This is Their Love Story (and it has a surprising outcome)

the incredulous love story you didn't know was in the bible

Eight slim chapters of the bible comprise the entirety of this story written by a man named Solomon. It's called the Song of Solomon, since it was written by him, and it reminds me of a Shakespeare play. It’s full of interpersonal, racial, and socioeconomic conflict, and there's poetry, drama, singing, and analogies, metaphors, and legions of other literary devices. 

 

And there’s a love story. At its deepest, truest essence, Song of Solomon is a love story, and I love a good love story. Maybe I know that despite relationships firing up or burning away all around me, true love is a rare thing, and I want it. I connect with it deeply.

 

You too?

 

This particular love story takes place between two characters: a character who represents God, and a character who represents us. This is their love story.

 

The second line in this ancient love story is spoken by the main character who represents you and me. This person says to the God character, “your love is better than wine.”

The Ministry of Wine

Ancient Hebrews drank wine liberally. It was present at every joyful occasion, at every celebration, and I’m no bible scholar or historian but I think it was probably delicious. Those were fantastic grapes, grown in the semi-arid soil of the Middle East with great drainage and sunshine year round.

 

People haven’t changed much in 2000 years--alcohol still makes us delightfully uninhibited, full of joie de vivre and hilariousness and warm, fantastic joy. If we’ve not personally experienced this kind of fun, we’ve all seen somebody who is utterly drunk and living his best life.

 

Wine makes us happy, and what this character in Song of Solomon is saying is, “loving you is the happiest I have ever been. Even wine doesn’t make me this happy.”

 

Do you know anybody who says this and believes it? Do you know anybody whose face lights up when he talks about how loving God makes him drunk with happiness? If you do, you’re lucky--and rare.

 

We talk about loving God all the time, but so often it sounds like a death knell. “Love God” they preach at us--and it sounds like a battering ram, like another whip to drive us to morality. “You should love God,” they say. Or maybe it’s just that all these years I’ve read my bible and I think, “If I really loved God….” And I feel the shame of knowing there are places in my heart that don’t really.

 

Wanting to love God is one thing. But playing my part in an epic love story is another thing.

Does It End Here?

Can I beckon you to another scene in Song of Solomon? Four chapters of this play have traversed this stage, and now we’ve come to the fourth chapter, and the tenth line. This time, the God character is speaking to our character.

 

The God character says, “How much better than wine is your love….”

 

In other words, your love is better than wine. Four chapters later, and the God character is breathing the same words to us that our character spoke to God. The God character uses the same words to you that your character used to God.

 

Here are other ways God might be expressing those feelings:

 

I am happiest loving you and being loved by you.

I choose your love over anything else.

I want your love.

Your love makes me happy.

 

Suddenly, this God character isn’t stern or difficult to please; God’s character doesn’t treat love as some kind of due. God’s character doesn’t thunder down on the us character and say “I don’t want your love, I want your morality.” No! The God character is responsive. Our character’s love moves this person. Our love stirs up God’s heart. Now, it’s a dynamic, living, breathing interchange that takes on a life of its own.

 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but God chooses our love--and we all know that love isn’t love unless it’s freely given. If it’s been manipulated into happening or strong armed into happening, it’s not love. And that’s why it’s so valuable and miraculous and amazing and precious and that’s why God wants it! That’s why God wants it.

 

Lest you think we just took some alternate reading from a strange part of a strange story, let’s go to John’s eyewitness account of Jesus’ life, and look at one of the most famous set of chapters in the bible.

 

Some of the deepest most profound theological concepts come out of chapters 14, 15, and 16 in John. They are packed--you could spend your whole life in these chapters. You know what? I’ve heard them preached on and have studied them my whole life, and in all these rich and glorious chapters, I’ve never even heard this one tiny little verse in the fifteenth chapter, verse nine:

 

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

 

Jesus is God’s son, but he’s also God. When Jesus references his father, he’s referencing God: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

 

Let’s put it this way, because that archaic “so” is awkward and bulky: I love you as much as God loves you.

 

Jesus loves me as much as God loves Jesus.

 

The same amount that God loves God, God loves you.

Too Good To Be True 

Obviously, that’s huge, but honestly? My heart hears that and throws up some barriers.

 

That sentence is so good, that maybe it’s too good.

 

Life experience tells us that if somebody tells you something that’s too good to be true, and you believe him, you get left high and dry. Tell me you haven’t faced a relationship where somebody’s told you something that was too good to be true, and then you believed her, and then you got hung out to dry, because what she told you wasn’t true--it was too good.

 

Tell me you haven’t lost money, a job, social standing, security, your integrity, or your life, because somebody told you something that was too good to be true.

 

But the thing is, it’s true. Jesus’ wild claim shows up again and again and again. Again and again and again he makes a loved place for a prostitute and a cheating woman and a young virgin.

 

Our innards can scream THIS IS DANGEROUS all they want (and it is!) but that doesn’t make it less true! Evil, hurtful people don’t make it less true! Liars don’t make it less true! It’s like uncovering the truth about the life we could really be living after years of deception and manipulation and deep pain.

 

God loves Jesus and in that same incomprehensible amount, he loves us. He wrote a love story about us and God, didn’t he?

 

Directly after Jesus drops that little bombshell of a sentence, he says something else. He says, “abide in my love.”

 

If you’re like me, you’ve grown up in church and you’ve heard this verse a lot. The word “abide” is big-time Christianese. I mean, we don’t use it anymore in real life. When somebody asks us where we live, we don’t say, “I abide in Austin.”

 

It’s sort of archaic, so I love the way The Message translation of this passage (the original was written in Greek) gets to the heart of things:

 

“Make yourselves at home in my love.”

 

Those words taste beautiful when you roll them across your tongue, don't they? Here’s the whole passage:

 

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.” John 15:9-10

 

This love of Jesus, this incomprehensible love that is in the same amount as God’s love for him, is our address, our neighborhood, our zipcode, our ethnicity, our nationality. It’s our home.

 

Jesus isn’t inviting you to come up for a quick roadtrip. He’s not asking you to come stay for an afternoon. The invite isn’t just for the weekend.

 

He says, I don’t want you to buy a summer house here. I don’t want you to make a quick business transaction here. I don’t want you to come for the day and go home at night. I don’t want you to rent here.

 

I want you to live here.

 

Build your forever home here, in his love. Custom build the perfect house--the house of your dreams. Hang the curtains. Paint the walls. Grow the garden in the back. Hang photos on the walls.

 

Make my love your home, he tells us. This is where you live. This is where you stay--permanently. This is not a place to enjoy for the duration of a conference, but after the conference you go back to your real life.

 

I don’t want you to come home periodically, I want you to live at home. My love is your safe place. Make my love your home.

 

The Song of Solomon love story we talked about earlier? If you haven’t read the whole thing, I’ve got a spoiler alert for you: it’s a love story that you and I are invited into. Here's another spoiler alert: this love story doesn't end. 

Support my writing by signing up for my email list. I promise not to sell you stuff you don't want. 

PS 3 ways to make your heart stronger here and when your new year's resolution is to survive here.

How to NOT Lose Your Mind on an Outing With Kids (a humorous essay 55% guaranteed to work)

How to NOT Lose Your Mind on an Outing With Kids (a humorous essay 55% guaranteed to work)

My husband was getting the kids ready to take them to the park for the afternoon, and losing his everloving mind. The clothing, shoeing, jacketing, and STOPPUNCHINGYOURSISTER'ing of prepping three kids for anything outside our front door in sheer insanity.

 

Full of empathy and desirous of this being a good experience for him so it happens for me more, I took him by the shoulders, looked up into his slightly panicked eyes, and revealed to him the secrets of surviving--nay, of thriving--through an outing with children.

 

These secrets I now hereby reveal to you. They work 55% of the time, so your odds are slightly better than a straight crapshoot.

 

Look, I'm assuming you've covered the basics like not taking your children places during naptime unless you're utterly desperate, stocking your car/diaper bag/stroller/pockets with enough snacks to survive an apocalypse (Lord knows the Cheerios will make it even if we don't), and purchasing five identical "dinosaw shits" so that your child can always wear a clean dinosaw shit.

 

Inevitably, somebody will spend the entire ten minute drive to the park, the fun magical place they've been begging to go to since yesterday, whining because you didn't insist she bring her jacket and now she's too cold for words. Somebody else will not like the park you chose. Somebody else will fall and scrape his knee in the first thirty seconds and insist on being carried. Somebody else will remember they had to go pee since early this morning and NOW it is urgent.  

 

At the end of the day, you just can't control your kids' attitudes, and you can almost guarantee an inverse relationships between your need for five calm minutes at the park and their need for you to fix. it. now.  

 

This is where expert level parenting takes over. Expert level parenting is a combination of not giving a rat's ass about things that really don't matter and focusing all your energy on the things that do matter. Like installing a limousine window between the driver's seat and the passengers.

 

Just kidding.

 

Really, expert level parenting is a mad dash at keeping your patience in stock before it's utterly depleted and any fool could do this IF SAID FOOL HAD GOTTEN A FULL NIGHT'S SLEEP.

 

1. Weigh Your Options Very Carefully

 

Nobody--nobody--likes getting kids ready to go. It's hell. Let's call it what it is, and let's keep this in mind carefully when we make plans to go somewhere. Ask yourself, is this playdate worth going through hell? Is this drive to Dunkin Donuts for 99 cent happy hour iced coffee worth hell?

 

Depending on your percentage of introvert and how cold it is (jackets are hells times infinity), you might very well decide this is not worth hell. At this point, cancel your plans. Your friend will understand. If she's an extrovert who felt like hell was worth getting through today, invite her to you dumpster I mean house. She won't mind. If she minds, get a new friend.

 

2.Treat yo' Self

 

Do you know what a commodity is? A commodity is a thing of value that is traded. Usually, it's limited and important. Rice is a commodity. Pork belly is a commodity. Patience is a commodity. That's not economics; that's parenting. The factory that replenishes the patience commodity is self-care. The biggest, baddest self-care factory is the one that cranks out things like Whole30's and regular exercise and therapy.

 

When those factories are offline, it's the smaller factories that come through for us--the coffee and a scone at the drive thru before going to the park factory. The favorite podcast on headphones factory. The stash of mint chocolate Lara bars in the car factory. The cup of delicious green tea in a travel mug factory.

 

Outings with children are frank reminders that they have a lot of learning to do before they're nice humans other people want to be around, so whichever factory you need to turn to--you pull that lever and get those assembly machines moving. Your happiness means a nicer parent, and this is good for everyone.

 

4.Speaking of Happiness (this might be a rant)

 

Look, woman/man: you are NOT the world's worst parent. It's so great that your kids have needs and wants and are communicating/whining their needs and wants to you, but you will never be able to meet all their needs and this irrevocable fact of life will become increasingly true as they grow older.

 

You can feel guilt over this thing that you can't control, or you can realize that part of growing into a stable, healthy adult means learning to take responsibility for your own happiness. This is true for me--my happiness doesn't depend on my husband, my kids, my friends, or my dog; it depends on me--and this is true for my children. The only way they learn that they can chose happiness even when they're not getting what they want is by practicing it. A lot.

 

And failing at it. A lot.

 

This is where we come in. Our time as parents is spent helping our children learn to find their own happiness, regardless of what they're getting or not getting. This is probably a more painful process for us than it is for them, though their screams often indicate otherwise, but in the midst of dramatically failing their expectations at every outing, we can pat ourselves on the back and remind ourselves that we are AWESOME parents who are helping our children grow.

 

Through this misery.

 

5. Manage Your Energy

 

I work from home (with my children) and you know what I don't have after I've finished a big project? Energy. I don't have the energy. You know what we don't do after I finish? Anything that involves making me more tired. This is usually challenging, because usually at this point my children are losing their minds after being semi-ignored for hours.

 

But first, I take a shower. I put on a show and I lay in a dark room and stare at the ceiling. I listen to a podcast by myself.

 

I am tired, my tank is empty, and because I AM NOT A HUMAN ENERGIZER BUNNY, I put on a show for my children and I chill.

 

See what I did there? I looked at my patience meter and I saw that it was empty. I can't parent on empty. So I fill my meter, and then I parent. See that? Now I'm a nice mom, not a mean mom, and all it cost me was my kids watching another episode of science stuff on Netflix. SOUNDS LIKE A WIN TO ME.

 

6. Know Your Triggers

 

Searching for clean clothes for three children is a trigger for me. So, I go to great lengths to avoid this. Searching for shoes sucks, but it doesn't set me off quite like digging through piles of clothing for something clean sets me off.

 

Whining sets me off; hearing my children whine/cry (it's called whrying) about being hungry sets me off. We takes snacks everywhere.

 

Being hungry, myself, sets me off. I buy my special protein bars religiously, even though they're so expensive we might not be able to feed our children next week.

 

I don't berate myself about my triggers, I just know them and I avoid them.

 

My husband took my advice, and after loading the kids in the car, he swung through the drive thru to grab his favorite coffee. "Babe," he told me when he got home, "you might be the smartest woman I know."

 

Guaranteed success, baby.  

 

Support my writing by signing up for my email list. I promise not to sell you stuff you don't want. 

PS Katrina Harrington is an artist and a mom here and 31 things I've learned in 31 years here

how to NOT lose your mind on an outing with kids (#parenthumor)

This Year I'm Going to Be Awesome (a hilarious take on instagram and motherhood)

i'm going to be sooo awesome this year (a hilarious essay on motherhood and instagram)

This year, my goal is to be awesome, so I’m going to start making homemade bread with my sons every morning (but not with my daughter because #feminism). My favorite Instagram mom has five kids (wait, she just had another) and bakes bread every morning with her children and fairies show up and it is MAGICAL, so I need this in my life, too. Also, she homeschools, so I’ve started researching the best homeschooling methods for homesteader families.

It'll Be Fine 

In addition to baking my own bread just like @myfavoritecrunchyinstagrammom, I am also going to start a company. My other favorite Instagram mom, @businessbossbabemomrockstar (who just adopted two children) started her own company and this year Oprah is going to feature it and she will make a billion dollars. I’m not sure how I will homeschool and run the fastest growing company of 2018, but I’ve printed a lot of inspirational quotes from Pinterest and I think I’ll be fine.

The Problem is all the Gluten

I should note that when we bake our fresh bread it will not be with regular flour. Gluten is bad for you, according to @eatgoodfoodhealthypaleofitgreenveganmom. She is awesome and if, likewise, I want to be awesome and have just as much energy to play for hours and hours with my kids every day (while keeping up with my CEO email) I will need to make bread from not gluten. I have found a list of ingredients that make delicious not gluten bread (there’s something called xanthan gum on here) and am ordering them all from Amazon right now.

How Early? 

I plan to start my day at 4 am. I would like to start it at 7 am, but that is simply laziness talking because in order to start my daily morning read alouds to the children before we start homeschool, we have to start breakfast at 5 am. I must also spend an hour each morning in meditation and yoga while illustrating my bible so I can center myself and find my inner peace, which means that I must wake up at 4 am. Don’t worry, I’m adding a slice of lemon to my hot water (and a sprinkle of sea salt) so I’ll be super alert all day.

Just Be Cool

Am I mildly concerned about the tractability of my goals? Absolutely not. I have a #rockstar mug, a #momboss t-shirt, and a recording of Oprah’s Golden Globes speech set to go off every hour, on the hour, all day long. I am also a member of three mastermind groups and five accountability groups. Three meet in person, one meets over text, and one requires extensive conversations via Voxer. I need to download Voxer.

#blessed

To keep track of my rich, chaotic life (I’m so grateful) I have also extensively reviewed the organization habits of the top women in my industry, and now have the Emily Ley planner, the Erin Condren planner, Lara Casey’s Powersheets, Rachel Hollis’ New Year goals training, and a handful of free printables I got off the internets (my printer ran out of ink or I’d have more). Each morning, after read alouds and before homeschooling/CEO duties I plan to sip my butter coffee peacefully on the back porch while I establish my Top Three, my tending list, my to-do list, my big rocks, and my time blocks.

 

Since we don’t have nature in our backyard, I’ll alternate the gentle sounds of a babbling brook with a pump-you-up playlist from Tony Robbins, which is simultaneously as important, less important, and more important than baking not gluten bread with the fairies while running a company.

 

I’m going to be so awesome this year.

Support my writing by signing up for my email list. I promise not to sell you stuff you don't want. 

PS Running out of time here and interview with artist + mom Katrina Harrington here

#momhumor

What You Don't Know About Self-Care

What I didn't know about self-care might have killed me

I hit a wall after my third child was born. I had the beginnings of diastasis and an umbilical hernia and I couldn't lift my children--even the tiniest one--without hurting. Pushing a grocery cart with the goods to feed a family of five would leave me aching for the rest of the day. I would mentally measure the amount of pain a thirty-minute drive would cost; would I have the strength after to lift carriers out of the car, to not scream at my children when they fought the rest of the day?

 

We talk a lot about self-care as if it were a pint of icecream or a bubble bath. A moment alone. A visit to Target, alone.

 

The conversation about self-care, at its core, is an exploration of value. Do I have value as a woman, outside the value I have as my children's mother? Are my children's needs more important--more valuable--than mine? If all of me loves all of you, does that mean I sacrifice all of me for all of you?

Answers I Can't Find

Motherhood subcultures usually have some sort of formula that allows us to punch in the variables so that we get some kind of answer. Some say all children's needs are more valuable than the mother's and imply her nobility correlates to the amount of her sacrifice.

 

Some say the mother's needs are more valuable--if mom isn't happy and fulfilled, children can't be happy and fulfilled, and women must quest to achieve this happiness.

 

Both make compelling arguments, but as I straddle multiple sub-cultures (working mom, stay at home mom, Christian mom, homeschool mom, public school mom, mom of children in diapers, mom of elementary children) I struggle to reconcile the disparate formulas.

 

I wrestle empirically and I wrestle daily: my three-month-old's screaming need for food is surely more important than my need for a shower, but not my need for water or food. If I don't drink or eat, I don't produce milk.

Why do we wait till we're at our end to heal ourselves?
 

But are all my needs boiled down to serving myself so I can serve them? Can I lose myself so completely in service that it's not service anymore at all, but some kind of desperate sacrificial competition?

 

My physical pain, those three years ago when my third son was tiny, was so intense that I finally faced it. I made an appointment with my doctor. I researched. I walked, daily, hobbling around my block until my ten minutes of pain and subsequent ice down strengthened into a fast mile, easy. I created a bedtime routine to put myself to sleep, much the same way I helped my children sleep. I fed myself well.

The Shame of It 

Here’s what I’ve learned in these years of imposed self-care: self-care is a lightning rod for shame. And Christian women have shame in spades. Sometimes it’s so widespread that I think it might be woven into our very culture; to be a Christian woman is to be ashamed of our very existence.

Sometimes I think that’s all any of us are trying to prove: if I just stay home mom good enough or if I just working mom good enough I’ll prove I’m worth something.

 

My children aren't breastfeeding anymore or waking in the night anymore. I can breathe a little more, get on top of self-care a little more. But I still struggle to walk the block before I do a writing job that earns grocery money. My pain isn’t physical anymore but cosmetic--my bulging muscles don’t compel me to take action the way my inability to care for my children did.

 

What is different? I do things now, away from my children, for the sheer love of the things. I write. I live. I have friends. I am not ashamed. I hold my personhood, my womanhood, offered up as a beautiful! vibrant! stunning! fragrant! offering in one open hand, while with the other hand I give away my Savior-given crown so I’m unencumbered to serve.

 

If my sacrifice as a Christian isn’t swallowed up in unspeakable joy, I’m doing it wrong. If self-care doesn’t make me a better servant, I’m doing it wrong. If service means I forget my own humanity, I'm doing it wrong.

 

Maybe, today, I take a bath, and maybe I don’t. Maybe I walk the block, maybe I don’t. Maybe I adjust my crown, and then hand it to somebody else.

 

I'll be honest; when Emily over at Kindred Mom announced they'd be spending a whole month writing about self-care, I grimaced. A whole month?? Emily challenged me to dig deeper; she was so right, and I was so wrong. Thank you, Emily! 

Support my writing by signing up for my email list. I promise not to sell you stuff you don't want. 

PS 31 things I've learned in 31 years here and what I learned from A Wrinkle in Time here

what you don't know about self-care