My daughter caught a lizard today. That’s normal. She catches one every few days.
Usually she holds on for as long as she can until it gets away. Lizards don’t so much like six-year-olds.
This lizard was different.
The only way I can think to explain it is that for some impossible to understand reason, this lizard loved her.
From the first minute she picked him up, he refused to leave her hand (Until he discovered her pocket—he loved the pocket).
He let her give him a belly rub.
She drew his picture and he posed, perfectly still for—I am promising you—twelve minutes (BTW He changes colors).
She hung onto the lizard all day. It wasn’t hard, because he never, not once, tried to run away.
Late in the afternoon, leaving the Austin Nature Center I decided it was time to tell London she couldn’t keep the lizard. “The Nature Center is the perfect place to leave him,” I said. “It’s beautiful. Lots of bugs to eat.” Insert hard sell…
Her face crumpled. “Mom! The predators will eat him! He’ll crawl into the animal cages and they’ll eat him.”
[This was actually not as far fetched as it may seem; we’d just walked past ten animal cages with a lizard symbol in the prey category.]
"London," I said. "We can’t take him home."
She snapped back, “Well, I can’t leave him here.”
And then she had an idea.
"Mom," she said. "What if I give my lizard (Camille was his/her name) to the Nature Center? Like, he can live in one of the aquariums like the frogs and snakes and stuff and they can take care of him."
My heart sank.
Here’s what I knew: Official city nature parks do not accept custody and care of common lizards.
I was going to have to tell my daughter that her perfect plan (it really was an adorable plan), her last ray of hope in this super sad situation, was as likely to happen as us adopting a unicorn.
I tried to tell her. Really I did. But looking in her wet, aching blue eyes, I caved and said, “Let’s talk to someone at the desk.”
We walked to the visitor’s center. London put Camille on the counter (where he sat waiting patiently) and proceeded to explain to the Nature Center official that she would like to offer her lizard as a candidate for the “Small Wonders” exhibit.
She spoke with confidence even though she couldn’t help but cry (she was proposing a separation, remember).
I am not going to say whether or not I cried. Okay, I totally cried.
The Nature Center woman [who I felt so bad for as I had totally shifted all of my child’s impending disappointment onto her shoulders] listened intently. Then she looked at me, all business, and said, “Could you and your daughter wait here for a minute?”
So we waited—London, Camille and I—on a wooden bench beside the desk.
What happened next… Let me just tell you what happened next:
Through the door walked both the The Nature Center’s head animal keeper and the director of education. They asked London to tell them about Camille, and they listened to her as if she were an adult.
The animal keeper said, “It’s a lovely anole (that’s the type of lizard). And London, we’ve been looking for an anole. Right now we only have one and he’s been very lonely.”
She asked London, “Would you consider leaving your anole here for us to care for him?”
The education director said, “We promise we’ll take excellent care of him. We feed them crickets every day—even on Christmas.”
(Please understand, this was not an act put on by empathetic Nature Center employees. It was, all of it, true.)
I almost choked on my own saliva.
London LIT UP.
Maybe I’ve seen her that happy before. I’ve never seen her happier.
We walked away from The Nature Center with London talking a mile a minute—about coming back to see him, about what a good job they’d do with him. She beamed all day long.
This is my new favorite story, and I wrote about it here simply because it had to be told.
Too, I think there’s a lesson in it. I think it’s this:
What you think CAN happen determines what WILL happen.
If it were up to me, Camille would probably be in some wounded owl’s stomach right now.
But because London saw a better option, she had the chance to make it happen.
Today my husband and I have been married for 14 years. We’ve been together for almost twenty.
That’s us in the picture. My six year old took it. I like that this is what she sees when she looks at her parents.
To celebrate today I want to share three things I’ve learned about marriage over the last few years…
1. Marriage is partnership.
Marriage is a blessing when two people work together to accomplish a single task, when they partner with each other on mission, when they support and lead and help and encourage as they walk alongside one another in the same direction.
It’s true in terms of raising a family who will love and serve God. It’s true as you both attempt to grow into your full identity in Christ.
But it’s also true in the little things. If you can, marry someone who’s going where you’re going. Someone who wants to play tennis with you. Or Halo. Someone who likes to talk about good books. Someone who hates to talk about books. Someone who roots for the same football team (or is, at the very least, willing to watch games with you).
These things aren’t required (not at all), but every moment a person spends pursuing a passion is an opportunity for a partner to experience intimacy, connection, and growth.
Life is in the details. Make sure your details match up. And if they don’t, and you’re already married, consider a merger—make some of your spouse’s details yours.
2. Marriage requires forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the most beautiful thing my marriage has going. Because we daily ask for and grant forgiveness to one another, we live in the miracle of grace. I know when I pray “forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us” that God’s forgiveness will freely flow.
It wasn’t always like that though. It took years for us to own up to our failures and handle them like grown ups. Today, when I do something that hurts Justin, I say “I’m sorry” as quickly as I can muster, with no reservations or excuses. Then he says, “I forgive you.” The minute he does I feel free. And so loved.
A marriage without forgiveness is a marriage where no one can ever start over. That’s the opposite of the gospel, and it sets up an impossible, unsustainable demand of perfection.
You aren’t perfect. Your spouse isn’t perfect. Be prepared to love and restore one another when you inevitably stumble into failure.
3. Marriage demands connection.
Pretty much the first thing God said about marriage was that in it two people become one thing. That happens fully when we commit ourselves to connection. To do that…
A. Have a lot of sex. For real. Have it when you don’t really want to. Have it when you totally, really want to. Have it in the morning. Have it on the Sabbath. Have so much sex. Because sex is miraculous, spiritual super glue.
B. Make time to talk. You may need to leave work earlier than other people do and that will seem risky. Worth it. You may need to hire a babysitter. Worth it. You may need to lock yourselves in the bathroom for fifteen minutes. Totally worth it. You two have to talk.
C. When you talk, say real, true, hard things. Talk about how you feel. Talk about what you want. Talk about where you’re headed. Dream. Apologize. Woo.
I could talk about marriage all day (In fact, I’ll get to at an upcoming marriage seminar/retreat/thing I’m doing with Justin in Jackson, TN!), but we’ll stop there.
You guys, my marriage has been the most beautiful, difficult, God-revealing, God-glorifying adventure of my entire life. I want that for everyone who wants it.
God, I pray that You’d bless every person who reads this post today. That You’d lead the married couples into deeper, more intentional, more missional, connected, joy-filled partnerships. And that you’d lead the singles into either an on-purpose life of undivided devotion to You or a beautiful pairing that would glorify You and further usher the kingdom of light into this dark world.
I’m up late tonight reading about Iraq and the systematic persecution (even execution) of religious minorities happening right now. Right this minute.
Just writing that sentence makes me angry and sad and confused. Because I’m sitting in my safe house typing on a computer, accessing articles from all around the world, checking in on Facebook, drinking coffee. I am drinking coffee. And my brothers and sisters are dying.
As I read, blood puddles in my hallway just beyond the top right corner of my screen. I look up and it’s gone, but it was there.
A thick pool of dark red, life spilled on my hardwood floors.
I belong to those men and women, all of us washed in blood; their far away suffering is close.
This afternoon I watched an interview with a man who says Christian men, women and children are being slaughtered—children beheaded, men crucified, women raped and beheaded.
Tonight I’ve been reading everything I can find, trying to sort out what we know and what’s conjecture or hearsay. There is no proof that children are being treated this way. Or that execution is widespread. But we know the threat has been made. I suspect we know less than we think.
Recently I read about the church in Germany during the holocaust—about how they didn’t believe the Nazis were capable of the atrocities they later discovered. They waited much too long to step in, so that by the time they were sure and ready, they’d lost the chance. They spoke out too late and died alongside those they’d failed to help.
I want so much to help…
I just found this and now I’m crying again. It’s from Vicar Andrew White of Baghdad’s St. George’s Church, the only Anglican congregation in Iraq:
“The photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen… A family of 8 all shot through the face laying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch. They would not convert; it cost them their life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody.”
I know it’s strange—I guess it’s strange—but when I read the vicar’s words I wasn’t only sad. I felt glad. And proud. Certain. Brackish tears ran rivers down my cheeks, sweet and salty, oil and water mixed.
Earlier today I told my girls about Iraq. London asked, “Why doesn’t God rescue them.”
I said “I don’t know.”
She said maybe we shouldn’t pray. Because if God wanted to rescue them He would.
Justin said, “That’s not how it works. Not exactly.”
I told them about the first century Christians, about being fed to the lions. I said sometimes they would sing in the Colosseum, praising God as they waited to be devoured.
I said that somehow, this was good to do. Somehow, I don’t understand it, but somehow God is honored in our suffering—when we suffer because of our love for Him.
I said there was something beautiful about a courageous, defiant death.
A few minutes later we prayed.
Eve asked God to rescue the people in Iraq.
London prayed, “God, help them die goodly. Fill them with love and strength when they die.”
From now on, I’m praying for rescue and for good death. Both.
Because I feel burdened by the suffering of my people, I’ve decided to start an online prayer group. If you’d like to pray daily for all those being persecuted in Iraq, send your email address to email@example.com.
Also, I’ve changed a couple details of this post in response to further digging into the available facts.