What Does it Mean to Become an Adult?

 

I’ve been thinking for the past six months or so about the process of becoming an adult. This idea was brought on by a few things in my life, one of them being the fact that after ten years of marriage, we are in desperate need of a new couch. I walk across my house, eyeing the black piece of furniture that has been so kind to us over the years, over four moves into different living spaces in different states and seasons of life. I look at her, despondent as she is, and say to myself, I’m ready for something new.

 

I’m ready to be an adult.

 

I will be thirty this year, and it seems that after publishing a book last year and beginning therapy this summer, I’m coming into my own way, at least for the next season, at least for the next month. And while I’m so grateful to be where I am, there is always this nagging voice, much like the one that comes right before New Year’s Eve, right before resolutions are pinned to the wall and written in our planners: get your act together, that’s what adults do.

 

Make more money.

Clean up your house.

Figure out parenthood.

Get your exercise schedule together.

You need to work harder.

You’re lazy.

Adults know what boundaries are.

You should know more by now.

No adult actually watches Netflix this much.

 

 

If ever imposter syndrome abounds, it’s in these kinds of thoughts and feelings, telling me I’m not enough.

 

I’ve seen people my age and into their early thirties who have nicely dressed kids and the perfect patch of yard outside their dream home. They get up and go to work every day, they make wholesome meals and attend church regularly.

 

They are doing adulthood right.

 

…right?

 

Then I think about a lot of other adults I know. People with scars and stories, people who are still trying to get it together in their forties, fifties, sixties. In other words, they’re human.

 

And what I realize is, that’s what we all are, and the dream of being “an adult” isn’t as cookie-cutter as we say it is.

Adulthood, instead of a series of steps, is an ever-forming cycle of being human on this earth.

 

Adulthood isn’t that you’ll have kids and a spouse with a perfect A-frame house. That idea carries with it the American dream, an ideal held by the wealthy but unavailable to the poor, an idea that says things need to look and be a certain way to be successful.

It leaves out a lot of us.

 

And the ones with the perfect yards and the pristine children are also struggling with something, trying to learn what it means to love and live a better life, trying to learn what their journey looks like in that cycle of things.

 

So that’s what it must mean to be an adult: an awareness of our ever-evolving stories, an awareness of our scars and what they teach us to be in the world.

 

I’ve just started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with my sons, and at the beginning of the book, not long after Harry received his infamous lightning bolt scar, Hagrid asks Albus Dumbledore if he should remove the scar so that Harry can live without it.

 

Dumbledore responds with this:

 

 Scars can come in handy.

 

What if adulthood means we find ways for our scars to come in handy, for our mistakes and our successes to integrate themselves into our story?

 

 

What if we hit adulthood for a few years only to realize we need to turn back to our childlikeness?

 

There is this idea that if we get ourselves together, if we fix what is broken and clean up what is messy, that means we are healed forever, we are ready to be healthy in every way and will never make the same mistakes again.

 

But, dear friends, that is not humanity.

 

Maybe being an adult means realizing there is true, sacred beauty in childlikeness.

Maybe being an adult means we are called to remember our smallness in a huge world.

Maybe being an adult means we become a lore more like Fred Rogers and a lot less like Donald Trump.

Maybe being an adult isn’t just about independence but about recognizing our interdependence on a world that needs us—our gifts, our wholeness, our love.

 

What if our old, beat up couches and our ungroomed yards are just as much a part of our journey to adulthood as the pristine yards and the brand new pieces of furniture?

“Our work, then, is to become the healthiest possible version of who we uniquely are,” writes David Richo, author of How to be an Adult in Relationships. Maybe being an adult is endlessly asking what can bring us true joy and call us to life.

 

Maybe being an adult is realizing that working through healing is a necessary part of our wholeness.

 

In that case, the house isn’t the most important thing.

In that case, our children will be loved as we learn to love ourselves alongside them.

In that case, we learn to do this work in community, and we become stronger together.

In that case, the comparison game can’t get to us anymore.

In that case, as we dream about the kind of person we want to be tomorrow, we know that who we are today can count our successes, too.

 

In that case, adult on, friends. I’m right there with you. 

 

 

 

PEOPLE WHO HOLD SPACE WILL HEAL THE CHURCH

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When I married my husband, he’d just cut off his dreads and was an avid rock climber. He married me– a girl from a small town, comfortable in everything that I knew, in everything that I’d been and was going to be.

As Johnny Cash says, we got married in a fever, and before we knew exactly what we’d done, we were home from our honeymoon, beginning the long journey toward figuring out who we were–together.

When he married me, he loved who I was, but also saw who I could one day become, and he held that vision steady. And it wasn’t a vision for what he thought I was supposed to be, but a vision still unknown to him, held by the mystery of God.

He took me climbing in one of his favorite spots not long after we married. I had a dislike of nature, but was idealistic about it, and there was abounding irony in the fact that I’d married someone like him.

He took me to a place called Lincoln Lake, a climbing spot in Arkansas that had been home to him for a long time.

All that I remember thinking is that the lake water was really brown and there were a lot of bugs. I couldn’t see then the way I see now.

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Nine years later, close to our anniversary, we went back there. He took me to the top of the rocks to set up the climbing rope, and I sat and drank my coffee. There were large black ants crawling across my feet and the humidity in the air was rising little by little.

“It’s beautiful here,” I said.

“I didn’t appreciate it before.” I looked back with tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said.

There seems to be a difference between being with someone to change them and being with someone as you hold space for them to change.

My husband has always held space for me.

He’s held space for me to grow up from the 19 year old who married him.

He’s held space for me to learn motherhood.

He’s held space for me to ask questions in my faith.

He’s held space for me to walk into my Native American culture without fear.

In holding space, he has loved me.

And he continues to hold space for who I’ll become tomorrow.

I’m convinced that space holding people are the ones who will heal the church.

They are the ones who bring justice and shalom, because they are patient people who hold onto a long-off vision. We need them in our churches, because they will not force change. They will not sit in pews and bear judgment over the people around them, but they will sit with those people and wait for God to show them the way.

The church has very publicly become a place that tries to manage others, and it often leaves people wounded. It wounds the church by distorting who the church should really be, and it wounds individuals in the church by making them feel like they aren’t good enough for Jesus.

So we need to learn to hold space.

Like my husband saw in me, we need to see what is good in each other, to hold onto the longer vision that God holds for each of us, and we need to wait.

I did not understand as a 19 year old who I was marrying or who I was. And in the process of learning, I needed someone who could be gentle yet steady with me, just as God is gentle and steady.

People like my husband, who hold space, show the unique character of God in a way that we are all hungry for.

So let’s practice holding space instead of holding one another hostage to our own ideals.

Let’s remember that God has an individual vision for each of us, and it’s worth waiting for.

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As I climbed up the rocks that morning, I felt like I was communing with a space of the world that I’d never known existed before. I felt drawn in by my inability to know exactly where to put my foot or my hands, but that unknowing gave me energy to try anyway, like I was trusting this thing that was calling me back to God.

And on the one climb when I reached the top, I turned around and scanned the treetops with my eyes. I looked down at the brown water and across the horizon of that Arkansas day and thought, “I am so glad I am alive.”

If we hold space for each other, we learn how to truly be alive with one another, as we cast off judgment and wait for the grace of God to journey with us into unknown and sacred places.

And my friends, it’s absolutely worth the wait.

 

Advent, Day 23: a Christmas Marriage Letter

 

Travis,

Have I told you lately that you’re one of the hardest people to buy Christmas presents for?

It’s what I love about you, and what challenges my gift-giving heart to no end.

But the best part about who you are is that you’re constantly you.

We met in a season in which we were both transitioning–

I was learning college and stepping out of the traditional baptist church I’d grown up in,

and you were learning life without your jeep and a head of dreadlocks.

We grew fast and crazy together, and life wasn’t without its occasional bumps.

But you were that man then,

and you’re that man now.

Do you remember that Glen Hansard concert we went to in St. Louis?

Do you remember how it was worship to us, that it opened us up again,

reminded us to dream and feel and live in Spirit realms as well as human ones?

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Marriage is the gift that allows us to watch someone else stretch and mold,

take new shape and try to sustain that deep, raw part of who they are

through each of those seasons.

This Advent, you are working hard at being a writer, political scientist and researcher, a husband to a woman who serves the church in every way she possibly can and a dad to two severely different toddler boys.

And still, you’re you.

Remember this Advent that the Savior Baby, born of Mary, calls out to you and me in all our seasons, in all our needs,

in all our wandering.

His voice beckons us to each other,

to home.

That is our greatest Christmas gift.

I love you.

Happy Advent,

Kait

—————–

If you need a reminder that marriage is just as real life messy as it is sacred and beautiful, head on over to Seth or Amber’s blogs, my dear friends and the creators of the Marriage Letter movement.

 

Advent, Day 17: a present a day

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Travis and I met in the fall, and we could have gotten married that December if we’d been a little crazier– there was glitter in our eyes from the very beginning.

We sat at the neighborhood Starbucks one night, our favorite booth by a big window,

and I told him how much I loved December, Christmas, gift-giving.

And he made me a quiet promise there: a gift a day through Christmas.

One day, it was a shirt.

One morning, peanut butter cookies on my doorstep.

A Christmas CD from Starbucks.

Poetry.

I can’t remember now if he officially made it, but every day I knew he was thinking of me.

Every day was  a mystery, an adventure, a falling, head over heels, again and again.

Gift-giving is my language, my call, the way I move.

And so Christmas is an extra magical time of year.

And Trav knew that.

If we pay attention to the people around us, we’d pick up who they are, how they operate, what makes them giddy as a child.

Jesus was a servant; he washed feet, healed wounds, and gave good gifts.

If we just learn each other a little better, more Advent promises will be fulfilled through us–

in this Kingdom wait, we care for one another, bless each other, give of ourselves–

even if it’s an evening of baking cookies,

a quiet coffee date in the booth by the corner,

or a reconciliation that’s needed to happen for a while.

 

Who are you thinking of this Christmas season?

Learn to speak their language.

Kingdom come.

Day 6, Advent: the ornament memory

A little while after we were married and Christmas time had come, I dragged Travis to Hobby Lobby to ornament shop.

The plan was to buy an ornament each year to represent where we were in life.

Travis chose a goose, forever his favorite bird.

I chose a bright green oven mitt with utensils sticking out of the top.

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“Love to Cook,” it read.

If being new to marriage wasn’t challenge enough, my cooking capabilities were the hardest skills to bring to life.

I’d curdled pasta sauce and burned cookies, but I could heat and salt pizza rolls like a pro.

Seven years later, I make my own yogurt and bake my own graham crackers, and while cooking often exhausts me, I take that ornament out of the box every December and laugh.

Advent is about waiting, growing in expectant hope.

How little I knew that night at Hobby Lobby, the way that ornament would foster a growth in me– an expectant growth into the woman I’d become.

The Advent season is for laughter.

May we bellow a little, cheer bursting from our rosy cheeks, when we remember where we’ve come from and where we may one day go.

 

The Pursuit of Seeing: I Choose You

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When semesters get going, we feel the tension like a ton of bricks piled atop our lungs.

And because the boys are of jabbering age now, and progressing in vocabulary every moment, our time to really see each other is limited.

You sat there at the table, eating your leek soup with heavy eyelids– I could see them, because your glasses came off the minute you stepped in the door and rubbed your brow.

I shut off Gilmore Girls and the tap water when I saw you.

I heated up my coffee and sat down across from you, thinking, This is nice.

Then Isaiah woke up. My coffee got cold, and you grew more exhausted, rubbing your brow again.

I moved to the recliner to nurse him back to sleep, and you met with me across the room, huddled up on the black sofa.

You told me the news of your day, the gory game theory details and the vocabulary I’ll never quite understand.

There, in that moment, I looked at you and reminded myself of the treasure we have in each other, this relationship that has built upon itself every day over the last seven years.

And I told myself that these moments are the meat George Herbert talks about:

You must sit down, says Love,

and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

These tiny, flickering, quickly come-and-gone spaces are life to us, the filling of our bellies and souls for every season.

And they are the moments I must choose, embrace, claim for our hearts, for our marriage and our family.

So when it’s quiet and you’re near, I choose you.

And when I’m barely able to catch your eye, I choose you.

When we’re knee deep in dishes and papers are due, I choose you.

And when the kindness of the Spirit huddles us close, I choose you.

And we sit and glean from Him, our souls becoming as children, molded by the words of their Father.

There, I choose you, too.

Once a month, we’re pursuing sight and viewing the dailyness of our lives with fresh vision and fresh spirit.

To read more from the series, click here.

Marriage Letters: once upon a time, in dreams

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout…

Okay, now, I am not totally sure what a pepper sprout is, but we definitely got married in a fever, Love.

We had our big husky, who you found on a rock in the Arkansas Ozarks. You lured him into the car with an orange, and you brought him home to me– our wedding gift from God.

We dreamt of Ugandan soil, and that was just the beginning. We saw our babies digging their little hands into that red dirt, eating mangoes fresh off the trees. We’d reside in Kampala and live the crazy muzungu life. We’d love passionately.

Because we got married 7 months after we met (remember that fever?), we walked through the rough patch of year one, most definitely feeling the heaviness of young and selfish love. And still, we dreamt of the future. We dreamt and dreamt and you went to India and we spent our one-year anniversary by the Nile River. We’ve always imagined big things.

But this is what I love about us: the big things are certainly the big things, but they are all the small things, as well.

Back then, 5 years back, it was the gift of a husky and it was the gift of money to pay our bills. You ate cinnamon for $100, and our heat stayed on one more month.

Back then, it was the big move to Arkansas, all because of a little meeting at an art gallery.

Back then, 2 years back, it was a BIG newborn boy and a rejection to a PhD program. Big things, little things, everything in between.

Back then, it was the dream of writing music and teaching classes.

Back then and even now, it’s a peaceful home wherever we are, for anyone who enters in.

And we’re still dreamers, my love. Yes, we process these dreams differently, but they are still there, taking deep roots of hope within us. Together, we dream.

It was my favorite thing about us then, and it’s my favorite thing about us now.

For more Marriage Letters, here.

And for your enjoyment…