sky

This last fall, Brad and I went for a walk around our quiet 1960s neighborhood. About 15 minutes in, a pair of F-15s streaked through the sky over us, so loud I pressed my hands to my ears. A few minutes later, another pair sliced above us in another direction.

We stopped on the side of the road to watch.

“Where do you think they’re going?”

“I had no idea they were so loud.”

We started up again and a wave of gratefulness hit me. The sound of a fighter jet is a novelty to me. It’s not the white noise of my life. Brad and I–like a lot of you, I bet–talk a few times a week about Syria and other places at war. We talk about the horrible news or images we saw that day. We talk about the selfishness and appetite for power that makes leaders fight. We talk about the desire for justice (and other, less positive desires) that makes our country get involved. We imagine the horror. We don’t let ourselves imagine the horror.

We mostly talk about how we don’t know what to do.

//////////

One day at work, our filtered water ran out and the delivery man was a few days late with the refill. We started off joking:

“I am so parched.”

“I can’t think about anything but water…”

“My brain is drying up!”

100 feet away from our desks was a water fountain. Drinkable water dispensed on command from a convenient spout.

“Ew, that fountain is so gross.”

“I don’t care how thirsty I get, I can’t drink from that.”

“I couldn’t POSSIBLY drink that water.”

//////////

I read an account of a mother in Syria who, faced with incoming militants, had to choose which of her two young children to grab in her arms while she ran and which child to let run on his own.

//////////

I’m not confronted with bombs. I’m not deafened by gunfire. My heart isn’t pounding because I can hear the boots of violent men coming toward me. But this is probably true: In Syria, my counterpart exists. A 31-year-old woman with a baby who would give anything to have my problems. I know Jesus loves her as tenderly as he loves me. But does she know that? Has any other image bearer, any woman carrying the aroma of our savior stepped in to help her? Is there any one to grab her other child and run with her?

I can’t be that woman, at least not today when my arms are full of a squirmy three-week-old and my butt is planted on my sofa nursing 85 percent of the day. But I can do a few things from that sofa. Here are my ideas:

Feel the full conviction of my lukewarmness It took the story of that fleeing woman to humanize the refugee crisis for me. Before that, I was all too content to think, “Those poor people,” and move on. Forgive me, God, for not seeing your beautiful creation in her moment of need. Forgive me for thinking I don’t owe her anything. I owe her your love and mercy. I owe her open arms and service.

Understand the church’s response Many people smarter than I are writing with conviction about what Jesus commanded regarding care for refugees and other overlooked, oppressed people. I’m carefully reading and thinking about those articles, and digging into my Bible to read it for myself. If you’re interested: Dr. Russell Moore on why the refugee ban must be reconsidered. A New York Times article on why Christian leaders are denouncing the ban. Wise woman Erin Loechner on day to day hope and action for those of us stuck on sofas, in line at the grocery store, or commuting to work.

Pray the truth, pray for mercy From my corner of the living room, I can call on the highest power in the universe to step in and cause sweeping governmental change. I can ask the one who whispered the stars into the sky to bring food to the hungry in Aleppo today. I can confidently know that He hears and He acts based on the prayers of his people.

Call my representatives This is the hardest one for me, a true millennial when it comes to making phone calls. I’m dreading it, but I’m doing it. I’m calling my representatives (find yours and his or her phone number here) and modifying this script to let them know I’m against the immigrant ban as written in the President’s executive order. (I’m thrilled to report that two of my representatives have already opposed the ban. You can find out if yours have, too, at NPR.)

Be grateful My problems are another woman’s dream. I will give thanks accordingly.

P.S. World Vision’s Refugee Crisis Fund is a good one to support right now. Real, on-the-ground merciful help for those who need it.

einkorn-gingerbread-waffles

We deemed December the Month of Waffles at our house. Saturday mornings were set aside for waffling. First a basic multigrain recipe, then blueberry waffles, and then, these.

Dark gingerbread waffles with a crisp exterior and chewy interior.

Enough spice to really mean something.

And a complex, subtle sweetness from the mix of molasses and coconut sugar.

December may be over, but gingerbread, as Celine Dion puts it, will go on and on in our house.

A guide to eating: The first bite of these waffles is underwhelming. The second bite begins to fill the mouth with spice and a touch of heat. By the third bite, you can’t stop. This goodness doesn’t need any additional syrup or sugar on top, just butter or whipped cream.

einkorn gingerbread waffles
adapted (barely) from Smitten Kitchen
makes 6 large waffles

If you have any waffles leftover, store them at room temperature in a covered container, then eat them like cookies with milk. It’s possibly even better than when they’re hot off the iron.

1 cup einkorn flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
scant 1/2 cup full-fat yogurt thinned with enough milk to bring it to 1/2 cup
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter (I used salted), melted, plus more for your waffle iron
unsweetened or lightly sweetened whipped cream if you have it!

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt and milk mixture, molasses, sugar, egg, and butter. Pour the wet into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Heat waffle iron and brush with melted butter. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into the waffle iron and cook according to your iron’s directions. Mine takes about 3-4 minutes a waffle. When cooked, carefully remove the waffle from the iron. These are very soft and a little sticky when they first come off the iron but then miraculously crisp up on the plate within a few seconds.

Serve hot with butter or whipped cream (the ultimate).

cookbooks2

You’ve heard that buzzword “hygge” by now, haven’t you? If not, it’s a Danish word that’s pronounced “hoo-guh” and is a blanket term to describe anything that captures the coziness of home. Think: candles, a cable knit sweater, playing old-fashioned board games with friends, a cup of coffee in a handcrafted mug with milk swirling in it, or basically anything else an introvert loves. (This is a funny article that offers more detail.)

Hygge is inherently a cold-weather state of mind for me, and cookbooks fall into that same category. To me, the best ones cradle me like comfort food, filling my mind with stories and inspiration and a way of living, regardless of the type of food held within. In the winter, I often find myself pulling one out of my cookbook crate to read through (with a cup of tea or hot cocoa, obviously). Once in a while I even cook something out of them.

Top 6 Hygge Cookbooks

6. Let Us All Eat Cake by Catherine Ruehle What is a gluten-free cake cookbook doing in this list? I mean gluten-free baking has a sort of fussy rep, let’s be real. But this book treats the whole gluten-free thing as a tasty aside, second fiddle to what we all really came here for: Really Yummy Cake. The chapter on Breakfast, Snack, and Coffee Cakes is the one you want. I mean, breakfast cake is really peak hygge, am I right? I’m hoping to try the Polenta Breakfast Cake with Honey-Citrus Syrup or the Fruitcake (yes, really) with Citrus-Ginger Syrup while winter holds.

5. Canal House Cooking Vol. 8 Pronto! by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton Italian food is comforting enough to qualify this book’s spot on the list, but I’m more drawn to it for the edifyingly simple approach: Start with this small collection of standards (capers in vinegar, San Marzano plum tomatoes, bucatini, anchovies), consult this shortlist of Italian wines, read this recipe that’s written in paragraph form to show you how effortless a good meal can be.

4. Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce By now, an oldie but a goodie. I still lean on her expert recipes for chocolate chip cookies, waffles, pancakes, and ideas for what to do with the random whole grains I always seem to have in my pantry. She never, ever makes a misstep. Everything tastes amazing and, even trickier when dealing with alternative grains, comes out perfectly every time. Just listen: Honey Amaranth Waffles, Strawberry Barley Scones, Oatmeal Sandwich Bread, Quinoa Porridge… Plus, everything is photographed beautifully on perfectly scarred wooden surfaces. Scarred wood is so hygge.

3. Mast Brothers Chocolate by Rick Mast and Michael Mast First of all, this is a beautiful object inside and out. Outside, there’s that signature printed paper. Inside, full page photos simply shot facing spare recipes with superb typography. The narrative at the beginning of how these brothers started their chocolate business had me reaching for our container of cocoa just for the smell. Hot cocoa is my personal brand of hygge nirvana. It’s an automatic mood booster and bringer of deep content.

2. The Ginger & White Cookbook by Tonia George, Emma Scott, and Nicholas Scott Being British is automatically hygge. This cafe started with three friends wanting to bring “serious” coffee to London, which led to creating a substantial breakfast menu. I mean, they’re not messing around: Toasted Banana Bread with vanilla cream cheese, rhubarb, and raspberries; Spicy Baked Beans on toast with red bell peppers, chorizo, and feta cheese; Egg Cozies, whatever the heck those are. I read this and immediately wanted to flip our day to make breakfast the most important sit-down meal we share. Save the smoothies for dinner.

1. The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater Could no. 1 be anything but Nigel Slater? This is my favorite of his cookbooks, which really do need to be read straight through. This one is essentially his kitchen notebook opened for us so we can read how he stops at the shop on his way home from work for a loaf of crusty bread and a jar of preserved lemons, and how he scrapes dirt off the last of the season’s carrots from his kitchen garden, and how he takes his gingerbread “with green tea in the afternoon.” I mean… This isn’t the first time I’ve declared my love for this book.

P.S. My favorite bakers to follow on Instagram: @lizprueitt_tartine (not just a baker, but WHO CARES when she posts full recipes for the dishes she’s developing for Tartine’s various outposts?), @zakthebaker, @frysbakery, and @joseybakerbread.

grand-canyon

Sometimes, it’s better to hold it in. Sometimes it’s better to take the life you’re living, hold it, look at it, think about it, and do that over and over again without the interruption of explanation.

For more than a year, I’ve been in that mode. I didn’t stop to say, “I’m not going to blog any more.” I didn’t think, “Time to spend less time posting to social media.” Those things just happened. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like sharing online as much (I know–here’s my millennial card. Take it away, I don’t deserve it).

Looking back, this has been a time of listening and observing. So much happened, but none of it made it here. Instead, it’s in my journal, it’s in words poured out over glasses of wine or mugs of tea with friends, in the car with Brad, over text and skype calls with family. In other words, our victories and defeats, our dancing and falling felt private. Or rather, they felt most alive and complete in a real-life context.

But some of those events and thoughts and conversations are now rattling around in my head in that “write me down” kind of way, so even though this feels totally rusty, I’m going to try to start again. After all, I’ve read so many good books that need discussed. I have Thoughts about current events that need an outlet. My heartbeat is pumping to a slightly different rhythm than it was even 18 months ago. Meals have been eaten! Ch-ch-changes, everyone.

Here are some of those:

// My faith has changed. Not in a huge way from an outsider’s perspective, probably, but in a dramatic way to me. I don’t know how else to say it except that Jesus, who still feels like a little bit of a wild card to me, is suddenly mattering in every little thing I do. Like, sometimes I don’t even shower without asking Him to be with me first. The long version of that is worth at least two dinners and a coffee date. The short version is that He has invited me into a spiritual landscape that is huge and wide and wild and full of peace and so much is making sense.

// I left publishing. I’m no longer a magazine editor. For a few months, I worked at a startup in a marketing position. I’m not doing that anymore either. More to come.

// This is probably burying the lead, but Brad’s health has improved remarkably. Even though he’s felt significantly better for a little more than a year now, I still can’t wrap my head around it. Honestly, that change is probably one of the reasons I stopped writing here. Him feeling better really really stunned me in the best possible way. I promise I’ll say more about this, too.

// Speaking of Brad (I love speaking of Brad), he is just the best. That’s not a change, I guess, just a blessing. I remember someone telling me once that the 7-year mark in a marriage was one of the most difficult. It was the most common year to get a divorce in or something. I am here to tell you NOPE. This year has been the BEST. Has it been the easiest? No. Oh my gosh, no. It’s been rough in so many ways. But our marriage? That’s been the most precious gift. Now I’m going to start crying, as I always do when I think about how great Brad is. (You’re totally allowed to gag here.)

// We moved to Nashville! We left the Bay Area a few months ago because rent. And because we wanted to be closer to family and to these guys. We’re still getting settled, but the South is growing on me. The only thing is–and I know how this sounds–I miss California’s recycling scene.

THAT IS ALL. I mean, not really, but that’s all for right now.

photo: I’ve seen the Grand Canyon with my own two eyes since I last wrote here. It is spectacular.

butchertownhall

We live in Nashville now.

Yes, this is a new start for us—a new address, a new job, a new lifestyle, a new church, a new community, a new Trader Joe’s—but like a lot of new starts, it doesn’t have a clean beginning and ending.

The beginning: Almost two years ago now, Brad and I were making dinner in our closet-size kitchen 25 minutes outside of San Francisco. I was wedged into the 1-1/2 square feet of space in front of our stove, stirring something, Brad was shuffling around the 10-inch perimeter around the dishwasher putting clean dishes away. What started as a “How was your day?” conversation turned into a “What do we want our life to look like in 3 years?”

If you’ve never asked yourself or your partner that question, you should. It was incredibly clarifying and fun as we both started dreaming out loud.

“I’d like a house with an extra room where someone could stay for a few months if they were in a rough spot.”

“I’d like kids—“

“—and enough flexibility in our work that we can both be around at least some of the time during the day.”

“I want to see family more than once or twice a year.”

“I want a big garden so we can grow some of our food.”

“I want to simplify our budget, how we spend our time, our work. We need a margin and then we can give that margin of money, time, and energy away. We can say yes to serving.”

“I want a house where our community knows they can stop by every Friday night. Where there’s an open invitation to be with us.”

We went on like this for about 10 minutes and our smiles grew bigger and bigger as we got into it (“we should have fruit trees!” “and a sofa deep enough for us to both lay down on it at once!”). Then we made eye contact and had the same thought. I’m not sure which one of us said it first: We can’t do this here.

That was a big enough conversation for that night. But over the next 18 months, we inched the thought forward over dinner, while watching Jimmy Fallon, in the Costco parking lot, while staring at the ocean.

The ending: We didn’t make a clean break. It took about 12 months of talking and six months of job hunting for both of us before I got a job offer in Nashville. Almost two months after that before we rolled up here with our potted lemon tree in the back seat of the Malibu. Another three weeks before we settled that lemon tree on the front step of a rental house—our house!

Our conversation hasn’t ended there. So much of moving here feels emphatically Right. Some of moving here feels like we have a little work to do still. A little bit of margin-making to figure out. It’s kind of uncomfortable. I love love love feeling settled. I feel most able to be brave when I’m safe and centered. But the off-kilter feeling I get from big changes also pushes me to trust, pushes me to pray, pushes me to depend on and receive from others (that last one is the hardest for me).

Keeping me anchored while I balance my kilter? Seeing family more times in the last six months than in almost the last three years combined. A winter warm enough to go for a walk outside almost every day. Hanging out with these guys IRL. A whole gosh darn house with nobody above or beside us. And the rock solid promises of provision, lovingkindness, and being with us that put this transition in its place: Same God, different geography.

I think we’re going to like it here, y’all.

german chicken soup

I wrote this a couple months ago and didn’t post it because it was one of those times in life where even pressing Publish felt like one task too many. I’m posting it now because this soup really was amazing, and if you happen to be where there’s still a chill in the air (or if you happen to be in need of some comfort yourself), you’ve still got time to make it!

If you looked at our meals last week, you’d get a picture of how I’m feeling lately:

Caramelizing onions for French onion soup helps me pretend my life’s pace is slower that it is. My favorite panzanella helps me feel good about my body, loaded broccoli cheese quinoa soup is unadulterated comfort food, so was the roast chicken. And, ok, so was this chicken soup with dumplings. Looking at it now, it was a culinary cry for help.

I’m ok with that. Let food be thy medicine, right?

All of it helped, but it was this soup that blew me away. This soup, you guys. It’s like a hug. Buttery broth that’s light enough to drink gallons, soft potatoes, chewy dumplings. It is the Meryl Streep of soups. So perfect.

By the way, I grew up with dumplings being pillowy biscuits with wonderfully damp bottoms that steamed on top of soup. These are more like dumpling chunks (wow, that sounds terrible). Is that what makes this German? Are you a chunk dumpling or pillow dumpling person? Regardless, eat this.

german chicken soup with dumplings 
lightly adapted from Food and Wine

I took the time to finely dice everything into even 1/2-inch chunks. It made the final result perfectly balanced–a veggie on every spoon and room for the dumplings, too.

for the dumplings:
1 cup einkorn flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

for the soup:
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
7 cups chicken stock (I used half homemade stock and half water)
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup organic heavy cream

Make the dumplings: Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of water and mix with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (about 3 minutes). Transfer the dough to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer the dumplings to the prepared pan and cover with a damp kitchen towel.

Make the soup: In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the stock/water, bay leaves, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Add the dumplings, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dumplings are puffed and cooked through, about 3o minutes. (Note: Mine didn’t puff enormously, just a little. And I tasted one to see if it was cooked through enough to a pleasant texture.) Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves and serve.

books end of 2015

LATE. I’m so late with this. Please don’t take it out on these books. They deserve more than that. These are the best reads I had from July onward. One of them is OH MY GOSH A CLASSIC FOR A REASON.

5. Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny I confess I like short stories that are clever retellings of what we all feel rather than those that are capital G Good but so unreadable I’d literally rather be parked on the Bay Bridge for two hours because someone tied a chain across all the westbound lanes as a protest (this actually happened) than read them. (Paging Lydia Davis. Sorry.) These stories, happily, are both very good and very readable. If you’re a woman in her 30s who reads the Internet, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in these. Almost all of them are about a woman in a relationship she probably shouldn’t be in. Almost all of them are funny. Many of them sad in that quiet, everyday way. And you guys know I love sad stories.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel There’s a scene in this book that takes place about 18 hours after an apocalyptic flu kills virtually all the world’s population. A few survivors are stranded at an airport. They watch a plane land outside. During this scene, you will either be crying or horrified or both because Emily St. John Mandel knows how to tease meaning out of the most mundane actions. Much of the book follows survivors who have formed a theatrical troupe. I loved thinking about the role art plays in a disaster, about sorting out what’s good and bad in extreme circumstances, and how relationships form and last. But mostly I’ll read this again just to catch the wonder of what’s everyday to us: airplanes, refrigeration, phones, lights, people.

3. Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey Shout-out to book cover designers because I judged this book by its star-speckled midnight black cover and was totally rewarded. This is a spectacular illness memoir. (I promise I do read uplifting, cheerful things. I guess I just don’t like them as much?) The author has an extreme sensitivity to artificial and natural light. When light touches her skin, it feels like a blowtorch is on her. As her illness progresses, she retreats further back into her house and tries different coping mechanisms. As she lays in the dark, she runs the fences of her limitations, chooses to leave the future alone, and thinks and thinks and thinks. It’s riveting. There was so much in this book that expressed my experience with Brad’s illness. The hope of a new treatment, the despair when it fails, the fear of the future, the wonder of what will be asked of you and worse: what you’ll have to ask of other people. As I read, I couldn’t stop nodding yes, yes, yes.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Everyone is telling you to read this book. Everyone is right. But if you don’t trust everyone, trust me: Read this book. The writing has the kind of sentences I read, read again, then said out loud, then read again, then thought about underlining even though I was reading a library book. I WILL NOT BE TAMED. It’s set during World War II, but totally without the usual cliches. It’s about a girl and a boy, but not the way you think. It humanizes the bad guy and grows compassion for the bully, while never quite excusing them. Also the author lives in Idaho and if he can write this from there, certainly I can blog more than twice a year from here. (That probably wasn’t Mr. Doerr’s intention when putting this book out into the world, but whatever.)

1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck Just a little undiscovered treasure to recommend for you all. But really. The only way to describe how swept up I was in this book, how it carried me and devastated me, is to share a quote from the book itself: But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands. I was Tom while reading this book. It is everything a classic should be: Bread and wine after only eating Larabars for a week.

/////////////////////////

Can I briefly throw shade at the worst books I read last year? These are the ones I was sorely tempted to throw at the wall.

The Wall Creeper by Nell Zink. OH MY WORD. Were I not held captive in a Denver hotel room with no other books and were this book longer than 100 some pages, I would not have finished it. It got rave reviews, not a single one of them deserved. Wake me up when something happens, Nell.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. People I love and trust love this book. I thought nothing happened except me snorting at how unbelievable the emotional story was.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. Boooooooooring.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I like Amy Poehler, but the majority of this book was her whining about how she didn’t have time to write this book. I wish I hadn’t had time to read it.

 

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

Brad and I watched Interstellar over Christmas break. Every time I watch something about space, be it Gravity, Wall-E, Nova, my heart trembles. There is so much we look at with wonder in this world, but space seems actually magical. There can’t be another explanation for it. Except, as Interstellar tells you, there is. Human brains have somehow worked out the math and physics and theory and faith to know what’s going on in the blackness. To say, with some confidence, that a planet 1,300 light years away from where I sit right now likely has mountains that soar skyward and water pooling in the valleys left in their wake. That it takes 385 days to orbit its star–like our year, only with more breathing room.

It’s breathtaking.

The day after watching the movie, we watched the extras explaining (in the dumbest terms possible, I’m sure), the theory of relativity and how it affects time dilation. I feel smarter just typing that. Except I can’t remember all the details, only the example they gave: Say you’re sitting on a bench on the side of the road and your clone drives by you at 35 mph. To the you on the bench, time is experienced slightly slower than it is by the you in the car.

As soon as I heard that, something clicked. I’m the girl in the car. I want to be the girl on the bench. My job got more stressful. My commute got longer. I changed. Vistas opened, vistas closed. The car is picking up speed and I can’t hold on to the time. So I’ve instinctively pulled back from anything extra. I stopped working out, I canceled weeknight plans (and some weekend ones). I stopped writing here, I journaled in fits and starts. Anything to put some of me back on the bench and get the rest that slow time gives.

I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until I saw Interstellar. It took a principle of how the galaxy spins to help me understand what was happening in my head.

////////////////////////////////

There’s a song we sing at church with the line “you make me brave.” I love this song because I never feel brave. I feel like clamping my eyes shut, swallowing hard, and stepping forward because that’s all I can do. The idea of being brave intoxicates me. Obviously, the “you” here is Jesus (it’s a church song, remember?), and it’s true–nothing makes me more brave than knowing how he loves me (and you, and her, and him). But there’s also the bravery that comes from Brad walking beside me to make me volunteer for something I desperately want to do but am scared of. There’s borrowed courage in my friend Kristin’s note that essentially says, I’m with you and I love you. There is the scent of bravery still on the purple knitted shawl my step grandmother (I hate that term–she’s dear dear family, and young enough to be my mom) sent me with a note about the prayers uttered during its making. There is bravery in my niece’s smile, in my sister’s voice singing forgotten lullabies from Charlotte’s Web, even in celebrating Christmas, as my friend Shanna reminded me.

In 2016, I’m asking to be made brave. Brave enough to stay in the car. Brave enough to find a way onto the bench. Brave enough to trust completely. Brave enough to feel joy. Brave enough to go. Brave enough to stay.

photo courtesy of NASA, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Full story behind it here.

FullSizeRender

The trick about writing a pouring out post like my last is that as soon as I write it and hear from all you, I don’t feel that way anymore. You lift my burden with your comments, your emails, your texts, your thoughts. Thank you.

Aside from my emotional state, Brad feels better this month, too. He’s taking a few new supplements for his gut and his cellular metabolism and has more energy lately than I think I’ve ever seen from him in our married life. He’s working out again! The swelling in his knees is going up and down again. We might have the beginnings of health for him and I am so so so relieved.

And with that happy frame of mind, I read Stephen Colbert’s profile in GQ this morning.

I didn’t know this, but his dad and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10. He suffered. But this is the astounding thing he says about it now:

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

He explains that he feels gratitude for that tragedy. It gave him a worldview. He watched his mom live broken, but not bitter:

He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity.

I’m standing at my desk reading and nodding because Stephen Colbert gets it. He gets that at the bottom of suffering is so much joy. Joy that you’re carried by people who love you. Joy that you’re held tight forever by the One who saves. Joy that this isn’t all there is. This has never been all there is.

It sounds crazy because it is crazy: I’m happy Brad and I are going through this. These ups and downs will make us and bring us, broken but not bitter, to Paradise. OR TO THE LATE SHOW because obviously Stephen Colbert and I are interchangeable at this point.

photo taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens

ocean beach

I’m not sure which is the harder pain: a doctor out of ideas saying, “Maybe lymphoma?” Searching an ultrasound screen to see if you can tell with your bare eyes if your husband’s kidney is failing. Hooking him up to an IV twice a day for months.

Or what we’re going through now.

“Now” isn’t dramatic speculative diagnoses (that thankfully turned out to be wrong), or scary tests and heavy medicine. Now is the point where another doctor says the words we’ve heard from every doctor before him. “I don’t know why this isn’t working. This always works. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

So we sit on our couch in our living room and ask one another what’s next. He says maybe we stop everything and try a new fast. I say let’s do that since we don’t have any momentum to lose anyway. We both think, but what if that doesn’t work either?

And what if it doesn’t? I’m asking because I really don’t know. If it doesn’t work, if everything keeps not working, his elbows and ankles will get bigger and bigger. The pain that comes and goes in his hands and feet will lodge their permanently. The days he can barely get in and out of a chair will become more frequent. The times I need to help him put on his socks will become routine.

And then what?

The scariest thing in the world to me isn’t dying. The scariest thing is watching the world of the man I love shrink from the wide, wide everything to our neighborhood, to our house, to a wheelchair. The scariest thing is looking into our future and seeing pain. My faith tells me there will be grace, and love, and joy to meet that pain. But this morning my vision is foggy and the pain is the most clear.

Here is the string I’m holding onto as we dangle over the edge of this cliff:

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)