Why we love This Is Us

We crave real

We see the contrast between shallowness leading to emptiness and depth leading to fulfillment. We cheer when Kevin calls out Olivia for running from anything that might feel genuine and we weep when he tells Sophie he himself is an empty shell of a person. Sometimes we too feel empty and incapable of loving. Yet we desperately long to be more than hallow shells and we hold out hope that Kevin (and maybe us too) will choose vulnerability instead of vanity.

Deaths unstoppable sting

This show reminds us of the havoc that death wreaks on those it leaves behind. It reveals that death is uncontrollable and grief is inescapable. We can stuff, run, hide, and deny, but grief chases us. We see that healing is a process and not a destination. While the darkness of death is not ignored we also see that death can bring about the light of legacy and memories which can never be taken from us.

Human complexity

This Is Us so creatively and brilliantly portrays the tangled webs woven deeply inside of us, starting from day one. And it causes us to grapple with questions like nature vs nurture. We are reminded that the lenses we all interpret life from are vastly different, even when we grow up in the same house as someone else. We see our 7 year old self still inside of our ever changing 30 year old self. We are boringly predictable yet scarily surprising. There are a million different things playing into the ways we think and act and live, and often we’re totally unaware of them.

The mess behind the beauty

The show does not shy away from the brutally hard side of things like adoption or foster care or family or marriage. It does not glamorize true beauty. It reveals it in all its gut wrenching and heart breaking mess. Sometimes it exposes the ugly mess so accurately that it makes us question the value of the jewel hidden in all the muck.

But the beauty is worth it

Time and time again we see that the risk and even the pain are worth it. We see that life is full of injustices. We see that racism and addiction and death and abandonment and utter selfishness exists. We see how choosing someone means taking on their own struggles and stories. Yet we’re left with the hope that relationships really are a mess worth making.

Love conquers

It’s not the fairy tale, romanticized, fabricated kind of love we often get on the TV. It’s the most raw kind. The kind that makes a Dad look into his rebellious or insecure or ungrateful child’s eyes and tenderly wrap his hands around their neck and say “You’re mine and nothing will change that.” The kind of love that fiercely protects and wholeheartedly fights. The kind that says, “I have a problem, will you help me?” The kind that responds “I’m not going anywhere.” This is the love that keeps us sobbing and smiling and cheering and coming back for more.

I think we all love it because this really is us.

3 years, 8 lessons

As some of you might remember, last year I did a list of 13 lessons from year 2 of marriage. Once again this is not a list of things “mastered” but more things we are seeking to grow in or maybe have just failed miserably at.

After reflecting on another year (which is always such a sweet and good thing to do), here are 8 lessons that continued to stick out and come to mind:

1. We’re both broken

This year Kyle and I realized in new, humbling, and even liberating ways that we are both indeed, broken people. We have learned this reality should be met with confession and not concealment. We have also learned that we both have needs that are good and right and often even the same. But, in our brokenness, we start grasping for them to be met in our own selfish and side-ways ways. This should lead us primarily to empathy and understanding and not judgement or isolation.

2. We’re both redeemed

Even though we’re still broken beings, redemption in Christ changes everything. Including marriage. When I truly understand that God loves my husband, I can look at him and say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there I will look at your magnificence and say ‘I always knew you could be like this, I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!'” (Tim Keller)

3. Time matters

We have discovered that quality time typically doesn’t just happen on its own. The truth is, with or without kids, it is more about seizing the time than finding it. The time, in some form, is there. Whether early mornings or late nights, it’s there. Sometimes after a long day, it’s choosing to unwind and be mindless, together. Watch a show together, play cards together, or just sit and be together. 

4. Get inside each other’s worlds

Instead of resenting the thing that takes much of our spouses attention or time, we should let it have ours as well. We should ask them to teach us about it. Maybe this will mean their sports team becomes our sports team. Or maybe this will mean they sit down with us at our favorite coffee shop. Whatever the case, we don’t have to be clueless outsiders to their jobs and interests and hobbies.

5. God’s way is best

While these words might sound simplistically obvious to Christians or outdated and rigid to non Christians, when our friend spoke them to us this year, they were exactly the words we needed to hear in the moment we heard them. These words have continued to ring true time and time again when we have sat in the utter mess of trying to do marriage our own way.

6. Remember your spouse is for you

Walking with the confidence that your spouse is “for you” promotes trust and security. It is life giving and nourishing. A silly and simple example of this is that I love to take notes at church; but 99% of the time forget a pen. One Sunday, as if I was surprised by myself, I was aimlessly looking around for a pen. I looked over at Kyle who was holding one out for me and said he brought it for me. It hit me: he knows me. He brought a pen for me. He is for me. In both the big and seemingly insignificant moments we have to look for evidences of this truth.

7. Be for your spouse

Because we are human, we are not always going to perfectly be  for someone else. While it will not be perfectly or unfailingly, it can and should be strivingly. Without giving and receiving this powerful ingredient in marriage, we subtly start to see the other person as actually against us. We, then, naturally resort to guarding and defending ourselves. But a unique beauty of marriage is seen in being remembered by the very person we are forgetting ourselves for. We don’t have to watch our backs because the other person has them.

8. Listening to hear

This seems super simple. After all, the point of listening to someone else is to really hear them, right? Yet we have seen how easy it becomes to “listen” mostly for the sake of responding or assuming. Recently, Kyle and I had a conversation where the listener had to repeat back to the sharer what they heard them saying until the sharer felt they were accurately heard. There is freedom found here. Here, not where our spouse agrees with everything we say, but rather where we are heard and understood.

Kids and Christmas.

Last year, on our daughter’s 1st Christmas, my husband and I started to implement the “4 gift rule”. Well, actually we added another category that we thought was a part of it and so ours is really a “5 gift rule.” Last year implementing this rule was not hard at all, considering we could have wrapped an already-owned toy and she would not have known any different. This year, however, has proven to be a little more challenging. Reese is still not yet old enough to have Christmas expectations, so the challenge was solely in the hearts and minds of her parents. I have to admit, it was tough walking around Toys R Us on Black Friday with my husband and not giving into the  “oh just one more thing…” mentality. I already had to fight off feelings of guilt and discontentment.

But, as of now we are heading into this Christmas with 5 gifts to give our daughter.

Before I move on I do want to make something clear: this blog is not at all written with the intention to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not trying to draw anyone’s line for them or even say where I think it should be drawn. Because I don’t know. While my husband and I seek to be intentional, we are naturally very spontaneous and “wing it” sort of people. So this new “tradition” is held with really open hands. We liked the idea behind it and we wanted to give it a try. So, we’ll keep re-evaluating and re-adjusting as needed. Or maybe at some point we will scrap it all together. But for now, here are the unspoken and spoken messages we want to be sent to our kids through each specific gift-

  1. Something you want: We care about your enjoyment and we want to invest in things that make you excited.
  2. Something you need: We want to be aware of and provide for your needs. Some years this might be a physical need while others it may be more spiritual, emotional, or relational.
  3. Something to read: Your brain is an invaluable gift that is worth being fed and stretched and invested in. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Suess
  4. Something to wear: We want you to know when you get dressed in the morning that you are protected and provided for, as much as it is up to us. We want you to have shoes to run in and a jacket to keep you warm. We also want you to be able to express yourself- who you are and what you like- through what you wear.
  5. Something to share: Others matter. Gifts aren’t just for or about indulgence and they aren’t just about us. Shared possessions can lead to shared enjoyment and experiences, and that is often better than the gift itself.

Even more importantly though- whatever we end up doing in the years to come- here are the underlying questions we want to ask ourselves each Christmas as we decide how to navigate things like traditions and gifts and family values-

Consistency
Overall, we want to ask ourselves what a specific gift (or the way we “do gifts”) is teaching our kids about the rest of life. Do these gifts and the way we are going about them promote what we are trying to teach them every other day of the year? Is Christmas an isolated event in our life or does it flow with what we care about every other season of the year?

Enjoyment
Something I read in a blog a while back that really struck me was the idea of setting your enjoyment bar. She talked about the need to often times set our bar lower in order to enjoy more frequently and more deeply. If our enjoyments are only found in the highest of highs, then we are always waiting around for the next big trip or gift. And then we go to the next level by trying to always top them. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy what we often dismiss as simple or mundane. Enjoyment can be guided and learned.

Contentment
We want to teach our kids, and our own hearts, that gratefulness springs from a heart of contentment and ungratefulness springs from one of comparison. Instead of looking around at what others have we want to practice looking at what we have. We want to verbally practice saying “thank you.” Our heart will get there if our mouth starts there.

Entitlement
It is so easy for the Holiday season in particular to bring a sense of entitlement. We can subtly believe that we deserve gifts because “that’s just the way it is on Christmas.” Instead, we want to remind and recognize that all gifts are, well… gifts! If we are “owed” something, it ceases to be a gift. You do not “deserve” a gift more than the kid down the street whose parents were not able to afford any this year.

Gifts are about more than just you
With every gift there is both a giver and a receiver. We want to instill eyes that see the giver behind every gift. To see an actual person who is using something of their own- likely time and money- in order to give you something. Gifts are also given to do more than just hoard and keep. The more we get the more we are able to give.