Tag Archives: Christianity

Simplicity

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This has been a year of faith growing for me.  If I’m painfully honest, I am the poster child for, “Ye of little faith.”  My security has been cash for as long as I can remember.  When my husband and I were first starting out, I wanted nothing more than to be “comfortable” in the finance department.  I also wanted “the latest, greatest,” as many 20-somethings do.  When our kiddos came along, we had the 4 bedroom with a huge yard and an in-ground pool in the back.  They were dressed to the nines for school (as some of their report cards will attest), and took every lesson and played most organized sports available to children of their age.  We had a membership to a very posh gym and drank chain coffee drinks on the regular.  I spent much of my time keeping up with the proverbial Joneses and secretly envying our friends and family members who had more than we did.

At some point, I realized how absolutely ugly all of that was and how little I cared to continue running on the hamster wheel I had created for myself.  It also became very important for me to teach this to my children before they flew out of my nest.  This was not any easy goal, as I had spent their entire lives modeling the polar opposite of my new conviction-turned-passion.

Simplicity is my destination.  I don’t mean I just want less stuff, I mean I want simplicity in my relationships, in my closet, in my schedule and in my home.  Initially, I thought it would take about a year to clean out the garage, our house, etc.  I believed it was an easy “weed through” kinda thing, and then I began the process.  It was not simple nor easy.  I’m embarrassed to admit how attached I am to too many things.  The most humiliating facet of this process is how long I am willing to hang on to things I haven’t used or needed in decades, just in case I may need them one day.  Secretly, I envision myself saving money just when we need it most because of an item I’ve been hoarding in an overstuffed closet for 16 years.  You know, that perfect, authentic piece for my child’s Halloween costume (our youngest are 22 years old!), or that kitchen tool that I received 20 years ago in a bundle from an elderly relative, that I’ve NEVER used, but washed many times – in case I needed it suddenly one day…  (Truth be told, I didn’t even know what some of those things were!)  Of course, I had outfits that I would never look good in again or purchased on a whim and never even wore.  Not a few, but 4 LARGE trash bags full.  I also had 7 huge crates of books that my family had to pretty much force me to part with.  I was saving those for the grandchildren I don’t yet have.  Broken appliances, hideous, worn-out furniture, bags, jars, vases, rags, lotions, expired medicines, partial sheet sets…

Our 2-car garage was filled to the brim and there was very little room in our home.  Last year we gave away, sold and threw out more than 1/2 of the “stuff” we had accumulated, and still our new tiny 1-car garage is filled, not to the brim, but the floor is about 80% covered.

I work in a very wealthy part of Austin.  My employers live a life I used to covet and yearn for.  Almost inevitably when I am driving to work, passing mansion after mansion, I look up at God and thank Him for the life I have and for not giving me the one I used to think would bring me joy.  He has freed me from that.  I don’t just accept that I don’t have a life like that, I celebrate that I don’t and more importantly, I rejoice that I have the life He has blessed me with.  

Last summer I quit my job as a teacher.  I was quite terrified, a little heartbroken, and a smidge thrilled.  Every year the powers that be (tptb) in my district made things more and more complicated and less about teaching my precious students, and I found that I just couldn’t do it in good conscience anymore.  I’ve been nannying/doula-ing for families with newborns and toddlers since then and my work life is SO much more relaxed and rewarding.  I’m still not sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, but my stress level is much lower and when I leave my job, I am actually done until I return and I’m on the clock again.  When I’m home, I am present.  There are no papers to correct, endless lesson plans to complete or ridiculous t-tess forms to fill out to convince admin that I can actually still teach after doing a bang-up job for 20 years already!  I have fun on my 3-day weekends without working late all week or shutting myself in all day Saturday or Sunday.  I am also not exhausted when I get home.

I’ve pursued healthy christian relationships with other women who want to grow and truly love Jesus.  I’ve spent some time looking at and praying about the relationships I’ve had in the past and I’ve chosen to walk away from some unhealthy ones.  My new home is peaceful in a way that I have desired for a very long time.  There is a place and a time when drama is a part of life, it is inevitable, but I just refuse to entertain it unnecessarily.  While this has been the most difficult part of my life to simplify, and often the most painful, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I still have a closet to thin out a bit and “stuff” in the garage that needs to go, but I’m recognizing what we have accomplished, not beating myself up for what still needs to be done.  It is all a journey, to be walked with our heads up, noticing the beauty all around us and living in the moment.  As I lighten my load, I find I am enjoying everything a little more, looking up, sitting back, jumping in.  I’m finding that the best provider is not my husband, certainly not me or our bank account, but He will provide my needs and often my wants.  As I let go of more and have less, I find I am trusting Him more and realizing I need and want less.  It doesn’t make sense in this culture, but it works better than anything I’ve ever done and that’s enough for me to continue on this journey He’s leading me on.

 

It’s a Great Place to Visit, Just Don’t Move in

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This is an entry from a blog I authored several years ago.  Sometimes it’s good to take a trip back and revisit difficult times so as to see the work of His hands since then.  I am grateful for my journey.  All of it.  The horrific chapter that almost became the final scene and the stories of real and deep love, joy and laughter, and every chapter in between, before and after.
I believe in visiting the past for a short time to work through and grow, because if we don’t, the past will show up in our present and cause it to be less than it was meant to be.
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2009:
Big question of the day: Can I really trust God if I don’t fully believe He loves me?
Nope, and therein lies the problem. My big, bad wolf is that I don’t believe anyone can love me unconditionally – even the Big Guy. Deep down I have always believed that I’m not worth loving that way. The thing is, is that to trust someone kind of requires that you need some proof, and proof only comes when you go through junk together. And sometimes when you go through the junk, the way you go through it or come out of it, isn’t the way it happens in the movies.
His ways are not mine.
I know that sounds cliche’, but it’s still true.
I understand that sometimes terrible accidents happen, cancer or other terrible illnesses strike, financial junk, etc., but what about when all of the people you’ve come to trust and depend upon choose to pull away just when you need them most? What about being the “strong” one that everyone leaned on and when, for the first time in your life, you need to do the leaning, your inner circle disintegrates? What do you do when the person closest to you steals your reality when you are at your lowest point? What about when you cry out to God and beg Him to be real to you and help you through this awful extended darkness and you hear nothing… for years? What about when you start to “feel” Him again and things are getting so great and then you find out you were right… No one can really love you sacrificially? Do you fold? Do you try to trust Him after He just let all this horrible stuff happen to you? Can you believe He loves you?
His ways are not my ways.
Sometimes the most painful experiences are the only things that create trust and force us to accept His love.
I used to be really irritated by this woman who lived in my old neighborhood, went to our old church and had a son who was friends with my twins. She never did anything with abandon. She was kind of a Stepford wife, you know? She got a new car every other year and she alternated between white and tan. Her house was all painted beige. She never risked anything. She always seemed a little afraid of everything. She would ask our mutual (seeking) friends what their doctrine was and junk like that when they didn’t even know if they wanted to visit a church or not and probably didn’t know or care what doctrine was. She drove me crazy! I remember wondering why everywhere I lived or spent time, God always placed one of “those” people in my path.
We are all one of “those” people to some extent. Some of us just hide it better than others, some don’t hide it at all, some don’t even realize there is a problem, nor do they want to. Some of us have looked the things we fear the most, right in the eye, and survived because of His love and we just trust Him a little more than we used to.
I had gotten so good at believing my life was so good, especially compared to what it was before I was a believer, that I was afraid to not be grateful enough or to appear to be less than a “good christian” wife, mother, daughter, woman, etc. I was especially careful to make it all look good to my “unbelieving family members” and anyone in any of the christian groups I led. Besides if I let down my guard, they would probably reject me and I’d have to face that they didn’t love me if I wasn’t “on”. I told myself that it was all okay and God would probably even bless it because I was trying to make Him look good – because, you know, I’m that important to His reputation.  If my life wasn’t full of love and patience, then what would people think of Jesus, since I was always giving Him all the glory? I didn’t trust Him to love me just as I was. I didn’t trust anyone to love me just as I was and after almost 20 years of that I was SO effin’ tired that I couldn’t just fall back into His arms. I didn’t know how to fall back. I was too busy trying to hold up the wall I had constructed. Why did I do that? How do I make sense of the past 20 years of my life? So much of it was a lie. So much of it was beige…
I feel like I’m waking from a dream. I’m ready to be who He wants me to be, and not because I’m so strong or wise now, but because I’m too tired to go back to the old way and I refuse to stand in bitterness and stagnation. He has something really awesome in store for my life and I am terrified and excited all at once. I am ready to take a baby step or two because I really want His way to be my way…

Satisfied

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Lord,

I am so thankful to finally be out from under that mortgage and the town that brought more pain than any other in my entire life.  Thank You for bringing me out of that desert and into this blissful time in my journey.

Thank You for:

Our new home.  It is kitchie and homey.  I appreciate the weird angles, our hobbit bedroom, our 3 baths, my prayer room, and perfect backyard.  I love that we have downsized by 40% in terms of square footage and, though we need to empty more of the garage out, we are living a much more simplified life.  I am overwhelmed by the people You have brought into our home and lives since moving here.  May we always remember that our home is a gift from You and a safe haven for those You love and lead to our door.

My new Parenthood tables.  Already we’ve been surrounded by such lovely people and beautiful conversations.  Thank You for our beautiful gathering places.  May we love people well as we share food, conversation and You across these tables.

My Honey.  What would I do without him?!  He is my knight in shining armor.  Always fighting for my heart.  Always striving against his human nature to be the man You are calling him to be.  When I watch him love our babies, I just fall in love all over again.  Thank you for saving our marriage even after we messed it up seemingly beyond repair.  Because of your faithfulness, we will leave a legacy of love and commitment that only happened because of Your unconditional grace, love and faithfulness.

Our children.

-Scott and Jordan are living their lives.  Thank you for their jobs, their families and may You bless them with a deep desire to know You intimately.  May they always know how much they are loved and how unconditional our love is for them.

-Hannah is leading worship.  She has chased after You for so long since our family’s brokenness and You have loved her so perfectly.  Thank you for doing everything I could never do and honoring my heart instead of my actions and my shortcomings.  Lord, when I watch her breath YOU all over so many in corporate worship and in loving conversation with others seeking Your face, I know I am seeing You.  It’s all this mama could ever want.

-Caleb is coming full circle.  He is searching for truth, so I am sure he will find You.  He is still my Tita and there’s nothing simple about him.  You made him so wonderfully that way and so I believe You will meet him just where he is at and love him in a way I can only imagine.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You for the immeasurable talent You’ve blessed him with.  I pray he develops it and chooses to use it as You will for his life.

-Aaron is a man after Your own heart.  I love his servant heart, despite my abuse of that too many times for me to want to own up to.  I pray his heart softens as he grows in relationship with You and Your people.  Thank you for giving him talent beyond measure that he uses for Your glory.  Lord, thank You for waiting on him to come back to You. Only You know how much this mama yearned for him to love You completely.

Our church family.  We are finally HERE!  We are surrounded by family, neighbors, friends, all wrapped up in our church family.  I have longed to be here and live life with the kind of people we could only dream about for so many years.  I feel like I’m finally at the waterside, with the desolate lonely behind me.

My new car.  A Prius!!!  I just feel so good about its lack of carbon footprint and how cute it is.  It makes me feel so responsible because every little bit helps and I want to take care of this amazing world You gave us.  I’m also thankful for it’s great gas mileage and great price!

Our jobs.  Who would’ve thought we’d rather drive a tour bus, play music, doula, and nanny than almost anything else?!  I love going to work each day and my Honey still can’t believe he gets paid to drive people around while making them laugh and telling them historical facts!  We are blessed to live this life doing what we love and feeling such freedom in our “work.”

Lord, my tendency has always been to downplay the good stuff, so as not to brag, as well as to waste the times of abundance worrying about when the next desert time will come.  I won’t dishonor You with such behavior.  This is the time of plenty and joy.  I am FULL.  I am satisfied.  It is enough!  I know there will be bad junk in the days ahead, but I refuse to allow that to steal my joy in this moment.  I know You will be with me in the desert days, just as You always have been, and that is all I need to know.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for the happiness I am experiencing.  Thank You for loving my family so well, for being so faithful when we haven’t always been, for finally showing me what real love looks like.  Thank You for being the Father I have longed for all my life and revealing that I am Your beloved daughter.  It is more than enough.

 

Good Girls Don’t

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spent…

 

the past several days in deep mourning.  I have gotten a migraine every night since Tuesday.  This morning I woke up and felt wave upon wave of such sadness and then this afternoon I realized I was losing hope.

There isn’t really any worse feeling than losing all hope when you’ve hoped so very hard and believed change was around the corner… or a few corners.

Since I was a little girl I’ve always longed for people to feel included.   It’s a burden I carry with me and I’ve passed on to my children.  As I grew up in a culture rich in white privilege and racism, I began to internalize much of what I heard.  I still worked very hard to be sure my children were not prejudiced and I believed I was only a little prejudice.  I became pretty good at justifying why I held my “few” general, and negative opinions about certain people groups.  Afterall, my husband is Hispanic and my daughter-in-law is black, so I must be pretty much NOT a racist, right?!

In the past year, God has made it very clear to me that He is calling me to speak out for His children of color and the injustice they face on the regular.  It’s been absolutely EXHAUSTING.  The pain of what POC deal with daily and the hatefulness and disregard for the disenfranchised I’ve encountered in mostly my white Evangelical friends has broken my heart a time or two.

I wrote the above 2 months ago, in September.  I still am certain my God has called me to stand with the disenfranchised.  I’ve found myself since the (still unbelievable) election this past Tuesday dealing with loads of input from loads of friends and acquaintances.  Everything from rejoicing that America will become great again to assuming that because the next POTUS is a republican, that makes it all as good as it could be (nope, not imo) to comparing the Donald to Hitler and wishing ill upon him, and everything in between.

From Christian leaders whom I have great respect for, I have heard repeated calls to be a peacemaker, and that’s where I feel conflicted.  It reminds me of my mama whispering in my ear as a young girl, “Nice girls don’t speak out like that.”  It triggers every memory of this culture trying to shame me into being quiet or I wouldn’t be thought of with respect or favor.  What’s a Christian woman to do?!

I mean, am I not a peacemaker if I stand with and speak up for my marginalized sisters and brothers in love?

This is where I pause and admit that I haven’t always been very loving when I speak out on social media against those whom I believe have acted in hate or privileged insensitivity toward factionless.  I’m working on that…

I’ve come to realize some things about myself and the way God made me.  I am a 2 on the Enneagram.  I am a mama bear and fiercely protective of the people I most love and anyone I feel is being persecuted unjustly.  It’s almost physically painful for me when I witness others being left out or treated as outsiders.

I am also an empath.  I sense and feel deeply the pain of people around me.  I always have.  It’s been a true blessing and often a curse.

I believe I’m in His will.  I love a good respectful discussion, but when someone is flippant, insensitive or hateful about the fear or trauma others are experiencing, I feel such righteous anger that unfortunately, can sometimes turn into self-righteous anger, and then nobody is hearing anything on either side of anywhere.

I think being a peacemaker is about working toward unity.  I believe unity cannot truly occur without confession and atonement.  When this happens and there is sincere forgiveness, only then can reconciliation and unity bloom.

So, in realtime for white folks this looks something like:

really getting to know SEVERAL people of color, people from the LGBTQ community, and women in leadership

  • ask questions about how they’ve experienced prejudice and/or racism personally and LISTEN without making it about yourself – This was and remains a hard one for me.  I just want to defend myself because I’ve spent so much time living with white privilege and it gets my back up.  Humility is a hard-won goal for me here.
  • fight the urge to tell others about your one friend of color or that time you did something nice for POC. (insert LGBTQ or woman in power for POC, as needed)
  • stop saying you don’t see color.  This is absolutely ridiculous, because we all see color.  It’s also insulting.  No one wants to wash away their heritage, their culture.  We should celebrate and learn about each other and where we come from.
  • own your junk.  Don’t just puke apology all over your disenfranchised friend, but learn as much as you can and be the change.  Apologize with all of your heart and then, when you truly see your brother and/or sister and what they’ve experienced, let them know you stand with them, and ask God how you can carry their burden and be Jesus to these children of His.

Relationship is everything, friends.  We want to be comfortable, but being His hands is never very comfortable if we’re doing it right.  When you open your hearts to other human beings and remember that He loves them just as much as He loves you and you are siblings, amazing blessings fall down on everyone involved.  We are called to love one another without judgement.  We are called to repent and turn from our sins.  We are told that ALL life is sacred.  Unborn babies are not more or less precious than homosexuals, black men (who may not live exactly as you do for too many reasons to list and based on recent events are not heard), or any other child of God.  We may feel because they’re voiceless, cute, and innocent that we are more called to defend here, but there is NO scripture to back that up.  ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS, inside and outside of the womb.

Which brings me to BLM…

But that is for another day.

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. 

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.