernote Notebooks (my husband just did a herkie because he has a SERIOUS Evernote crush) and found a note that I wrote in January. Not that many months ago. That I forgot existed. At all. It is a list of my goals for this year. It reads like this:
- Read through the New Testament with Calvary and journal via the FB page and Insta.
- Pray daily with purpose and passion - but most of all with persistence.
- Write daily for one hour.
- Pray and watch for next steps.
- Jog 1 mile 3 days/week.
- Work up in ab exercises 3 days/week.
- Work up in pull ups 3 days/week.
I have managed to sort of mostly keep up with the Calvary reading plan. The end. That is all.
I'm so good at list making and dreaming and feeling all the feelings. I'm so bad at list doing. There is more to this issue than just, "I mean - nobody keeps their New Year's resolutions." I am easily distracted by too many dreams, and I get all wrapped up in all my feelings. So many feelings and desires and passions.
"Sometimes I have big feelings where big feelings are not needed." - Michal Lynn TweedieAnd so this becomes the issue for us dreamers. To step out of the dream world long enough to live in the real one. To put the feelings aside in order to take up the task at hand. But lists like that one up there - they are valuable, because now I remember. I remember what I set out to do in 2017, and 2017 ain't over, baby. Maybe I'll go for a jog tomorrow. Maybe you can ask me about it? Maybe I'll journal a little better about what God is teaching me through personal Bible Study. Maybe you can ask me about that, too?
Together is, in my experience, the hardest and also the most sure-fire way to get to the place you want to be.
If you're married - or really even if you are not - chances are God has put someone in your life who is the opposite of you. The very, exact opposite. I hung out with a new friend last week who expressed how very not-feely she is and how it slap wears her out when women pour out and swim in all their feelings. I giggled and shared with her that my propensity is, in fact, to BE one of those women - except that I have learned that my feelings can either be drowning agents or tools for growth. The first is what they are when I let them guide my life. The latter is what they are when I choose to look for what (or who) they are pointing me to. She later shared that sharing her "junk" in front of people is a hard thing for her. I love, love this about both of us. Can you see it? How our struggles and strengths actually complement each other?!
I have to tell you that Josh and I are struggling to muddle through how we can complement and not crush each other. We've been married for nearly twelve years, and we are so different than we were a decade ago. But our personalities are the same as they were - different as ever. Last night we had a big word vomit fest where we just laid it all on the table - everything we're muddling through. And apart from Jesus, it seems impossible to love each other well. That's the truth. But with Jesus, with Him - only Him - He can lead us both to Evernote (herkie #2) at the same time to sort out what we are thinking and feeling. Me in a coffee shop. Josh in a meeting room. And we can giggle wildly when we share our notes because his is in detailed bullet list form and mine is in the shape of a very pretty, wordy few paragraphs that reads half like a prayer and half like a journal entry.
My point is this - God has all sorts of ways of refining us - and I've come to learn that it's almost entirely through relationships. When we run into a person who challenges us, who forces us to think a little differently, who asks hard questions, who disagrees with us - what do we do? Do we run? Do we shut down? Or do we bravely, boldly say, "You. I choose you because walking alongside you will make me more like Jesus, more whole, more changed." Do we dare to be exactly who we are while blending lives with the ones who are not like we are, but are seeking to love Jesus like we are?
Gosh, I hope so. Because this is the body of Christ. Saying it hurts when it hurts. Asking about the run or the sin or the dream. Making space for feelings even when they aren't needed but loving a person too much to let them be led by their feelings instead of God's loving, disciplining Word and guiding Spirit. Making space for bullet lists even when they're boring but loving a person too much to let them be led by their doing instead of God's gracious, freeing Word and guiding Spirit. This is part of the richness of following Jesus alongside all the other ones who are following Him. It's messy and hard but He's using us to move each other toward wholeness, friends! Let's not miss it.