Wednesday, June 19, 2019

For Good

My buddy laughs a laugh I won't forget. Some people just have these beautiful laughs. Some people don't silent laugh as their shoulders convulse and/or snort through their noses like crazed donkeys as I do. Some people laugh and it warms your whole body through. My grandma was one of them. My buddy is another. I will miss every moment of not hearing that laugh--or being with the person behind it--when I am gone. She wrote a thing. Because, among other things like her laugh and her love for Jesus, she is an incredibly talented writer who, apparently, likes to torment people by making them cry. I love her. She asked if she could hijack my blog. She didn't ask me not to write a foreword. Big mistake. The following post is written by one of my dearest friends. Thank you, Abi Ririe, for sharing not only these words but also life, ministry, and theatre with me. I'll drive through a blizzard for Wicked tickets, but I'll drive through anything life throws at me if it means spending time with you.

I’d never seen a musical. 

Ok, that’s not true. 

I’d seen Grease on TV perhaps a hundred times. (The old one, you know, the good one.) It is one of those random shows that my husband likes. It’s weird;  typically he watches MLB, NFL, and Clash of the Titans (the new one, you know, the good one). But every now and then you realize he finds Groundhog Day hysterical, Maverick amusing, and Grease worth watching anytime it’s on TV… which is a lot. 

But I’d never seen a live musical. 

My buddy is a theater junkie. I would use the word “connoisseur”, but that fails to relay the threat level desperate she attains when theater deprived. (Dallas, Oregon if you do not have a proper theater in town, you might want to get on that.) 

So it was not appropriate that our friendship continue with me sans musical. 

In a driving blizzard that had kept the Salt Lake Valley hunkered in their holes, the cast of Wicked was prepping for their show. My buddy knew this because she’d gone two nights before with her son. She’d met them. They were tight. She knew things like Fiyero is “super tall”. And things about crown shenanigans going on with Jackie Burns and Kara Lindsay. 

I was very impressed. Stalking is a talent. 

Whilst snuggled in pjs against the cold outside, this text appeared: “I have a question for you, if you see this right away, and if you feel like being kinda crazy.” 

It just seems to happen whether I’m feeling it or not. 

So thirty minutes later she was driving through the snow to the Wicked lottery, and I was gussying up for the theatre. I mean we’re both good, godly, Christian women. We had prayed about this. Surely God would rig the drawing and let us win. (Insanity and legalism like long walks on the beach hand in hand.) After many prayers asking if she should turn around, after waiting out in the bitter cold, after someone named Laura Burnham (which is just cruel) won, I was starting to de-glindafy. Ah well. It was a nice thought. 

And then this text: “We didn’t win.” Obviously. “But I bought us tickets anyway.” 

After getting lost trying to find my house, getting stuck in the snow in a stranger’s driveway while turning around, and being dug out by my husband, we were off to Wicked. Well, CafĂ© Rio, and then Wicked. 

“I didn’t hate it.” I didn’t want to betray too much sentiment, while still seeming sufficiently grateful for her buying me tickets. I needed to process. I did process. All night. Instead of sleeping. And by morning I had a problem. I was in love with Wicked. My buddy had created a monster, Madame Morrible had zapped it with lightning, and Fiyero was dancing it off through life. 

How many times did we wait out in the snow for the chance at lottery tickets? Lots. We even considered the Sunday matinee shows, which would put us leaving church at 10:45 am. She’s a pastor’s wife. But I’m a proper heathen, so I could have gone. 

Okay, and all you super righteous folks, WE.DIDN’T… we just talked about it. And some small part of us maybe wished we could. 

As we left empty-handed and broken-hearted, lottery after lottery, there may have been some small part of me that was pleased. Another day, another lottery, another hour hanging out with my buddy. 

She’s wonderful, you see. She would never tell you; because she’s so solidly a 1 that anything less than perfection is disappointment. But she is remarkable. 

She adopted a baby boy, which turned into legal, financial, emotional, and spiritual nightmare dragging on over a year. And then she turned around and adopted a girl. Except God had other plans, and she never got to hold Kate’s breathing body. And then she adopted Kate’s baby brother. Because she loved these children she had never met so desperately. Because she believes it is the right thing to do. Because God reveals and she responds, and she doesn’t petrify in fear because of the past. Because she is stronger than most of us. 

She’s wonderful because I know she is confused, frightened, imperfect, but still always faithful. 

She desperately needs everyone to like her. It’s the title of her soon-to-be autobiography, “I Need You to Like Me.” And while that is impossible, she is deeply loved. Thoroughly respected. Completely admired by all who know her. (Ok, maybe not by the meter-woman, who she mistook for a man, when we accidentally parked illegally trying to win Wicked tickets. I don’t think there’s much hope for that one.) 

She has challenged me, rejoiced with me, prayed with me, forgiven me, taught me, parallel-parked with me, worn crowns with me, and mourned with me. Like right now. She mourns with me now. And so does the heart of our God. He who sees the miracle coming, He who knows that great goodness awaits, but who still cries with His beloved. She shows me what the heart of God must be like. Full of life. Full of laughter. Full of wisdom. Full of goodness. 

It was the last performance for Kara Lindsay and Jackie Burns, my buddy’s new favorites (she’s seen Wicked before… a lot… she has a problem). One more lottery. 10 names called. You have to fill out the lottery card completely, or it’s put aside and another name is announced. 5 names called. Another card drawn. Not completely filled out6. 8. 9. Another card drawn. Not completely filled out. Another. Not completely filled out. And again. And another two after that. And then she pulled out the sixteenth name. The card had been folded in quarters then opened back up. The top edge was dog-eared. It looked strangely familiar. 

And then I heard my name. I later questioned if it was even my name, or if I had lapsed into a dream state. Most of my dreams have sharks. There were none. I must be awake. The nice lady holding my disheveled card looked at my driver’s license, the nice lady holding the door ushered me to the counter. The nice lady behind the counter… (I’m tempted to make some comment on gender and theatre, but I’ll save that for a professional… Buddy! I need you to comment.) Anyway, the nice lady behind the counter took my money, and slid over two Wicked tickets. For row B. That’s like, row A gets drenched with sweat when Fiyero flicks his head to the side, and Row B gets to see the vein on Kara Lindsay’s neck pop when she sings. 

It was a gift. Undeserved. Unexpected. Overwhelmingly appreciated. 

A gift for my buddy. A gift for me. A silly thing to share. And to recognize that our story is not unfamiliar. And that our Father’s heart is not indifferent to ours. 

As she embarks on a new journey, a new opportunity to defy gravity, she is unlimited. And now, remaining here, it is up to me. For both of us. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” 



And also. Let’s just be honest. I totally made her popular. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Digging Up Roots

In 2007, we packed up our lives and moved to the Salt Lake City area. We had no idea what we were doing. All I knew was that I was leaving everything I'd ever known and forging a life in a city where I knew nothing and no one. I started updating this blog almost every day because, in doing that, I could update my world--the world I had left behind--on everything that was going on in our lives. Blogging isn't really a thing anymore, not in this world of influencers and YouTubers and podcasters. No one reads blogs anymore. But I find myself thinking about those early days of living here...

A friend of mine recently told me that she knew I never really liked it here.

She was a God-given gift to me when we first moved. She moved a couple hours north about a year and a half later. I can only imagine that it is our distance that created the perception that I don't like this place. To be sure, there have been challenging things. There have been cultural anomalies that, even in 11 years, I haven't quite been able to grow accustomed to. There are things I don't like about Utah.

But from anywhere, I can look east or west and see the most beautiful mountains. Snow covered peaks that jut straight into the heavens and declare His majesty. Mountains that boast of caves and streams, trees and winding roads that have taken me to adventure.

There have been hot summers at the pool. There have been fireworks and barbecues and white Christmases and the same view out my bedroom window for over a decade. There has been a job that I loved and ice cream and sports--so many softball games and baseball games and soccer games and track meets.

Here, heartbreak grew us. The Joygiver turned sorrow to blessing.

But more than all that, more than the salads from Cafe Rio and the dollar theater that has since closed, more than the school that we love and the yard that my babies turned to big boys in, more than all that, there are people. I came here friendless.

We are leaving. After 11 and a half years, we are picking up this family and unwinding it from the people we love more than anything. It feels so right. The doors He has opened cannot be closed and we must walk through them. But my broken heart hurts.

I don't typically cry in public. I put on a stone face and disconnect from the emotion of it all. I don't know if that's because of my English roots or my perfectionist personality or if I'm just an unfeeling robot. But behind a closed door, in the privacy of my own home, I am undone. I cannot even allow myself to connect with the thought that I am leaving these beautiful souls. My God, my God, in my own strength, I cannot do this.

I cannot leave my best friend. I have tried to think back. I wish I could remember the very first time I saw her but I can't. I had no idea, you see. I didn't know that the mom waiting for her toddler would become the friend that I don't know how to live without. I didn't know the memories we would make, the trips we would take, the stories we would share. I didn't know, when I left California, that there was this person just waiting to be my best friend. How did I live so many years not knowing she existed?

I cannot leave my partner and friend in ministry. When she moved several years ago, I told my mother that I didn't know how to do ministry without her. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, mercifully brought her back to me and I am eternally grateful for the extra time He allowed us. But the statement holds. I do not know how to do ministry without her. I have a vague idea that it can be done but I simply do not know how. I am afraid that I cannot live without her laugh in my life.

I cannot leave the one who really saw me. The one who accepted me for who I am and didn't put any expectations on what it meant to be the pastor's wife. She embraced my authenticity early and allowed me to be a regular mom and a regular wife and a regular person who watched hilarious sitcoms and quoted them often and unashamedly.

I cannot leave my sister-wife*. The one who loves my children as much as I do. I cannot take my youngest child from her because she prayed for him as fervently as I did. I cannot take myself away from her because I doubt very seriously that I will ever encounter a kinder soul and I do not want to live without her.

And all the other best good friends I have. All the other people who have loved on me so well. All the people who have stepped in as sisters and brothers and mentors. All the ones who have taught me and seen me. All the other ones--I could fill a book with tales of their care and support. The influence of so many is far reaching, even into the depths of my soul. I sit here and I weep at the thought of trying to dig up these roots.

To those who may have thought differently, how I have loved Utah. I have loved her so very, very deeply. I know that I will love others. I know that there are friends waiting to be made and that God will be glorified both here and there. But please, in these moments, know that my heart is broken into a million pieces.

*Not actually a sister-wife. To clarify. Because this IS Utah.