Are You Tired Too?

Since the election I have felt at a loss for words. Despite what you may see or read from any of my social media or even in person, I have felt a loss of words…a loss of energy…a dimming of…something…which has impeded my ability to emote in the ways which typically come easier to me. The 2016 election, the new presidency, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, PULSE, and now this…Charlottesville…high profile snapshots indicating and peeling back just the thin skim of the broader festering in our American values. And unfortunately those examples are only a sampling of what has come (will come) so far.

So I’ve retreated. Or it feels that I’ve retreated. To try and regroup, re-center, orientate anew in this season unknown.
*
We recently had the pleasure of visiting family in South Dakota and my kids spent their days to the hilt with their cousins; their differences and similarities quite obvious, sometimes comically so to their parents. We were there for a week and pictures were taken, the obligatory cousin picture of course taken a few million times to get at least five out of six of the cousins present looking somewhere near the camera. It’s these cousin pictures that I keep coming back to during and post Charlottesville.

20170807_184554[1]

It’s a picture like this one that I keep returning to, mulling over the faces that I so dearly love and desperately want to protect. These smart, funny, imaginative, and compassionate little people who have little knowledge of what’s “out there.” Hopes and dreams largely untainted (though Nellie now knows she does not indeed have super powers—she’s still holding out for her owl), their aspirations set high bolstered by the love and support received from our family. They are different and unique in the best and most annoying ways that only parents will tolerate.

And when I look at this picture, my heart swells a thousand times over…and breaks in a bittersweet *han that only parents of color will ever fully understand. Because when I look at this beautiful picture of my family I also am reminded in times such as these that the precious people here will not be seen for the family that they are. They will not be treated as the family that they are. They will not experience life for the family that they are. They won’t be treated for their unique preferences or personalities. They won’t be treated for who they are. They’ll be treated for who someone else thinks they are. Who someone else thinks they should be. And for my kids who are both equally parts of their mother and father, who have already felt the stinging smack of racism towards themselves and others…it’s just too much for this parent who has also walked this pot-holed road of race in America. Of race in the Midwest. Of race in small-town, apple-as-pie, nice MN/ND.

It’s too many feels.

And I am tempted to continue retreating. To continue insulating and consciously hedging my life experiences in order to avoid finding myself on the blunt end of those humiliating, demoralizing, and de-basing moments that the out right hateful and the blissfully ignorant would inflict. And truly it’s those blissfully ignorant, willfully ignorant comments that burn the longest. That feel the deepest. And I have the right to retreat, don’t I? To retreat to protect myself and my family?

No.
No, I don’t.

I’m mostly told and sometimes asked over and over that it is my job to educate others. To give them opportunities for learning and growth. …How can I judge them if I’m not willing to speak with them? Teach them? …Be their target? Be their mea culpa? Be their “safe” space? Use my experiences for the greater good they say. And while I try, and I offer myself up for that scrutiny day in and day out in real life conversations, in relationships, in organizations, marches, and through my keyboard…what work is being done by others who do not live this burden? Those who continue to ask me, demand from me “How can I help?” “What can I read to learn?” “I don’t hear about that stuff, how did x, y, and z affect you? (And while you’re at it, convince me to believe differently otherwise it’s your (my) fault for being a reverse-racist, liberal, snowflake-y bitch who thinks they’re better. Because what’s an insult without a little misogyny thrown in?)”

How can I fight this fight for my children who deserve so much more? For my family and other families and a community of beautiful people who deserve so much more?

I am tired.

But I will press on.

I will continue to fight through my loss of words. I will wrestle with my table-turning-in-the-temple anger and wretched despair. I will put up with the lazy questions and some (I’m only human) blatantly ignorant statements and I will continue engaging them in conversation. I will continue to speak and will not retreat.

I will push through this battle because I don’t want Charlottesville to be a legacy for my children to bear. Or yours. I don’t want this hate, this bubbling, festering, virulent wake to pour over. Charlottesville cannot be a rallying call for white supremacists, bigots, and Nazis, to be emboldened in their hate. Take note that it is not a rallying cry for those opposed to the white supremacists agenda either. The rallying call for equity has been ongoing and continuous with each deep, unjust loss felt by the communities delegated to the back of the proverbial bus. But don’t allow being late to the party assuage you of the importance of showing up now. Do not bow out saying that your contribution is so small it wouldn’t matter. Start your work now. If you choose to sit on the sidelines, understand that the movement for equitable treatment will carry on with or without you but that you have then made a conscious decision to be complicit with those who carried out the torch-carrying riots in Charlottesville and their message.

So all of these “no words” to say that–I’m tired. And I don’t always have the right words, hell, most days I don’t even have words. And certainly I don’t always know where to go or even where to start from. But I do know that all people deserve to live in a community in which they have equitable rights, treatment, and opportunity regardless of their skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or political affiliation. My children believe it. And I will work into the grave so they might be able to live it.

*Han: Han is a difficult concept to describe and the context in which it’s used must be understood in order to really “know” it. I borrow from Wikipedia (yes, I know, I hear the eye rolls) to explain what I can’t but know to be true here: “Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.” [Though I believe that han, even without an English equivalent or having Korean ancestry, many people of color or largely marginalized groups will be able to understand in their own unique way.] “Han is sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination.”

Silence worth breaking

I know I’ve been quiet lately–eventually things will speed up again, but truthfully, I think that I’m done apologizing for staggered posts. I post when I’m ready and when the spirit moves. Again, this blog is a record of our life together as we live it and I think that the pace of posts also reflects that.

Work is good. Hard, confusing, challenging, but I couldn’t be happier that I decided to pursue the resettlement coordinator position. I look forward to learning more each day and becoming the best in my specialized area of the nonprofit world as I can be. Certainly there isn’t a lack of need for advocates within this world community we are a part (or is that apart?) of.

Which brings me back to why I’m posting today. There’s an article floating around my Facebook page and, naturally, I clicked through to see why it was stirring up so much interest with my striving-for-better-community friends. It’s awesome. Truly, tears were brought forth (which after having children isn’t all too hard to encourage forth but these were well earned) and I immediately felt a nudging to pass it along.

The article is titled “After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood” written by Ann Voskamp. I’ve copied and pasted the article below so that the lazy of us (myself included), would not miss out on a truly heartfelt and thought-out piece. Women of the world, we must stand together and raise our sons and daughters to know that they are responsible for themselves and their reactions, their responses. That there is no excuse for holding other’s to blame when we ourselves choose what is wrong. Grace has been extended to us all equally, whether you’re a card-holding penis or vagina owner (<–just in case you thought I was becoming a preacher), we deserve it to ourselves and our community to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, our choices…our inaction. I’m calling us out, community lovers, community pursuers, we need to stop standing by and waiting for someone else to change the things we hate. We need to act.

I am a firm believer that everything else will fall into place after that.

After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood

by Ann Voskamp

Dear Son,

When you’re the mother of four sons, Steubenville is about us.

Steubenville is about having a conversation with sons about hard things and asking you to do holy things.

Because a Steubenville doesn’t begin with football and it doesn’t begin with alcohol and it doesn’t begin with unsupervised jocks with inflated egos and shriveled morals. It begins with one woman bringing home a man-child in her arms, one mama unwrapping that blanket and what it means to raise up a man.

It begins with one mama looking into her son’s eyes for the next 18 years and showing him what it means to be a woman.

I brought you home when I was 21.

I cradled you, you crying and me crying, and the essence of me ran liquid and milky and a woman poured out of herself to keep you alive. You rooted hungry and it was the roots of a woman that nourished you. It was a woman who gave you life, who was the grace of God that kept you alive, who is the mother of all the living.

I held you when fever burned your forehead. And I stroked back your hair when your stomach churned and I cleaned us both up when you vomited all over everything. I opened books for you and stoked your mind and unpacked a world before you and I laid down me to make more of you and it wasn’t a sacrifice but the unexpected grace of motherhood.

We talked about life being much more than you can see, so you knew that a woman is always more more than you can see. I kept trying to be at peace in my own body so that you would always see women as more than a body. And I always told you that I’ve only ever met beautiful people. Ugly is only a state of soul.

In 8 short weeks from today, you’ll blow out your candles and look up across the table and that baby I brought home at 21 will be 18. I don’t know how that happened. I got a lot wrong. And there’ll be a mother in Steubenville who will be shattered that her teen son’s behind bars and how in the world did that happen. We’re all getting a lot wrong.

Like that night I was 19 and I saw it in my rear view mirror, how a 20-something man reached over and started fondling a terrified 14 year-old sleeping girl. How he shrugged his shoulders when we confronted him, like he was brushing away an annoying fly. How there were girls that whispered that he’d grabbed them too in the dark of a car when he drove them home from youth group, how there were all these shy and ashamed girls who were violated and forced and indifferently robbed.

I want to tell you, son — we were all church kids. There was no alcohol. There were no parties. There were no football teams.

There were young men who opened their Bibles and didn’t value the worth of a God-fashioned woman made for glory, young men who sang worship songs and satiated their lust by ripping off the dignity of a sacred human being, young men who said women were the weaker vessel meant let’s drink them dry and be merry.

We went to the church elders.

A handful of us girls with one teenage boy who knew what he saw and wasn’t afraid, we went to the elders and sat there with our hands literally shaking and our mouths impossibly dry and we tried to find words for what should never have to be said. My cheeks and throat burned.

And I have never told anyone what happened next, but after Steubenville, to stay silent is to let perpetrators perpetuate.

We were looked in the eye, Son, and what we were told, those words tried to shatter God —

“Boys will be boys.”

Son. When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.

And that is never the heart of God.

That’s what you have to get, Son — Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.

Your Dad is one of those men. When he heard of what happened in Steubenville, how boys your age had violated a young woman with such indifference and ignorance, he said it to me quiet –

Unless a man looks to Jesus, a man doesn’t know how to treat a woman.

So this is what your dad and I want you to get, to get this and never forget it: that when God decided to pull on skin and make His visitation into the world, He didn’t show up in some backroom of an inner boy’s club or regale us with some black tie inaugural affair.

This is what God chose as best, this is where He first became one of us: God chose to make His entry point into the world through the holy space of a woman, to enfold Himself inside of a woman, to drink of a woman, be held and nourished and cared for by a woman — that’s the jolting truth of how God loves His daughters with His honor.

That Christ never beat down a woman with harsh words or lusting eyes or sneering innuendos, but He stepped in and stopped a broken woman from the abuse of angry men. Christ came to the defense of a hurting woman and the Son of Man stood between her ache and her attackers and He lifted the weight of shame from her and cupped her heart with hope and wrote a new future into the dust and dirt of everything and he saved. her. life. That’s how God loves His daughters with His defense.

That Christ didn’t degrade women in His talk, but He made women heroes in His storiesHe invited a woman with a coin and broom to reveal the truth about the Kingdom of God. He honored an intentional woman with an unjust judge as unveiling the character of God. He elevated a lonely, unmarried woman who dropped her meager resources into the temple treasury as the rebuke of God for all the rich and religious. That’s how God loves His daughters with His words.

That Christ didn’t demonize women but He accepted the presence of a woman reviled by the self-righteous, He sat with the scandalous woman the righteous regarded as damaged goods, He welcomed the rejected and the immodest though he lost the respect of the religious. That’s how God loves His daughter with His grace.

That when Christ stepped out of that black tomb, he still didn’t choose to first manifest Himself to prestigious officials, religious leaders, the Twelve, but instead He revealed Himself first to the women, He entrusted the veracity of His resurrection to the testimony of the women, He offered the privilege of proclaiming Christ as the risen Savior to the women, though no court at the time would accept their testimony. That’s how God loves His daughters with His regard.

So your Dad wanted you to know — when you turn the pages of the Bible, Son, let everything you read of women be shaped by how Jesus sealed His view and value of women.

Let Christ shape you and not the magazine covers of the Walmart checkout: Real Manhood never objectifies women. Real Manhood edifies women.

Real Manhood means you don’t get drunk, and a man can get drunk on a lot more than alcohol.

Men drunk on power, on control, on ego, lose more than all inhibition — they lose The Way, their own souls. Men drunk on anything can destroy everything and real manhood thirsts for righteousness.

Real Manhood means peer pressure only makes you stronger in Christ.

That in a culture where it’s the tendency to bend, you’ll stand. That in situations where there’s tendency to look the other way, you’ll look for help. That, at times in the church when there’s a tendency to be divisive on the secondary and a unified front of silence on the painful, you’ll seek to rightly divide the truth and unify the brokenhearted.

Because if Christ is The Truth — then where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever be afraid of the Truth?

Because if you’re at peace in Christ, you fight injustice.

And Son?

Real Manhood means you take responsibility for your body.

A woman’s immodesty is never an excuse for a man’s irresponsibility. Responsible men — are response-able. This is your job. A woman has her’s. Focus on yours. Real Men don’t focus responsibility on women staying “pure” but on men not pressuring. (Truth is, none of us are pure, Son, and the onus is on you, Son, to pursue holiness.)

Your Dad and I need you to know:

Real Men never pressure but treasure. No one tries to crush a diamond.

Because pressuring a girl? Is blackmail, coercion and repeated robbery attempts. You’re meant to be a man, not the mafia. When you’re pressuring a girl for what you want — is your flag to lean into Jesus who will give you what you need.

The thing is: Real Manhood means you hallow womanhood. A woman isn’t a toy to amuse your lusts, a thing to aggrandize your ego, a trophy to adorn your manhood. A woman is of your rib, who birthed your rib, who cupped your rib, who is meant to be gently cherished at your rib, at your side.

The culture of boys will be boys — means girls will be garbage and you were made for more than this, Son. Your Dad and I believe boys will be godly and boys will be honoring and boys will be humble.

And that teenage boy from youth group, who saw how girls were hurting and violated in shadows and shame, who stood with the wounded because he believed real men of God are men for the hurting?

That brave teenage boy, Son?

He’s now your Dad.

There are more than a few good men, Son.

Real men like their Father — who laid down His life for His daughters.

And as if that’s not enough for you to think on and chew, please listen to a few words from a wise man, Eugene Cho… “The reality is that we cannot do everything but that’s not an excuse to do nothing. DO something you’re passionate and convicted about and do it well. [Because] In Christian vernacular, SOCIAL JUSTICE means to simply LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR; it compels us to know, listen, serve, advocate and care for others–with dignity; It calls us to work for a more just society. So, when people ask, ‘Why do you care so much about justice?’, my answer is simple: ‘It’s because I believe much about the Gospel.’ So, believe in and live for a Gospel–personified not just in propositional truth but personal flesh in Christ–that not only saves but seeks to restore all things back unto the One that ushered forth all that is good and beautiful. Let it be so.”

You tell ’em Eugene.

Let it be so.

To women, young ladies, and girls

I have been reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog on and off for a year or so now and just recently began following her more closely after she posted this blog about doubt within the Christian’s life. It resonated for many, many reasons, and I have yet to be disappointed in her thought-provoking questions posed throughout her writing.

A few days ago I opened her blog to read the following article. Whatever presumptions you may have after reading the title, please push past them and read through the entire piece. I am not saying that I necessarily agree with everything that she says in this article or in her blog, but I am saying that she’s asking questions that need to be asked. That need to be addressed if the body of Christ wants to continue to share a meaningful and sincere relationship with humanity as a whole. But that last statement, is for another time and another post.

NOTE: I also would encourage you to click on the links included in her blog post as they are also thought-provoking and sincere pieces wrote from fellow female Christians. Ms. Evans certainly is not the only, the first or the last to raise these questions concerning the emphasis placed on virginity in the modern church. 

Do Christians idolize virginity?

Several recent posts from some of favorite bloggers raise this question in powerful ways. I thought today would be a good day to share them, as we continue our series on Sexuality & The Church.

The first is from Elizabeth Esther, who writes:

“It took me a long time to realize I idolized virginity. I kept saying I was just promoting virtue and chastity and purity! Nothing wrong with pushing purity, right? Nothing wrong with Being Good!

Like other Christians, I talked about the “sacrifice” of abstinence. There were princess-themed books about saving our first kiss. Some of us wore purity rings and made pledges to our Daddies not to have sex until we’re married. Ultimately, we implied that a woman’s inherent worth and dignity could be measured by whether or not a man has touched her.

I understand why we do this. Christians are alarmed by what we see as a sexually permissive society. America no longer seems to share our values. This scares us. The less sacred sex seems to the broader culture, the more sacred we insist on making it among fellow Christians.

The intention might be good but over-emphasizing the specialness of virginity has unintended, harmful consequences.

We start by making ridiculous promises to our daughters. We tell them that “sexual purity” is a guarantor of a more intimate married sex life. We tell them that if they “lose” their purity, they will never really get it back. Oh, yes. They can be forgiven. But. You know. They’re damaged goods.

Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization. 

Yes, we Christians say, we believe in the inherent dignity of all human life. But we especially believe in it if that human life is virginal, wears a purity ring and bleeds on her wedding night.

This is harmful and, dare I say, idolatrous.Read the full post.The second comes from the always-brilliant Sarah Bessey, who wrote a post for A Deeper Story entitled “I Am Damaged Goods”:

Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honourable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah.”

If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

In the face of our sexually-dysfunctional culture, the Church longs to stand as an outpost of God’s ways of love and marriage, purity and wholeness.

And yet we twist that until we treat someone like me – and, according to this research, 80% of you are like me –  as if our value and worth was tied up in our virginity.

We, the majority non-virgins in the myopic purity conversations,  feel like the dirty little secret, the not-as-goods, the easily judged example.  In this clouded swirl of shame, our sexual choices are the barometer of our righteousness and worth. We can’t let any one know, so we keep it quiet, lest any one discover we were not virgins on some mythic wedding night. We don’t want to be the object of disgust or pity or gossip or judgment. And in the silence, our shame – and the lies of the enemy – grow.She concludes:

No matter what that preacher said that day, no matter how many purity balls are thrown with sparkling upper-middle-class extravagance, no matter the purity rings and the purity pledges, no matter the judgemental Gospel-negating rhetoric used with the best of intentions, no matter the “how close is too close?” serious conversations of boundary-marking young Christians, no matter the circumstances of your story, you are not disqualified from life or from joy or from marriage or from your calling or from a healthy and wonderful lifetime of sex because you had – and, heaven forbid, enjoyed – sex before you were married.

Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.A-freakin’-men is all I have to say to that. You really must read the entire post.

Similarly, Carolyn Custis James recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “Why Virginity is Not the Gospel,” to which Dianna Anderson added a helpful critique.

I wrote about my experience with “True Love Waits” in A Year of Biblical Womanhood. As you will notice, this is the context in which the infamous v-word appears!

I signed my first abstinence pledge when I was just fifteen. I’d been invited by some friends to a fall youth rally at the First Baptist Church, and in the fellowship hall one night, the youth leader passed around neon blue and pink postcards that included a form letter to God promising to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. We had only a few minutes to add our signatures, and all my friends were signing theirs, so I used the back of my metal chair to scribble my name across the dotted line before marching to the front of the room to pin my promise to God and my vagina onto a giant corkboard for all to see. The youth leader said he planned to hang the corkboard in the hallway outside the sanctuary so that parents could marvel at the seventy-five abstinence pledges he’d collected that night. It was a pretty cheap way to treat both our bodies and God, come to think of it. Studies suggest that only about 12 percent of us kept our promise.I have a feeling this is going to be a hot topic in the months and years to come, and we will be discussing it at length as part of series, though later in the year.

What do you think? Does the Christian culture idolize virginity? How should our narratives surrounding sex, virginity, and purity change, particularly as they concern women?

#1000

I wrote earlier about reading a book focusing on thanksgiving and grace in life. You can read about it here.

In the book the author accepts a friendly challenge from a friend to record one thousand thanksgivings. One thousand praises in everyday life. It got me to thinking…I should do that. One of my biggest struggles is contentment.

How to be content and thankful is a practice that I have yet to master nor do I think that will be accomplished in any foreseeable future, but I don’t think that should be used as an excuse to not start. So I’m publicly challenging myself to record one thousand blessings and hopefully, will continue on. I know that by doing the same practice won’t necessarily end in the same results, but I also don’t think that it could hurt me either. Some say it takes 21 days to make a new habit, I managed to quit biting my fingernails (mostly), and I certainly think this is more important to mine and my family’s well-being. Although my nails are a pretty mint green right now.

I may or may not share some of these praises with you, some of these blessings. I’ve decided to start today–this weekend in an attempt to find beauty and grace in my everyday life. My attempt to find contentment in all plans laid before me. Who knows where this journey will lead?

Pondering an anniversary

2 Loves

2 Loves…how I miss those chubby chins.

My Facebook feed was blown up yesterday due to a 40th anniversary. I read an article from Eugene Cho: To whom it may concern: Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the life that could be lived out. because of it. I’ve read many articles about it, on it, the whys and why nots for and against it. And I have to be honest with you.

I’m a fence rider.

Not because I don’t believe in the sanctity of life. Not because I don’t believe women shouldn’t have a right to determine what happens to their bodies. Not because I don’t believe that God intended humanity to be filled with beauty and life. Not because I believe that church and state are mostly and should be separated.

Not because I am sinful…or maybe because I am.

But truthfully, where is the argument or at least the point, when at the end of the day both sides are hurting? Woman, baby, families, broken in two by the loss of love? The loss of compassion? The loss of grace?

I’ve been reading a book that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. It’s focus on grace, on thanksgiving…I think is a genius answer to the hatred and pain that is felt throughout this argument. It’s exploration of the basis of sin and evil in the world being rooted in our ungrateful hearts, in a lack of thanksgiving. Through these reflections on faith and practice she connects the pieces together a little bit more for me on my own beliefs. Grace. What is grace?

I’m not looking for a debate or a fight or really anything, mostly I’m just shifting through my thoughts. I realize this won’t make sense to some and maybe will to others. As a mother, as a daughter, as an adoptee who doesn’t know her birth parents, as a child of God, and more simply as a player in humanity…I don’t dare to profess I have all the answers. I long for the goodness, the gratefulness that we once had as perfectly created and perfectly seeing, and in that longing I attempt to make a life and a belief that emulates what could have been. What is if we humble ourselves to embrace grace.

Ada’s Third Swimming Lesson

First, I should say that I am insanely proud of Ada. She’s progressed with her swimming so much just within three days! She’s conquered her fear of getting her face wet and has even begun bobbing without prompting, on her own accord, for…fun! 
Sometimes I step back and look at my big girl and am in awe. Where did she get this courage? Where did she get this intense curiosity for life? And I am proud. And I am a little embarrassed by how corny and sentimental I have become since her birth. 
But I am. Awed. By this perfect, wonderful, intelligent little being that I am blessed to have been given. Everyday she shows me something new, explains to me the most mundane (and yes, they are mundane) things as if they were worthy of an Oprah exclusive, and I am reminded about how quickly she is growing. And about how many things I have yet to learn in order to raise her and just to be a better person for her. 
Nellie is still all smiles, gurgles, and tempestuous mood swings. But she too is growing far too quickly for my tastes. I am so thankful for modern technology’s advancement–I curse it some, most days–but  I also realize how lucky we are to live in a time where cameras of all kinds are at the touch of a button in the most minute of devices. 
Mama and Nellie hamming around poolside:
And there’s no better day than Good Friday to be reminded of the blessings that I have been given. 

Lord, 
Thank you. My heart feels overwhelmed with the love that you showed us, for the ultimate compassion that you poured out for us. I’m struck by the agony and the despair, the brutal pain that you felt. Physically but even more so emotionally. Thank you for your sacrifice so that I would have the chance, the opportunity to delve deeper into love with the Father. So that I could raise my daughters to know You and so they could experience ultimate love. It’s times such as these when I reflect on the relationship of a Father sacrificing His only Son that I am brought to my knees. In embarrassment, in repentance, and in compassion. I pray that my life reflects the deep gratitude that I have for such a gift and that the love that brought us here and gave us new life would flow through me into my family, enriching our lives together and showing others your beauty. 
Amen. 

Ada’s First Swimming Lesson

 Ada started swimming lessons this week at UND. She’s a “Bobber” or rather, she’s a first level swimmer. I was nervous because by definition this girl was going to have to bob or submerge herself under the water, even if for a second, it seemed awfully daunting for a girl who comes up gasping like a dying guppie when shampoo is rinsed out of her hair.


Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up.


But I took her because I want her to feel confident getting wet and because I want her to have the basic tools of swimming staying afloat.

She was so excited that afternoon she was bouncing off the couch. Literally. Here she is all sass before her lesson.
This first video is of the first minute Ada got into the water. (Disclaimer: These videos are pretty boring to everyone and anyone but me and Dylan. And maybe a few others. You’ve been warned.)


There was a lot of jumping this first lesson because Ada wasn’t ready to commit to the full bob. But she loved it and was so excited to go back tonight with Grandma Sheila.


I really should’ve had Sheila take some pictures/videos of her because I guess tonight she bobbed! Nine times according to Ada (picture “this many”) AND she “chop-chopped” like a tree and jumped into the water. I’ve got a fish! <><

The F-Word (The 3 Lettered One)

There comes a time in almost every girl/lady/woman’s life in which she battles and struggles with the f-word.

Fat.

F-A-T. Round, short, and stubby, blunt and sharp at the same time. Cutting.
I read this article today and felt that I had to share it for the others out there with daughters, sisters, aunts, moms, sisters-in-law, girlfriends, and the like. We all need to be reminded that we are imperfectly perfect and created within the image of THE Master Creator. We also need to be reminded that what we fixate on, what lies we buy into–our daughters see, the next generation of women that we raise will be plagued by our fears and insecurities. 


I am sitting, cross legged, on the bathroom floor trimming my five year old daughters’ toenails.  My nine year old son showers his muddy body as I lean against the tub.  My three year old daughter wrestles herself into pajamas in her bedroom.  My eleven year old son bursts in from football practice and hollers upstairs about reheating leftovers and having a sore throat.  My husband is out dropping our minivan off for a tune up.  The sun has set and we’re putting another day to rest.  In the confusion of this typical weeknight, I glance up from the floor at my seven year old daughter, standing on the step stool, completely undressed, brushing her teeth.  I don’t like the way she is looking at herself in the mirror.  I don’t like the way she pokes at her belly and frowns at her profile.  I watch her for another minute and step in.

“What’s up, girl?”  I ask.  “I’m fat.”  she responds without hesitation.  I’m instantly weak.  She continues, “My stomach jiggles when I run.  I want to be skinny.  I want my stomach to go flat down.”  I am silent.  I have read the books, the blogs, the research.  I have aced gender studies, mass media, society and culture courses in college.  I have given advice to other mothers.  I run workshops and programming for middle school girls.  I have traveled across the world to empower women and children in poverty.  I am over qualified to handle this comment.  But in reality, my heart just breaks instead.  I am mush.  Not my girl.
I rally some composure and stay cool.  “You are built just perfect – strong and healthy.”  And she is.  But this doesn’t soothe.
I flounder.  This child – my first and wildly celebrated daughter – was breastfed girl power.    I read picture books with only central female characters, I insisted she wrestle her big brothers, demanded family call her words like smart and brave as much as cute and adorable.  I tell her we are all different – straight and thin to round and plump and millions of ways in between.  I tell her it’s what makes us all beautiful.  Unconvinced.
I send all the other kids away.  I shut the door and we sit face to face on the floor.  There is more here and I need to see it through.  I tell her I looked just like her when I was seven.  I tell her she will grow to be tall and strong and fierce, like me.  Not good enough.  I reach and scramble.  I tell her how fast she runs.  Remind her of the goal she scored in soccer.  What an expert she is on her bike and the amazing balance and tricks she does on her scooter.  I remind her of her high level reading, her artwork, her mastery of math facts.  “Fat.”
I grow desperate.  “Child!  What is the first thing everyone tells you when they meet you?”  She sighs, “I’m beautiful.”  Beauty is not helping me here.  I’m failing.  Pleading, I ask her why.  Her blues eyes meet mine.  She tells me on two different occasions friends have called her “kind of fat” when they were talking about bodies this summer in their bathing suits.  And she felt sad.  But she also felt good because finally she confirmed that what she thought about her body was “mostly true”.
I think a few bad thoughts about her peers and their mothers and wonder what messages are being sent.  I am out of tools.  And now twenty minutes later, I’m out of patience too.  I feel powerless to what seems certain to her.  And I cannot understand how she does not see all of life’s perfection in her reflection.
I stand her up on the step stool in front of the mirror.  I strip off my yoga pants, my tee shirt, my bra and underwear.  We are side by side completely naked together.  She laughs.  I start singing a song that I’m making up as I go.  It’s rap meets Raffi with lyrics like “We are perfect, just the way we are.”  It’s wild and silly, but I cannot be stopped.  We’re shaking everything, and she’s belly laughing and totally thrilled.  I pick her up.  We are a ridiculous and magnificent pair.  The other kids hear the commotion and barge in.  They are confused and horrified.  I carry her to the bedroom raving about all the ways we are powerful and naked and women.  We settle into comfy pajamas and read a story together.  Fat is not mentioned again.
On this night, I have no idea if I have succeeded.  I’m not sure if what I said and did had an impact, if I fixed anything, or even if I changed her mind.  But I do know that I must continue to infuse myself and my children with bold confidence.  I must check in, ask questions, take the time.  I must build and undo.  I must be open and genuine.  I must but willing to dance naked in the mirror, resist the urge to see all the ways five babies have changed me, and stare straight into my reflection with love.  Then together, with a twinkle in our eyes, we only see radiance shining back.



(I love you girls–you are imperfectly perfect in every way!)

Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden’s Dead?

I feel the need to address the death of Osama Bin Laden. Not that my thoughts really matter all that much, but after reading and seeing so many things over the last couple of days, it seems as though it would be peculiar for me to not take a break and respond to his death.

I lack the words. My husband did a good job over at his blog here in his post “What Are We Celebrating?”

But I did happen to stumble upon this article by John Piper and I feel as though it’s made better of an argument (or rather, explanation) than I could about my warring feelings concerning the topic. So…without further ado…here it is:

Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden’s Dead?

Permalink
God’s emotions are complex—like yours, only a million times more. Right now, your emotions about bin Laden are not simple, i.e. not single. There are several, and they intermingle. That is a good thing. You are God-like.
In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” That is true.
                                   
It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.

Is God Double-Minded?

This is not double talk. All thoughtful people make such distinctions. For example, if my daughter asks me if I like a movie, I might say yes or no to the same movie. Why? Because a movie can be assessed for its 1) acting, 2) plot, 3) cinematography, 4) nudity, 5) profanity, 6) suspense, 7) complexity, 8) faithfulness to the source, 9) reverence for God, 10) accurate picture of human nature, etc., etc., etc.
So my answer is almost always “yes, in some ways, and no in other ways.” But sometimes I will simply say yes, and sometimes no, because of extenuating circumstances.
Here is why I say God approves and disapproves the death of Osama bin Laden:
In one sense, human death is not God’s pleasure:
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? . . .  For I do not pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live. (Ezekiel 18:2332).
In another sense, the death and judgment of the unrepentant is God’s pleasure:
Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself.(Ezekiel 5:13]
[Wisdom calls out:] Because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.(Proverbs 1:25–26)
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her! (Revelation 18:20)
As the Lord took delight in doing you good . . . so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. (Deuteronomy 28:63)
We should not cancel out any of these passages but think our way through to how they can all be true.

God is Not Malicious or Bloodthirsty

My suggestion is that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself not a pleasure to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. The death and suffering considered for itself alone is not his delight.
Rather, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God has pleasure in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness, and the vindication of his own honor and glory. (For further discussion of God’s heart in judgment see the section in The Pleasures of God called “How Is God Like George Washington?”, pp. 147–149.)
When Moses warns Israel that the Lord will take pleasure in bringing ruin upon them and destroying them if they do not repent (Deuteronomy 28:63), he means that those who have rebelled against the Lord and moved beyond repentance will not be able to gloat that they have made the Almighty miserable.
God is not defeated in the triumphs of his righteous judgment. Quite the contrary. Moses says that when they are judged they will unwittingly provide an occasion for God to rejoice in the demonstration of his justice and his power and the infinite worth of his glory (see alsoRomans 9:22–23).

A Warning

Let this be a warning to us: God is not mocked. He is not trapped or cornered or coerced. Even on the way to Calvary he had legions of angels at his disposal: “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord”—of his own good pleasure, for the joy that was set before him.
At the one point in the history of the universe where God looked trapped, he was in charge, doing precisely what he pleased—dying to justify the ungodly like you and me.

Day Seven: Your Job

Oh. What to say.

My job, officially it’s the Youth & Special Events Coordinator of the Salvation Army-Grand Forks.
I create and over-see that weekday youth programs that our Corps offers and lead the Teen Night kids. I create/choose and over-see the summer day camp and VBS in the summers and assist with summer camping applications. I create, plan, and over-see special event fundraisers such as Christmas bell ringing, yearly counter kettles, and private donation dinners. I also handle volunteers and the finding, applying and presenting of grants pertinent to the financial wellness of our Corps. Aside from that, I work where I am needed, as most nonprofit career workers would say.
There’s oh so much more to say–so much I’ve learned about the “adult” job world and nonprofits…but that’s a subject for another place and certainly another time.