Posts in Be Real
If I were Ben Stiller.

If I were Ben Stiller I would pinch myself to make sure it wasn't a dream that I was Ben Stiller. Then I'd call up Kristen Wigg and ask her if she wants to hang out or get coffee or go sing karaoke with me.If I were Ben Stiller I'd try really hard not to make the Zoolander model face at everyone I stand next to on public elevators. But it would be too fun not to make that face at people. So I would.

If I were Ben Stiller I'd definitely cast Kristen Wigg as the coolest love crush ever in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty... so good job, Ben Stiller, for steal'n my idea!

If I were Ben Stiller four months ago, I'd provide a free pre-showing of Walter Mitty to a ton of high school, middle school, and college teenagers. The kind of teenagers who need inspiration, need a reason to travel, or need to know real life is allowed to have a little risk and adventure (and a little bit of Kristen Wigg's humor too). And half way through that free showing I'd bring in a bunch of FREE Papa Johns cause teenagers can get hungry during movies. And a little bit later I'd bring in a bunch of coffee and Cinnabon for dessert. And if Ellen decided to chip in, maybe we'd take them all to Iceland afterwards.

If I were Ben Stiller, I'd make an alternate ending to Walter Mitty. What if Walter never found the lost negative 25? What if Sean O'Connell meant for there to never be a negative in that spot? What if the very gap between negatives 24 and 26 was the true beauty of Sean's work? What do you see when an empty frame is held up to your face? You see past where the picture would be to the other side. You see the real world beyond the frame. You see life just as beautiful or messy as it is. You see the Quintessential to Life. Sometimes I wish the movie would have been just as good if it would have ended like that.

If I were YOU, in the midst of your busy life this week, I'd make sure you squeezed in a movie night for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Maybe it'll help you slow down, think, and remember to live.

walter mitty


ben stiller

Wedding & Funeral.

Image-1-52On a Saturday a few months ago, Brett and I attended a wedding and a funeral.

It's a challenge to describe the beauty and depth of such paradoxical events. Whether you hate God or you love Him, it's awfully hard not to think about Him when death and love are so nearly intertwined in the same day. When I think about that Saturday I think about God and the word "PURPOSE" and how a lot of people in this world are looking for purpose. I think of how ironic it was that we sang the same song, "10,000 Reasons", a few hours apart at the grief-filled ceremony and the love-covenanted one. I think of our aesthetic and comforting need to have  flowers when we're happy and when we're sad.

 The funeral was for our friend Jacob's brother. Brett and I had never met his brother, however, Jacob was in our home group and, in my opinion, you don't just call your HomeGroup your "HomeGroup" because you meet in someone's house every Tuesday. Homegroup is about having people present to say "we care about you and are here for you when you are at the end of your rope or climbing your highest peak (Or just to encourage you and read the Bible on Tuesdays... whatever season we're all in)."

So Brett and I were there for Jacob. The funeral was everything it needed to be. As different neighbors, family members, and mentors talked about Jacob's brother we learned that his story was difficult to take in, and, depending on which way you look at it, tragic. His brother struggled for years to find purpose in life, often warring with two different personalities. We found ourselves crying for his family who fought to love him when they could and prayed for him when fighting wasn't an option anymore. We sang songs and people talked about how deaths like his are hard to understand, but how God's purpose is still valid and fiercely beautiful.

"And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come. Still my soul will sing your praise unending, 10,000 years and then forevermore."

The wedding was for one of my high school teachers/mentors, Kristen. Kristen is someone who has always said "I don't want to live my version of how I think life should go, I'd rather live Your version, God." Well, she's a human being so she probably hasn't always said that... she's probably really wanted her version a lot of the time, but from my observations, she's always lived her life in a sort of loving surrender that's contagious and admirable. Single was her tune for a long time, but she chose joy in her singleness and desired to get married, she just hadn't found the right person to marry.

"Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes."

When she told me she was dating someone (some "Steve" to be specific) she told me immediately that she knew he was her man. Her main man. She shared how her heart had also fallen for his sweet daughter and how marrying a guy with a daughter wasn't what she'd expected, but she couldn't be more excited about it because God's plan was better than hers. Her wedding was packed with her past and present students, family, and friends, some of which (myself definitely included) were literally jumping out of their seats to watch her exchange her vows and see Steve kiss her. Brett and I apparently sat in the "If you're happy and you know it" student section as they screamed and thunder clapped like they were at a pep-rally when that kiss happened.

"For all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 Reasons that my Heart can Find".

I sat there with tears (for the millionth time that day) as they exited the church, husband and wife. I felt the weight of the funeral and wedding overwhelm me. I've said before that I think weddings are like heaven, because you're surrounded by those you love and cherish most, having such a great time. That day had me thinking of heaven in every bitter and sweet way. My young heart rejoiced at the relief I will know when I find myself in the presence of a loving God some day. Face to face. In a place beyond hurt, violence, and pain. Surrounded by love. How grateful I am in the present though; confident in my purpose: to be loved by God and to love God for the rest of my life. And I really do believe that. And it really gives me overwhelming peace. A peace I've watched others search for their entire lives. A peace that makes the depths of my soul sing, "Bless the Lord O my soul."

Till death do us part.

Brett and I vowed that only death will part us.

a laugh

When I really think about that vow for too long my eyes widen and sink back into my skull as if I'm trying to look at our live and marriage in full but can't get far enough back... I wonder how long we have till death parts us.  Some days death seems so close, and some days it seems like a dream, far and fuzzy. I honestly think 'Till death do you part" is supposed to be overwhelming, unexplainable, and fear-inducing... because then it leaves room for the kind of love that's work, the kind of trust that takes time, and the kind of awe that points to God.

On our rainy wedding day, Brett and I covenanted "death in love, not death of love." And how abundantly we believe that we (and those around us) will live if we pursue one another in the ways in which we believe we were created to... never to let a "creeping separateness" as Sheldon Vanauken would call it, slowly come between us as the years go by.

I thought I'd share a few marriage decisions we made before we were married (and a few made since we've been married) in our fight for "death in love".

If life circumstances are permitting, we get into bed at the same time every night. He gets his homework done before bed so he doesn't have to stay up late working on it and I try my best to leave my work at work  so I can be present during this sacred time. So if I'm in bed at ten, he's there too, even if I end up falling asleep while reading next to him, we're there together. To cuddle. To talk. To get on the same page. To read the Harry Potter series out loud. To be still.

We won't call each other out in front of other people. I know how deeply this would hurt Brett if I called him out for doing something wrong, embarrassing, rude, or mean in front of others. Even if Brett or myself is in the wrong, bringing it up in front of others isn't the place. And let me be straight with you: Its tempting to bring it up right then and there, because being married to the person that said something stupid in front of everyone else immediately associates you with the stupid thing they said. You feel responsible. You wonder if everyone else thinks you're okay with that stupid thing they just said. Calling them out, even if we think it would make our spouse learn his or her lesson...would crush them. Pulling Brett aside, going into another room, talking to him about the situation afterwards; those are all ways I can show him respect without deflating his identity. He cares so deeply of what I think of him, and if his friends or colleagues see me put him down or argue with him in front of them, he loses self-esteem and confidence that is important to who he is. I can see the look of joy on his face when we are in front of others and I mention how grateful I am for him or how excited I am about what he's doing in our lives and marriage. This might sound simple, but I can't tell you how often in my lifetime I've observed couples who do this with each other and one of them ends up deflated and hurt. How often I'm tempted to nag Brett or get onto him for saying something I think he shouldn't have said in front of the company we are in. How often he works diligently to not criticize a decision of mine in front of my students or colleagues.

Choosing better, not bitter. My mom taught me this one and I'll forever cherish these words because they are some of the most difficult words to live out. Oftentimes, when expectations are not met, bitterness can creep in, making the heart seep with loathing & regret, sucking life from it's dweller and anyone they surround themselves with. That goes for marriage, friendships, work relationships, and family relationships. Already in my life, and especially in my marriage, I have been dealt cards that make me want to turn bitter towards my circumstances or situation. For short seasons of our marriage I've chosen pity parties and bitterness instead of choosing to positively take steps forward, accepting the hand I've been given. When I choose joy and choose to move forward (not loathing myself or Brett) I am living in the love I covenanted to Brett. When I choose to not regret and not just cope with my circumstances, I am choosing to live freely in the present for the sake of the joy-filled future. We could waste our lives being bitter towards each other. Many people do. We are choosing not to.

No blame or grudges. Pointing fingers at each other or blaming our circumstances on the actions of the other person (even if they did do something wrong or made a mistake) will be a temptation, but not an action. Brett will forgive me. He will offer me patience and grace when I mess up or even walk away from what we value or hold to be truth. He will continue to cheer me on, love me, and protect me as his wife like he vowed he would. And he will move forward with me, even if the consequences of my actions effect him. Blame leads to bitterness.

Date night. It's a mandatory must. Similarly to our going to bed at the same time, date night offers us a sacred time to slowly reflect on our week and ask, "How were you really this week?" or "Is our marriage making the most of this season?". Making DN a habit was easy for us after coming out of a long distance relationship, where busy schedules and intentional time to talk HAD to be scheduled. I need time to express my weekly reflections and I know Brett is unhindered in school work or tasks so he can freely listen and respond. And I care to know not just how Brett analyzed his week, but how he is feeling, which is sometimes hard for him to express without my asking. I love that date night gives us a space to do that. I value not just where his mind and heart are, but where his feelings are in relation to those things. This is a night where we attempt our best to not allow phones. Where we get off campus every now and then or order pizza in without feeling guilty about "being lazy" (because sometimes dates in are more of what we need than dates out). Where I beat Brett at MarioKart... most of the time.

Hospitality and Realness. Open doors, open homes, and open hearts. We desire to head up and initiate such deep and vulnerable community for those we live amongst and work with. That means being real with my students when Brett and I are having a difficult week. It means moving past surface conversations toward heart conversations that reach into joy, pain, and that sort of human authenticity we all secretly crave. It means taking them out to eat to celebrate or let them know that whatever circumstance they are in, we are for them. It's making posters in my apartment while watching Harry Potter. It's reaching out to hold their hand or play with their hair because that's what their mom used to do when they needed to know they were loved. If Brett and I are not doing these things with one another, we often are not doing them for others. We must have these in both our marriage and our community.

The truth about the freshmen fifteen...

Image-1-27...They just aren't as scary or real as the Sophomore 20, Junior 25, or Senior 30.

#watchoutdonutman #dontjustworkoutfreshmenyear #runforestrun

And apparently there's a Hall Director 10 I didn't know about until watch out for that too.