monochrome sun

A Blog for My Bits.

Operating While Out Of Alignment

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Ultimately I want this post to be encouraging, but in order to reach the level of encouragement I’m hoping for, it first needs to be honest.  Here it goes.

I do not know how any couple stays healthily, joyously married.

Correction:  I do not know how any couple who does not keep Christ at the center of their marriage even attempts to stay healthily, joyously married.  And for those couples who do attempt to keep Christ at the center of their marriage – could one of you please say “amen” and then travel with me to the bottom of my pit to swim around a bit without offering advice?  Let’s just swim here for a minute.

A significant disclaimer before we begin.  I am writing this from the perspective of a painfully opinionated, independent #8 on the Enneagram scale.  I am someone whose core narrative is “I cannot and will not be controlled by anyone or any thing.”  This is evidenced by, quite frankly, all of my life choices, including the following:

  1. Not getting a degree.  I refused to buy into the cultural narrative that I could not be uncommonly successful without one.  Looking back my decision had little to do with wanting a degree or not (I did and still do), and more to do with proving others wrong and silencing the “shoulds.”
  2. Working 60+ hour weeks regularly.  The more time I spend honing my knowledge and skills the higher my proficiency, the more likely I am to be promoted above my peers, the faster I rise and increase my salary, the quicker I get to the point where I am free to make decisions others may not see for a decade.  (Side note: working longer hours is more likely seen in men, as opposed to women, because men, if I recall correctly from Jordan Peterson lectures, are higher in the neurotic personality trait).
  3. Spending $250/month to park in the city instead of using public transit, which could save me $150 or more, because I feel the need to control my mornings and evenings by gripping the wheel of a 5,000 lb. machine, pretending I’m in the Daytona 500 killing it.
  4. Developing a psychological disorder when I was 14 because, essentially, I was bent out of shape by being unable to escape my skin if I needed to.  Yep, it doesn’t make sense because you’re of sound mind.  They put me on anti-panic drugs for a while.  It got really ugly.  Thank the Lord for Jesus, Dr. Rita and modern medicine.

Items 1-4 above should give you a picture of the person who entered my marriage almost 3 years ago.  Plus, I don’t like or try to do any of the following:  (1) cook meals, (2) plan meals, (3) sit down for meals, (4) think about meals, (5) think about ever trying to get better about numbers 1-4.  My handicap is the attitude from which I approach providing daily sustenance to myself and my other half.  So at level 1 I am failing.  You get the idea.

The aspects of marriage, however, that I think everyone can agree are difficult, include laying down one’s own demands and/or needs for the sake of the other.  When the opportunities to do this arise in moments of vulnerability it is just… so achingly difficult to lay yourself down.  And if you’ve been subconsciously score-keeping?  Forget it.

Almost three years have gone by.  So much goodness has flown from our marriage.  That said, there are circumstances that spread us thin, individually, and big gaping wounds developed in my heart.  Into those wounds I fed my work, self-praise, my image, worldly highs, self-assurance, medication, blaming my partner beyond his share, becoming indifferent… so much more.  It got ugly and, in a lot of ways, it still is.

The beautiful thing about Sunny & Joe is that we adore each other.  We are consistently excited to see the other person when they get home from work.  We play and laugh together every single day.  In the midst of major disagreement we can be sweet.  The phrase “endeared to each other” best explains it.  I think it has little to do with our strengths in loving each other, I think it’s our natural chemistry.

The difficult thing about Sunny & Joe is that they sometimes view timelines, realities and priorities differently.  Which are critical items to ensure alignment for marital success.  In the words of Jim Collins, “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”

Aligning is so damn hard.  Knowing how to operate while out of alignment is so much damn harder than not being aligned.  And it’s that part I speak of.  It’s the part that is crucial to navigate well, detrimental to navigate improperly, and insanely hard either way.

How does anyone do this well?

If I believe what I say I believe it is only possible to do this well in Christ.

In Christ I have a person who laid down His life for my brokenness, my unfaithfulness and my folly.  Without Christ I have no one on my side, no one in whose identity I can walk, no one to unconditionally love me.  Without Christ NO ONE UNCONDITIONALLY LOVES ME and no one tells me I am worthy because I am not.  Without Christ how could I actively love someone if I am not aligned with them?  While misalignment handicaps me, and telling myself I can hold out for reform becomes harder each day, I have no choice, without a Savior, than to remedy the discrepancy by cutting off the non-compliant.

What is the alternative?

I hold out daily for reform because the remedy of our discrepancy is the Hope I already have.  Instead of focusing on alignment with my spouse I can focus on alignment with the true Bridegroom.  In Him I have all that I need and in Him I am able to love at all.

One day, years from now, when my marriage is 50 years old or so, I want to be able to say:  I did not always align with my spouse.  There were seasons where we did not align at all.  And there were seasons I decimated the sweetness on the ground, because of my folly and stubbornness.  But if ever I loved well, and if ever I laid myself down, it had nothing to do with me, but for the fact that I am loved everlasting by a Bridegroom who is never unfaithful and whose love is never not aligned to me.

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Nona

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August 24, 1933 – April 10, 2018

My grandmother, Joan, died last Tuesday, April 10th.  I was in Utah when I got the call from my mom.  I cried at my desk and then actually took a lunch to sit in silence in my car in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot.

I called her Nona, which is Italian for grandmother.  She is my mother’s mom, and was a complete riot – the life and center of every party.  Sometime after I was born she came to know Jesus and has loved the Lord ever since.

This is what I said at her funeral on Monday, April 23rd.

Joan Frankenfield was my Nona.  As her only granddaughter I took pride in knowing I made this dazzling diva a Nona.  We have always shared a deep connection, and in many ways, even more than she knew.  As a woman, now in my late twenties, and more comfortable with my craziness, I often wonder if my love for people and passion for “the party” matches hers.  My Nona has a roaring yearning for joy – this was most evident when I witnessed or heard stories of her provoking others.  For example: by adding pickled-pigs-feet to a stranger’s shopping cart, or changing the prices on a restaurant’s “specials” sign.  These sorts of things I find myself doing more and more.  And for this reason I now know why I once told my mom, “I’m more like Nona than anyone.”  

My husband recently took a survey about me, in which he answered “what annoys Sunny the most in life?” “People.” “What does Sunny love the most in life?” “People.”  When I heard this I immediately thought of Nona… I think her greatest joy was knowing and learning people… more than they were sometimes comfortable with.  She could make you part of the joke, but not with malevolence, rather a desire to be closer to you and appreciate you and see if you could handle it – not taking yourself seriously.  Nona could cut to the core of you in search of a connection.  And oh my stars, she was funny.  

In these last years [with dementia] I saw her joy for people in her eyes.  It was powerful.  Her desire to connect could not be taken away.  As I kissed her beautiful, soft hair the last time I saw her I thanked the Lord for placing me in the lineage of such a bold, engaged, creative, deep, witty, resplendent individual.  

God is good, and I know Him more by knowing others, with the same desire to connect as Nona had.  I cannot wait to love on her in heaven.

A Free Bride.

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The night of this interview (April 3rd, 2015) I got the call from Joe that the Air Force re-assigned him to a new job and he would need to stay in Monterey, California until his moving date. This meant we needed to postpone our wedding (which was two weeks away from that night) to an indefinite future date. Through denial and anger, and my slew of calls to vendors, wedding guests, hotels, etc., I laid the wedding “at the altar” and begrudgingly asked God to re-prioritize my heart…. and He did. The months that followed in limbo, in the unknown, from this night to our actual wedding night on September 3rd, I learned a new freedom I had not previously known. This freedom was found by choosing to engage in the Will of God, where He was asking me to lay down my presentation, my pride and my agenda. It sucked. But abiding in Him to find meaning and desire above all things, including my marriage and my life’s timeline, brought me into profound freedom by realizing He is my sustenance, my refuge and my life. The pining that I felt for my husband I ultimately and constantly feel for Him. I cannot wait to be with Him in glory one day. < This is a lesson that has changed my life.

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I Don’t Need Answers, I Need Jesus.

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This past season of my life has been one of the hardest. It started with a promotion. In December I was promoted to Private Banking Associate and given a quiver of tools to help me learn, develop and succeed, with the end goal of becoming a private banker someday. I love my job. I love learning about lending, credit, treasury management, finance, how to sell, how to maximize margin. Literally, I eat it up. The challenging part of my position is that my talents for learning quickly, discerning how to communicate with clients, improve process flow and coordinate between internal departments, has inevitably led to over-work. Mostly self-induced. Once again, I find myself in that good-problem-to-have-because-you-have-some-talent type of situation.

What has this done to me? Stressed me out. What have I done to mitigate stress? Stress eat, drink, medicate without second thought, over-sleep, party, stay out until 4:30-5am on weekends with co-workers/close friends. Where is my husband, you ask? Alongside of me emotionally, aware of my struggles, but allowing me to do my own things. Joe’s style of husbanding reminds me a bit of my parent’s style of parenting. Let her go, she is going to do her own thing anyway, admonish problems that are really bad, encourage her to go to the Lord and then someday, when she hits enough walls, she will go to Him.

I have hit a big wall. Not the wall where I realize my language is out of control and I should curb it, or that I have a partying problem and I should grow up, or that I am living an almost entirely secular lifestyle, but that I have allowed the idol of status to take residency in my heart, to the point where I was acting as if there was no God. I was acting like the lover of my soul did not exist.

This weekend I went to an international house of prayer in Colorado Springs with a friend. We had this on our calendars since April. The agenda was to drive down there (1.5 hours) and spend several hours alone in grottos. The intent is to pray, worship, read the Bible, rest. That morning, before we headed down, I wasn’t even scared of being alone with the Lord. I knew I needed Him so badly I could hardly think. On the drive down my friend asked if I had an agenda for my time with Him, and I said yes, there were a few specific pieces of my life where I was searching for guidance. We encouraged each other, she said some helpful pastoral things, and when we got to the h.o.p. she showed me around and walked me to my grotto. I spent almost three hours in silence. Mostly chaotic, disorganized journaling. Then I read through Lamentations, then the Psalms. I prayed.

The interesting thing about my walk with God these days, is that instead of feeling a mountain of guilt when I haven’t been with Him for so long, I just feel hungry for His word, which then leads me to hunger for His person. I am only saved because of His great love, not by my great ability to do anything at all. It often takes something to shatter my pride and level me out to remember this, but once I do I am okay.

Anyway, in my time with Jesus I was almost unemotional. I was focused. I needed answers, but did not expect anything crazy. I was tired. I had two questions, one career-centric and the other relationship-centric. My motive behind asking these questions was to obtain answers to move forward and structure my life better so that I would not be so uncomfortable. The problem is, I did not get answers to those questions.

The older I get the more annoyed I become with my blind spots. I am the one who seems to pay the most for them. They cause me to look stupid, miss important queues, fail, etc. One of my biggest blind spots is attempting to take control by relying on my own power (intelligence, discernment, ways of communicating). The problem with this is twofold (1) I am taking control in my own strength, (2) I am often taking control of things the Lord does not want me to change or impact. In the case of my two laser-focused questions I asked God in the h.o.p., I was asking Him if I should focus my control on (1) a specific element of work and (2) specific relationships. He did not answer my questions.

Instead, He did what He often does, He told me my answer was Him. My answer was not a yes/no, pursue/don’t pursue, try/don’t try… my answer was “be with me more.”

This morning’s sermon was part of a series on prayer titled “Prayer as Life.” Our pastor dropped a line, “If I am not praying then I am not connected to reality.” So, to reflect, if I am not praying then I am not connected to His reality. I am firing in the dark. I am missing the call to engagement with Him in His work. I am trying to answer the wrong questions.

I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to waste my time trying to answer the wrong questions, or find my own answers to the right ones. Here is the right answer to the ultimate right question: God is infallible, He is mighty, He is worthy of all praise. I am chosen by Him and covered by the blood of his Son. My life is hidden in Christ. After that, life on earth seems a lot like asking Him what the rest of the right questions are, but the right answer seems to be the same: look to Jesus.

HOW SOON I FORGET!

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“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” -C.S. Lewis

Every. freaking. day. I need this reminder. It seems now more than ever. Denver, as I may have told you before, is a land of plenty. To be honest, I am beginning to feel paralyzed on the weekends because there are so many options.

I have experienced continuous success at work, and the friendships keep coming, and the opportunities keep expanding and the confidence keeps growing. However, I do not feel satisfied or fulfilled or even terribly excited when I reflect on all of this. I worry about what “more” will look like.

My biggest challenge is to quiet myself in this place – and frankly – I don’t think the quiet will come from climbing a mountain or reflecting by a glacier lake. I think the quiet will come at home, in the midst of the place I circle the drain, where I cannot hide from my fear or anxiety or emptiness or victim mentality.