Absense Makes The Heart

Joining with Seth and Amber Haines to talk about marriage. We write letters to inspire each other to keep on…keepin on. This month the prompt is ‘absence makes the heart’.

Dear Joel,
Tonight I watched the sunset over the Rocky Mountains. You must have seen that too…perhaps over the Pacific Ocean or maybe a little further inland? Somewhere in the American Northwest, that is all I know. You are far from me.

Absense makes the heart…
Every time you go, even after all these years, we experience the Horrible Just Before. It is me. All me. See how I can throw every invisible thing in the room at you? Watch the ways I put everything I can find between us. Watch me leave you first. See that I never needed you in the first place? You can call me almost anything except dependent.

And then the second you leave I am filled with regret. The threat of your absence makes my heart hard.

The weeks have fumbled by without you. The house is still standing but it is hard to see the floor.

Four days ago I left home. We packed the car and headed east. There was a beautiful baby girl to meet and I could wait no longer. If I am honest nothing about this trip has gone quite as planned (save the baby that looks like heaven, smells like love). The rest though, every stop, every activity planned somehow failed me. Turns out the whole of Shuswap through the Rogers pass flys south for winter…boards up the nests. Museums close on the wrong days of the week and hotel pools close early when you forget the time change. I have attempted to steal every page from your play book…have done my best to turn every disappointment into opportunity, every mishap into a sermon illustration (or maybe a blog post). We found ourselves in the belly of a beast, there were 106 stairs.

We shut down the pool tonight then went to the drive thru at 10 PM. You should have seen Em on the water slide. The spiral stair case led to the tower. Out the window we could see the Rocky Mountain tops. Emily would not be stopped, would not be helped in any way. I made jokes about the over parenting parents (but Owen didn’t get it…He made a GREAT DATE the rest of the time though!). I am exhausted. I don’t know how you do that for everyone all the time…turn everything into an opportunity for grace and beauty.

Absence makes the heart remember.
Tomorrow we will meet back at home and you need to know I still don’ t need you. That is not the point. I choose you. I GET you. You are my team…together we are stronger. We make each other better.
I choose you.

Absence makes the heart…
You were missed.

What you call Holy…A Marriage Letter


Marriage letters are back with Amber Haines. I absolutely overshare with these but have loved the challenge of them and have absolutely believed that if we go hard after our marriage…if you see it…it might inspire you to go hard after yours too.

Dear Joel,

The coyotes howled like stuck pigs last night. It was not a romantic sound, no silhouette against the waxing gibbous moon.  This was all whelps, angst, and the biting among them. There was an outsider threatening or a battle for the alpha role. Our big dog whimpered at the door, then ran at the fence, murderous rage. Our little dog…barked. As ever. Life can sound like that. Obnoxious. Exhausting. Dangerous. Our marriage…your wife…can sound like that too.

It is in these moments where we are sleepless, the sermon notes are missing (and I am digging in the trash because I rarely clean but when I do I am ruthless), when the children fight, the bank is blank and the truck has no heat, that it is hard to make space for the Holy.

We do. Somehow we do. You look at me with the scales chipped off, you see the traces of Saint in me. I see you. All the ways he has made you over, made you new.

I laugh at the way you feel God’s pleasure on a motorcycle. How seeing you there makes me feel like Hell. How hellish you feel when I force you to walk in the ways that I flirt with the Holy. Filled up journals, slow walks, photos of beauty. You sense the Holy in the loud and powerful…crashing waves and crashing symbols, bold declarations of relentless dedication. I sense the holy in swaying pines, the strings at work, awkward prayers, whispers of chaotic hope from the poets. These are the places I meet with God…where I establish communion with Him, where my obedience, my submission takes root and is born under His gentle corrections.

We are just so different. That is the beauty of it…a marriage…a church…the way our crooked and broken brains, our mistakes, take shape into a body that can walk even when it limps. Together we get something closer to functional.

I watched a young couple this week…they are just in the process of falling in love and they make me happy. There is a subtle but sure, invoking of the best of each other. There is a settling of the trying-too-hard to be something, a calming of the discontent, a hopefulness. This is never about taming or changing. This is the gentle ways we can inspire the best in each other. The way you inspire the Holy to rule in me. The one who brings the best of me to the surface and lets the rest be pruned and burned.

So let the coyotes howl, the wind batter at the shutters, slam our screen doors. We will stand…calling this marriage…all it forces us to be…Holy.


Jump In…The Water is Fine

We will not go where we can't see our

Dear E,

Ever since your first birthday, I have had to hold you back from the water. You would run towards it and leap in to any lake or river, giving no notice to the fact that you could not swim.


Much of the time, at snow-fed creeks in early June and waterfalls and oceans in October we would have to actually HOLD YOU BACK so keen you were to jump in.

DSC_0365Even with our deliberate and hands on parenting, even with our hand on your collar, even still you would often find a way to get your feet wet.

DSC_0117 So then, you can imagine my surprise when you would not get into the surf pool with your daddy. I had stayed in the hot tub and you returned to me five minutes later, tears streaming down your face,

“Mom, I am the only girl in there. I don’t belong”

I guess. Logic would tell you, if you don’t see yourself then, of course, you do not belong. But you and me? We are not only people of logic, we are also a people of hope. Some days, it is all we have. And so.

We walked hand in hand and you rode that wave with your face glowing. You watched those teenage boys, doing tricks, you asked how they did it. Oh girl you dove in. It was beautiful. There will be times my darling, to live life in the fullness you are called to, you will be the only one in the water. Do not be afraid.

So many would not have had the courage to tell me why they left the pool. I hear things all the time like “I just don’t feel like it”, “I am bad at math”, “I can’t do it”. But yes you can. Being afraid and being incapable are two very different things.

My girl there will be places that people have not been yet. Places that someone has once upon a time said you were not made for. But let us go there together. This week, I’ve thought of how you are watching me. I found the camera you used this summer. Of the 800 photos on it, 300 were of me. Me…jumping into lakes…freckles blazing, mascara washed off. Me…after a 18 km run…panting and flush. Me…camping without a shower, without any make up. ME. That is what scares me sometimes darlin’. The way you watch me, the way there is no mask with you.

wpid-wp-1421127837542.jpegBecause…I need to tell you. Some of this stuff scares me too. These are the days of Boko Haram turning little girls into bombs and unprecedented domestic murders in our own nation. These are the days of women of THIS LAND disappearing and dying and none of it is ok. These are days of terror. But do you know what? These are also the days of Malala and the days of MY Emily. These are still days of HOPE and do you know that you and I? Well…we were called and born for SUCH A TIME AS THIS. There are places that I have not been, that I am not sure I am meant to go, but watching you is teaching me that sometimes I am just afraid to go to places that I have not seen myself.

wpid-2014-12-22-10.14.19-1.jpg.jpegSo my sweet. Jump in. The water is fine.

With all my love and all the courage I can muster,


15 years


Tonight the clouds burst even though the sun was still shining. The thunder rolled in, as if from behind a tree. There was no ominous cloud on the horizon, no warning. The dogs cowered as the earth shook, the lightning struck not far off.

The rainbow it produced hung heavy above the roof of our house threatening to cave the whole thing in, so dense the weight of the colours. They gushed out onto the forest floor, those colours, the grass, the trees all covered in it. Vibrant green. The rainbow spilled itself crimson onto the tiger lily, the indigo onto the lupins. The clouds fell too, hillsides of daisies seemed to erupt and spread. The hummingbird is thrilled with the turn, sucks at the blood of the pink bleeding heart on our porch. The robin plucks at the worms the lightning drove to the surface. The birds resume their shower songs.

Us too. The oppression, the flashing lights. Then, somehow it ends, we move through to clear blue, new life, astounding colour as we perpetually fall in and back out of love. That rainbow, my promise too. You can have this bleeding heart.


A Marriage Letter: How We Co-Labour


Dear Joel,

It is 4:30 in the morning. Do you hear that? The song birds are here. I was talking about the silence of this place recently. The way I can hear a crow flap overhead as it passes. How there seemed to be a lack of the birds who sing. All it took was two bird feeders and a bag of seed. Now they sing non-stop. Sometimes I am amazed at the minuscule acts it takes to help life thrive and expand.

I’ve been living like an eighteen year old this week. Two concerts in two nights. Like that is something women in their middle thirties should do. You kiss my forehead and send me on my way, HAVE FUN, you say. You can’t come, because… youth. Fifteen years of Thursday nights, you have been in the same place. After all these years. You call me as Ruth Moody breaks into Hallelujah in the Dream Cafe. I hold up the phone. You say it again…ENJOY.

I used to think that to co-labour meant we WORKED side by side. That service was only about how many floors I could sweep in your wake. Now I think it is much more than that. We are co-labourers with Christ. I am your helper in becoming more like Christ, to aid in the rebirth, your life made over. A midwife to the work of the spirit in you. That doesn’t sound very sexy, but I think it is the truth. My central role in your life is not to make you meat loaf. No. My role is to help Christ birth in you more and more. My role is to call you out to LIFE. To the truest sense of yourself. I’m afraid it might involve a motorcycle, but I made promise to never diminish your dreams, my vow was to help make them true. Can you dream a few safer ones from now on?

You do the same. You free me to become all I was called to. People ask how I do so many things, I tell them, Joel makes room. He invites me to BE. He kisses me on the forehead and says GO.

So many marriages seek to constrain and contain each other. Thanks for being the kind of husband that scatters the seed, invites this wild bird heart to sing.


(Linking with Seth and Amber Haines. I love these letters…believing that chasing hard after our marriages we can help you to do the same. You can read all of my letters here)

Marriage Letter: Your Beard Is Good

Dear Joel,

First of all I just need to say:

No… but really. So good. And it keeps getting better. This summer I noticed the flecks of salt and I told you “Your beard is good” but you didn’t believe me though I meant it. Each fleck of white to me, a part of our story. The moments I let you down or scared you. One for each night you’ve slept on bare boards or barely carpeted floors at churches all over the northwest. One for the wandering sheep your heart is breaking for. Yes. It is telling a story that beard of yours…it is telling our story…our part in the Great Story.

I was out recently with a group of women. We all got married that same summer. It was a blur of tulle, showers and trips to Ikea for PINE FURNITURE and DUVET COVERS. We all longing to look mostly the same (but don’t you dare copy me). Anyways, we were out that night and someone said “sometimes I think I am only still married because I would hate to have to hash out all the logistics again” and someone else responded “not to mention that someone would have to see you naked for the first time again. Ew”. Guess what? Nobody panicked and prepped her for a marital intervention. Only those with a fifteen year old marriage could say such things and know what we mean. It isn’t that we don’t love each other…its just that life is hard and history is complicated and sometimes it is tempting to want to start over with someone who you could convince of your goodness…someone less aware of the flaws you bear. There ain’t much we are hiding. Our flesh bears all our mutual wounds…

Once upon a time when we were just babies, and thought we knew what becoming one flesh would mean we stood up and made magnificent vows. We could not know what we were saying, what a stretch it would be, how we would be marked and scarred by each other, by the dreams God gave us.

wpid-storageemulated0PicturesVSCOCam2014-02-04-10.47.39-1.jpg.jpgI was running on the treadmill today (I mostly just wanted to tell someone that) our wedding photos and our vows are hanging above me and I got to thinking. Thinking how I’m trying to run off the stomach that grew to house our babies. The few we never got to hold and the ones we’ll hold forever. I’m running off the pure white carbs we ate for ten straight summers on the shores of Shuwap, as we built something beautiful together. I’m running off that celebratory beverage. Somehow we found a way to celebrate a Tuesday….it is my favorite thing about you, the way you find a way to see the good in most everything…even me.

My flesh bears our story too (but don’t worry I will keep running).

We are passing our mid thirties now, closing in on 15 years marriage, 20 years since our first date. We’ve been knitting our lives for longer than we were knit into separate entities. The truth is DNA mixing is messy though, flesh of my flesh.

But don’t you know? There are more stories to tell. There is more great ministry to pour from our flesh being stretched, our bones aching weary. There is more supernatural strength for us to walk in. There is more hope for this world and the redeeming work of God in our marriage can be that. Our home can be a place that people can gather from cold realities and feel just a few moments of warmth.

We’ve seen a wide swath of what the world could toss at us, both the high and the low. It is terrifying and thrilling to think of what else our reality might need to stretch to include. There is no one I could do this life with but you.

And when we are old and you are more gray and (lets just be real) I am just a tiny bit chubbier we will curl up on the couch, our story told, our ministry to each other just beginning, and…

(Linking with Amber and friends believing that telling the story of how marriage is hard-but-worth-it will help others coming up behind us to go hard after their marriages too)

And if you are looking for more of my marriage letters you can find them here

A Mother Letter: On the Peace


Dear O,

When you asked for a pistol for you birthday it got me thinking.  Being your mamma always makes me ask the hard questions. This time I wondered about THE PEACE and how we are living it.

You said you  “want to shoot down a tree and to shoot down the power lines”, and there isn’t anything wrong with this, hear that clear. It just made me stop and think for a moment. Little boys love guns and wars and battles of all kinds. My daddy said no guns at our house but we found ways to make our own, turn the garden implements to battle staffs for our ninja club. Children find ways to fight. I just want you to know that you are part of a better way.

You need to know that your daddy and I? We believe the Peace.

You can watch us. The way we do the hard work of getting along, of asking the questions. Peace making isn’t about hiding my boy. It has taken your daddy and I a long time to learn this. To believe that making the peace isn’t about pretending we don’t hear when a word is spoken against us. No boy. That is for cowards. We walk into James 3, believing that the wise are the peacemakers, the humble. You can watch us do our best to bow our knees, to admit our mistakes, but not to cower under it. We want you to learn to use your words, the power of them to disarm or to wage war. The ways that we can use our social capital to build another up or to tear them down. We are still learning this, I will always be the last to call myself wise.

I want you to watch the  counter cultural ways of your daddy. The ways he dampens the power of the empire of pop culture by pointing out its absurdity. The way he points to our humble King every chance he gets. The way he believes, that even while he is turning a kingdom upside down he can do it in peaceful ways. That being a cultural subversive doesn’t mean you throw rocks, but that you take those rocks and build something beautiful instead. The way he does the hardest work of discussions he hates…because being brave enough to make peace doesn’t mean he likes it. No your daddy would much rather live the Peace than make it. You can watch him please…the way his rage doesn’t exist. The way the Spirit flourishes there.

You can watch me too I guess. Watch the way I learn to tame the flesh in me. You know this temper can flare up hot, the way the fuse can just be too short. I want you to watch the ways the Spirit can dampen even a wick like that. I’m learning my boy, I’m learning.

We are going to help you fan this spirit in your own heart. What you need to do to care for your soul to reveal this Spirit in you. The ways you will need space and time like your mamma, the way you aren’t going to be able to rush. You need to know that it takes more bravery to stand up and do the hard work of making the peace than it does to submit to the rage. It takes more strength to bend the weapons into implements of peace. You have these in abundance…I just watched you face the wrath of baby sister with dignity, turning her fists away and never once raising yours. I am achingly proud of you.

Grace and Peace,


PS: Peace chasers watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWH4R0_-4hg

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17

A Marriage Letter: To The King of the Exclamation Point

The luckiest girl in the world...

The luckiest girl in the world…

To the King of the Exclamation Point,

My friend Michelle asked me what my Myers Briggs personality type was last week. I told her and then out of curiosity read a description (it had been a long time ago at work that I learned I am a Dreamer/Idealist. Who knew?). I couldn’t stop reading it aloud to you and being appalled by the fact that I am a raging cliché (which INFPs hate…read about that in paragraph 3). We did your typing next and then held the pair up side by side and marvelled at a marriage that has stood nearly 15 years…we could not be more different. You the king of the exclamation point, me…the queen of the ellipsis.

You’ve noticed that haven’t you? The way I have no capacity to finish a thought, how it keeps spinning and spinning around my head. We will have a conversation and then an hour later I will pipe up with no lead in about what I was trying to say. You have no idea what I am talking about…that conversation for you ended an hour ago with an exclamation point. It is midpoint of our ministry summer, and summer is the time of year when we forget how to communicate. We actually have to repeat things several times for the other to understand. You say we get out of rhythm. That is the truth, for it takes a fine balance to match your exclamation points with all of my ellipses…

You are a preacher. I am a storyteller. Preachers say it is finished. Story tellers keep tracking the back story…but then what happens? You can see it in your sermons, your emails, your invitations to people. You can see it in my text messages, my tweets (even when I am desperate to save characters)…I even tried to slip an ellipsis into an academic piece once. Turns out ellipsis are not part of APA format (learn to use a comma for Petes sake Melissa).

It says a lot about how we process the world. The black and white you see. The gray I get lost in.

I’ve been having those dreams again this summer. You know the ones? Cold sweats, full run, beating heart.  My anxiety has raised its ugly head for the first time in a few years, and though I can manage the beast just fine during the day when the night falls it is a different story. You will find me searching the house for someone or something.  It crossed my mind as I watched you swim with the littles today that maybe it is you I am always looking for, worried about. Or maybe it runs away further when I don’t see you here, always so calm, so dependable, so reliable.

We both know the truth of this thing don’t we? How you are the stabilizing force. How I am desperate for you to put an end to certain thoughts. To finish an idea. To start a new conversation. To have hope in our outcome when, if left to my own devices I would never, ever stop with the “WHAT IFS?”. We both know the truth of it…me without you? I would be under the train for sure…caught in the wreckage of too many thoughts. You are the one that tends to keep me on the tracks, pointing due North.

The first Valentines Day we spent together, I was sixteen and you picked me up in your Ford Escort, the hatch was filled with red roses and blankets and supplies to start a fire by the river. You were just getting started with your setting things on fire, punctuating most moments of our lives with the exclamation points, exuberance, excitement, finality, trust. 

I never told you this before. Three weeks before our wedding, one of my dramatic friends asked me how, someone like me, occasionally lost in my own mind with too many thoughts, and too much internal drama, how could I marry someone with a heart so light, one who carried the world in a completely different sort of basket? Could I deal with that much joy or would it drive me over some metaphoric cliff?

The truth of the matter is that she made my already cool feet turn to ice.

But she didn’t get it and I was just starting to see it. The way we were melding to bring out the best in each other. How being with you made me want to be better, stronger, faithful, honest. How your choosing me gave you some shades, freed you to pursue your call like other relationships might not. How I needed someone to make me laugh like that. How I just plain like to be with you.

It makes me laugh sometimes, all the people we know getting divorced. They say it is because they are too different. We’ve taught each other there is no such thing.

Anyways…We will fall back into rhythm soon. The fine balance of passion and stability that we teeter on.

Till then know that we are missing you something fierce this summer. We are lonely and the balance of this whole place is off… there is just something important missing.

With all my love,

The Queen of the Ellipsis

(Linking with Amber  and friends…so happy you are doing this again! I am linking this letter I wrote this summer to the man…I kept going!)

And if you are looking for more of the marriage letters you can find them here)

Dear E: On the Occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’


Dearest E (on the occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’),

Just now, we were out in the rain. Our hair, blowing wild as daddy drove us up into the woods. You tipped your face into the rain, let the drops fall into your magnificent eye-lashes, onto your porcelain skinned face. We hit a bump going a bit too fast and I gasped and clung to you, I nearly let you launch out the back. But you? You laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe and asked daddy to go back over it. He of course obliged you. You broke into song. And I marvelled at your ‘muchness’.

You who is the first in the water, the last one out.

You who laughs the loudest and the longest.

You who shouts with passion and bosses your brother with extravagant ferocity (ok…this isn’t my favourite part of your muchness).

You who knows exactly what you want.

You with the dynamic mind that learns things before we teach you. You with the imagination of a magnificient story teller.

You do everything in extreme and excess. And I hope you never try to shrink yourself to fit into someone elses mold of feminine. You are so much more.

This week I went to a conference and a Nigerian woman took the stage and then she took my breath. She spoke with so much grace and authority. And I must tell you, there is something intoxicating about a woman who wears every inch of her flesh, isn’t trying to perpetually shrink. Someone who knows she is more then sex or magazine cliches. 

There was a time not so long ago that I watched a mother parent a little girl that was more like a paper doll than a child. She was wholly pliable; bending to her mothers every whim. There was a split second of envy until you barrelled in with mud on your face and a crooked tiara on your messed up hair. You shouted “Want to  play with me?”. The little girl shook her head, curled into her moms thigh. “Ok. But if you want to we can play princess fairy kitty soft paws”.  I was enthralled by your muchness.

Miss E…I will stand beside you when the world tries to crush you down, tells you your entirely too much and not nearly enough. I love your muchness and I will fight for it. I will point you in the direction you should go and I will watch you run there with reckless courage.  When you are tempted to bend to someone elses version of you, I will make you read this letter again. Remind you, who you are at your core, in your God designed heart.


Dear Me: A Letter to my Teenage Self

A letter to myself…I’m imagining she is 17. Mercy. You might know too much about me after you read this.



Yup. I sure am wearing brown corduroy shorter-alls…

Dear Melissa,

Oh honey. The world thinks you are winning these days, but the truth of the matter is, you’ve lost yourself completely. This is the year several boys confess love for you; that you are valedictorian; captain of the basketball team, the year that you stop eating. This is the year you pass out from the acid of your body eating itself and vomit on the floor of your first job while helping a customer. This is the year you sacrifice all your passions on a church altar that has nothing to do with Jesus. You learn the gospel of SHOULD NOT; soon you will learn you’ve never heard the true Gospel of Jesus. That he came to doctor the sick. To restore justice. To bind the broken with love. Somehow you missed that part of the story…all you heard was TRY HARDER. BE GOOD.

I want to tell you (and the girls who will follow you) not to take yourself so seriously. Relax. Laugh more. Go on some dates. Tell some people about the broken-up-to-bits inside…people think you got your crap together and it is really sending them for a loop. They think you are a Christian because you are too good for them. You know the truth that Jesus is the only glue that holds heart and head together in one place and sometimes the only safe place is hold up together with Him…alone.

You need to know NOW that you are an introvert. You forget that for most of your twenties and you wake up one day, with a gaping hole where once dwelt passion. Some babies die in your tummy. You blame yourself. You treat everyone badly. Mostly yourself. You stop writing. Really you do…Imagine? I know…it is how lost you get in your pursuit of that which you are not.

And then.

There will be a time, you birth a near ten pound baby. You will grow him inside that body you hate, with his big brown eyes, his strong heart, his stubborn nature (showing even then the way he just flat-out refused to be born…sorry to scare you but it really is awful). Then the way you will wake with him, fed him, clothe him. The way you will keep going no matter how tired you get. Then a baby girl will come along. She will scare you to death (mostly because you are the type of person who writes letters of regret to your 17-year-old self and know that she will too). And yet, you know she was meant for you, and you for her. And this little girl of ours? She has no time for a mother who hates her body…that kind of thinking is a fierce contagion. So get over that will you? I’m telling you…you are strong (TEN POUND BABY !*$#!#@).

You found Jesus there too…the other side of the end of yourself. He lives there still and I try to not leave that place very often.  Tonight, I ate fresh-baked cookies on the deck with the kids while the sun set. They told me they loved me “MORE THAN THE PLANET JUPITER” “MORE THAN CARS 2” “MORE THAN THE SUNSETS”. You are married to a man who chases Jesus with a fire in his belly and he makes you want to. You live in a cabin in the woods. Life is good.



I would like to tell you to do things differently; To not waste so much time trying to be someone, prove something, get somewhere. But the truth is I think that God used those times to make you who you are and you might even like her when you grow up.



With love, regret, and a whole lot of hope,

Yourself, Melissa, age 34

This post is dedicated to the release of a book (I’ve ordered but not yet read) by another ‘youth pastors wife’ down south.                          I read her blog and it is rich in Jesus, grace, compassion. Pick one up for a ‘young woman’ in your life that suffers from the           ‘try harder’ complex I suffered from…