on fences

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I didn't want a white picket fence.

Let me give you a scenario. There's a girl [me] whose just returned from living on a farm in rural Nicaragua. Showers happened when it rained enough, electricity was powered by the sun, and numbers 1 & 2 were done outside. She was also sleeping under a mosquito net, in a bed made of bamboo.

There's a guy who emailed this girl every two weeks and is seeing her for the first time, in a long time, on New Year's Eve.

Any bit of romance was shot with my ranting about what I had done and seen and been exposed too. Nothing says "let's kiss at midnight" than the words - compost toilet. I was completely out of sorts and confused and figured this guy wouldn't understand.

And I figured he was the kind of guy who wanted a pretty house with a well manicured lawn, surrounded by a white picket fence. And at this moment in time, that landscape and lifestyle made me so angry and upset.

I wish I could say I didn't yell, though I think I did. I totally yelled when he said he needed to go the bathroom and I couldn't understand why he wouldn't just go outside beside the tree.

I mean, that's what I had done for the past 2 months.

"It's freezing cold, Maeve. And, there is a bathroom inside."

Mmmm. Yes. You are right.

Though for a girl who had been exposed to a developing country for the first time, my world was flipped upside down and inside out. Nothing felt the same. I cried on my Dad's shoulder when a friend asked if I wanted to get a pedicure.

Travel changes us. I believe that with all my heart. But as time goes on, as we remain "home', it gets easier to settle back in. Suddenly, you don't have a nervous break down in a grocery store. Suddenly, a hot a shower and toilet and pedicure seem pretty nice.

But it's the fences. And here's the deal, I don't dislike fences. I actually find a white picket fence surrounding a garden or patio really beautiful. We currently have a fence.

It's the feeling of comfort, of convenience, of standing still.

Because lately I've prayed a big prayer. I've prayed to be used up, I've prayed for God to hijack my day. I've prayed that He'll make it about Him completely.

But sometimes I pray with hands clenched tight.

I pray to be used up, yes, but in a way that I see fit. My plan's the best plan, right?

I pray for God to hijack my day. But please Lord, don't inconvenience or change my schedule too much. I've got things to do and people to see.

I'll pray for God to use us, on our street and in this world. And yet I see my neighbors sitting on their front stoop; the little girl with curls blowing bubbles. What if I walked over with some chalk and drew a picture with that little girl and talked with her mom?

There is power in the small acts of love y'all. So much power.

I pray to be ripped of my comforts - a hot shower and warm bed. But God, I really love gathering folks in my home, so having enough space to do that would be helpful.

Do you see what's happening here friend? Clenched fists. An inability to truly surrender. A "me" focus.

I hold so tightly to things - a home for gathering, quiet mornings, a busy schedule that I have control of. I set up boundaries without even realizing it.

Be vulnerable but not too vulnerable.

Be available but only when it works for me.

And boundaries are needed, yes. They are good. We can't give to every single person on this planet. We can't meet every need.

But what happens when our boundaries become a fortress? What happens when we've built a fence around our heart and folks can't find a place to come sit and stay a while?

Truth is, this prayer is messy and uncomfortable.

It calls us to conversations that may leave us tired in the morning. It calls us to introduce ourselves to the woman next door with hardened eyes and thick skin. It calls us to get rid of our stuff and spend money on people who may never pay us back.

It calls us to quit our jobs, sell our stuff, say no when we really want to say yes.

And that can be a scary prayer. But in all the mess and awkward moments, it seems worth it too. It's seems worth it to relinquish control, to give until it hurts, to surround ourselves with people in need of community.

I want to challenge us [me included] to step outside the fence. To see what lies on the other side. I think it might be better. I think it might be worth it.

And what if we encouraged each other when we do it? What if we cheered each other on?

So here's my request: Can you share your small act of love in the comment section below? And if you don't want to toot your own horn [though, I think you should] toot somebody else's.

In one week I'm going to pick one person. That person will receive a small gift from me in the mail. Who doesn't love mail?

Share below dear ones. Small acts of love y'all - that's all it takes.

xoxo

my back stoop

I crunched the numbers. I compared.

Wait, that can't be right.

I did it again.

Mmmk, it is right.

I let out a breath and looked down. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. If I do this [I'll get to this later, another time, another post] well, we can't save up for those things we talked about. Suddenly the thought of me making it difficult because of my silly dreams - became too much.

I can hear my heart shouting - you're dreams are never silly.

Maybe I was a wee bit dramatic. But if you know me at all, if you've been reading my words [thank you by the way] you've probably learned I am FULL of emotions, it's who I am.

It's who I've always been.

Matt went up to cut his hair. Yes, he buzzes that head of is, saving us 20 bucks a month. Love. that. man.

I grabbed my glass of wine and went to sit on our back stoop.  It had just rained.

I love the smell of rain.

Fresh bread from the oven and rain - two of my favorites.

It made me think of those times when I was little and I'd sit at the top of my driveway in the rain. I'd grab a lawn chair and umbrella and my stuffed animal or baby doll and watch the cars go by (disclaimer: there weren't many kids on my street to play with).

I'd pretend I didn't have a home, that I was wandering and stumbled upon this pretty house with well manicured bushes and wondered if they'd let me come in and have dinner.

In so many ways, I am still that little girl. A little lost, so very curious, and aching to be found.

I looked out and saw twinkling lights and our neighbors backyards. I wondered what folks were doing at this very moment too - cleaning up from dinner, bickering over taxes, cuddling on the couch?

Were they sitting on their back stoop like me? 

The door creaked open.

Babe..what are you doing? 

I needed some fresh air.

Do you want someone to sit with? 

This is one of those new marriage moments. One that feels so sweet and lovely and other days - incredibly uneasy and awkward. Because you see, when I was sad or angry or annoyed before, I could just sit in it and it didn't bother anyone. But now, it does. Now, someone aches to be part of it because they live in it too.

Now, someone so deeply desires to help and hold and carry the burden.

It doesn't really matter, I said back. 

It wasn't a yes or a no. Decisions have always been hard for me. I thought, if I left it open- the right choice of sitting and staying or going upstairs to bed would sort of just, figure itself out.

He sat. Of course he would. He's sweet and caring like that. 

One step below me, arms folded on his knees, eyes looking out at our little, tangly, messy backyard.

For a moment it felt like sitting on the stairs of his parents lake house - early in the morning, coffee mug in hand, watching dew lift off the water. It's one of my favorite views. It silences my soul in a way only nature and creation can. We'd sit and sip and be quiet. And I remember thinking, in that very moment - this is love, isn't it God? Sure, it's other things too - kisses and sacrifice and truth. But I think this is it too - sitting side by side in silence and feeling more safe and known than ever before.

This moment was not as romantic dear ones. This moment was annoyed and hurting and teary. I wanted him beside me but then again I didn't.

It felt like there wasn't enough space on our stoop for my worried, anxious heart and our two bodies.

I think, I actually do want to be alone.

He stood up. I could tell it hurt. I can always tell when my words cut deep and feel like a punch in the stomach. Because all he wants is to help and fix things.

And I resort to retreating and turning inward.

And I think friends, that sometimes, it's okay to do just that. There's a time for talking things out, for laying it all out there. But for me, this was not that time. Because as much as I wanted to say every little thing on my mind and heart, I couldn't.

I don't process things that way. I crave time time alone first. I sort of love time alone sometimes.

It feels crazy when I consider all the relationships I crave and need. All the dinner dates I love to plan and host.

But that's just it.

When I am with you - I want all of you. 

I want every nook and detail. I want to remember the part of the story when you stopped talking, looked down, and started folding a napkin in your lap.

My grandma Jul had this incredible way of making anyone feel as if they were the most important person in the whole world. In that little moment, nothing else mattered, nothing other than you and her and a cup of tea- no sugar, just milk, leave the tea bag in.

I want to know the sound of your laugh - each laugh you have. 

I want to see the shades of color in your eyes, and the way they change when you talk about your Dad.

And in return, like a good friend, I want to give you me too.

I want you to know that I love God and most days, feel so close to Him.  That this whole relationship over religion thing is all I need. But there are other times, when it's hard. When doubt and fear seep into my pores and all I want to do is run - run from this whole faith thing.

I want you to understand why I get awkward when asked "tell me about yourself " or "how are you doing". I want to give you an answer, trust me, I really do. I just struggle to weave it all together - to put in a box.

You want to know about me and how I'm doing?

Like, the real me or the person I sometimes fall into, when being honest and open is tough?

I want you to know that I find you fascinating and strong and full of light. 

I want you to see that I am trying to be better a human today than I was yesterday. I think we're all trying. I want you to know that I choose joy and gratitude every morning but the actual living it, the walking in it, yeah, that doesn't always happen.

These interactions, as sweet and hopeful and life-giving as they are, can be exhausting - in the best possible way.

So I sat alone, sipping my wine, closing my eyes, and humming along to "Oceans" by Hillsong.

It's easy to feel guilty for this. It's easy to feel like a big ol' jerk when I say to my husband, or friend or sister, "I think I just need to be alone."

But I think we need it y'all. At least I do.

Sometimes, to be the best lover and friend, it requires us to recharge, reboot and turn in. And that doesn't make us awful. It doesn't make us hopeless.

It makes us human - broken, thirsty, beautiful humans.

And trust that on your stoop or porch or coziest place in your home - you aren't ever really alone // the God of the universe holds you tight.

xoxo