Friday, December 20, 2013

I loved you in lines.

To my husband, my person:

Tomorrow we will look deeply into each others eyes across the console of our gold minivan, and wonder aloud, "What the hell just happened?"  As we scrape goldfish out of carseats and frantically finish our Christmas shopping, as we sit in the parking lot of the church where we exchanged vows ten years ago because neither of us checked to see if the church would actually be open for us to have a new super meaningful exchange of vows, we will ponder.


Ten years is a third grader.  Ten years is a decade.  Ten years is twice the amount of our oldest child's life.  Ten years, if we are blessed, is one-ninth of our ENTIRE existence in this world.  Ten years filled with life, death, belly laughter and seasons of darkness.    Ten years of prayers spoken and unspoken, needs being met and ideals being readjusted. When we entered this covenant together ten years might as well have been thirty.  Cause those couples be OLD.  

So much of the marriage that we longed after and prayed hard for has come to us.  Praise be to God.  And so much of that has been through forgiving hard and admitting weaknesses and letting things go that we had death grips on.

Like super death grips.

At the beginning of marriage I clung tightly to the idea that love was linear.  That marriage was to be lived out in a straight line.  I thought we would approach an issue, plow through with the help of Jesus, tidy the whole mess up and then climb on top of it to get to whatever our next conquest might be.  Money issues?  Let's just go ahead and resolve those for life.  Then we can tackle spiritual leadership issues.  Parenting issues.  Let's just stack these lessons on top of each other and climb to the top of Marital Bliss mountain.

I know.   I was 23.  As if that weren't excuse enough, try to remember I also got most of my love wisdom from I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Before you start laughing, remember that you are not allowed.  You read it too.

And while some of that climbing to the mountaintop idea rang true for us; mostly it didn't.  We still had our stuff.  Our things.  Our patterns.  I remember getting so ridiculously frustrated at some of the same conversations and arguments that would cycle in and out of our marriage.  I didn't understand why they would surface...didn't we figure this out already?  What does it say about us, about our marriage, if we were doubling back to these worn out conversations?  Why are we here again?  Didn't we resolve this issue circa 2006?

Because you see, my darling, I loved you in lines. 

 I was so busy discovering the moral of each one our tiny stories that I failed to see how our love, our marriage looks more like the scribbly mess that Abby made on the top of our coffee table last week.  Our love looks like loops and circles and scratches and claw marks that are real.  And our story is deeply etched into grooves and circles with no end in sight.  Our love is so not a straight line.  

Besides.  Lines are so boring and predictable.

And, I've been thinking lately that maybe this is what life is all about.  Maybe this is what God is all about.  Maybe it's about revisiting places and conversations and insecurities and hang-ups with one another and an Almighty God so that He can teach us something new each round.   Maybe life doesn't look like sparkly gift wrapped "life lessons" but more like a thick fog where we just have to put one step ahead of each other and hold hands and trust God as He beckons.  

Yes, sometimes we go back to some of our shiz.  But every time we loop back around, we have more years under our belt, more patience in our hearts, and a couple more lines around our eyes.  And perhaps we will continue this crazy circular motion forever because you are you.  And I am me.  But perhaps, just perhaps, one of these days we will walk down our all too familiar roads and realize that our issues no longer live there.

And if that day comes we will be ever more thankful to God for it because of all the time we had spent, all the tears shed, and all the shaping that had taken place there.  So who cares if it takes seventy nine versions of the same conversation?  As long as we are fighting for growth and fighting for holiness and fighting for one another we are making progress.  Amen?

So here is my promise to you:  These next ten years I will allow God to bring us back, around, and through whatever He chooses to.  I will not dig in my heels and shake my fists and use my words to second guess what God is doing.  What you are doing.  What I am doing.  I will celebrate every step he brings us to, even when I feel like we've been there before.

I will release my breath, grab your hand and walk forward.  Or backwards.  Wherever.  As we said to one another on a snowy day ten years ago tomorrow:

"Where you go, I will go.  Your people will be my people (indeed as our little people are playing Headbandz in the room next to me) and your God will be my God."

We are blessed because we belong to one another.  And we belong to the One who calls us by name.  So glad my name is Hamann.

143 my love.  143.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Address.

I turned 33 today.  I'm not quite sure what 33 is supposed to feel like, but I definitely thought (way back when 33 sounded just like 60 to me) that I would have my act together by now.  That we would be financially secure.  That I would have made peace with my body. That marriage would feel effortless because we've done it for so long.  That my voice wouldn't ever raise an octave with my obedient, polite, and well manicured children.  I thought, by 33, that God and I would be so intimate that we would speak a secret language, and that my life would be so fruitful that I'd need to open up a produce stand.

Even writing that sounds dumb.

Because I feel more of a mess than ever.

It's a good thing.

 I don't want to be my 23 year old version of 33.  I like this messy and broken version better.  And I'm pretty sure God does too. I finally feel the confidence to be honest and truthful about where I stand in life, in love, and in Spirit.  God has allowed me, with painful undoing, to learn how to know myself and tell the truth to others.

It's hard.  It is awkward to look at a friend that I've had for years and talk, for the first time, about money issues.  It is difficult to be honest about my struggle with my weight and how I laugh about it often in public, but cry about it behind close doors.  It's not easy to talk about a disagreement Greg and I are having.  Usually because I'm wrong and he's right.  But still.  None of it is easy.

But you know what? That is where God meets me.  In the not easy.   He meets when I share a part of my story that feels so ugly, and then I look up to see a dear friends eyes tearing up with love and mercy and nothing even close to silent judgment.  That is when.  When I step out in fear, trembling, and honesty.

Those moments of honesty with God and others allow me to feel known and understood and LOVED in my state of grossness.  And that makes me want to chase after a better version of myself, the one that God has designed and purposed for me.  But. I cannot be on my way to her unless I know my address.  I cannot get Directions until I am aware of where exactly my heart resides.

Which requires honesty.

I'm more convinced than ever, at the ripe old age of 33, that the Christian life is not about the appearance of good.  It is not about pretense or pomp or reciting blanket christian phrases to convince others what I have is real.  It is not about memorizing the Romans road and yelling it over my neighbors just to hear the sound of my own voice. No. It's just not.

Oh, my sweet Jesus.  I believe the Christian life is about looking my neighbor in the eye, and saying, "I don't have it all together.  That's actually why I need Him."  It's about declaring how broken and messy and complicated I am, and how the only peace and rest I find is under the shadow of His wings.  It is about gathering strength in my quiet moments with Him so that there is honesty and peace in my words with others.

My prayer is that others notice Jesus in my mess.  Not in the absence of conflict or trials or even self-inflicted troubles.  But I want those in my life to see how I confess my imperfections, and I'm honest about my sins, and I cling to Jesus to make me whole again.   I don't want to hear, "You are a good person.  You make good choices.  Also, you are really skinny."  But maybe that last part would be nice.  Still.  I hope someday someone approaches me and says, "You are a hot mess.  How do you still hold on?"  And then I can raise a fist in the sky, and triumphantly say, "He is not done with me yet!"

So that is my address.  I am living in this scary place with dirty laundry and unmentionables just hanging out to dry.  My struggles are real.  But so is my God.  And He is right there with me, rejoicing over my mess of a life with song and quieting me with His love.  I can be honest in my inadequacies, because that's where He becomes more, and I become less.

And that, my friends, is how it is supposed to be.

So hey to you 33.   I am nowhere closer to the American dream than I was at 23.  And Greg and I fight.  Also I wear yoga pants most of the time but I probably shouldn't.  But I know that I will look back at this time in my life and know that God did work on me because I lived at this address.  And my prayer is that my home will just keep moving closer and closer to His Kingdom as He makes sense of this beautiful mess.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


October is by far my favorite month of the year.  I love everything about it.  Hey.  I'll even take the allergies and sinus infections that accompany bonfires, apple cider donuts, and hours breathing in the crisp beauty that is fall in the midwest.  I can literally feel my heart filling and my spirit being strengthened with every leaf gathered and pumpkin carved.

And then November comes.  November always feels a little ominous to me.  The skies are gray, cold, and they carry a message that winter is on the horizon.  Said message is usually accompanied by some new strand of strep throat or the stomach flu or itis of one form or another.  We gradually stay inside more and more, and by the end of the month we are bracing for a full-blown Midwest winter.

But don't you worry November.  You're not a lost cause.  Your redemption is found in pumpkin pies and mashed potatoes.  And in quiet, dark evenings.  And Christmas shopping and down blankets and good books and gigantic mugs of coffee.    November is a slow, quiet month in our little Hamann world.  I so deeply treasure white space on our calendar, so I'm always happy to walk across the chaos of Halloween into the lazy pace of November.  I have no shame in wearing my pajamas all day and organizing my spice rack just because I can.

But. I get a little carried away with the whole white space deal at times. I find myself on the computer, pinning things that I will never craft or bake or be able to afford.   I sleep in more, missing my chance to meet with God and to get rid of this baby weight that is almost six years old.  I become more discontent with my home.  Because we are inside more and we have more down time, I begin to nitpick things in my house that I hadn't had time to notice before.  Our carpet is stained. We need a fresh coat of paint. Everywhere.  The closets aren't organized enough.  And so it goes.

I know that is not how God has asked me to spend my gift of time.  Time is the only currency that I have right now.  Therefore, time is my main act of worship.  It is so easy to exchange the blessing of time for things that do not add.  An extra half hour of sleep will not fill my heart like He does.  An hour spent on Pinterest will not make me thankful for the things He has blessed me with.  Watching a whole season of Fringe in a weekend will probably not produce holy fruit in my life.  

I know that God has gifted me with white space on my calendar so that I can turn inward.  So that I can use these moments of peace to sit with Him and gather up strength and wisdom for whatever lies next.  To use my November as a threshing ground, reaping the harvest of what He has accomplished in my life.   And to account for all that is in my storehouse and sing His praises because of it.  I could stop there, with posting what I am thankful for everyday on Facebook.  And that would be a good thing.

However, if I am fully living for the God that gave me everything in my storehouse, I will give.  I will give without reserve.  Being thankful is the first step.  But. Being active in our thanksgiving is what really counts.   To call a friend and pray over her life.  To make a meal for a family that is struggling and drop it off just because.  To encourage and notice even the tiniest bit of growth in my daughters character.   To compliment my husband when he leads our family.   And to learn to thank God together for it.   

Oh November.  You are preparing my heart for the coming of the King.  Teaching me to be bowed in gratitude and humility as I enter the holy space of December.  Aligning my heart in response to All He Has Done.  Trusting that What He Has Yet To Do is better still.

So. While I still will enjoy reading a book from cover to cover in one sitting, I now understand that I am responsible to God for this white space.  I'm so confident that He can merge the meaningful with the restful and create some deeper storyline than I could ever write of.   So let's be excited when the cold winds of November blow us all indoors and under layers of down comforters. We can invest our time in allowing God to harvest His work in our lives.  We will emerge in the spring, better versions of ourselves and triumphant in His accomplishments.

 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.  Yes,the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Psalms 85:11-13

Friday, October 25, 2013

My right now thing.

God made it clear to me last year that my place, for the next season of life, was to create a home that my little family could thrive in.  To come alongside my husband and encourage him in anyway possible (read: sex, food, and taking the garbage out myself).  To be available to my girls as they are learning what life is all about (read: my little ponies, time outs and dance parties in the kitchen).  I felt a holy charge to make a space where our four little family members felt encouraged, challenged, supported and understood.

This might seem like an obvious charge.  For me it wasn't.  Because I am a person of chaos.

Don't get me wrong, folks. I LOVE staying at home with my babies and having them crawl into bed with me in the morning and snuggling their faces off.  But I also love being involved in ministry, spearheading events, throwing parties, coffee dates and girls nights all day err day.  I love having my hands in 473893 proverbial pies. 

 I am also embarrassed to admit how much time I invest in daydreaming of my life after the girls are in school. AKA Rachel 4.0.  She is super skinny and super nice and wears high heels and blazers. Also, she sleeps until 8:30. I can't wait to meet her.

Anyways, I was a chaotic mess of holy servitude, firmly basing my life on the principle that I had to live out of ALL my giftings at ALL times.   I feared that if I stepped completely inside the home I would never see the light of day again.  And that a part of me would die.  The professional part.  The creative part.  The relational part.  So I tried to do it all.

And I was exhausted.  I chased after dream jobs.  I researched graduate programs.  I led worship, I mentored high school women.  All good things.  All noble things.  But not right now things.  One particular morning of exasperation I found myself on my face before God.  In a proud and painfully honest moment, I confessed:  I feel like I have more to give than just being a stay at home mom.

And then He was like: cool. Then you should be a stay at home mom.

Because this is your right now thing.

God didn't want me to just be at home.  He wanted me to make a home.  He didn't want me just to survive motherhood and count down the hours until nap time or until Greg walked in the door.  He wanted me to thrive as I leaned in HARD on His new mercies every morning.   He didn't want me to view my husband as a chamber maid or a babysitter.  He wanted me to take care of this little yellow house and everyone in it so that Greg would have the freedom to pursuit God's direction and design for his own life.

Most of all, He wanted peace. Peace during my right now thing.  I know that God designed me to dream and to have vision and create.  But, right now, He has called me to look all of my loves in the face and say, "I got this.  I got you.  Go and be whatever God wants you to be."  I'm holding down this fort for my homies.

And you guys.  I am finding myself hidden in making a home.  There is so much pleasure and joy in the peace and quiet. In the gift of time.  The gift of yoga pants. The gift of allowing Jesus to order our day as we lift it up to Him. The gift of playing Chutes and Ladder with Madeline until the cows come home.  The gift of trying new recipes and seeing my husbands face light up when he smells one of his favorite dishes cooking.  Well. Sometimes. Okay. Like once a month, but still.

And although I have my chaotic flareups (all apologies to anyone who had to listen to my rant about running an organic home daycare a few weeks ago) I very much feel like the anchor in our little family right now.  In the past that could have felt like suffocating pressure to me. Like weight holding me down at sea with scary sharks all around me. And I hate sharks. But now I can see the holy picture that God has intended.  I am holding down this sacred vessel, filled with my people.  Anchoring them down when the storms of life rock them, leaning in on my God for strength and peace.

This is my right now thing.

There is going to come a time when I don't have a toddler throwing her diaper in my bed shrieking "I go pee on the floor mommy!" as a wake up call.  Our world will change, again, next year when Maddie steps on the bus to spend the majority of her time at school. Wah!  I know that my right now thing won't last forever.  This season of peace will give way to beautiful chaos and God will meet me in that as well.

But right now, this is where He has me.  And right now, this is where I find Him.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Responding to Love

I have to admit it.  I am a blog-link clicker.  Be warned.  If there is an article or blog that is posted on facebook, chances are I've read it.  Partially because I'm a writer.  Mostly because I'm a reader.  I love hearing others articulate and communicate thoughts in new and fresh ways.

Part of my problem, however, is that I can get caught up in the hype.  Most of the time, I'm not sure where I stand until I read an opinion expressed elsewhere.  Especially if it is well written.  Then I'm like, "Oh yeah!  The answer to a revival in the American Church is totally Wednesday morning prayer meetings!"  And then I'll read another blog.  "Wait a second.   Changed my mind.  The way to a spiritual revival is definitely marching around with swords!"

Clearly the answer to anything holy is simply: Jesus.   But at times, I get so caught up in what is being blogged or written or pod-casted that I forget.  I forget I need to take my cray cray self to the feet of Jesus.  Sometimes it feels as if I'm watching a ping pong match, my head spinning on it's axis as I try to follow the ball.  As I try to decide who I want to win.  All the while, I'm ignoring the airplane flying overhead with the banner that reads: "Look Up.  I am here."

Because all my make believe ping pong matches are outside.  With airplanes.

Look up, beloved one.  I am here. Yes. When I do focus and sit deeply in Love, all those opinions and trending issues on Facebook fade.  The confusion and fogginess that I feel when I am immersed in social media lifts, and as I look at my Jesus, a blanket of peace and rest settles on my shoulders.  Things make sense in the presence of God, people.  Or they don't, but it's okay.  Because all that matters is that I am with the One that created, crafted, and purposed me out from the beginning of time.  Good hands to be in.

Jesus asks all of us to come.  And then, as we walk with Him,  He commands us to go.  I know that when He asks me to go, sometimes it means to write what He has laid upon my heart.  That is part of my story.  His command to go, for others, may be in penning a song of praise.  Creating a sculpture.  Painting.  Crunching numbers for non-profits.  Holding the hand of a widow or orphan.  The bottom line is that wherever we go, we are responding to Love.  We are reflecting that love. That is a  posture that should not be taken lightly or sanctimoniously.

It would be easy to sound off on Miley Cyrus and Syria and Proposition 48390483 and that crazy Weiner guy who clearly lives up to his namesake.  (sorry. had to.)  However, as I abide in Him and step out of that never-ending ping pong match, it becomes clear to me that it is not up to me to sound off on anything.  It is not my calling to respond to the world.  And who needs another white privileged girl telling the rest of the Church that they are white and privileged?  No.  No.

What good things do I have to say outside of Him?

For it is my calling to respond to the Love that is inside of me.  The end.  As God grows me, and I as I seriously cling-to-Him-for-breath-and-life-and-sanity, He will make the going part known to me.  And sometimes He'll send me with words.  Sometimes with pondering.  Lots of times with silence.  All the times with stuff to work on.

So.  I'm writing this for my own purposes of declaration.   Not to rake anyone over the coals for writing popular opinion pieces or for posting favorite recipes.  That is between those writers and their God.   But I am setting aside this white space on the internet.  This little corner of blogdom is for my heart to respond to the One who has made it.  This space is to work out my faith in fear and trembling and a little self-deprecating humor.

If this was a house, I would put oil over the doorways or spray it with holy water and invite all my friends over to pray or something.  But since Greg wouldn't appreciate canola oil all over the keyboard of his laptop, I will just declare this:

God.  Do your thing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A love letter to my kindergartener.

Dearest Darling Madeline,

I cannot believe that, in a few short days, you will be taking a deep breath and walking your My Little Pony backpack into kindergarten.  I just cannot.  I cannot imagine you looking around the room for who you will eat lunch with.  Raising your hand to go potty.  Laughing and giggling when Miss Meghan sings a silly song.  

It's hard for me, as your mom, to imagine another grown up influencing you and teaching you.  What if she teaches you something different from what mommy and daddy have taught you?  What if your little kindergarten buddies teach you how to swear in sign language?  What if you accidentally pee your pants and kids laugh at you?  

And also, if I'm being completely honest, I feel like you are the first representative from our weird little family to go public.  What if your dad and I haven't adequately prepared you for your introduction to society?  Like, is there a song or dance or some kind of secret handshake that all the other kids will know and you won't?  Should we have worked on your Spanish or something this summer?  I don't know, kid.  I just don't know.

Please know that every part of my mommy being wants to go all Rapunzel on you and stick you in this house for the next thirteen years.  I really do.  Because you are my babycakes, my darling, and this home is all you've ever known.  I want to wrap my life around your heart so that you don't get hurt, discouraged, or hardened to the beautiful things in life.

But when I lift these concerns to God, I am reminded.  You, darling girl, are not mine.  Your dad and I have said all along that you belong to the One who made you and has called you by name.  And He will be going before you in that classroom, shining forth from your heart, and blessing others through your sparkly blue eyes, your sharing hands, and the kind words you speak so effortlessly.  I know that Jesus will become more and more at home in your heart when you are brave for Him in that classroom.

If we kept you home, the world would be missing out.

If we kept you home, we, as your mom and dad, would be missing out on the chance to see what God can do outside of us.  We would be missing out on the opportunity to talk about hard things and hold you when you cry because you weren't invited to that one girls birthday party and remind you gently that God works everything out for your good and His purpose.

So, this will be hard for you, and it will be hard for me.  But it will be good for you, and it will be good for me.  Just remember that, when you walk into that classroom on the first day, the God who holds us  together will be in your heart.  And mine.  And He will love you and teach you in your kindergarten classroom, and He will love me and teach me in our little yellow house.  And when you come home, we can love each other and teach each other about Love and life and glue sticks and story times.  

Just tell your teacher not to scream if she sees a strange blonde lady peering through the window with binoculars.  It's just your mom.  

I love you darling.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Because I'm taking my summer back.

There's something so fantastic about summer.  I love the absence of routine, and the endless options of outdoor events.   Everyone seems to have a spring in their Sperry's, and I totally get it.  Summer brings us all back to our good old school days....when that last bell rang and we flew out of those front double doors, anticipating what the next twelve weeks of freedom held.

I fully embraced the beginning of summer. Like, with both arms and my legs.  I was ready for a change of pace.  I was also ready to karate kick our schedule in the face.  Sometime around May I started loathing all of our commitments.  Things like the fact that I had to take my daughter to school and that my kids had to brush their teeth.  I was annoyed that my children couldn't just run around in diapers and eat Cheetos all day.  The nerve.

So, when the beaches opened and the outdoor movie theaters lit up again, I was the first in line. Road trips? Four down, four to go.  I've made approximately 5934893 jello, potato and broccoli salads to accompany us to BBQ's.  My two year old makes a beeline at the farmers market to the tent that has the lollipops.  She knows the guys name.  My five year old wakes up asking, "Can I just get in the car in my pajamas this time?" Our summer has been a blur of sand in our suits, freeze pops, and belly laughter with those whom our hearts love.

Summer is magic.  For our family, the magic is in not keeping a schedule.  My girls roll out of bed, usually breathe on me and stare at me until I wake up (startled. every. time), and we snuggle, eat cereal out of the box while we watch Littlest Pet Shop and then try and decide what we'd like to conquer that day. Greg takes the girls to the beach after dinner at least twice a week, and sometime during the day, every day, we all end up on the couch, reading together.  It is lovely.

But somewhere between the fireworks and my tenth serving of beef brisket, I began to feel homesick.  At first I thought it was my sunburn talking.  But I also noticed the fine layer of dust collecting on my Bible. Then my scale chimed in.  And by chimed in I mean almost broke.  And when I looked at our calendar, I realized it had been WEEKS since we had worshiped with our church family. I realized that  I hadn't had my weekly check-ins with women who were so life-giving to me. I felt tired, anxious, and untethered.

And it karate kicked me in the face: Oh my word.  I want a schedule again. All this Yolo stuff is for the birds.  I MISS MY GOOGLE CALENDAR APP.

Some people can thrive when the confines of a schedule are lifted.  My husband is one of them. I, however, am just not that great at saying no to myself.  I am really, really good at saying yes. Yes to fun.  Yes to elephant ears.  Yes to Facebook.  Yes to cheesy television series on Netflix (Has anyone else ever been sucked into the vortex that is  Hart of Dixie?  No?) There really isn't such a thing as moderation for me.  My emotions be damned...they are my trump card.  So whatever I feel like doing is what gets done.  In the name of lazy summer-ness, I have lost sight of intentional living.

You don't even want to know what my laundry room looks like right now.

I've slowly come to realize that the things I value, the Things that God has placed on my heart, will not just happen to me.  I cannot just sit in my Snuggie with my eyeballs glued to the saga that is Dr. Zoe Hart's life and expect God to transform me. These are gifts and revelations that will take work, will take discipline, will take me saying no to myself more and yes to hard and holy things.  Even things I love, like writing, require that I sit my sunburned bottom in a chair and do work, son.

So. I'm taking my summer back.  I kind of feel like the throne room of heaven is a good place to start.  You know.  I'm cracking open my Bible, laying my precious summer minutes and hours at the feet of Jesus and going from there.  I'm going to say no to every other fun thing so that I can do more right and holy things.  Greg and I are committed to praying together every night, even if we have toothpicks in our eyelids and our retainers in.  So far we are 3 for 7, but that's a start.

When I am abiding in His steadfast love for me, I feel like I can take on the world.  And I can.  Cause it's not me.  And it's not about me.  Halleluyer.  I can get up at 4:45 to exercise.  I can sneak my oldest out of her "rest time" so that we can bake cookies, play My Little Ponies, and color until the cows come home.  I can check in with dear friends to know that they are loved and valued.  All things. Through Him.  His strength.  Amen.

While my love affair with summer is so not over, I am approaching the rest of my summer with both feet on the ground.  I'm not going to stop building sandcastles with my girls at our beach.  I will still be first in line for the double feature at our drive-in theater.  I will still sit outside with my love, a glass of Moscato in hand with our bonfire flames reaching the summer sky.  But I will also be giving my days over to Jesus more, and allowing Him to make them even more magical than I could ever imagine.

Because that sounds like a perfect summer to me.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 32.

Which makes me a decade older than Taylor Swift, but who is counting?  Bless it all, I am.  

Some pretty remarkable things have happened for me since 22.  College graduation.  A job.  Marriage.  Then the baby carriages.  So many breath-taking things in such a short time span. And too many mistakes, fumbles and learning curves to count.

One of the ways I responded to all these beautiful milestones was trying to be a grown up.  Or my version of a grown up.  Grown ups did the right thing.  Always.  Grown ups were strong and didn't ask for help.  Grown ups made meatballs from scratch, even when babies were crying and sleep was a distant memory.  They dusted their baseboards at ten pm when company was coming the next morning.  They wore sweatpants and took showers every third day.

And the kicker: grown ups didn't chase dreams.  They just didn't.  They needed to be fully invested in the reality of jobs, children, and keeping up on laundry.  There was no time for dreaming, unless it involved the American dream of picket fences and 3.2 kids.

There were parts of me that I kept stuffing down into my shoes every time they surfaced.   My creative person.  My spontaneous person.  My funny person.  They would well up, at times, and yell, "remember me?" I'd be like, "no habla ingles," and promptly drown out their sound with my vacuuming.  They were all too much for me in my twenties.  I was too overwhelmed with keeping it all together to let them come out and play.

But God.  My whole life story can be summarized in this magical phrase.  I am a wiener, but God.  I try to be perfect, but God.  Thank God for the but God's.  Jesus, in His originality, began to transform my ideas of what being a grown up looked like.  It was not running after the ideal grown up that I had frantically painted in my head.

It was allowing who He has made me to be to settle in.  All of me.

When God purposed my little life out,  He didn't include the long legs I have wished for.  He didn't make me as tall as I'd like.  He threw in a mind that races like a hamster in a wheel, a disposition that makes me slightly awkward in large group settings, and hair that will just not stay straight.  For the love.

And while I know the list of all the things I have not, He has opened my 32 year old heart to notice the things I am.  Work with what the good Lord gave you, and so forth.  I am realizing, more and more, that being a grown up is the greatest balancing act of all.  It's the act of reconciling all the parts of myself to one another and fitting them together in a way that says: I don't care.  I love it.  I love this.  I love me.  Thank you God.

It feels like, finally, I've gathered all the little versions of myself and have told them to get in my belly.  I'm no longer putting my pre-teen awkward self in a time out.  I'm calling the part of me that needs more sleep up out of the basement and back into my bed.  I need eight hours folks.  I just do.  The attention seeking part of me is okay too.  I've learned how to work with her.  Wow. So many parts and persons in this shell of a body. We'll need a special handshake or something.

I needed to walk through my twenties to get to this grand place of 32.  I feel settled into myself, finally at peace with who God has crafted me to be. I also know that it's not over.  I know that decade from now, I will feel even more resolved to live my one and only precious life with this stretch marked body, this quirky mind, and the genuine spirit God has given me.  

So, to all of my twenty something friends who are dreading the big 3-0:  Run towards the light that is your thirties.  You are getting older.  There is absolutely nothing on God's green/polluted earth you can do about it.  But, along with those fine wrinkles forming at the corners of your horrified eyes comes an understanding of yourself and your God that only time can bring.  Hug it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Ten years into marriage and I am still buying the whole love language thing.  Time after time our marital tension boils down to one simple indiscretion:  I am not loving him the way God designed him to be loved.   And he is not sitting down on the couch and processing/analyzing/discussing every nuance of our life with me.  

My poor husband.  Especially on road trips.  I look at him, after the car is packed and the girls are strapped in and stuffed with goldfish, and say: You are MINE.  Then I promptly pull out my mental list of all the things I'd like to discuss with him.  

By the second hour, Greg is usually like, "Are you tired?  You look tired.  You should totally take a nap."

Gah.  I don't know what it is about me, but I don't understand myself until all streams of consciousness have left my brain via my mouth.  I need my words and thoughts free, so I can run after them with a net and keep the ones that make sense.  It's kind of like elementary school, where the teacher would scramble a sentence on the chalkboard and we would take turns writing it out correctly.  

I need the time and space to think aloud until I arrive.  It's how I roll.

I understand, that for most men, pointless talking is like a form of Chinese torture.  Men are designed to have conversations that are efficient.  You know.  With conclusions, game-plans, and bullet points.  Greg, bless his heart, is forever trying to meet me where I'm at in my thought process.  Most of the time, however, he gets off the hook.  He is a lucky man.

Because I have my sisters.  Oh, those saintly psychos that I am blessed enough to call friends. With these women I have room to ponder, reflect, and whine until I make sense.  There is time for the arrival.  They understand that getting there is just as important as the conclusion.  They are able to speak truth into the process, and patiently hold my hand so I don't trip on myself. 

Which is why I value coffee and dinner dates just as much (ok, a lot more) as the play date.  I love doing life with my friends who have young kids, but conversation at it's best is choppy and unfinished.  There's always a nose or bottom to wipe.  That's the reality of most of our lives right now.  And it's beautiful.  

But there is something to be said about stepping outside of our fruit-snack realities and into deep and messy conversations with one another.  It is so worth it.  It is worth the shots of double espresso or the cheese fries or whatever it takes to stay awake enough to have meaningful and intentional time together.  I meet one of my dearest sisters at six in the morning and we pound french toast like you wouldn't believe.  It's the only time that works for us.  Therefore we make it work.

I feel like this is one of the good and perfect gifts that God has given us.  Untangling life through conversation and prayer with a sister.  It could also be so the men in our lives don't go insane from non-stop dialogue.  Greg loves when I share insight garnered from a heart to heart with a friend.  Probably because it saved him four hours of his life.  But still. 

Long live the girlfriend.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I'm a little hesitant to even try and camp on such huge grounds with my tiny vocabulary, but the wrestling in my heart won't give my fingers peace until I try.  So darn it all, here I go.

Outsourcing.  Tiny pet peeve of mine.  When I call a customer service number and end up speaking with a very nice (albeit hard to understand) person in Pakistan; I usually end up getting off the phone because:

A. I feel rude after asking them to repeat themselves and I don't want to hurt feelings
B.  My kids are punching each other in the eyeballs with crayons
C.  I just want to talk to the source.  Just please.  Put me on the phone with whoever    
     created this cell-phone, this credit card, or this dishwasher.

You guys.  The abiding life in Christ Jesus is being outsourced.  We are exchanging His words for blogs (oh the irony), sermons, podcasts and relevant Christian magazines.  We are devouring books on Christian living, fist pounding at the Toby Mac concerts, and aligning ourselves with politicians who believe as we do.  We chase after whatever is trending.  I hear this year it's riding Schwinn bicycles and composting.  So there's that.

We are creating a sub-culture where the middle man becomes more important than the Man.  We flock to our spiritual heroes in times of crisis, despair, and political brouhaha.  We beg them: tell us your thoughts! How should we feel about Boston?  Where should we align ourselves on marriage equality?  We chase down our Pastors and Christian radio-talk hosts to help us crawl out of spiritual valleys, relational mire, and financial bogs.  We scream for steps, diagrams, and plans.  

Someone just give us a freaking plan.  

 One of my dear friends likened it to a sugar addiction. We need our fix.  Our spirits have become accustomed to tidbits of holiness, packaged and presented in other peoples words and revelations.  We want to Cliff's notes version on Christianity, thank you very much.  Trudging through the Word of God on our own and sitting in a dark closet waiting for Him to speak is just far too laborious.  

If someone could just chew up my food and spit it into my mouth, that'd be cool too.

For, if we substitute these good things for the Best Thing, then no wonder the world is confused by us.  If, when people come to us, asking about our Jesus and Who He is, and we bring them to church, point them towards a Francis Chan book, or tell them to listen to K-Love...aren't we just like those difficult to understand Pakistani phone calls?  Are we always ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, or are we ready for Shane Claiborne to do it for us?  

People are asking US for a reason.

Are we daily searching the Word of God, hiding it in our heart? Do we even realize that is is living and active? That it will cut some of the holy tension and confusion we feel while wandering this planet? That, even the stories we swear that we could recite from memory or Mrs. Andersons 2nd grade Sunday school class can still breath God's promises to us in new ways?   And prayer.  Oh, the power of hitting our knees, crying out to the Source of everything.  Lifting up our voices on the behalf of the week, needy, and lonely ones.  Waiting in silence, allowing God the space to do as He may.  

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 peter 2:2-3

 We need to grow up into our salvation.  We have tasted that the Lord is good.  Now it's time.  Time to hit it hard.  He has given us his Holy Words, you guys.  No middle man needed.  Let's take full advantage of our royal priesthood status, and enter the holiest space of all...a life in community with God.  A life lived to know Him and make Him known.  

Please understand.  This is coming from an area of personal conviction.  I love reading others stories and how God has inspired them.  But those stories are not my own.  And the Author of my story is waiting, patiently and long-sufferingly (it's a word now) for me to live out my own.  I am ever learning.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Remind me.

I thank you, Lord Jesus.

For when you descended to the depths of Sheol you brought my junk with you

You brought with you the part of me that wants to promote myself through my parenting
You took with you the way I count beans with my husband
You went down with my trappings of appearance
You lugged my endless battle of idealism
You sank under my wasted time on social media
You descended with my tendency to find flaws in everything and everyone
You carried my pride. My doubt.  My jealous heart

The weight of my filth crushed you, like an anchor
Dropping you into the deepest grave of all.
The effortless way that I give into myself over and over again
Pushed you down further, deeper, and held you there

And you left it there 
You did battle for me
Because you went, I will never have to

Remind me, that when you rose, I rose
I stepped out of that grave with you.  Unblemished
Clothed in white, no longer sitting in my own filth
Clean because you did my laundry

Remind me, it's already done
Let my little life exhaust itself in gratitude
My hands become calloused in thankfulness
Not because I need to prove myself to you

But because it is finished.

Thank you Jesus.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The List.

"This isn't going to happen."

Rachel Baker. Circa 2000.  On a grassy knoll in between my freshman dorm and his.  Breaking his heart.  Without a candlestick.

"We'll see about that."

Greg Hamann.  Circa bleach-blonde-hair-sticking-out-of-a-visor-era.  Calling my bluff.

I can pretty much boil down our entire pre-dating relationship to this single conversation.  We hashed out this talk many ways, in many settings, with various hairdos for well over a year.  Greg, with a resolve only God knew, pursued me in a way that was unparalleled.  I couldn't figure out why.  I was a hot mess of contradictions, pimples, and holy determination.

The first time Greg and I took the obligatory walk around Judson's loop he tackled me to the ground somewhere around the sand volleyball courts.  I didn't know whether to scream, laugh, or pee my pants.  I think I did a little of each.  I was thrown off by how forward he was. I kind of liked it.  We sat in the cold sand, looked up at the stars, and talked about things I didn't usually talk about.  He wanted to know about my family. It was refreshing. Greg was very honest about where He was at.  With God, with himself, and with me. 

Somewhere between the sand volleyball courts, the late night walks, the rocks he threw at my dorm window just for me to open up so he could tell me he was thinking of me, the notes I'd find in my campus mailbox, and the way he unabashedly declared his intentions of winning my heart...I realized....he already had it.  I was slowly giving myself over to the notion of a future with one Mr. Greg Hamann.  

Just one thing.  There was The List.

Somewhere, in my infinite youth group teenage wisdom, I had created The List.  The List was a detailed account of character qualities and physical qualities that I wanted in a future husband. You guys.  Don't judge.  It was the thing back in 1998.  Also, my best friend came to college with a plastic Cinderella slipper on a necklace.  Waiting for her prince charming.  So there.

The List.  My future husband must have brown hair.  Blue eyes. Working towards full time ministry.  Guitar skills and vocal talent preferable.  Willingness to move across the country, across the world for the Kingdom.    Must outfit himself entirely from American Eagle (stop it. I know.).  He must be able to sit down with my dad and have heavy theological conversations.  He probably shouldn't be too attached to family.  He must not weigh less than me. Ha.   He needs to lead me spiritually.  He needs to be intense.  Fit in with my ministry minded friends.

Greg.  Blonde hair.  Bleached blonde, in fact.  Blue eyes. Marketing major. Was still figuring out the Jesus thing.  Athlete extraordinaire.  Had never held a guitar in his life.  Wore a thrift store bowling jacket with Otis on the nametag.  Told me on our first date that he would never move away from his family.  Skinny as a rail.  Had never prayed with a girl before me. Greg was not complex. Sure of himself, yet humble in a way I had not yet known.  We also ran in, er, different social circles at Judson.

So why, for the love, was I falling in love with him? On paper, literally, we didn't make sense.   Many of my ministry minded friends didn't understand our connection.  I know many of his teammates didn't really grasp how we made sense.  I went back and forth.  Greg remained steady in his feelings for me.  To this day, neither of us really know how or why he did.  But God.

But God.  I remember, methodically and painfully, God undid some of the benchmarks I had set for the future Mr. Rachel Baker. He replaced them with His truths, His standards, and His ideal for me.  I am a little slow on the uptake, but I began to realize how Greg Hamann was my new List.  Best. Decision.  Ever.

Fast forward twelve years later.  

Greg and I served dinner with our small group at a local PADS shelter.  It was my first time serving, but Greg has regularly helped out with the homeless in our community.  I was absolutely floored by how many of the homeless knew my husband, shook hands with him, asked him to pray, and asked him about his family.  I stood in a stupor as my husband rallied forty plus of the marginalized population to pray over our meal, and how he quietly and calmly diffused tense situations, broke up fights, and gave to whomever had need.

My husband had never looked so hot to me.

Um, and I was an awkward fool.  I stammered around the homeless, nervous about saying the wrong things or making too much eye contact.  I was super uncomfortable when a teenage mom-to-be was crying on my shoulder about her place in life.  I was you want a kleenex?  I'm sorry that you are homeless, pregnant, and that your husband doesn't want to be with you anymore. Want a brownie?  

Here I am.  I am most comfortable within the four walls of a church.  I speak fluent Christianese.  I know how to lead worship, prayer meetings, small groups and I can change a nursery diaper like no other.  Doing life with other believers is my first language.  I am so confident of myself, and of God when I am inside a church building.  I know, like three people, who aren't Christians.    Take me outside those four walls, and my confidence is shaken.  
I'm so humbled.  And ever-learning.  

And my husband.  Who didn't meet The List.  Who shakes hands and shares prayers with the least of these.  Who serves and doesn't need a soul to know about it.  Who quietly shares his faith with those in his workplace.  Who just does.  Outside the four walls of the church.  He doesn't know Christianese.  Or if he does, he doesn't use it.  Greg has a simple, active faith.  While I am talking about what God is teaching me in a coffee shop, he is handing a coffee to the homeless man outside my window.  

I came home that night earlier than Greg.  
I sunk to my knees, crying and thanking God for my husband. And feeling a fool.

I have so much to learn from this man.

I am so thankful that God doesn't keep lists for us.  I am so glad he shook my silly nineteen year old self into realizing His Word is actually true.   He has plans to prosper us.  If only I could learn to let go more, of my check-lists, and my ideals, and my hopes.  

I know, that offered up to God, in fear and trembling, He will take my check-lists and transform them into something so so so so beyond what I could try to imagine.   

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I got 99 problems, but Seven is not one.

I had one of those talks with my sister, Adrienne, that only sisters can have.  We were discussing a book I've been asked to review, Seven: An Experiential Mutiny against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker.  I LOVE me some Jen Hatmaker.  Like, let-me-inhale-everything-she's-ever-written-or-spoken LOVE HER.  I was so excited to write a review on Seven because I deeply admire her ability to convict others towards active holiness through her honesty, humility, and ridiculous sense of humor.  

Ok, backdrop. Seven is about taking a month at a time to root out the excess in our Christian lives. Month one begins with food, where Hatmaker committed to only eating seven foods for 31 days.  From there, she reduced her wardrobe to seven articles of clothing for one month.  Then possessions.  Social media.  Waste.  Spending.  The intense Seven experience was end-capped with month seven: a fast from the busy life.  During this month, Jen and her family practiced Seven Sacred Pauses (Macrina Wiederkehr), where they made space for prayer and meditation seven times a day.  Just wow.

Ok, personal reaction.  Um, the book made me feel like crap.  I felt like I had just finished reading the account of a saint.  Seriously. I read about how she drove her family downtown monthly to barbecue for the homeless of Austin, and how she took part in a community gardening initiative that benefited the marginalized.   Bought organic. Had a compost. Created a storage room with her friends in the off chance a refugee might need some bed sheets or a night stand.  Girlfriend does all the fasting. Feeds all the people.  Prays all the prayers.  

Book review nothing.  Life review: ugh.

This overwhelming feeling of inadequacy is so not new for me.  I wish.  I felt it when reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.  Pretty much any book chronicling a life chasing Jesus.  It's a familiar feeling; this holy despair.  An unparalleled tension.  I feel ready to have a full blown panic attack, worried that I am not living a life set apart enough for Jesus.  I look at these authors and how the Spirit has led them on these insane journeys, and has also gifted them with the use of words.  I feel so small.

So, my normal reaction to these convictions?  Do I pray more?  No.  Do I take out my Bible and study it, waiting for the Spirit to lead me on my own journey? Do I ask Jesus to lead me into what He has for my little piece of His story?  Not so much.

Instead...I get all cray cray.

After reading Seven, I partook in recycling freakishness.  I started interrogating the nutrition labels at Trader Joe's.  I went cold turkey with Facebook for a few weeks.  It's cool. I only missed out on three Christmas parties.  I would almost smirk as I drove straight past my old shopping grounds and straight into the parking lot of our local thrift store.  Stupid people who shop at Gap.  Darn the man.  I sat my four year old down and explained how we wouldn't buy chocolate from Hershey anymore because they bought cocoa from farms in Africa that enforced child labor.  She just stared at me blankly and asked, "So can I have my M&M's now?"  I maniacally demanded my family rest during the Sabbath.  My one year old would be throwing her pootie pie diapers down the stairs at the end of a Sunday because she was so bored.

I did it.  I went all commando on saintly. 

For like three weeks.  Slowly, my former life crept back in.  I (gasp!) threw a plastic water bottle away.  I caved in and ate a whole row of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  I drove by a homeless person without a ready-made lunch in my backseat.  I bought a shirt at the Gap.  On clearance.  But still.  I felt like a failure. 

This is where a moment of clarity came through a discussion with my little sis.  I was explaining how I become three parts convicted and one part annoyed after reading books like Seven.  How I feel like I get wrapped up in other peoples stories and convictions, and I can't separate who God's called me to be from whom God has called these authors to be.  Adrienne, in her wisdom that still sometimes sidelines me, reminded me that the spirit of religion resides in both sides of the Christian spectrum.  Then came this beauty:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams

                                                            1 Sam 15:22

Boom.  Thank you Samuel, prophet of old.  Sometimes, I get all caught up in the doing.  In what others are doing.  I see God moving in their lives and I want to join, so I can be a part of His story.  What I forget is that I NEED to be obedient to the life God has called me to.  That I might have another plot in His story. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice isn't what most delights my Savior.  It's obedience to what He has made known to me.

I'm not quite sure what that is yet.  I do know this:  while many convictions posed by Hatmaker in Seven have taken residence in my heart, her story is not my story.  I know that God wants to make my story known to me.  To all of us.  He is so capable. Capable of sweeping us into one massive holy story.  Braided together, overlapping, back and forth, all the while creating something strong,  something unique, something beautiful.  Something that points ALL of our spheres of influence back towards the Creator.  God.  Who does all the braiding.  Yes.

Please understand that I am not advocating being motionless for the Kingdom.  There are mandates set forth by God that cannot be ignored.  The Bible is so clear that we are to be actively pursuing justice, mercy, and holiness.  That we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and live outside of ourselves until we breathe our last.  However, God's Word (holler at your Samuel) also clearly says that we are to be on our faces before our Living God, asking what He has for us at this very moment, this very day, this very year that is before us.  

What a remarkable posture.  One of moving forward, eyes lifted upward.  Love.

It's cool. Once I strike that balance, I'll let you know.  But for now, I am going to rest in knowing that God is moving in Austin, Texas, and (believe it or not) the greater Chicago-land area.  I will do that next right thing in front of me, but I will also pause during this insane life and continue to ask my Creator to make my story known to me.  

"It's good to struggle and let the spirit and word convict in matters of truth. He gives us awesome mandates, and then there are the different ways God is original and unique with each of us."

-Adrienne Baker Bley the first.  Whom I love.