Absense Makes The Heart


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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Everyday.
Always.

Absence makes the heart…
You were missed.
M

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Wild Eyes

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It isn’t often that my eyes light up with a view of heaven. They were flashing wild though, when I looked at you with all flesh cornea and happened to see the kingdom version. You were a thing of reckless beauty.

It sounds crazy and I know it. I might be just one day away from camel shirts and locusts for dinner but I don’t even mind. I wish you could see it for yourself, I wish my wild eyes could act like mirrors so that you could not deny it. There would be no going back. You could be a dangerous thing.

I feel it in these creaking flesh bones, valleys rising. The lioness. I am more than ready to rise up, pounce, catch it all, run wild. There is nothing in me aching for the cages of old. Don’t take me back.

My son, he ran out into the woods, got so far ahead I could not see him. It is not the time of year for small boys to be alone in Canadian forests. The bears are waking with this early thaw. When I finally found him, I said “are you okay?” thinking his heart is already caged up like mine. But no. Instead his wild eyes turned on me and said “oh mom, I feel like my very own real and true self”. This is what is created in us, the Image of God on our hearts. I can’t understand why we submit to being bound and caged by the world we find ourselves. What will it take for you to remember your whole? The sozo of God, His plans for you are total restoration. Don’t settle for just a part.

I don’t want to hear about your yoke no more. Throw it off. I want to hear about the molds you shatter, your irrational hope.

You who lead? Don’t you dare look back. There is no faster way to yoke yourself again. Keep your eyes locked on the good shepherd. Keep the kingdom vision of your flock at forefront. Don’t settle in. Don’t wear failure like a cloak. Throw it off. Just for a moment, embrace the whole and free, the reconciliation meant for you. Only then will you ever be able to be a tiny part shattering yokes for the oppressed among us.

What you call Holy…A Marriage Letter


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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.

Always,
m

15 years

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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

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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.

Meliss

(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)

Hearts in the Snow

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True love, is cancelling Valentine dinner at your favourite restaurant to sit together and kiss hot child skin, listen to coughs that sound like harbour seals. True love is taking your turn staying home from work, of getting one more cup of juice in the night, of laying close, sitting still, tickling arms. True love is doing the hard work of staying...of letting real life creep on all the edges of our tired thirties and choosing each other anyways.

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True love is after days of being so many things to so many people, we slow the pace. At the grocery store the other night we were hustling a little as the last flakes of snow fell. When I looked down at her, the big flakes had stuck in her huge eye lashes, her eyes closed, her chin tilted to heaven, her tongue out catching flakes. I stopped. I had nowhere I would rather be then RIGHT IN THAT MOMENT. I trace out a heart with my feet in the snow, she opened her eyes, her face lit up, she makes a flower in the snow for me. True love is in the tiny moments…when we slow to the pace of little feet, take the time to let them stomp the cadence of a beating heart.

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Our days are full. I laughed at midnight last night when I was just starting to get somewhere on a paper due today. Working woman, hockey mom, dance mom, taught an evening workshop and THEN sat down to write. So many hats. I don’t mind being busy now and then, I get charged up on things, so excited to be a part of wonderful strands of life that God weaves together to make something beautiful out of our life. True love is never an outcome…it is the steady pace of goodness. 

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He gets delirious the moment his body temperature inches over normal. Always panic and something scary. I pull him off that bunk, down into my arms, his limbs long over me. I rest my hand on his chest, heart is beating fast and hard, so near to me it feels it might burst through thin fleshTrue love is the way of stretching beyond yourself, of inconvenience.

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True love is scattering keys to the captives, the speaking of hope when hope seems lost, the patience to try again. True love is the kindness in the face of all the worlds cruelty. Love is in the humility, the servant life of laying all the plans aside for the sake of another. Love is in the perseverance, the generosity.

Love is in the passion. Sure. But that is the easy part.

Love is the minuscule and marvelously small acts of a life layed down…that is what makes it true.

Wherever you are today…single or in a relationship…what is it you can do to ensure your life is marked by these?

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