Saturday, March 30, 2013

What a Wonderful Wall*e

Hard to believe that it's been one week today since my friend Wall*e married the love of her life.

She's a beautiful bride!

Even though I and many of my other friends are already married and engaged, her wedding somehow felt different to me. Besides being incredibly emotional because of the epic romance years-in-the-making that she shares with her husband, it also sparked in me some kind of early-life crisis. Not just a general life crisis, mind you, but a crisis of friendship.

You see, Wall*e does nothing halfway when it comes to her relationships. As I have witnessed over the last ~8 years, she is "all in," to the hilt of every relationship. She has taught me so many things about friendship and how to be a friend, as well as just a person in general. I have so many treasured memories with her of moments that changed my perspective on life, God, love, snacking, dancing, self-image, church membership, family, work, and so many other huge topics.

Sanblan & Wall*e, back in ancient times

As I watched Lindsay walk down the aisle to dedicate her life in romance and friendship to one man, forsaking all others, I knew our friendship would change, and I was gripped with this intense worry that perhaps I hadn't made the most of the years we had together as single girls. I worried that now I wouldn't be able to make the most of the time we still have in close proximity, before her life or mine moves us apart geographically. Then I began to generalize this fear to all my other relationships.

I can think of many wasted opportunities and careless choices to put work over love, things before people, worries before relationships. This does not satisfy! I can't abide this kind of life, and I don't want to harbor any regrets like this.

I don't really buy into the "no regrets" philosophy, because I think even the pain of regret holds a lesson for now, and for the future. Listening to what makes us regret is an educational process. Still, once we've culled the lessons, I believe in tossing the leftovers and not dwelling on things we wish we'd done differently, or more, or better. Just live what's learned.

As I tried to listen to what was making me feel worried, like I was losing something, I realized that my Wall*e has been such an example to me of what a true friend should be. More than anything, I needed to actively spend time appreciating what I had received from her as a friend. I reflected on a few lessons she's taught me, and I thought it wouldn't do any harm to share.

1-Be Yourself. I know it's very trendy to say this and indoctrinate elementary kids against peer pressure, but what I mean here is that, in friendships, it doesn't do any good to try and say the right things if you don't mean them, or to get jealous over the roles that other friends play in the lives of friends and feel like we should copy their other friends, or to try and make ourselves pleasing and presentable to our friends according to what we think they want from us. Lindsay has always been so thoroughly and earnestly who she is, never trying to compete or tow the party line. She has let her personality shine, has been honest about her flaws, and completely generous to allow her friends to have other friends, and maintain her true friendships with many. She doesn't try to hide her pains or problems, and doesn't expect anyone else to do so either. This is so simple that words don't do it justice, but the ability to be herself is something Lindsay has mastered, and the good that it does to the souls of others is incalculable.

2-Be Generous. Lindsay has always amazed me by offering me more grace than I offer myself. She anticipates how my life stressors might impact my friend "performance," and never expects more from me than I can give. She is forgiving and generous in her estimations of others. I have always been on the receiving end of this generosity, and I hope that I haven't abused it. This is the kind of quality that makes one able to go forward unafraid in a friendship. And it's the kind of quality that makes you feel like it's okay to frantically re-dial a friend's number over and over for help in a dire situation (which I have done literally or figuratively many times). I have never been afraid to tell Lindsay the truth, even when I'm ashamed of myself, because I know she isn't judging me and she will help me recover from disappointing myself.

3-Be Light and Dark. No one needs a friend who is all one or all the other all the time. We all desperately need to know that both light and darkness are real in life, and trust ourselves and our friends to journey through both light and darkness together in honesty. My friend has done this expertly, both personally and alongside me (and others, I know it). Along with this comes the idea that the burdens of life are shared and the power (so to speak) in friendship is balanced. It's not one person always talking about her burdens and the other person always listening and advising, there's a give-and-take, such that when one is down, the other pulls her up, knowing that soon she'll need the friend to turn and give her the next helping hand.

4-Be Loyal. You can't be a friend without being a friend through thick and thin. Good times come and bad ones are just as real. A friend is not a friend who rejects one with whom she disagrees. A friend stands firm and stands by, committed to loving through it. It is more important to love truthfully than to demand perfection.

5-Be Sure to Snack. There should always ultimately be some breaking of bread together. With Lindsay I have eaten burdensome helpings of creme pies and inappropriate numbers of peanut butter pretzels. I don't regret a single bite, and I'm pretty certain each snack break bonded us in a new way.

There's no doubt that I've been blessed with many amazing women as friends. Lindsay has continuously been one of them for the past 8 years, and hope we can be white-haired wacko ladies together one day. My goal is to make the most of opportunity and learn from my friends how to be a better friend.

Also, Wall*e, we have got to figure out how to get more pictures together! We never seem to pose when we are together -- far too busy talking about the important things in life, presumably. ;) Anyhow, thanks for being my friend, and being my teacher, and being yourself. I wish the rest of your life in marriage will be an unimaginable treasure.
More amazing friends!: Saundie, Muriel, McFearless, Wall*e, EAR, Sister, My Jessica

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slow miracles.

IT IS TRULY AMAZING to watch the transformation of a life.
The first day we met

In the early hours of your time at Children's National Medical Center

One of my first chances to touch you

Looking very tan and sweet ... moment with your mask off

Finally off the lights and looking much happier without the mask

The first day your mama held you

Graduated to a crib and looking okay with it!

Meeting your big brother for the first time / your 1 month birthday

Recovering like a champ from major surgery

Taking a bottle and getting used to being back in Annapolis

You & me ... one of your first public debuts at Aunt Liz's shower

And now ... right now ... my first adventure in babysitting you from home.

Sometimes miracles are instantaneous. Other times miracles takes months to unfold after hours of prayer. I can't wait to see more milestones, little man. My nephew. Joseph.

Monday, March 18, 2013


If art reflects life, then one life lately has been the anonymous kind. Possibly the kind that gets stolen by some monster social media outlet and used for no purpose at all and doesn't make anyone any money. And it's without title, without author, surely without subject and honestly -- without an audience. That's by choice.

On a different track, it might've been a beta fish in a bowl. I remember those. They are the easiest things ever to kill. Seems like one meal with one few or too many flakes could kill them. Or maybe if the sun rays stream through the window at just the wrong angle, they'll go belly up. Maybe loving one too much, or thinking about it for too many seconds will do it in. In fact, I'm convinced they are actually just waiting to die.

Patterned after Dandelions. It's when they're about to die that they harbor the most reproductive threat. Tip, tilt, or toot on one in just the right/wrong way, and it'll explode with annoyingly frail yet sticky little seeds that fly all over the place and land in places they don't belong, irretrievably. This could ruin that very beautiful plot of grass the neighbor has worked on so hard.

A week ago tomorrow I witnessed a room full of Women. They had fasted a whole day. They had prayed. I guarantee every single one of them could recite a litany of ways they had done the whole task wrong. We were supposed to pray for ourselves -- to become the kind of women God intended us to be. To slip into an identity. Someone prayed aloud not for self-confidence as the world around us preaches and reaches, but for confidence in God.

I saw women crying, praying, pinning things to the cross, hanging onto one another for dear life. I didn't know most of their names, much less their problems, or how their song of Doing it Wrong might've gone. But I knew what we were all singing.

I was struck that we were all so broken. We think we're alone and embarrassed in the thick of tragic, but we're all on the roll call. All so seared by upturned expectations and daily reminders of how we are just not enough for the people who need us. So many of us had been surprised by tragedies unthinkable in recent hours, days, months. Some of us were still bleeding from that tragic moment a decade earlier that stole everything.

Oh yes, anonymously, namelessly, unknown, and doing it wrong.

Or, yes, perhaps -- being done so wrong that we can't go on, and we just want to float away, like dandelion seeds. Or turn that belly up beta-style.

But there we were, in front of a simple wooden cross. Just some planks nailed together, like some of our lives. And we came for a renaming, to paste over our Anonymity. Then, suddenly, it didn't matter we were doing it wrong. Renaming, new identity, new life. And then it wasn't about us any more, it was the story of the One who was Naming us.

Gosh, that story of Abram. When I reread it as an adult it's hard to believe all that God asked of him. And God asked the poor guy to continue for decades believing that he was to be the father of a great nation, when his wife was barren. Is this some kind of joke?! And Sarai, his wife, she laughed.

God had to keep hammering home the message because it seemed like none of the hard evidence of God's promises were there. So God said you know what, let me just RENAME YOU. Then every time you reflect, every time you introduce yourself, every time some calls for your help or addresses you in any way, you are reminded of the promise. You yourself will be the evidence of God's promises to you, Abraham.

Abraham. Father of many. Father of the entire world. Read the family geneaologies and understand that not a one of us would be here without Father Abraham.

And his wife Sarai -- oh beautiful, bitter, barren sister Sarai. (She and I can be just alike! I think we'd sit at Starbucks together sometimes.) Let's change your name too. Let's just call you a Princess, Sarah.

So often when what I taste is bitter, I know better. So often when I know myself as anonymous, hiding my pain and my sins and my shame in quietness -- the truth is I am a princess. I am living evidence of the promises of God being fulfilled. What I can't see is one pesky seed after another, falling off of me, blooming. Dandelions slowly taking over. And you know, if the whole yard ends up Dandelions, that could actually look okay.

Hey, don't be embarrassed. The people God loved and used and wooed and saved and made promises to -- they are just like you! They are like me -- messed up, despairing in impatience, imperfect, disappointed by the evidence -- but ultimately, always receivers of the promise.

Receive that new name, a new litany. Say it to yourself, include it in your introductions. It's you, you just have to wait for it to come through. [Eventually Sarah, the Princess, she was no longer barren, she was the mother of Isaac, and all generations of God's people.]

I found the secret: we can all be happily anonymous, because there is One Author, writing through us, planting through us, fulfilling purposes through us. He actually specializes in using the people who'd just be so willing to hide and slip away.

Revelation 2:17, THIS is your author, and THIS can be your future:
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.