in sickness and in health: chronicles of injuries and caretaking

This surgery’s been a long time coming, though we didn’t know it.

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Mark hurt his (ring) finger about a month ago, playing frisbee. He dove for a catch (read: threw his body toward the unforgiving earth with too much confidence in his youth and flexibility) and dislocated and fractured his lil digit.

At first, we thought it was just a dislocated joint, especially because he had “popped it back in” right after the crash. It took an x-ray three weeks later to reveal that he had popped it back in…just not to the right place.

The joint (first one up from the base) was popped out about a finger’s width on top of the rest of the hand, and the bone connecting the two joints was chipped, too. The way the surgeon described it, it seemed like the three weeks’ delay had been like a desert storm on that lil chip, wearing away at it until it was no more. Here, questions abound: where did the fragment go? Does it get reabsorbed into the blood stream? Is there a lot of erosion going on in our bodies, normally? If so, what’s doing all that jostling in there? I didn’t know how to phrase these questions appropriately and quickly enough to ask.

So the surgeon reset Mark’s joint (as a “let’s just see if this works” measure) and scheduled the formal surgery (because we were pretty sure the measure wouldn’t work) for the following Thursday. And since the resetting, Mark was told to keep his hand elevated above his heart — it prevents undue swelling — and thus, the multitude of photos of the Markling in the perpetual worshipful-hand-raise pose.

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After that first manual resetting, Mark was in a lot of pain. A desperate, helpless, sleepless kind of pain that demands all your attention but only intensifies when you offer it. He texted me all through those first two nights, unable to sleep — midnight… 1 am… 3 am… 5 am… It was heartbreaking, and I was completely useless to help. We tried getting the surgery moved up, but no luck.

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Fear and Powerlessness
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But it wasn’t all pain and tears. We did some fun stuff this past month, too. @ Thomas Sweet.
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also, Pasta.

The surgery day finally came, and as it approached, Mark’s fear grew and grew. It was kind of astounding to me, because I have an almost unnaturally blase attitude toward medical procedures. Needles, blood-giving, surgery…it’s all NBD to me. All the opposite for Mark. He despises needles, hates the thought of steel objects penetrating his dermis, fears physical pain above all else. Don’t tell the terrorists, but he would last zero seconds under torture…

The fear was palpable and uncontrollable. I was even getting frustrated with him — the fear becoming bigger than a matter of the finger and the pain itself and triggering questions of character, of faith. Why is he so afraid/what is it that makes me not as afraid? At the core, I trust in the medical establishment and their ability to make me better. Does he not believe that? Is this a trust-of-establishment thing? Why does he always expect the worst? Is it a God thing? Does he not believe that God has this under control? Is he even praying? 

I tried, really, to be patient — though I broke down at the last minute and mini-yelled at him to “Stop meeping!” right as we were walking into the surgery center. Worst, ever. I know. He forgave me, gracious even amidst the fear.

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Behind this tight-lipped smile is fear and anxiety, don’t let him fool you and please pray for him.

We met with the surgeon and discussed what the procedure would be like. Mark was small and shivery in his flimsy hospital gown and high-fashion hair net. We tried to watch Food Network to distract him from the gloomy chill of the pre-op area, analyzing cupcake flavors and laughing at the made-up drama of food competition TV shows. It was hard, though, because the surgeon had just told us that it would not be a good idea for Mark to travel right after his surgery, as we had been planning to do. Mark’s brother was graduating the next day, so we had planned to head down to be there.

It makes so much sense, in hindsight, that we would have to stick around at home and let Mark rest over the weekend, but we just had no idea what it would be like. We are — luckily — both pretty inexperienced in hospital procedures and figured that as long as I did the driving, it would be no big deal for us to travel. Wrong-oh. The surgeon looked at us with the single eyebrow raise almost visible through his tight facial control, questioning our common sense, and advised that it would be best to take it easy all weekend, hang out on the couch, watch TV, and administer meds as necessary.

It was disappointing… But I came to be grateful for the dashed plans, because this meant that both our schedules were completely free for the time that we had expected to be away.

Those four-ish hours in the waiting room flew by… I was busy texting updates and emailing prayer requests, reaching out and asking to be touched. My fear bubble had grown, too, because fear is infectious — I was feeling grave and sad and sending out pings in hopes of receiving some back. And receive I did.

People came through. Events like these, I realized, clarify who makes up your community and family. People called, emailed, texted, visited (!), letting us know that they loved us and were praying for Mark. Mark’s family even came up on Saturday to see Mark after his surgery and to grab a meal with us. Afterwards, Mark smiled like a goon and said, “I love my family,” at which I cracked up cause, like, duh.

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Scott calls Mark to encourage and to love. “Be strong and courageous,” he said (Joshua 1:7). “WHAT A GOOD GUY,” we said.
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A snippet of the post-op email update sent out to the DC small group. Theme: “We are so grateful.”

The surgeon came out, showed me before and after x-rays, complete with new bits of bone and pins poking through. He said that the joint was able to bend all the way to normal range (110 degrees, for those of you counting), so we’re hoping that with physical therapy, Mark can reset the doc’s PR for best recovery.

And thus began our four-day weekend of resting and worrying and relaxing and an uncharacteristic amount of cooking on my part. Like seriously, I have never cooked so many things in the span of four days. Who even am I?

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Couch-sleeper, thanks to J&Q’s gracious generosity. After finding out that we weren’t going to be going to Mark’s parents’ place for the weekend, we had to figure out real quick where we’d set this guy up — I didn’t want him to be alone. In short, my housemates are the best.
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Mac and cheese cures all.
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Bananer bread, gone in three days. Go us.
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“This is my favorite thing that you’ve ever cooked for me.” How can I not make it again? It’s super easy — pad krapow gai by Chef John: http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2017/04/spicy-thai-basil-chicken-my-pad-krapow.html

It was a weekend of fitful sleeping, for sure, what with the medicine schedule and the jingle-jangle of Rogue the dog’s midnight prowls through the living room. But we did things we’ve never. done. before as a couple: hang around the house for hours, cook multiple meals in a row, (re)watch seasons of TV shows old and new, sit on the couch until my back hurt, do zero things of productivity. Like, normal people weekend activities. I know we were caring for an invalid here, but it felt kind of luxurious to me, in some ways.

And I got a teensy little taste of what it means to serve selflessly — like, putting my needs and wants on a back burner somewhere and thinking first about somebody else. And I noticed that the caretaking got easier over the weekend as I got more used to it. My selfish sharp edges were dulled a little in the face of real need and a very polite customer. Mark was an easy patient, grateful and eager to get better.

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#adulting at the grocery store, where we went to take a walk and advantage of the deals.

He has his post-op appointment on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow. And as our super-weekend winds down this evening, the Sunday feels are real. We’re sitting here, both back in our respective productivity modes as I blog with a vengeance and he puts the finishing touches on the wedding website. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel really refreshed from what was actually a pretty stressful weekend. Ironic, yep. Such great ups and downs we’ve traveled in the span of these past 48-or-60-or-whatever hours — counting in chunks of four-to-six as the prescription bottles dictate, constantly asking for the enumeration of pain levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel?), cooking and eating real meals, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott (and falling asleep to an anime episode…), taking stock of one another and feeling grateful for the way things are and not how they could’ve been.

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Eating mac and cheese on the floor, enjoying a cold sodie pop and cider while we watch Netflix via the PS3. “I feel like a real American!”

Will have to keep you posted on how we fare through next week and the next; I’m sure the chronicles of physical therapy will bring more ups and downs. But as of this moment, I sit here, grateful for the weirdness, the normalcy, and all the cheezy blogposts in between.

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adulting coupla steps ahead of me

I was feeling people-weary and in serious need of a nap after a few weeks of busyness. Even this meet-up had been delayed by weeks (weeks!) of missed schedulings and packed agendas, but Mary sought me out and even treated me to a dinner — work had run late and I was coming to 7 pm on an empty stomach.

The tiredness, combined with our shared — though light — history, made me especially honest and vulnerable with myself on this evening. I’ve known Mary for a long time now, though never closely. I munched and aired all the struggly thoughts I’d been (not) working through, and she was patient and gracious to listen.

About friendships. About disappointment. About feeling like I’m regressing socially, though society tells me I am progressing just fine (“wait, how do I make friends again?”).

About small talk and the dread of it on Sunday mornings.

About writing. And feeling like I was doing a lot, at the expense of thinking a lot. Cause it does feel like a zero-sum game. Time is limited; so am I. This is especially so for time belonging to me.

She responded with wisdom that made me think that even this lil sandwich-and-tea meeting — such a small little blip in the grand scheme of everyone, everywhere — had been preordained. Made me think that she’s been where I am and that she’s stepped forward into betterness. Made me think: “There’s hope for me, too, then!”

She heard my woes about friendships and affirmed, yes, that the conclusion shouldn’t be a deflated, disappointed one. There’s more to hope for there. We were made to live in community for a reason, and friendships are a huge part of that. Shifting, changing, sure, but not disappointing.

She agreed about the social regression and the small-talk dread and the limitedness of time and energy. And with her agreement, helped me feel not so alone, at least.

She said that she had asked herself all these questions, too. And interestingly, the progress was found in asking even more questions. Sneakily similar to the ones before, but really crucially different.

  • Instead of “what does it mean to be a good friend,” ask: “what can I do differently to be a better friend?”
  • Instead of “when will I finally feel comfortable and belong-y here,” ask: “how can I better serve the people of my community and love them first?”
  • Instead of “why must I make so much small talk in life,” remember: “small talk is the juice and the glue of the every-day Wednesdays.”

It’s all about slight shifts in perspective. I hadn’t been all that off track. The tiniest pivot will catch different glimpses of light, display different hues, make different shapes.

Thank you, Mary unni. Yeah, it feels right to call you “unni” at the end of this dinner and this post.

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[dts] rememberthis: when feeling like a brat

Today began as a mess of feelings — cranky about Mark’s tardiness, confused about how to plan for the Future (capital F), feeling preemptively tired and a little lost in the sea of small talk I’d have to navigate at church today.

Added to the mess as the service unfolded — unsettled about the state of my heart + God, even more confused about how to plan for that Future, still tired and lost-feeling about the sea. Throw in a dash of guilt in there, too, for feeling all of the above.

 


 

Today ended as a mess of feelings — sorry for the undue crankiness, grateful for the pause-y conversations with company to call “family away from home,” awed to receive yet another lil celebration for a birthday already a week and a half old, joyful to have a slice of scratch-made cake to come home to.

How is it that I am so blessed?

How is it that I so often forget?

like,

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what does it even mean to be in love,

what does it even mean to “choose,”

and what does it even mean to decide that you will love one person for the rest of your life, and to be married to them, and to be committed to a kind of forever that no other decision in life thus far has carried with it.

like,

how is it that so many people are married and engaged and not having identity crises in numbers proportionate to those relationships,

how it is that people “choose” each other and “fall” in love at the same time cause, technically, those two things are opposite,

and how is it that love is the most ubiquitous topic of choice, of songs, of movies, of our favorite collective stories, yet nobody can answer with confidence my question of the moment: “what is your definition of love.”

like,

do people stay the same or do they grow and mature or do they do both, somehow,

do birds of a feather flock together or do the opposites do the attracting, rather,

and do we fall in lust first in order to choose to love and do people ever happen to do it the other way around.

so many pairs I notice around me now are couples of stark differences. count them on your fingers, one by one, and each is a union of two very different characteristics, personalities, interests, and desires. from parents to the couple you see once a week at church, people known deeply and shallowly. one is an extrovert while the other would rather stay home from the party. another is drinks tea and the other, coffee. one dreams of beach vacations with toes in the sand and the other is grabbing a backpack for a trek through Europe. it’s hard to truly tell, of course, because who knows what people are like within the intimacy of their living room slow dances and speaking the language of their private gazes, beneath the surface that they let other people see — not even in their identity as a couple but even in their portrayals of their public selves, as individuals.

when I imagine a couple truly “gelling” together — couples who are so comfortable in the skin of their couplehood, couples that make you comfortable in the observation of their coupleness because they’re so “meant to be” whatever that means, couples who are so together it’s electrifying, wait, not to be so dramatic but I mean like a synapse, like a brain-firing between two, distinct ends connecting as one in one bright blaze of the brain, forming a new idea or remembering an old memory, electrifying — what comes to mind is an artist couple so in sync with one another’s artist-ness it’s unbearable. he’s scribbling out a masterpiece onto bits of toilet paper and coffee-stained napkins while she edits, direct and red pen ink dribbling cause apparently they’re using a fountain pen in my imagination. she comes home from a long day at the office where she’s been interviewing obscure-famous people in the arts world because oh, her office is NPR and he starts a conversation over dinner that makes her wonder how could I have forgotten to ask that question to that person today during our interview. he paints a picture of a bird and she is the only one who calls his bs — that’s really a reimagining of his childhood longing for freedom in the wilderness of his backyard, not really a bird, silly.

but “unbearable” is a key word in that description up there. cannot be beared. borne. bore-ed. my conception of those meant-to-be, gel-hood couples is only complete with: explosive, emotional fights; crying and tearing of hairs over seemingly stupid and mundane details of life but actually full of meaning and secret feelings; multiple ruptures in the plot line of their romances, but always, magnet-like, pulled irresistibly back together until one drinks himself to death or the other walks out of a 14th-floor window, chasing butterflies from her absinthe hallucination.

my very scientific and exact system of logic commonly known as [Gut Feelings] tells me that, (un)fortunately, probably something like 90% of real-life couples do not do this kind of gelling I’m thinking of. that these extreme scenarios simply jump to the front of my mind-brain when wondering about such lofty ideas as Love aaaaaand Marriage, too, because extremes and strong impressions from the media are what the imagination deals in. honestly, it’s all kinda mixed up in there with movie scenes of people running down unrealistic airport places as well as secondhand stories of daily-moment, small-time romance — the kind made of poopy diapers and devoted husbands who clean up after them — really only small in scale, not depth.

so, for those 90% of the population, the 90% of us, what is love?

like,

why is it so complicated for me,

why was I under such an impression that it wouldn’t be,

and why am I so full of questions and qwaveries, still.

I keep coming back to the fact that there are non-negotiables and then there are the negotiables. the non-negotiables you can try to negotiate, but ultimately, your girlfriends will set you straight about them, if you’ve cultivated good girlfriend relationships in your life. and the negotiables, you must…well, negotiate. and isn’t it perfect that the ultimate answer is so plain and tall, so deep and shallow at the same time that you’d see right through it to the bottom of the well, clear and crystal. this is madison in yonderland — where time flexes itself and clarities zoom in and out of focus every other day. certainty seizes you by the moment, and the next week, leaves you choking and breathless for its betrayal. crying tears and stuff.

yep, this is the land of pro:con lists and incessant justifications that aren’t only full of excuses, but actual and VALID reasonings of possibilities previously unimagined. cause what you need may not be what you want. or what you even knew you wanted, or needed, or unimagined. questioning things, deeper things,

like,

is he challenging you to become a better person, and are you, him?

does the combination of her and you make the world a better place?

will there be fulfillment, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc?

and then, even deeper deeper things,

such as,

how do you feel about winter sports and frisbee?

when you text, does it make you cheese-smile at your phone, you-know-what-I-mean? and does the answer to that question make you want to cry a little??

can you let go of everything you feel like you’ve achieved and desired for your future til now, and lay a symbolic hand upon your literal left breast, and say: God, I trust you with the rest.

?

well, can you? stop snickering at the “literal left breast” up there just a moment and think about it.

the complicated yet utterly simple thing is that the answer to all these questions is like yes, and like, no, and maybe, all at the same time. yes, love is a choice, but no, you can’t discount the falling into it part cause that’s how you get started, or middled, or end up — seriously. yes, you will GROW and GROW but no! you cannot set that as an expectation of the other.  yes, no, maybe St. Patrick’s Day was a good, terrible, results-yet-unknown idea. yeah.

your story will be a beautiful one of lots of growth and lessons learned — you’re just not in the hindsight portion of it yet where you see it, yet. but already, so many have touched your life, carrying you from one significant realization to the next: “you two are really different; it’s cause of the s and the n” to “manage yo expectations” to “I think you can have both.”

all to the refrain of “no matter what happens, this has been a worthy pursuit.”

let it be honest. let it not become a platitude.

 

this I will miss

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yap, hashtag filter, but you know what, the naked-eye version is actually even more beautiful.
yap. this I will miss.
and snack-sharing in the pod,
and watering baby plants,
and ELIXIR OF LIFE! morning coffee trips to the cafe,
and afternoon ponderings about tv shows I do not watch,
and #fulltimejob snapchats of snack towers, #bestmanagerever,
and mysterious origami creatures, so smol,
and heart-fuzzy-warmth emails
and applying the “talk about it” method to all situations,
and early morning shower room convos — of families and broken biceps,
and making products better, but remembering the human person behind the email,
and one dilbert comic strip savored every morning, except Mondays, which have two,
and “medicinal moments by madison” — “…ALLITERATIONS ARE AWESOME,”
and “supporting” not “managing” which is yeah, corporatese, but still. inspiring.

all these things I will miss.
among other things.

yap yap.

accountability

accountability hurts sometimes, but only when it’s working.

accountability is supposed to make you cringe a little bit, but only at the way your sins are being revealed — not because your accountability person is so harsh or evil (note to self: don’t be such a wallower).

accountability leads to repentance (by this I mean: concerted efforts –> a “turn from ____” kind of change).

accountability might end up with both soft-hearted people holding on for dear life, saying “sorry!” and “no it’s okay! thank you!” and agreeing that it’s good but not without its flinchy “ow”s, like working out and having your shoulders hurt cause those darn muscles are smol, so smol. or your pecs. either/or.

ah. wow. thank you.

and this well-timed email link is eerily appropriate for this post, minus the nude leotards and disregarding the jarring fact that apparently JoJo is still alive and kickin’:

toaster ovens and bread machines

Five months in and my apartment is finally starting to feel like a home. What does that even mean, anyway? Home.

Cause it wasn’t the gaggles of lost girls coming over to sit on my uncomfortable ikea chairs around my uncomfortable ikea “dining table,” sharing meals no one felt quite certain about. (Though somehow, it wasn’t The Triumph of the Entire Chicken, either.) And it wasn’t the pasting up of the things on the walls; things that made the place feel like mine but only in the surfaces they were touching. (Squares of unfaded ivory, marking the passage of time as the sun would have them.) It wasn’t the knick-knacks, and not the dust bunnies that had no one to chase after them but me, and not the downstairs neighbors for whom I tiptoe around my bedroom every morning. It wasn’t, surprisingly enough, even the moments of solitude and prayer and reading I certainly wouldn’t have the time or mind-space for, if I were still living at home with the mompops. All those minutes, spent sitting on the white couch, too distracted to read but too uninspired to write.

I’m pretty sure the answer — at least in part — has to do with kitchen appliances.

Okay backtrack: I’m pretty sure the answer — including bits and pieces of all of the things above — has to do with kitchen appliances.

I dunno if it’s just the way my home always was, throughout the transient years, but home is where my mom has all her stacks and stacks of dishes. Where all the rest of us learned WAY too late how exactly to put them away in their right places cause she spoiled, and never demanded chores of, us. Home is Mama Lee’s quiet extravagance — waffle makers and bread machines galore. And Home is warmth around a dinner table, time slowing because everyone relished those meals; the older we got, the better.

And somehow, suddenly and apparently, I have this kitchen all my own, and my apartment is finally starting to feel like a home. I got a toaster oven for Christmas and was appropriately excited, as an old person should be about “opening” the “surprise” of a useful and practical gift for the home. I cook here, read here, sleep here, dream here — I live here now. Next door to the bedroom live the bread machine and the toaster oven and the knife sharpener and the Y-shaped vegetable peeler, relics and testimonies of a life so poured into with abundant love and secret preparations I didn’t even realize were happening. Fingers weaving and caring for me while I (mostly) didn’t even know it.

Though some things aren’t so hip and high-tech — like the fact that I still have yet to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to buy at the grocery store so the city will take my trash away (yeah…) and that I’m typing this away on the desktop sticky note program of my internetless laptop, rendered a glorified typewriter. It’s a weird mix of growing up and…not. And boy am I grateful for these baby steps.

Chin-chin to a year of more pseudo-adult adventures

!

“great timing”

I think if there’s one phrase to describe your time here so far, I think it would have to be “great timing.”

From hiring to training to the way that random projects and uh, Other Life Things have popped up — this has been a journey of truly providential timing and the cushiest of postgrad-life-lessons.There have been so many “almosts” and “woahs” and “what ifs” in my life for the past few months, it’s insane and feels big-picturely orchestrated in a way clearer than life feels most of the time. I know God is working, all the time, but that some of the time, he lets us glimpse more clearly how he’s doing it. And these post-school few months have been an AWEsome demonstration of that, if nothing else.

From almost being whisked away to Madison, Wisconsin, a week or two from that last-minute interview for this position I had applied for…three months back,

to the boringly detailed, work-related saga of the project and product influx that streamed in, so timely, during the first titillating months of training and learning,

to the romancing and the Japan-ing and all these combinations of things I honestly NEVER imagined would be combination-ed in my life, wow,

to all the ends that are loose, still, but continue to be orchestrated in those mysterious but ultimately comforting ways in which the Father works, always.

Always! Always.

Praise GOd for uncertainties — and the courage to cling to the certainty in the uncertainties. Indeed, indeed.

mattering and not mattering

I am fickle and arbitrary and seemingly bipolar in my tendencies and reactions and desires. Sometimes I know the thing and just don’t know how to describe or explain, and other times I have no idea what I’m blabbering about but blabber on anyways cause I’m foolish and prideful and extra-human like that (super-human? or super-human?). At best, this comes off as “interesting,” and at worst, frustrating and confusing and manipulative and ugh. Oh yeah, and “pretty jacked up,” if we’re parallel-structuring that quote for that ‘interesting’ up there.

Sometimes, though, people who care about me anyways, despite these ughs, think of me and send along helpful things like this article here.

About mattering and not mattering; simultaneous opposites. The paradox of it speaks to the English major in my soul, and the truth of it tingles those God-feelers. You know, like an insect. Ooh maybe…a…bookworm 😉 which, maybe, should be my spirit insect. [Okay, recover from the tangent.]

Anyways (oh these tangent-recovery anywayses), I dunno much but what I know forsure is that

God sees me in all my smallness and all my bigness, all the same. Same love, same grace, same saving from myself.

And all I gotta say to that is aaaaaaaaaaamen hallelujahhhhhh amen.


to read the inspiration for the babbling above:

Sometimes I feel very, very small.

I feel small when the tasks of the day – even simple tasks – seem to dwarf me when I consider the amount of patience, intelligence, or perseverance they will require. Or when I am able to pry my eyes off myself for a bit and gaze at the world around me only to be confronted with disease. War. Hatred. Slavery. All things that are impossibly big, and all things that make me shrink inside myself even more. Or when I come home and find that my children are growing, and with each day there is a new challenge that I am unequipped to handle. Who am I to guide them through these years? Not small me.

When I feel small, there is the gospel that reminds me that my size and worth is determined by that which was sacrificed for me. And there is no greater sacrifice than that which has been given. Thanks to that sacrifice – His sacrifice – I am not small. I matter. I matter in the kingdom, and I matter in the world. And when you matter these challenges are not to be shrunk away from out of fear but are to be counted with courageous hope.

And oh the glorious freedom of mattering.

But then again, sometimes I feel very, very big.

I feel big when someone notices the hard work or laughs at the witty retort. When the retweets flow like water and the acclaim starts to come. When I look into the eyes of those kids and know that, at least for a while, I am invincible and infallible in their eyes. When there is money in the bank and food on the table and nothing at all seems to be threatening this insulated life we have built for ourselves. Nothing can touch me then. Not big, big me.

When I feel big, there is the gospel that reminds me that I was dead in my sin and transgression, too lost to even know that I was lost. That every supposed righteous thing I might do, say, or think is tainted with my own selfish ambition and vain conceit. That although I might be the instrument that offers the word of peace or comfort to another, I am far from necessary when I consider the hand of the One holding me. That it could just as easily be another who was speaking or writing or talking at a given moment, for God will have His way with or without me.

And then oh, the glorious freedom of not mattering.