Is He The One?

We lay in bed last night, my head on his ribs, and I reminded him today would be the anniversary of the first time we gathered together socially. He was going on dates with another girl I knew and I just kept tamping down the flares of interest rising in my heart about him. “Not for me,” I’d remind myself. But when I wandered over to the sink with a handful of dishes to wash that night and he joined me there a moment later to dry, the flare rose again. It was not the gnawing monstrosity of what I knew to be a crush, a curiosity coupled with a desire to manipulate the situation so I looked more appealing. It was a gentle gulp, a careful knowing, a submitted acknowledgement: “Not to be trifled with,” it said.

Our conversation was easy, deep, memorable. He was the first person I’d met in Texas who grabbled with a subject I cared deeply about too. I left after the dishes were washed, dried, and put away. I drove home that night with no hope in my heart but surety in my veins about God’s goodness still. He had been doing something deep in me in the months previous and I was seeing the answers to some prayers I’d prayed for a long time. Meeting and marrying was not my priority. I knew God was in the process of answering my prayers, but what I didn’t expect was the man with whom I’d washed the dishes that night would be the man with whom I’d wash dishes the rest of life.

“When did you know that you knew?” my still unmarried friends ask, curious, I’m sure, about what that mysterious knowing feels like and if what they feel for someone is it. I don’t know, I answer. And I really don’t. What I always say is there was an absence of doubt which is not the same as a presence of assurance. There was never some moment when I looked at him and thought, “He is the one.” There were just many small moments when I checked my heart and found there no residue or evidence of doubt, no question, no worry, no “What ifs?”

I have liked and dated many men and boys, and could have (and indeed, did) convinced myself that any one of them were it, the one. I had dreams in which I met them at the altar, imaginations about our future children, went to sleep with the surety that these lonely nights would someday be remedied by this person in particular. I liked them so much I convinced myself I loved them. But not until Nate was there an absence of those things and a presence instead of a kind of faith I couldn’t describe to you if I tried. When a friend talks about just knowing about their future spouse and the unmarried clammer to know what does that feel like? no one can answer. Not really. I suppose it’s different for everyone.

Here’s what I do know, though: God can work a miracle of faith in a marriage begun in doubt and the enemy can create a chasm of doubt in a marriage begun in faith. There’s no guarantee either way. If marriage is a picture of our union with Christ, then our faith and doubt in it are too. None of us are immune from the quaking questions we have about the Spirit, the Savior, and our Father and none of us are too far gone for assurance to come in one swift swell.

But regarding the presence of doubt before marriage, I always think about Galatians 4, “When the time came to completion, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law,” whenever I think about marriage and singleness. Another translation says, “At the proper time.” The point in both is the same: at the right time, the groom comes, and not at all in the circumstances in which we expect him to come.

This is what that mysterious knowing is like, as best as I can describe it to my still unmarried sisters who wait with eager longer for the grooms they hope God has prepared for them. It means, at the proper time, God has determined your singleness over and the time for your marriage to begin. This isn’t some trite counsel that “You’re not yet good enough to get married,” or “God wants you to be perfect before you get married.” The onus isn’t on you to complete, finish, or determine what is proper at all. He knows when the fullness of your singleness has come to completion and when it is no longer good for you to be alone. Until then, though, you can trust, just as He was working in the lives of the Jewish people to turn their hearts toward Him until the time was right to send His Son, He is doing the same with you.

And the joy in that is he’s doing the same with all of us still. We’re all still groaning, waiting with eager longing, expectant, and hopeful for the coming of our King to rule and reign for all eternity. And we’re all tamping down these fires rising in our hearts for lesser loves that won’t satisfy. And while the swell of Maranatha, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus, is on our breath, we know too, there’s still work to be done in this space until He does.

If you’re in a relationship wrought with doubts and no assurance, I beg you, friend, step back. Don’t get married. I’ve been where you are and it’s agonizing. To accept the gift of doubt as a gift from the Spirit who desires to protect you is a humbling and hard, but to marry amidst doubts is a harder thing in the long run. God can bring assurance, I’ve seen Him do it, but how much better to trust the kind of assurance He can give in marriage is a picture of the kind He gives in salvation. No one can tell you what that assurance feels like. No one. Just as no one will stand before the throne of God to make account for your actions but you. But there’s this: God loves you and He wants you to be assured of His love. He loves you in your doubt but He doesn’t want you to stay in them. This is true of marriage too.

Marriage isn’t the only picture of the gospel, don’t let the preachers fool you. We’re all groaning in expectation and wait for the culmination of all things. And the knowing, when it comes, will be sweet and sure and absent of doubt. Wait for it, it’s coming.

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Spring 2019 Writing Mentorship

I am excited to announce year two of the Sayable Writing Mentorship. We begin on March 8th. Here’s what a few of 2018’s participants said about the guided mentorship:

“I cannot think of a way in which this course did not exceed my expectations. You served each of us so well over these last few weeks, pouring into our writing, sharing content that was both challenging and enlightening, and encouraging us as writers and followers of Christ.”

“It has been the single best thing for me as a writer. Pivotal.”

“It was cathartic, almost. I signed up to "find my voice" and "regain what I had lost." Lore took us on a journey to do just this. I found myself sitting and journaling after each reading. I highlighted pieces of her emails and tacked them onto my workspace so I would be reminded of why I was writing and who I was writing for. Her instruction was invaluable because she pointed us to authors and artists excelling in their field, and ultimately pointed us to Christ. My experience cannot be quantified.”

Before I issue the invitation to be a part of this year’s group, though, I wanted to say a few things.

If your aim is to be published, this is not the group for you. Most of the advice out there for folks who want to get published is all about making connections, networking, building a platform, getting an audience, etc. I don't want to disparage those efforts, but I think the thing our world is really thirsting for is not more writers, but better writers. Becoming better writers takes time, feedback, brutal honesty, humility, a willingness to edit and be edited, patience, the ability to hear the word no, and not see a no as a deterrent but instead as a tool to shape and hone writing.

I will not be helping you get published quick because I think quick publishing is one of the worst things that's ever happened to good writing. I will also not be connecting you with any publishing platforms or sharing your social links or blogs during these weeks. My job in this mentorship will be to help you become a better thinker, writer, and submitter of your own work on its own merits—not the merits of your story or who you know or wherever you think your work belongs. That said, most of the writers who went through the 2018 mentorship have seen remarkable growth in their reach, not only on their personal sites, but publishing on well known sites, essays in books, and a few book deals.

Now that we’ve talked about what this mentorship won’t be, what will it be?

It will be a place where you will exercise the muscles of non-fiction first person narrative writing (much like the sort you find on Sayable). We will not be doing fiction writing of any sort. These will be short and long essays. Let your personal ideas, thoughts, and perspectives flow. The best writers know what they think about all kinds of things, instead of simply regurgitating whatever research or popular opinion is floating about. What piques your interest? Gets you excited? Makes you sad? What do you fear? What are you willing to confess? What do you know about God? What do you not know about Him? This is the stuff we’ll talk about and work through. There are plenty of deeply theological writers out there whose lives are woefully uninspected, who find themselves caught off-guard in all kinds of pride and arrogance and fear and doubt and more because while they knew much about God, they overlooked inspecting their own hearts. Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

You will be annoyingly aggressive with your own writing. You will let others be annoyingly aggressive with your writing. You will edit, embellish, omit, and extend. You will “kill your darlings” and you will cradle them rarely. You will not force your words using cheap tricks like alliteration or cliche.

You should expect to commit about 15-45 minutes a day to writing, depending on how quickly you write and how much you procrastinate. There is also one book you’ll need to read, plus one article and podcast each week. Plan on spending about 2-3 hours a week on this.

You will need to purchase one of these books: On WritingWalking on WaterBird by Bird, or The Writing Life. It doesn’t matter which one, just pick one that looks most interesting to you. You will need to have it read by the beginning of week two, so buy it soon and get started.

You will need to find two people in your life who know you, flesh and blood, in real life (no online buddies), who will commit to reading a few of your pieces before you hand them in (as assigned). You will need to commit to listen to their advice. These should not be your mom or your aunt, unless your mom or aunt are handier with a red pen than they are with effusive praise.

You will need access to and familiarity with Google Docs as it will be our main tool. I will not be mentoring on how to use it. If you have questions, google them. I will explain more in the syllabus, but familiarity is a must.

The cost for this eight week mentorship is $250. You will need to paypal the entire amount before March 8, 2019, to have access to the group. Once you’ve applied and been accepted, I will send you the paypal information.

If you can do all this and want to commit, then by golly, I want you apply! Apply here by February 17th. I will let you know the final decision by February 22th. I will choose ten applicants and we will begin on March 8, 2019. Last year I received over 200 applicants within three days and closed the process earlier than I anticipated because I couldn’t wade through that many applicants. I won’t do that again this year but I am just setting a shorter deadline. I’m anticipating fewer applicants this year, so if you applied last year and want to be considered again, please apply! Get to work! I can’t wait to see your words.

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Second Wife, Second Life

Someone called me a second wife recently. I am not the offendable type and I took no notice of it until my husband later casually mentioned something about his first marriage. “It is true,” I thought, “I am the second.” The second wife, the second marriage, the second chance at death do us part. 

There was another wife, another human, another once best friend and I have never known her. She is not a part of our lives or our marriage, but she shaped the man I now call husband, for a third of his life. I have her to thank, in part, for the man he has become, the good and the bad.

I never dreamed of being a second wife, or of marrying a man who had been divorced. At twenty, twenty-one, twenty-six, the child of a crumbling marriage and then a messy divorce, I imagined marrying a man unsullied by the thing I hated more than anything: divorce. 

Yet in this marriage, I have never thought of myself as the second of anything. I am fully his wife, his only wife today, his one wife. 

Divorce is not usually the best choice and should never be the first choice, but sometimes the choice has been stripped from you and you’re the only one willing and working. When I was simply the child of divorce I could not understand it. I looked to both of my parents and the litany of faults fell equally on both sides. “If only he…” I thought. “If only she…” I reasoned. There was no sense to be made of their selfish choices to stop loving, stop respecting, stop listening. 

I suppose there is such a thing as no-fault divorce, but I have never seen one. 

Continue reading Second Wife, Second Life at Fathom Magazine

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Have This Mind Among You

Last night Nate and I were in the midst of a project. More precisely, I had finished my part of the project as far as I could and I was waiting on him to finish his so I could start on the next phase of mine. I know myself well enough to know if I even think about getting distracted, I will, and my best weapon against that is to work like some maniac superhuman until something is done. Nate is not like me. He gathers his tools slowly, remeasures precisely, decides he needs a better tool to do the job and goes to Lowe’s to buy it, assembles better tool after reading the directions (Who reads directions?), and then—finally—makes the cut. I dance around with ants in my pants. He says, “I like your enthusiasm,” which I think is a euphemism for “Get off my back.” We finish the project at 9:47pm. We only get slightly mad at inanimate objects which I consider mostly a success. We end the evening as friends. It’s a win.

A friend asks yesterday, “Do you think you and Nate have a wildly counter-cultural marriage?” I think it depends on which culture you’re talking about, I say back to her. After we talk it out for a few minutes I say, “I think if there’s anything different about our marriage from worldly culture and perhaps church culture, it’s that we don’t treat our marriage like it’s the place where we can be our worst selves. We don’t treat our home like it’s the place where we can ‘be real,’ as though every other relationship in our lives deserves the fruit of the Spirit, but at home we can drop the facade and level all the pent up frustration of the day at one another.” I said, “Nate should get my best self, the best of the Spirit’s fruit in my life and heart, not the worst self. So, yeah, maybe we’re counter-cultural in that sense.”

I think this should be true of every relationship, but especially the ones in which we share the closest quarters or most time. Roommates, close friends, boyfriend or girlfriend, church family, spouse, children, family, whoever it is who sees you most, should receive the first fruits of the Spirit’s work in you. In the midst of conflict, peace (Philippians 4:2-7), in the midst of growth, patience (I Thessalonians 5:13-15), in the midst of disagreement, kindness (Ephesians 4:32), and so on. The world tells us we should find and surround ourselves with people who just let us “be ourselves” or “be real.” But scripture offers a more beautiful arrangement: allowing the Spirit to work in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), and offering His fruit to others in abundance.

Nate shouldn’t get the worst of me, even in the midst of house projects where we differ greatly in speed and method, he should get the best of the Spirit in me. More than anyone else, he should experience the Spirit’s work of gentleness and kindness in me. He should see God’s goodness and faithfulness in me. He should feel the Father’s love and patience through me. These aren’t ideals, these are foundational in a sanctified child of God. Imperfect, yes, but attempted by faith.

Whoever you live with today, the one who sees where you throw your dirty laundry at night (I throw mine at the end of the bed.), the one who sees your bad eating choices, or who knows you prefer reading Louise Penny mysteries at night instead of classic literature, your roommates, your spouse, your kids. They’re the ones who see the real you. And the realest thing about you is the Father loves you, He sent his Son to die for you, and His Spirit lives inside you. That’s the real you. Armed with a love like that, a gospel like that, and Spirit like that, the real you is the best part of you. And you can give that to them in fullness, abundance, with joy because the Spirit who bears fruit in you is the Spirit who helps you offer it to others.

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Note:

Every time I say things like this, I get two responses from readers:

The first is, “Your marriage is like that because your personalities are easier.” Okay. Maybe. But I don’t think Paul was saying the fruit of the Spirit was only for people with low-key personalities. I hope not. And also, our personalities haven’t always been like this. Our character has been formed over decades and is still being formed, and it informs our personalities, instead of the other way around.

The second response is the “Just wait.” But I refuse to submit to the “Just wait” narrative about anything in life. God is our sustainer and he gives more grace. So I’ll keep asking for grace and trusting his sustainment. God doesn’t let a single one of his little ones go through life without exactly what they need for sanctification at every moment. Whatever our portion is today is exactly what God knows will best sanctify us and make us more like him. For some that’s singleness, for some it’s children, for some it’s financial difficulty, for some it’s infertility, for some it’s trauma, etc. Sanctification isn’t a competition and whatever our current hardship is, it doesn’t make us the winner. I don’t want to be so worried about the “just waits” of the future that I miss what God is doing with my today.

No One is an Expert

I have written hundreds of thousands of words on Sayable (or her predecessor) since 2001 and I have never experienced the level of word-fatique I feel today. I lay in bed this morning, the sunlight splitting our curtains in two, and thought of all the things I want to do today and one I thought I should: write.

A week ago I handed in nearly 60,000 words to my publisher on human touch. Almost every working hour of my last four months have been spent on this manuscript and I wish I was more confident in its message. I believe in its message, but as I told a friend who works for my publisher, “I feel like I know less about this than when I started.” Maybe that’s how it is for every author. It’s not until we begin to plumb the depths that we realize how deep the depths go and how infinite their complexity. If human touch is my Everest, I’ve barely deplaned in the Kathmandu airport. My aim was to make readers think about touch, but I fear most of us just want the distilled stuff: give us the how-tos and to-dos, leave thinking for the thought-leaders. But my brain hurts because all I’ve done for months is think.

And I’m tired.

Abraham Heschel wrote, “If you work with your hands, Sabbath with your mind. If you work with your mind, Sabbath with your hands,” and my mind is spent. So yesterday I pulled the 1980s knobs off our 1980s vanity in our guest bathroom, sanded it down, and painted it. Then I pulled out a handsaw and a level and cut some beadboard to size. Then I broke our brand-new utility knife (I think) and learned how to use a caulking gun and liquid nails. We’re doing a full renovation of our master bathroom and I’ll leave those things to the experts, but I can work the YouTube tutorials and figure my way around a bunch of tools for the guest bathroom. I think. I really have no idea what I’m doing but I’m still going to try.

There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter recently about the revival of the blog and it reminds me of how a few years ago I encouraged women to shut their blogs down. I think I still believe there is a glut of information out there and not all are called by God to write or tell their story. Most aren’t. God doesn’t give us our stories so we can tell them. He gives us them so we can see Him and tell about Him. But in an age where “telling our truth” is the thing, one must find a place to tell it to as many as possible. Hence, blogs.

I’m glad for the conversation and the encouragement to rein in the desire to be published on the Big Name Sites; I’m glad for the encouragement to write and post on the same day (I have always done this on Sayable and while it’s meant eating my words more often than not, it’s also meant my salvation has been worked out in real time, not in some happy-clappy “I used to be, but now…” testimony and three point homily.); but also glad for the encouragement to refrain from hot-takes and reactionary posts; I’m glad for the encouragement toward quiet faithfulness in unseen spaces, the exercise of scales and grammar and theology. I hope and pray it leads to better writing across the Christian publishing world and not just bigger celebrity.

I know all these things seem a bit disparate. Maybe they are. I’ve just been thinking this morning about how none of us are experts in anything, not really. Even the ones who seem to be are still learning. Everyone is selling something and to sell it compellingly, most people pretend to be good at it. But we’re not. Not really. Not all of us. Not even most of us. Most of us are YouTubing DIY projects (to watch videos made by people still learning). Most of us are reading books written by people who wish they had said something differently or better or not at all. Most bloggers, the ones who don’t quit when the page views are slim or the comments get nasty, are just putting one foot in front of another in the long slog toward someday.

I don’t know. Maybe you’re scrolling through something today, looking for the experts. Maybe you’re the one people think is the expert. Maybe you’re pretending or maybe you believe you’re as great as your press. I don’t know. I’ve watched a lot of friends in ministry fall in the past few years and more than anything it makes me just beg God, “Let me decrease. Make me an expert in my own weakness and a student of your great glory. Help me to never be deceived by the promise of god-like-ness that everyone offers me with their four steps to everything.”

My brain still hurts so I’m going to go paint the palest pink I could find on our bathroom walls. Because you never know until you try.

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