Stop Acting Like Children

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I feel this need to clarify my stance on the latest bathroom issue that has so many of us up in arms.

I feel that there is a need to make all human beings comfortable with this most common human experience. We all have to go potty when out in public now and again, right?  No one should have to feel shunned when using a public restroom.  I do not have an issue with the LGBT community.  I am saddened that so many Christians do and have been unloving to God’s children based on their sexual orientation.

My issue is NOT with homosexual humans.  I don’t feel that they are perverts who will harm my children, nor do I feel this way about transgender humans.  My issue is with sexually ill human beings that can simply say that they identify as the opposite sex in order to gain easy access to the restrooms that have multiple swinging doors with slots on every side that anyone can see through and easily get into.

I understand that this seems a bit of a stretch, but it may not feel like that if you consider your 16 year old daughter, who is out with friends while you are home, going into the restroom and a 260 lb. man who claims to identify as a female, following her into the restroom in order to do her harm.  Yes, this can happen now, but we more readily notice it in a public place because it hasn’t been the norm, but it is becoming the norm and this concerns me.  There is an issue of safety here.

If we are accepting everyone at his/her word, then we have to acknowledge that some “perverts” are going to take advantage of this situation to satisfy their depraved needs.

My issues are both safety and compassion.  Putting a 3rd bathroom (in establishments that have these multi-stall restrooms) that accommodates the transgender community or anyone who is uncomfortable with the traditional restroom situation, seems the best option for all.  It ensures the same level of safety we’ve always had, which isn’t perfect, but is MUCH better than what I believe we are opening our doors to now.  This is what the “family restroom” option is currently, so these restrooms could just expand their population.

And this is where I’m gonna get real.  So, if you’re a bit of a prude or squeamish, you probably want to stop reading this post right now…

These are my personal feelings about this issue:

I gotta tell ya.  I just can’t imagine poppin’ a squat in a multi-door public restroom and watching a human being with a penis enter the stall next to me.  It’s just too private.  It’s a sacred place where I can ask a perfect stranger if she has a tampon or pad when I’m bleeding like a sieve because the other girls understand.  I don’t want a man walking by the stall as I’m about to “affix” my tampon or pad unless he’s my husband.  It’s private and kinda yucky.  I don’t want the added pressure of being done “affixing” before a man walks in and past my stall with inch wide slits on every side.  When it’s vaginas only, I can fix my mascara or check my panty-lines in the mirror with little to no judgement – at least from most women over the age of 27…

I’m not grossed out by using the same commode as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual human being, anymore than I am grossed out by a heterosexual human being.  I just want the vaginas in the girls’ room and the penises in the boys’ room, if they want to be.  If they don’t, then I think a 3rd restroom is the choice.  If the establishment has single bathrooms, like several in Austin do, then I’m cool with them being genderless (is that the right word?).  I don’t care who I share individual public restrooms with, as long as we aren’t sharing simultaneously.

Okay.  I’ve said my peace.  Except this:  I want to love like Jesus and I don’t want to be hateful or judgemental in His name.  We are supposed to love one another.  We are supposed to listen to each other.  I’m open to questions and comments, and I’d love to discuss this further – in a loving and respectful manner.  Let’s all stop acting like bratty children and start acting like His children.  Because we ALL are.

2 Hearts

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I’m at this picturesque coffee house overlooking Lake Austin this afternoon, on the patio.  My Honey is driving the Duck (and will probably float by in about an hour, hopefully giving me a quack and a wave!).  Our kiddos are either at the gym working out or at their jobs working.  We’re all meeting later for dinner at a new spot called Unity Vegan Kitchen Shady Grove.  So, I have about 5 hours on my own.  I have my computer, my phone, a few bucks for an iced chai, and a view that is simply lovely.

For the past hour, since we walked out of church, I have been trying to figure out what to do with my time.  I had already decided to write, but the leading up to that is a little intimidating, to be really honest.  I do this thing where I impose a level of perfection on myself that simply isn’t possible for me and has the exact opposite effect on my writing than I would like it to.  My heart is to share my junk, in all of it’s glory  ugliness  humanness, with the hope that others don’t feel so alone.  I also pray that others will reach out and let me know that I am not alone in my junk.  Win-Wins are good stuff.

My life is in a good place right now.  I mean there is still SO much brokenness in my life, especially in some of my most intimate relationships, but I believe that this is what is right now and there is nothing for me to do about that at this point except pray and wait in love.  So, there is peace (as well as sadness) in that part of my life, but in the other, more functional parts of my life, there is so much good and I’ve waited for such a long time, so I’m a little bit ecstatic, on the regular. 

I’m setting aside time with my Father daily – okay, about 6 days a week.  It isn’t what I believe it’s supposed to be yet, but that’s okay.  It’s a relationship, it develops with time.  There is ebb and flow and all the while He and I are creating memories, knowing there is grace, love and an entire array of other ingredients that make our relationship sacred.  When I lived in Michigan, I got up and spent time with Him daily for years, but when everything fell apart here, little by little I lost my desire to spend time with Him for so many reasons.  I didn’t want to be transparent with anyone, because of the betrayal I had experienced.  I felt as if He chose not to protect me and then just watched me wallow in humiliation and brokenness.  I doubted His existence on some level.  In my anger, there was arrogance.

So many times over those first few years in Texas I would get up early and open my journal or my Bible and feel nothing but empty.  There were a few rare occasions when I felt His presence and I’d go on a 2-3 day roll before falling into complacency once again.  Each time my hope faded a bit more.  Hopelessness is an oppressive enemy.

I began to realize that this struggle reminded me a bit of my struggle with exercise over the years.  I’ve never been a big fan of the latest craze kind of exercise, especially when it came with a big price tag attached.  I found a long time ago, that once I am emotionally ready, I just have to put one foot in front of the other without a lot of thought.  If I consider things too much, I will talk myself out of exercise in a New York minute.  So, about a year and a half ago, I started setting my alarm for 5:20 and walking out to my chair in the corner of our living room and spending time with my Father.  It was not especially pleasant at first, but it began to feel familiar after a couple of weeks, and that was enough to make me continue getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button for the next few weeks.  It was probably almost a month before I felt like I was connecting with Him and His Word again.  There are times when I don’t follow through – like the first couple of weeks month of school because I’m absolutely exhausted, so I extend myself grace and choose to feel grateful that I managed to wake up early 1 or 2 days that week.  Because I don’t beat myself up, the guilt-monster doesn’t get the best of me, so getting back into my routine happens because I look forward to my special time with Him instead of because I feel guilty for not doing what I’m “supposed” to do.  The great part about that is that the barrier of guilt is not there, I will keep on keepin’ on because I want to and He really only wants me in relationship with Him because I want to be there, not because of that other junk!

Last summer it dawned on me that I needed to again apply this to daily exercise.  So, I started, but doing both in the morning before my 7:15 a.m. report to work time, was not going well.  I considered doing one or the other in the evening, but I was just TOO EXHAUSTED for this kind of commitment once I got home from 9 hours of mostly 6 year olds needing my constant attention.  Back to putting one foot in front of the other without a bunch of thought.  Now I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. most mornings.  I learned that if I do my workout first, I somehow don’t have time for Him and that’s my priority.  So, I spend time with Him, do my yoga practice and then jump step on the treadmill while watching something awesome, like Bethel music on youtube.

I haven’t lost a ton of weight – and let me tell ya, I would love to, but I feel better every day.  I take my supplements, I eat pretty clean and I’m taking care of my physical heart. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’ve decided that instead of beating myself up and getting stuck in the should’ve’s, I’m going to rejoice in the now and the ripple effects all of that will have on my later.

 During this desert time in my life, I believed in God, but I didn’t follow Him.  I’ve felt a bunch of shame during the last few years because I wasn’t the example I used to be for my teenage children who are now young 20-somethings.  We weren’t serving at church, we weren’t including Him in most of our decisions, and my root of bitterness felt as if it increased exponentially at times.  But, here is what I did right:  I kept taking my family to church.  I kept trying to spend time with Him.  I kept looking for a small group or a way to connect with other believers.  I kept trying to be in relationship with Him.  When I was lost and almost void of hope, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes obedience is the best we can do, and my life is proof that He honors that – my mustard seed of faith and my watering can of obedience were enough.

It took years before I found Him again.  He was there all the time.  My heart just wasn’t ready, yet.  I gave up a time or two, but He waited for me to be ready to try again.  I’m sure I frustrated Him now and again, but still He loves me without condition and He did the whole time I was a broken child.

heart blessed (2)

My desert time was almost 7 years long.  I often thought I would never feel the joy and fullness that comes with living for Him and knowing Him intimately, again.  I couldn’t fathom being grateful for those dark and empty years.  But I am.  I don’t understand the why of it all and I may not ever.  I just know that I am happier than I have been in what seems like forever and it has lasted a long time.  I  understand that I am blessed with a season of joy right now and that there will be more seasons of “not joy” in my life.  I am proof that He is faithful and sure that I am His.  

I know there are others walking through the desert right now and as much as I wish I could take their hands and walk them out to the beach or a lush, green field ripening with peace and joy, I know that all I can do is send some hope into their journey and assure them that He is walking beside each of them, grieving with them and loving them endlessly, no matter what comes.

Love Covers

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Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

A Call to Love

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people bridge

I find that it’s hard to be sympathetic to things and people that I know nothing about.  It’s much easier to appear sympathetic when we don’t really have to deal with that kind of pain personally.  We feel really great about ourselves when we are accepting, tolerant of others.  We tell ourselves and others that we are not really prejudiced and that makes us feel pretty darned good about ourselves …

Things have gotten uncomfortable around these parts, even scary for some of us.  It’s feeling like the sweeping under the rug that some of us have been trying to do – and by “us,” I mean those of us who don’t usually have prejudice aimed at us on the daily or weekly so we don’t choose to deal with it – has now become a futile attempt.  Our throw rug has become wall to wall carpeting and it is bulging on all sides and it looks like it just may vomit ALL OVER everyone at any moment.  Some of us are still furiously sweeping while we close our eyes, some of us are turning our heads, because that has worked for years, some of us are thrilled that we can finally express how superior we feel compared to those other people, some of us are terrified of all of the trouble these other loud mouth liberals are causing for no reason because things have come so far, and still others are thrilled beyond measure that something is finally going to change, because it can’t get any worse, can it?

These are some of the arguments that I’ve held near and dear or, at the very least, agreed a little bit with when others have expressed them to me:

1.  My children don’t have the same chances at a college education that people of color do.  It’s not fair that my child has a better GPA and can’t get into the same college as a person of color simply because they are a person of color.  (My hispanic hubby and I have had MANY discussions about this one.)

2.  My grandfather came into this country with less than two nickels to rub together and he worked his a*% off and made something of himself without a freeride from the government.

3.  Have you visited your local prison?  The majority of inmates are black for a reason.

4.  They all just seem so angry.  I mean I didn’t do anything.  My parents were the first generation here.  My descendants didn’t enslave theirs.

5.  Hasn’t slavery been abolished for a long time?!  How is giving them all of this preferential treatment going to make things more even?  – and when is this all going to stop so that everyone is finally on even ground?

6.  They don’t want equality when it comes to playing sports like basketball, do they?

By now, I’ve ruffled some feathers. I’m a white girl.  I understand.  I was raised by parents who claimed to not be prejudiced and then proceeded to justify why they felt the way they did, on the regular.  I was also raised in a small town that rarely saw the light of anything but white while I lived there.  Although in 5th grade twins who were black, a boy and a girl named Michael and Michelle, if memory serves me,  moved into my little village for a couple of weeks while their parents worked at the apple orchard outside of town.  I was beside myself.   I wanted them to feel welcome and I instinctively knew that they wouldn’t.  I went home and excitedly told my family.  I remember being teased about my love of black people.   My friendship at the age of 3 or 4 with a little black girl named Boo when we lived in Detroit has been the topic of ribbing since forever.  I was heartbroken that they didn’t see how cool this was and that I was going to make everyone love and accept each other.

I’m prejudiced.

I wish I could tell everyone that I’m not.  I’m working on being more who He wants me to be and a HUGE part of that is truly understanding that we are all God’s children and NO ONE is superior, but shedding the shell of my culture, my majority, my “security”, my power is no easy task.  It is necessary and freeing.  It is humbling in painful, embarrassing and joyful ways.  It’s a shame that it even has to be “fixed”… What is wrong with this world – with me?!

I’m a little afraid that “my” people won’t be in power in the near future.  I’m not even sure what that means or what that looks like, but in my gut I want to be part of the people who run things or at least blend in and be protected by them.  Because for some reason I believe I should be afraid of people of color, especially black people.  If I’m alone in my parked car at night and I see a black man, I instinctively want to be sure my car door is locked – in all fairness, I feel this way about almost anyone if I’m alone in a parked car, but especially if the person I see is black.  I was taught this from a very young age.  It is standard equipment for white girl upbringing.  This entire paragraph is a confession, not a justification.  God help me.

A friend recently reminded me of things I was told as a child and as an adult, such as, if a black man is walking toward you on the sidewalk, you should cross to the other side.  Asian people aren’t smarter than us, they just respect education more and try harder.  Muslims all want to kill us.  When people speak in a language other than English, they are being disrespectful to Americans. ( If you can’t speak the language, get out of our country!)  Black men always want big white girls.  The Mexicans coming here are mostly murderers, rapists and other kinds of criminals.  If the women who wear those veils across their faces can’t remove them to have their picture taken for a license/i.d. then they need to go back to their own country.

I remember when my son and his wife, who is black, first became seriously involved.  A family member questioned me about her being black.  They asked if she had a college education (my son does not, btw), they asked if she talked “black” and then they asked if her parents were married and professionals.  I was appalled, and somewhat defensive.  I tried to argue how insulting this was.  The other person chuckled and then tried to change the subject.

The truth is “my people” are my children who are both anglo (from many countries), and hispanic, a husband who is hispanic, a dil who is black… as time rolls along I have no doubt my family will be more and more enriched with people from many cultures and I look forward to this blessing.  It’s time to embrace people and reject the ignorant fear of anyone different before we even get to know them as actual people with just as much to bring to the table as we do.  It’s always been time, we’re just slow learners.  I long for this for the future generations of my people.

1.  It’s not fair.  It’s necessary.  It’s not fair that only people with money or with almost no money or who know the right people get to go to college.  We are all Americans and if we want our country to progress we are going to have to level the playing field by giving people of color a hand up educationally in college since we most certainly don’t before that in our public school system.

I think it’s also important to note how uneven things are once everyone graduates from college:  

One possibility is that blacks are often paid less—about 10 percent on average—even when working the same occupation as whites. This is probably a combination of discrimination and differences in skills.

As for discrimination, experimental evidence shows that potential employers are less likely to initiate the hiring process with blacks even when their resumes are identical. On the skills side, blacks are significantly under-represented in top colleges: only five percent of students in the top decile of four-year colleges (ranked by alumni earnings) are black.    -Jonathan Rothwell in “Job Gap Closes, Income Gap Sticks:  Halting Progress Towards Race Equality”

2.  My grandpa came here from Ireland and worked for 6 or 7 years, as I recall, before he could afford to bring my grandmother over.  They had 6 children.  He worked very hard and I am proud of what he did for his family and the future generations of his family.  He was a very angry man and we’ve all reaped the benefits of that in our lives as well.  He died just before I was born. Near the time our country lost JFK.  My grandma was with us all of my growing up years.  She had a beautiful accent, a wonderful sense of humor and the warmth of a mackerel.  (I realize other grandchildren had a different relationship with her.  I can only speak of my own.)  Their children were (and still are) white.  They have no accents.  Some of them attended college and almost all of their children attended college if they desired it.  When my ancestors came here they came by choice.  They had some money and they were welcomed by either family or by loads of people in the same boat as them from their country of origin – and they had white skin, so they blended right in with the people in power.

3.  I am dreading this one.  So many facts.  So many opinions.  There is not one pat answer for this cop out.  Sin is sin.  Crime is wrong.  You can only oppress people for so long before things go awry.  This system is broken and the justification because of it is a freakin’ mess.  When do we go outside, meet our neighbors and see each other as people.  When do we trade in being part of the status quo for being a real, active part of the solution?!

4.  I think about locking my car door.  Their children have been shot for simply looking the way God made them to look.  Seriously, are we that insensitive?  We need to walk in their shoes.  I can only tell you from my years of teaching that we (white folks) have NO idea what it is to be a person of color, to be truly poor, to attend an inner city school that offers less than very little, and to be treated like you are evil incarnate most of your young life – especially if you are a boy.

I think I would be angry…

5.  Refer to #1 and then ask God what He calls on you to be and do.  I just can’t believe we all think that it’s okay to turn a blind eye to this HUGE ELEPHANT in the room.  These people are our family.  We are all His children and family is messy.  Nobody said this would be easy, but it is necessary.  We must embrace the beautiful, and even the irritating differences in all of the stunning ethnicities of our world and we need to start with the people who live in our own neighborhoods, and where we work and everywhere He places an opportunity for us to build a bridge.

6.  I just can’t…  In the whole scheme of things… Nope, I can’t…

This is a journey I’ve been on my whole life.  God placed this passion in me for all to feel loved and accepted unconditionally.  I’m sure I’ve written things that will offend people for different reasons out of my own ignorance and out of His conviction.  I welcome your loving input.  I want to grow and do better and I can’t do that alone.  It’s time for all of us to sit down across the table from our brothers and sisters and bridge the gap that exists because of our fear and ignorance.  It’s time to see each other through the eyes of love and understanding and to embrace one another’s differences and allow our lives to be enriched by these relationships.  We will inevitably be hurt and injured as we are in human relationships, and the enemy will be sure to build upon that, but we must get back up, dust ourselves off and carry on in love.  It is necessary…  Our children, our people are counting on us.

Revelations from a weekend

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God doesn’t love us despite who we are, He adores us and delights in us because of who we are.  We are daughters (and sons) of the King who loves us without condition.

That moment when you realize that you used to do the “right” thing to set an example for your little girl and now you think of what she would do in order to do the right thing. 

We share our opinions and judgements a bunch more than His love.

Use me for Reconciliation.

Lord, pry our fingers from the earthly.

I want to do things with God, not just for Him.

Color-blind is stupid and kind of insulting.

I want to be in His will.  I want to really love like Him.  

I want to be brave enough to live in Faith.

It isn’t the BIG thing that we do that builds others up or makes a real difference for the Kingdom, but the everyday sprinklings that we take the time for daily in other people’s lives. 

Ramblings, er… Confessions of the Day

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true-confessions

Idiosyncrasies.  We all have them.

Right? 

When I look through our photos, in and out of albums, I have this urge to place my index finger and thumb on the corners to make them bigger.  I have to remind myself that I can only do that on my phone.  Modern technology has messed with my brain.

I get up extra early during the week in order to spend time with my Father and practice yoga, but I often end up looking at fb and then trying to cram God and yoga into a 20 minute space.  Other mornings, when I’m feeling grumpy or worried, I try to force myself to write something “thankful” first because some older Christian told me that was the right way to approach God a long time ago and I still feel guilty if I don’t do this.  Because God doesn’t know that I’m really thinking about the negative junk if I write “Good morning, God.  Thank You for…” before I dump the other stuff at His feet.

Sometimes I text my kids in the next room or upstairs because I’m too lazy to walk to where they are or even to the bottom of the stairs to tell them something.

When I’m overly tired I will often go to bed and look at all of my phone apps for an hour before I go to sleep and then I start the following day even more tired, determined not to be so stupid again… but I do it all over again most of the time…

I’ve been a mom and kinder/1st grade teacher for such a long time that I don’t really know how to start conversations with adults who aren’t the parents of my children’s friends or the parents of my students.

My obsessive compulsion is that I “clean” my fingers off with my other fingers and if I miss a spot, I have to start over again where I last “cleaned” completely.  

I struggle to know God as my Father who loves me unconditionally.  I struggle to believe I’m worth the work and the grace He invests in me even though I can totally believe He does this for others.  They just mostly seem so much more loveable than I am…

I have a hard time sticking up for myself.  I’ve thought about why.  You know, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  I think it’s fear of finding out no one really cares.  I have absolutely NO trouble sticking up for my children or other people I love – often when it’s not my place to do so.  So, basically I suck at defending everyone in one way or another.

Being in my 50’s freaks me out sometimes.  I finally feel more freedom to be who I am meant to be, yet it feels as if I’m running out of time and I’ve done so little with the time I’ve been given.  Mid-life crisis, much?

Sometimes I compare sins in my brain to try to feel better about myself and then I remember all of the horrible and embarrassing junk I’ve done and I feel super grateful and relieved that there is forgiveness and grace.  I also feel embarrassed that my thoughts were so horrible and arrogant.

I have a really cool Bible app on my phone that I listen to every morning and often my first reaction to the choices some people made, like Lot’s wife looking back (seriously, how simple is it NOT to turn around for a bit?!), or eating from the one lousy tree He told them not to, is to feel disgusted because I’m sure I would’ve made MUCH better decisions than those dummies…  and sometimes when my husband says what I’m thinking out loud, I don’t always say, “I KNOW, right?!”  Sometimes I just explain why we would do the same thing as those dummies and act a little like I’m superior because I’m willing to be so humble and admit I am just as dumb as the people in the Bible.

Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Peacemaker

 

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

What is a peacemaker?  Some Christians live their lives proudly proclaiming themselves peacemakers.  I think a bunch of us think that peacemakers are the kind, not-judgey, sweet old grandma type of Christians, so I can understand why someone would want to call themselves that.  I believe this is another one of those terms that has slowly changed to be more palpable in our culture.  For me, one of the telling signs is that I rarely, if ever, hear a man call himself a peacemaker, but I’ve heard many women describe themselves as this as an interchangeable term for “nice.”

In my almost 23 year journey as a Christian, I’ve tried to sift through what people say things in the Bible mean and what they truly mean.  It hasn’t been an easy task and there were moments in my early days as a fairly new Christian that I encountered some pretty unattractive behavior in the name of following Christ and it threw me into a tailspin.  I think about that a bunch when I say the Bible says this or that to others because I don’t want to send anyone down the wrong path or not be as true as I possibly can be to His Word – although in a desperate moment or two, I admit I’ve punted with my own children during some scary teen moments…

So, this is what Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has to say and when I checked biblestudytools.com, the definition was very similar, with the mention that in the Bible the word is only used in its plural form:

Peacemaker:  one who works with opposing sides in order to bring about an agreement.

Synonyms:  broker, conciliator, go-between, honest broker, interceder, intercessor, intermediary, middleman, mediator, troubleshooter, moderator, bargainer, negotiant.

These words describe someone who takes action.  While I see honest and other positive representations of peacemaker, I see no mention of nice or silencer of other’s feelings.

So many women have been shamed their whole lives for being outspoken, transparent, passionate, and many other things that “nice” girls are not supposed to be.  In our culture we tend to think of these traits as not feminine.  We instead think that smiling, never complaining, and always saying “nice” things about people is what little girls are made of.  I daresay we think that’s what a peacemaker is.

Who has real, long-term peace from this kind of behavior?  The peacemaker?  The “made to be peaceful?”  How can a nice girl really be known, if she puts on this face all of the time in order to gain other’s approval or to be thought of as “nice?”  It’s a lonely achievement…  It’s a life of stuffing feelings and putting on faces.  It’s a time bomb waiting to explode all over the place with casualties untold.

I’ve seen families and workplaces controlled by peacemakers (who have their own selfish agendas) for years and then one day it all blows up in everyone’s’ faces, because the wounded people have never really been heard and you can only stuff so much festering junk for so long.  The ugly behavior of some has been inflicted on others for years, while the peacemaker swept it under the rug, shaming the injured people for saying anything, and never confronting the hurtful people.  Often these people become little monsters and the wounded people become isolated, feeling unloved, unworthy of being fought for, until they finally just walk away – physically or, at the very least, emotionally.  Meanwhile the “peacemaker” shrugs her shoulders, wonders why people walked away and secretly feels a little relieved that things are still peaceful…

Where are the true peacemakers, the go-betweens, the mediators? 

They are usually the outspoken ones trying to stand up for injustice while being accused of having big mouths or being troublemakers – not troubleshooters.  This can be a lonely road if they aren’t traveling with others who value truth and honor transparency, but it seems to me that it is the more noble path and the one He would be pleased with.  They are, after all, blessed.

I think for me this is another sign that  I need to be in His Word more and I need to be in tune to what He has for me, who I am in Him.  I don’t want to please other human beings at the risk of not being blessed.  I don’t want to walk through this life trying to fit this image of a “nice” girl so people will like me.  I want to be bold for Him because He made me bold and I want to love like Him because He made me for that more than any other reason.  I want to have the courage to stop allowing shame to curb His vision of me.  I want to share other people’s burdens and rejoice in the freedom they discover once they’ve been heard and fought for.  I want to live messy and true and in peace. 

I am His child and I want my Father’s blessing.

 

 

The last sunrise of the year…

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At the moment of sunrise, the eastern sky lights up a brilliant orange over the downtown Austin area. The tallest silhouetted building is the Austoinian. This panorama was captured from the Zilker Park Clubhouse just west of the city.

As I look out my window at the last sunrise of the year, I can’t help but think of all of the good stuff  of 2015 – and, of course, some of the bad stuff of 2015, that I want to change in 2016.  I always find people’s thankful lists telling. I’m a big, “love language” kinda girl.  You can usually figure out what someone’s love language is by their “thankful list.”

My Honey will usually talk about a good conversation with me or one of our kids where he felt affirmed as a dad or husband.  He might mention a great tour he had or something awesome at church when he played with the band.  All of these things have one thing in common – the words that people say to him.  His love language is words of affirmation.  Words can build him up immensely or tear him down horribly.  Caleb and Aaron have the same love language and every time we get together with them, our conversations are full of what people said to them or about them that caused them to feel great or not so great.

Hannah and I share the same primary love language and if you’ve seen my facebook posts, you probably know that quality time is how I feel most loved.  If someone is willing to make time for me, I feel loved beyond measure.  If we had any doubt about Hannah feeling the same way, it all went away when we went couch shopping a few months ago.  We were in the store looking at various designs.  Hannah kept going back to the sectional – which I felt was a bit big for the area we have in our living room.  As I explained this to her, she sat down on it and said, “I know, but I can sit right here and all of my brothers can fit on it with me and we’d all be together.”  The couch was on it’s way to our home within the hour…  How do you say “No” to that?!

Besides, I believe her secondary love language is gifts and mine is acts of service, so this was a win-win for both of us!!

So, here is my list, and the order is not indicative of the importance, but probably more about how recently it occurred or how memories come to mind when you spend time recalling a year…

I’m thank for:

-my friend, Giselle, who stored our Hannah’s trailer and loaned us their truck and encourages me and my daughter in a way that few women have in my life.  We have lunch less than a half a dozen times a year, but our conversation sustains me and lifts me for the months in between because she is a woman of honor and she chooses to be my friend and make time for me whenever I text her, “Lunch?”  I also love that her family loves my kombucha and she randomly and often leaves gifts by my front door that always come when I need them most.  I think Giselle’s love language is gifts…

-my team at work.  I have never worked with a team of teachers (there are 6 of us, btw, all women) that I have such respect for in the classroom.  I would put any of my own children in any one of their classrooms without thinking twice.  They are all committed to their students in ways that go above and beyond teacher responsibilities daily.  Everyone contributes to the whole, supports each other and steps in for anyone on our team who needs help – and we’ve all taken our turns.  I love that I can connect and laugh with anyone of them when I need to see the humor in the events of a rough day or situation.  This is such a rare dynamic and I dread the day when it ends, which it surely will.  Until then I marvel at the gift these ladies are to me and to the 1st grade students at our school.  Which leads me to my kiddos at work.  I adore them and I’m so thankful that their parents entrust them to me each year.  It is a mystery to me how precious each and every one of my babies that walks through my classroom door is, and how He gives me the capacity to treasure and adore every one of them.

-my friend, Connie, who although she lives in Michigan, still makes time for me when I call and dump my junk on her because she knows and loves my family well and she’s one of my safe people in this not-so-safe world.  I’m thankful for her husband and her children who I love right back.  I’m thankful for her sense of humor and her perspective that is always lined with grace.  I also love that she’s into all of the ferments and healthy living that I am so passionate about and we teach each other new stuff every time we get together.

-my time each morning with my Father.  I had stopped making time for several years when I first moved to Texas for all sorts of “reasons” that just seem lame now.  But, in the middle of 2014 I committed to consistently making this time a priority every day and I have for well over a year now.  As I expected, in spite of some painful things happening this past year, I walked through with the assurance that I was (usually) in His will and with the peace that knowing I had put it in His hands and that I didn’t have to carry it anymore.  My favorite part of being His child has always been having peace that passes understanding.  For me, a girl who struggles with worry, control, and insomnia, it is the stuff.

-the trips we took as a family this past year.  We went to Arizona, Port A, Seattle, and Portland.  Being stuck in the car with my husband and my kiddos is a dream come true for me.  I love the conversations, the cuddling, the memories, and all that goes with a long road trip with the people I most love in this world.  For me, it’s usually just as great as reaching our destination.  I am especially thankful that our kiddos made time to do these trips with us even though they’re all grown up.  This mama feels loved when her grown babies make time to be together.

-our church and our small group.  We transferred to the south Austin campus this year and our entire family feels like we’re finally home.  It has been too many years since my Honey and I served at church and we are back in the swing of things and loving every moment.  After years of trying to find a small group that was a good fit, we have found one that we both love and are growing in.  I can’t tell you what an answer to prayer this is for all of us.  We are blessed and no longer alone.

-Destiny Project brought me back to life again.  This helped me reconnect with my Heavenly father in a way I have longed to for soooooooo long and gave me my heart back again.  My marriage and my family are restored because of this ministry and what He does through it.  I’m thankful that I was able to go and my heart was open enough to allow a miracle to happen.  I’m also thankful that I made friends with some of the most beautiful women God has created.  All beautiful because of who He is to them and in their lives.

-my children and where they all are in their journeys.  I love that our kiddos are all finding their way in this world.  Some of them are taking classes to prepare for their future, some of them are creating things they are passionate about, some of them are risking it all to live the life they feel called to live, and all of them are working hard to be able to take the next step.  I am thankful that they are all healthy and pursuing their dreams.  My prayer for all of them is that they follow His lead and be in His will because He knows their hearts better than anyone and He has a plan that is perfect for their lives. – Another thing that I am thankful for!

-this place… This blog helps me keep my sanity.  He made me this way, that written words are how I best communicate and work through the junk in my head, my life, my relationships, my world.  I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made, the fears I’ve faced, the difference He’s made through me just telling my story.  I’m thankful for the grace and love I’ve received and been able to offer through this media space where I wear my heart on my sleeve and pray for mercy.

-my Honey’s (kinda) new job.  It was a huge leap of faith giving him my support to retire from teaching and switch careers at this point in our lives.  I only agreed to this when He made it very clear that He was opening this door for my husband and we needed to walk through.  Daily I received confirmation that we made the right choice when I see how happy, purposeful, and respected my husband is.  It makes for a happy life when you faithfully follow the path He has for you and I am so grateful that my husband has found his place and that he receives words of affirmation on the regular because he is where he’s supposed to be.

-my Honey.  He and I have been through it, I tell ya.  We’ve weathered storms that seemed to go on endlessly.  We spent years tripping over our own egos and trying to figure out when the other one would get their junk together.  We’ve raised LOTS of kiddos, faced serious health issues, dealt with exes, in-laws, and steps, moved across the country, lost almost everything, worked together, worked apart, purchased and sold homes, been bored, been overwhelmed, nursed each other, resented each other, adored each other, paid bills together, thanked God for each other, almost divorced each other, and here we are.  This year was the good stuff, the transparent place where we know we are completely accepted and that the other stuff is just stuff and we can get through it all because we already have.  Where we’re old enough to know to treasure the moments of laughter and love because they are fleeting and precious.  Where we agree and are in awe that we have created the most amazing people walking this earth who choose to love us and call us mom and dad.

I know there are SO many other things I have to be thankful for this past year, but once I hit 2000 words, I feel like it’s time to start winding things up so that we can all get on with our day.  I believe it’s important to focus on our blessings.  I think that it’s okay to have a rough patch and not feel guilty because you want to wallow for a bit and not put on your big girl (or boy) panties (or boxers?) until tomorrow or next month.  I’ve been so low that I just couldn’t get there and all of that anecdotal happy, joy b.s. just made me feel more isolated and alone, but I’ve also been in less low places more often when focusing on the good stuff is just what I needed to climb out of the funk and get up on my feet again.

I pray you have a list of the good stuff this year.  I pray you savor it and understand that even though it will end and bad, even horrible stuff will happen at some point (and I’m so sorry if you are in the bad or horrible right now), that the good, and even fantastic stuff will come again, too.  This is true for all of us who walk this Earth.  The human condition can be a rollercoaster ride.  I have decided that I am holding on, screaming at the top of my lungs and finally throwing my hands up over my head because I don’t want to miss a minute of the click, click, click as I approach that big drop, the dips, the corkscrew spins with my barefeet dangling, or the straight-away, slow-down time before I hear the screech of the brakes pulling into the station because the ride is over.  This ride is temporary.  I don’t want to close my eyes or heart and miss what He has for me, even when I don’t want it…

Happy New Year!!  

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Slippery Slopes, Potholes & Divots

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slippery slope

A slippery slope

I remember finding out that he was coming.  I was over the moon about it.  They told me there may be two of them on their way, but after a few days of fretting about the possibility, an ultrasound revealed one perfect baby boy growing healthy in my welcoming womb.  That was almost 30 years ago.  It wasn’t my first pregnancy, but it was my first planned pregnancy and the first one I would carry to term.

Sometimes it is mind-boggling to me how much my first pregnancy affected my entire life, especially the way in which I raised my children.  When I was 19 years old and in college becoming very liberal, I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing by terminating my pregnancy.  Years later, after I gave birth to my twins, I would finally face the enormity of taking the life of my first child, and lay it down at His feet.  But from the moment I gave birth to my oldest son, I was fully aware of God’s mercy and grace, although I didn’t claim to be His follower at that point.

I remember thinking something along the lines of “I can’t believe He would allow me the privilege of raising this perfect little boy after what I’ve done,” in the hospital delivery room.  I felt like I owed God so much for blessing this unworthy girl with the biggest joy of my life, so I worked everyday to devote myself to being the most amazing and perfect mama there ever was.  Which in real talk means I became a neurotic perfectionist.

I made sure that my son felt treasured and protected from anything and everything that might cause him discomfort.  I sat up at night in the summer to be sure bugs wouldn’t land on him if a mosquito or fly was buzzing around inside our home.  I nursed him for 5 months, rocked him to sleep every night until he was almost 2, read to him whenever he’d allow it, rarely fed him store-bought baby food unless I couldn’t find time to make it myself, talked with him endlessly.  When he was older I would stay up at night to fix the periods and commas on his homework so that he wouldn’t have to feel any rejection at school.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him hurting in any way.  I had a neurotic fear that if I didn’t do things well enough, God would take him back.

I remember once when he was about 6 months old, I made one of the worst decisions I could’ve made.  I’m embarrassed as I begin to type these words, afraid of what you will think of me.  My son had been sick for several days and his father had come home very late, in no condition to help me.  I called my parents and asked them to pick up some things for my baby and they helped, but were vocal about why my husband didn’t take care of this.  He worked for them, so they were very aware of his schedule.  When we ran out of formula and the medicine my baby needed a couple of days later, I was too embarrassed to call anyone, so I bundled my little guy up, drove to the store and locked him in the car while I ran through the blustery snow to grab formula and medicine.  I was only in there for about 10 minutes, watching the car the entire time.  As I was leaving the store, a police car pulled up to mine and an angry officer came charging up to me as I hurried to the car.  He screamed at me that someone would be coming to my home later that evening to pick up my son because I was such a neglectful mother.  He asked me if I knew how much danger I had put my child in.  He told me to enjoy the next few hours because I might not have any more time with my son once a judge saw what an awful mom I was.  I drove home nearly hysterical and spent the next several hours apologizing to my baby, and trying to make the most of my last few hours with my son.

They never showed up.  I never heard from anyone ever again about any of it.  I had escaped my deserved fate twice now and I wasn’t going to test the three strike rule.

I’ve never left any of my children in the car alone for even a hot minute.  I still can’t believe I made such a terrible decision.  My only defense is that I was young, exhausted, alone and I felt desperate to get the things my baby needed and for some reason, I thought the snowstorm was more of a threat to him than being left in a car alone in a huge public parking lot.  I know…

Through the years I worked very hard to teach my son how to be giving and generous and most importantly how to love without condition.  I talked  with him about these things and I modeled it as consistently as I could as I parented him through the years.

His father and I divorced when our son was almost 2 years old.  Just after he turned 3, I married his stepdad.  I acquired a stepson who is just 3 months younger than my son and I commenced attempting to become the world’s most perfect step/mom.  My husband and I decided to wait to have any more children so that our sons could be our focus and they could get a firm foundation of security in our family.  Our daughter was born the day before our 4th anniversary and I continued to be a neurotic mama.  Again, the vulnerability of losing one of our children to something caused by my neglect or oversight was just more than I could bear.  In my son’s 7 years of life I think I had only gotten more protective and controlling.  The normal relaxation that parents experience with additional children didn’t happen to me.

I was homeroom mom, PTA president, I headed up and helped with more ministries at church than I can recollect.  I was obsessed with our children having wonderful memories and raising them to be contributing members of society who were full of compassion and eager to help their fellow man and follow Christ.  The irony is that I thought it all hinged on what I did and said, while leaving very little to Christ.  I guess I didn’t model faith very well…

It backfired on me a bit.  I found that when you spend all of your time and energy on being a martyr, you raise children that are shocked and angry when you suddenly attempt to have healthy boundaries.  This was a shock to me.  I was absolutely confident that my children would want to step-up as they grew up and meet others’ needs intuitively.  I thought that they would rise up and call me blessed…

They definitely rose up…   and then things got really ugly for awhile – kind of a long while.  I reacted badly to the part where they spread their wings and leave the nest.  They dug their heels in and as I freaked out, I had a lot of alone time to analyse the situation.  First I spewed about why my ungrateful brats were completely in the wrong, then I justified why I had done nothing wrong and listed all of the marvelous (perfect) things I had done as their mama, then I beat myself up for all of it.  Finally,  I decided to close my mouth, reign in my thoughts, open my ears and my heart so that I could hear their hearts.  It was not a walk in the park.  It did not happen overnight or in a conversation or two, but somewhere along the way, I humbled myself and waded through the hurt to the truth and the amazing thing was that when I did that, my children followed my example and heard my heart.  There were lots of apologies, new perspectives and a whole bunch of grace.

pothole

He’s forgiven me for my horrible choice so many years ago.  It has been very difficult for me to accept his grace because of the magnitude of my sin and my inability to think like He does because of my human limitations.  The cool thing is that I find that as I embrace his forgiveness, I am able to have healthier boundaries with the people I care for most, including myself.  I no longer see Him as a Father who is just waiting for me to mess up so that He can punish me for not being even close to perfect.  He wants me to do the “right” things because I feel led to do it, not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t – and this isn’t news to me.  On some level I’ve always known this in my head, but wounds can cause us to live enslaved, making important choices based on fear and guilt.  The ripple effect of that can be detrimental to generations.  Sometimes the regret for all of my bad choices still overwhelms me.  I can see how it’s affected my children in their own relationships and reactions to what life deals them.  This mama’s heart struggles to not get caught up in the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”  I swear when we give birth to our first child, a “guilt” chromosome is inserted into women’s brains.  On the good days, when I’m wise,  I fall back on Him.  I focus on having  faith that He has this all in His hand and He will honor and bless my mustard seed faith.  On the bad days, I don’t have faith like I do on the good days and then I waste time worrying, making the same mistakes as before and thinking I know best and have control of things.  I wish I didn’t have bad days at all, but I still do and I’m thankful that He extends grace to me and He’s all about do-overs.  I think that before I would spiral into control mode and for the longest time, that was my slippery slope, but the field has leveled off as I’ve learned to have more faith in Him and now it’s more like a pothole or a quick detour before getting right back on the path.  I’m working toward it becoming a divot or swerve in the near future, as I don’t expect I’ll ever be perfect in this area (or any other).  I have more peace now and things work out so much better when I follow His lead, embracing whoever and whatever He blesses me with.

It only took me nearly a half a century to get here, but it’s enough…

divot

 

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

Well, it’s over.  The food has been consumed.  The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper collected, the dishes washed (for the eighth time), and the memories have been made.  This was one of the good ones.

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

I loved that every single gift that was given was perfect for the receiver.  Now, before you perhaps misunderstand, gifts are kept to a minimum in our family and have been for many years now.  I’ve worked very hard to teach my children by example that we don’t believe that Christmas is about the insanity of greed that we believe it has become in our culture, but that it is most importantly about Jesus and spending time with the people we most love in the world.  I regress…  What was so lovely to me about this part of our holiday was that it was obvious we all chose gifts that we put a lot of thought into.  There was the joy in being truly known and loved deeply around our Christmas tree.

I felt so blessed to have 2 days full of yummy food, and that much of it was healthy and lots was not, but all of it was delicious.  We are a foodie family, which means that great food and drink are the foundation on which we build our time together.  It brings a satisfaction to everything when we are assembled.  Shrimp diablos, a lazy susan overrun with cheese of various origins, ribeyes on the grill, smoothies, shrimp cocktail, smashed redskins, broiled asparagus, lime bars, quiche, peanut butter kisses, oatmeal brulee’ with granny smith apples & cranberries, dark fudge with walnuts, Christmas sangria, veggies in every color imaginable, eggnog, guacamole, frappuccino, pico de gallo, monkey bread with fresh raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries, and of course, green bean casserole.

Opening gifts on Christmas eve, sleeping in on Christmas morning, green & red oatmeal brulee’, stockings in the morning, grazing all afternoon while watching A Christmas Story in comfy clothes and no makeup, piled all over each other, with cell phones turned off.

Listening to our children laugh uproariously late on Christmas eve because they’re making a video of one of them dancing with abandon while I lie in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks praising Him for this undeserved moment of heavenly joy.

Being reminded of days gone by when our “baby” still wakes up a little grumpy because he’s (ALWAYS) hungry, another wakes up looking, just for a moment, like the little imp you held each morning so many years ago (or was that yesterday?), and yet another practically glows because her love language is quality time and she knows she still has a full day of it with the people she loves most in this world.

There’s something about great conversation.  It feeds my soul in a way not a lot of other things do.  I find it interesting that some of my best nourishment comes from conversations with my adult children.  They are some of the rare people I’ve experienced quality exchanges with.  We have varying opinions about some topics that many people avoid – politics, religion, homosexuality, abortion, etc. – and we have this beautiful way of hearing each other.  Sometimes it gets heated and we don’t always do this perfectly, but when we have one of our really beautiful exchanges of words, it just blesses me right down to the core of my being.  There is something about acceptance and respect that is highly underrated, in my opinion.  It’s a gift to have multiple opinions vying to be heard and not have anyone feel the need to “play devil’s advocate” just to feel superior or not have anyone make up “facts” from the articles they can’t recall the name of, but they swear they’ve read to backup their argument, and it’s especially wonderful to not have anyone take cheap, disrespectful shots when they aren’t “winning” the “argument.” (All things I’ve experienced with less rare people who I’ve had not-so-quality exchanges with.)  It’s freeing when you realize that your objective isn’t to sway others to your own opinion, but to be heard and understood as well as hear and understand.  It’s also more than a little difficult when you first realize your children no longer follow your beliefs blindly, but have their own opinions and some of them may go directly against what you value deeply.  Don’t get me wrong… It’s glorious, too, witnessing your offspring come into his/her own, but dealing with this growth in your child, nudges you to (somewhat painfully) grow a bit, too.

I woke up two days ago and asked Him to help me focus on all of my blessings and to have peace about the decisions others have made that have affected me painfully.  Holidays have not typically been something I’ve looked forward to in the past.  I’ve had a bunch of those ones that people make memes about, dark comedic movies about or SNL skits about. But this year was different, because I had a really wonderful Christmas.  I received gifts from my husband and children that screamed, “You are known and loved.”  He gave me joy, peace and love in abundance.  He gave me a slew of memories that I will continue to be blessed by, day after day and year after year.  I feel like I grew a little because I am learning that holidays don’t look the same to everyone and what ruins those special days for me isn’t that the days are bad, it’s that they don’t look like my mind expects them to – and that if I allow Him to lead the way, the day looks exactly like it should and that’s much better than what my mind expected.  This Christmas was more than I could’ve hoped for and definitely much more than I deserve.

 

James Code

James is one of my very favorite books of the Bible and this was my husband’s gift to me.