For Charleston: A too small offering in this time

June 18, 2015 by No Comments

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This is written from the comfort of my life which is characterized by ease. I’m raising four little boys who will never be pulled over because of the color of their skin. I have access and privilege, and frankly, I feel really lucky. I hate that about myself. This is my fight against racism, but also against myself. I don’t have all the answers, and my perspective is of course, limited. But, I think it’s a decent starting place for those of us who look like me, have the enormous privilege that I have. The only starting place any of us have is where we’re standing today. So, let’s begin.

Last night, I had dinner with a close friend. We talked for hours over a million different subjects, and eventually came to the topic of race. As a nurse who hopes to make a difference in public health, she commented on her lack of patience with the racism she keeps bumping into, her refusal to engage in the stereotypes that she grew up around, her determination to raise her children with wide open hearts and buckets of respect for every single person they meet. She is determined to be part of the solution in a complicated and age-old problem.

“Racism could be over today,” she declared with passion.

We didn’t know that 2,500 miles away racism was rising up in its truest and most heinous form, viciously slaughtering bodies bent in prayer.

Don’t you feel ill today? Don’t you feel the cracks in the earth and the frigid chill in the air?

I spent the last several days celebrating and believing with all my heart in the certainty of Shalom, and then this. Shalom feels like impossible work today, it feels like a shot in the dark, a childish hope that might not come true.

There’s anger in my soul today, there is blood crying out from the ground, and there are voices raising to the sky, “God, have mercy!” It’s a day of excruciating heartbreak, and we all ought to stop. Just stop and see it. There is no explaining this away, and how dare we try. How dare we do anything other than mourn, not just with those who mourn, but mourn ourselves in our own homes, in our own lives. Mourn that we belong to a species that is capable of such atrocities, that cannot see the light of God in each other’s eyes, no matter how brightly it shines.  Light a candle and weep, my friends. This is brokenness at its prime.

Make some promises in your pain. We all can and we all should. Hasn’t this gone on long enough? Can’t we agree to fight harder, with a stubborn grasping for Shalom like we’ve never had? Can’t we admit that it’s time to let the pendulum swing to the other end of the scale, refusing to allow even a hint of anything that looks like disregard for another human, no matter how small or how innocent it may seem?

Because you know what? My friend is right. Racism could be over today. We can stop this insanity, this despicable notion that anyone’s life is worth more than anyone else’s, this evil and straight-from-the-pit-hell ideology that humans are disposable, are not each and everyone the sacred creation of God.

Here’s how:

Stop telling jokes that classify by skin color, ethnic group, religious persuasion, mental ability etc. There is no such thing as “it’s just a joke” when you make light of a person’s dignity. Words matter. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

Acknowledge privilege, if you have it. And most likely, if you’re reading this blog, you do. Acknowledge and take up the responsibility of it without whining about how, “it’s not your fault” that you’re white/middle class/educated, etc. It’s not your fault. But it is absolutely your privilege and honor to levy what you have for the rights of others.

Tell your children the truth. Tell them that this evil exists. Teach them about the heroes who have fought against it. Encourage them to be one of those heroes.

Search your own heart, and without hesitation beg God to pry out any prejudice or bias you find there. Do this often, do it humbly. We are all guilty and we are all responsible to fight against our inherited or acquired judgements.

Stare our systems straight in the face and tell the truth about them. Don’t make excuses. Don’t assess the intention behind them or theories that justify their existence. Look at them and see what they’ve done. Good and bad. And if they are hurting a certain group of people, if they are promoting disadvantage among a class or race or ethnic or religious group, for the love of all, ADMIT it. Tell the truth and call it unacceptable. We are to be people of Justice, without qualification.

Open your hands to the consequences of the sins of our fathers. Yes, I know you and I weren’t there during the Civil War, we didn’t participate in segregation, but this is the reality of the human experience. Coming generations will pay for our sins, they will bear the burden of our blind spots and our own evil deeds. In the same way, we must pay for the missteps of generations past. There is no getting out of it, and no amount of refusal to do so will make it go away. Let’s engage with love and begin to undo the complicated strands of this tapestry of hate and prejudice. There is no other way forward.

Listen to the stories and experiences of others, and believe them. This matters so much.

With humility for our own sins, let’s agree to let the buck stop with us. If we hear the whispers of prejudice, smell the rancid fumes of it, feel the evil presence of it, let’s covenant to shine a light on it and call it out. Let’s promise that wherever and whenever we can, we will not allow God’s beloved to be characterized by anything other than his or her belovedness.

Pray. Oh yes, pray. Pray for those who are hurting. Pray for yourself. Pray for comfort and justice and Shalom. Pray. Pray. Pray.

I know this is complicated. I know we all have a lot of feelings about it all. But truly, I think the core of those feelings is that things are not as they should be. So let’s lay down our rights, our resources, our privilege, and let’s do it for one another. The God we claim to love has made it clear that this is the sacrifice we are called to. This is reconciliation. This is humility. This is love.

For The Mudroom: For Those Who Love Jesus, But…

June 17, 2015 by No Comments
The Mudroom
Today, I’m writing for The Mudroom Blog, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The Mudroom is all about “making room in the mess,” and if that isn’t my mission statement, I don’t know what is. Most of you know that we recently left the church we’d attended all our married life. This is a post about a morning not too long after our last Sunday, about why I love that Jesus. About how He loves me. (Also about a sweet friend and her beautiful hospitality that reminded me that I am seen. I sure am.)

I didn’t mean to stay for three hours. And it was more than the rose leaf tea, more than the endless Super Why episodes she put on for my three-year-old. It was more than the familiar story of young love and marriage, or the moment we both confessed that our moms are our best friends and they are both moving away and we’re both broken-hearted. Each point of connection was nice, but none of them were the reason I couldn’t pry myself from her crushed velvet couch.

We bonded when my little boy and her little girl fell in love at preschool. Together, we giggled at their mutual adoration. When she introduced herself to me, I smiled and gave her my name, but in truth, I already knew who she was. I never forget a face. Many, many years ago, she attended my church, the one we just officially stopped attending. The one I need to stop calling “my” church. She was a little older than me, and traveled in a group of friends of friends and I doubt we ever had a conversation. But I knew exactly who she was…

To read the rest, please click here to head over to The Mudroom

House Beautiful

June 15, 2015 by 2 Comments

IMG_6283A typical night in our casa

My feet are aching. There are streaks of white paint, black paint, “light raffia” paint up and down my legs, in my hair. We’ve been making this old house beautiful and it has been work. I’ve been so busy my best friends have been texting me worried texts because I’ve been so out of touch. I send back pictures of my current state, hair pulled up, sweat streaked cheeks, and house a wreck. They send me emojis.

There was a time when my heart was filled to the brim by this kind of thing, sanding and painting and scrubbing. We had just a couple of babies back then and I wasn’t above throwing down a drop cloth at naptime and giving the living room walls a facelift.

But times change.

We have four wild kiddos now, no naptimes, and if I find myself with a few spare hours, I choose to sit here and write words rather than get to work on this home of ours. My creativity has moved on, I suppose.

We’re moving on too. The house will go on the market this week and we’ll start hoping for a buyer every single day. The boys will make their beds every morning and I’ll vacuum all the floors in case there is a showing. The house looks great. Better than ever. We’ve finished projects that have been in the works for years. We won’t even really get to enjoy it. Lesson learned, I suppose. Every time we check another item off our list, Brandon and I marvel at how nice it looks, and then one of us invariably laughs that we should have done this five years ago. Yeah, we should have.

But also, we didn’t. We didn’t because I was pregnant and nursing for.ev.er. We didn’t because the constant stream of toddlers and autism and diapers and asthma and all the other paces of life were about all we could do and keep on smiling. We didn’t because when the house is quiet and the kids are snoozing, we nearly always choose to hunker down together and have a drink or some ice cream, throw on some Netflix, and recline into one another. Cabinets and hardwood floors just can’t compare to our years of nights of doing nothing together. We didn’t because it just wasn’t that important. Not really.

What was important was that we survive, that we keep it together, that we still like each other at the end of the day.

This house has never been beautiful while we’ve lived here, it’s never been close to finished. And that seems about right. This has been a house we have lived in, hard. It’s the house where we’ve grown from four to six. It’s a house that has seen so many facedown, heartbreaking moments, and it is a house that has held our happiest, most wholehearted experiences. This little house with one shower and cracked grout and no pantry has been the solid ground I’ve walked on for more than seven years, the longest I’ve ever called a place home in all my life. That matters to me. So many cosmetic things have gone undone here, but the most important work of living together and knowing one another and finding the beat of our family, that has not been neglected. I think this little house has been glad to make the trade.

There’s nothing special about this place, but I’ve loved it. And now that it’s so pretty, I find it a little difficult to leave. But moving on means some very good, very  necessary things for our family, and so we’ll go. We’ll stretch into a spot not much bigger than this place, but with a set up that meets our needs in this season of big kids so much more. I have no doubt that we’ll continue on there in the way we’ve lived here, choosing to live within our walls with all our hearts turned toward one another.

Which I suppose is the best way to make a house beautiful.

 

#WholeMama Intros- Meet Cara!

June 9, 2015 by 3 Comments

Helloooooo, WholeMamas!

So, for those of you who stumbled on over here because you got a notification that I (finally) had a new post up, and not because you’re on the #WholeMama train, here’s the scoop.

A while back, Esther Emery contacted me about joining with her and a few other lovely writers to head up a sort of weekly writing thing on the subject of being a Whole Mama. As in, it’s summer. Which means the kiddos are home. Which means there is so much competing for our time and attention. I don’t know about your life, but I know that my life gets really full really fast. It’s not a great way for me to walk through my days; the cost to my creative self and my spiritual self is too high. In addition, the scrambling and angsty mama this pace produces is not what I want my boys to remember. I need to slow down, breathe, etc. I need space to write the words swirling in my head, space to mother with kindness and fun, space to worship in spirit and in truth. But I know it doesn’t happen easily, this living as our Whole selves. So, we’re banding together in mutual agreement that this is an important and sacred endeavor as we do this wonderful thing called motherhood.

And we want you to join us. Seriously. You need this too, I can’t think of a mama who doesn’t. So, take a minute every Monday night and join us on Twitter, or head over to our blogs on Tuesday and join in the conversation. Write your own words, instagram your days, share your wisdom with us. Let’s be WholeMamas together.

So, those of us who have been behind the scenes planning things for all you Mamas would like to kick this thing off with some introductions.

Allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Cara Meredith of Be, Mama. Be fame. This video made me laugh and it made me want to sit in her kitchen while she chats at me and I smile. She’s extremely adorable. Enjoy getting to know her, and if you’d like to check out my intro video, head on over to Jamie Wright Bagley’s Blog. 

Also, a note from our fearless leader, Esther’s blog: 

“And if you want to play? I know you do! Hop over to Instagram and do a #wholemama hello. “I am […] and I need #wholemama because […]” Use the #wholemama hashtag TODAY (Tuesday) to be entered to win a special prize!

If you want to do your own face to face fun, feel free to post a video on your own blog, and link it up here in the comments. (No actual official link up because we haven’t actually started.) But since Jamie has encouraged us to show each other that we’re not alone…”

What I See This Mother’s Day

May 9, 2015 by 2 Comments

Momandme

Growing up, like so many girls, I was certain that my mom just didn’t “get me”. How could she? Where she was quiet and shy, I was a chatterbox. Where she played softball and ran track, I holed up in my room with my piles of books and auditioned for the school plays. Where her faith was natural, humble, devoted, mine was questioning, hopeful, complicated.

Now, as a grown-up and a mother, I see. I see how we’re handed these fresh from heaven babes, and they are just entire people, wholly separate from ourselves and yet so very dependent. I see how that never really changes.

I see how I must have puzzled her at times. How she let me snuggle up with my dad in those early years, chatting at him, soaking up his wonder over our similar brains. How she contented herself with the smaller ways, how happy she was to stand backstage while he took center stage in my heart those first years.She was busy working nights, having babies. She must’ve been exhausted, she must’ve been so glad he was so good with me.

And later, when it was just her, when my dad didn’t and couldn’t stick it out, when she and I lived through the growing pains of my adolescence and her single motherhood side-by-side, when we both stretched into new identities at the same moment in time, we seemed to come together only to spark, to pull away again. She was barely hanging on and I was dying to connect and dying to get away and dying for someone who knew me.

And I missed it.

At the age of thirty-two, with eight Mother’s Days under my belt, I can see that now. I can see how very much I missed. All those times I thought she didn’t see me or know me or take the time to sit and be with me, I just didn’t see it.

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I’m seven  and each night I’m climbing between the beautiful pink and white flannel sheets with a green-covered second-hand copy of Little Women in my grasp. The book smells musty and old, exactly as it should. I’m trying not to read ahead, trying to wait when she appears in my doorway, no little brother in her arms, no keys in her hands. She climbs into my bed next to me and whispers, “okay, go ahead.” And so I read, my eyes following the black on yellowed-white, the words that tell me just how sick sweet Beth really is. I read about a big sister’s heartbreak and my mom’s tears splash the page. I lean my head into her shoulder a little more and I keep going. “Are you okay?” she asks. I nod. She only stays a little bit longer, til my face relaxes and I stop holding my breath. She didn’t want me to be alone, I see that now.

I’m twelve. We’re all surrounded by boxes, but there are roses outside the back bedroom. “It’s yours,” she tells me. All mine. My little sister’s twin bed fits nicely alongside her own bed in the master bedroom, and she likes it better there anyway, I’m told. So I unpack, my books are first, my dad’s old clock radio sits on my little white wicker bench. On my birthday, I come home from my dad’s new house to a freshly painted desk set right under my window, a leftover from her own girlhood where she sat and studied, where I’ll sit and scribble. At night, she’ll tuck in my siblings and slip into my room, listen to me work it all out with words for hours and hours. She’ll lay in the dark and I’ll break her heart with my own broken heart, and she’ll come back every night soaking up as much of my anger and fear as she can. I know she prays. My two best girlfriends will sleep on the floor of that room with me nearly every friday night, my mom will buy us snacks she can’t afford and let us stay up as late as we want, never once intervening in our late night calls to radio stations, or our stealthy climbs out the window into the rose garden. She wanted me to have space, to be heard, to laugh, to write. I see that now.

I’m sixteen. I’m coming home from school exhausted, pulling my covers over my head. My schoolwork is slipping and I won’t talk, except to sob and scream and blame. I am angry. And sometimes, she is too. Sometimes, she’s furious. And I kind of like that. I kind of like that I’ve exasperated her, for once, I’m the problem in this house. For once, I’m not just the one she can count on. But she knows. She sees past it all, knows something else is going on. She pushes and pushes and never, ever stops. She takes me to therapy. She talks to my teachers. She tells me to write, get it all out.. More than anything in the world, she wants me to make it. I see that now.

I’m eighteen. She’s headed to her summer nursing job in the mountains, and I have the house to myself. Heather and Missy move in because they have to, they can’t stay at home another minute. We spend the summer working our jobs and living together in a sisterhood I’ve never experienced. We are all at the end things; high school, relationships, parental authority. We’re stretching into new things, jobs, dorms, boys we kiss but don’t date. The girls pile their belongings at the end of the hallway, we have dance parties every single night. My mom comes home half-way through the summer and as Heather sprawls on the floor after her shift moaning, “I smell like K-Mart…” my mom laughs. When we plan a Christmas in July party, she supervises our terrible cooking. We store all our purchases for our upcoming freshman year in the office and she loves every second of our excitement, of our bursting with things to come. Boys come in and out, and this she minds a bit. But she doesn’t stop us. She lets us be. At Christmas Break, none of us can wait to get back to her and that little house, the spot of our magic summer. She buys us all matching pajamas and takes pictures. She gives me a place to belong, she gives my best friends a place to belong, she makes it all so easy. I see that now.

I’m twenty-three. Brandon’s working late at Starbucks and we’re sitting on the couch side-by-side. I feel it. Four little taps, his first tiny hello. My eyes widen and I tell her that I think I just felt something. She leans my way and puts her hand across my belly. He says hello to her too. She laughs a few short laughs, she puts her hand on top of mine, she gives me this moment of wonder with knowing in her eyes. It was like this for her once, when I said my first hello. She knows the magic of the moment, she knows all that is ahead. It’s the first time she’ll stand next to me, mom to mom, the first time I’ll grab her hand because I need her if I’m going to do this motherhood thing. I’ll be so glad she’s there. She gives me strength. I see that now.

She was always there. And if there’s one thing I want her to know this Mother’s Day, it’s that I see her and I know she always saw me.