Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a medical problem?

i'm creatively constipated. there's a bottleneck in my right brain caused by lack of sleep and time and the existential dread i feel as the holiday season threatens to come again. i can't decide what to get anyone for Christmas. i can't decide which of the 34 ideas for blogs i should choose. i can't decide what to fix my daughter for dinner. all of the options for all of the above seem urgent about winning the race out of my brain, thus the traffic jam.

i think Morgan has eaten 5 PBJs this week, so far you're all getting Ale 8 for Christmas, and evidently i can only manage a barely-clever blog about not knowing what else to blog about.

this is my effort to take a mental laxative. i'm gonna go make Morgan some mac-n-cheese. i'll try for a better blog next time. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

my Bibles...

i got the idea for this post from Chad (here), who reports that it is a current trend in the blogosphere to write about your bible (or bibles). i don't have the time to chase all those links, so i'll just have to trust him that we're not the only two. :)

there are 2 special bibles in my life. the one in the picture is my burgundy, bonded leather Zondervan NIV Thinline i have carried for years. i think i "borrowed" the bible from my Mom's collection when i was in junior high (without much protest from her - i suspect it was one of her many failed attempts to lay aside her clunky study bible), and i've carried it since then. i study often from other translations, and defense of the NIV is not the hill i'll die on. even if there are better translations out there, this bible feels like an old friend that isn't just set aside for the newer/bigger/better thing. it also has quite a story of its own:

it survived the turbulence of belonging to a teenager, including a fire (i left a candle burning too near the stack of books/papers it was in - the gilded edges of the pages are now blackened edges), a puppy (that used the corners as a chew toy), and being left in almost every pew or chair i sat in for years. in high school, i left it sitting the bumper of my pick-up. it fell off, and i backed over it, causing most of the new testament to separate from the binding and fall out. still, it was my bible. so i sent it off to be rebound. the underlines and notes in many places reflect my immature faith of that time, as well. that could be a whole different essay...

for the next few years my bible primarily collected dust, only to be rattled to life as the customary sunday morning accessory on the rare occasion i went to church. then, through a series of bad decisions with big consequences (including calling off a wedding, among others), this prodigal son returned home. my bible became more than a paper weight. i was starving for the Word, and the Life i found in it rescued me from me. my enthusiasm for Scripture has waxed and waned since then, i confess, and even in writing this testimony, my memory prompts me to return to my first Love...

the other special bible in my life is actually not mine at all. it's my mom's - the aforementioned clunky study bible (NIV with the o-so-early-80's dusty rose cover). when the bottom fell out of my life, i knew to look to the Lord via Scripture for something solid and lasting because i had seen my mother do so for years. it is the only possession of hers i hope to inherit someday because it speaks to the legacy she has given me more than anything else ever could. in all the ups and downs and plains of her life, she has pointed me (and countless others) to the One the Scripture reveals.

what are the important bibles to you? leave a comment or let me know if you post about your bible.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


a choir of international students and spouses sang a simple little chorus in chapel on thursday. something about living and walking in the Light. we sang it in English, Spanish, and one of the African languages (I couldn't begin to guess which one).

i cried. not sad tears. happy tears. celebratory tears. it felt so eternal. "every tongue and tribe and nation..." including me, for which i'm thankful. so much bigger than me, for which i am also thankful.

i guess that's all this post is about. the gratitude. i wish you could have been there...

Sunday, September 2, 2007


it sucks to try to be nice to my husband sometimes. he won't let me. i know, it sounds odd. but read on...

if you were raised anywhere near a church (and probably even if you weren't), you've heard that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Paul says that Jesus said it (Acts 20). Paul himself had exemplified that tenet while in Ephesus, as per his report in that chapter. it seems straightforward enough.

but lately this particular idea has been a source of confusion and frustration. it is more blessed to give than to receive. ok, but in order for there to be a gift, there must be a recipient. someone has to do some receiving, or the whole thing doesn't work. especially when Christians serve one another (per Galatians 6:10), we end up chasing one another in a circle trying to be the "more blessed" one by giving more and never receiving, thereby robbing our brothers and sisters of the opportunity to give. do you see the illogic at work here?!

imagine this: two boys go outside to play catch. simple enough. except something isn't working. they both brought a ball, and each insists that his ball be used for catch. they both throw, and the balls roll around wildly because no one is focused on catching. the game isn't fun for very long, i'd imagine. unless you just turn it from cooperative interaction into a competition and see who can throw better or farther or with greater accuracy or something.

and - sticking with the silly sports analogy for a sec - it is actually much more difficult to catch than throw. my daughter has been able to chunk her toys across a room for some time now, but she still can't catch anything.

i get the necessity for the assertion that it is more blessed to give than receive. i need that reminder often, because i am selfish more often than i am not (especially when it comes to my time, but that's another post). but i propose that it has become equally necessary to remind ourselves that gratitude is as essential as generosity. it requires much discipline and humility to just let someone give me a gift and be thankful (without rehearsing just exactly how i am going to give something back to them so as not to lose the competition).

but i do want to be grateful as much as i want to be generous. the absence of one may well cancel the other out - or at least transform it into something else entirely. generosity that denies reciprocity becomes smug, condescending, and/or competitive. it has to be mutual. and gratitude without generosity becomes greedy and selfish. together, though, they point to a rhythmic exchange that is mutually edifying, i think. i hope. and i need my family and my community to require both from me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

to create

my friend Chad is quite the artist - especially when technology and art intesect. my friend Josh is amazing with a paint brush or pencil in hand. my other friend Josh, my sis-in-law Brittany, and my mother-in-law blow me away with what they can capture with a camera. my brother Jeremy can brew his own beer. Sarah knits. Hannah sews. Dru makes "Rummy Royal" games for all her friends and teaching aids for her AND her sister. my husband can make anything he wants out of wood. Cindy writes songs, and she can make anything short of afternoon tea sprout and flourish in her garden.

i don't make anything. or didn't. but i want that to change. i want to learn. to try. mostly i haven't tried because i haven't been brave enough to try things i'm not already good at. it has taken me 28 years to recognize this ridiculous fear of failure as ridiculous. i've not conquered it, but i'm trying.

so.... i painted. it was a perfect perfectionist's first project: decor for a child's room. that way when the pictures turn out to look like they were done by a child, it's ok! :)

anyway, they're hanging on the wall above Morgan's bed. and they're terrible. but i painted! :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

i know i promised, but...

i said i wouldn't subject you to my poetry, so forgive me going back on my word. i also suck at HTML, so just pretend that the dashes are tabs. :)

Mark 9:24 (for the Venables and Athan)

a bird by-
----tip of branch
----in tip of beak;
i search sky-
----ink in hand
----to write or speak

my son sleeps-
----of heart's pale beat;
my friends weep-
----spent eyes there.
----in need we seek

clouds roll through-
----sun and shade,
----so faith and fear;
seeking You
----words evade.
----be Healer near

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

backdoor to a celebration of marriage

my good friend Janae got married last month. my brother-in-law got married last weekend. several good friends and family members are facing tough times in marriage lately. my own marriage has been unspeakably sweet through our recent time of crisis and trial. i've had lots of occasion to reflect on marriage lately.

and on Sunday i heard it again - the Christian line on marriage. it includes things like "take a stand against divorce" and "divorce is not an option."

take a stand? what exactly does that mean? it sounds militant and strong. my marriage has been to the brink of divorce, and i'm not sure that valiant Christain soldiers boldly marching into such a tender, agonizing place in my life would have helped anything. in fact i'm quite sure it would have made it worse. i was, thankfully, surrounded by people who value my heart and Ryan's, as well as our marriage, and who gently laid down their busy lives and spent themselves in prayer on our behalf. they didn't stand up for the institution of marriage, exactly, but rather laid on their face for me and for us.

and now i'm faced with the decisions about how to best love others who are struggling in marriage. nothing about my part feels aggressive. it feels slow, unsure, and requiring me to surrender much. to lay down instead of stand strong. it begs the humility to remember my own struggles and weaknesses, past and current, and share them, if needed. it is prompted by the gratitude i feel toward people who loved us from broken to healing, not pride of having "arrived" (because we haven't) or being "right" (because i'm not sure it matters one way or the other whether i'm right or not).

divorce is an option. to just march around chanting that it isn't is a bit ostrich-like. i understand the intent, but i also don't think it's working (i won't bore you with the stats about divorce rates - you're watching them unfold around you just like me). but i know from experience that divorce is not the only option. rather than insist that people ignore the enemy of divorce, we can help them look that enemy dead in the eye and choose to stay married anyway. we keep treating marriage like a fragile, weak thing, and marriage is responding by becoming just that. but it's strong - able to acknowledge the temptation to give up and walk away without automatically giving in to it.

i don't mean that Christians have had a wrong idea. the good idea of protecting and upholding marriage needs a different method. a new approach.

and new words. i think our words describe our actions, but they also influence our actions (that sentence may spark a whole post). if marriage needs more compassion than crusade, our language needs to invite the former over the latter. if we change the way we talk, it will affect the way we think and act.

like so many things in the Kingdom, this is backward and counterintuitive. we'll fight for marriage best by surrendering, and stand for marriage well by laying down.

as i write today, my heart swells and my eyes well at the thought of my Ryan. i ache with regret for the times i intended fully to walk away from this covenant we're living. and i ache with gratitude to him, to our Church, and to the Holy Spirit for showing me just how strong and beautiful marriage is.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My mom owns a Christian bookstore (The Master's Books and Gifts: A Parable Christian Store), and was asked to speak to a group of publishers at their annual convention last week. She wanted to share a story that lets publishers see how the products they are putting out are affecting people's lives. Mom intended to work the floor during the weeks leading up the event and speak to customers about their stories, but instead she sacrifically stayed here with me during the last few weeks of a difficult pregnancy and subsequent hospitalization of my son Athan. So she asked me what "book story" I might like to share. I composed the following for her, and thought it was blog-worthy:

My mom asked me for a “book story” - a personal account that would exemplify to people in this industry that their work makes a difference in people's lives. “I'd LOVE to,” I said...

Then I sat here in front of a blank screen and a blinking cursor, and I couldn't get one sentence out. It's not that I don't have a book story to share with you. My problem is that I have so many! I just couldn't narrow it down to just one, and I can't give you the i-had-this-problem/crisis-then-i-read-this-book-that-changed-my-life story you were probably hoping to hear. My “book story” is a little different...

I've loved to read from the day I was able to do it. Some books have been more than just fun reads or educational tools – they are markers of milestones in my spiritual life. Rereading them feels like visiting trusted friends, and giving away copies is like introducing one good friend to another. I grew up in the freight room of a Christian bookstore, and I'm so thankful. Much of the way I think about Jesus still reflects what I learned from Aslan in the 3rd grade, and what I learned at age 25 from Phil Yancy in The Jesus I Never Knew. The world of first-century Palestine came alive to me in high school when I read Lloyd Douglas's The Robe, which in turn drew me into new dimensions of the accounts in the Gospels and Acts. Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend helped save my sanity and my marriage. I have been shaped by everything from Confessions by St. Augustine to Max Lucado's books. Ken Gire, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Mike Yacconelli, Donald Miller, Rob Bell... all these and more have been part of my journey through rebellion, conviction, depression, repentance, returning, refining, rejoicing.

I will probably never meet you, but I hope you remember my story. On the days when work seems mundane or meaningless, know that there are people like me out there who are grateful that you make life-changing materials available to us and the people we love. I pray for you to have wisdom and perseverance, and that the Holy Spirit would be with you as you wade through fluff-n-stuff and seek to publish, distribute, and sell books that are good art with Christ-like heart.

My journey continues to be shaped by so many people "who know Him like I want to know Him," (thank you, Cindy Venable), and who have published some part of their journey toward Jesus. If you want to "meet" some of my friends, I'd be beyond happy to get together and talk books (or you can go here and find them yourself).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

another way to say it

i just read Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm. i'm not smart enough to attempt a book review of an Annie Dillard book. i've read 3 of them now, and i'm sure there is more stuff i don't understand than stuff that i do. but some passages here and there strike a chord...

"There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."

maybe it's another way to say what really matters. maybe it contributes to my earlier posts that amounted to an amateur exploration of the psychology of blogging. maybe it is what my friend Chad means when he rants about "mommy blogs." Maybe it points again to the things i want my life to be about.

anyway, i think she's right.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

awash in affection

A couple of months ago, we had one of those parenting moments that you never forget: Ryan and I were on the couch beside each other. Morgan (at the ripe ol' age of 2) came downstairs, walked over to the couch, and wiggled herself in right between us. Then she put her hands up behind each of our shoulders, and announced that “This is my friend Mom, and this is my friend Dad.” :-) Yep – I melted.

Today, I am wishing that I was 2 again, and that it was more acceptable for me to place myself physically near several people and announce to whoever would listen that “This is my friend.” I wish I knew the appropriate way for a 28-year-old to express such honest affection, because I feel it. Deeply and often. Tenderness in children that makes our hearts melt is frowned upon in adults. People tend to regard it as weak or weird or immature. I don't intend to be “cute.” I just want some way to tell you and show you...

Thanks to all of you who show me - clearly and often. And bear with me when I stumble toward you for an awkward thank-you-and-goodbye hug, or when I search for words that come out jumbled and teary. I'm just trying to find some expression that is true to what I feel without creeping you out. I'm still not sure how adults should do this, but I think we should do a lot more of it than we think. Maybe I'm trying to start by writing a blog...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'm encountering a strange thing in the midst of this storm. A paradox that is probably not rare, but quite surprising to me right now:

(this is the set-up, not the confusing part): People are praying for us. More people than I can even imagine are praying for our boy, and for us. We feel it. We know we couldn't even get out of bed if that were not the case. And you know what? The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective. People are praying for rest, and we're getting rest (body, mind, soul, and spirit). People are asking for strength enough to make good decisions, and strength enough to just let go and cry when we need to. And we feel strong in both places. People are praying for our marriage, and Ryan and I have really stayed connected to each other through all of this so far. I could go on and on with a list of prayers that are being answered in us moment by moment...

The paradox is that people are surprised when we're doing well. Some seem almost disappointed or even offended if we are not constantly coming apart at the seams. I realize that by all natural logic, we very well should be. And to anyone who doesn't know Jesus and His Spirit in us, our ability to keep going and do this very difficult thing well seems like we are being callous or uncaring or naive or in denial.

But it's not the case. Prayers are being answered, and the Lord is so very thickly present with us right now. He is doing as much in/around Ryan and I as He is in our Athan's little body. I do not pretend that Ryan and I have any kind of "ability" to do this well on our own. We don't. In fact, I can feel some of my natural tendencies being held at bay by the prayers of the saints (like the tendency to withdraw or shut down or be blinded by anger, among others). I don't believe the purpose of your prayers or the Lord's purpose here is to make the grief go away, but to allow us to grieve well. As my friend Cindy sings, "The waves He'll still, or else He will quiet your heart." He's doing both, and He has been from the moment I went into labor until just now as I'm typing this post. I am amazed and grateful and (confession) surprised.

I don't feel "strong." That's not it. In the midst of such awful weakness, I know I am carried by a strength that is not my own. I am not sufficient, but I am swimming in a Grace that is. There will undoubtedly be moments or days in the future when I am not as aware of the hands that hold me as I am today, and I hope I have the courage to call or write and ask you to pray me through that part of the journey as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I suppose it is old news to just say again that communication is important. But as I said, crisis tends to bring out just how important some things are. We can coast through most days resting comfortably in all manner of bad communication habits and practices, but those small hitches become major hurdles in times of high stress. Also, our good communication patterns and disciplines may hardly seem worth the effort it takes to practice them when life is clicking along in predictable rhythm, but they become pure gold when rhythm becomes cacophony. So in the midst of this particular storm we are in, I've been both spectator and participant in communication that is critical for the well-being of several people and relationships. It's made me think...

Communication is a skill – like properly running a table saw or playing a sport or knitting a sweater or playing and instrument. Skills are learned – no one is born knowing how to knit! Yet many of us assume that good communication will come “naturally.” Skills require practice – training yourself to step beyond what you already know how to do and trying things that feel awkward until sheer repetition makes it part of your skill set. But it is rare that we will put forth that kind of deliberate effort about communication. Skills can be taught – by authors or coaches or friends or professionals or whomever - but I can't remember the last time I asked any one of those sources to specifically help me communicate more clearly. It just seems like we would all benefit if we recognized and treated this as a skill to be learned.

But here's where it gets a bit fuzzy for me: Skill level varies. Some people are just plain better at certain skills than others. This is the part that gets a little touchy, and I'm having a tough time navigating. Communication is a skill, but it is not just a skill. It is also a place where we express so much of our personality, identity, preferences, and peccadilloes. I think some of our bad habits need to change, even at the expense of being “true to ourselves.” That can so quickly become a trump card we play when we don't want to be uncomfortable in the learning process any more. But I also don't think the point is to just learn to conform to someone else's personality or preferences in communication. The goal isn't to be just like each other in every way. Unique styles of communication are part of what makes the communication worth it!

I guess I'm just wondering how to tell the difference between the elements of skill and elements of self as I'm learning to be a better communicator, and also to respect the difference between those two things as I'm helping others do the same.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

what really matters

Crisis brings out what matters. Ryan and I were in my hospital room talking on Day 2. “Did we used to fight about things that don't matter much?” I asked him. The petty things were shown for what they are. Things that I waste time on seem so small and distant and unworthy. I'm glad for that kind of revelation, painful though it may be to realize how often I have wasted time and energy and emotion on weightless affairs. In the refining fire, the dross rises to the top to be removed. Painful, but good.

But the things that DO matter are also shown for what they are. Dross is shown to be dross, and the gold - the things that are good and real - are shown to be gold. The things that matter get bigger and weightier when crisis hits. It is happening to/for me: When time will allow it, I still want to engage in the conversation spurred by Chad's blog, to hear more about my good friend and her relationship with her daughter, to learn more about why Appalachia is one of the poorest areas of the country, and to love people well. It still matters very much that my friend's marriage is tough, or that another's new job is stressful. I still find myself wondering and hoping that I can escape my own bent for materialism and live a simpler life than America sells. Am I living this part of my journey well - doing what I can to bring His light and life and hope to the darkness that can be so thick for so many in the NICU?

And this stuff I've been working through and writing about here – truth and intimacy and community – they still matter. They matter for me in the midst of this crisis, and they matter for Athan, too.

One of my most treasured friends e-mailed me to ask if I was letting anyone in. To use my words, she asked if I am choosing intimacy or isolation in the midst of this crisis. Am I risking the vulnerability required to really let some people walk with me, not just walk near me? The answer is “yes, I think that I am.” Because if it ever matters to make that choice, it matters now. I don't get to/want to set aside the necessity of deciding to risk intimacy and community and honesty, using my son as an excuse to just revert to old coping patterns.

The first few hours and even days, we were still wondering whether Athan Ryan Strebeck would get to have life at all. Now, as the question turns to what kind of life he will have, I pray earnestly that Ryan and I can show him (and Morgan and anyone else who's watching) a life full of things that really matter.

how I really am

I'm keeping another blog about my son Athan, and we are trying to keep the content primarily about him and his progress. I think anyone who wants to know more about me and my thoughts and reflections will be reading this blog, too. So for those if you who have been asking, this is the best I can do to explain how I'm really doing:

The following is cut-n-paste from the other blog and from an e-mail I wrote (with some editing), plus a little original stuff added in:

Today, I feel such relief. I know we have a hard road ahead, but any road ahead is a good one when you had to consider the possibility of having to bury your baby. It is still frightening and sad to hear some of the things Athan might have to deal with for his whole life, but he IS going to have a whole life. I'm just so very glad for that!

As we told some friends today, the time of panic has subsided. I don't feel overwhelmed like I did at first. I'm first and foremost relieved that Athan is alive and thriving! I can't help but smile each time he is able to come off of a med or loose another tube or get a positive report on morning rounds. When it comes to walking out all that this will mean for our family, the best word for how I feel is "resolute." We can do this. Athan can do this. Leaning heavily on our Jesus and His church, we can keep walking (or running or limping or crawling) this out. I know there will probably be times when I'm overwhelmed again, but we can face that, too. And the other word for how I feel is just "sad." I know Athan can do this, and I'm grateful that he is alive and has the opportunity to do it. But I am also immensely sad for my little boy because he has to do this. He's just a little boy.

The hardest times are thinking about yesterday and tomorrow.

About yesterday - mostly the guilt. Ryan, too. "Surely I could have/should have/would have done something differently." Waited longer to stop using birth control. Stayed in Texas so Leah could deliver and we'd be closer to home. Tried harder to take care of myself during pregnancy. Refused the nausea drugs. Or taken them sooner. Exercised more or rested more or prayed more. Made different decisions between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. the day after he was born. I know it's all fruitless. Especially right now. But I can't always shut it off.

About tomorrow - how can spend all the time Athan will require without losing Morgan? Will I be able to get him to take his meds at home? Hospital bills and cost of meds he'll may be on his whole life? Long-term effects on his body and development, and therefore his whole life? What does this mean about our plans - stay in school? move home? buy a house? Ryan get a job here? finish school, but slower? or pursue a whole different vocation? or stay mostly the same?

When I think about today, relieved, resolute and sad are really what I feel. And when I'm able to be still for a minute, I am usually gently reminded to give yesterday and tomorrow to Him again. and again and again and again. and again.

Friday, May 25, 2007

intimacy v. isolation

i think i have to start with a bit of a disclaimer. here in our over-sexed America, the word "intimacy" usually conjures images of sex and sexuality. that is an aspect of intimacy - an important and powerful one (Sex God, by Rob Bell is my current recommended read on the topic), but it's not the only one. in fact, i think we have done harm to ourselves and our relationships by buying into the notion that all intimacy is reserved for a sexual relationship. if you combine the 3 parts of Merriam-Webster's definition of the word, you come close to what i think it means: sharing things "belonging to our deepest nature" in relationships "marked by close association, familiarity, and warm friendship developed through long association." something about those words stirs a longing in me - i think we were created for just that. what else will Heaven be but increasing intimacy between the Lord and us and each other for all eternity? might as well start now, right?

and i don't think of it as a sappy, weak word. it requires incredible courage and discernment and faith to risk intimacy. it is a dangerous word.

[this tension is connected to the previous two also - in fact the three tensions i'm trying to write about here seem to be braided into one rope. they're not exactly the same, nor are they mutually exclusive. 3 strands of one rope used in this on-going tug-o-war...]

being in community is not the same thing as risking intimacy. or at least it's not automatic. if true community is going to happen, i think intimacy must go with it eventually. but it seems a separate topic, still...

call it my personality or my preference or my defense mechanism or whatever you want. whatever it's name, i can be totally alone in a group of people. it is a choice, for sure, and often i choose it. isolation. and i know i'm not the only one. i can feel it around me. we get our bodies in the same place in the name of community, but it is rather like a bunch of bodies in head-to-toe suits of armor. we're left to try to relate to each other with all the warmth and tenderness of clanking metal. the intimacy we're designed for waits for us just on the other side of the realization that "our armor is a cage" (Lucy Kaplansky).

to those of you who risk life outside that armor, thank you. thanks for showing me that life outside this cage is possible.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

community v. independence

this one is, perhaps, just a running example of the working out of the first tension i wrote about. i don't think community can happen until Christians mutually choose truth over deception.

several of my favorite authors have written that we are designed to live in meaningful relationship with each other, and that those relationships are crucial to walking out the journey of Christianity. and it rings true in my own experience. i have felt the longing for relationships that have both depth and direction since junior high.

my insecurities make me hesitate. my sin - the inevitable hurt i will cause others just by being human and being in community - make it quite appealing to avoid real community with others and run toward some form of independence...

and all i've found so far is that my longing for real Life Together keep quietly taking over, even against my conscious will at times. i fear being vulnerable enough to be in community, but i am grateful for so many of you who have been patient enough to love me into the kind of community that can be the Body of Christ to the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

truth v. deception

if you're a regular reader, it'll seem a bit redundant to start with this one. i just wrote about it a few weeks ago. but it is amazing how many times this particular tension has been evident in my life and writing.

i think one of our culture's constant invitations to us is to lie, and shut ourselves in a prison of our own making because of it: wear "age-defying" make-up = lie about your age. borrow more money = lie about your income. all advertising, in fact, must make you feel small, inadequate, or incomplete unless you buy their particular product or service or lifestyle. most of the episodes of Friends or Grey's Anatomy or Everybody Loves Raymond revolve around some sort of deception that is, in the end, discovered (with great comedy or great dramatic impact). the way the characters lie to one another is the crux of the plot, and it just feels semi-uncomfortably like a parody of my own relationships.

all in all, the invitation seems something like this: "be as deceptive as necessary in order to seem to be who you wish you were." and when we take it - when I take it - our contribution to the world becomes a Nothing. we conjure a person that doesn't actually exist, and then try to interact with the real world as that fictitious character. what impact can a phantom have on a solid world? what difference does an apparition make? in trying so hard to just pretend to be Something, we make ourselves disappear.

but the Lord offers quite a different invitation, doesn't He? the New Testament is busting with instruction and examples of ways that "the truth will set you free," and they are all counter-cultural practices. (they're also dangerous, but don't danger and freedom go together as much as safety and captivity?) i don't have time or knowledge enough to even scratch the surface of this theme woven throughout the Word. i'll stick to one example...

to me, one of the most frightening and hopeful verses in the New Testament is James 5:16. it begins with "Therefore, confess your sins..." evidently, it is important that we acknowledge and tell the truth about all the ways that we've blown it. WHAT?! why?! why would a person ever do that? go to your boss and tell him you've been getting paid for hours you didn't work. go to your spouse and tell them you flirted with someone else today. go to your children and tell them you treated then unfairly because you lost your temper. go before God and tell him you didn't love well today. logic says you'll lose your job, permanently wreck your marriage, lose the respect of your children, and further distance yourself from God. and yet somehow confession - telling the truth even when it is embarrassing truth - is part of His plan for us to live in freedom.

my theory is that confession does for the spirit what puking does for the body. you know the feeling - i hate to throw up, but when i do i will be better. your body feels the urge to throw up when it detects the presence of a poison - it is a defense mechanism in place to help keep you healthy. if you don't throw up, the poison has incredible destructive power over your body. the moment it is out, it is no longer powerful. gross, perhaps, but unable to do further harm. i think confession does something similar for our spirit - that God asks us to get the sin out where it is no longer powerful. gross, perhaps, but unable to do further harm...

i recognize it can be an empty ritual or abused in a very salvation-by-works kind of way, but i think we Protestants have tossed out the baby with the bathwater by abandoning the practice of Confession. i'm not sure that the way to regain it is to put our pastors in boxes with curtains certain hours of the day. i'm not sure that it's not, either. i just think we're avoiding something necessary to overcome a life of lying and to enter into telling and living truth...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

ever since i planned to get my new computer, i've been in the process of going through all the junk saved on my old one, deciding what to save and what to ditch. i've skimmed years worth of e-mail archives and papers i wrote in college. i also switched my blog site, so i reread my old blog just for fun... i haven't had occasion to read over so much of my own writing all at once in a long time. being the nerd that i am, i found myself playing literary critic in my own writing. i found myself identifying themes and patterns, documenting growth and regression in my writing and in my life, and even noticing a certain tone in my writing that i didn't intend... it was full of discovery on a variety of levels. i won't bore you with the whole of my introspective journey, but there are some repeated themes - tensions, really - that seem to run throughout. maybe it's just another way to try to say what i've been stabbing inarticulately toward for years. anyway, that's what the next 3 posts will be about, i think.

(if i go into labor, it may be August before i finish this!)

Monday, May 7, 2007

thinking about community again

this time it was Buechner that got me started:

"We don't like to get too serious about things, especially about ourselves. When we are with other people, we are apt to talk about almost anything under the sun except for what really matters to us...except for what is going on inside our own skins. We pass the time of day. We chatter. We hold each other at bay, keep our distance from each other even when God knows it is precisely each other that we desperately need."

i'm struck by how we (westerners) have ordered our lives to do just that. every family has their own home, usually with each person having a room to themselves if they want it. separate cars, schedules, closets, and lives. we live such isolated lives that we are free to go on pretending that nothing is a big deal because we only have to fool people in short bursts. (how we fool ourselves when we are alone is another matter). "if i pretend this isn't a big deal, then it actually won't be." and we can keep pretending (which, as adults, is euphemism for lying), because no one is near enough to require we tell the truth (in word or action or expression).

and never mind putting our "big deals" into categories of good or bad or other. i don't think it matters. i think we down-play them all. we pretend our excitement is small. our fear. our tenderness. our anger. our anticipation. our hope. our disappointment. we "move through the world as though untouched," and we should all of us get Oscars for the effort!

but we long for so much more. i know i do. i don't know how to offer myself, and i don't know how to ask, but i want more. i want to be free to tell the truth about the things going on "inside my own skin." to find a way to ask you about the things that really matter to you, to listen with my whole self, and to be a trustworthy and safe person with such treasure.

i wonder if i can set aside my Americanized notions of "private" and seek community that goes beyond "blurbs" of life together?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

i also wish i could write poetry

i have too much appreciation for good art to attempt to write my own poetry. my rhythms and rhymes are only appropriate for cheesy greeting cards and children's books.

but i read it. some. one of my favorite poets is Rainer Maria Rilke, and the past couple of days i've read again from his Book of Hours (translated from the German by Barrows and Macy). i think this one is my favorite:

You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.

So many are alive who don't seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move through the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it's not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.

i read his introspective first stanza, and something in me dares to whisper "me too." my longing is stirred for really living in the heights and depths and the path between them...

i read the second stanza - his observation of the world through the lens of his introspective discovery, and i shudder. i wonder if it is me he has seen. i wonder if i am brave enough to care that i am alive - to be moved by the darkness of each endless fall and the shimmering light of each ascent...

i read the third stanza, and i think i'm listening to a prayerful "aside." i think the "you" here is the Lord, and i think it's true - i think He cherishes those who grip him for survival. these four lines call to mind the heart of the Beatitudes...

then i read the last stanza, and it's like Rilke is shaking me by the shoulders and speaking with gentle urgency. "Wake up!" he says. fight the numbing effects of small pleasures and constant noise and live!

when i read this poem, i think if i'll brave the introspection Rilke points to, i'll rediscover my thirst. through my thirst, i'll move nearer the Living Water. in Him, i'll find undiluted Life, and be moved to invite others on that same journey.

you see, i want a lot...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

i wish i could sew

[warning-this is just a rant, so skip it if you're not in the mood for my cynicism today]

i can't bring myself to order custom clothes for a newborn, but i'm close today. gender socialization starts at birth, and it's driving me nuts!

when Morgan was born, our whole world turned pink (with a dash here and there of lilac purple). i'm not fond of the colors, but that's just an odd preference. what really drove me crazy were the teeny little onsies that said "Future Princess" or "Diva-To-Be." seriously, is there no other option for our daughters besides Paris Hilton and Beyonce? ugh.

now i'm having a boy in a few days, so our world is turning blue and red. the color part is easier because i happen to like blue and red much better than i like pink and purple. but still - "Lil' Sport" and onsies covered in cars and trucks and baseball bats. i'm not opposed to him being a "future quarterback" i suppose, if it is what he chooses. apparently, though, our first and highest hope for our sons as a culture is to become an over-paid professional athlete.

when will we learn?! how many women in your life or in media to you admire who actually grew up to be a "princess"? how many men do you really look up to for being stereotypically "macho"?

i know - the clothes don't determine all. and yes - there are other options (i saw a site for onsies for "Baby Geeks," but they were about $20 a pop). so i guess i'm asking for help from you friends of mine to help me show my daughter and my son that there are other expressions of masculine and feminine that are worth aiming for.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


not just once, but two times this weekend my family and i were honored with showers for Baby Boy Strebeck. today, i was just so grateful. for community. friendship.


Monday, April 9, 2007

shoulda picked a different title

i'm still hoping i eventually have "something intriguing" to fill in as the title of my blog. so far, it seems i should have picked "amateur exploration of the psychology of blogging."

80+% of bloggers say they write about their "life and experiences." (in case you care, the rest write about politics, technology, entertainment and celebrities, and religion). the first is a pretty broad category. my life and experiences.... what in that is blog-worthy?

i think i've ruled out reporting about "day to day" stuff here in the blog. several people who are actually a part of that day-to-day stuff ask me regularly to tell them how i'm feeling, how school is going for Ryan, and my latest cute-kid story about Morgan, and i am deeply grateful that i have those people who care enough to ask. i recognize it is not a given - many people don't get asked those questions enough or ever. for those of you who faithfully find my life important enough to warrant a phone call or conversation, thank you.

i can't exactly describe what i do want to write. maybe the things that get lost in the reporting of "day to day" things. things that we all want to talk about, but never quite get to. things you may not have time to listen to every time we talk, or things i have to leave out for lack of time or courage...

one thing, so far seems clear. it's partly a confession, partly an expression of a hope: part of me - a dangerous, insecure, subversive part - wants you to read this blog and be drawn to me. that part hopes for your approval, appreciation, and understanding above all else. this i confess because it will inevitably infect my writing (and talking and generally living). but the hope i have - for my writing and talking and listening and praying and parenting and loving and generally living - is that my desire for your approval would fade, at least, and maybe even die in the light of my desire to know God, and for you to know Him.

it makes me nervous to state that hope. what if i fail? but there's the dangerous me talking again...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

telling the truth

sounds like a quaint idea. like a lesson i'll teach Morgan soon. like the crescendo of a good Sunday School lesson.

but it's hard! as i sat to write my Second Blog today, i tried to figure out how to present the ME i want the blogging world to know. i wouldn't lie outright - i heard to many of those Sunday School lessons to do that. it's more subtle - untruth by omission or slant or slight of hand...

i think first of what i want you, faithful reader of both of my entries so far, to know about me. that's followed almost immediately and most urgently by what i do NOT want you to know about me.... i wonder: how can i be funny without being trite? how can i seem smart without seeming like a know-it-all? can i write with both depth and playfulness - or do those cancel each other? how do i let them know i LOVE being a mom without being dismissed as Betty Crocker with nothing to contribute to conversation about things other than feeding schedules and diapers? can i talk about the things i passionately hope for the world to know about my Jesus, or is it spitting into the wind to post another among the billions of blogs (many better than mine) that you could read? am i a good enough writer to do justice to the things that make my heart beat every day?

kudos to all of you brave bloggers who have put yourselves out there for all the world to read, if they like. it's an odd tension i feel between wanting to be known and NOT wanting to be found out. it's the web-based version of relational risk, i guess - the same questions that race through my mind (as somewhat less articulated fears) every time i talk with friends or read to my daughter or pray...

should i even post this blog? it's odd to start my self-revelation by acknowledging my own insecurities and my temptation to deceive in order to cover them up....

gulp.... here goes!

Friday, April 6, 2007

could i just skip this one?

i don't know what to write on my First Blog. i don't think i could say anything that hasn't already been said 1000 times on 1000 other First Blogs. i can't think of anything comprehensive enough to tell you what i want to write about, because i don't really know. i could tell you about me, but chances are, if you're reading this at all, you know me already. so.... since i can't think of anything to say, i'm just gonna skip the whole First Blog bit. i'll write again later, and we can both just pretend that my First Blog was clever, intriguing, insightful, honest, and beautifully written, k?