When there are NO Words

I feel the need to write today.

There are too many thoughts in my head and they need to get out.

I find that writing is cathartic, when it’s unplanned, when it’s most needed.

And today…well today is certainly one of those days.

I’ve been avoiding news sources like the black plague. So much pain, so much hurt, so much injustice these days that this poor Mama’s heart just breaks and re-breaks every time I scan the latest news header. Tornados, rock slides, car accidents…all of it unbearable to me and I feel a wash of pain and grief come over me in solidarity for the people and families who have been affected irrevocably.

In an instant.

A.mere.instant.

And so I hug my children a little bit tighter, selfishly and thankfully, tearfully acknowledging that I have no control over anything other than how I live now.

As a talker, I know that words are the first thing that I want to offer to people, hurting or not. However, all too often I hear things like “Be strong” tossed around to the hurting or “God’s plan…” or “Don’t forget about how blessed you still are…” immediately during these trying times, as if a verbal-one-for-all-bandaid could do any good…if there was even such a thing. (And you know me, I love a good cliché.)

To those people I would say, SHUT UP.

I have no time for you, the hurting have no time for you, and there simply is NO TIME for you.

There is a time and place for everything. God is everywhere always, I truly believe that, and I truly believe that God gave us a wide range of emotions to express our lives to one another, our souls. When grief, when sadness, when despair are so very, very fresh (and even lingering) these are not the words that those of us on our grieving journeys need to hear.

What we need are our communities to come alongside us and to hold us up in love. To comfort…to hold… to deliver the standard Midwestern hotdish or pan of bars. More often than not, the last thing that we need are words. Because really, how can you explain away lives taken too soon? Evils and accidents, natural disasters with consequences that rend God’s heart? What words can you give that would comfort a parent left to live their days without the joys and pains of their child?

If anything, perhaps, we should hug our children and our spouses, our family and friends a bit tighter, and revel in the blessings that permeate our lives; and in doing so as a community, honor those who grieve by extending our ears to listen and shoulders to help bear the burden.

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.

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.

Christmas was, Christmas is

Christmas was…

Lovely and well-fed.

Filled with warmth.

Blessed in all ways.

Peaceful and joyous.

Christmas is a reminder of…

The sacrifices given.

The beauty born from healed scars.

The preciousness of life.

The amazing husband that loves me.

The perfection hiding in our imperfection.

I didn’t take many pictures of our week-long whirlwind of Christmassy happenings. Instead, I chose to try to stay in the moment, savoring this holiday and this time together as a family. The regular updates on Sandy Hook splashed across the televisions and on the radio were a morbid, albeit succinct reminder to enjoy the moments given to me with the littles. So I hugged them a little tighter and repressed my disgruntled-too-many-presents-I’m-drowning-in-wrapping-paper attitude a bit longer.

It certainly wasn’t without its bumps and frustrations (and I am infinitely glad that Dylan is as patient as he is). I’ve struggled with whether or not to write about it, it doesn’t seem very Christmassy or seasonally joyful but I think that, just in case there’s one other person like me out there, that I will. Because as much as I love Christmas and as much as I loved spending it with my family, this Christmas was probably the hardest one I’ve weathered through. Because this was the first holiday that I have celebrated post miscarriage.

I hate that word.

Every gift that I opened, every token of love and goodwill from family and friends, was a brief reminder in itself. No onesies, no blue or pink, no congratulations, no baby toys or books or invasive questions or belly touching. Just piles and piles of dolls, play foods, and coloring books. All of which I am very thankful for, and yet, my heart can’t help but twinge a bit at the lack of joy over the coming of a new life. We would’ve been telling people now about the pregnancy. Maybe even Pinteresting a clever manner in which to reveal the news. Facebook posts, blog posts, Instagram and Twitter…

All silent. Save for a Happy Christmas here and there.

I’m struggling to find words to explain my general dourness this Christmas season, which hopefully had enough Santa facade for my girls not to notice, so that I can continue on this journey of healing and growth. But it’s hard. Way.Hard. Hard enough that I’ve been mulling over this post for quite some time and still, after hours of deliberation, are at a loss for words. Which is a strange realization since I felt that I had dealt with the majority of my grief earlier this fall upon hearing the news. Apparently not. Apparently it takes time and continues to hit you in waves days, months, years? afterwards. So much grief for a life never fully realized.

And though I know this matters naught to you, know Mommy and Daddy love and miss you in the fullest sense. Happy Christmas little one.