My sister left for Belmont this Friday. She is now a
Tennessee resident. She forewent
the deep dish and baseball caps of Chicago for the southern drawls and cowboy boots of sweet-city Nashville. I got the chance to talk to her tonight and I
beamed as she gave me the ‘I got there and…” story of her first few days at school. There's something ironic knowing that as I prepared a stovetop dinner for Austin
and me, my little sister was venturing into the wonderful world of
cafeteria-style dining. How good it is to have her in my life. As
often as it may seem that I am a few steps ahead, Katie, in her twenty-one
years, lives and operates in such gentle-joyous-wonder, that I often am forced
to take notice. And learn. A lot.
One thing I did love about having my sister close by was the
randomness of our hangout slots. My most favorite came when Katie
received about twelve hours notice of the road trip that she was accompanying
me on. We got in the white Honda, dressed, without question in Lululemon, and
headed towards St. Louis. We paused only for things worth stopping for: Panera
salads, soft-serve ice cream and ravishing sunsets. Once we got there, I became
absolutely awed by the lessons I learned from watching my sister. She gives of
herself in ways I am afraid to. She has patience with people that I would be
guarded with. And she worships her creator in ways I wish I knew how.
Worship for Katie is the natural outpouring of her life. All
you have to do is spend a few minutes with her to be convinced of that. She
embodies a radiating, abiding joy that comes only from intimately knowing the One whom made her.
Worship in her life means more than the songs that start and end a church
service. Her worship is the surrendered posture and response to that which
truly gives LIFE to her life. It is an acknowledgement of the one behind the
wheel. A tipping of the hat to the glue of her well-being. And a fascination
with the soul-satisfaction she gains from worshipping this God.
I’ve worshipped several things in my life. When I was little
I worshipped my parents because of the ways they provided for me and loved
me. When I was a bit older I
worshipped my friends’ comments and put all my chips of self worth into the pot
of their opinions. When I was a teenager I worshipped being noticed by
guys, and their thumbs up/thumbs down approval determined whether my day was a
good one. And when I was in college I worshiped my body’s ability to play volleyball
and the recognition it brought me. But, wouldn’t you know it, my parents were
human, my friends tore me down, guys’ approval was lost in the ways they cared
only for themselves, and my body was broken time and time again because of the
sport I loved to play.
It wasn’t until these shortcomings of my worship were removed that I was able
to see my God, my creator, as the sole being worthy of my worship and incapable of failing me.
We’re all worshipping something. Our abilities, our
productivity, others' applause, a form of technology, what we see in the mirror, or maybe
a relationship. But one steadfast truth remains. This God. This Creator is the
one and only thing that can not, and more importantly will not ever fail. He can’t. It’s not in his character of
perfection. So, the next time I’m unusually distraught by the let down of a
relationship or circumstance, I will remember who it is that I worship and why he
deserves my praise. For unlike this sandy world of false idols, the foundation
of my soul is built on the rock. He never, ever, ever fails.
(For you, Katie and your likeness and ‘non-worship’ of T.
Swift. Love you and the ways you worship God daily.)
Sometimes life makes perfect sense.Your best friend visits from Chicago.A baby is born healthy and happy.Two friends get married on a perfect summer
evening.You stay up late talking about
life and faith around the fire with your friends and mentor. A beautiful little
girl is adopted and brought home.A one
year anniversary.Seventy-five degrees
at 7:00pm.A pumpkin muffin and chai latte
at the bakery.A baby kick so strong you
can see your shirt moving.Life is sweet
here in these places that make sense, these places that make you a better
person than you were before they happened.But life can’t stay here.It moves on to the realities we all live with—whether that is sickness
or longing that there is no cure for yet, or money we just do not have, or a
relationship that we once fought hard for and have now relegated to a category
not worth fighting at all for.
Life bounces between the walls of hope and apathy so
quickly.One moment can feel like all is
well and the next like nothing will ever be the same.Some seasons our lives feel like one long
facebook status roll of highlights, and other seasons we feel like if that person posts one more picture or one
more brag-status about her perfect life and perfect home and perfect baby I am
de-friending her (not that I have ever, ever felt that way).Some days we feel so, so good about the work
we are doing and we wouldn’t want any other job in the world, and other days we
feel like—no matter what the work is—there are no children being freed from
slavery and in that case, it is not nearly noble enough to give your heart to.
We are up then down, left then right, confident then lonely,
secure then anxious, sometimes all in the same day.This is life, and the beauty is not always in
what is perfect or makes sense; the beauty is in what is real and true and what
faith sustains in you.If your
relationships are real, then even when they are hard, they are beautiful.If your desire for healing or for answers is
real, even if it is long-coming, it is beautiful, not to mention inspiring.And if your faith sustains hope in your heart
and the knowledge that your life is being orchestrated by a God who is able to
keep us from falling, then it is beautiful.
Real is simply beautiful.Sometimes it means you are happy and other times it means you are
broken, but it always means you’re authentic.For me, the most life-giving people around me are the truth-tellers, the
real ones.The most deep and formative
experiences have been ones I would not have chosen to go through, but they did
their job in my life because they were real.In a world full of false praise, dishonest critics, and let’s be honest,
a whole lot of never-going-below-the-surface friendships, real is more needed
than ever.Being real is the only
stabilizer in life’s tennis match of emotions and circumstances, and it is the
only thing that allows us to truly leave our gifts with the world.
In the days that make sense or in the days that leave me
without words, I want people around who will celebrate like crazy over the
smallest things, and who will cry an understanding tear when the news is
bad.And I want to be that person to
others, because I have found that even in the worst times, when I’m around the
truth-tellers, things always make a little more sense.
Beauty is honest, and the world needs more of it.We don’t need one more person trying to be
someone they are clearly not, or portray a life that doesn’t exist.We just need more of what is real, because that is
what is really, really sweet about life.
As of late I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the Food Network.Any timeslot, any show, I’m glued.This is a very new development, but slowly I am beginning to experiment with how certain ingredients play off of each other, how to finely mince garlic, and marveling in the new-found knowledge of what exactly a shallot is. My dad works effortlessly and joyfully in the kitchen, and I am crossing my fingers that those chef-tastic genes are among some other late-blooming traits passed down from my parents.
One of the catapults into cooking more consistently came from the group that Luke and Jess dreamed up that meets on a mostly-steady, at times-irregular basis. We started by calling it Bible study. Then small group. Now we’re close enough to the idea and each other that we just call it group. I love group. I love this group, but mostly I love the ways this group does ‘group.’
Before we made the move up to Chicago, Austin and I were blessed to be part of the most wonderfully random and refreshingly honest group of young adults back in Arizona. Every Thursday night our 3958 Cat Balue door would fling open and we would be greeted by a plethora of lifelong friends, sweet new acquaintances, and complete strangers, each somehow invited by another member of the ever-growing and ever-different group. I don’t think there was a single repeat of the same crowd, and yet miraculously, we never lost steam.These were brave and passionate men and women of God that came to lay their hearts on the line, ask questions that would forever matter, and take part in 30-minute long prayers, as each person prayed for the person on their left (or wait, was it the person on the right? Wait… J) We would pop popcorn, eat dark chocolate M&M’s and laugh uncontrollably whenever Allie would bust into an impromtu yoga pose, when Lad would fall asleep in the middle of prayer, or when Max ‘showed off’ his new tattoo. God moved in mighty ways and found great pleasure in those hours that we met because,
“All who believed were together and had all things in common,” Acts 2:44.
We didn’t know each other well. We had many nights of ‘nice to meet yous,’ and yet, each unique member had nearly all things in common. Some were in school, some working, some graduating, some looking for a job, but nevertheless, we were united in our phase of life, in whom we believed, and in the fact that we were together, and when all who believe get together, miracles happen.
Our group now is similar in many ways, but also different. The chief difference came naturally and beautifully as Austin and I shuffled into a new phase of life. Now, we meet on Friday nights, and consider it our social lives in action instead of a social life buzz-kill. We cook for each other, do dishes together and always have about 3 options for dessert. We watch lessons, pause for clarification, ask deep-rooted questions of each other and demand honest answers. The funny ones of the group silence the room with their profound reflections and the quiet ones make us roar with the pitch-perfect side-comments. Jess always asks the best questions, Lauren never misses the chance to join another by saying ‘me too!’ And I think Dan laughs the hardest when Luke’s wit fills the rare, silent moments. We look to Austin for theology definitions, to Katie for heartfelt prayer, and to Melissa for the perfect sum-up. Molly brings story-telling to a new hilarious level, Kyle asks questions that we’re all thinking but don’t end up saying, and newbies like Zach and Allison come with their armor down and heart open to all the crazy our group has to offer. I love how we do group because we are devoted to truth and unapologetic of whom we know Jesus to be. Yet, we acknowledge how little we have figured out, we’re floored by the grace God showers on us, and we lock arms in an effort to be such solid disciples that we could’ve blended in with the twelve originals (okay, eleven).
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42
If there is a true ‘group recipe’ it has equal parts of these descriptions in Acts. We long to be like the early church because of the awe that came upon every soul (vs 43). This man, this Christ is the real deal. And sometimes all you need is your well-seasoned, God-fearing group around you to be convinced of that.
‘…And he added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’Acts 2:47b
...the second part of the story began with tears, good ones, that is...
she's a little camera shy
The confetti was pink.
It was festive and exciting and beautiful. And pink.
For the last three months I told everyone it was a boy, I just knew that
it was. Chinese calendar said boy. I am apparently carrying low, which usually
means boy. My husband has only male
cousins on the paternal side of his family, which means strong genes for a
boy. I had two brothers so spent as much
time playing sports and burying G.I. Joes in the backyard as anything else
growing up, so I was ready for a boy. I
believed, one hundred percent, it was a boy.
And then just a moment before Emily opened the box of
confetti to pour over us, I thought, “wait a second, it could be girl!” And then we held hands and looked up to a shower of pink. Our little blessing,
precious Harper. Second only to being
announced as Mrs. Alex Blackburn, this was the sweetest moment I've ever been blessed with.
And now Harper is on some part of my mind all day, every day. My heart could run in circles around all of the things I cannot wait for, and all the things that scare me to death for hours. It is times like this that I am especially thankful for the gospel, for a power and a strength that is made perfect in my weakness. I know I will never be enough on my own for Harper, but Jesus will. And it is in that place of gratitude I want to stay forever...
It is amazing how quickly you burrowed into our hearts. Less than four months ago we did not even know you were coming, and now we cannot imagine our lives without you. I want you to know, sweet Harper, that even
though there is so much we don’t have yet that we want to give you,
your daddy and I are ready for you, because we have so much love, and it is
going to cover you in hugs and kisses and cuddles. Making and checking off a hundred lists could
not prepare us for you more than feeling you move, seeing your heart beating
strong, and now, knowing your name.
I don’t know how to be a mom yet, Harper, but I promise to
be a quick learner. I’ll listen to your
cries and learn what they mean. I'll watch
your expressions and learn what makes you smile. And as you get older, I learn what food
you’ll eat and what food you’ll spit out on me.
I’ll pay attention to your favorite books, your favorite colors, your
favorite toys, and your favorite hobbies and I’ll encourage you to be creative as
you explore those things. When you are a
student, I’ll do all I can to help you learn.
When you are a teenager, I’ll hear your stories about the boys that will
break your young heart. We will probably
fight and I will need your forgiveness, and I will be quick to ask for it. I can promise you I will be worried sick
about you when you are old enough for a curfew, even if you are just around the
corner, but your daddy (who will also be worried but he will hide it better than me) will remind me to relax and remember that you have a God
who is a protector much more capable than us.
We will have really hard days together, Harper. Maybe your Dad and I will have a fight and
you will see it, or we can’t afford the shoes you really want, or you will get sick
and there is nothing I can do about it but let you lay in my lap while I run my
fingers through your hair. But we will
have really, really great days, too.
We’ll bury daddy in the sand, go to the zoo to learn about animals, make
pancakes on Saturday mornings, and we’ll paint our nails pinks and purples or
blues and greens. And we’ll pray together,
Harper, because we have so much to be thankful for… always.
I promise you that daddy and I will always love each other,
and that together we will put your needs before our own. I can’t wait to introduce you to so many
people who love you and will always be there for you—in fact, it is because of
the beautiful body of Christ that I know we’ll be ok. And Harper, our amazing blessing of a little
girl, I cannot wait to tell you about Jesus, because He is the best.
So keep growing, keep kicking and practicing your
summersaults in there, and in the meantime we will keep praying for you and
anxiously awaiting the day we get to meet you.
There’s something about Spokane, Washington in the summer.
The breezes carry fresh scents of rain-covered greenery and the sun gives off
warmth as steady and powerful as the friends I come here to see. It is busy,
but stilled. Passes quickly, but stops time in its place. It is vacation, but
with more work done to my soul than nearly anywhere else. It is a deep love of
mine because of the memories built, the stories shared and the ridiculous
amount of snacks consumed.
I get to live an incredible life. I have hurts, land-mines,
deep-rooted insecurities and more weaknesses than I often care to expose, but
this life that God trusted me with is a good one. I know God adores the moments
that I pause in unanticipated silence and thank him for his good gifts.
James, the brother of Jesus, said in his New Testament
letter (epistle) that every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming
down from the Father of light, with whom there is no variation or shadow due.
God sheds light. He illuminates the dark. Brightens the dull
and sustains the shine. He shows no variation and is always and forever without
shadow. We are the shadow makers. In view of his mercies, we squint and put blinders
on, turning our backs on the good and perfect gifts he gives. I picture myself as a little girl sitting
around the Christmas tree. Placed next to me is a beautiful present, trimmed
and wrapped with such love and care that it’s practically glowing. I open it up
and see it is everything I have ever needed, ever wanted. I look straight into
the eyes of the gift giver and say:
“The timing was all wrong when you gave me this, why couldn’t
it have come sooner?”
“I think I’ll just
take credit for this one because it was all my doing and my idea anyway.”
“I actually like the gift you gave her better than my own
Imagine for a second the face of the gift giver if those
were the responses of our hearts. It pains me that those three sentences came too
easily. My heart is the ultimate shadow maker.
Let me let you in to some of those shadows:
My husband and I seem
to be doing great in our marriage (Well, that’s because we work really hard
at it and have had ideas to make our marriage better that we’ve carried out- on
I absolutely love our
house (But I think I’d be much happier if I had that house across the
street with the front porch.)
It has been great connecting
with friends (Where was this relationship before? I needed it then and it
wasn’t there- nothing happens when I need it to.)
Husbands, homes and friends are good and perfect gifts from
the Father of light. Discontentment, pride and selfishness cast shadows in my
heart that make it impossible to see all things as gifts from the God without
variation. There is no stop in the flow
of his giving. The halt is a result of me and only me. I want the face of my
gift giver to be beaming with gracious love because his daughter is achingly
grateful for the constant stream of goodness he pours out. Contentment is where
God’s sufficiency truly holds water, and a grateful heart opens the door to
gifts I have never given God credit for. He sheds light on my darkest shadows.
May it be said of me that I am thankful without variation.
Pre-Baby Bucket List.
Love this idea. I think it is a
super fun and creative way to see that you and your hubby are doing all the
things you want to do before baby comes.
Go to Asia
Spend a long weekend in a cozy cabin
Complete a triathlon together
Take a few Ph.D. courses
Finish Nursing School
Build up our savings accounts
This was our list-in-the-making. We had never officially written anything
down, but we had started putting money away for our trip to the Philippines, we
looked at triathlons in Seattle and California, we even scoped out cute cabins
on the Puget Sound. We have been
contributing to our 401Ks and Mutual Funds and the savings account was slowly—pretty
dang slowly, if I'm honest— making its way along.
And then the test had two pink lines. All five of them did, actually. (Yes, I took five tests over the course of 3
hours. In that state of shock, that was
the least crazy thing I said/did in those 24 hours in April).
Here is the honest, from my heart truth: I have never wanted
to be anything more than I want to be a mom.
Alex and I talked about baby names in our second month of dating (hey,
that can be a deal-breaker, ladies), and he has had to put up with my dreaming
and talking about “let’s start trying late in 2013… well how do you feel about
maybe September of 2013.. ok, you’re right early 2014 is better…” almost our
entire marriage. It was definitely
there, that desire and dream and wish to have a baby. But it was out-there, somewhere in the intangible future, far enough away that
my only job was to keep dreaming about it.
And now it’s not just there, existing in my hopes and plans, it is here… that baby is (almost) here.
We have our 20 week ultrasound this week, and we’ll get to
see if our baby has all of its organs and arms and legs, if the brain looks
healthy so far, and of course, we’ll find out what his or her name is (for the
record, my money is on boy). I am
anxious before every doctor appointment.
Every single one. But this one,
this is the half-way point. I am beyond
excited to see our baby, but I am in total
disbelief that half of my pregnancy is behind me. I still feel like I just realized I am really
So our Pre-Baby Bucket List has changed. The Asia trip fund is now allocated for
medical bills, the triathlon goal has been exchanged for “get up the stairs
without getting winded,” and the long weekend in a cozy cabin actually means
road trips to Seattle to savor time with family and finding fun recipes on
pinterest to make at home. Now, the
things we want to check off of our list before the baby arrives looks like:
Spend as much time together as possible
Say “yes” to time with friends, as often as we can
Ask good questions of good mentors
Pray some more
Ride the bike to save money on gas
Finish the “Friday Night Lights” series.
Sleep in while we can
Pray a whole lot more
It is an incredible blessing to have to change your plans
for what is so clearly God’s plan. I
really do feel that way.
There are a thousand things that scare me about raising a
baby (finances, work, health insurance, health in general, oh, and just keeping
another human being alive are among them).
But they are all trumped by the fact that God is giving this tiny- but
actually huge- miracle to us, so in some crazy way, He must think we are ready. I love our unpredictable life, because we
have an unchanging God. And the miracle
of all miracles is that this God loves us with a crazy love, far greater that
how I feel about Alex and already think about baby Blackburn. It’s a love bigger than words, bigger than
P.S. I’ll be back late this week to tell you who baby
Blackburn is. In the meantime, if you
are a mom, longing to be a mom someday, or just loving the moms, dads and
kiddos around you, can I say from the bottom of my heart thank you. If I understood
God’s timing, how he gives and holds back, like He means us to understand it I
would certainly share that, but I don’t.
But I understand at least one thing: I think we are all in this
together, and I have learned and gleaned lessons about being not only a mom,
but a teacher and a mentor, from my own mom, from my best friend who is raising
little babies, from my best friend who prays in big ways for my little growing
family, from the woman who has 3 of her own kids and 4 from other moms, from my
old mentor who is still waiting for her baby, from co-workers, from friends who are
adopting, from friends who have lost a baby, from the moms of my close friends, and from those of you honest
enough to share your lives in writing.
God has graciously weaved our stories together in both big and small
ways, and if I am at all at “good” mom it is only by God’s grace... and because I
have known some really incredible women along the way.