Thursday, February 27, 2014

remembering what it means to "grow old with you"

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore were on the Tonight Show, and they sang a very sweet song about their longtime movie romance. This took me back, as Wedding Singer was my first date with Valentine, and the song Sandler sings at the end, was part of his proposal to me. Fifteen years ago, we were newly engaged, with only a few months to go before we would be married. I was living in California, trying to plan a wedding (thanks mom for making that easy), get through junior year of college, and run a youth ministry, he was living on a tour bus on a national arena tour with a huge Christian band. We didn't have texts, FaceTime, or Facebook, we had emails, phone booths and calling cards. We were hardly able to spend time together, but when we could, you couldn't keep us apart. Friends joked that we always had to be touching, that they never saw us separate, and today our daughter rolls her eyes, and complains loudly about the same thing. We had no idea what life would bring, we just knew we wanted to live it together. 

There has been an awesome response to Val's amazing blog post about his struggle with mental illness,  and we have both been encouraged by people's support. Here is Val's blog link.  I have heard that we are inspiring, and amazing, and how do we do it. Well, we just do, it's part of life, not one that we expected, but it is. The truth is, I had no idea that part of that part of that life together included mental illness. I was no stranger to it, or the threat of suicide. I had a great aunt who we visited in the hospital after she tried suicide, and instead got a coma, I have a sister who tried when I was in elementary school, and a grandma whose mental illness was clear to me from a young age. My dad was a pastor, and as such walked through mental illness and suicide with families on a regular basis, and I had a front row seat. It was part of life, it was hard, but to me it was as normal and common as any other disease. I don't think there is just one, or a specific "other half" for anyone, but as I think of my history with mental illness, it seems more than coincidental that God or Josh,  had us meet in the bathroom line at that show (thanks Josh!). I didn't know though, and I am not sure he knew, the extent of the struggle he would have to live with. 

He was funny, he was fun, he was so creative. He wasn't arrogant, he didn't look down on my passion for reaching out to youth. In fact he took the time to hang out with kids at his shows, he kept in touch with them when they wrote to him, he made them feel valued and worthy of his time, so much so, that he got in trouble with other bands. He didn't just make me a mix tape of songs for me, he made me a tape of songs he wrote about me. Seriously ladies, and gents, who could resist that? He had dinner with my parents, while I was in Africa, after we had just started dating. He brought presents to my niece who lived with us. He would hang out with me even though I was surrounded by guy friends, my adopted brothers, and he didn't seem to feel the need to compete for my attention. He accepted me and loved me but was to shy to say it for a long time, and he was patient when I was too scared and hurt from previous relationships to give those words away again. Life was an adventure with him, a silly, quirky adventure, and the only road block was the distance of his life on the road.  

I didn't see the mental illness then, but sometimes now, that is all I can see. I forget the funny presents and notes, the need to constantly be holding his hand. Now sometimes I just see the need to help him, to prop him up, to make sure that he is safe. I forget the adventure and get bogged down in the anxiety of what might be around the corner. I have trouble trusting his decision making, when it seems like I can't trust him with his own life. I let the disease define him. I allow the symptoms suffocate the breathe or romance and adventure right out of me. 

But then that wittiness, that creativity, that spark push their way through and I see that guy again. I see the one who brought joy to audiences everywhere, and who now channels that in to bringing joy to our home. That guy pushes through, doesn't let his disease define him and makes a tortilla talk at chipotle. He does the hard work of therapy and meds, and while he may be extra grumpy sometimes, he is in no way abusive, or menacing, even when his brain convinces him, the world is crashing in on him. I hear the silly songs about our kids, and see the dance moves, that also make our tween groan. I see a guy that is hotter and more handsome than he is in our wedding pictures. I see him love the kids in our lives, and pour himself out into the new circle of adopted little brothers I have and I remember. I remember he is so much more. 

He is more than the tears and sobs over his brokenness, he is the guy that cries when he sees something sweet. He is more than the clinging hug for strength, he is the guy that lifts and snuggles the 150lb dog. He is the runner of hundreds of miles, the worker that everyone prizes, the dad that plays legos for hours. He is nothing short of amazing. 

And really marriage isn't about those first feelings in the beginning, all the things he did that made me feel special. It's about doing life together, like we wanted, each supporting the other. I am supposed to be there for him. My being there for him, it's not amazing or extraordinary, it's what I committed to, in sickness and in health. And he committed to the hard parts of me, my crazy ideas, my endless insecurities, the way i shut down when someone gets mad at me, my messiness, my love of bad TV and big dogs, my job that often becomes his, my own special blend of crazy. We are doing life together, and this is part of our life, but it doesn't define our relationship. It is hard to live with each other sometimes, but this is what we chose. Our love, our commitment to each other, our willingness to do life together, that defines our marriage. 

We changed the traditional vows a bit, and added that we would treasure one another. I think I have forgotten some of that. I have been so busy worrying about him that I haven't been treasuring him as much as I should. I haven't been appreciating the fantastic father, super freaking hot man, great provider, and basically fun guy that he is. You know those Facebook timeline videos, that show all your  most popular posts, mine was all Valentine. He really is one of the best parts of me. He makes me laugh everyday, even on the dark days. So, in those immortal words of Sandler, Valentine, "I want to grow old with you"and treasure many, many more days of you. And in case you need a reminder here is The Wedding Singer, I want to Grow old with you clip

Saturday, February 15, 2014

losing sight of heaven? trade fluorescents for fireflies

I'm having a hard time seeing heaven, are you? The world is dark and grimy lately with disease and war, and just yuck, but normally, I can see past that. Usually, I can see God.  Sure I can see him in nature, in the mountains, in the ocean, in my dogs, but normally I can see him other ways too. I can see him in his word, but even that is dim. It's dim because it doesn't seem to be taking flesh and becoming real through those of us that follow it. It's not shining light and life. It almost seems to be adding to the darkness. I can't see the kingdom of heaven of love and mercy shining through the darkness in this world, quite like I used to, and the light that is shining, is so harsh, so bright, but not in a good way. and forgive me as I muddle through metaphor, as we all appreciate different forms of light. But to me this is a harsh fluorescent light, that gives me a headache when I live under it for too long. My eyes start twitching as they struggle to make out the words on the page under the harsh glare, my photos come back with putrid greens and yellows and muddied clarity from this light. And when that light breaks it leeches toxins into the air. I want the light, but I want something gentler, something that draws me in instead of pushing me away.

We, who claim to follow Christ, we who read his word, we are to be bearers of a light filled with grace and love. We are to reflect the mercy we find in the pages of Jesus life. It's easy when we look at his word to get caught up in the harshness of the law, and the judgement. We can pick up the BIble and walk away haunted by images of that seemingly horrible, harsh God that ruins us in floods, thrashes us with plagues and spills the blood of innocent babes. It's so easy to forget in the face of those things, the tender moments of a loving father and friend. We forget that he protected the Israelites, making sure that even their clothes and shoes didn't wear out. We forget that he made Jonah live in the belly of a whale, because he refused to go to the sinning Ninevahites and tell them, that even they could be saved. We stop before we get to the climax, to the best part of the story, we forget JEsus. He came not in a warring chariot, but swaddling clothes. He didn't shout judgment at sinners, but at those who thought they could judge. He dined with the dirty, he touched the unclean. He loved first, and challenged later. He showed us that perfect love doesn't inspire, but casts out fear. It doesn't try and protect it's life, but lays it's life down.

Yet here we are. We are shouting and shining this fake light. We are yelling about protecting our way of life, and we are forgetting about his. We fearfully shine our light on others and each other, pointing fingers and claiming to be showing the truth, but forgetting it ourselves. We shout judgements and laws and ideas, that have nothing to do with that most important commands, and the one you followed it with. We aren't helping others to see through the darkness or drawing them to the one true light, Instead in fear, we are just trying to blast it all with our own made up crap. We aren't reflections we are noisy, buzzing, irritating, flashing fluorescent bulbs of toxic chemicals.  When we fail, when we break, we leave not a trail of grace, but a harsh lingering poison.

I want to see heaven again! I want to see the light, the one that inspires love, and not fear. The light that draws you closer, that's magical and natural, that flows from the creator. I want to see fireflies. Is there any light more magical than lightening bugs? They flicker and fly through the sky and draw you in. You can;t help but want to catch them, to capture them, to have some light for yourself. They are so pure, so brilliant you just want to stare at them forever. They make the darkness bearable, you aren't so afraid of it anymore. And when you see hundreds of them together, you forget there was ever darkness at all. You wonder how this magic happened, you question it's creation, you want to know more.
my only source of firefly light west of the rockies is ironically fake

When you smash a firefly, it still glows. When you are a little kid and your regard for the life on insects is more about exploration than preservation, you find out you can rub the glow on you, and you glow too. When this world finally smashes me, through disease, or accident, or whatever, I don't want to leave a trail of toxin, I want to leave a glow.

God change me from a fluorescent light to a firefly. Stop me from pointing fingers, from shouting laws, and point me toward you. Let me reflect your love and your grace when I shine my light, so that my life, my story are a beautiful, magical reflection of you who created me, who loves me. Help me bring heaven to earth with my own little glow.

Fireflies at Ochanomizu, Artist: Kobyashi Kiyochika
 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
retrieved from, 2/15/14