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Category Archives: Christian

And Justice for ALL

Today I am sitting at the computer with a heavy heart and scraps of paper scattered all around me that hold my thoughts and feelings on the reactions to recent events in racial tension we’ve been seeing.  I’m trying to figure out where to begin.  I’m trying to compile related ideas. I pray for wisdom in saying what needs to be said and in doing it well. I want to say something profound, important, or inspiring, yet I’m pretty sure whatever I say will just get lost in all the current noise.  And this isn’t a normal noise either.  You know when two kids get into an argument on the playground and while one is trying to give voice to his side the other plugs his ears and sings “La, la, la, la, la…” or hums as loudly as possible so he can’t hear the other? Yeah, the noise I’ve been hearing is a cacophony of childish humming and singing. It gives me a headache and a heartache.

There’s just been so much hate lately, and the most noise seems to come from competing and extreme sides, making it hard to hear when you actually want to if you’re anywhere between. If you’ve ever had one political leaning or the other, that does not mean you have to automatically align to everything your side says. It’s not about picking a political side. Look to your own morals and guidance in that. Look to biblical foundations of loving one another. Educate yourself, and do so not by only reading or watching the news that conveniently reflects what you want to hear or what your politicians would have you hear. It’s one thing to not understand, but something else when you cover your ears and won’t even listen.  “La, la, la, la, la!” There is media that will align with any ideas out there, so we really need to be diligent in either finding the least biased information we can, or to at least allow ourselves to see both sides so we can make our own decisions. I have begun to wish we could do politics in more of an a la carte manner instead of having to choose either the beef or chicken entree. Maybe replace the cole slaw with the pasta salad? Or something else entirely. Maybe I just want pizza. Politics as they are are NOT working. While one side denies we have a real problem, the other uses a funeral for a shameless and obvious stunt to gain black votes.

All this hate I’ve been seeing seems to boil down to this: We’re afraid to have our rights stomped on, so we continue to keep our knee of the neck of another? It’s not an either or situation. We should ALL have the same rights. And I have heard and read some absolutely crazy excuses and deflections lately in order to avoid any accountability.  “La, la, la, la, la!” It’s hard to take a real look at what is ugly sometimes. I know because it has taken me 42 years to do it. No wonder we try to pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist. It’s human nature. We are more likely to see only what we want to see and then stop looking, because otherwise we may have to do something and/or face changes in what is comfortable for us.  But now that I’m seeing it, I realize just how hideous it actually is, yet I can’t look away. I just keep thinking, there has to be some way we can fix this.  But as I’ve said, politics are not working. I don’t put my faith in them. I put my faith in the God who sent his son to this world long ago to set an example of love and justice.

“Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! They wander about in darkness while the world is shaken to the core.” Psalm 82: 3-5

Oh, boy! Here’s another white girl being brainwashed by the leftist agenda. That’s the latest crazy defense I’ve heard. If a white person so much as considers the existence of racism, we are viewed as being forced into white shame. “La, la, la, la, la!” For the record, no, I’m not taken in by that bull either. I don’t feel guilty at all for being white. There’s nothing I can do about the color I was born. You should never have to apologize for something you did not get to choose, only the choices you make. And I won’t base my opinions of others on their appearances either, only on their actions. Hate speaks louder than words and it comes in all colors. Individuals make choices. I choose to stand up against hate.

You must remember that there is a time for all things, as in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of hate towards protesters lately. I was even sent a video of a man saying that Pam cooking spray stood for ‘Protesters Are Maggots’ and it could be used to spray the front end of any type of truck before you use it to plow down protesters. Sadly, I think this was meant to be humorous. It made me angry and hurt for our loss of humanity. These messages often come from people who claim they are patriots and say they want to protect their rights…as long as it’s convenient for them. An example? If we are going to uphold the 2nd Amendment (and I am a big believer in this- it’s about keeping the government from oppressing us, not just home defense), we also have to uphold the 1st Amendment which protects the freedoms of speech, assembly, and petition, which is what protesters are doing. Violent and destructive rioting is illegal, but peaceful protesting is not.  You may not like what these protesters have to say, but they have the right to say it. You know who was a great protester who stood up for justice and even threw around a few tables?  Jesus.  Yet I’ve seen quite a few fellow “Christians” lumping all these protesters together as bad people and not only discounting what they are saying without even trying to understand it, but spouting some pretty horrible language and generalities about them as well. I don’t think Jesus is very happy about that. One of my Facebook friends shared this amazingly well articulated article from a few years ago this week and I loved it. If you have some time and an open mind, please read it. It’s quite powerful.

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And while I’m addressing some of the absolutist ideals I’ve come across lately, here are a few more:

If you support BLM you hate police or If you are a cop, you hate black people. Neither of these ideas is exactly true. Whereas the Black Lives Matter movement certainly has its roots in and has focused on police brutality against Blacks in America, it really has morphed into more than that as it is beginning to bring awareness to more injustices as well. We cannot, without sticking our heads in the sand or putting on blinders, deny this is an issue. The converse of that is that we also cannot say that all police officers are bad people. I truly believe, because I do personally know and respect some of these people, that many become police officers with a heart to help and protect others. That being said, this profession can also draw those who have an agenda of holding power over others, and some are prone to violence. This is why, instead of doing away with police, I believe perhaps an overhaul of the system is needed.  It really doesn’t take very long to become a police officer in comparison to the schooling and training for many other careers, and if we are sending these people out with weapons to patrol our streets, there needs to be better and more thorough training, more psychological evaluations, and much more accountability. There need to be more opportunities for these men and women to interact in settings within the communities they are assigned to, in which both police officers and the citizens can get to know each other, so both sides can be more humanized.  I’m not sure what this may look like in all places, and I realize this idea may seem naive to some, but maybe it’s little meet and greet at a local church, a community barbeque, or a block party situation, but they need to be real and human to each other.

This whole racism thing is just made up because it’s an election year. Seriously?! “La, la, la, la, la!” This was happening under Obama as well. Police brutality spiked and black incarcerations were the highest in California under Kamala Harris, who is now the front runner of Biden’s VP search. Also, Nixon’s own Domestic Affairs Advisor actually admitted, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt their communities.” This has been happening throughout our political history, on either side.

Racism is a politically fabricated scheme so black people have someone to blame for their laziness and has been over since the Civil Rights movement.  “La, la, la, la, la!” I hope most of us can admit that’s pretty ridiculous, yet I’ve heard it.  We didn’t all just live happily ever after then with no remaining issues.  Racism has lived on in various forms. I wasn’t alive before the late ’70s , so I don’t know what it was like before then first hand. I know I don’t hear so much about lynchings and such, but what about Ahmaud Arbery? It took months for his murderers to even be arrested. The defense was, “I was afraid for my life.” Really? Because those were the words of a man whose dad came home and told him they needed to chase down this guy who looked like he may have fit the description of a burglar. Instead of calling the police, they grabbed guns and sought after him as he was out for a run. After Arbery had been struck by their pickup, this man got out of the vehicle and went towards Arbery with a shotgun in hand. When Ahmaud, who had been cornered and was unarmed, attempted to fight back to protect himself, this man was “scared for his life” and shot him… more than once.  There is no doubt that was racism.

You do you. I literally saw this pop up as a hashgtag for the first time yesterday and have already seen a whole message of apathy included with it shared several times over. On the surface it seems like a great idea. You don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. But it’s a cop-out. It’s indifference. According to Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” He also said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” He spent his life trying to raise awareness of injustice, and he had a pretty good idea of what that was.

But it isn’t always so blatant, and it’s been ingrained into our society without us even realizing it. In school, I learned about MLK as a sort of hero, but in other places I heard him referred to as a trouble-maker; in fact, as head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover had declared him as “public enemy number one.” People had been afraid of him. This was a man who promoted peaceful protests, making a statement by standing up and having a voice other than the one that was supposed to be heard. This got him killed. There are stereotypes that say most black people in America are lazy, drug dealers, drug addicts, and criminals, but if it is true that these numbers are especially high in, say, black men, then we should ask why.  Are they really just bad people because of the color of their skin? Or is there something that has pushed them into this corner? If it doesn’t seem disproportionate that a third of black males in America will at one time be incarcerated, it should. This is why you should research and have an open mind.  I’m really only now learning about systemic racism and problems in our justice system, but I saw a little video I thought explained some of the basics of it.

 

“So at the heart of Biblical justice is the impartial application of God’s moral law within all realms of society, including economic, political, social or criminal justice. Any other definition of justice won’t suffice.”- Tony Evans

The problem of racism is not something we can fix overnight. It has taken generations to root itself into society. We can start by answering the “who” and “what” questions by trying to help each other listen. This creates awareness. Then we can ask “why” and learn more to gain our answers. But we don’t stop there. Once we know and understand there is a problem and its causes, we have to ask “how” we can fix it. If we can make it to that stage, we can work in our communities first, and eventually to the top.

Think back to any time you have ever been in an argument with someone and the other person was clearly not considering your hurt feelings, though you felt a very real pain. You just wanted him or her to listen to you, but instead your feelings were trivialized or completely ignored, maybe even mocked. You felt pretty frustrated, didn’t you? Who are you or I or anyone to disregard someone else’s feelings without trying to understand them? Your personal experiences are your own, but they paint your outlook on everything else. It is your responsibility as a human sharing this planet to remember the same is true of everyone else. In this, you must use empathy and you must try to understand one another. Be like a child and ask why about everything. If you see a problem you don’t understand, don’t discount that it’s a real problem. Ask why. If you still don’t understand, then ask why again, and again, and again, as many times as it takes.

“At that time I instructed the judges, ‘You must hear the cases of your fellow Israelites and the foreigners living among you. Be perfectly fair in your decisions and impartial in your judgments. Hear the cases of those who are poor as well as those who are rich. Don’t be afraid of anyone’s anger, for the decision you make is God’s decision. Bring me any cases that are too difficult for you, and I will handle them.'” Deuteronomy 1:17

A Middle-Class, Middle-aged White Woman Talks About Racism

First, no I’m not a Karen. But that is my gender and generation.

Second, there is no way I can comprehend what it is like to be black in America (that’s kinda going to be part of my point). But that also gives me a chance to speak to the others out there like me, or the Karens. Just because we don’t really know what it’s like, doesn’t mean we cannot add value to the situation. We can sympathize, empathize, and lend our voice to speak up for others. Changes don’t come unless people unite.

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I was born into a middle-class white family in the late ’70s. Picture me as a first grader, fascinated by the noise my corduroy pants made when I walked. My small world consisted of avoiding being threatened by my sisters when I sang all the songs from the movie Annie and trying not to wear out the zipper on the pocket of my Kangaroo tennis shoes. One day in school we are taught about a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a brave and respected man who made a difference for a lot of people in something called the Civil Rights movement. Also, he seemed very exotic to me (not that I knew what that meant). We were told he was black. I didn’t understand why I got a stern talking to when I used an actual black crayon to color him in on my coloring page in school. I was just told he was black. You see, I’m sure I had encountered black people, but I didn’t realize what that meant. I took it literally. People looked all kinds of different ways, and I didn’t give it much thought. I doubt I knew I was white. I thought I was sorta peach or apricot.

So in the innocence of being a kid, I had to figure out that the colors of people weren’t exactly literal and that some time in the past people that came in different colors had not treated each other well. It seemed like it was now all okay though because of that movement this brave man had been part of. We learned it as history, not an ongoing struggle, and when you’re a middle-class white kid, it’s not something you really grow up understanding or seeing every day. For the longest time, I guess I took for granted that the Civil Rights movement of the past meant racism was over now. I haven’t been trying to ignore it all these years. This was not intentional. It just hasn’t been something I noticed in my life. If you’ve been living your life on the other side of the race divide, I’m sure that sounds fairly stupid. But it’s true. At least I’m being honest.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate person with a tendency to empathize well. I’ve even done some of those emotional IQ tests and scored high. Yay me! And no, I’m not asking for any cookies.

But maybe I haven’t been very observant. Until more recently. I grew up, went places, read a lot, watched movies and tried to observe the world around me better. Sometimes you don’t want to believe what you learn. It hurts to see others who are put down and treated unjustly.

I asked God once to break my heart for what breaks his. Don’t ever pray that if you don’t mean it. Several years ago now, I learned about human trafficking, which is modern day slavery. It makes me sick that people still own other people and the atrocities of what these slaves have to endure. People are NOT property. No race, no gender, no children should ever be owned. A body may be owned, but not the inner person… until it persists so long that they give up. They let go of their identity and die a little inside. I HATE this. What is happening in our country right now is not just the result of a case of police brutality, which may or may not be based on race. It is so much deeper than that. Slavery in the literal sense ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, but in many cases true freedom still has not been achieved. I believe it’s a deep seated cancer that got into society long ago. As with most things, this is not necessarily true for the majority, but it only takes a few to taint everyone. Not all white people are running around having secret meetings in silly white hoods. I would venture to say most white people are not actively condoning racism. Many of us are disgusted by it. And on the other side, we see a people that has been held down for so long that many of them have lost their hope. They are stuck in cycles they just can’t seem to break, not because they don’t want to, but because they’ve never really been taught how or given the means to do it. (More on this in a later post, I think)

I used to think things were different, and I used to think everyone had an equal chance, but it is so much more complicated than that. More recently, my husband and I have watched some things that raised up more awareness in me and made me think. All of these are either based on true stories or portray a reality. First we finally watched the series The Wire. Season four, the one about the school kids in Baltimore, brought me to tears and broke my heart. Then we watched the movie The Green Book. It takes place in a time of segregation, but it showed the development of a friendship between two unlikely men, one black and one white (it’s more complicated than just that though). Netflix made a short series called When They See Us, about the Central Park Five. And most recently we watched Just Mercy. There are more out there. Plenty of documentaries and books too. These are just a few things that haunted me.

I don’t have solutions that will change society overnight. But I am hopeful that we have reached a point where more people are opening their eyes. I hear people saying we can fix this at the polls. But it’s not about politics. It’s about individuals. There needs to be a dialogue. We all need to try to understand each other. Change will have to happen from the bottom up, not from the top down. We may look different, but beneath our skin color, we really aren’t. We have the same basic needs. We all want to be loved, to be accepted, to know our loved ones are safe, to know that we are safe. We all laugh and cry. We feel joy and agonize in grief. I am sure there are more people who want to do good and see equality than there are those vile people who want to poison and divide society. We must be a bigger number, united in love. As Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Speak out. But you also have to do it in love. I think sometimes we see problems as bigger than we are and think we cannot make a difference. Maybe not alone. But if we come together, light always wins over the darkness.

The least we can do is try to understand. Then we have to find a way to “be the change we wish to see.” That’s going to look different for everyone. But once you see the injustice, you have to do something. Start by following the command to love one another. Much will fall into place and healing will begin if we can do that. Loving means we must listen to each other and respect each other. And let’s please all agree to stop letting an irresponsible media further divide us. Let’s listen to each other, not them.

So come on, Karen. Put down that bottle of wine, cancel your nail appointment and channel that anger over the sign in the supermarket being in the wrong place into doing something good, something that makes a real difference. Become a Karen with a cause.

The Morning After

20181207_200612As a kid, I remember making construction paper ring chains to count down the days until Christmas. It was such an exciting time of year. My sisters and I would skulk around the Christmas tree and shake the gifts with our names on them. My mom made  amazing sweets, and in great quantity. I remember the decorations and how warm the house felt.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve evening and got our stockings Christmas morning. My grandmother was usually staying with us for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Christmas we usually went to one of my aunts’ houses or a few would come to ours for a day of feasting, games, and more presents. I was by far the youngest in the house, so was not always included in game playing, but I still enjoyed just being there in the chaos. The day after Christmas seemed so quiet and subdued after all the excitement that had lead up to and culminated on Christmas day. I had all my new stuff to play with (and if I was lucky enough to have been gifted a book I could read for hours), but somehow there was a sadness that the experience was over.

As I’ve gotten older, my Christmases have gotten smaller and we don’t generally have many gifts under our tree, but the warmth, the decorations, and the love are still precious to me.  And sometimes the day after Christmas still seems sad. Now that looks a little different to me, because I have realized the warm feeling at Christmastime wasn’t as much of a physical warmth as the feeling of love. People are generally kinder to one another, including strangers, during the holiday season. Somehow it is easier to put aside differences and see each other as fellow human beings. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are on the rise. The idea of “peace on earth” seems almost possible.

And then Christmas is over. Slowly, the kindness and warm feelings fade and we all go back to our normal lives and our routines, and many forget until somewhere around the end of the next November.

The thing is, Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and a gift that is everlasting. Those feelings of love and joy are intended to be kept all year. We are commanded to love one another, and I doubt that was meant to be a part-time job. Love takes work sometimes, and we get frustrated and tired, and life happens, distracting us. But let’s try to show love and kindness, even if only in some small way, each day. Be on the lookout for those opportunities. When we bless others, we in turn are also blessed, and then it is easier to keep it going all year long.

How to Be Thankful

Three years ago, I should have been in a dark place. Maybe I was actually in a dark place, but there was a light in the darkness.  And light overcomes darkness. As long as I knew the light was there, even if it seemed dim, I knew I could go on.

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2015 started with a startling surprise that left me questioning my life and marriage and set us up financially to lose everything.  Only by God’s grace did we make it through that, and without once failing to pay a major bill or even damaging our credit. I won’t go into details, but none of it made any sense on paper. It was truly a miracle. Then as the year came to a close, we found out we would lose the little girl who had been the biggest part of the light we’d had through all that. The girl we had never known we needed, and now didn’t know how we could could live without, would be taken from us. And if we weren’t careful, we may never see her again.

I was living through a nightmare, so deep in stress and heartache I sometimes had trouble breathing, and I was on the verge of tears at all times. Nothing in my life had ever felt so difficult before. I can’t even remember all the details anymore- maybe I blocked them out- but I know we faced car issues, emergencies around the house, and any number of financial and emotional surprises during this time that made me feel like I was down and getting kicked in the ribs every time I struggled to get up.

But then I took a look at all we had made it through and all the people who had been there to love and support us. I began to actually see where God had been, even in the middle of the worst year of my life. I could not make it through this on my own. I knew that. I just wasn’t strong enough in my own power.

And that’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be. God wasn’t bringing these things into my life and standing above me laughing. He was allowing them because He knew I would reach out to Him in this time and that He would be the strength I needed to make it through. Even as some new calamity would strike, it always seemed there was something equally good that would happen, often in unexpected ways. He was letting me know He was there, and though I could not see why I was experiencing these hurts or how they would turn out, He had the big picture and was making it all work for my good.  I even began laughing when disaster would strike. What else could I do?

I prayed so hard for our girl to stay with us, but in the middle of 2016, she had to leave. We had done all we could to prepare for that, but I had still been in denial. I thought God would come in with some crazy miracle at the last minute. He didn’t. I was angry about that at first. I couldn’t understand, and still often don’t, how her new situation was a better place for her. But maybe that’s not what it’s about. She loves God, and maybe she needs to learn how to trust Him in the difficult times too. Maybe this is the building of her character, because while I was praying for God to make a way for her to stay with us, I also prayed that if that was not part of His plan, that she would be given the strength she needed and it would make her a better person. It is also a reminder that though she had been placed with us for a time, and we cared for her as our own, ultimately, she is a child of God and He will care for her. I had to give her to Him in that time.

It has been hard. The blessing is that we do still get to be part of her life and she spends every other weekend, and some extra time here and there, with us. To others, she refers to us as her aunt and uncle, but when she’s with us, we are still Mommy and Daddy, and I think it will always be that way. She has been out of our direct care now longer than she was with us, but the bond remains. It’s hard having her less than part time. Our lives had to “go back to normal” to some extent, so weekends with her turn our routines and our “normal” upside down. The disruption can be difficult emotionally, because our lives are on hold at those times… but having that time is precious. She’s still a light. She is our sunshine.

If it had been up to me, I would have wanted to eventually adopt her and to never have experienced most of 2015 and 2016, but then I would not have been able to grow. Neither would she, or my husband. It was awful, and we are still in a constant state of recovery from all of it, but we were blessed through it too.

I’ve realized that bad things happen to everybody. Some people just dwell on the bad more than others. Perspective and optimism go a long way. Everything I went through in that time changed my overall perspective and helped me find HOPE. Sometimes I still have to react emotionally, and even cry it out. But then I remind myself to look to God and all that He has done to take care of us.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Reflections of a Mission Trip: The Faith to Go

I got home a couple days ago now from a week-long mission trip to Guatemala. I want to remember what I learned now while it’s still fresh. That being said, I have probably a few subjects on which to reflect, so I’ll spread them out. Otherwise this would be one long post.

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Might as well start at the beginning, right?

This was not my first mission trip. It wasn’t even my first mission trip to the same place; it was, in fact, the third mission trip I have taken to Guatemala. Since I’ve done it before, and I like a little sense of adventure in my life, this part was not scary. The unknowns of a foreign country can be a huge obstacle for some, and understandably so. Because of that, I knew when I was asked to be one of the leaders on this trip, that I could be an asset in guiding the team through this and helping them in knowing what to expect.

Ugh! I was going to start at the beginning, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

Brakes.

Reverse.

I went to Guatemala in 2013 and 2014, but it’s been a few years. Life happened and I was just holding my head above water. Doing anything beyond that seemed impossible, so though I had it in my mind I would go back one day, I didn’t think the time was now.

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When I got the call from our international mission team leader asking if I would be one of the co-leaders for our church, I said I would talk it over with my husband, we would pray, and I’d let her know. In the back of my mind, or not even so far back, I really thought it would be a no. First, it was my husband’s turn to go, and it wouldn’t be fair to him. Second, mission trips cost money, and we had none. Third, my own life was a mess, so how could I possibly be someone a team could look to?

But after a few days of praying and discussing with my husband, I began to see it differently.  My husband had a focus of school and it had been a life change for us to send him back. I had been feeling depressed and useless. I had been given a new purpose in my life a few years before, but just had it taken away and was having trouble processing who and what I was, and whether I had a purpose or anything to offer to others anymore. Now I was being asked to take on an important role. This meant somebody felt I did have something to offer, and that idea was likely placed there by God. And when God says you have a purpose, you better say yes, strap in, and enjoy the ride, because He will use you if you let him. I knew I was at a point where I needed this.

But still, we were struggling so much financially, I felt it was wrong to do traditional money raising, and we certainly couldn’t do it ourselves. But I remembered just how perfectly the previous trips had worked in financial fundraising, one trip almost to the exact dollar. Of course, the trip was scheduled for three weeks before I had available paid vacation at work, so I would also be losing an entire week of pay when we were already living paycheck to paycheck. So, I decided if God was sending me, the money for the trip itself would come, and so would the money to cover my week of not getting paid.

Then there was still the nagging reminder that though it seemed God wanted me to go, I just couldn’t see how I was going to be effective when my own world was partially shattered.  If I was falling apart, how could I help hold together a team of people with varying personalities.

But God uses the messed up, the falling apart, the broken people. After all, I wasn’t going to do it by my own strength, but through Him. He would just be using me. Having learned over the last few years to live by faith when I couldn’t make sense of the world around me, He knew I was prepared for this. My being broken was what He wanted to use.

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So after more prayers, more talks with my husband, and some tears, I called the international team leader and told her yes.

There are so many scriptures and so many songs that come to mind about being called, but these two scriptures are the ones that have gotten me through all the pain and heartache of the last few years:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

and Jeremiah 29:11

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Sure enough, we had several people on this trip who had never been before, and I was able to help prepare them and help guide them while we were there, to support them and encourage them. What a blessing that was, to watch as they experienced the emotions of such a trip, and to be able to be part of it. The funds were raised quickly and by less people than I would have expected. My portion was over 100% paid faster than any other trip I have gone on. My husband began a job where he is earning more and working more hours, in fact, much overtime right now, and it has more than made up for my missing week of work. And my brokenness? It was just the condition my heart needed to be in.

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This was just the beginning of my story. I still want to reflect on what we did and the people of Guatemala, the sense of community and how it spans across cultures, and my personal attachments to Guatemala. Stay tuned. Those are coming.

Epic

If you would like to read now about our work, one of my awesome teammates wrote a blog while we were there. Check it out here: epicgoguatemala.com

One of my other teammates shared this video for our team, and I want to share it with you. (Just click on “this video”).

 

 

Mawwage- Here’s to Another 17 Years

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This man knows me better than anyone, and he loves me anyway. I guess the same can be said the other way too.

Seventeen years is a long time, especially in modern marriages. But we’ve stuck with it. I’m sure we both have wondered why from time to time, but marriages aren’t perfect. None of them. You work at it. You give and receive considerable amounts of grace, and you grow together, even when it means suffering “growing pains.”

Sharing your life and becoming one with someone is bound to get complicated, but you do it together. While one is weak, hopefully the other is strong. Sometimes you are both weak and you just prop each other up and know it will get better because you have each other. The last few years have been the most challenging in our marriage, but we made it to seventeen. During the first ten years we were practically children. I feel like we’ve finally actually grown and matured over the last seven years. The biggest part has been finding God in our marriage and keeping Him at the center…no matter what.

So here’s to another 17 years…and another…and so on. There’s more adventure to come. I love you Robert. Happy Anniversary.

We Are All Models

A man who does not know how to properly treat a lady has no business in raising one; nor does a woman who does not know how she should be treated.

The behaviors we exhibit for our children in our relationships are the ones they will develop in their own lives. That is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Parents, think about what you are modeling for your children. Is it what you want them to become?

Treat others as you want your children to be treated, and how you want your children to treat others.

wonderwoman

 

My Christmas Prayer 2016

My house is quiet this morning. The dogs followed me out of the bedroom but collapsed while I made my coffee. My husband softly snores yet with the cat. There are no excited children to open gifts. It is just me and thoughts.

Whether today is the true date of Jesus’ birth or not,  I am thankful that he agreed to come here and be born as a little baby who would suffer the trials of mankind, growing in communion and fellowship with so many imperfect people. These were the people who were looking for him, yet refused to see him.

Even as a baby he was born to die. He was a sacrifice. Imagine growing up knowing that. Then imagine him surrounded by the hatred and cruelty of mankind (not so different than it is today), and deciding to die for us anyway, Jew and gentile alike. In fact, he died for anyone and everyone who would choose him.

This Christmas, I am thankful for the greatest gift ever, God’s son. So many are lost, hurting, and confused. If I read the news, it brings me to tears more often than not. How can we believe in good when we are surrounded by so much evil? But I pray for this to be a day that gives hope. I pray everyone would have a small moment in their busy days to look past the commercialism and truly appreciate what Christmas represents. There is hope, if we only look. I pray we may all focus on the good and what we do have. I pray for hurting people to find peace. And I pray my little girl would always continue to love God and believe with her childlike faith.

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Merry Christmas!

Hope Changes Everything

A few Christmases ago, I discovered we somehow had this amazingly beautiful song in our collection of 2 days of Christmas music. As it played I realized I had never heard it before, so I paused my holiday scurrying long enough to listen. And then I hit the repeat button and listened again. Something about this song reached my heart like few other Christmas songs ever had and it became an immediate favorite.

Then my world changed. I am not going to say I am like Mary or anything, but last year I came to understand her more through this song, and by reflection, I understood the sacrifice of God to give us His son.

I’ve blogged this before, but in case you missed it, the short story is that my husband and I, intentionally childless, were asked in the summer of 2014 to take in a little girl. We were unprepared and felt we were not worthy of such an important task as helping to raise a child. But we knew we needed to do it, so we said yes. It was hard. Our lives had to completely change to fit her into our world, but we grew as a family and the bond of love became something I could never had imagined, I could never have planned.

She became our daughter… a child entrusted to us, of all people.

Then last winter, right before Thanksgiving, we found out we were going to lose her. No, she isn’t deceased. She just lives with her biological father now.

So when I heard this song last year, the meaning changed for me. I definitely felt the uncertainty of Mary, being chosen to not only give birth to Jesus, but having the honor of raising him. She knew he was the savior, but she did not know how he was to save mankind, that he would have to be sacrificed. She had nothing of certainty except that she had been chosen for the task.

It isn’t easy to give up your loved ones who have become part of your heart and your being. Trusting God’s plan when it makes no sense hurts like nothing I can describe. How must Mary have felt when she beheld Jesus, torn and beaten, hanging on the cross 32 years later, remembering when she had held him in her arms? She had to have felt broken and confused. Maybe even angry. Why had she been given such a wonderful gift only to have him taken from her in such a brutal way?

But he was God’s gift to give, and though Mary could not see it in the midst of her pain, salvation came from Jesus’ death. And no one suffered as God did in that moment when He could not even look upon His own son. He knew what the sacrifice meant for mankind, but in that moment, He hurt and He wept.

I love Christmas decorations, the baking, the parties, the smells, the music, but I remind myself those good feelings of Christmas are meant to remind us of the greatest gift ever given. It’s wonderful when, in the midst of the commercialism, people are able to appreciate the general warmth of the holiday, the love and peace,  but it needs to be more than just that. Let’s remember where Love really originates and who gave it to us.

There is always a plan. It doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes it hurts, but we have been given the gift of Hope.

View the Uphill from Under the Hill

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In Florida, we don’t have hills, but we have bridges. On my out and back 5 mile training run, I began the tackle of the bridge and was at the peak when I hit mile one. I could say it was smooth sailing after that, or all downhill from there… but I hate cliches. I felt great though. Sure, it was humid, but the temperature was a good ten degrees cooler than my usual Saturday morning runs, so I considered that a win. The path I chose had small rolling hills, but nothing I couldn’t handle that morning. I guess I was in the right place mentally and physically.

I did the turnaround at 2.5 miles and headed back towards that bridge. I knew I would hit mile 4 right before I got to the peak. The run had felt exhilarating and I figured I’d just blast up that hill, er…bridge and be done with it.

The thing is, though, that for some reason I saw the bridge looming ahead, and it seemed more intimidating from this side. The incline is steeper headed inland, and my legs suddenly hurt. My breathing got out of whack. I was floundering. For about ten seconds, my mental battle just about clobbered me physically. I thought I would throw up. I began to fear being able to run over that bridge twice the day of the half marathon I am training for.

But I wouldn’t let myself quit. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk. I hated myself for those ten seconds, but I knew that I could do it if I just kept moving my legs. I had the strength. I was almost to the top, and I only had one mile to go. Downhill would be so much better, if I could just make it to the top. And then I did. I wanted to have a Rocky moment, but that would have held back my time if I stopped to jump up and down with my arms in the air at the top of the bridge, so I just smiled and kept plugging.

That has been my life for the last couple years. I have scaled, hiked, crawled, and run hills I thought would defeat me, but I have tried to remember that I am not in it alone. Peter walked on water. Maybe not for long before he doubted himself, but Jesus was there to catch him, and when I feel like I cannot crest the next hill, and it hovers over me, I remind myself I have never really been alone. Jesus is always there when I cannot do it by my own strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I want to picture myself running into His waiting arms at the top of the hill.

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Then, when I completed my run, I stretched and walked along under that bridge that had almost defeated me, and I saw it from a different perspective. I saw its height and vastness, and I knew I had made it over the top, and I now rested in its shade. Getting over our hills can be a mental, emotional, or physical challenge, but once we make it to the other side, we can rest in its shade.