Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget

Part of our home school today was watching 9/11: Stories in Fragments, a documentary on Netflix about fragments of 9/11 being displayed in the Smithsonian.  These memories are all my kids will ever fully remember of that Tuesday aside from seeing their Momma grieve every year. When we finished the documentary, I did what I have done for years:  Alone, I slid into my work chair, pulled up Youtube on the computer and watched live footage from 2001 and remembered. I don't want to forget. Ever.  

I watch the videos every year.  I don't know why I watch them with such intensity and I can't successfully verbalize what I feel when I see them. Being relatively prolific, that is an odd feeling for me. I watch people jump or fall to their death from the seemingly impossible heights of The Towers (they should be capitalized in my mind) and year after year my heart feels weighted, tears make tracks down my face, drip off my chin and I ask myself what must they have been enduring to choose to jump from those towering buildings of human achievement...surrounded by very real human evil. 

The towers represent both of those things in my mind, by the way. What great things man can achieve and construct when humans incline ourselves to the work of greatness! Equally, what horrors we humans can achieve when we bend ourselves toward the destruction of others!

I think of the families, the loved ones, of the passengers on those four, fuel charged planes. I think of the firemen, policemen, servicemen who died because someone needed help. I can only imagine what kind of person is willing to answer the call of service even if it means climbing 100 flights of stairs with 80lbs of gear strapped to their backs, knowing they are willfully going toward what others are fleeing. Who were those people? What did they enjoy? Did their lives resemble mine in any way?

Almost every one of the last 13 years since 9/11 2001, I have looked up a name or two of someone killed that day.  I don't look for anyone specific or even someone from a specific location.  I just want to read their name and remember, at least for that day, that they lived.

Like most Americans, I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing when the first plane slammed into the North Tower. I was talking on the phone to my friend, Candas, as the second plane made impact with the South Tower and we were both numb with emotions too foreign to process, yet. I remember hanging up with her and my phone ringing almost immediately. My brother on the other end of the line, in Utah, asked if I'd seen, if I understood. I don't remember hanging up with him, only that I sat, still, on our coffee table so I could be directly in front of the TV and the phone was beside me. 

What I remember most vividly though is screaming when I realized those weren't desks falling from the windows. I was holding my oldest daughter, only one at the time, and she jumped when I couldn't hold the sound back and then we were both crying. We were both frightened and scared and unsure of exactly what was happening.  I remember holding her until she fell asleep and laying her in her crib and then...just standing there looking at her. Thankful. And then I felt guilty for feeling thankful that it wasn't me, wasn't her, her daddy, her brothers or anyone we knew in downtown Manhattan with their lives crumbling along with the Twin Towers, or the Pentagon or in a field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania.  And then I cried some more.

The slogan for 9/11 is "never forget" and I think it's a good one. I hope we never forget how our country came together back then, how we supported one another, how we cared.  I pray that we remember what it was like to cry for someone you didn't know, but ached for as though you did.  I remember speaking a little kinder, a little more specifically, for a week or so after September 11, 2001. We may never regain that sense of national community ever again, but I pray that we do. I pray for it today, right now, thirteen years after watching planes take down a marvel of human achievement because the most spectacular thing I've ever seen among so many people is what happened on 9/12, 2001.

 I pray that we really mean it when we say that we'll never forget and every time we remember 9/11 it breaks our hearts. It should. Hardened hearts allow nothing in, nothing out. Hardened hearts have no place for kindness, or forgiveness or love. Only broken hearts have space enough to allow others into themselves. This was the mystery, the beauty, of what happened on 9/12, 2001. Please God, don't let something so drastic need to happen for us to be heartbroken for one another again...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Jennifer Lawrence is the Victim

The internet is all a buzz about those nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and a few other celebrities whose pictures were STOLEN from their phones and then sold to websites to be plastered all over the web for the world to see.  I'm not going to get into a discussion about whether those women "should" have taken those photos. I'm not going to do that because, to me, that's like asking if the woman who was raped should have worn that short skirt. Just because I don't wear short skirts doesn't mean the woman who does deserves to be raped, people.

Do I take nude photos with my phone?  Not today.  But, I've sent my husband some racy stuff over the years that I wouldn't want anyone but my man to see. It was from MY phone to HIS phone. It was private. It was for us. Period.  If some thief steals my husband's phone, the onus is on the thief for being a thief, not me or my man for privately sharing with one another, whether anyone else likes what we shared or not! As a side note:  We've been asked more times than I can remember how we keep our almost 20 year relationship fresh. Someone just asked me last week how David and I have been able still be happy to see one another after "all this time". Well, there's one clue, peeps. He's my husband and I'm allowed to do whatever I want with him and vise versa. You don't have to like it, but I shouldn't be ashamed or fearful of being the victim of some pervert, either!!!

When did we, as a culture, begin to suggest that the victim should feel shame for being victimized? Was it when the raped became the "slut", while the rapist was simply a man unable to control himself? Was it when we began to blow up life sized pictures of women in their panties and plaster them across mall walls and pretend that was a form of feminism?  When did women begin to feel so small that they would tolerate, even be encouraged, to silently accept being barked at on the street by some man unable to form coherent sentences as a form of flattery?  When did women begin to think that keeping silent isn't, at least to some degree, equated with acceptance?  I refuse to accept that Jennifer Lawrence is to blame for this recent scandal that some schmuck has brought to her door.

This isn't just an invasion of someone's privacy, either.  This is basic sexual harrassment and those hackers are sex offenders.  They stole private nude photos of women and then sold them to websites to be posted without those women's permission.  Can you even imagine?! Why should SHE feel shame in that action?  Why is SHE being slyly degraded?  She didn't sell these pictures or pose for them with the intent of selling her body.  Jennifer Lawrence is a talented actress who should be remembered for being a talented actress.  THAT is all that she is selling to the world.  Now, she'll forever be associated with taking private photos of her own body that was, frankly, no one's business but her own. 

I'm disgusted by most of the comments I've read and most of the articles on the subject.  The commenters and blog authors keep getting sidetracked with whether her private life was acceptable to them personally.  They keep getting pulled into a moral discussion about someone's life whom they've never even met or had a conversation with.  The sideline bullies keep judging someone they don't know because Jennifer's actions wouldn't have been their actions, therefore, Jennifer Lawrence must deserve what she got.

And do you know what?  Most of these bullies and thief cheerleaders are WOMEN!!  I'm disgusted by it and appalled that any woman would support what happened to these women.  I'm disgusted that not one person has questioned why it's only women who had their phones hacked and their private photos posted for the world to view. Because we all know that there are plenty of narcissistic male celebrities who have some racy stuff on their phones but no one would judge them in the same light, so why bother?! And we fall for it every single time.

Here's to hoping that everyone reading this doesn't actually get what they deserve and here's to hoping none of us have our private lives unwillingly displayed for all the world to see and judge. I'm guessing most of us would be nothing more than the girl in the short skirt who was begging for it if people could see some of our more vulnerable moments in the privacy of our homes.

And to Jennifer Lawrence: I'm sorry some bully invaded your privacy and your safe space. I hope they get what they deserve for victimizing you and that you feel safe in the privacy of your own home sooner rather than later. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Confessions of a Post-Teenager's Mom (with 3 more to go!!)

My oldest son just turned 20 and I'm pretty traumatized by the whole ordeal. Oh, knowing he's 20 isn't so bad, though I sometimes look at my boy and want to kick time for stealing him. I'm traumatized because he's no longer my teenager. My boy. My young man. Now, he's just flat out a man.

This was taken over a year ago.  ...sigh...

 I loved his teenage years. I loved watching him grow and mature and hearing his voice squeak through puberty and watching him go from my mushy, soft boy to my tall, very tall, furry young man. We had bumps, he made mistakes, I made mistakes and we learned together how to go from a mom and her boy to a mom and her young man. I learned how to stop telling him to do things and begin to ask him how he feels about things and what his thoughts are on the world and all it's beauty and junk.

 I learned that he's pretty smart and usually tries his very best to do his very best. I learned that, like me, he is a person with thoughts, feelings, and goals for his own life...apart from my own. And I learned that I do not understand parents who degrade their young people when they go through their teen years. (It's tough enough, right?!)

Ever hear a parent say, with a slight note of disgust and horror in their voice, "We're going through the teenage years" or something relatively close?  Everything in me cringes when I hear parents say those words in that tone of voice.  And I'll admit a small part of me wants to hug their teenager and apologize to them for their parents.

Human beings tend to rise to whatever expectations are placed on them and teens are no different.  If they're told they'll be nothing more than trouble by the very people who are supposed to love them most, then why do we parents act surprised when they become what we tell them they will become? So, while I do not have my offspring completely figured out just yet (thank you, God), here's some stuff I've learned:

1.  Don't tell your teenager or soon to be teenager that you're dreading their teenage years and don't ACT like you're dreading them.  (Actions actually do speak louder than words).

2.  Stop treating your young adult like they're seven. They aren't. (YAY!!!) Give them responsibility and expect them to succeed or learn.  They're going to grow up one day (sooner than you think) and they need to know how to make good choices. That doesn't happen by accident. Let them earn your trust and when they do...give them your trust!!!!

3.  DO tell them how proud you are of them when they make good choices. (and they WILL make plenty of great choices if they're given the opportunity!)

4.  Don't place them in situations outside their maturity level.  You're their parent, you should know their maturity level. Challenge them, don't overwhelm them.

5.  Listen to them.  LISTEN. TO. YOUR. TEENAGER.  They are not dumb. They are young. (And more often than not, chock full of pretty interesting stuff!)

6.  DON'T stop being their parent. You aren't their friend, at least not yet.  You're their parent and they need you now more than ever. You're the grown up. Period.

7.  Take the time to specifically do things with them even if they act like they don't want to do them. Yep. That's right. There were times my boy didn't really WANT to do what I was doing, but because I sort of forced him sometimes we talked, we laughed, we enjoyed life together.  And you know what...the other day I was going to Wal-Mart and he WANTED to go.  We had the best Wallyworld, people.  That's due to the fact that I never stopped pulling him away from his room on occasion and actually spent time with him. THIS. Works.  (ps...this didn't happen in our house until my boy was almost 17, so don't think that because your 15 year old isn't doing this yet that it won't happen. It WILL happen. They disconnect and that's OK (the umbilical cord must be cut), but it's not OK all the time!!!)

8.  Let them fail.  Like us grown people, teenagers are going to fail.  Why do we treat them like it's the end of the world if they don't remain our sweet natured, goofy two year old whose every moment was documented and proclaimed cute?  They are becoming adults and adults fail all the time. Let them fail. Let them feel the consequences and then love them. (basically, the same way you want to be treated when you screw up)

9.  You're the parent and it's YOUR job to find common ground right now (I suspect this dynamic changes with time, but for right now, it's the parent's job to find common ground with their teen!).  Find it.

10. Let them know you're there. Say it. Live it. Say it again (even if you think they don't care!!!). Over and over when my boy was in the midst of teenage angst, I'd tell him, "I love you and I'm here."  "If you want to talk, I'm here for you and I won't judge."  "If you need me, I'll stop what I'm doing, OK?"  And sometimes he'd grunt weird sounds and barely look my way.  But other times, he'd hug me and say with a sweet smile, "Thanks, Mom." (and the sun came out and angels sang and rainbows glistened...not really, but my heart felt like they did)  And then, every once in a while he'd say..."Mom...?"  And everything stopped because my boy needed me. He knew I would be there and he came to me and I stopped what I was doing because my boy needed me.

11.  Tell them every opportunity you get (Go ahead and make up some opportunities....I did!!!) that you love them. Look them in the eye and say, "I love you" (To infinity and beyond...), even if they aren't being very lovable. Speak love and life into your young person!!!!!

 I'm not saying the teenage years aren't tough. They can be. We had our moments. We had some really bad moments, but we had some really, really, really fabulous moments, too. Our babies aren't babies anymore and that's tough. Their hormones are whacked out but, hey, sometimes ours are, too (there's a conversation starter!!). They're young men and women getting ready to find out the great, big world can be ugly and mean. We, as adults, know the world can tear our kids down and possibly even hurt them. Probably will hurt them.

But, here's the thing:  We, as adults, also know that our kids are loved. Deep down, gut wrenchingly loved! Forever and always. It's our job to make sure they know it, too and it's our job to stop acting like our young people are automatically going to be bad or make world shatteringly poor decisions simply because they are young. Don't buy the hype! Because if you do, your teenager may buy it, too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snackopoly: A Gaming Pictorial

My husband is a gamer.  He's a hard core game lover of all kinds.

 I hate games. I'm a hard core game hater of all kinds. I can tolerate Mrs. Pac Man. (I know...that is lamer than quoting Mean Girls, but it's the truth.)  

Anyway, my husband sometimes channels his love of games with the intense love he has for our children and they mesh over the dinette table I've shoved into the corner of our kitchen (because the dining room has a trestle farm table in it and they can't punch and noogie each other across it's vast distance).  

Yesterday, he brought home a weird version of Monopoly called "Snackopoly".  It's a Little Debbie version of Monopoly. (because we are crazy cool like that, ya'll).  

Welcome to our world:

Yes, that is a Little Debbie Nutty Bar (you're welcome)

A small glimpse of my man's Disney's tea glass in the background. That is ALWAYS how he rolls, ya'll. 

The Dough

I don't know.  It appears that David is equally clueless. Awesome.

Loki's attitude about game night. There wasn't any food, peasants. Why bother? 

I hope you enjoy your family nights as much as we do. I also hope they are filled with as much love and weirdness as ours.  


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mercy and Peace

James 2:13 says, "Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!"  This verse in the Scriptures both soothes and scares me at the same time.

Mercy is hard for us flawed humans and forgiving someone who has genuinely wronged me feels almost insurmountable at times.  However, I know myself and all that God has forgiven me for and it's enough to make me cringe.  Therein lies the conundrum. 

I have an opportunity very soon to host someone in my home who, less than a year ago, told an outright lie about me. I don't mean they exaggerated; I mean they lied. They slandered me and they did it in writing. I felt like crud, I was shamed (why do we feel that when we didn't do anything?!) and I was angry, but that's not all. (it never is, is it?)  I did the thing that is my fleshly response to being wronged...I acted like a complete jerk, became sanctimonious and made the situation much worse. Much worse meaning to about the 100th power, in case you were wondering. Basically, I showed no mercy.  Zero. Because, you know...I was "right". So not awesome.

How in the world did this person get an invite to my home, you may ask?  They didn't, at least not directly. God has placed a group in my home that comes as much a shock to me as to anyone else. I'm still a little flummoxed by it, but my spirit is fully at rest, so I'm believing that God is working. When the invite went out to others in my group, it never once...not ever...occurred to me that this person may respond, along with others, that they would love to attend. We will be praying for our homes, our children and our families. We are lifting up our children and our schools. We are believing that God will move and my deepest held desire is that Christ will show up and be glorified in every word, every action and every thought. And then that email reply from her showed up and my heart sank. And once again, I felt like crud. I didn't want her to be there. How was I supposed to pray and honor God when my heart wants to be merciless and cruel?  How was I supposed to honor Christ when what I really wanted to do was break bad and rip into this woman who told lies about me?

I couldn't and I can't.  But, He can.  He can soften my heart and make my motives pure.  He reminds me of who I am in HIM, not who I am when I allow others to define me or even who I am when my flesh takes over and I do ugly things to other people. He reminds me that mercy does not come from anything having to do with me. It flows from Him. HE is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Him. Not me. It isn't about me.  Allowing someone else's actions to define me or control me clouds my vision and makes me want to manipulate and harm someone who is obviously already hurting.  It reminds me that while she lied about me, I was verbally cruel and downright mean.  How am I "better" than her, regardless of how the whole thing started?  I'm not. But He is.

The best part of taking a breath and bowing my will to Him?  Something is happening in me. My anger at her is going away.  My hurt is slowing fading and I'm starting to see that I wasn't hurt nearly as much as she was hurt. Sin is heavy and it's awful. And what's more, I get an opportunity to serve someone who I would never have willingly chosen to serve and something about that is changing me, too. I can't even articulate it, but it's happening.  I want a relationship with Christ and one of the things that I'll be praying about at this meeting is that my children learn to be kind and merciful because Christ was kind and merciful.  I want my kids to WANT a relationship with Christ because He loves them more than I can fathom, but also because He loves them right where they are, in all their imperfectness.  Maybe this is part of that prayer, already being answered because He already knows what I need...

In a world gone crazy, it's important that we are peacemakers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why I Don't Read The Matt Walsh Blog Anymore

My Facebook is often filled with people sharing Matt Walsh's blog posts so a few months ago I decided I'd join the party and read his blog. Since I'm pretty outspoken and blunt, I figured Matt and I would have tons to agree about as well as an opportunity for me to learn from someone many others I know deem to be someone worthy of learning from. I was right. And I was wrong. 

I usually like the topics that Matt writes about but think his delivery is extremely polarizing and, more often than not, designed to get a rise more than actually create debate for people to try and understand one another. The funny thing is, Matt often uses that point to criticize someone who writes to him and uses aggressive tactics.

For me, I think one reason the church is failing so badly at reaching the lost is because many stand and scream at them about how bad they are and refuse to simply ask..."How are you?" "What do you need?" or, like the post Matt wrote to his daughter a few weeks ago, "I think you're beautiful", which was precious and encouraging. When's the last time we told someone lost, "I know someone who thinks you're so beautiful He died of his Love for you. Can I serve you and tell you about Him?" I don't think we (or Matt Walsh) will ever bring someone to Christ and the love He offers by writing excellent content (that sometimes make us laugh and often makes us feel "right") without also showing them Christ.

When Christ told the women at the well all her sins, she didn't leave feeling less than or bad or like a...well, whore, even though her entire village said that's exactly what she was! She left feeling loved, understood and cared for to the degree that she couldn't wait to reach her village and tell them all about this wonderful man who knew all her sin and didn't make her feel like dirt under his shoe (even though she really was dirt under HIS sandal!).

Rarely do I see a post by Matt that makes me think Christ would be glorified and seen as....For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. Most of his posts make me think that Christians are jerks who always think they're right and make me feel like a loser for not being as perfect as they think they are and I AM a follower of Jesus Christ. What about someone who doesn't know Christ? What lost person would want to be a part of a group of people who laugh at their hurt, mock their shame and think it's cool to sarcastically make points at their expense? (come to think of it...what sane person would want to be a part of that kind of constant judgment and pressure to seem perfect?!)

I often wonder how someone lost, hurting, alone, abused, abusing, etc...feels. Christ ate with those people. He ministered to those people. He didn't often break bread with people that thought they already had it all figured out (which were primarily the "religious" people of His day!!). I'd love to see someone with Matt's readership reach the people who will live apart from Christ forever simply because they didn't know...KNOW...that Christ loves them. He loves them where they are, just like they are. I don't want to be the Pharisee who stands around asking Christ's followers, "Why are you eating with THOSE people?  They're a bunch of sinners!"  Newsflash: I once was lost, but now I'm found. I was THOSE people and sometimes, to my shame, I occasionally still am. I find myself on my knees so many mornings repenting, praying and seeking God's face because I need Him. Because without Him, I am still "those people".

"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: God, I thank you that I am not like the other men- robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector".  Luke 18:11

Matt's great at sensationalizing and making me feel like I'm right, but I'm not called to be "right". I am called to seek the face of the only One who has ever been "right" and to bring glory to God.  I'm called to love God and love my neighbor as I love myself. Matt's blog rarely feels like love to me. His blog doesn't reflect the Christ of the Bible who ate with the worst sinners of His time or washed the disciples feet or loved the world enough to die for it. His blog doesn't reflect the Son of God who died without sin so that I could be made new. His blog doesn't remind me that Christ loves me fully, even when I'm not very loveable. And had Matt's blog been what I'd run into when I was struggling and alone and bitter and hurt...who can say how long I would have run from my Savior who loves me?  I'm not saying we can't tell someone of their sin in "love", but it's awfully important that we actually love them FIRST. 

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?"  Matt. 5:46-47.

Update:  I actually wrote part of this post as a reply to a sweet friend on Facebook.  Since then, Matt has posted his response to Robin Williams' death and I am even more thankful that I have removed him from my reading list.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Finding Security

Its been a long time. I've been busy and there's been a lot of changes in our tiny part of the world.

First, my man left his job at his family's business after almost 25 years.  It was hard, but it was good.  His family has a tough history that I have no intention of sharing here other than to say most people in our small town would be shocked at the words on the page if his life was written in a memoir. 

Then, he took a huge pay cut by taking a job that makes his heart happy. I'm in full support, by the way. He's working at a ministry that brings him peace and a sense of purpose that he's never had before. I love that. I love the look on his face when he comes home, too. It's contentment. Trust me when I share that contentment is highly underrated in our culture.

Are you content?  Do you look at your life and feel like you're doing what you're suppose to be doing?  If not, why not?  If so, what do you do and how'd you get there?

Our road was bumpy and a little ugly.  We lied to ourselves for a long time.  We made good money and worked really wonderful schedules, so we should've been happy, right? We told ourselves we were happy and we would've eaten dirt before we'd have admitted to anyone but our closest friends that life felt a little empty, a little scheduled and a lot out of control.

Now, we don't have any extra cash other than the savings we put up for the kids and our retirement.  And you know what?  We've never been happier or more grounded in the promises of God.  He has been faithful. He has been present and more in our lives than ever before. Somehow, having less made me notice God more and that's what this journey, this life, is all about. I use to say that, but I didn't really mean it.

The truth is that our jobs aren't secure. Anything that we place our security in other than God is NOT security at all.  It's a smoke screen. Our savings, our jobs, our relationships, our churches, our businesses, our ideas of how things should be, our future plans, etc... None of those is where our security should come from because they could be gone tomorrow. Our lives aren't about being secure or safe or having more or even having enough.  They are about living a life that allows us to glorify God. Somehow, our insecurity in job loss gave us security in Christ in a way we've never had it before and I can't be anything but thankful.