Monday, January 25, 2010

Choosing Grace

Mango and I have been in a wonderful groove lately, really in sync and delighting in the steadiness and abiding love that marks this year of "us," even as life has dealt some serious blows. Something that always gets me, though, is the way I feel so guilty for the times that haven't been this good, for all the million ways I've failed. I feel loss for the times that could have been better if I'd only known this or that or been able to do this or that. I need some peace from this, some release from the guilt. The author of Passionate Marriage once said to a couple who lamented the lost years something to the effect of, "What makes you think you could have done this any sooner?" He was speaking of how all things come together to propel us toward the growth, how the place where we find ourselves is a culmination of all that came before.

Mango said to me the other day that he feels I've been more unconditional in my love for him recently than any other time in our marriage. Instead of taking this for a compliment and a statement of growth, I immediately felt guilty that I hadn't given him more of that before, that he hadn't felt it, didn't know it. Here I spend all this time writing about loving our partners unconditionally, and I have failed my own. It's exactly this kind of thinking, though, that makes things worse, that derails us from this beautiful groove, because it becomes all about me and how bad I feel. I get all hung up on wanting to be perfect, on wanting everything to have always been perfect instead of rejoicing in what we have now, in what we have become. I realize that I'm not a good partner when I feel this way, when I'm wallowing in my guilt and insecurities...which makes me feel more guilty and insecure...which inhibits my ability to just love freely and openly. I get defensive and fearful, feel the need to hunker down and protect my fragile self. It isn't pretty.

Mango offers me grace, loves me for who I am at this moment, revels in the growth we both have accomplished, and offers no judgment for the could-have-beens. He offers me a portrait of God's grace, draws on the unconditional One to extend unconditional grace to me. Why I struggle so hard against this grace is such a mystery to me. Why don't I just accept what is FREE, so freely given? For this is what defines grace - that it is free and undeserved. You'd think my greedy human heart would grab at this. After all, I love the free coupons in my Blue Sky guide, love Ben & Jerry's free ice cream days. Yet, I cannot easily accept the free-est and most free-ing gift of all. Instead I clutch my insecurities, anxieties, and imperfections like security blankets. I give guilt a free ride while failing to accept my own freedom. Why? Why do I need to CHOOSE grace? Acceptance of such a free gift ought to be as natural as breathing. But it isn't.

I don't know why I need to choose what is free, but today I am making a choice. I accept this beautiful place for what it is, trying not to get caught up in the could-have-beens. I choose to accept grace for this moment...and all the previous order to enjoy today, to love and be loved, to offer to Mango and Mane and Vespera and Niteo a wife and mother and friend who is alive and present and whole.

...and I will try to make the same choice tomorrow...

Music Monday - When the Saints by Sara Groves

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To the Moon

I haven't done a Music Monday in a while, and today isn't a Monday, but I just had to share this song by Sara Groves. It had me laughing out loud in my car the other day. The person who posted it on YouTube called it "thought provoking, somewhat humorous." That fits.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Not to be dramatic, but tonight is my last night before becoming an oncology patient. I have all the phone numbers ready, insurance plan figured out, and I'll be making an appointment in the morning.

As far as I know, I don't have cancer at this very moment. But I did 2 months ago...before I had my appendix removed. The doctor called last week with the pathology report. There was a carcinoid tumor in my appendix.

I haven't been able to write about it because I feel as though I should have a way to wrap my post up neatly somehow, like a little package with a bow on top. I can't wrap this one up. I can't even get my brain around it. I know who I am and who I have been called to be. And I'll just keep living those things.

I feel as though my world has tilted. I'm suddenly thinking a lot more about making the most of each moment, recognizing each day as the gift that it is...being grateful for love, for my family, for good food, soft clothes, the fireplace in my living room, and biodegradable soap. I don't know why those things in particular right now.

You see, we already had one near-miss last week. Mango was in a car accident that totaled our car. He kept apologizing, though it wasn't his fault, and I kept telling him that I'm just so grateful to have him here. I wouldn't care if it was his fault. I just want him here. I cannot get enough of him, being near him, hearing his voice, holding his hand, sleeping next to his warm self. Last night we made a fire and lay on a sleeping bag on the living room floor, just chatting and laughing and reading a little together. What I wouldn't give for the rest of my life to look like that.

The news about the tumor came the day after the car accident, the day we bought a new car (a minivan, by the way, but that's another story). We felt grateful for both of our near-misses. The tumor would have grown and it would have been too late if it hadn't been for the appendicitis. And maybe the appendicitis was God's way of telling us that it wasn't an ulcer. You see, the symptoms of a carcinoid tumor look an awful lot like an ulcer. If we'd kept treating it as an ulcer, we still wouldn't have found the tumor. The appendicitis saved me. Ironic, huh?

In any case, my dear, sweet Mango is here with me still. And I with him. And we are blessed to have Mane and Vespera and Niteo, our children, all three here with us in our snug house. We have been given much.

I'm still afraid. And I'm angry and frustrated and tired. But I'm hopeful, too. And not despairing. This is what life on the edge is always with ambiguity, never getting too comfortable. It keeps me grateful, keeps me in the moment. Uncomfortable. Exhausted.

That's it. No neat wrapping paper or pretty bows.

Friday, January 01, 2010

To Grow Luxuriantly...

I think that change often happens slowly over time, so steadily that you barely notice, like when you look back over the year and you realize that you're not exactly the same person you were back then. Just as often, though, change happens in a sudden sort of way, like when you have an epiphany, a moment of understanding, an experience that changes life forever, and now you're different.

Maybe a wedding always changes things in that sudden sort of way. I guess I forgot. Or I was thinking that we'd already been living most of our lives together here in this house anyway, and it couldn't possibly change all that much.

But, I'm here to tell you that something changed. Vespera & Niteo came back from their honeymoon changed people. Grown people. Married people. It's exactly as it ought to be and somewhat surprising anyway. They are solidly together in a way I haven't seen before now, and they are managing things together as a couple - cooking, cleaning, laundry, afternoon naps, visiting family... If I didn't live here, I don't think I'd see the difference, but I can vouch for a qualitative difference in their relationship. They're facing the world together a unit, as one.

It's always been our privilege to witness their relationship in an up-close, magnified sort of way. You can't escape the energy of another couple when they're growing their relationship in your house, when they're living with you. It's amazing. And humbling. And surprising. And wonderful. I am constantly impressed and so proud of them. I don't think I've ever seen two people so entirely able to be aware of themselves and each other and to allow the growth of each other and their relationship.

This was a week of rapid growth, so profound and so real. It makes my change of Niteo's internet handle from Novio to Niteo that much more appropriate. (To read about the name change, read here.)