7 photos

for my husband

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1. (top left) Winter. Chase loves winter. He loves coats and scarves and gloves and snow. Mostly snow. This photo was taken over Christmas break. The students were gone so we had the streets and shops of downtown practically to ourselves. Most of our walks started like this, on our wrap around porch in the cold.

2. (top center)This is the chapel near the house I stayed at while volunteering at a prison over spring break. Chase is not in this photo. That’s part of why it’s perfect for this. He’s not in this photo because he stayed home working full-time while I went on an adventure. He’s always encouraging me to pursue my passions and calling even when that means sacrificing money or comfort or time together.

3. (top right) One of my favorite Seattle trips. This is us making out in a random parking garage downtown. Because we like to kiss anywhere anytime.

4. (center) Taken at a family wedding. We got the time mixed up and missed the ceremony. Then I got ridiculously ill that night when we got home. But the time in-between, exploring behind the barns and laughing by the fields, that part was excellent.

5. (bottom left) Our first home together! The leaves on the trees were lush and green. The sun was bright through the tall floor-to-ceiling windows. We were so so excited and so blissfully ignorant of how much trust and patience God would require of us in that tiny apartment.

6. (bottom center) A candid photo. July 4th, 2015. Our first holiday together. It was perhaps the most perfect holiday I’ve ever had. We wandered through the small trails behind the park then met up with a few close friends for fireworks. Life is rarely blissful, but that day truly was.

7. (bottom right) Driving home with our new puppy, Oliver. He is the strangest fluffiest cutest little dog. We stayed with Chase’s grandparents the night we picked him up in Boise, then he snuggled in my lap for the long ride home. It’s odd. Ollie symbolizes our future in a way. We got him as a sort of graduation present for Chase (the money he received from friends and relatives added up to exactly one labradoodle) and so he was the shift into our next step in the world. Now as we look at jobs for Chase and schools for me, he’s always playing at our feet reminding us he’ll be tagging along for every turn, marking the change of seasons with his ever-growing limbs and expanding fur.

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this body

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Gratitude: A Thought Project

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When I look at this photo, I can feel it.

I feel the warm sun on my skin. I feel my puppy, who often looks and acts like a small bear cub, pressed up against me. His fur fluffs between my fingers; his soft belly rises and falls with each breath as he playfully squirms and makes muffled grunts and growls in my ear. I feel my thighs, touching where they did not before. I feel my waist, expanding farther in my waistband than it did the previous summer.

I have heard many women express gratitude for their aging bodies because their changes represent their accomplishments. Stretch marks from the children they have borne. Extra rolls of skin and fat brought on by bearing and caring for their little ones. Wrinkles from all they have felt and expressed. Freckles from laughter in the sun. Sore joints from years of diligent work.

It is this same recognition of what shapes our external selves that brought on such distaste for my own changes.

Mine was a body that had recently been shaped by despair. Muscles weakened by the days I could not find a reason to get out of bed. Extra pounds gained from the weeks that I only had strength for one activity per day. If I remembered to eat, it was whatever could be obtained the quickest. My face, which I had become certain would show the cheerful squint of crow’s feet in the coming seasons of my life, was now fleshed out without a laugh line in sight. For long draughts my insides did not stir enough for happiness to reach my face.

A new set of people entered my life, and for reasons I may never understand their actions suggested they would have prefered to have never met me. They painted some horrid unfamiliar image and labeled it with my name. I stood bewildered. It seemed the harder I tried to connect with them, the tighter they clung to this image and the harsher they scolded me for it. I was met too often with cold glances. Repetitive rejection. Whispers of gossip that followed me in the streets and confronted me in places I did not expect from people I hardly knew. But heaviest of all was that daunting knowledge that each sin of those who had targeted me would be placed on my own head. I was the subject of blame for their every turmoil. Each hurt feeling or elaborated offense. Even when I paid no notice of them, and mustered the strength to go about cheerfully with my life, there was always that impending text or that next conversation, where our lives would again be interrupted so my husband could be informed of the depravity of the wife he had chosen. Things as simple as shopping, grabbing coffee with a friend, attending or not attending a party, were marked as bitterness I did not posses, vengeance I had no desire for or pettiness I did not wish to serve but was thrown on me nonetheless. There was nowhere I could go to be free.

On several occasions I found myself consoled to the point of tears when any random acquaintance would do something as simple as taking an extra moment to ask me about my day or invite me to an event. I remember hastily brushing away the joy. Since the cold bite of judgement is what had harmed me in the first place, I was afraid to be vulnerable enough to let anyone see how deeply their warmth affected me. My soul had been bullied for too long. It had slowly been beaten into one aching bruise.

I had never been warned that loving someone could provoke such persistent punishment. Maybe someday I will ask my children that, when they have chosen someone to pledge their devotion.

“Do you love them enough to stand by them even when they make decisions that are unpopular?”

“Do you love them enough to be blamed for choices that were not your own?”

“Do you love them enough to be hated?”

I hope they will be like their mother, in that, when their time is right, they will say yes and mean it.

And I hope, for their sake, that they will not be like their mother, in that the hatred cast on them will not cause them to wither.

Because for me, the hatred was too heavy. Whoever I had known myself to be before seemed to have disappeared. I could not find her. I was some tired husk of myself.

When I would mention my physical changes: clothes fitting differently, simple exercises no longer being achievable, etc. my family would insist I did not look that different at all. And in a sense they were right. A little extra fat here. A little less muscle there. That was all that could be identified externally. But to me, those small changes were unmistakable because they were the result of belittlement, discouragement and a newfound hopelessness.

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Slowly, I gained courage.

I am grateful for this body. Its transformation, which to me was once a sign of my weakness, is now an indicator of my persistence.

It is a body that still feels the cold rush of water across its surface with each dive into the cold waters of my home state.

It is a body that rows canoes and balances on paddle boards and wrestles with the little bear cub in my arms when he has too much energy to play on his own.

It is the body that hugs my friends and hikes through forests. That walks with head held high down mainstreet even when I have been told all too many times that I ought to be ashamed.

It is the body that makes my husband feel at home. The body that holds in it the hope of every future touch and sensation this life will bring.

It is a body that is weaker than it was one year ago, but houses a soul that is so much stronger.

 

Nod Along

renfa (2 of 2)You are a special kind of summer day. The kind that doesn’t roll around ’til August when afternoons stretch longer and hotter. The buzz of bees is set to slow motion. The breeze has stopped. I find myself wishing for the brisk chill of fall and the vibrant sunset leaves, but then the warm rays of August sunshine hug me and I do not want to go. Pastel flowers quiver in the vibrations of a distant lulling lawn mower. My eyes blink in long pausing breaths. They will not light up until the sun goes down and the stars… Well, I don’t need to talk about the stars. We’ve all heard about sparkling constellations in the summer sky a thousand times. But you talk about them. You describe their twinkle as if you were the only one to have ever seen stars before, and the rest of us really ought to go check them out sometime. You reach your hands out in front of you and use your fingers to imitate how they glitter. I nod along.

I do not say what I am thinking.

Where We Will Grow

I smear red lipstick across my gray sweater. It is wine splashed across a stormy sky. At first I hoped it wouldn’t stain; now I hope it does. The car keeps rolling through the wind that warns of distant rain. The hills have warmed from brown to green. They are bright beneath the darkening sky.

As far as I can tell, I only have a few months left in the town of my childhood. My husband would like to move “anywhere but here” and I would like nothing more than to join him.

We are happy. It is strange to be so happy in a place yet want to leave it so badly.

We like our house. Our walls display photos from our wedding: Framed happiness. There is artwork: Hanging inspiration. There are bills on the fridge: Chilling procrastination.

We like visiting my parents’ home. Two dogs and a cat greet us. One pisses in excitement, one runs in circles and the other scurries away until he can return later to have us all to himself. My mom and dad are always glad to see us. They listen to our stories and give us food to eat. They remind us what joy and hopefulness look like whenever we struggle to remember for ourselves.

We like our friends. We laugh with them. We go to school and work with them. Sometimes we hide away together and sometimes we go exploring. We learn from them and they learn from us, although no one ever admits to being the student or the teacher.

We like the overcast sky and the mile walk to campus. We like the mud that sticks to our shoes. We like the buildings we’ve known since we were young and the shops and restaurants downtown. We like the sidewalks which have memorized our feet.

But we would like to leave.

Sometimes we outgrow people or places or things. I have found that outgrowing people is the very hardest of all. As I sit with my growing pains and my husband sits with his, I wonder where we will grow to next. And who we will grow to become.

I look down at the lipstick stain on my sweater. Perhaps it has smeared across my face. If my husband sees he will smile and think I am cuter than I was a moment ago. But instead he keeps his eyes on the road. I’ve known him to be one who is certain of where he should go and what he must do to get there.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of in my life is that before I met him, I became the sort of person who would help him on the path he is already determined to take, rather than steer him towards a course that is easier.

“I want to show you something,” he says, and he drives past a house hidden in the fields where he once kissed a girl for the first time. I remember him telling me about his awkwardness in response to the aggression of her tongue.

I laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Then ask him to tell me more stories.

We love to share in the past, but we also like to be away from it, driving forward onto the next rolling hill.

 

 

Circus Girl 1

They never could quite make sense of her. Rarely did her behavior warrant a reprimand and yet she wasn’t quite what they wanted her to be. She was strange. Her essence demanded attention, whether she meant it to or not. Just when they thought they had no use for her, they put her on the stage.

Crayola Crayon & Free Hand
Circus Freak

They never could quite make sense of her. Rarely did her behavior warrant a reprimand and yet she wasn’t quite what they wanted her to be. She was strange. Her essence demanded attention, whether she meant it to or not.

Just when they thought they had no use for her, they put her on the stage. Suddenly they cheered for what had once befuddled them. The fire they had fought to extinguish was now a flame they clambered to take credit for igniting. It was a fury that gathered crowds, sold tickets, sparked talk all across town, and so the crowds grew and grew.

To be clear, they still hardly approved of her. How could they approve of what they did not understand? But that which they saw they admired. And they no longer asked her to change.

Eye to Eye

me1Even in the most joyous of times, the world can drain a soul. Confusion breeds confusion and I question my mind into tangles. With quiet intention, I scan my life, looking to each set of eyes, hoping for answers.

In the first I see only darkness. Faint circles hang beneath eyes that would be lovely were they not so hollow. They sit in a face of skin that has grown gray and gaunt wanting flesh to soften the harsh lines of cynicism. She is bitter. She is cold. I try to make sense of her words but she speaks only perversion so there is no sense to be made of it. Any comfort I try to offer is promptly rejected, so we sit in silence. I stare longer than I should as her brokenness brings me down. Finally she goes away. Still stung by her envy, I search for another pair of eyes.

With great determination, I move along.

The next eyes are blue, bright yet sad. They are hopeful but they are weary. Tiny pupils filled with fear wishing to be brave. Cheeks rosy, lashes long. A face much prettier than its owner knows. There are moments bright and beautiful
before her, smiles so shining and new, but to her they are
tainted by the clinging past and daunting future.
me1 - Version 2Loved ones gather around her table warmed by a meal she prepares, but she misses the joy in their laughter as she questions if she got the spices just right. I tell her the food is perfection; she tells me I am wrong. Her dearest calls her lovely but she does not hear him as she wonders what everyone in the room thinks of her. Another flicker of fear lights her eyes and I do not want to look anymore.

I welcome the next eyes for they are familiar and kind. Gray like the skies they were raised under and the sea they grew up beside. He talks while the rest of us listen, smoke in the air by a tree I used to climb. Wisdom walks boldly from a soul that has seen much more than mine. Still, he always speaks plainly, eyes growing humbler with the passing of time. For every betrayal, I see no bitterness. Both pupil and iris are steadfast and grateful, fully loving of life. For every hurt I’ve had, he’s hurt more and every sin I’ve forgiven, he’s forgiven double. When asked how he loves the hateful when they hurt without having the right, he says, “Hurt people hurt people, so be understanding and always be kind.”

My grace may wear thin to the hurtful, but I’ll heal in a matter of time, for as I watch him loving the hateful, he builds up the grace in my eyes.


Papakea

 

 

11427735_10152961737503034_5180485841754136828_nSometimes we say we are homesick for a place we only knew for a week. But to us, it is our first home.

On the morning after our wedding, my husband and I had to be on the road by 5 o’clock. From our hotel, we took a detour to Walmart where I clomped around in the formal black shoes and socks of my six-foot groom until I found a pair of $4 shoes to fit my five-foot-two self. I have always been the sort of girl to remember her lingerie but forget her shoes. June fifth was no exception.
img_8398For months, getting married and running away together was all either of us had wanted. Now, with new shoes purchased and coffee in our cupholders, we were finally making our grand escape.

In airport security lines, where others bore long faces and impatience, I smirked as my husband cracked jokes with the TSA agent who had pulled him aside for an extra screening. Everyone in uniform laughed with him and wished us well. We held hands up and down the terminals, feeling a bit overly-excited to call each other “hu’band and waaf.” I could hear a collective sigh of relief from our now distant hometown as her residents rested their eyes from the shining glare of our young love.  Well, maybe not. But our cuteness had been undeniably shiny for quite some time. Honeymooning only increased the condition. And so did Hawaii.

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On the island, there were the luxuries we’d seen in a million ads and photographs from tourists: Sandy beaches, ocean waves, scenic palm trees…. All of these were even more beautiful than we’d hoped, but there were also the adventures we made up. The ones that were all new to us.

There was crawling, running, jumping, climbing through crags and cliffs by the ocean. Not a speck of foliage could be found. All we saw was the sky above and gray cratered rocks all around. So we pretended we were on the moon. I had never been to the moon before.

Next was the giant red floppy hat that I had only seen in my mind’s eye. I described it to my husband at 10,000 feet. Days later he found it at sea level in a market by a banyan tree. He put it on my head and told me it was mine.

Then there was the cheap wine we bought as we walked barefoot to a local food mart. It tasted like those summers at the cabin I stayed at as a kid. My husband agreed. Hands waved and voices raised as we drank on the balcony, retelling every moment of our wedding. The sun set. As night faded into morning we ran inside to jump on the bed like children at a slumber party. We fell into a heap and after catching our breath retold stories from the months that held our engagement, laughing at the moments we loved, laughing harder at the moments we didn’t.

With each blink I see dozens of other stories to tell, but for now, I’ll keep the rest of my memories to myself. Some for the sake of length. Others for the sake of propriety. But I will share this:

We decided Papakea was our first home not because it’s the place we liked the best. Not because of the sunshine or the jungle hikes or tropical breezes. It is marked as our first home because it is where a marriage started. We were told from the time we were young that someday we would leave and cleave. This was the place we left to. It is where two people started to learn what it means to become one.

I am blessed to be rooted in the words “The greatest of these is love.” Love can be displayed in no truer way than by the cross where Christ gave himself for us. After Christ, no one will ever love my husband more than me, for I have given my life to him. And after Christ, no one will ever love me more than my husband, for he has taken to heart the Word; “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

We are clueless about a lot in life. We are young. We are impulsive and emotional. We are often foolish. There is so much left to learn because we are only at the beginning. But everyone has to start somewhere. And we started at Papakea.