Thursday, August 11, 2011

Loving Wii Fit

887 days ago, Phil drove me to UPS to pick up a package that I couldn't wait until the next day to get: my brand-spanking-new Wii Fit game and board. Only, it was so much more than that. In that package lay my health, my happiness, the key to non-dimpled thighs and finally being able to wear those ribbed tank tops from Target over my side-fat without shame.

3 days ago, Phil and I lay on our bed lamenting the fact that we have both gained a lot of weight since we got married.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “we should buy an elliptical machine.”

He shook his head, “We never use that stuff when we actually buy it.”

“How would you know?” I said, “We've never bought anything like that.” I stopped short. He didn't even need to say it. The Wii Fit.

My brand-spanking-new Wii Fit board lay dusty in a drawer under our TV. Every time I opened the drawer I felt the shame. I quit opening the drawer and had repressed the hope for smooth thighs a long time ago.

“If I tell you something super stupid, will you promise not to laugh at me?” I asked him. He said yes. I went on to admit that I was scared of what the Wii Fit board would say to me. If you've never Wii-Fitted, you don't know what I mean, but it talks to you. It says passive aggressive things too, like, “Haven't seen you in awhile.” JERK. Plus, it weighs you and says things in this little voice it has like, “You're obese!” And then your little Wii character swells up like a balloon.

Will you hold my hand?” I asked him.

And he did. We got the board out, we changed the batteries, we dug the disk out of the closet, and he held my hand as the Wii Fit board weighed me and made all its little comments.

This is my favorite verse as of lately from Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.”

In the face of shame, of failure, of snide video games, love holds your hand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Loving Lasts

We were sitting on our friend Gabe's couch when his phone rang. We sat for awhile trying to look like we weren't listening, but as his face grew more intense, we stopped pretending. His eyes were wet.

He told us the story when he hung up. A story about people we knew, our friends. A story of betrayal after betrayal. Our hearts broke. Why do we ever even risk this? I thought. The pain is so great; it seems so inevitable. I went home and cried and wrote this.

Awhile later, my husband wrote a piece of music. He asked if I had anything to read over it. We recorded this in our basement: Love Remains.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loving Ritalin

As the mom dropped off her daughter in my cabin the first day of this particular week of camp, she explained to me that she had left her daughter's Ritalin prescription with the nurse. I asked her, like any good camp counselor would, when I should send her daughter to the health lodge to take them. “Oh,” she said, “just whenever you feel like she needs them.”

I wondered what that meant and how that conversation would go with a camper. “Hey, Jesus loves you, you're driving me crazy, go medicate.” I decided I wouldn't do that unless the camper herself said she needed them. She never said that.

I kind of wish she would have.

It was one of the last weeks of the summer. I was exhausted. They were short on high school students to help out as “counselors in training” that week, so I was solely responsible for these 8 girls, one of which was a little off the wall.

I took ten minutes to myself, that was it. It was after dinner and I stayed back after my campers so I could help wipe down tables and talk with my friends. Then I slowly (very slowly) started the trek back to my cabin where I hoped they would all be peacefully waiting for me on their bunk beds, hands folded or something.

As I climbed the hill, I heard them. Chanting. As I urged myself to continue walking, I saw the top of a tree moving frantically, much more than the top of a tree should be moving. I reached the top of the hill and looked down at my campers, in a straight line, following their leader- my Ritalin deprived camper- chanting as she carried a tree (I did not say branch or sapling, but tree) in a wild march in front of the cabins.

In the moment, I had a choice.

I wanted to yell. I wanted to crush this. I wanted to scream, “WHY?!” “What are you DOING?” “STOP IT!” “THIS IS SO STUPID!” “I AM SO TIRED!” “HEY! JESUS LOVES YOU, YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, GO MEDICATE!!”

Love is like this: It reminds you to take a deep breath. It helps you walk calmly down the hill. It helps you remember the joy of chanting. It grins as you take the tree into your own hands, carry it to the courtyard, prop it on a chair. It celebrates as you join hands with sweaty, funny, loud twelve year old girls. It spins with you, around and around, it SINGS. Love gives life instead of death.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Loving Corelle Dishware

When I was in high school, my mom had a set of off-white Corelle dishes with a single Calla Lily winding up the sides. And somehow, I came to believe that Corelle dishes did not break. Around this Corelle dishware era, I was given one of my most favorite assignments: we had to write a short play for English class. I wrote an intense fight scene in a kitchen. I wanted someone to throw a plate. How would we manage this without getting shards of glass everywhere? Obviously, we would throw a Corelle plate. They don't break.

(They do).

It really made for a better acting moment in the long run. Both myself (the plate thrower) and the person I was yelling at, had very believable reactions to the plate shattering. I threw it down and it was a thousand pieces in a thousand directions. We swept the stage every day for a week and still found shards of it glittering under the lights.

Christians use the word “broken” a lot and in a variety of different phrases, as in “I'm realizing how broken I am and so I need God.” I thought it meant, “I realize that I am defective, and I need God to fix this fundamentally wrong thing about me.” In simple terms, I realize I'm a “sinner” and I need God to make me right.

God is giving me a new understanding.

My heart is broken. It's not defective. It's not wrong. It's shattered on the floor in front of me. I can't take a step without treading on it, breaking it more, cutting myself. I will never be able to even find it all, let alone glue it all together again. And it's not just me. Yours is broken too. Our hearts weren't made to live in a world like this. At some point they get dropped, thrown, wrecked. We are in a very real sense, broken beyond our own repair.

God gave me the picture of me standing on that stage, my heart shattered and everywhere, and I'm standing there frozen. Then he reminded me of the parable of the lost coin. The woman in the parable searches until she finds the coin. She checks under the table, she pulls up the rugs, she sweeps out the corners. The woman in the parable is a picture of what our God is like: relentless, thorough.

“I'll sweep it all up, Kylee.” That's what he told me. He will sweep up our shattered hearts. He'll find it all. He'll put us back together, and he'll make us beautiful. That's what it is to know brokenness. That's what it is to need a Savior who loves like that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Loving Cotton Balls

If I asked you what a church basement smelled like, could you conjure it? There are some places that inexplicably but universally smell the same, among them: Borders bookstores, school buildings, and church basements.

The first church experience of my life was attending Vacation Bible School at Sandy Lake Baptist Church in Mahtowa, Minnesota. I would wait in the back of the sanctuary until the children were dismissed by grade level, never quite knowing if I was supposed to go with the grade I had just finished or the grade I would be entering. Somehow, I joined a line. Then we walked single file down the steep and narrow staircase to the basement.

There are three things I learned in Vacation Bible School at Sandy Lake Baptist:

  1. What a church basement smells like

  2. Celery + Peanut Butter + Raisins = Delicious

  3. Don't puke on your cotton-ball-lamb-craft because you will not be allowed to make another one.

In the main room there were long rows of folding tables surrounded by long rows of folding chairs. We sat down and were instructed how to make a lamb's face out of a paper plate by gluing on cotton balls. I'm sure this had something to do with Jesus, but as indicated by #3 on the aforementioned list, I missed this part because I was suddenly sick...right on my half-wooled lamb.

The teacher rushed me to a sink. My lamb was thrown away. I sat back down feeling much better and asked for another plate, but for whatever their reason, they wouldn't give me one.

I am not an expert in love, and I am not perfect in its execution. But here is what I know:

  1. Love helps a third grader get in the right line.

  2. Celery + Peanut Butter + Raisins = Delicious

  3. Above any program, schedule, curriculum, neat craft: you learn about love by being loved.

  4. And love always (always, always) finds another plate, another cotton ball, another bottle of glue, and another minute.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Loving Buick Regals

I hate Pizza Hut.

There are several reasons why. First of all, in sixth grade my family let me take one of my friends there. The pizza gave me diarrhea so we had to keep stopping on the way home. My friend thought it was gross and made fun of me at school.

In high school I went again because someone from work was having a going-away party. No diarrhea, so that was great, but as I drove home a car slammed straight into the driver's side of my red Mustang. My head cracked the window.

I will never forget the sound. Then the adrenaline rush, I actually felt it, a physical surge through my stomach and head. Next I had this thought, “I am going to kill whoever gets out of that vehicle.” As I drove away in my limping car, my illusion of control was shattered. You are not guaranteed safety. You can be minding your own business in the far lane of two, and a 81 year old man without a drivers license can miss all the stop signs.

Sometimes to talk about love you have to talk about betrayal. It hits you like a 2001 Buick Regal and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it, control it, or predict it.

There was a time once, in a garden somewhere, when love was perfect. Then we left that place and that possibility.

To love is to risk.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Loving School Supplies

Every July, I would start asking my mom if we could go school shopping. Every July, she'd tell me we had to wait until August. It was agony. I felt about school supply shopping the way one feels about Christmas. The almost painful anticipation was too much to bear. As the leaves started shifting from green to gold they would whisper to me, “It's coming.”

On some incredibly lucky day in August, we would begin the 45 minute drive to Duluth in my mom's red Grand Am. Just us. The first decision was what to do first: clothes or supplies. Never being much for delayed gratification, Target was almost always first. I'd cut through diagonally to that back corner, wasting no time reaching the Crayola-Five-Star Promised Land. Once I arrived, time no longer existed. Up and down the aisles with the List. So many delicious decisions to make. I'd watch it all line itself up on the conveyer of the checkout and be overwhelmed by satisfaction.

After a lunch break, the clothes shopping started. Straight to the mall and straight to Walgreens where the “shopping candy” was purchased. Store after store trying to find the right jeans and “tops,” all the while looking for that one incredibly special and elusive outfit called, “First Day.”

Bags and bags later we would collapse into the car. My hair all messed up from trying on clothes and my mom with a headache from the store lights, we'd start the long drive home. Once we were there, I would lay out all my supplies and pack my backpack for the first time out of what would be six or ten different times throughout the summer. And then, it never failed, my mom would ask me to put on a fashion show.

I would go into my room at the end of the long hallway, my mom waiting in the living room, and I'd lay it all out. Which shoes, which jeans, which shirts with which? I'd decide “First Day” first, but I'd save it for last. Then I'd strut down the hallway. Once in the living room, I'd spin. My mom would say, “You look just like a model,” and then to my brother, “doesn't she look just like a model?” The day she said this, I was wearing a black t-shirt that had a Campbell Soup can on it.

Love gives you time to pick out folder-notebook color schemes. It knows what matters even if it doesn't know why. Love always asks for a fashion show, headache or no. Love applauds. Delights. Invites you to spin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Loving Sleep Talkers

My husband talks in his sleep.

I learned this early in our marriage when I woke up to him standing on the bed, holding his cell phone for light, urging me to look at the trail of ants across our ceiling. There were no ants on our ceiling.

I used to be much more aware and concerned about his nightly exclamations. It didn't take me long to learn to just go back to sleep. Although, when I stay awake and listen for awhile it can be quite entertaining.

One night I woke to his voice. It was nothing out of the ordinary at this point, so I was about to drift off again. Then I actually listened to what he was saying:

“Kylee, you are so beautiful. I love you so much. You are everything to me.”

He wasn't talking in his sleep. He was awake. He was talking to me in my sleep.

Love is this moment of waking to realize: it has never stopped. It didn't care if you heard. It didn't care if you weren't aware. It was. It is. Love rejoices over you for no gain to itself, whispers to you not out of need but out of fullness. Love can't hold it in.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Loving Cats

When I was growing up in northern Minnesota, my grandparents had a dairy farm. And on this farm, they had a quadrillion inbred cats. Each day, out of large dented tin buckets, my grandma would pour the still-warm milk into large dented tin pans. Then she'd call to them like only my grandma could call to them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Like a song.

They would come. They would come from everywhere: cats from under the calf barn, cats from the stories of hay, cats from the pasture, cats still warm from milk house. My three-foot-tall rubber-booted self watched them slink and slither and surround us. Watched them lap up the milk with their rough pink tongues. Watched my grandma move among them, scattering the three pointed cat food with a skilled hand, singing her song of welcome. I can smell it still: all of it in its many layers of smell.

On the farm, the mother cats would hide their babies. A few lucky times, I found them, these small nests built into the square bales. Six or so kittens cuddled together in their cumulative warmth, eyes still shut, they wobbled on their thin soft legs blind.

Sometimes their sweet blue eyes would be sealed shut by a white crust. I'd reach in, so carefully, so slowly, and scoop the kitten up. I'd unzip my pink sweatshirt and tuck her inside as I slowly made my way to the milk house.

I'd enter the warmth and find my grandma, who would take the small kitten from my young hands and hold it in her own. She'd wet a paper towel and gently, slowly, surely, wipe away all the crust until the kitten's eyes could open. “Make sure to bring her right back where her mom can find her,” she'd say, not as gently.

Love is loving cats that come and go and fight and die and multiply and won't stay named. Love is pans of warm milk. Love is singing, "Here. Here. Come and be full." Love is the invitation to the milk house, and gentle hands wiping away what is sure to return.