November 28, 2009

I was in a theater last night watching “The Blindside” when I got a call that the mom of a dearly close family passed away. 

She was a legend.  Legend mom, wife, friend, neighbor…one of those people you can’t (and don’t want) to imagine the world without.  The kids are 17 and 15.  They are great kids – which is entirely to her credit.  A few weeks ago I was over late, just hanging out w/ them watching a football game and her husband was sitting with her on the couch, holding her hand.  In the two years that she’s been battling cancer, I had seen a side of him I didn’t know he, or really any man could have.  He was tender, more in love than ever, sacrificial…you couldn’t see them together without knowing he would gladly do this for the next 30 years.  According to him, the protocal was always “whatever it takes.”

I don’t think I ever imagined this would happen because she was larger than life: her love was, her strength was.

I first got to know her well in Colorado.  Florida was just their summer house then, and as soon as she heard i was flying to Colorado to see a knee surgeon – i wasn’t just the vacation home’s neighbor’s friend w/ a messed up knee.  I was one of their tribe too.  She had enough love that she couldn’t help but give it away.  She made a home so large there was plenty to go around…

I stayed with them the night before my first visit and the night before the surgery that would ultimately fix a knee that I didn’t know could be.  As I shared my fears – not just about the knee but about everything it represented; the bottom had fallen out for me so many times – and what if, what if there came a time I couldn’t recover, couldn’t heal, what if it never worked out?, if I never fell in love…As we talked over many occasions, she would tell the story of how she fell in love, how she raised a family, how she’d battled back cancer once before with a newborn and she’d say softly with a quiet confidence I’ve rarely seen – that it all works out.  You keep going.  You take each day as it comes, do well with what is in your hand, and have faith in God, that He knows, sees and holds all things…and things, they will happen as they need to. 

It’s not fair.  Those kids need a mother.  That man needs his wife.  The world needs more Adrienne Smiths and today we have one less.

why? i don’t know.

I think I get what the Apostle Paul was saying now when he said, “we have this treasure in jars of clay…”  Her body just couldn’t keep up with the magnificence of her spirit. 

all i know is that what I saw in her and heard from her in experiences and conversations and just plain observation was eternal; it was a treasure.  Intangible and unexplainable – but something about her, and it feels all the things she left behind, have eternal value. 

and I believe, because of her, that some things, some things are eternal…


the illustrious words of Ecclesiastes 3 have been ringing in my ears…


Because I said it…I told the boy, only the 2nd boy i have ever loved, that I’m over him.  I no longer have that little piece of me that hopes we will somehow reconcile.

time has mended.

I felt this way for a while, but I don’t like to rush statements like these.  There is so much ego involved in break-ups that sometimes the harbingers of healing and wholeness can actually be self-protective measures.  So I waited a little.

I can’t say why I even felt it necessary to say it to him in plain language.  I suppose months of distance and silence conveyed the message.  He usually laughs at me for bringing this kind of thing up.  But, there were things to say because I believe in the power of words. They can do pretty cool things and I’m grateful to have loved a guy who always allowed me the ability to speak them.

It’s fully over.  And that’s good; it’s right.

On Sunday, the pastor of my church said, “sometimes you have to let someone in again to hurt you, just so you can know that you will survive, so you know you aren’t your own protector.”  it’s a powerful statement actually, and very true for this boy who I accidentally fell in love with.  He was kinder than any man I’ve ever known; and considerate, selfless, aware.  At the exact moment I wanted to use sex as a shortcut to intimacy, this boy who had long wanted a yes told me no.  He was willing to protect me more than I was.  Men are strong, I love that about them, and I had never before known it or been able to fall into it like I did with him.  I learned a lot.  He was a good guy, but just the right bit of ass-hole – enough to reassure me that I was not the center of his world.  I liked that, I wasn’t meant to be a guy’s center; I can’t save anyone.

With him, the giving was the reward.  I could have, would have rearranged my life to see his dreams become real, but in the end – I have my theories – he only knew a world where he gave himself away and had a lifetime of experiences that said his agenda isn’t worth other people’s inconvenience.  There’s only a slim chance to love someone like that because they have to take a big risk…he never took the risk and a tangled mess of frustration, anger, and hurt choked out all the good.  I can only insist upon his value and potential now as a friend.  Maybe it will be more convincing b/c I am no longer demanding anything from him emotionally or relationally.  I am free again, to give without an agenda.

Need is a funny thing in relationships – there are obligations of intimacy on any level and you need them to be in place to move forward; but you can’t need a person in the wrong sense.  Some needs are only met by a perfect Father, and when the two get confused, it can be disastrous. But, when you are able to have that need met in God, the sheer force of the love that you are able to give away without demanding anything in return in staggering.  I found those lines and the instincts toward them in me, in these last couple years with him.  I learned some very important things about how not to set a man up to fail. Love never fails…and in this case, it left me better than it found me.  I hope he can say the same.


declaring second chances

November 24, 2009

The bible says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  I’m starting to think the modern American translation says “out of the overflow of the heart, the facebook posts.”

Yesterday I got two “Page Suggestions” both from sincere believing Christian friends of mine.

1.) The Manhattan Declaration – a site seeking to gain signers for the right-to-life, male/female marriage, and rights to religious liberty

2.) The “people of the second chance” – an organization started by Mike Foster (from XXX church fame) and Jud Wilhite (Vegas pastor, wrote a book that i bought solely b/c it was titled “Stripped”) is dubbed as “a community of individuals who advocate for radical grace and second chances in life and leadership.”

So i got to thinking…because I think a lot – about controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion.  More so, I think about how those intersect with the Gospel of Jesus in institutions like the church, government, and business.  Don’t these contradict each other? If so, which one is right? and by right, i mean, which one better reflects the heart of Jesus?

I have my thoughts but I’ll keep them to myself for the time being.

But I’m thinking.

I’m thinking about how choice is the thing that defines our humanity and about how Jesus chose to die to reconcile us to God the Father should we choose to accept the invitation to know him or not.

I’m thinking about judgement.  I’m thinking God never said I could do it but He did make it clear that He requires me to 1.) act justly 2.) love mercy and 3.) walk humbly.

I’m thinking about how I was most compelled by God’s faithfulness – that no matter who I was or what I did, He was unyielding in His willingness to participate in my life.  The first thing I ever felt (unexplainably so) from God was that I was a part of His tribe and that I was irreplaceable in His eyes.

I’m thinking I can only extend to people what I know.  So maybe I can look at what Christians are extending to other people – condemnation? forgiveness? judgement? etc… – and it will tell me a lot about how they understand God.

I’m thinking the story that I’d rather tell people is that they are loved and valued more than they know…and show them that by loving and valuing them the best I can – then leave the rest to their choices and to the God who made them.


November 18, 2009

Last night at dinner, my friend Alison mentioned in passing that the powers that be made “unfriend” a real word this week by assigning it the coveted title as 2009 Word of the Year.  Tying in second was “sexting”, “intexticated” (being distracted while texting and driving), and “tramp stamp.”

does anybody else see the pattern here?!?

Alison and I were both communication majors in college.  Ironically, we both chose paths in our 2nd majors (hers theology, mine finance) but have long since agreed that our understanding of the science of communication proved invaluable during the many trials of our 20s.  In reality, it is a study of relationships and intimacy.  Sending & receiving messages and choosing/using appropriate channels pretty much decides everything in terms of how well we accomplish our most basic need to hear and be heard.

According to psychologists, a relational model consists of 4 “boxes”: Trust – Communication – Commitment – Intimacy.  They are not a recipe in as much as they are a diagnostic.  The quality or dysfunction of any box or set of boxes influences the other(s) and ultimately the relationship as a whole.  So, for example, a relationship’s level of trust will tell a lot about the level of relationship in general; or, the quality of communication will impact the corresponding stake-holders’ ability for intimacy.  And so on…

Thus, we learn it’s impossible to have healthy relationships without healthy communication.

And we have to get great at communicating, because everyone needs relationships, people, and community.

When we don’t have that, often we lash-out for attention or look for an identity, with, say, a tatoo on the small of the back…

the words we are inventing tell a lot about who we are becoming.


It’s not surprising that “unfriending” came up at dinner.  If any two people had a reason to unfriend the other, it’s Alison and me.  The stories of hurt and anger and grace and joy and forgiveness and laughter and sisterhood over the past 12 years are far too many to share here – but know this, it has been messy and beautiful.  It has been difficult past words but it has been healing.  Love (selflessness), worked out in relationships on any level is transformative – and we are no exception.

Last night, as we told stories of days long gone, joking, “I so should have unfriended you after…” I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different had “unfriend” been part of our generation’s vernacular.  But it wasn’t and for whatever reason, we stuck it out.  We’re still shifting our friendship and approach to each other as we grow and change as individuals.  And believe me, that road demands communication and vulnerability far past a few text messages or wall posts.

While there may be a word to describe ending a story, there is not one to encapsulate the power of choosing to stay in one.  The story we tell by staying is that while it may be easy and tempting to disengage a relationship with the click of the button and less terrifying to express emotions in para-language on a 2 dimensional screen, there is nothing like, nor a substitute for, the experience of a well-rooted friendship.  There is no better feeling than a hug after a really tender conversation.  Al and I have been through hell (sometimes we put the other one there!) and yes, our friendship has cost us greatly; but, the degree to which we’ve beset each other has also been the degree to which we have allowed the other into very arcane and fragile places, to shed light and love.

This past June, Alison called while I was sitting at the base of Vail mountain eating Marble Slab.  I hadn’t yet put words to events that we both knew were significant when she asked “Are you ok?”.  I could only reply “Yes, but I probably won’t be tomorrow.”  There was a not even a breathe of a pause before I heard, “Well, I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

I hope one day there’s a word for that…


November 17, 2009

Long before i wrote a massive check for an MBA at a top 10 school, my grandfather would often tell me, “remember: you don’t know what you don’t know.”

What I didn’t know then is that I would revisit this wisdom in my management class at Duke.  Officially called “metaknowledge”, there is an idea among leading researchers that leaders must properly account for  information that is unknown, but more so, not known that it’s unknown (got that?!?).  Apparently, we are great as humans, at underestimating what we do not know.  That is to say, we know that there are things we do not know, we just think those things are far fewer than they actually are.

and right this second, i’m not sure i know anything…

so back to my point…there are two situations right now that i’m dealing with and they are important – to me and those impacted by them.  As I’ve been thinking through them to find the right and best solution – it’s occurred to me that just because I have reached a decision by a familar path/line of thinking, doesn’t mean the thinking is actually correct.

shocking, i know…

seriously though, it JUST occurred to me that the value I place on certain outcomes and the ways in which i reach those ends may not be the correct one(s).  Basically, what if everything I know about how to know/understand a problem and arrive at a conclusion is wrong?

I want to think if everyone is happy, it is obviously right.  I want to think that if I can take something on personally and deal with it privately and cleanly, it must be correct. But, maybe not.  Maybe I’ve underestimated how seemingly ridiculous and disconnected events can actually be exactly the right way to the perfect outcome.

If God is who He says He is, He can see this.  He can account for the familiar problem-solving paths I take and also the ones I’m totally unaware of.  Even better, I find a huge sense of relief in knowing i don’t have to know everything, i don’t have to know what i know or even know what i don’t know – i just have to know the one who does.

So, i’m kind of going back to these two situations with a blank canvas – and realizing that perhaps i don’t know what i don’t know…I’m going to think a little less and listen a little more…to the One whose “voice thunders in marvelous ways; [who] does great things beyond my understanding…” (Job 37:5)


November 10, 2009

Mark Batterson wrote in his book “Wild Goose Chase” that Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective.

Nothing could be truer. (is that a word?)…

So anyway, I’m back from Dubai – after an incredibly busy and rich 12 days.  I’m trying to work through the implications of yet another overseas trip and how seeing what I have seen has changed and needs to change my perspective.  I can’t say I’ve gotten in all, but here’s a short list:

1.) Dubai is a land of STARK contrasts.  Opulence and slavery exist side-by-side. A do-anything Vegas feel is ensconced in Muslim undertones. The old souks are minutes away from the largest mall in the world.  So what in my life is is discordant?  Do i say one thing and do another? Believe one thing and live a different way?  It’s time to lessen the distance between who I want to be and who I am on as many levels as possible.

2.) Dubai as we know it – the crazy buildings, palm islands, etc were essentially built in 7 years.  SEVEN years.  My heart is for people: to see everyone in my reach moving towards freedom and life.  I am passionate about reaching people, especially young men, who have been sexually abused.  I think sex, sexuality, and intimacy are the parts of us that most need the Gospel and power of Jesus.  It seems insurmountable, but is it? If a group of people can take “impossible” out of their dictionary to simply construct buildings and islands, I think I can move forward with bringing the imagination of my heart to reality.  They did what they did in seven years in inspiring and challenging.  I have no excuses.

I get overwhelmed sometimes: because the things that I want to do seem larger than life – and they are actually.  And I know me.  I know my limitations and my inconsistencies.  But, I’m learning that God knows them to.  And that I’m designed to fold into this Gospel, that through death, there is resurrection.  I’m compelled by a Gospel that does not say “well done good and successful” but “well done good and FAITHFUL”…I may not be able to swing one over the fence in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded,  but I can keep getting up to bat and trust the rest to God.

Thanks Dubai…I needed that