You Know You’re Married to a Voice Actor When…

This is in honor of my fabulous husband, THE Adam Verner, voice actor and audio book narrator extraordinaire (whose birthday happens to be this Sunday).

 You know you're married to a voice actor when...

You know you’re married to a voice actor when…  

1. Your spouse does vocal warm-ups in the shower every morning (which your children then mimic).  

2. All of your computer scratch paper is on commercials and signed contracts.
 

3. Your spouse doesn’t feel like talking at the end of the day.  

4. Common household words include talk of agents, demos, pay-to-play sites, SAG-AFTRA, royalty share, ISDN, whisper rooms, Studio Bricks, “on ice,” FAFFCON, and WoVOCon. 
 
5. Random strangers say things to your spouse like, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a great voice? You could make a living with it.”

6. Your spouse finishes a project and is immediately out of work again.

7. People ask your spouse to perform and speak in different accents.

8. Your 3-year-old son has already done his first audition and is about to get headshots (college money, people).

9. Your spouse turns his head (and turns up the volume) when listening to commercials on T.V. instead of watching the screen because he’s listening to the voice over (and occasionally says “That’s my friend, so-and-so…”)

10. Your monthly income can differ by thousands of dollars each month.

11. A common joke between you and your spouse is that he should start charging people for expecting him to do readings in church, at weddings and at other public events for free (and that your kids are racking up quite a bill).

12. Getting a cold is a BIG DEAL.

13. Losing your voice is an EVEN BIGGER DEAL.

14. Your spouse tells you that it always ends up being down to him and one other guy (and the other guy always gets the gig).

15. Everyone wants to talk to your spouse about the “person they know who wants to get into voice over…and can you please talk to them?”

16. Your children know that they can’t make noise while daddy is working because “he’s talking into a microphone so that people will give him money.”

17. People love asking your spouse questions about their work.

18. You hear your spouse read to your children and know that one day they will beg daddy to do it every time (because “doing the voices” can’t begin to describe the 5 star performance they are getting for free). 

~~~

Life is never boring.  Love you, baby;-) 

Check out this podcast interview with Adam on What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel!  

~~~ 

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When I Forget to Notice People

Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.  Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven't been.

Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.

Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven’t been. And noticing is a prerequisite to thankfulness, praise, worship and action. I’m bumping along life without recognition, like the blind man who wasn’t completely healed and saw people walking around that looked like trees. I need Jesus to restore my vision completely. Because I have forgotten how to SEE people.

As I reach around my one-year-old strapped to my front, searching for my wallet and watching for my three-year-old who is most likely pulling all the chip bags off the stand or smearing the display case glass with finger prints, it catches me off guard when the cashier behind the counter asks me, “How is your day going?” or “Have you had a good morning?” The first few times this happened after moving to Colorado, I’m sure I just looked at them with my mouth hanging slightly open. Chicago is not an unfriendly city, but perfect strangers didn’t usually ask me such personal questions. How was I supposed to answer?

But the question, though I now realize was not a true venture into how I am feeling at the current moment, rocked me, because I hadn’t even noticed a person was there until they spoke to me. Worse, I would have gone through our entire interaction without even looking them in the eye.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

People are eternal.  And every.single.one. is made in the image of God Himself.  So when I don’t see people, I don’t see God.

Lately, I have not only failed to notice strangers, but I have even forgotten to notice the people who are right in front of me–my children and husband.  Now, I believe in rest, alone time, naps and hobbies, but I have begun ignoring my children even during times when I could be fully present with them.  Scrolling Facebook during bath time, texting while I sit with them on the floor, and spacing out when they ask me questions, I spend the day lamely multi-tasking when I would be better off focusing on one activity at a time–mainly, my children.  And I’m missing out.   

And though love is not a fairy tale, how often do I take a second and really gaze into my husband’s eyes?  How often do I think about him during the day or sit and talk with him face-to-face instead of operating in survival mode, ticking off tasks as we work side-by-side?  When did I stop leaving him little love notes or sweet texts?  Have I prayed for him today, yesterday or anytime recently? 

The word I’ve chosen to focus on this year is “enjoy,” which begins with noticing.  When I set aside my phone and to-do lists and intentionally notice people, I can begin to enjoy the people all around me.  

If I would only ACCEPT that the pace of my life right now with two kids under three needs to be slower than I’ve ever been used to, I’ll begin to notice God in the details more than I ever have.  For nature, strangers, friends, family, my children and my husband are really displays of the splendor of God at work all around me.  If I will only take the time to notice. 


Do you notice people?

How do you notice God?

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Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.  Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven't been.


What Love Looks Like After 5 Years of Marriage

My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about having my daughter get into princesses, princes, and fairy tales.  The first princess items made their way into our home recently and to be honest, I inwardly groaned when they did.  This is new to me, so the jury’s still out, but I want my daughter to know what love really looks like.   My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

My husband compliments me, but he does not complete me.  He fills in so many voids, but does not meet every desire of my heart.  

Instead, love looks like changing sheets–twice–together at 2 am after your son has vomited all over them.  It is the inordinate delight of having someone make and deliver coffee to you as you sit nursing a baby before the sun has come up.  It is someone who lets you put your icy cold feet on them as you are curled together in a C as you fall asleep.  Love is a husband who eats anything you put in front of him and never makes fun of or criticizes you–ever.  

Love is being told you look beautiful when you can’t remember if you brushed your hair, are not wearing make-up and are certainly wearing the same hoody you wore three out of the last seven days. It is praying and seeking community together.  It is catching each other’s eye across the room when your son says something hilarious and you are trying to be serious and not crack a smile.  

It is having a constant in your life after years of being alone.  My mom reminded me of a time many years ago when I had to sign a heap of paperwork at the hospital and I just started crying and said, “THIS is why I want a husband.  So I don’t have to do all of this by myself!”  I had similar feelings when I had to drag all my luggage with me into airport bathrooms, fill up my gas in -15 degree weather, pay bills, figure out my taxes (I gave up, to be honest–thank you, dad…), and viciously guard my possessions when traveling alone in China.  I prayed for someone who would BE with me in life’s transitions.  Someone I wouldn’t have to explain my complex web of relationships and history to.  A constant would be there for holiday meals and wouldn’t send my host rushing to pull up the “extra” chair because I made our numbers odd. 

Love is in the physical intimacy that you share, though I’ve been shocked by how much NOT like the movies it is.  Hollywood conveniently leaves out the humanizing moments of laughter over surprising bodily noises, mishaps, head and teeth bumps and the aspects that just don’t work, in spite of your aspirations towards creativity.  The movies don’t account for the mess of it all (in so many senses).  But love is in those times, too, imperfect as they are, as they give you an opportunity to connect on bad days and good days.  On days when it feels like the world is going to end and you can’t trust politicians or world leaders to keep you protected, there is comfort in the nearness of another human soul and the closest connection two humans can have.  It is a taste of Eden in a world of chaos.  A vulnerable love that sheds your skin of shame.  That leaves you feeling loved because you are accepted and celebrated in your nakedness.

Love looks like understanding and doing what you can to meet each other’s needs, whether that be for  deep conversation, sex, alone time, or just the need to meet a craving for French Fries or a cup of coffee (even if it means driving 10 miles out of the way).  It is knowing that your husband is an introvert and wants to shut down after an evening with people, but that your wife, an extrovert, will want to chatter away for an hour after you get home.  Love tries to understand that you have different thresholds for people that you need to make allowances for as you schedule your time.

These are the moments I actually longed for when I was single–not the sweep-me-off-my-feet, passionate thrill of love, but the togetherness, the commitment, the security of knowing that someone would love me, respect me and serve me even on the rough days.  Love is having a man to share about my day with and offer to cook me omelets when I am exhausted and standing dejectedly in front of the refrigerator at dinner time.   It is being parents, lovers, friends, partners, co-conspirators, and each other’s greatest fans.  

It is a piece of art made up of a thousand moments recorded, which together tell the story of love.

After five years of marriage, this is what love looks like for us.  We are tired, have made personal sacrifices, put passions on the shelf and are still working on communicating well.  So though life is perhaps not being lived perfectly “happily ever after,” I am sometimes made to feel like a princess in disguise.   

What does love look like for you?  I’d love to hear some real life examples in the comments!

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Linking up with A Proverbs 31 Wife and Velvet Ashes

My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

 

Goodbye to the Other Leslies

I really thought my life as a nearly 37-year-old would look very different from the way it actually looks today.  

As a 20-year-old, let’s say, I envisioned my future self as living in another country, speaking another language and having a family with bi (or tri)-lingual children.  I planned on raising them to love other cultures, attend local schools, eat ethnic foods and travel the world.  We would possibly even live without plumbing.  And my husband would be right there beside me–leading people to Christ and possibly even preaching or teaching in other languages.  That’s how it was supposed to go.

And if I stayed single? (my plan B) I’d get my PhD and have lots of disciple “children” in another country, like Amy Carmichael, who was a single missionary in an orphanage in India for over 50 years.

Oh how God has a sense of humor.

Though I was on that very path, God U-turned my life six years ago to bring me back exactly where I started (or so I thought).  And I found myself living a life I never dreamed I’d live:  an “ordinary” one.


The crossroads of life have a catch.  Once you pass them, you can never go back. 

I recently listened to a podcast called Sorta Awesome that talked about saying goodbye to all of your potential yous that never came into existence.  And I feel it’s time that I bid those other Leslies adieu.

I really thought my life as a nearly 37-year-old would look very different from the way it actually looks today.

 
Goodbye to the single Leslie who would change the world.

Goodbye to the Leslie who would marry someone of another race and have gorgeous bi-racial children.

Goodbye to the Leslie who would marry someone in full-time ministry.

Goodbye to the Leslie who would get a PhD studying an ethnic minority in northwest China.

Goodbye to the Leslie who would be a social worker (my first major).

Goodbye to the Leslie who would transform the inner city of Chicago through her badass teaching methods…think Dangerous Minds (I tried that, actually, and that Leslie didn’t materialize).

Goodbye to the Leslie with 6, 8 or 10 children (probably not biologically possible for me anymore), or the Leslie who would be the “mom of boys” or “mom of girls” (I have a boy and a girl).

Goodbye to the Leslie who would be a nurse (I got accepted to nursing school, but didn’t go).

Goodbye to what could have been.

Hello and welcome to what is.  To what God has done, is doing and will do.   

Thank God for the roads taken and the roads not taken.  Because at every crossroads, He was there.  He was pointing, guiding, urging, leading and holding my hand, whether I knew it or not.  

Goodbye, fair Leslies.  Those would have been good lives, too, were they what God had planned for me.  It turns out He wanted me to be a teacher, live for a time in China, be single for a season, finally marry an actor in Chicago, have two adorable stinkers, move to Colorado and begin a little blog

And “ordinary” is relative, after all.  This Saturday night, I cooked dinner to James Taylor in the background, with my one-year-old daughter on my hip, helping me deliver cardamom, cumin, coriander and turmeric to the counter to make chickpea curry.  Meanwhile, my sick husband was curled up with tea, a cozy blanket and a book at the kitchen table.  

In the other room, our son played with our former Saudi Arabian exchange student, laughing and making trucks talk back and forth.  My daughter got bored “cooking” and dove into the cardboard box in the living room that is our best new toy.  

Earlier in the day, we all squashed into our Corolla to drive 45 minutes up into the snow-covered mountains to Rocky Mountain National Park, pausing on turn-outs for breath-catching views.  We put the kids to bed after dinner and conversations about the intersections of Muslim and Christian theology and melted into the couch to watch a new British murder mystery T.V. series. 

Yes, our life is ordinary.  But ordinary is the way your foot eventually molds grooves into stiff shoes.  It is the way a gorgeous new dress gradually becomes “you” and a natural part of your wardrobe.  “Ordinary” for us does not look like “ordinary” for others.  In fact, your “ordinary” may be very exotic to me, and vice versa.  Ordinary is no longer a bad word to me.

Though I am not changing the world at a macro level, love, cultures, food, friends, laughter and challenges are happening at a micro level under my roof just as they would have had I found myself on another path.  This is the Leslie that God intended to be.  So I will stop turning to look back at those other Leslies that could have been and allow them to fade into the distance, granting them a fond, but firm farewell.  I do not regret a single road taken.  Though life is not as I expected, it is still pretty spectacular, even in all its ordinary-ness. 


What about you?  How does your life look different (so far) from what you had planned for yourself?  How have you seen the grace in that?  I’d love to read your stories in the comments!

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~~~

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~~~

Linking up with #Wholemama and Me, Coffee, and Jesus and Grace and Truth  and Velvet Ashes 
 

I really thought my life as a nearly 37-year-old would look very different from the way it actually looks today.

Eden & Vulnerability: Nakey, No Shame

My children like to do "nakey dances."  And there is very little that brings me as much joy in life as watching my two little people dance around in their birthday suits completely uninhibited, shaking their tiny bottoms and slapping their protruding bellies.  Naked, and with zero shame.     So when I think of untainted, shameless Eden, what first comes to my mind is that Adam and Eve must have been the first to perfect the nakey dance.

My children like to do “nakey dances.”  And there is very little that brings me as much joy in life as watching my two little people dance around in their birthday suits completely uninhibited, shaking their tiny bottoms and slapping their protruding bellies.  Naked, and with zero shame.  

So when I think of untainted, shameless Eden, what first comes to my mind is that Adam and Eve must have been the first to perfect the nakey dance.

I finally picked up a Brene Brown book recently to find out what all the fuss is about.  If you haven’t heard of her, she became famous after giving this TED talk on vulnerability and has since written several books.  She skirts around many Christian themes, but doesn’t seem to have an overtly spiritual message, yet applied to spiritual life, I think many of her concepts could revolutionize the community of the church.  Here are a few quotes from Daring Greatly:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world…”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“There are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and unworthiness; facing uncertainty, exposure and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough.”

Adam and Eve felt no shame before sin entered the world, so really there was no need for vulnerability.  But after the fall, vulnerability is a ticket back to Eden because we must put everything on the line for Christ.  And it is through this risk that we find we are loved utterly and completely.  He looks at us as if looking at Himself, because we are made in His image.  He took our shame on Himself so that we can experience delicious freedom.  

While I accept this at an intellectual level and sometimes grasp it at a heart level, I also know that vulnerability does not end with me submitting myself to Jesus for salvation.  It also applies to my marriage, my parenting, my friendships and the way I use my work and gifts to serve others.  “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mat. 16:25).

Where is vulnerability transforming my life from a life of fear into a life of power and freedom?

In my marriage, my husband’s devotion to me makes it easy for me to be vulnerable with him. I know from experience that if I were with a different sort of man, my tendency would be to close up, protect and retreat.  But even so, it is still easy to keep the deepest corners of my soul locked away, waiting for my husband to “happen” to stumble upon them.  But that is not realistic.  Most men do not naturally ask soul-searching questions of their wives, so I need to be willing to lay out a few treasures that are reserved for him alone.  

In my parenting, fear of loving too much prevents me from being vulnerable.  What if I pour myself into my role as a mother–love them TOO much–and something happens to one of my children?  How would I survive?  

In friendships, there is the fear that if I am vulnerable with someone, they will not reciprocate by pouring out their heart to me.  Or even worse, they will never call me again.  And yet Mike Mason says in Practicing the Presence of People, “Flaws form the best glue for friendship.  Indeed a friendship without many shared failures will remain stilted and lame.  We connect with others not primarily through our strengths, but through our weaknesses” (pg. 240).  We cannot have true friendships without vulnerability.

In August of 2015, I began blogging.  It was terrifying and I felt like I was standing naked in front of my friends and family to be judged and ridiculed.  But instead of feeling defeated, I felt brave.  Instead of feeling weak, I felt strong.  I felt courageous in a way I have never felt before.  And just as in marriage the nakedness gets easier the more you find you are loved and accepted not in spite of your imperfections, but because of them, being accepted for who I am as a writer has empowered me to keep writing.

Where is God calling you to be vulnerable this year?  In a relationship?  A new venture?  A job change with less pay?  A creative gift that you have shelved?

Pray for the strength to be vulnerable.  Never accept vulnerability as weakness, because moving forward and risking exposure takes amazing bravery and courage.  

If you want to return to Eden, ask that God remove your shame through Jesus so that you can dance the freedom of the nakey dance in every sphere of your life.  It is a dance that is full of joy and delight in being accepted for who you are.  Believe that you are a beloved child of God, extravagantly loved.  Excessively loved.  Be free, my dear.  And put some new part of yourself on the line this year, something that requires just a bit of courage.

In what area of your life is God calling you to be more vulnerable?

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Linking up with Velvet Ashes and Literacy Musing Mondays 

My children like to do "nakey dances."  And there is very little that brings me as much joy in life as watching my two little people dance around in their birthday suits completely uninhibited, shaking their tiny bottoms and slapping their protruding bellies.  Naked, and with zero shame.     So when I think of untainted, shameless Eden, what first comes to my mind is that Adam and Eve must have been the first to perfect the nakey dance.

Love & Marriage: The Narrowing

Love & Marriage:  The Narrowing

My closest friends know that I have a rebellious streak. And in spite of being a teacher by trade (and a rule enforcer by default as a parent), I may also be a little bit of a rule breaker.  So it should come as no surprise that I don’t do well with restrictions or limits.

Before getting married, I traveled to over 10 countries for various amounts of time (living in two). I learned Chinese, got my masters and planned to get my PhD (my Plan B since marriage didn’t seem to be an option–why not be super educated?). My “verse” was:  

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes” (Is 54:2).

And then I fell in love.

The Narrowing began with dating long distance, but became a real heading in the story of our lives when we got married and realized we had so much less time for ourselves and for relationships outside of one another. We were crazy in-love and happy, but began to notice our broad road narrowing as it sloped towards the horizon.

I suddenly felt like a bird tethered to the foot of another bird, exhilarated by the heights, but struggling to negotiate the tension that comes in flying while attached to another being.

Two years later, we had a child and The Narrowing became even more evident. We could no longer spontaneously go out with friends or stay up late. Our time for each other became more precious and our time for others practically non-existent. Baby number two came two years after that and the term “spare time” now elicited much eye-rolling and muttering of “must be nice” under our breath.

When we were dating, I told Adam that my biggest fear was that I would be cooped up with an infant inside a tiny Chicago apartment in the dreary winter. Within a few years, that is exactly where I found myself. It is hard to maintain your rebellious streak when you are nursing a baby around the clock.

But lately I’ve been wondering if The Narrowing isn’t as much a restriction of freedom as a freedom from restrictions? What if I stopped seeing it as an end and began seeing it as a means to an end? What if I started accepting that God may want to prune branches so that new branches may grow?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (Jn. 15:2). 

It is fall-become-winter time and my son has started asking me why all the trees are dead. They aren’t dead, I answer,
they’re just preparing for winter. They are shedding their excess leaves to conserve their energy during this season.

I am a winter tree, stripped down to bare branches. Teacher, missionary, world traveler, student, friend- who-will-be-there-at-a-moment’s-notice and adventurer are no longer terms I can honestly use to describe myself in three words or less. Now, I am wife, mommy, cook, boo boo kisser, question answerer, pretend game player and bodily fluid wiper.  But perhaps one day vibrant new leaves will replace the ones that were “lost.”

In fact, lately I have noticed that the loss of leaves in our yard is opening up new views of the serene lake across the street, the expansive blue sky and the mighty mountains hiding behind houses that I couldn’t see when the trees were full.  Perhaps the loss of some of what I used to use to define myself is also opening up new views of God, myself and others in this season of my life.  


Any artist knows and respects the eloquence of empty space in a work of art.  The elimination of my extra road is teaching me to walk this narrow path with more precision and intentionality. 


I am being given the gift of lessening. 

Patty Stallings, in her article Pleasant Boundary Lines, pointed out that Jesus Himself was “unknown, hidden and unseen for most of His adult life.” He intentionally limited Himself and allowed Himself to take on the nature of a servant (Phil. 2:7). And we are called to be like Him. 

In the comments, she responded to my mention of The Narrowing:

“Leslie, when I first read your term “The Narrowing” on your blog a couple weeks ago, I thought how fitting for moms of young children. And moms of grown children. And women as they age. And women who take care of aging parents. And… well, the list could go on and on, right? The image that comes to my mind is squeezing through a narrow passageway and you have to shed all the excess “stuff” you are dragging along to fit through the narrow place. And as you do, your hands are freed up to welcome the new and the good on the other side of the passageway.”


My hands are freed?

Maybe this narrow road He has me on is not a road of restriction, but of freedom because I am walking within His boundary lines of love. The Narrowing frees me to walk with greater purpose, emptier hands and a lighter load. 
 
 “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5-6).


What about you?  I’d love to hear some of your experience with The Narrowing in the comments!


Linking up with Testimony Tuesday and Sarah Bessey’s Synchroblog prompt

In Rhythm with the Spirit


Orange clay,
distant drumming,
straw mats
and flowering trees. 

Africa.

The year 2000.  
I am 21.
 
A bright yellow re-purposed jug poured onto dusty hands, fingers rubbed free of grease from chapati and samosas and ten children holding ten fingers on the walk home from the road.
 
The water thuds twice inside the jug like the beats of a djembe drum.  A familiar song.  What song could it be? And then I smile.  It ruminates there the rest of the night when the lights go down to three naked bulbs in this village house where I have brought no music for six months.
 
Though I feel alone.  I am never alone.  You are with me.  You are with me.
 
Two notes yank me back in step with the rhythm of the Spirit of Jesus.  
 
Just as we are often unaware that we are breathing in and out, in and out and that our heart is beating at 70 beats per minute, keeping us in life, so, too, are we often ignorant of the Spirit pulsing all around us, pulsing IN us.  God has set us in rhythm in life.  He has given us rituals, routines, seasons, tides, reproductive cycles, prayers, festivals, feasts, six days of work and a command to Sabbath rest so that we may REMEMBER.  Music and dance only jump into the rhythm to whirl and twirl and draw attention to what God has done.
 
Watching children is the best way to fall back into rhythm.  Mothers sway in church pews even after putting babies in the nursery because they have been reconditioned.  On a playground, witness the pulse of children whirling, swaying, swinging, rocking, jumping, thumping, laughing, tap tap tapping out the rhythm of the jump rope skip song, slapping hands to Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack all dressed in Black Black Black, skipping, tripping and falling into a heap of rolling rolling children. 

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

We, too, call out Daddy and are freed to play in the pulsing rhythm of life.
 
For freedom Christ set free.

But it is freedom to love, not hate 
have joy, not bitterness
peace, not anxiety
patience, not immaturity
kindness, not selfishness
goodness, not evil
faithfulness, not doubt 
gentleness, not harshness
self control, not self gratification
 
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Staying in step with the Spirit leads the melody of our lives and makes even the dissonant notes harmonious, for there can be no melody without rhythm.

Marriage requires in-step-ness.  When spouses are out of sync, all other rhythms of life are awkward.  Mind, body and spirit must align to trace one another’s steps, anticipate the next move and let go enough to melt into the freedom of the dance. 

For you were called to freedom, only do not use your freedom for the flesh, but in love SERVE one another.

Offering our minds to our spouse in conversation, our bodies to one another in love making and our souls in prayer together to the sacrificial God of love, keeps us synchronized in our marriage rhythms.

Rhythm for rhythm’s sake can feel like monotony. Bored, we step without joy. A musician knows too well the effect their attitude has on their art and first assumes the mood of a piece:  allegrezza  (cheerfulness, joyfulness), amoroso (loving), anima (with feeling), calma (calm), energico (energetic, strong).   

We wash our minds daily with the words of Jesus as we would wash our hands or faces. We pray for allegrezza attitudes as we play the music we have been given. We prepare for a day of dancing His steps and giving in to His rhythms.  We allow ourselves to be ones who are led.

You may feel you have lost your rhythm. 
Be still.
Listen. 
Surrender. 

Tap, tap, tap your toe to the distant rhythm of the Spirit at work in you and in the world and soon you may find your whole body, soul and mind aching to step along.  It is for freedom that you have been set free. 



Scriptures: Galatians 4 & 5, paraphrased
Song: “Though I Feel Alone,” Waterdeep

Are you in step with the Spirit today?  How is He at work all around you?


Linking up with Velvet Ashes

Friend Dating: Why is it so hard to make friends in your 30’s?

I’m 36 years old and back at it again.  Making friends never used to be a problem for me.  I met my first best friend in preschool, managed to make friends as I changed schools five times from fourth to twelfth grade and even made some really solid post-college friendships.  But that’s when I was in my 20’s–and single. 

When I got married at 31, my former college friends and roommates still lived in the same city as me, so I wasn’t desperate for new relationships, but as they all eventually began to move away, I found myself alone again. 

When I was pregnant, I decided to start “friend dating.”  I picked out a few acquaintances who were close to my due date to meet for coffee, but it felt forced and unnatural and nothing more came of those relationships.

I assumed having children would usher me into the “mom crowd” I had been so in awe of as a single woman, but was soon disappointed to find that two moms talking at the park usually goes about as deep as two dog owners chatting at a dog park.  If anything, having kids complicated rather than simplified matters because not only did the mom and I have to click, but so did our kids AND our parenting styles.  Add in child number two, and you begin facing impossible odds.

This April, we made a cross-country move and I have been determined to make friends.  About a month after moving here, my son hit it off with another boy at the park.  His mom, who was carrying a baby about the age of my daughter, and I had a long conversation.  At the end of it, I took a deep breath and gave her my phone number.  We have gotten together about twice a month since then and, though I would call her my friend, it feels like we have just reached the point that I had already reached after just one week of living in the dorm with my college friends.

My husband (as has been the case with my friends’ husbands as well) has had an even harder time than me since he works from home and has little interaction with others. 

Sex and Netflix are our evenings right now (though not usually at the same time).  But contrary to Hollywood thought, we have discovered that we cannot complete one another.  Though God and our family are first priority, we also need other relationships to be healthy.  We have actually found that my meeting and expressing my “many words” with a girlfriend helps our marriage, as my husband is okay with the more condensed version of my thoughts. 

This summer (in an attempt to make friends), I joined a study on a book that actually sounded pretty lame to me at first, called The Friendships of Women.  To my surprise, this updated version of a book first written in 1988, by Dee Brestin, put words to so many of my unexpressed desires for female friendships. She writes about how most women have a gift for intimacy that men just don’t have.  

“When I talk to my closest female friends, I feel my soul being sunned and watered when they ask questions, drawing out the deep waters of my soul, and as well when they empathize, rejoicing when I rejoice, weeping when I weep” (p. 29).

Women are designed for intimacy.  This is why two women can reach a level of friendship in months that it takes men years to attain (and even then it may never reach that level). 

As women, we need other women.

“Friendship is unnecessary: like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival” (C.S. Lewis The Four Loves).

I am writing this post mainly to convince myself that I actually do need female friends, because I have been wondering if I am expecting too much at this stage of my life, which Madeleine L’Engle calls “the tired years.”  But how to find them?

In 2012, the New York Times published an article called “Friends of a Certain Age,” about the difficulties of making friends after the age of 30.  The author mentions that sociologists consider three conditions important in making intimate friends:

1. Proximity
2. Repeated, unplanned interactions
3. A setting that encourages people to let down their guard and confide in one another

All three of these conditions are easily met in college and in the work place (especially when you are single), but what about when you work from home or have a family?  Marriage and family are a time suck (in the best sense of the word) and there just isn’t a lot of down time to shoot the breeze with potential new friends. 

In theory, I believe religious communities have an advantage over secular communities in this regard because they attend weekly services where all of the above can happen.  And yet my husband and I have struggled with this as well–maybe because we don’t often see other people at church more than Sunday mornings, so we really don’t have the “unplanned interactions”?  Or maybe the setting is actually not conducive to people “letting down their guard and confiding in one another”? Or maybe Christians actually just have unrealistically high expectations after reading the Acts passages about believers sharing all things in common, eating together, praying together and exemplifying what seems like amazing community?

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves said that, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too?  I thought I was the only one.'”  A lovely sentiment, and yet just as the birth of a child is not simple, neither is the birth of a friendship.  (Am I sounding like a jaded 30-something yet?) So far, just being able to relate to someone has not led to the intimate friendships I desire, because we have not had the benefits of proximity, unplanned interactions or a safe setting.   

We have only recently settled on a church and joined a small group, so maybe the awkward asking-of-phone-numbers-in-random-parks can come to an end.  We have actually been invited to someone’s house for dinner for the first time in seven months and was just asked to celebrate Thanksgiving with another family. 

So there is hope. 


What about you?  Please leave your words of wisdom in the comments, I will definitely take them to heart.

Related: 
White People Are Boring 
When I Forget to Notice People

Linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays

Day 18: And Then I Fell In Love {31 Days of Re-Entry}

“In Your way, in Your time, if it’s Your will.”

This was always my prayer when I talked to God about my desire for marriage. This is the story of how He chose to answer that prayer.

“In Your way”
You never quite know how (or if) your love story is going to go.  As it turns out, mine shocked me.

I returned to the states for two months in the middle of my fifth year of serving in China.  I was about to finish my second year of full-time language school.  While home in Florida with my parents, I traveled to Chicago for two weeks to visit friends, which included a weekend trip at the beginning with about 10 friends in Michigan.  We had done those kind of get-togethers over the years and though there was a core group, there were usually a few different people each time. 

I ended up riding to Michigan with a friend, her fiancé, and another guy, Adam Verner, a voice talent and audio book narrator.  We had actually met many years before when he visited our small group, but for various reasons he hadn’t been able to get involved at church until after I had already gone to China.  We talked the entire three hours to Michigan and hung out all weekend.  Since I had always planned on marrying a missionary, my guard was completely down and I just kept telling myself to relax and enjoy him.  It wasn’t until the drive back that I thought to myself Oh crap.  I really like this guy.  And I live in CHINA.  (As he tells it, it was on the way there that he thought the same thing).

Being self-employed, he had time to spend time with me during the next two weeks in Chicago.  We talked a ton, but for once I didn’t let myself go too deep too quickly.  One of my best friends knew Adam well and could vouch for him and assured me that he was a quality guy.  “Don’t analyze and don’t fantasize” was my motto for those two weeks and I would blast the radio with dance music each time I got in the car to try and prevent myself from doing just that.

But I was falling in love.

After the fact, we both described the feelings as being caught up by a current where it would have been impossible to swim backward.  All we could do was allow ourselves to be swept along in the flow.  I finally understood why people called it “falling” in love, because it was a terrifying and wonderful free fall into the unknown.

After hanging out several times, he invited me over for dinner at his condo.  Walking in, I remember thinking There’s no way all my stuff will fit in here.  After dinner, I threw him off by sitting across the room from him instead of next to him on the couch.  He thought for sure I wasn’t interested, but I later told him that it was because I didn’t want to be distracted by how attracted I was to him.

We spent more time together the next week and he asked me out for Valentine’s Day.  It was then that he told me that he wanted to “intentionally pursue me”–even if that meant him coming to China–and had started researching ways to do a long distance relationship well.  I was leaving the next day to fly back to Florida for a few weeks before heading to China. 

“You know you ARE going to be in the states a little longer,” he said. 

“And you want to come visit me in Florida?” I said.  When he smiled and nodded, my entire body flooded with heat and I began sweating.  I told him that I hadn’t even told my family yet (my mom had a history of getting too excited too quickly anytime I talked about a guy, so I thought it would be best to keep this a secret for a little while).

So I flew home the next day and told my mom that not only was I dating someone, but that he was coming next week.  I had dated so little that she actually thought I was lying.  No one would believe me!  But after convincing the family I was telling the truth, Adam showed up in Florida to meet my entire family–and even jumped in the family picture. 

I flew back to China a few days later and we began our long distance relationship which consisted of 5 hour Skype conversations every other day and scanning hand-written letters to email for the next few months (the mail was too slow!).  That was in early March.  Mid-March he told me he loved me and during his week-long visit to China in May, we discussed marriage.  I flew back to America July 15 and we were engaged 3 days after that.  We got married January 15, just a few weeks shy of the Michigan weekend a year before. 

“In Your Time”
I’ve always thought it was strange when people said they “got married late,” as if God does anything “late.”  But that said, it certainly started feeling like I had missed my opportunity for marriage when my friends not only passed me, but began lapping me as they had one child after another.

I always loved the verses throughout the Song of Solomon that talked about not awakening love until it so desired and tried to trust that God knew what He was doing when I still found myself single on my 30th birthday (why is that always our “deadline” for marriage?).  Being 29 was a much harder year for me than 30 for that reason–because I was still single, with no prospects of marriage (and, did I mention I was living in the middle of nowhere China?).

But God brought Adam and I together when His time was right.  We often speculate on whether we would have ended up together earlier if I had been in the states, but ironically it was the fact that I was living in China that was intriguing to him.  That, and I had finally accepted God’s will for my life–even if that meant being single.  (I had decided to move forward with Plan B, which was becoming the most educated single person I could and getting my PhD!).

“If It’s Your Will”
How did I know that it was God’s will for me to leave China and marry Adam? 

I am certainly not an expert in discerning God’s will, but I will say that He had to do a work in my heart before I even met Adam to get me to a place of being willing to marry someone who didn’t fit a very specific profile.  Over the years of singleness, my long list of qualifications eventually boiled down to just three:

1. Loves God
2. Loves me
3. Loves others

Of course I had ideas of how I hoped these three would play out, but ultimately I had to lay my hopes and expectations down at His altar and trust that He would choose someone for me.

I have had many friends over the years who have really wrestled with whether or not someone was right for them.  That was not the case with me.  I think God knew that in order for me to leave China and my plans, the way would have to be undeniably clear.

Though I have had no doubt that marriage was God’s will for me, I will say that I have struggled with what other people think about my choice, which I hashed out in a separate post called “When Marriage Is Viewed as Selling Out.”

But I remember discussing my feelings with my married teammate and she assured me that leaving China to get married was completely valid and right.  This was also the friend who had had a dream that I told her I was dating a guy named Adam the week before I actually flew back to China!  

I am blessed to be married to a kind, generous, hard-working, talented, intelligent, gentle and thoughtful man who:
1. Loves God
2. Loves me
3. Loves others

He has supported me so well through all of the transitions of the past five years.  And while he may not feel “called to missions,” he is submitted to God and wants to live in obedience to Christ no matter where we live–even if that means going back to China.

~~~~~~

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Check out my latest post 


This post is day 18 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)

Day 13: Longing for Home {31 Days of Re-entry}

This is the painting I chose to hang in my bedroom when my parents moved houses during my freshman year of college.  That was 18 years ago and since then I have moved my possessions 11 times, living in 3 different countries, 2 different states and 6 different cities.  Each time I would return to my parent’s house, I would study that painting and imagine I was the girl in the pink dress, wondering how to get home.

In her, I found a kindred spirit and someone who looked as homeless as I felt. 

She always seemed to be longing for something more, but never finding the strength to get there.  Many Jim and Elisabeth quotes get tossed around, but one of their quotes from a letter written before they were married made an impression on me:  “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.”

When I was in college, I longed to know which roads I would take–which job I would end up doing and in which city.  Who I would befriend and if/when I would get married.

After college in the thick of teaching public school in Chicago, I wondered if life would always be like this.  Would I ever meet someone?  Have a family? Go overseas like I had always wanted?

When I was finally in China, I longed for a partner and someone to be my “constant” in a world that was ever changing.  I yearned for that man and hoped for a family of my own. I wanted to make a difference in a country that makes up one fifth of the world’s population.  And yet I still longed for America and the familiar.

And after returning from China, getting married and having children, I now long for a meaningful life.  I hope our family can live counter-culturally and stand out from the seemingly homogenous culture that is now our “home.”

Longing.

Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.

On a run one dreary spring day in Chicago before leaving for China, I ran under the elevated train (El) tracks that were stained, rusted and tagged with graffiti.  There was a railing that ran parallel underneath and in it someone had planted a tiny garden that pierced the day with its cheerfulness.  Even though you are miserable because of the cloudy days, the crowded streets and the lonely commutes home, you can grow here, God seemed to say.  

Many years later, on another run, this time in China, I passed a dried up field in the outskirts of the city which had become a dumping ground for trash and refuse.  I had a holy moment when I noticed a single yellow flower bursting through the sad field, thriving in spite of its environment.  You can grow anywhere, God seemed to be saying to me.

Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.

I believe humans will always long for more.  We long to know the future and to make a difference.  We long for love, community, belonging, peace, healthy challenges, beauty and meaning.  This is not just true to the Christian experience, it is true to the human experience.

But the Christian takes the longing one step further by naming our hope and defining our longing for an eternal home.

Yes, there is a place for contentment, being thankful and having a grateful heart, but some degree of longing is appropriate and reminds us that we are out of place here.  We are a garden in a concrete jungle and a flower in the wilderness.  Our longing is good, but it is temporary.  And in the meantime, we are to beautify our surroundings–wherever God places us.

(For practical ways I’m trying to do this, check out Readjusting: Same Tools, New Work Space)

~~~~~~

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This post is day 13 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)


Linking up with #WholeMama

Painting: “Christina’s World,” by Andrew Wyeth (American), 1948.