These Are My Confessions

If we’re being honest (and we always are) I did not forget about you or my desires/intentions to pen you heartwarmingly honest essays on marriage; faith; the benefits of coffee, nonstick pans, or butter, etc.; or my cat (I actually truly have a half-typed post lingering somewhere in my email about my cat so…stay tuned.) But if we’re being honest, I have approx. one million and one things to do all the time, and you’d better believe that those things include (but are not limited to) stalking people on Instagram, having my feet massaged (marriage!), talking to Caleb about how awesome Scout is, and running out of butter. But also work and making sure my eyelids have slipped shut each night by no later than 9:17 p.m. (I kid you not. Last night we stayed at small group until close to 10 and this morning I almost started in on a big whine session because I was SO TIRED but Caleb saw it coming and started massaging my feet to offset it.)

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Anyway, in this new and bustling season (as they say), I thought I’d get it together and give you what I can give. I’m calling these confessions because I just used my last ounce of creative pickle juice making a magazine, but if you can think of something wittier, I’m open to suggestions.

We actually go to bed by 9 every night. In case you thought I was kidding.

Every morning, Scout jumps on our bed while we’re drinking our coffee and we play “cover monster,” which is where I scratch my hand around under the covers and she pounces on it (cat and mouse, lacking one mouse.) The confession is that I taped this (very cute) phenomenon and sent it to Scout’s grandparents. (Reminder: Scout is a cat.)

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Also related to Scout—and I’m only sharing this one so you can be enlightened as to how awesome Caleb is and/or how much growing I have left as a human being: Scout has thrown up no less than 923 times in the past three months (just in case you were worried, it’s because she has long hair and thus a lot of hairballs. It’s cute.) and I have cleaned this up twice. (Yes, I said twice.) Once was only because Caleb wouldn’t be home for another 45 minutes and I was afraid I would forget and step in it or I would have left it for him. However, I did write 95 percent of our wedding thank you cards. #Saint

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This just in: I brought fruits and vegetables (OK, vegetable) to work for snacks this morning. But I had eaten all my snacks by 10:15 a.m. and I was waiting on Caleb to join for me a lunch break, so I announced, “I need some protein!” Then I ate a chocolate truffle.

I’m writing this post mostly for my mother-in-law, who is lovely and greets me like this: “Hello how are you I like your haircut where’s your new blog post?” I’m not saying she’s my biggest fan, but…the rest of you can leave your submissions for that title in the comments and we’ll see if someone can edge her out.

Last night (in a room full of people) we had this conversation (while I was eating cake and ice cream):

Lindsey: “Holding this ice cream is making my hand cold.”

Caleb:

Lindsey: “Holding my ice cream and cake and eating my cake is hard to do at the same time.”

Caleb: “Do you want me to hold your ice cream?”

Lindsey: “No. That would make me look high maintenance.”

(For the record, I am not high maintenance. At least not compared to Paris Hilton and Jack Black. But I do sometimes need help managing my desserts/emotions/mornings, and for that, I look to this superhero of a dude.)

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I still play Words with Friends. You can hate if you want, but I think it’s the No. 1 reason I still have my wits about me.

Back to the cat: For all of you people who follow me on Instagram and think, “There is no way this girl can post one more picture of her cat,” you are wrong. I have been thisclose to posting at least five more this week. I restrain myself because self-discipline is a virtue.

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I aim to open my eyes every morning and immediately set my heart to think on how good the Lord is (which is good good), but I end up opening my eyes and thinking how many more days till Saturday even though 1. I like my job/ life and have no reason to dread, say, Wednesdays and 2. We usually don’t sleep past 6:30 on Saturdays anyway (because we have been stricken with grownupitis, not because we’re particularly virtuous in that way.)

I started off this marriage with the idea that I was going to be a servant and I still strive to be this way (usually). However, in the area of Closets, I’ve jumped ship. We have two closets, one that’s fairly large and one that’s fairly small. Since Caleb is already sucking it up and working in the large closet (his “office”), I thought I’d be of service and take the small closet so he doesn’t have to study spleens and intestines among my dresses, etc. Until last weekend when I’d had it UP TO HERE with that which is my closet and I revoked the service and demanded the big closet. Now. But did I mention I wrote all of our thank you cards? Plus I make muffins.

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Told ya! Alright, that’s all the confessing I can handle for one day, but maybe someday soon I’ll be back with a riveting part II. Or that post about the cat. Either way, let’s chat soon.

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What Marriage Means

We got our wedding photos back this week (Cathrine Taylor did our photography and absolutely blew us away.) It was tremendous to look back through them—all 750 of them—because so many of the little moments that I’ve since almost forgotten were brought back into focus. I got to see some moments that I didn’t get to experience firsthand, like when our flower girls scrambled up the aisle, for the first time.

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It felt like a long wait for the pictures (I mean, you pretty much want them delivered to you the next day), but what a gift it was to look back, now that we’re almost a couple months out, at the day that we pledged to be BFFs forever. It made me giddy all over again. Now I’m listening to our wedding playlist and reading love poems and texting my husband things like, “Let’s get married!!!!” Also, it made me return to one of my favorite posts on the Internet (ever): “What Marriage Means” by Joanna Goddard. I remember reading this simple, sweet story long before Caleb and I started dating and thinking, man, I’d like to get married someday.

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From what I can tell seven weeks in, it’s true what they say: Marriage is hard. But they say it so much. They say it so much that, like I’ve shared before, I got wigged out before we got married that our marriage had no hope to be A Good Marriage. We either wouldn’t submit to each other, or we’d submit too much and feel like we’d lost ourselves. We’d either undercommunicate or overcommunicate (<– something I believe is impossible). Somehow, some way, and probably sooner rather than later, we’d wind up feeling lonely and far away and frustrated.

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I can’t say that none of those things will come into play (or even that they haven’t yet). Only seven weeks in, and I can echo the others: Marriage is hard. There are hard conversations and hard days and hard heads. It’s hard in Legit ways—like relationship-building and/or -destroying ways—and in stupid ways. Like one time I cried over Christmas stockings. Wait, that was actually before we were married. Let me try again. I once cried because I THOUGHT Caleb was insinuating that he didn’t love EVERY SINGLE ONE of my (87) coffee mugs. How could he not love them?? I mean, we have one whole cabinet to store our entire collection of kitchen necessities in, and we are all in agreement here that 87 coffee mugs are totally essential.

Wait, we’re not? We’re not in agreement? And I already married you? TEARS. (In my defense, he knew about the coffee mugs before we were married. In his defense, I actually believe with my whole heart that 87 coffee mugs are essential. Also, he is actually cool with 87 coffee mugs. Maybe even 88.)

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But we have found the secret, I think. We have found the strongest hope of our lives is the strongest hope for our marriage. Some of you may scoff—I mean, we’re only seven weeks in—but I don’t care. We follow this rule, and the path rises out of the fog until we can walk, steady again. It’s just this: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34–35)

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So anyway, here I am, thumbing through my wedding pictures (again), and thinking about what marriage means. Caleb is better at being married than I am, so most of the what-marriage-means examples involve him being the best husband ever (excepting the coffee mug times, but everyone has his or her flaws, of course, and I accept his. I’m good that way.) Here’s what I think.

Marriage means that I steal his covers every single night (also his space in the bed), and every single morning, he gets out of bed first and brings me my first cup of coffee. Grace in action, my friends. It means that I pad into the kitchen at 7 on the dot every morning to scramble him three eggs for breakfast. It means that yes, I will pick you up, and yes, I will take out the trash because you hate to do it, and yes, you have a back scratcher for life. It means that I can tell you much more about fancy cars and computer parts than I ever thought I’d be able to do; it means that Caleb knows every single time the Gap is having a sale.

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Right after we got married, I got sick. It was Christmas Eve, actually, and I woke up feeling terrible. Caleb went out to Walgreens to buy some DayQuil. Usually I kick sickness pretty quickly, but I woke up the next morning feeling sick, too. And then the next day, too, and the day after that. We went on our honeymoon and had lots of fun, but the whole time, I was a hacking, sneezing, snotty mess. It was sexy.

The night we got home, I went to bed early, because I had work the next day and I was still feeling pretty under the weather. Around 11 o’clock, I woke up with ear pain. Yep, a throbbing ear, which I thought stopped happening after age 5. And because it was the middle of the night and because it, well, hurt and because I knew an urgent care clinic wouldn’t open until 7 a.m., I started sobbing. Of course, Caleb woke up. First, he got up to get me some medicine. And then he got up again to get me some more. And when none of the medicine worked and we realized we’d just have to wait it out, he snuggled me close, all night long, as I drifted in and out of sleep.

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The next morning, I woke up with fluid leaking out of my ear and very red, swollen eyes. He kissed my forehead and told me I was beautiful. And then, for the next 10 days, he dropped eardrops into my ear every four hours.

You’ve heard, I’m sure, that it’s not romance or infatuation that go the distance. You’ve heard that what counts is when love waves its victorious flag in the ordinary moments; it’s leaky ears and scrambled eggs and watching a whole season of 24 in one week. It’s trying to make it to the gas station before we run out of gas and emails with links we’ll both love and (sometimes) feeling like we don’t understand each other. It’s researching new coffeepots and buying oil for the car and going on a date. It’s saying Big Things—“I think you’re going to be an incredible dad”—and Little Ones—“Thank you.”

Marriage means that the nooks and crannies of your soul, the shadowy bits that you try to pretend aren’t there, get thrust into the light. Sometimes that hurts, because you see how human you are. You watch yourself hurt the very person you get out of bed to scramble eggs for, and you break your own heart. Marriage means watching someone else put all of the pieces back together. It means “I’m sorry” much more than you think it will (once, I told my best friend that I felt like Caleb and I say “I’m sorry” more than we say “I love you.” “Well, those are interchangeable,” she said.) It means setting your hearts on each other’s dreams; it means championing each other when someone feels like he or she can’t go on. It means Getting Over Yourself and it means honesty and vulnerability and honor and a bunch of other stuff that’s hard to do in the thick of it.

“In the same way I have loved you…”

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Marriage means all of these things and a million more that I can’t wait to find.

Oh, Caleb. Thank you for making marriage something worth writing home about.

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It Had to be You

Thank you, world, for welcoming me back with such gusto! You were all so kind to pretend that I hadn’t been missing for four months and instead of pointing it out, you simply swept me up in your arms, and let me tell you, that was nice of you. But I’ll say what you were all thinking: I was gone for a while. And while a break was not just nice, but necessary, I’m happy to come back and share where I was and what I learned.

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Well, not chasing sunsets. As I alluded to in my last post—the one about marriage—I got married. And if you scroll just one post up (posted four months previously), you’ll find a whole bit about getting engaged. And yes, your math is correct: We got married about 3.7 months after getting engaged. Chalk it up to whatever you want, but the only person I’ve heard get it exactly right is Harry: When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. Besides, like I’ve mentioned before, we’d known for much longer that this was the way our roads were going to go—instead of two roads diverging in a woods, two roads would come together, if you will—and we were more than ready to get the show on the road, already! So we put our money where our mouths were (to bring the cliché count up to 16 so far) and set a date.

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And with that, we launched into the whirlwindiest whirlwind I’ve ever been a part of. It was both the fastest four months and the slowest four months of our lives. I got stressed out by wedding planning and then chose to get unstressed and then got stressed again. (Girls, I’ll just say this one time: You can have whatever kind of wedding you want. If you’re not particularly inclined toward ribbons and DIY banners, you’ll still be a lovely bride. If you are inclined toward ribbons and DIY banners, DIY your heart out. And as long as you’re marrying your best shot, it will be the wedding you’ve always dreamt of.)

And it was Caleb’s first semester of medical school (we not only survived that, but we also managed to keep a cat alive during this time as well) and I had to move and I had a full-time job and and and…it was a busy time. At the end of the day, I would head over to Caleb’s apartment, luckily located just across the way from my office, drink peppermint tea, and, quite frankly, sometimes cry. (I also ate a lot of cheese during this time. But heck, I’ve also eaten a lot of cheese today.) I hesitate to admit that, mostly because I don’t want to paint a terrible picture of a stress-filled time—it was also super fun to dream and move forward with our dreams. But it was stressful. Caleb would spend hours at his desk, popping out for 15 minutes at a time; I would spend hours trying to figure out things like flower girl dresses and deposits. We’d mutually spend hours talking about the Future and also working out logistics: What weekend(s) would we move my stuff? At whose house would we celebrate Christmas? Should Scout be eating organic kibble? WHERE SHOULD WE PUT ALL THE BOOKS? (This one remains unsolved.)

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I remember getting off work one day, after making approximately 673 wedding-related decisions, and heading over to Caleb’s. As soon as I walked in, he asked if I’d like some coffee or tea or something in his kind, selfless way. “Sure,” I said, also kindly, though I’m sure there was an edge of weariness to my voice. “OK. Coffee or tea?” he asked. “WHY DOES EVERYONE EXPECT ME TO DECIDE EVERYTHING?” I ever-so-kindly retorted. Exactly the response he was expecting, I’m sure.onestepatatime

Anyway, I promised to share where I’d been and what I’d learned. That where I’d been: dreaming, cleaning, packing, moving, marrying, unpacking, alphabetizing our library, taking Scout to the vet, discussing which bank to use, emailing wedding vendors, editing a magazine, cheering Caleb on through semester one, telling Caleb to drop out of med school, going to wedding dress fittings, going to the doctor, and so on. But let me tell you what I was not doing. I was not working out. Ever. I was not reading books. I was not writing thank you notes. I was not trying new recipes. Or any recipes. I was mostly asking if it was OK if we had sandwiches for dinner. I was not packing my lunch. I was not blogging or involved in a small group at our new church or discovering new music. And this is what I learned: It’s OK.

I have oft found great pride in the fact that I have seemed to be pretty good at managing life as a whole. Give me a planner, a fancy pen, and some extra paper (for to-do lists), and I’ll never forget a meeting. I might show up four minutes late, but I’ll be there. I have (in the past) thrived when the stakes are raised; as a journalist, most of my life revolves around deadlines and I function well that way. (Ed. Note: It makes me feel Good at Life when I function well.) But then I hit this season where my whole life shifted, and I…well, there were several mornings that I brushed my teeth at work because I couldn’t quite get it together enough to do it before I got there (Mom, pretend like I didn’t say that.) Sometimes, when I got home at night, I snapped at my fiancé over a cup of tea, and then sobbed when he asked if what I really needed was a hug (yes). We ate lots and lots of sandwiches for dinner, and the library sat untouched because there was Stuff to Figure Out all the time, and when we had a break from Figuring Stuff Out, I napped.

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All this is not to tell you that this was, like, the worst time ever; though challenging, it was a sweet time. Lots of planning and dreaming and the realization of all that planning and dreaming. It’s just to tell you that this happened to me, this sucker-punching of my pride. And if it happens to you (and at some point, unless you’re a cat, it probably will), get this: It’s OK. It’s good. It feels like you’ve gotten your wind knocked out of you, and you have; it reminds you that you are tiny and that you are as human as they come. If you let it—if you give yourself permission—it can also remind you how small Important Things like deposits and unpacked boxes are. It can remind you—He can remind you—how much you’re loved, despite what you’ve gotten accomplished or how much you’ve napped.

There are seasons when we have time to go on runs and cook spaghetti and get lots of sleep and read volumes of books; then there are seasons when our priorities shift and suddenly we’re paddling like mad to keep our heads up and with all that, we still suck water into our lungs. Those former seasons make us feel pretty swell, like we’ve got it together; the latter ones etch “new mercies” into our prideful, stony hearts until they’re softer than when we started. And seasons are just that: periods that only last so long. Sure as the sun comes up, the leaves will fade and fall and fetch winter for us. One of the things that kept me paddling—besides the grace of Jesus and the jokes of my now-husband and the soothing swells of peppermint tea—was remembering that it would all end. And what’s more, I understood that there was something there I’d miss; it may take many months, but time will turn that season over and over in her hands until we look back with fondness.

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And let me tell you this: We are much better primed for noticing remarkable things after we’ve been squeezed and stretched like that. We’ve been going to bed every night by 9:30, partly to make up for all the sleep we lost last semester and partly just because we can. And almost every night, I look around and echo my old friend Kurt Vonnegut: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

Inevitably, it will all shift again. We have a whole lifetime ahead of the sunlight breaking through at 6 a.m., of smelling the roses and bearing the snow. There will be days—of this I am certain—when I’ll consider it a real accomplishment if I brush my teeth, and there will be days that make me feel like I’ve got things together. There will be years when we revel in the grace of springtime, and there will be years when we only get out of bed because of the promise of new mercies. Sometimes those years will be the same years.

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That’s where I’ve been, and this is what I’ve learned. And because of grace, I am better for it.

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Dear Reader, I Married Him

I always dreamed of a wedding in a wildflower field. When people asked me about my “colors” pre-Caleb (I mean, this is a question girls ask each other on Saturday mornings when they’re drinking coffee and watching Gameday), I said, “I don’t know, but flowers.”

Caleb asked me to marry him right as summer slipped into fall, and because he was (is) in med school, we had two options: Christmas break or summer break. If we waited till summer, I could make all my wildflower wedding dreams come true. I could get married as the sun sank down the trees while poppies danced (or were crushed) beneath my feet. Or I could get married in December, with nary a black-eyed Susan in sight. Either way, I got to marry the best human I’ve ever met.

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The day we got married, Dec. 20, the forecast projected a high of 47 degrees and rain all day. There wasn’t a wildflower within a six-mile radius (that’s probably not true; I just said it to be dramatic.) And I wish I could tell you that the wedding was better than anything I’ve ever dreamt; it’s true in a sense, but also, the whole wedding day zipped by so fast that I’m hoping I’ll remember more when I see the pictures. I have chunks of it that I snatched up: my mom zipping my dress up (outside—it was freezing!); sitting in a van in my dress and leaning forward just enough to see Caleb walk across the lawn in his suit (I was positive I would just evaporate from excitement); during the vows, when Caleb tried to make sliding the ring on my finger last his whole “with this ring” bit and I couldn’t stop giggling.

But by far the best part of marrying him is getting to be married to him.

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I know I haven’t written about it much (or at all), but that’s because there are about five million reasons I think he’s the best human I’ve ever met, and at least four million of ’em belong to just the two of us. But a million reasons is plenty of fodder for a love poem (OK, blog) or 17.

Before you’re married, you hear all kinds of things about it. Every day, someone of Facebook posts a link to “11 Things Your Husband Needs You to Say” or a well-meaning family friend says, “Ah, the old ball and chain, huh?” or someone else tells you marriage is the best thing ever, but it takes a lot of work. For a little while, after we got engaged, I was preoccupied with making sure we Got Marriage Right. We needed premarital counseling! We needed to read books! We needed to know all our love languages and sub-love languages and I needed to give Caleb a detailed explanation of my monthly calendar so he would know when I was grumpy because I was PMSing and when it was just because I hadn’t eaten in two hours. I was afraid that otherwise, our marriage—which seemed like it would be the best thing to happen to me since Jesus—would turn sour. I wasn’t sure if it would happen right when we said the vows, when we got back from the honeymoon, or at some indeterminable point between then and Valentine’s Day (data is inconclusive on how long it takes), but I knew it would happen.

I feel like I should disclaim anything I could say about marriage by telling you I’ve only been married like four weeks, but I’ve been married to Caleb for four weeks, and that’s four weeks longer than anyone else ever has, which makes me the leading married-to-Caleb expert. And I haven’t anything to tell you about marriage by way of advice or wisdom; I’m going to hold off for 15 years. But I did lighten up a bit. We did get (the best ever) premarital counseling, where our awesome “counselors” said, “ Let’s talk about real life.” I did read a good book and tons of love poems. And mostly, we just talked to each other, about the hard stuff and the great stuff; we promised to one another that we’d notice when it was awesome and that when it wasn’t, we’d work real hard at it. Mostly, we said, “Don’t know what’s coming, but I’m in it for keeps.”

And so far, the days of being married to Caleb far exceed any days before. Not every day is better than the last, mind you. Not every day is a dreamboat. There have only been a handful when we were exempt from the demands of our lives; sometimes, I come home grumpy just because and Caleb will tell you I never did print him out a Guide to Lindsey. But I can’t imagine going back to not coming home to him. I can’t imagine if we’d waited for the wildflowers; now I get to watch them spring up as an Osborne. And I can’t, for the life of me, imagine marrying anyone else.

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Caleb made me promise I’d never write a whole post about how awesome he is (what he doesn’t know is that I’m working on a whole book), but suffice it to say that I got the better deal in every way a person could. One night, it occurred to me that if I couldn’t make it work with Caleb, I couldn’t make it work with anyone. So I told him so. “I mean, you’re my best shot,” I said. I guess if I had advice, it would be that—hold out for your best shot.

Sometimes, when we’re sitting around doing normal people things, or when something strikes us as funny, we say, “Haha! This is marriage!” So far, marriage for us has included one debilitating ear infection (how do the babies handle those?), 983 logistical decisions, five conversations about which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, approx. 27 Target trips, a lot of hand holding, and pretty much more fun than I’ve ever had. Sometimes marriage is strained conversation at 4:30 a.m. because the cat is waking everyone up and sometimes it’s giggling because we love each other so much and sometimes it’s dreaming about vacations and babies and sport cars, and sometimes it’s crying because…just because, OK?

I think I understand now, at least a little more, why there are so many different things out there about marriage. It’s like the sky, in a way. It’s huge—bigger than we can understand—and it comes with all kinds of unexpected winds and clouds and metaphorical fodder. We stare at it and we stare at it, but nothing we say stretches all the way around it. There’s no real way to sum it up or explain how to do it. But what’s better than being up there, flying at sunset?

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            Well, I’m not sure, because I’m not a bird. Actually, I take that back. Caleb, if you’re a bird, I’m a bird.

It’s Like Riding a Bike

I’ll be the first to say that it’s kind of silly. I’m not really sure how it turned into a “thing,” or how so many people came to know about it. Maybe it’s because they all kept offering. “Let me teach you!” they’d say, and I would shake my head. “You don’t know what you’d be getting yourself into,” I’d retort, and adamantly insist that no, no, you’re not the one. Sorry, but no.

Honestly, I was completely content with not being able to ride a bike. Everyone asked how it happened—how did a little girl growing up in suburban America miss out on such a crucial skill? And I don’t know. I had a bike with training wheels, but they just never took the training wheels off. To get to my best friend’s house in the neighborhood over, I’d cut through the land that belonged to the Countryman family, climb the fence, and traipse through the woods. Later, I ended up moving to the street she lived on anyway, and then I could just walk up the hill. I never thought much about not being able to ride a bike, but when I did, I shuddered. I don’t do well on my feet, and most of my near-death experiences have involved moving contraptions (“Golf carts”? More like “death traps.”)

But when I got to college, all of my new friends were shocked when I said, “I’ve never ridden a bike without training wheels” in our “Never Have I Ever” game. (By the way, that was a killer move and I’m pretty sure I beat everyone because at that point, I’d never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich either. Cha ching.) As my new friends turned into my friends and then into my old friends, it was always a funny quirk about me that they liked to bring up. “C’mon, I’ll teach you!” they implored. I would shake my head firmly. It’s not that I didn’t trust them; I just know I have a certain reputation with, er, coordination, and I felt like it was going to be an arduous task. Finally, I made the decree: “Look, I’m going to let my future husband teach me. That way I’ll be able to fall down as much as I need to.” It both shut them down and put off the task; see, I wanted to learn to ride a bike, but I wanted to do it at some distant, hazy point in the future. And so I went about, walking on my own two feet, denying offers left and right. And I was happy.

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            I met Caleb the same October day that I got the worst haircut of my life. I sat in Janie’s bathroom and sobbed as I stared at it in the mirror. For 10 whole seconds, I refused to leave the house. And because I have the best friend in the world (I am in debt to her for many things, but this stands as one very important one), she told me to shove it and get dressed. And because we sometimes do the things we’re told to, or because I didn’t want to stay home, or because life is made up of these seemingly insignificant moments that recolor everything—or perhaps because of all of the above—I did. I put on a blue sweater and got in the car and drove a few cities over. And it happened just as inconspicuously as that: We happened to be standing around, and one of us happened to say hello. And we happened to have a good conversation or make each other laugh or catch one another’s references. I can’t remember what we said, but I do know that he struck me, because later, on the way home, I asked Coston, who knew him from high school, about “that boy in the white T-shirt.” (This is how I know, Caleb, that you were definitely wearing a white T-shirt the night we met.) “Oh, Caleb?” Coston said. “What a great guy.” I added Caleb as a friend on Facebook.

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Things happen as we’re living; that is to say that Caleb and I became friends and then better friends and then old friends. We flirted with the idea of dating those first few months, but thought better of it and instead just kept in touch. I never thought about why, and I never thought it strange that we’d only seen each other in person a handful of times but talked so often. There were months that went by without contact, but then one of us would start the conversation again. “I found this book and thought of you,” he’d tell me, or, “Hey, what’s new with you?” I’d ask. Years passed this way. I dated other people, though not seriously. He thought about dating other people, though not seriously. We stayed in touch.

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During the spring of my senior year in college, Caleb asked me to edit his medical school application essay. We reconnected in a deeper way because graduating from college—and not knowing what was about to go down—and applying to medical school—and not knowing what was about to go down—had their similarities, namely that we were both in places where neither of us had the faintest idea of what was about to go down (in more ways than we originally thought). Our messages back and forth went like this: “Great blog post. I understand that everything is up in the air, but you’re doing a great job!” and, “Good luck on the MCAT! Even if you fail, we’ll all still love you.”

***

            One fall afternoon—almost exactly three years after we first met—we got a cup of coffee together. We were both nervous since it had been a long time since we’d seen each other, and we both brought buffers (I brought my roommate and he brought his sister; you know, just in case). But after a few minutes, I forgot they were there. If we were in a rom-com, this is the moment where the musical overlay would begin to play as I threw my head back in a laugh, my eyes dancing at him. Everything about him made me want to say yes. That coffee date turned into, “Do you want to come over after work?” which turned into late nights on my sofa, which turned into dinner at the J. Clyde, which turned into, “When can you meet my family?”, which turned into drives back and forth between cities, which turned into love, as they say.

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It was as if the us we would be had just been waiting to become. In so many ways, it happened easy, like breathing; in other ways, it happened hard, like climbing rocks with one hand. We were the same, and we were different. We went together and we had to learn how to go together. We fell into love and we had to jump. We still do, actually.

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***

            For my birthday this year, Caleb took me to a secondhand bookstore, where he tried to convince me to let him buy me a collector’s edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn [ed. note: Please read this book if you haven’t yet.] Then he gave me athletic socks—what I’d been asking for for months—and we ate Hawaiian pizza on my balcony while it rained. It was perfect. But the next day, he told me he had another present for me. He looked at me with eyes that said, “Let me teach you,” and I nodded. Everything about him made me want to say yes.

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Perhaps you’re thinking the best way for me to end this story is to show you a picture of me riding that bike, but the truth is that I can’t yet. But he has been teaching me, and let me tell you—it’s harder than it looks (my hat’s off to all of you who did it as 6-year-olds.) The first time I climbed on, I think both of us were hoping a little bit that maybe I would take to it like I took to eating pizza, since I’ve always been great at that. But I didn’t: I got on, flailed around a bit, and at the first sign of wobbling, I put my feet back on the ground. But Caleb isn’t giving up, and neither am I. I learn like this: “There you go. Find your stride. Don’t worry; I’m not letting go. I won’t let you fall.”

When he asked me to marry him, everything about him made me want to say yes.engaged

So I did.

 

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Becomer

I read a remarkable quote by the always-remarkable Nora Ephron today that said this: “We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.”

I’m always trying to be more like people like Nora Ephron, and I was waiting on my lunch to digest before I got back to work, so I figured I’d play. The first word I thought of was lover, which was a relief (I mean, what if the very first one had been nose picker or grouchy?) And I think it’s true. Just yesterday, Caleb told me, after I’d just remarked on something or other being the best ever, “There are a lot of things that are your very favorite things ever.” He’s right, unless I’m feeling grouchy, which happens, you know, occasionally. (But just to be clear, we all know that besides Jesus, coffee is the real best thing ever.)

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So I was feeling pretty good about that. The next word I thought of was remarker, which is actually not a word according to this Word document. You’re not a real writer unless you use made-up words. I learned that in college, where all my English professors turned everything into adjectives just because they felt like it: “Today, we’ll be talking about Wordsworthian theory, and then we’ll be focusing on my sweater vestian fashion prowess.” Seriously.

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The third word I thought of was clumsy. Last night, I dropped most of a pan of kale on the floor. Last night, I had kale. I’m sorry you had to know that, and no, I don’t have a picture.

The fourth word, though, was what made this whole thing worth it. “Ah!” I thought. “What am I doing in this chapter of my life? I am learning.”

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I’d like to submit to the Official Board a decree that you’re not becoming anything until you realize how much you’re becoming, how much you’ve yet to become. There were—I kid you not—times in my life (previous to this moment, of course) when I felt sure that I had things “together,” as they say. I felt pretty good about it, you know? I loved Jesus, and I felt like I was a kind, compassionate, generous person a fairly good portion of the time. I felt like I knew enough vocabulary words. I felt like I was really good at writing. I felt like I had a servant’s heart. I felt like I knew how to boss around my hair with a 67 percent success rate.

And then, something happened. Or rather, a lot of somethings happened. Those somethings began rubbing me, and therefore changing me, and after awhile, Jesus set me in front of the mirror and said, “Oh, see, you look better now. More like yourself.” And it was true: I both didn’t recognize whom I saw and knew her in the depths of my being. It has been made clear to me, too, that maturity comes not from regathering things together, but from realizing how little it matters what you have together and what you don’t, which is to say I’m probably never going to have it together again. It meant that I stared in the mirror (metaphorically, I think. Or maybe I really did stare in the mirror. It’s hard to remember) and I began to understand how much I have to learn, how much more becoming will be, in regards to my Jesus-loving, to my kindness, to my humility, to my hair.

See, I am learning. I am learning how to let grace tread the path before me, throwing jackets over the puddles. I am learning how to be the jacket-thrower for other people, too, especially at the times when my own shoes might get wet in the process. I am learning how to be disciplined, how to look in the mirror and see the parts of me that are dirty and gray. I am learning how to listen to the gentle voice that invites me to be washed clean. I am learning that I’ll be washed, and then I’ll get dirty again; I am learning about the mercies that really are new every morning. I am learning that I am learning that because I—me!—need new mercies every morning; that stuff isn’t for other sinners who aren’t me and don’t have it together. I’m learning to find joy in the moments when I feel the familiar rawness of rubbing (learning! I’m learning this. I don’t have it down yet.) It’s then that I know that things are changing, that I’m looking more like Jesus, if only in, say, the nose a bit.

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I am learning how it feels to let unsightly things be swept away. Pride, greed, lust: I want them all. I am learning a lot about my heart and how quickly it sells out. My love is like the morning dew, Hosea says, and I see that now. How much it must pain my Father to watch me peddle it to idols again and again and to sometimes be taken up on my offer. But I am learning—slowly, I imagine—how to pray for the binding of my wandering heart. I am learning that I am the prodigal son, and he’s me. I am learning that my return is not just welcome, but celebrated.

Every day, it’s something else: How to be content. How to love in a way that empties me out. How to be joyful. How to stand unmoved when the world calls me elsewhere. I’m learning how to fix my eyes on Jesus, and that it really is that simple.

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And somewhere along the way, I’ve learned that this becoming is what life is; or rather, it’s what it should be. The world can make you feel like you should already be, but then, my friends, you would miss out on the grace of becoming: “Oh, you know, I think I’ll pass on the grace for today. It’s shaping up to be a fine Tuesday, and I’ll give mine to that fellow over there, who looks like he can use an extra spoonful.” I’ve said that. I’ve walked my cup of grace over to that fellow and set it down next to him. But I’m learning that my own dry soul is always needy, and I’m learning to revel in that neediness. I’m learning that becoming is grace and grace is for me.

I’m learning that I need to say this in case you’re discovering you’re becoming and that grace is for you, too. All of us becomers, us losers with broken souls who can’t get it right—we are the graced. (In the moments when we forget, we’re graced still.) And though it can be traumatic to discover you have nothing together, that you never really did, that you’ll always be a becomer, the beauty of this is that you find there that you’re loved just because you are, and not because of how much kale you eat or how servant-hearted you are or whether or not you’re on time everywhere you go. Then we can get together and encourage each other and not feel bad about how much coffee we drink and how often we get it wrong because where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And as we do this, as we fall deeper into grace and further from ourselves, we do begin to look more like Jesus.

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My fifth word was joyful, because that’s what kale will make you.

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Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love

Occasionally, when I’m at work (simply because I’m sitting behind a desk all day), I start to feel sort of restless. Now, there are a number of ways to deal with that. The first is to ignore it and forge ahead. Another is to stand up, stretch, allow my back to pop loudly enough for someone in the office to comment on it, and then go take a bathroom break. The third is to take a little walk down to the coffee shop at the end of the street or to amble across the street, where my boyfriend lives. The fourth, though, is perhaps the quickest way to start feeling, once more, like I can breathe: I go to Amazon and real quick, like a fox, buy a new book. Once I know it’s on its way, I can return to regularly scheduled programming. All that to say that such a spell hit me the other day and I hopped (metaphorically, mind you) over to the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of book retailers and purchased Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love.

Now, I haven’t actually read or even received this book yet, though I’m sure it’s terrific in some way or another (I mean, it’s a book.) But what it did make me think about was love, and more specifically, what I’ve learned about love lately. As you may have deduced (like a fox), I’ve been entrenched in the throes of romantic love for some time now, and I am also in love with the sky, the way my best friend calls me on my crap, the golden hour, unsweetened coffee, sweetened everything else, my mom’s text messages, making my roommate laugh, the timer on my coffee pot, my coworkers’ senses of humor, my pets (both my stuffed puppy and my life-filled kitten), and about a million other things. I am not and never will be into olives.

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So it seems that I too can offer some advice on love, don’t you think? I have 23 years of experience with the stuff, and if I told you I had 23 years of experience, say, sewing, you would let me whip you up a ball gown, wouldn’t you? I thought so.

TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE

1. Love is impossible. At least without the real, true love filling us up and making it a thing we can do. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and He is love and there is no love without Him (1 John 4:16). The only lovin’ I do is by tapping into this.

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2. Love is not a cookie. Sometimes it is fun and easy; for example, I really like buying cards and I love to love my people by buying them cards and writing in them and feeling warm and gooey. However, sometimes my people would rather I love them by cooking for them (which I’m terrible at) or scratching their backs for six million hours (I’m not mentioning any names) or by doing any one of the countless other things I’d rather not do at the moment because I really want to tell the saga about my encounter with the Target cashier. I’ve learned love often feels like a sacrifice, not a cookie. Cookies always feel like cookies, though.

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3. Love is better than cookies. Strange, but true.

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4. Love gives you lovely eyes. This is nice for those whom you love. For example, I think Caleb is the cleverest person I’ve ever met. Is he really? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I can assure with unbiased certainty that he is definitely in the top five. I also think that my best friend Gracie is less funny only than Jimmy Fallon; no, really. She’s much funnier than whomever you’re thinking of right now. Again, I’m really biased, because that’s what love does to you. This phenomenon is beautiful because it’s what lifts us up when life gets heavy.

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5. Love makes you dance. What’s nicer than knowing that you are loved? I can’t think of anything. Like James Taylor says, there ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.

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6. Love isn’t always (or even usually) pretty. In fact, when two people are in any kind of substantial relationship, a sort of rhythm between the two parties emerges. Except the two of you aren’t always in step with each other, and sometimes one of you starts making Robot motions while the other just freezes up. Then somebody pipes up, “Hey! Get with the program!” Then the other person usually gets mad, because he or she isn’t about doing the Robot, and then you’re mired up in a two-hour conversation about how to get back in step with one another. Those conversations are (in my experience) not just valuable but absolutely vital; still, the friction can burn. But like my good friend Usher says, sometimes you gotta let it burn.

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7. Love can be forgotten. And by that, I mean you can forget to actively love. It happens to me when it’s grey and when I’m tired and when I’m just not in the mood. I forget to notice the world, which is full of remarkable things like scones and dimples and giraffes. I forget to say thank you when Caleb cooks dinner, and to call my best friend just to see how her day went, and, for goodness sakes, to smile at people on the street. But I’ll tell you one thing—it changes everything when we remember to pursue each other, to lavish one another, to outdo each other in loving.

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8. Love is (sometimes) quiet. I am a shout-it-from-the-rooftops, put-it-a-poem kind of girl. I’m pretty generous with my affection; I’ve been known to sing songs about my love for, say, hot chocolate (“Hot chocolate, hot chocolate, you make me feel so happy….) And while I think that’s a great way to love, I have been surprised by how love can gently tread the path before you, sweeping away the dust. The other day, I was staring in Caleb’s fridge and wondering how I hadn’t run out of cans of carbonated water yet. I’d put three or four in there a week ago and there were still three or four in there. And then Caleb came in. “Hey, have you been putting my water in the fridge?” “Yes.” Yes, it can be quiet indeed.

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9. Loves stretches. Over time, distance, and circumstance. Beyond despair and into hope. Around anger and annoyances and aggravation. Through depression, grievances, and sadness. It can be stretched and stretched and stretched, and still, it never breaks. In this way, love is not like saltwater taffy.

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10. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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Sometimes I forget some or all of these things. And then somebody goes and loves me in a way that demonstrates its kindness or its patience or its perseverance, and I think, “Oh, yeah. That’s the real thing.”