The day before my son had a minor operation – some dental work under anesthesia – it rained. I remember because my husband made on ordinary comment about my brother, who had died during my pregnancy with my son, more than 7 years ago. Something … Continue reading Winter Reflection
Today I turn 35.
It’s a big one, a bittersweet one – a gift.
For me, it feels like a milestone in the progression from “young adulthood” to “mid-life.” The exhausting, precious phase of bearing children and nursing babies is drawing to a close for me, and with it, the chaos of that intense care that takes every ounce of time, attention and energy. It is a phase of life that is somehow both life-changing and monotonous, filled with days that are brimming with both utter drudgery and vital importance. But as my children gain independence, and I gain time, I finally know that it will be time well-spent.
I spent much of my life drifting, sometimes along the path of least resistance, scattered and trying a little of everything, and sometimes getting stuck. I have now been fortunate to stumble upon callings that I love and where I thrive – as a wife and mother foremost, but also a leader, teacher, advocate, writer, researcher and friend. I have discovered interests and passions that I believe will be life-long – faith, health, family, cultures and the movement between them.
The gift of 35 is finally knowing what I value and what I want, and having the courage and self-confidence to pursue those things. It is being anchored and empowered to decide when and where to move.
Of course, there will always be the things I can’t control, and that includes aging. I have started to accept that I will probably never again run a 7 minute mile, lose the extra weight in my waist-line, or get away with wearing clothes from the juniors section. My hair is not going to stop fading and my skin is not going to un-crease itself.
The loss of physical beauty is hard, even while I still consider myself to be a beautiful woman (most of the time), and even while I don’t value it all that much (theoretically). But it’s hard to see the shape of my body unwind little by little, like a play-doh figure with finger prints in strange places. It’s hard to notice a slight loss of flexibility, or a pain in some place where I never noticed one before, like a little, nettling reminder that the progression toward adulthood is complete, and now comes the inevitable descent.
But when I look at my body that has (3 times!) stretched and carried life, then pulled back, looking, each time, more like a grown woman, a mother – I love that body and what it has done. I love that it can run and jump and still do a handstand and a cartwheel (I think) and lift a child and hug a friend and shake a hand and eat and drink and breathe.
And I think this is another gift of being 35 – the ability to take things in stride; to be grateful for what we have and let go of the things that are less important. It is ceasing to hold anything too tightly, except for our faith. And while I have a habit, even now, of looking forward often, perhaps always looking ahead, I am more able to enjoy and experience the gifts of this moment that I can treasure as a memory and enjoy while they last.
So all in all, I think I’m going to love 35.
Hey Friends. It’s been a while. I used to write here frequently. After I put the kids to bed, my nights were long and lonely. I poured my nervous energy onto the page in a puddle of words and then tried to arrange them in … Continue reading Return of the Blog
Most of the time I still feel like a new mom, but when I look back on the time when I was getting ready to have my first child, it was a lot different than how I feel now, getting ready to have my third. … Continue reading Tips for the New Moms
I know everyone is sick of these posts, but I have to say my piece, and be done with it.
I’m going to go ahead and talk about my feelings after the election, so if you’re at the point where anything containing the words “election” and “feelings” make you gag, go ahead and stop reading now. But to make it more bearable for the three of you who choose to continue, I’ll go ahead and type “gag” every time I type “feelings.”
I’m going to talk about why I felt the way I did, and why I think it’s important. Then I’m going to talk about what I think we ought to do now, assuming we want to ameliorate some of the division happening in our country and our church. I am directing this toward evangelical Christians..
I am, obviously, disappointed about the results of the election. I am disappointed in my country’s choices, but I have felt that way since the primaries.
After Trump actually won though, something changed. It actually really surprised me. I realized at about 2:30AM on November 9th, how personal and overwhelming my feelings (gag) were of being betrayed by my own demographic – evangelical Christians, who exit polls showed voted for Trump in record numbers.
I’m not angry at any individual for the way they voted, because this was a tough choice and there are myriad, complex reasons why people made the choices they did. And because I’ve had some time to process my feelings (gag). And because my evangelical pastor directly addressed the fear that people like me are experiencing in a loving and affirming way, and because I believe that most of the Christians I know prayerfully, painfully, and carefully considered their decisions, and reached a variety of conclusions.
What I am talking about here, is the broader demographic of evangelical Christians throwing their enthusiastic support behind a candidate whose character is so clearly antithetical to basic Christian values.
I thought that at least a wide margin of Christians would vote against Trump, and I was painfully disappointed when the opposite happened. I didn’t expect tons of them to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I did expect many of them to vote for a person of character even if that person couldn’t win. I even had a very far fetched fantasy of so many people voting third party that neither candidate could get the necessary 270 electoral votes. Because you know, America, if we all voted for people we actually wanted that could really happen.
Anyway, as the wife of a Mexican immigrant, and as a woman, it sort of just felt like my own tribe simply must not care all that much about me or the people that I love. They care that my children will be born and not aborted, which I do appreciate, but after that, apparently they can be mocked, belittled, groped, sexually assaulted, threatened, stripped of birthright citizenship, and deported. And hey, if they were on the other side of the world they could be bombed, and that would be just fine too.
I realize this sounds extreme to some of you, but I’m simply stating my initial feelings (gag) here, and I know many others who feel the very same way. It’s not about a republican winning. It’s about a person winning who has attacked certain groups of people in a very personal and demeaning way.
Don’t get me wrong: I am pro-life. I think that abortion is a huge moral blind spot in our society. But you know what other issues the Bible addresses at least as clearly if not more so? Welcoming the foreigner in your midst; Defending the weak and vulnerable who are walking among us; God desiring mercy over sacrifice; The fruits of the spirit including kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control; The importance of leaders living upright and godly lives; The equality of all people, made in God’s image; A man’s words reflecting his heart; The necessity for every one of us to ask forgiveness for our sins.
So whatever justifications we have (and there are many, ranging from the legitimate to the bizarre), I’d say it is fairly clear that Trump, who has consistently demonized the foreigner, mocked the vulnerable, displayed a lack of the fruits of the spirit, used words that embolden and condone violence against minorities and women, and never asked for forgiveness, is not the type of candidate we would expect “Bible-believing” Christians to support. So I was particularly struck with a feeling (gag) of dismay when I saw that a whopping 81% of evangelical Christians who voted, voted for him.
Based on my own post-election sentiment, I think that our support of a clearly un-Christian candidate has probably alienated many individuals in communities that have been belittled, objectified, or directly threatened: People of color; Muslims; Women who have been sexually assaulted; Immigrants; Refugees; LGBT folks, People with disabilities, and others. If I, a committed Christian and white person, woke up the day after the election having the initial feeling (gag) that I wanted to convert to a more loving denomination (and I did have that feeling [gag], for a little while), I’m sure anyone in these communities who wasn’t already a Christian did not exactly have the burning desire to go join an evangelical church. In that way, we have damaged our witness by supporting an ungodly man. Regardless of how noble our intentions may have been, this is a real consequence that I believe we ought to consider.
I realize that a lot of Christians stayed home because they didn’t feel they could, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. I realize that a lot of Christians voted for Trump because they felt the alternative was more frightening. I realize a lot of folks who identify as evangelical Christians, probably aren’t practicing Christians who put a lot of thought into the religious aspects of their vote. Finally, I realize that Trump is not a caricature, but a person (and a showman for that matter), so no one really knows what is going on underneath those downy, champagne locks. But regardless, we are perceived as having put a hateful man in office, so the onus is on us to show the love of Christ to our neighbors (particularly our neighbors who are disturbed about the election) in clear, tangible ways.
I also know that America is frustrated. I know that rural and small town Americans, particularly in communities where poverty abounds because all the jobs have been replaced by technology or gone overseas, feel hopeless and forgotten by the media and the government, because they are. Otherwise, we would have had a clue about what was going to happen with the election. We know that things are bad in the inner-cities, and sometimes we talk about it in all the wrong way, but at least we talk about it. For these forgotten people, Trump is a big orange middle finger raised to the establishment, and maybe they deserve it.
And there are other, varied reasons that people voted for Trump, that have nothing to do with racism or sexism or any other isms. Some people wanted supreme court judges who care about the constitution. Some people feel that their religious liberty is being threatened. Some people are desperate for change. Some people see abortion as genocide. Some people may not have liked the candidate, but they liked the republican platform. A lot of people felt a combination of these things and/or just had really major concerns about Clinton.
For those of us who feel horribly offended by all things Trump, we can’t just paint all these people as “deplorables.” For one thing, we know where that got Hillary. The left’s tendency to disregard anyone who disagrees with them as ignorant and ethnocentric is a big part of how we got here. For a second thing, it simply isn’t true. And thirdly, it’s hypocritical. We can’t ask people to listen to our point of view while blithely dismissing theirs.
We keep saying that God is in control, and that is true. But we also know that sometimes God allows suffering. And I think some of our most vulnerable people could be in for some suffering as a result of this election. And fear is a natural reaction. So if you encounter people who are in pain or fearful, and you want to show them love, please listen before you tell them to relax because God’s got it covered. Resist the impulse that we all have, to believe that your experience is the only one that matters, or the most important one, and try to empathize. We need to stop dismissing one another.
Let me say that again: We need to stop dismissing one another.
Oh, you voted for Trump? You must be a racist misogynist. Oh, you’re upset about the election result? You must be a snowflake crybaby.
We have lost the art of respectful dialogue, and nuanced thinking. I don’t know if it’s our collectively shrinking attention span, or just too much looking at tweets and memes and too little conversation. But we seem to be lacking in the ability to respectfully disagree and truly consider opposing viewpoints. Maybe it’s just easier to be dismissive.
So here is what I think we ought to do now. If someone feels forgotten by the government, and worried about losing the moral foundation of our nation, we should listen to them. If someone is afraid because of the blatant racism that has been exposed and emboldened by this particular election, we should listen to them. Maybe we haven’t walked in their shoes, and maybe we won’t change our opinion about the issue, but we can still seek to respect and understand one another. (As a quick aside, I’m not saying we indulge nastiness, name-calling, etc. That stuff is not worth a response.)
We should let people know that we care about them in ways that are personal, and seek out friendships (not just facebook friendships) with people who are different from us. That is how we take some of the rancor out of this event. It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s hard work, and no president is going to do it for us. So let’s get started.
I grew up attending a conservative Christian school. Our skirts needed to be no more than 4 inches above the knee, and we had devotions every day and chapel once a week. I learned many of the foundational truths of my life in that school. But I may have misinterpreted some of the Biblical principals that were presented to me as a child, because my thinking remained too simple.
For example, I distinctly remember a picture that hung in the hallway. It looked something like this:
This represented a concept that somehow crept in and took hold of me – the idea that I ought to always put my own needs last, and that if I could consistently put myself last, or think of myself as less valuable than others, I could earn joy. This is misguided on several levels, and it sets an impossible standard and also an unhealthy one. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The idea that we are to love ourselves is assumed.
As an adult who works in mental health education, I have frequently spoken about the importance of self-care. But deep down, I didn’t really believe it. I thought it was selfish. Or that it was hippy-dippy psycho-babble.
I must have read my son the Jesus Storybook Bible five times before I noticed the simple phrase “they were lovely because God loved them.” This is in the beginning of the book, referring to when God pronounces his creation “Good.” And as it turns out, we too, are lovely because God loves us. I am immeasurably valuable because I am a beloved child of God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am a temple.
My worth does not depend on how attractive I am, how much money I make, how well my children behave, how people treat me, how clean my house is, how busy I am, or even how much I give of myself. I am complete in Christ. I do not need recognition or applause to be important. I do not need a conflict-free life to be at peace, or a sorrow-free life to have joy. My identity rests in God and therein lies my fulfillment. And if I am this beloved, complete being in God, shouldn’t I care for myself?
This is not to say we should always put ourselves first. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be humble or acknowledge that we are flawed, and work to improve ourselves. But gaining humility doesn’t mean losing love and respect for oneself, and acknowledging sin doesn’t mean living in constant guilt and self-loathing – in fact it allows us to live in joy knowing that we are valuable enough that God suffered to offer us grace for sin. If we are that valuable to God, shouldn’t we treat ourselves as such?
So I’m here to tell you that I’m going to eat, sleep and exercise. I’m going to rest sometimes. I’m going to maintain healthy boundaries, even when that means saying no, or saying goodbye. I’m going to choose an apple instead of bacon… maybe. On a good day. And I’m going to love you, and love myself too, because we are both flawed, but we are both God’s beloved creation. And even if you think that the idea of self-care is hippy dippy psycho babble, I’m here to tell that it’s also sound Biblical truth.
Since my brother died in 2011, I have taken my kids to see his stone each spring, and posted pictures.
It is a peaceful and lovely place for them to run around. I hope to foster an environment where we feel comfortable talking about life, death and life after death; and about health, mental health and mental illness.
It is a time for reflection, and a time to remember Jesse’s life. I like to imagine that he is looking down on us, imagine the jokes he would make and the way he would play with the kids.
Of course, I don’t know if he really sees us. I believe he is with God, and I don’t know why he would choose to turn away from paradise for a moment to look down at this broken place. But in my heart, I hope he does, because he would just love them.
Even though I know he is in a better place, I wish he had gotten to experience the joy that the kids bring to our family. My children have brought me more joy than I could have imagined, and taught me a great deal about being a child of God.
So I wanted to share their photos on my little blog, and say once again that we love and miss Jesse, today on the anniversary of his death, and always. And to remember, simply, that life can be tragically painful, but can also be profoundly joyful. There is hope for each one of us.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13