Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Edge Pieces

We've been hinting at it for a while now, but we've been on a pretty crazy journey for the last year and a half. Dreams are being dreamed, leaps are being taken, and we're stepping out in faith as we march on towards something new, something huge, something we're passionate about. I'm excited to share more about it soon- hopefully this summer, but for now, here's a glimpse into what this journey has been like. And this is only the beginning.

Growing up, I spent many of my Sunday afternoons working on puzzles. We journeyed up I-29 to my grandparents' house in St. Joseph, and while the Chicago Bears most likely were losing on TV, we helped odd shaped pieces find their home: a small portion of a much bigger picture. We spent hours doing this, mindlessly turning pieces side to side, often trying to shove them into a space that was a touch too small or shaped just a bit differently than the prized missing piece should be. And of course we always began with the end in mind, framing out the edge pieces and watching the outer borders of the picture taking shape, checking the box for guidance as we dreamed of having all thousand pieces set in their proper place.

There was nothing worse than getting near the end and hunting for missing pieces: those that would inevitably find their way down under the table, nestled in the teal carpet and impossible to find as we blindly ran our hands back and forth. The frustration grew as we checked the dog's mouth, the hands of my baby brother, and the pockets of our hoodies and jeans. And yet, we would persist, not willing to give up all of our hard work, not willing to call it quits with only a few pieces remaining. And then, with a shout and even more joy than if we'd never have lost it in the first place: someone would find it. With a final pop into place, the puzzle would be complete.

But now, like so many others in different seasons of life, we're on a new journey, completing our own "puzzle" of sorts, this time without the box as a guide. We think we have an idea of how it all could turn out, a glimpse of the big picture. And yet we have so so many pieces that are still missing- yet to be found. So we're starting with our edge pieces, forming our borders, finding one little piece at a time and celebrating each step as though it's a mile. Every time that we tell another person our story and they want to be a part: another piece found. Every time we step out in faith, putting our money where our dreams are, spending every second of our spare time working to make this dream a reality: an edge piece found. Every time we speak our dreams and pray over them: one more piece. And another. And then we wait.

We keep sorting through the pieces, keep waiting, keep turning and trusting that the right piece will fall into the right place at the right time. That the people who need to be a part of this story with us are just waiting, there on the floor, for a sweep of our hands to finally find them. And then, one day, the puzzle will be complete.

But for now, we're dreaming and trusting, hoping and working, putting one edge piece at a time into place. And we can't wait to see all the other pieces that will show up in the days, months, and years to come. Because we know, in the end, this puzzle will be more beautiful than we could have ever imagined!

Be on the look out this summer for the first few parts of our story to unfold on the blog! We're so excited to share more with you soon, and we hope many of you will want to be a piece of this puzzle with us too! 


Thursday, May 9, 2019

No Matter What

Putting Eli to bed is one of my sweetest joys. Every night, we cuddle up in his cozy gray chair, his soft blond hair resting against my chest as I hold him close, knowing that each day he's growing a little older and we're a little closer to the day he'll no longer fit into my lap. His finger inquisitively points out his favorite parts of the Paw Patrol and Mickey books for the millionth time, and I succumb to his pleas to read one more, and then another. I finally tear myself away, standing as my not so little baby wraps his arms around me, then reaching down to place him gently onto the fitted gray sheet where he's slept since his first week. I zip up his SleepSack as he pulls the neck of it up over his mouth, and the same blessing I say each night echos through the room. As the soft lamplight illuminates his grin and I marvel at how big he's getting, I hope and pray that my words would take root in his heart and mind, and that he would always know that he is so unconditionally loved: no matter what.

"You are prized and precious, liked and loved, chosen and cherished, blessed to be a blessing. You're a child of God, and a treasure in our family. Sleep in peace, new mercies in the morning. I love you so much, no matter what, and I always will." 

It's amazing how you can love someone so much that it doesn't phase you when you're cleaning blueberry vomit out of their hair at midnight, or holding them for an hour at 2 am, slowly rocking back and forth and and delighting in their milk drunk, sleepy smiles, forgetting how exhausted you are. And you expect absolutely nothing in return. Even when they grow up and throw a fit on the ground in the Target aisle, scream "NO" at you and crinkle their stubborn little face when you ask them to come put their shoes on, or chuck their steamed carrots haphazardly over the dining room carpet, there's nothing they could do to make you love them any more or any less than you do. Their behavior does not impact your love: it's a choice, and it's unconditional.

There's something about recognizing the basic and unmet needs of a child that makes you pause and give them more grace. For a good portion of their early life, they're helpless, depending on you fully for everything from diaper changes to their next meal. No loving parent would ever intentionally neglect their children in these areas, nor would they ever expect their child to contribute or "earn" their love in return. They don't always understand why we aren't giving them another cookie or letting them touch the hot stove, but we know it's really for their own good. Someday, when they're chasing their own kid around, they'll get it. And yet, even as a parent myself, the concept of true unconditional love is both obvious and foreign at times.

As someone who often mistakenly determines my own "worth" or "lovability" based upon my personal successes, sometimes it is easy to feel that I am failing in many ways and am therefore unlovable. That loving me unconditionally would be stupid of others, and that I have in fact earned less and need to strive to earn more. That my actions determine whether or not I can expect someone to accept me as I am. And because of this, I often blame myself for the hard times in life when they come, for the seasons of wait, the botched timelines, for the rejections or disappointments, rather than trusting in the greater plan. I sometimes take the absence of the things I may desire as a sign that I have messed up. A sign that I haven't done enough to "earn" the good things, and that I am somehow being "punished". It can be hard to grasp the Lord's unconditional, unearned love when we are stuck loving others around us conditionally- only if they earn it. If this person does this specific thing, then I'll love them. Or, if it's easy and comfortable, then I'll love them. Or even, if they're nice to me and their presence in my life doesn't make me feel threatened or less than, then I'll love them.

But that's not how God works. He does not love (or bless) us based upon our good works, our kindness, or what we've "earned". If that were the case, the only thing we would've earned at all was his judgment and eternal death for our sin. But instead, He died for us, taking on our sin, showing us immense grace, and loving us in the depths of our imperfections. Just like the loving father that He is, his intentions are to help us and not to harm us, even when it seems like he's withholding things from us. Even when we, as dependent, imperfect, and impatient children don't understand it, his timing is perfect, his plans are good, and He loves us regardless of our constant failures. I am thankful that we have a big God who chooses to constantly and unconditionally love us, no matter what.