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We’ve had this fight a lot of times. I drop the ball, many balls, Zach points it out (with a bit of frustration), and we get into this tailspin of treating each other in the worst ways. I’m hurt, defensive, feeling looked-down-upon, misunderstood, like scum. He’s feeling trapped, like his only option is to walk on eggshells around me.

This last time the subject of the fight, even the height to which it escalated, wasn’t that extreme. But in the unseen places, it was war. We went to bed cold, and I became as tempted as I’ve been to turn away from him. To cross my arms over my chest, cut off some level of vulnerability, of love, and become cordial.

My flesh wanted to do it. It sounded miserable, but easier, and I was already miserable at the moment.

So I cried out to God. Silently, lying in bed, “Help! Lord, don’t let me do it. Help me to turn toward him and not away from him.”

Now this is a side note but I’m just going to throw it in here because I can’t remember when this part happened. But at some point in our 12-hours of fight, I went to the bathroom. And while I was there, I heard the Still, Small Voice.
“Don’t be afraid to duck under accusation,” He said. “That’s what humility looks like.”
I am a words of affirmation lover. I take everything personally. When Zach, who is a type-A, feeds off of constructive criticism, blunt and bold, speak-from-his-gut type of guy, points out my failures, I often feel accused. Personally attacked. I could bet that most of the time it’s not actually him who is accusing me. But somewhere between his lips and my ears, the enemy jumps in and yells at me, “He thinks you suck!” I am accused.

So God spoke to me in the bathroom. “You can stand there and let it pierce you, that’s shame. You can catch the dart and throw it at him, that’s pride. Or you can just get low—duck. That’s humility.”
Thanks God, I needed that.

Anyway, despite that amazing word of advice, the wound was still open the next morning. I was a mess. So I sat with my open Bible, praying out my honesty in the safest place (the alone place with Jesus), and the first thing He did was remind me that He loves me. Leftover mascara dripping all over Psalm 103. It’s amazing how desperate I can get to be reminded of the thing that I know is true. But somehow I had forgotten how personal, how deep. My Maker loves me. I guess it will be forever hitting me harder.

So Zach came back from dropping off the girls at school, noticed my puffy, wet face, and sat on the couch. I got up from my chair and sat down next to him—a physical way of saying, “I’m trying to come toward you and not away.” Problem was, I didn’t know what to do after that. Insert two more hours of “discussion.” Not necessarily heated, but sometimes you just have to sort it out with each other. All the feelings, perspectives, possibilities. Eventually, we had some things figured out, like, how can we try to avoid this process next time?

There was nothing left to say.

We got up, and Zach asked me if I’d done the laundry [like I said I would yesterday, because he was out of clean underwear]. And like a champ, I’d forgotten to put it in the dryer.

Woooooooow. Point taken, Jordyn. You have one job to do, one house to manage, a simple list of things to remember, and you don’t want to be told when you botch it up. Well then quit botching it the heck up or shut your mouth.

This was his opportunity to go off on me. He quietly got into the shower. I frantically threw a pair of boxers on high heat and prayed they would dry in miraculous timing. By the time I pulled them out (damp, but hot enough that maybe he wouldn’t notice), He was already dressed, wearing yesterday’s undies, putting on his shoes.
“If you want clean ones, here’s a pair,” I said pathetically.

“It’s ok.” He looked up at me from his laces. “It’s really not a big deal.”

Wow, I thought. He’s trying so hard to be nice to me, and it almost makes me feel worse. (Duck under the shame darts, Jordyn.)

Usually when I feel like a failure, I scrub dirty dishes. Because a clear sink is proof that I can accomplish SOMETHING. So I was doing that while he was on his way out the door. “Zach I’m really sorry that I forgot to dry the laundry,” I said, eyes on the sink. He stopped and turned toward me.

“It’s ok Jord. I’m not mad. You do a lot of things well, you’re amazing, blah blah blah…” I couldn’t receive it. I felt like he was reading a script that I had written out and told him to recite.

But then.

I’m serious, Heaven must have taped this and filed it up in “greatest hits.”

“When I saw that you hadn’t done it, at first, my flesh wanted to just chew you out. It really did. But then my spirit rose up in me, and do you know what I thought?

‘I love her more.’”

His voice broke and he started to cry.

“‘I love her more. I love her more now. I love her more now, because of this, than I did 20 minutes ago. Jordyn, I love you. I love you. You.”

O God. His waves crashing over us. Over me.

“I know I’m not perfect. I know I’ve made mistakes,” he said. “But I have no regrets.” We were both wet with tears. “We’ve given this our all, and I could die today, full. There’s no place I would rather be. There’s no person I would rather be doing this with.”

The hug that followed, it was so real. Love covering the multitude. Love covering the sin, the hurt, the offense, the anger, the shame. Love covering it all.

And today, the morning after, as he’s dropping off the girls at school, I feel closer to him than ever. Closer than our wedding day, when we still believed that the other was perfect. Closer than that first year, when we didn’t have 5 kids or responsibilities beyond our part-time jobs, and we could make love in any room of the house. Closer than before all the hardest moments. It’s so much deeper than forgiving forgotten laundry. He sees me, he knows me, and he loves me. And love seeps into all the spots—the beautiful, the hard, the mundane, the tender.

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Their names, translated, are Desired and Grace. They are seventeen and thirteen. Dangerously stunning. They share a bunk bed and a large pile of shoes and their laundry is always overflowing. They are teenage girls in a very normal way. Make-up, hair, hormones, laughter, playfulness. And our worlds are completely, totally, different.

They come from two different faiths, from a place where “their people” would burn “my peoples’’” churches down. Where protestant Christians are locked up in box-car prisons. They come from a place where they’re taught to be hostile toward me, where I am an enemy. Sometimes I feel like an enemy.

They call me Mom.

They come from a place where women are energizer bunnies of cleaning, washing, birthing, mothering, cooking, and chopping vegetables up smaller and faster than a food-processor. And I’m supposed to be their Mom. I’ve been furiously practicing my chopping skills for eight months now.

This is a journal entry from last month:

I’m in my snot-covered robe in the big chair, in the middle of a big mess of a kitchen and living room. It’s Monday. The girls and Zach just left for school. Boys are asleep. It’s not just cluttered; it’s debris everywhere. A collage of onion peels, wrappers, napkins, clothing items, toys, CDs, fuzz-balls, shoes, laundry (both clean and dirty)…everywhere I look. Outside it’s foggy and beautiful, and the window is like a picture frame around that freshly budded, green-apple colored tree in the front yard. The dog just stopped whining. It’s quiet. Sometimes it’s easier to breathe You in when it’s quiet. Also it makes me want to go to bed.  

I’m a mom of four. Everyone’s talking about moms right now because yesterday was Mother’s Day.

It was the sweetest Mother’s day morning I think I’ll ever have. Sweetest, most heart-checking. I’d been up most of the night for about three straight because Joel’s been fighting a sick, so I remember lying back down at about 5 a.m. and thinking, “I’m so glad it’s not a school day. If everything goes well, I could get two hours in right now!”  

At 6:15, Grace came knocking at our door with a heaping tray of breakfast: Injera, Ethiopian eggs (with a generous helping of Berbere spice), salad, turkey bacon, falafel, and orange juice in an old McDonalds soda cup with a new straw. She sang me happy birthday.

Desired came out rubbing her eyes, and they each gave me store-bought cards, unsigned, which I’ve noticed are like gold to these girls compared to the homemade ones. And a Christmas box filled with chocolate from this past December—peppermint Hershey’s Kisses.

They sat and watched me eat my breakfast and I wished there was some way besides a hug and an “I love you” to be embracing them while I ate. My eyes were burning with sleepiness. My heart so stirred.

These girls are willing to call me Mom.

They have living moms in Eritrea, who they miss every day. Living moms who changed their diapers and nursed them and taught them how to chop vegetables into incredibly tiny pieces, whose daughters, in one day, were gone.

I can’t help thinking that Mother’s Day must have been a hard day for these two.

Oh Jesus. They’ve had so many moms, and I’m so thankful to be one of them. Thank you. Really thank you. It’s a gift immeasurable. Just please be their Dad.

Don’t let them find home in this house and not in You. Let them find You in this house.

——

Ramadan starts tonight. We would appreciate prayers for total, Godly wisdom in parenting and loving our sweet daughter, specifically for these next thirty days. The instructions on this stuff are hard to find sometimes!

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I’m nursing Enoch, which means I want to be vegging on Facebook. Just scrolling. Not responding to messages or saying hi to anyone or leaving any trace of evidence that I have this annoying habit of glazing off into my decade’s version of reality TV and mindlessly looking at pictures of wedding showers and camping trips, reading the occasional political blog, and sliding my thumb up over and over at the slight chance that I’ll see something AWESOME! Which happens quite rarely. Facebook is kind of like a slot machine. And I have a problem.

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So I’m trying to quit. I’m trying to muster up the willpower to actually be a living person while I sit here being gnawed by a teething child. To pray or think or write or read my phone Bible. Or at least stare at him. He is SO cute.

I am supposed to write. I know it. But what do I write about? What do I even think about besides my kids, my farm chores, the next time I’m gonna get to smooch my husband, and Jesus? And if I have something to write, who do I write to? What’s the point?

I’ve been afraid to do it for a while, because I can’t always answer those questions. I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to write stories about my life for the sake of encouraging people, if there’s any chance that I’m actually doing it so that everyone who reads my stuff knows that I’m a good person. And I don’t want to write to people like me, who read blogs about what other people are doing with their lives and get jealous. Not encouraged, motivated, taught…just jealous. (Yes, I have another problem.)

Oh but it’s so tempting. It’s so tempting to make an amazing, funny, mommy blog with pictures of our beautiful family and testimonies about how many challenges and victories we’ve come through, and a few words of wisdom…and then wait with eager anticipation to see how many hits it gets in three days. To see how famous I get. So that 100 people can read it, compare their lives to mine, and be motivated or encouraged or blessed…or jealous. That’s terrifying.

So I haven’t posted a blog for over a year.

Because I’m afraid of myself. And I’m disgusted with myself for being the person who reads other peoples’ writings and wishes my life was as exciting as the 7-paragraph description of theirs.

I know something is wrong with this picture. And I know I am supposed to write.

I remember the morning after I found out that Jesus loved me, and the desperation I felt to find SOMEONE to pass this feeling to. This life-flipping, heart-wrenching, free-falling, death-to-life realization that I was utterly loved by God. It was so intense that I felt like I would burst if I didn’t share it.

It’s why I became a writing major in college. So that wherever I was in the world (I thought it would be Congo or something), I could try to make sure that someone back home was getting the same chance to meet Him that I got.

I’m not in the Congo. I haven’t slept in a jungle lately. And I don’t have any awesome stories about poisonous frogs landing on my head last night…so it’s easy to feel like I have nothing to say. I am a mommy. I guess that makes me a mommy blogger. And it probably means that most of what I write will involve babies and teenagers, my intense husband, and my untrained dogs. But I can feel it welling up in me. Something has to come out of me and onto a paper and somehow it has to spill Jesus. Someone, someday, has to meet Jesus up closer, even if it’s just because of the prayer my heart is praying while my fingers click out words.

Jesus, get your glory. Jesus, get your kids. Jesus, say something that means something to someone. Something eternal.

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About seven months after we got married, Zach came home from a morning run to find me sobbing on the living room floor.  
“What’s going on?” He asked. 
“I don’t want to say.”
“Oh come on.  You have to tell me.”
…“I’m giving up my dreams.”

When Zach decided to ask me to marry him, he chose to give up his plans.  He had gone to school to be a P.E. teacher and all his life he looked forward to doing a great job of it.  Teaching the way his best teachers had taught him, coaching in packed gyms and full stadiums, and changing kids’ worlds the way that he saw his dad (who was a teacher and a coach) change kids’ worlds. 

I wanted to be a missionary.  Before I knew God I liked to backpack, explore, eat weird food, travel, fall asleep under stars, not have to shower.  When I met the Lord, I interpreted my affection for adventure and new desire to introduce people to Jesus as a passion for missions in the unreached places of the world.  I went to Mozambique for a summer, got a little taste of what it felt like to rumble out to a bush village and see people hear about and meet God for the first time, and the dream was solidified: my version of a mansion on a lake with comfortable retirement was a hut on an unnamed island with 25 dark-haired kids surrounding me, calling me momma, and taking me to the neighbors house to evangelize. 

So I graduated from college expecting to take the first plane out of the country I could find, and God asked me to stay in San Diego for two years first.  I did, and I met Zach.  Love–>marriage–>baby carriage. 

Zach knew that marrying me meant marrying all of me, including my plans to forge those crazy, unknown frontiers, and he chose to.  I knew he did that.  I knew he decided to lay down his life for Jesus and for me, and I felt so, so loved. 

As summer approached our newlywed year, Zach was asked to coach high school football for a season.  I tried to be open-minded.  Out loud I asked, “Do you want to?” But internally I sounded a little less gracious.  You wouldn’t throw away our calling to live in suburbia and coach football would you?

We were planning to move back to Michigan for a short time—to birth our baby Joel, let the family get to know him for a couple months, and then take off for South America as soon as we were capable.  And all of the sudden I started seeing the danger:  What if we get stuck in Michigan.  What if we move to Holland, Zach gets a teaching/coaching job, I’m forced to become a journalist (I don’t want to be a journalist), and we find ourselves 15 years down the road not having done anything we were supposed to do? 

So, after subtly encouraging Zach to say “No thank you,” I got a text from a friend: “Hey Jordyn, Zach has really laid down his life for you.  I feel like encouraging you to ask yourself if you’d be willing to do the same for him.” 

Enter sobbing on the living-room floor moment. 

Up until that point I thought I had already answered yes to that question.  I thought I had told God that I would do whatever He told me to do.  But it was one thing to think hypothetically, it was another to actually entertain the idea of giving up my life. 

I’d had a moment like this about a year earlier when I worked as a caretaker.  After college, my job was to spend six-hour shifts in an upstairs bedroom with a woman who had little control of her body.  I loved the job, but I knew it was just for a season.  I still planned to leave America a.s.a.p. 

And then one day I felt God challenge me: “’Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for a friend.’  What if I asked you to lay down your life for this woman?  What if I asked you to spend the next 30 years in this place?”  It was a serious challenge, and it was a wrestle in my heart.  But I told God that if He asked me, I would do it.  Then I lost the job.

This time, the football coaching time, I knew it was real.  “Will you lay it all down?  Your dreams, your ambitions, your everything?”  It was a hard and beautiful moment, and eventually I said yes.  

But I had to fight the fears—the fears that had crept in under a guise of godliness and had actually become sinful motives.  Like the fear that I would lose a chance to be a great missionary like all the men and women I loved to read about.  That no one would write a book about the amazing things God did through me.  And the fear that if I didn’t become a missionary hero, the people who expected it of me would be disappointed.   All this talk with nothing to show for it?  So you chickened out and chose to stay comfortable?  I thought you were radical. 

Zach was worth it because Jesus was worth it.  Jesus’ life proved that Zach was worth it to Him.  And I sobbed. 

I recently found a journal entry from that time:

April 6, 2012.  Good Friday.

Jesus.  How selfish I am.  How pitiful and weak I am to have to wrestle so hard simply to surrender.  To give You a dream that You planted and You have every right to pluck.  I cry over the idea of staying in the United States—of sleeping on beds instead of mats and eating at tables instead of dirt floors, loving lost English speakers instead of lost unknowns—thinking that somehow if I don’t find the ones in the jungle then I won’t fully find You. 

I know that to some, my missionary dreams sound like nightmares.  They may even sound like incredible self-sacrifice or willingness to be uncomfortable, give up my life at some great expense.  But they’re no different than anyone else’s dreams.    They are the things I want to do.  They are the things that for years I have pictured in my foggy mind, expected would fulfill my purpose, thought would bring me something most worthy to offer You, and hoped would drive me to know You more. 

But what, really at the deepest place, do I picture in my mind?  You.  What will fulfill my purpose?  You will.  What can I offer You, really?  Only the love that You give me.  What would drive me to know You more?  Love.  Loving You.  Your love.  You. 

God, have it all.  Have everything.  Have all of my dreams, every part of me.  I give it to You joyfully and I say that I trust You.  I say that my incredible husband is worth dying for, and his dreams are worth surrendering mine for.  And the best way for me to love You is to love him.  Show me how to love him, Lord.  Even more and more and more every day.  Show me how to serve him and stir in me a passion for his dreams.  I want You to get everything You possibly can out of his life.  I want You to squeeze every bit of life out of him and pour it all over Your feet and then soak him in more.  Every day.  I want You to use the gifts You’ve put in him to glorify You.  I want his deepest heart’s desires to be fulfilled. 

 

Thus began the journey of filling the blank slate of our life as a family. 

And then we were able to comb back through the pieces and get down to the good stuff.  What of our dreams were from God and were meant to stick? 

We ended up with a list of our deep desires combined, which is obviously open for adjustment.  But as of last spring it has looked like this:

  • Prayer and the Presence of God
  • Reaching the unreached
  • Children in families (orphans adopted)
  • Men being men of God
  • Worship and music
  • Farming
  • Writing

So here’s my challenge. Is there anything—a dream, a motive, even a noble one—that could get put on the altar?  And after sifting through what God may be asking you to lay down, what’s left on your list?