God’s love

Living Fully and Fully Living: Sorry, This is Not a How-to Guide

This past weekend was a difficult one in some ways. We were playing catch-up with laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping, so the activities themselves were not the most fun. But on top of that, this weekend was one of those times when Jonathan and I just didn’t click the way we usually do and we had conversations that were painful and difficult and exhausting.

I admit that there are moments when I wonder what I would be doing right now if Jonathan and I hadn’t gotten married. If my life wasn’t so intertwined with someone else’s that my decisions are no longer my own. These are not moments of regret for the choice I made or wish I wasn’t married, they are just moments when I marvel at how a small choice here or there leads to a life-changing one like getting married and how the life-changing ones shape who you are and who you become. When I’ve considered it, I’ve always assumed that if Jonathan and I hadn’t gotten married, if he hadn’t been in the picture, I would have ended up in Africa or England or Indonesia—somewhere distant and new and full of new experiences.

But on weekends like this past one, I am reminded of why the path I am on is right. Why God has asked me to walk this one instead of the one where I walk alone under a scorching African sun. It is in the moments that Jonathan lets me see his brokenness, in the moments that he looks and fully sees the harsh reality of my own, in the moments when we together are forced to confront the brokenness of us, our marriage, our hearts, our lives, that I know I couldn’t do without him. It is this brokenness that reminds us of our need, for each other and most of all, for Christ.  I am not saying that single people cannot do great things on their own or that God’s plan for everyone is to get married. I am saying that God has chosen to shape me and mold me and lavish his grace on me through this man. And he has (wonder of wonders) chosen to shape and to mold and to lavish grace on this man through me. So as much some days I sit in my cube and wish I was somewhere far away holding orphans or writing novels or watching the ocean swallowing up the shore, I know that I could never do these things without Jonathan. Whatever God’s great plan is for me, it is intimately connected to God’s plan for Jonathan. And that is a beautiful thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot since my last post about what it means to live with the tension between the realities of everyday life and the dreams that crowd my mind and heart. How do I live a full life with all of the experiences I want to have and also fully live where I am right now? Jonathan suggested to me that perhaps it’s unhealthy for me to lay awake at night, craving adventures. I’ve thought this over and I have to say, I disagree. In a world oppressed by apathy, I think it’s a tremendous gift to want something so incredibly much. I think these desires are something God has placed in me. But I do understand what Jonathan is trying to tell me. That it isn’t right to focus so much on my dreams that I am miserable with the present. That when I am so intent on where I want to be, I miss where God has placed me right now. And he’s right. (Sigh.)

Striking a balance between being content with and fully present where I am and still holding onto and pursuing the dreams God has placed in my heart seems like an impossible battle some days. Some days it doesn’t even feel like something I want to do. What I want is for God to go ahead and give me the desires of my heart RIGHT NOW! But since God’s not on my timetable, I know that I still need both of those things. I confess that I am a woman of extremes and I don’t know how to do balance. But how better to learn balance than from the Center of the universe (or multiverse, whichever you prefer.) The one who impossibly manages to oversee the constant expansion project of the cosmos and at the same time notices the three hairs that fell from my head in the shower this morning.

There are two ways that I am actively pursuing this balance in my life. One is by setting achievable goals for myself here and now. Things I can work towards that will ground me in the present. That will help my day-to-day life look more like a journey with a destination than a run on the treadmill. I have set goals, small goals, for loving my co-workers. For developing relationships with our neighbors. For getting involved in our new church. For taking a step of faith and applying to grad school. Even for training to run the Disney Princess half-marathon in February.  Because taking small steps towards a goal reminds me to live life on purpose and that I can do that even when I’m not in a position to pursue my long-term goals.

The other way I am pursuing balance is by asking God to help me recognize the gifts that saturate each day.  By opening my eyes to the miracles of sunshine in the morning, the fresh air filling my lungs with each inhalation, the job that pays me enough that I never have to worry about being hungry. And also for the gifts that are unique to each day: the gift of my husband making coffee this morning, the gift of the smell of damp earth this morning after a violent storm last night, the gift of an email from my youngest sister, just wanting to share life with me.

For all of you reading this, I would love to hear about your gifts in this day. I would love to be thankful with you for the tiny ways God whispers love and purpose and approval over you.

Learning to Trust the Church Again: a really long post about coming out of a bad church situation and learning to believe in the goodness of the Church again

This past Sunday was a celebratory day in the Dunn household.  It was Jonathan’s final day of work at Starbucks in Raleigh. Not only was this exciting because he has a new job and no longer has to make coffee for picky customers 6 hours a day, but most importantly because he will no longer have to work on Sunday mornings. Ever. Since arriving in Raleigh two months ago, there have only been two Sunday mornings when Jonathan was not working (despite requests not to…don’t even get me started.) Because of this we have been making slow progress on our search for a church, but now we are hoping it won’t be long before we are involved somewhere. We are (shudder) hardcore church-shopping.

I hate the term church-shopping. I hate the idea of church-shopping. I firmly believe that the purpose of the church is not to meet all of our needs, to entertain us, or to cater to all of our preferences. The church as an institution is here to facilitate believers living as representations of Christ to one another and to those in their community. A church should facilitate spiritual growth in individuals as well as corporate growth as a community. This requires active participation by the congregation. And since the congregation (and the leadership) are made up of fallible people, there is no way that any church can escape imperfections. And yet, past experience has taught me that, universal imperfections acknowledged, not all churches are equally sound. Not all churches are honoring to God. Not all churches are a nurturing and healthy environment. So the idea for Jonathan and I is not to find the perfect church, but to find a healthy church and a community we can share life with, even if we don’t love everything about it. A church whose growth and development we can become a part of. People we can love and be loved by.

As we’ve begun to explore churches in Raleigh I’ve been surprised to realize how much my past experiences in the church are carrying over into our search for a new one. In some ways, Jonathan and I are on exactly the same page. For us, the most important things we are looking for in a church are biblically sound teaching and a community we feel we can really be accepted into. But in other ways, our different faith backgrounds and particularly my experiences in the church I was raised in have really affected the way I view the church.

The church I grew up in was mid-sized, but growing fast, charismatic and non-denominational. From that church I had more or less been led to believe that people in non-charismatic traditions were in a spiritually dry place and were not passionate about their faith. I actually had really well-meaning people caution me when Jonathan and I started dating that his Presbyterian background could result in us being unequally yoked because of our different beliefs about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When I got to Wheaton, and particularly after Jonathan and I started dating, I encountered people from all different denominational backgrounds, many of whom were very passionate believers who understood things about Christianity that I had never even considered and were from mainline Protestant backgrounds. These were people who were excited about their faith, they just didn’t express it in the emotional way I was used to seeing. Not only that, but I found that while I had assumptions about them being dry and passionless, the prevailing attitude was that emotionally expressive, charismatic churches lacked depth and substance. Suddenly I was the anomaly.

Over my years at Wheaton it became clear that some of the things I had been taught in the church I grew up in were just plain wrong. Not just differences of opinion or a different interpretation, but bad theology. Worship had become a concert given by the most talented people under the guise that we were “pursuing excellence”, appearances were more important than real relationships, and the concept of “spiritual authority” led to abuse in the leadership. The church declared itself to be a “family,” but there were very strict rules for how the members of the family were expected to act. The teaching was that this church was God’s family and that any deviation from the way that church was running things was rebellion against God himself. If you disagreed with something that was said from the pulpit, it was up to you deal with your sinful inability to handle offenses. In words, no one would ever have said, “This is the perfect church,” but in practice, anything that was contrary to what the pastor wanted or said was rebelling against the “spiritual covering” God had given us in our church and pastor. Although they hadn’t started out that way, sermons had subtly changed to focus on what God can do for you or on how obeying God “opens to door for his blessing” which led to the underlying idea that if you hold up your end of the bargain, God will hold up his and that if you are not experiencing God’s blessing perhaps you need to be more obedient in some area of your life. Imagine the pressure of believe that God’s goodness is conditional based on your own goodness. Yikes.

As I grew in my intellectual knowledge of Christianity and my understanding of who God is I started to identify some of these things. I was startled by how many lies and unhealthy attitudes had been ingrained in me and the ways they came out in the way I thought about God and the world. As I began to identify these things, the result was that I started to push against anything that reminded me of the church I had grown up in. Not just reminded me theologically of it, but reminded me of it at all. For example, I somehow got the idea that because the church I’d grown up in had had amazing musicians and singers leading worship which eventually led to a “concert” like atmosphere, that truly holy worship must necessarily be really crappy music. 🙂 The church we attended at Wheaton had a  worship team made up of a rotating group of volunteers, many of whom were not the best singers or musicians, and the music they chose was more often than not CCM music from the late 80’s and early 90’s. It wasn’t the best quality, but it was heartfelt.

Part of my rejecting the tradition I’d come out of resulted in my becoming highly critical when it came to sermons and teaching. While I think it was good to come to a place of examining what was being preached in the light of Scripture and not just accepting anything that was spoken in a church, in some cases I actually became overly critical to the point that one small thing I wasn’t sure about caused me to reject an entire message or service. I was afraid of being deceived, but ultimately what happened was that I became too critical to receive much of anything. I would spent the entire service on the defensive, looking for something I disagreed with. I had started out on one end of the spectrum and then, like a pendulum, swung wildly the other way.

Gradually, through two very genuine and god-honoring churches we attended in Wheaton and in Naperville I began to understand how God can work through an imperfect church and speak into our lives, even when the worship isn’t the most beautiful or the sermon is less than riveting. And in the same way, I shouldn’t reject a church with a very talented worship team or a very engaging pastor just because that is similar to the church I grew up in. The key is not rejecting anything out of fear or accepting anything out of ignorance, but instead trusting that the Holy Spirit alive in me will direct me and that I can fully trust him, even if I’m not sure about a particular church service.

The churches we went to in Wheaton and then Naperville were both very stoic in terms of being expressive in worship and very conservative in terms of their theology. In a strange way, these traditional, conservative churches have really been a stretch for me. Because I grew up in an environment where people were very expressive in church, a service that is very quiet and worship that is very stoic are actually as uncomfortable to me as loud worship with people jumping around is to Jonathan. Because everyone is quiet and still I feel conspicuous if I clap or lift a hand. I feel that my expression of worship will distract those around me, whereas in an environment where people are generally more expressive, no one is going to notice if I sway to the beat. Through those experiences though I have learned firsthand that just feeling uncomfortable does not mean something’s wrong. Being out of my element does not mean I should shut down and reject everything I hear. And in the same way, being somewhere that I am more comfortable doesn’t make everything right.

By God’s grace I believe I am now in a position where I can see both extremes of the pendulum and am praying that God will help us find a healthy medium. I want to be able to trust where I see God working and to be able to receive with discernment but without fear. I would love to find a place that I can worship expressively and still be taught the challenging truths of the gospel. I want to find a place that serves the community and allows Christ to be the most attractive feature rather than displays of opulence, but that is concerned with being relevant. I want to be an active part of the miraculous, living body of Christ without fear of being hurt or rejected or deceived. That’s far more important than what the music sounds like or how entertained I am by the sermon or how technologically savvy the illustrations are.

So, in a very long-winded way this is me saying, OK, Lord, whatever you have for us, I am ready to receive it. My sails are flung out wide, let your winds guide us where you want us to go!

Marriage and Other Miracles

I’ve been trying to blog for days (and days and days) and everything keeps coming out jumbled and messy and I am facing a complete inability to think linearly. Instead all of my thoughts come in bursts and flashes that I can’t quite manage to capture and organize. So the options are to wait until I’ve ironed things out neatly and can present them one at a time like so many articles of clothing folded just so inside my drawer. Or I can go with the jumbled mess, something more like the pile of unsorted, dirty laundry sitting in the hamper. And on top of it. And on the bathroom floor. Which I suppose is truer anyway.

Last weekend we went to Indiana for the wedding of some dear friends of ours. The wedding was sweet and fun and I loved being able to share in the joy of our friends as they began married life. Weddings are a different experience for me now that I am married. In one sense, I feel more joy and excitement for the couple as I know what it is they are stepping into and what they have to look forward to. But I am also always struck with a sense of awe, understanding that I am witnessing a miracle, or rather the beginning of one. I don’t exactly believe that in the moment of the wedding ceremony, you magically become one, but I do believe that through the process of marriage your hearts are knit together in an inexplicable way. Somehow two people who didn’t even know the other existed a matter of years ago become a family. It’s beautiful to witness in someone else and it’s astounding to experience for yourself.

There’s so much of the daily parts of marriage that seem unremarkable, but I never want to forget that every day I am living out part of a miracle. It’s why I wrote the words of my wedding vows so carefully, “Jonathan I love you. I choose you today and every day as my husband, my helper, and my best friend…” The miracle is not just that I fell in love with him when I was nineteen. And it isn’t just that I spoke those vows to him one day last June. The miracle is also that I wrote these same words across my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker just last week. It’s that when I come home from work at night he wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two sinful, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of faithfulness on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for nearly five years and married for more than one, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

I recently started a new job in a large office full of new people. It’s been a challenge to not only learn about the work itself but to try to get to know the people working around me. Everyone has been very nice to me, but it’s hard not to feel isolated in my little cube while I listen to the other girls making lunch plans, talking about hanging out on the weekends and visiting each others’ cubes where they whisper and laugh. One thing I’ve noticed though is how rarely they talk about their husbands or boyfriends in a positive light. It seems that all that they have to say about them is something stupid they’ve done or how annoying they are. Of course, I don’t believe for a minute that this is all they feel about their husbands/boyfriends, but I wonder why it is that it’s so much easier for people talk about their spouse’s shortcomings than to talk about their good qualities.

I think it has to do with the view of marriage that is so prevalent in western culture. That marriage exists to make us happy. If this is the point of marriage, then it follows that people are intolerant of anything that makes them unhappy in their marriage. If the success of a marriage is measured in happiness and the only obligation people feel is towards their own happiness, it’s no wonder so many marriages end in divorce. If marriage is seen as something primarily self-serving it will ultimately fail.

Marriage is about becoming more holy. It is a partnership that spurs one another towards holiness. It is about laying down your life for someone else. It is about showing love and grace and compassion and forgiveness even when you don’t feel like it. It is about encouraging, speaking words of life instead of words of destruction, putting someone else’s interests before your own. The “happiness” of marriage flows out of the security of having someone who chooses to love you unconditionally, not out of your total agreement with every word that comes from their mouth or how they handle every situation. It is the overwhelming certainty of having someone who will not leave you when they grow tired of you and will not turn to someone else when they are discontent.

Living out this kind of self-sacrificing, intensely faithful marriage is impossible for a human. But nothing is impossible for God, and He is willing to share that power with us. And that, too, is a miracle.

 

Just for fun, a few of my favorite pics from our wedding as photographed by the lovely and talented Asharae Brundin Kroll and Taylor Horton. (If you need a photographer, hire one of them. They are excellent and they travel.)

Us under the huppah my brother built, being married by David Henderson

Soooo married!

This is how I feel everytime I kiss him. Only I'm not that skinny anymore. 🙂

 

My necklace from etsy and the bouquet my matron of honor, Lanise Guidry, made for me

We're so cute, they didn't know what to do with themselves.

Please, no more pictures!

 

Oh Me of Little Faith

Well, we did it. We packed up the apartment and our cats and drove 15 hrs south and east to North Carolina. For the past few weeks we have been house-sitting for some family friends of Jonathan’s family who live in Durham but are out of town for the summer. During this time, Jonathan started working at the Starbucks he transferred to and I started looking for work even more diligently than I already had been.

Here’s a timeline of how the last few weeks went for me.

Friday July 8-arrived in Raleigh. Well, actually to Durham where we are house-sitting. Many thanks to Jonathan’s mom who helped us clean and pack and drive.

Saturday July 9th-unpacked stuff, returned moving van, applied for jobs online, was generally excited about life.

Sunday July 10th-applied for more jobs online. Despaired of ever finding a job. Told Jonathan I was sorry for thinking we should move here when I clearly would never find work. Resigned myself to a life of flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

Monday July 11th—received three interview requests, did a total of 8 interviews over the next ten days.

Friday July 22nd—received a job offer from CB Richard Ellis as an administrative and marketing assistant

Makes me pretty ashamed of Sunday July 10th.  But it also makes so grateful for God’s care in spite of me and my little faith. It makes me grateful that God’s faithfulness is not dependant on mine. And it makes me grateful that his mercies are new every morning.

Since being here I have already begun to feel more alive in some ways. I’ve started to think about going back to school and being excited by the possibility rather than daunted by it. My successful job interviews have given me a new dose of self-confidence and I no longer feel quite so much like I have nothing to offer. The beginning of our search for a new church has been exciting and I can sense in myself a spiritual hunger for a place to belong and to be a part of God’s story after a season of dryness and doubt.

This week we are moving from the house into our apartment. My mom is coming up to help us paint and get everything put away. I am hoping to start my new job August 1 and Jonathan is hoping to find a new job ASAP and not have to be at Starbucks too much longer. There’s still a lot of transition in our lives and we are looking forward to settling in and for this to start feeling more like home. In the meantime, I am working on the faith thing, choosing to trust in God’s care for us first, instead of allowing fear to swallow my faith.

More to come soon… and maybe some pics of the new place!

Why I’m Loving Being Broke

I’m back! After a month of being a truly terrible blogger I am back. Here’s a quick picture of the last month for us: packing, cleaning, babysitting as much as possible, saying goodbye to friends, our first anniversary trip to NYC, trip to Raleigh to sign on an apartment, packing, Jonathan’s birthday (24 somehow seems so much older than 23!), applying to jobs, and did I mention packing? It’s been fun and busy and exciting and exhausting and nerve-wracking all at once.

We are incredible excited about the new area we are moving to, the new experiences we’ll have, new friends we will make, and the opportunity to be somewhere scenically beautiful and with warmer winters. We also love that the Raleigh area has so many universities around it, giving us the freedom to go back to school if we need to, potentially without having to move again. And my roommate for all four years at college (Christina) will be living in the same apartment complex as we are so I will get to see her practically every day.

This has been a difficult season for us in some ways though. Mainly, financially. We have always been good with our money, apart from my student loans we are not in debt, and we don’t buy things we do not have the cash to pay for. With my nanny job and Jonathan’s Starbucks salary we made enough to live on and, some months, even saved enough for our anniversary trip to New York. But when my job ended at the end of May our total income went down by nearly 2/3. We knew this was coming and had tried to plan accordingly (hence all of my extra babysitting over the past few weeks.) We have had to use up most of our savings to pay for our rent, the moving truck, and an unfortunate $1,000 medical bill from an unexpected procedure. And, added to these expenses is the concern that this period of low income could last a while. Jonathan is transferring to a Starbucks in Raleigh, but despite applying for more than 50 jobs so far, I am still unemployed. At one point we had figured it out and realized that by the time we got to Raleigh we would have $52 left to our name.

Between Jonathan and I, I am easily the one who worries more about money. I don’t need a lot and am happy to cut back and to say no to things, but (probably because of my attorney father who taught me to plan for all contingencies) I do not like not having a cushion. In other words, I want to be in control and know that if anything happens, I can take care of it. In these past few weeks, God has been teaching me about letting go of that control and trusting that he really will provide for us.

Both sets of our parents blessed us with generous gifts for our anniversary/Jonathan’s birthday. People that I’ve been babysitting for have asked me to babysit many times and then over-paid me (sometimes by a lot) for the hours I’ve worked for them. Friends have treated me when we’ve gone out for a meal or given us gift cards. And just last night some newer friends of ours gave us a going-away card full of cash, just to pass along blessings they had received at times that they really needed it.

In reflecting on all of this, three things have really struck me. Firstly, I am humbled by God’s provision. Secondly, I am so grateful for the way that these people in our lives have been listening and obeying God’s voice, and being generous with their time and their resources. And thirdly, I am hopeful that we will remember this time and that when God brings people into our lives that we have the ability to give our time and gifts and resources to that we will be as willing to listen to God and to give generously, as these people in our lives have over these past few weeks.

It is a good reminder to me that God always takes care of his children, but he often uses his other children to do so. So whichever side of that you are on today, be encouraged that you have an opportunity to embrace God’s provision for you and to be God’s provision for others. Deep, deep thanks to the many who have been God’s provision to us lately.

“And my God will meet all of your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

PS-I’m in the process of updating my about page, so if you have the burning desire to know even more things about me than the things I had already posted, click here. 🙂

Face Your Fears

My sophomore year in college I lived in a suite with three other girls. The rooms were set up as two bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom, but it was fairly common to “super-suite” the rooms so that all of the beds were in one room and the other room housed desks and a couch or some type of living area. We had done this to our rooms, but had the beds set up in a unique configuration that was the envy of the whole dorm. In all fairness, I can’t take any credit for it. Two of my roommates (Julia and Christina) had arrived a day or so ahead of me and Taylor and had managed to assemble a masterpiece of bunk beds, desks, and dressers. Three of the beds were triple bunked, but the middle bunk, rather than being directly between the top and bottom bunks, was lofted perpendicularly with one end supported by the top and bottom bunk and the other end propped on top of a dresser. The fourth bunk was lofted high on top of two desks with bookshelves so that it was even with the top bunk of the triple-decker and left room for two people to sit back to back at their desks underneath. Those two highest beds were so high up that after crawling into them, there was only 12-18” between you and the ceiling. To this day I cannot figure out how those girls did it without any help.

From Left: Julia, Taylor, Christina, Me. Because it's cool to take pictures like this at 19 and think they're cute

Being very accident prone and generally afraid of heights along with my propensity to get up and pee at least 2-3 times on an average night, I happily slept on the very bottom bunk all four years of college. Except for one fateful night. I had been at the library with my then boyfriend (now husband) until it closed at midnight. As I stood outside my door, digging through my bag for my key card a note on the outside of the door caught my eye. “Face your fears,” it read in Christina’s distinctive handwriting. Having no idea what this meant, I laughed a little. Big mistake. I went in and stumbled around in the dark getting ready for bed. I had pretty much forgotten about the sign until I made it over to my bed. Just as I was about to collapse into it I realized…there was someone in my bed. Christina. I tried to move her, but was unsuccessful. I shrugged to myself and climbed up a level to Taylor’s bed. There was someone in Taylor’s bed. It was Julia. I did not consider moving Julia because it had now become completely clear to me what was going on. “Face your fears.” This was what it meant. Shaking, I climbed up a level to Christina’s bed. And there was Taylor, sound asleep. Which left Julia’s bed, vaulted to the ceiling and still missing the extra long ladder we had ordered for it. I knew I had a choice. I could have turned on the lights and yelled. I could have pushed Christina over far enough to wedge myself next to her in my own bed. I could have slept on the slightly skuzzy couch in the next room. But this was my moment. Life had handed me an opportunity and I was going to seize it. I was born for such a time as this. So, I crawled over the sleeping Taylor into Julia’s bed in the stratosphere and wedged myself between the wall and my mattress, using my (thoughtfully provided) pillow as a barrier, should I begin to roll in my sleep. The morning came as mornings do and I woke up, stiff, but victorious.

There is a point to this story (I think.) I was reminded of it because in some ways I think God has been asking me to face some fears in the last few weeks. Fears about where we’ll end up, if we’ll have good jobs, if we’ll have enough money, if we’ll be happy. Even fears about God himself and whether or not he really is good, true, and faithful. Whether or not he really has a plan. Sometimes when you are confronted with a particular fear, you realize that it really isn’t as frightening as you thought it was (i.e. me and the really high bed.) And sometimes, you realize it’s every bit as frightening as you thought it was. But that doesn’t change the fact that deep down at a core level there are things that can never be taken from you. If the worst thing that you can imagine actually happened, then what? S

ee, a lot of my fears stem from the one big fear that I will not be allowed to have good things or that the good things I have will be taken from me. And it occurred to me as my husband and I walked through this decision about moving and jobs that I am trying so hard to hold on to my good things that I don’t even recognize that I already have the best thing. I have the love of a God who poured out his life for me, regardless of whether I am in a moment of belief or of doubt. Because even if I lost all of these things I so desperately fear being separated from—my husband (not that he’s a thing:) ), my home, my family, my friends, a career, living a place I love, dreams for the future—this I could never be separated from. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Not even me.

We have decided to stick with our original plan and move to Raleigh. Although the other opportunity offered a lot more security, we ultimately didn’t feel a strong sense of God’s calling towards it. We are scheduled to move right after the Fourth of July, but the rest is largely unknown. Thanks to all who have listened and loved and prayed. You are all evidence that when God asks us to face our fears, he doesn’t ask us to do it alone.

Like A Little Child: Lessons on Love

It’s over. I’m no longer a nanny. Friday was my last day with the kids. We played at home and read books and made bookmarks and went to Sami’s school picnic at the park and then we came home and I put Dylan down for his nap. I hugged him and said, “I love you soooo much.” And he said, “No, I luh loo so much!” and that’s when I knew there was going to be trouble. I went downstairs and painted Sami’s teensy tiny toenails and her dad came home and took pictures as I read to her while we waited for the polish to dry. And then I said goodbye, I climbed in my car and I blew my horn and I drove away. And the second I turned the corner I burst into such hysterical sobs I had to pull over for a few minutes because I was squinching up my eyes so tightly I couldn’t see out of them.

As much as I have looked forward to this day, and as many times through the winter that I felt bored to tears and could not imagine another day spent entertaining little ones, it was still overwhelmingly sad to come to the end of it. I’m sure it’s similar to how elementary school teachers feel, growing close to a group of kids that they spend so much time with over the course of a school year only to have them move on, but nannying is also different. It is so much like being a mother and the relationship is so much closer than a teacher with an entire classroom to share her care and affection with. There were many days that I felt frustrated and tired and that I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my gifts and it was very, very hard. But I also lost my heart to these kids. I’m excited to move on to a new phase in my life and to hopefully move into some sort of career I find meaningful. But that doesn’t change the fact that I will miss them and the way that they love me—without expectations, whether we have a good day or a bad day, whether I’m impatient or gracious—ultimately it makes no difference to them. At the beginning of each new day when I walked in the door, anything that had happened the day before was wiped away, and they loved me.

I think that’s how Christ intends us to love each other. Without expectations and with no memory of wrongs. He says to come to him as little children, but in some ways I think it’s the other way around. I think He also comes to us as a little child. Not in the sense that we are His protector or that He puts his trust in us, but in the sense that His love for us in uninhibited like a child’s. He loves us this way, with no expectations and no record of our wrongs. His mercies are new every morning and His love for us is simply because we are ourselves.  And regardless of whether we have been faithful, whether we have trusted or have doubted, whether we have honored Him or not, whether we have made right choices, whether we have pleased Him in every way, He loves us freely and without limits.

I know I ragged on CCM music, but there is a song that’s been echoing through my mind for the past week, particularly as I’ve thought about leaving the kids and what I’ve learned about God loving me from their loving me. Most of you probably know this song, but I’ll post the video and lyrics anyway. Being from Louisiana I especially appreciate the image of “Loves like a hurricane.” A hurricane runs its course relentlessly and nothing can stand in its way.  I have seen such a picture of this in the kids’ love for me. It is also relentless and nothing, not even my own impatience, unkindness, or grumpiness, could stop them from giving it to me. And the rest of the song reminds me of how much greater and more perfect God’s love is than even these sweet kids.

Written by John Mark McMillan (and performed by him here), but probably  most famously recorded by David Crowder. “How He Loves.”

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.