I haven't always stumbled along this unconventional path.
I didn't come to this outta-the-box, bucking-the-system life on purpose. I sorta stumbled into it, inadvertently. Okay, well maybe it was a little advertent. (that's not really a word, but it should be, don't you think?)
I had the pretty typical middle-class American kid childhood. Not perfect, but without any major histrionics. My mom & dad are still married, we always went to church, and I was content to color in the lines. Went to great schools (public - go figure! but times have changed), danced with a ballet company, sang in the choir, was a straight-A student, captain of the dance team, vice-president of the student body at Stephen F. Austin high school. yadda-yadda-yadda. You get the picture. I was a good girl. No kidding, at the end of my senior year, I was voted "most likely to become a school teacher." (yes, at the time I gritted my teeth at the goody-two-shoes-ness of it...tho now I smile at the irony as I home school our seven children...)
Went to University of Texas, just a few miles from the home I'd lived in all my life, dated an engineering-student frat boy, changed my major every semester or so, from liberal arts to pre-law to elementary-ed, exploring my options. I was on the road to typical, safe, follow-the-rules American success.
But somewhere along the way I became discontent. Discontent with the mundane classes, discontent with the engineering-student frat boy, discontent with the stilted and imprisoning religion I thought was my faith.
So I began to break away from it all.
It began as a love affair with God, in the summer of 1991. A friend, Leslie Stroud, introduced me to Him. Of course I had known of Him for as long as I could remember. But this was different. Leslie & I were dancing & singing together in summer productions of "South Pacific" and "Music Man," living in the dorms of the outdoor theatre, along the coast of Galveston, TX. It was my first long stint away from hometown Austin, and I was getting a taste of independence, new ways of living & thinking. And God was wooing me. His wooing was relentless, like the constant ocean breeze, breathing against my cheeks, tenderly & fiercely stroking my hair back away from my face. His glorious pursuit was in the sunset, shimmering against the never-ending curve of the distant waves, calling me to an ancient, passionate, all-consuming affection. So I fell in love with God. I fell in love with His love. With an Abba’s approval, an unconditional love, a cherishing, that I had always longed for.
When the idyllic summer ended I went back to the university, back to the frat boy, back to the drudgery of my old life. The passion of my love affair faded, as so many summer romances do. My life began to feel frayed, unraveling, as if my heart was coming un-tethered from the things that once mattered. Eventually I transferred halfway across the country, into a small performing arts department at Western Kentucky University. On one hand I was finally perfecting what I had spent so many years working on: performance. On the other hand, I was at last breaking away from the confines of childhood, cutting the apron-strings, desperately seeking who God was calling me to become. It was a hard time. Well, not the performance part. I quickly grew through the ranks as a singer, dancer, & actress – graduating as a ‘Triple Threat’ with a BFA in Performing Arts. But along the way I managed to hurtfully ditch the frat boy, alienate my family, rack up a load of debt, and flounder in my newborn faith.
Even so, while I was yet unfaithful, God was faithful...
and He refined me along the journey, continually nursed me back to health with ‘milk’ from His word, and gave me undeserved, extravagant gifts.
The most extravagant was the gift of my Kevin. A boy on his own journey, seeking God’s truth, discovering on his own terms the gift of Christ’s salvation.
Perhaps my journey left the highway of American cultural-norms before I met Kevin. But this I know: the day God brought him into my life is the first day I felt my feet on the road-less-traveled. Kevin was unlike any boy I’d ever dated, unlike any guy I’d ever known. He was real, honest, unafraid & unconventional. For my life, at the time, he was...dangerous.
I’ll have to leave the story of our falling-in-love for another page, another day...but suffice it to say that after meeting in early Sept, we were smitten within weeks, engaged at Christmas, and married by Spring.
What a painful surprise it was to discover that Kevin wasn’t the answer to all my angst.
Despite our fervent love, my newborn faith foundered, and baggage from my youth still weighed me down. Ahhh, how young love hopes to find Jesus in one another...! But not so.
Just before Father's Day 1995, I gave Kevin the ultimate gift; our firstborn son, miracle-Caleb, who would stretch our hearts & our faith to near the breaking point, as he fought for life. He came along after we’d been married for a couple of years...then Autumn Grace just 13 months later...and a few years later, Eliza Joy. My life was filled with babies, nursing, laundry, dirty diapers, cooking, cleaning, more dirty diapers...oh boy yippee yahoo. The joys & woes of motherhood. Amongst it all, Kevin flitted from one entrepreneurial venture to another – finally stretching us to the breaking point financially, and wearing my trust in him so thin, that it conclusively wore out altogether.
There were years when I thought my future would always be full of poverty, fear, doubt, distrust. There were years when I had zero faith in Kevin, but I clung so tightly to my faith in God, discovered a love of Christ unlike anything I'd known before, and I knew that the commitment I'd made to my marriage would remain unbroken. So I HAD to push thru to something better. Kevin was willing to go to a marriage counselor. Many men aren't. Kevin wanted to love me better, to change so that we could have hope & a future that God's word promises. Many men aren't willing to change or seek something better. I’m so grateful to God for Kevin’s commitment to our marriage, to growth & change, for his humility.
But it was knee-jerk easy for me to blame my husband.
At the time, I became convinced that the fault was completely with him, that I was the victim. As fallen-world-women, we generally go one of two ways: petulant, poor-pitiful-me victim, or self-righteous, condemning icewitch. I know that I vacillated between the two, swinging wide between spells of weeping, lamenting, feeling sorry for myself...and bitterly pointing the finger at his failures, coldly distancing in self-protection. And always, always, I was looking to bring people to 'my side.' Looking to blame the hardships of our life & the turbulence in our marriage solely on him.
There wasn't some easy 5-step plan that opened my eyes, but somehow as I worked thru counseling, acknowledged the generational sin in my family, and pressed desperately into God, I began to consider my own fault, my own sin in our marital troubles. I believe that seeking the Lord for MY part in the failures was a huge turning point. Okay, so was telling Kevin I was utterly fed up & was planning to pack up the kids & move out...
In 2003, as the crap continued to hit the fan, and actually splatter all over the place, we made some life-changing moves. Literally. Kevin took a ‘real job’ in Palo Alto, CA, and so we sold off half our belongings, packed up into a uhaul, and headed west. It was the summer of starting over. With nothing to cling to but the Lord and each other, we were nourished by His word and prayer. It felt like a return to my summer romance, with Abba yes, and also with tender Jesus. But this time, as the summer came to a close, new life emerged, as the Lord brought us out of the desert, into a new place, a new land that carried the hope of promise, in Woodland Park, CO.
Somehow, by the grace of God, Kevin & I emerged on the other side of a dead, failed marriage...
and tho there are daily, weekly struggles, we live & walk in a resurrected marriage. Not restored. Because who we are to each other now is so, so different, and the old patterns had to completely die. Sure, we can still fall into those old patterns. But never again so deeply. Never again from that place of self-righteous pride, or self-sabotaging victimization. Yeah, I still point & accuse & blame sometimes...and sometimes he is still a pompous donkey's butt... Yet I can honestly say, not just painting a rosy picture - I am WAY more in love with him than the day we married. Way.
When we were engaged, he used to profess his love for me, and tell me how beautiful our future together would be: "you haven't seen the half of it yet!" And now, after 18 years of marriage, I think I'm getting a glimpse of the 'other half of it' that he envisioned.
I’m still taken by surprise sometimes, at this unconventional life we live.
Up in the mountains of Colorado, in a weird, big-barn-of-a-straw-bale-house, home-birthing & home schooling, vegetarian, self-employed, TV-free, seven-children-big family...definitely not the norm. Sometimes I love it. And honestly, sometimes it wears me out. On a snowy day, with 4 children under the age of five, there would be benefits to a few hours of mindless boob-tube. For them or me! And I confess to sometimes craving a big bucket of good-old-fashioned Kentucky Fried Chicken. And really? The straw bale walls? Okay, the insulation is incredible, but it does look weird. Not to mention that I am so sick & tired of the little ones picking off pieces of plaster from the outside edges of the window sills!
And yet, I love it. I love it all – with every bit of the weirdness. Cause it somehow frees me up to just follow the Lord, and strive less for performance, and fret not-so-much about what others think of me. The beaten-path is full of trying to keep up with the Joneses, busy with competition, thick with materialistic gain, blurred by efforts of vain glory. But the road-less-traveled affords solitude, grants creativity, glories in weirdness, embraces flaws & humility & brokenness.
I think I'm only beginning the journey; just getting a glimpse of who God created me to be, of what He has in store for us.
And I'm finally learning to trust the One who forged the path...
striving to seek His strength to calm my fears and show me the way.
To read more about the ongoing journey -
Five-part blog series on my adventures with the road-less-traveled: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5