Love Wins

One of the best gigs I had as a freelance journalist was a weekly parenting column in the local paper. Mostly anecdotal, I shared funny stories, parenting hacks, and humbling experiences. Occasionally, however, I would touch on something serious.

A column I wrote in August 2014 was just that. Serious and hard and sad. As the Ferguson riots played out across our television screen, my oldest asked me some tough questions about race relations in this country.

I was raised by a single mother who came of age in the 1960s. She was a self-proclaimed hippie, and she marched for civil rights. She taught me that everyone should be viewed as equal, and my husband and I are raising our children to know the same thing. So, when my son asked me those hard questions, I wondered whether we’d stepped back in time.

I answered everything. I told him that racism is a major problem, maybe not in our community — which is a beautifully-woven, multi-cultural tapestry — but in other states and regions, racism was showing its teeth. Then I wrote about our conversation in my column. When it went to print it also appeared on the newspaper’s website. I shared a link to the piece on social media (it’s been archived, otherwise I would share the link here).

Later that day a contributor to a national television network that often features pundits and talking heads responded to my post by telling me I was adding to the unrest. I literally rubbed my eyes and reread the comment, sure that it would read differently. It didn’t.

I debated whether to respond. I had all manner of words ready to volley back at this person. It took everything I had not to explain how wrong they were, but in the end I decided it wasn’t worth it. This person thought that I was contributing to the tension because I pointed out the obvious — racism hasn’t been eradicated and in some cases, it defines entire communities.

M and M

But if every family in this country decided to raise their children to love everyone, racism would cease to exist.

In the end, I didn’t regret telling my son the truth.

It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting.

John and I want to raise kids who become world-changers and we can’t do that by covering up facts.

In light of that, in opposition to the horrible things playing out in this country…

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39)

Love one another. (John 13:34)

[Remember that] hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)

Our children need to know that someone can’t be a Christ-follower and a racist at the same time. Hatred and bigotry go against everything Jesus represents.

[Remember that] whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. (1 John 4:20)

Our kids are watching and listening and taking their cues from us.

 

Note: A special thanks to Elizabeth Shafer for allowing me to use a picture of her sweet kids. To learn more about Elizabeth’s multi-cultural family, visit her blog, “Embracing and Thriving.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer

 

IMG_0586Um, I looked at the calendar and realized that there are less than three weeks left in summer break. What is this crazy vortex I live in that makes time move at hyper speed?

In an instant I went from “super chill summer mode” to “GET ALL THE SUPPLIES AND BUY ALL THE BACKPACKS AND CLEAN OUT EVERY CUPBOARD!”

Now I’m on a mission to squeeze every last moment out of the dwindling break.

I have a love-hate relationship with summer. Desert summers are so hot it’s stupid and that means I can’t really get outside, which is something I enjoy. I do love that all six of us are on a break together and we don’t have to worry about rushed mornings, homework, rehearsals, tournaments, recitals, etc., etc.

We’ve done some really fun things since the school year ended. We’ve escaped to the beach, played at the lake, gone roller skating, watched a movie at a drive-in, had countless game nights, spent time at the library (free air conditioning!), stayed up late, and slept in. As far as making memories, I think we’ve done a solid job of that this year.

But this summer has had some sharp edges also. Last month John was in a serious auto accident. The damage from being hit landed his car in a wrecking yard two months after we got it. He said he looked at the grill of the other car, time slowed, and he thought, “This isn’t how I thought I was going to go.” The car took the impact, but in the aftermath we all felt emotionally crushed.

The month before that, during a self-check, I found a lump. With my mom’s history of breast cancer and her death from ovarian cancer, I am pretty diligent. I wasn’t ready for it though, and I worried. By “I worried,” I really mean “I lost my mind.” If I’m being honest, there was no faith in God’s plan or peace that things would be okay. There was only, “Who will dance with my son’s at their weddings?” and “I won’t be able to help my girls when they have babies of their own.”

The next day, volunteering as a stage manager, I sat in a dark corner behind a curtain while nearly 1,000 kids celebrated the first day of our church’s annual week-long VBS camp. I kept stealing away to make appointments and email John. I was able to see my doctor that afternoon and he referred me for the proper tests. Three weeks later (I know!) I went in for my appointment. I couldn’t help but notice that all of the other ladies sitting near me — all waiting for the results of their own diagnostic tests — walked in for their news and one-by-one, walked out smiling. I was sure the odds were against me, so when my name was called I prepared myself for the worst. I almost didn’t believe it when the doctor handed me my report and said everything looked just fine. “What you found was totally normal,” she said. “Always be watchful, but never assume the worst.”

Right. Talk about emotional whiplash.

For a long time I thought summer had some whimsical superiority over other seasons, and was disappointed when it didn’t meet my expectations. I’d spend half the school year dreading it, and the other half dreaming about its lazy days. The fall is my absolute favorite season and it’s not unusual for me to begin counting down the days until summer gives way to pumpkin everything.

A few weeks ago I stole an idea from Instagram and made a bracelet that reads, “SUMMER.” I’m wearing it because the calendar already moves so fast; wishing away the heat or complaints of boredom or focusing so much on what’s next is a sure way to miss what’s happening right now. This simple bracelet acts as a reminder that we’ve had some great summertime experiences, and even in the ugly stuff, God has always carried us through.

But blessed is the man who trusts God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees planted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers —
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.
– Jeremiah 17:7-8 (The Message) 

 

 

Choosing battles and pursuing dreams

My oldest is starting high school next month and it’s bizarre. Wasn’t I just in high school (flips hair over shoulder)?

The last three years have been rough. Seeing him through middle school was a balance between holding my breath, walking on eggshells, and, at times, forcing him out the door in the mornings.

It’s because he hates school.

So much of parenting is mastering the art of choosing our battles, but for the longest time I fought Ryln as he complained about going to school. We knew bullying wasn’t the issue — trust me, we looked into it — he got A’s and B’s, has a solid group of loyal friends. I just didn’t get it.

“You need school,” I’d tell him. “College will be here before you know it.”

“I’m not going to college,” he replied every. single. time.

I remember the first time he said it, worry swept over me like a swarm. Even though some of the smartest — and happiest — people I know never went to college, even though I know that God uses people regardless of their education, I still freaked out.

“College is pointless,” he would call after me as I walked away fretting and wringing my hands.

His mentality, in part, comes from the fact that he’s a teenager and apparently teenagers know everything, but part of it comes from a true place. College isn’t for everyone.

Ry with clubRyln doesn’t want to go to college because he wants to pursue his passion (I understand that he’s only going to be a freshman, but the years go by lightning-quick). Ryln’s first words were “golf ball” (true story). As a toddler, he’d drag clubs, twice his height, all around the house. In elementary school he took lessons, practiced with his dad, and discovered competitive golf. He spends entire days at the practice facility, honing his skills. He wants to focus on his game after high school and eventually try to play professionally. Frankly, if there wasn’t a golf team at the high school, the next four years would be unimaginable.

I’ve changed my mind about college for Ryln. I edged my way there with tentative steps; now I’m at peace.

A few months ago I was sitting across from him at a restaurant and he was telling us all, again, why school “is so dumb.” I reminded him that I went back to school to get my master’s and how I didn’t think it was dumb. “I don’t get why you did that,” he said. “You’re a phenomenal writer and that’s what you love doing.” John and I exchanged a look; he silently said to me, “See, he likes you.” Ryln’s biased because he’s my kid, but in terms of choosing a “safe path” rather than one with inherent risks — he hit the nail on the head. Kids are brave in ways that adults just aren’t.

Something shifted that day though, and I firmly planted one foot in Ryln’s camp.

A few weeks later I was talking to someone at work and they were asking about my degree program. As I was explaining it to her I said, “I can’t wait to be done. I love teaching, but I really don’t like being a student. I never have.” I have no idea what she said after that because as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how much like Ry I sounded; I mentally shook my fist toward the heavens. It’s humbling, realizing the annoying things your kids do actually originate with you.

The tipping point came when I was watching a documentary — FINE! I was watching The Voice — and a participant’s mom was explaining that her daughter is passionate about music; even if it meant postponing college, she would support her kid. “As a parent, why wouldn’t you want to see your children step into their dreams?” asked the mom.

“Whatever, random lady from Lansing,” I thought.

But she was right.

Last month I stood on the threshold of Ryln’s bedroom door, one hand on the wall to steady myself, and told him that no matter what, I’m in his corner. “If you want to take a gap year, or (gulp) forgo college all together in order to do what you really love, I’m fine with that.

“And son,” I added, “you have the talent and the dedication to succeed.”

Because relenting and supporting aren’t the same. “Go ahead, do what you want,” isn’t the same as, “You can do this, I believe in you.”

He didn’t know what to make of it at first, but now he knows I’m sincere.

A few weeks later he made a passing comment about going to college if he gets a full ride.

Reverse psychology wasn’t my intention, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit relieved.

Either way though, he has our support. Everyone deserves to be cheered on as they step into their dreams.

Ryln walking to DW

 

Musings for the end of 2016

saying-goodbyeJoy. That was my word for 2016. Joy is something you either have or you don’t. It’s not the same as happiness, which can come and go. That’s why the whole “choose joy” thing is super annoying. Whether I’m in a good mood or not, happy or not, excited or not, I still have joy. Who would choose not to have joy? For me, joy is the result of knowing who God is in my life and that’s not going to change. (Who picked this word anyway?)

What I did learn from spending a year ruminating on the word is that I probably don’t let my joy show enough. Fine. FINE! I definitely don’t. I feel like a grumpy 85-year-old man half the time, shaking my fist and yelling, “Get off my damn lawn!”

I want to be better about reflecting joy. More than anything, I want my kids to grow up knowing that it’s okay to be a goof every once in a while, to relax,  and not to take things so seriously.

As for the year in general…it has had its peaks and valleys. After thinking about it for 27 minutes I decided to go back to school to get my masters and my teaching credential. It’s not hard at all to take care of a family and a house, work, and go to school full time. By “not hard at all,” I really mean, “Get off my damn lawn!” It hasn’t been easy. I have questioned the decision more than once. I will be completely done before the end of 2017, and that is a very bright light at the end of what has felt like a very long tunnel.

I laid 1500 square feet of tile in our home in 2016. Nearly six months later and I sometimes still lay on the tile that looks exactly like beautifully aged barn wood, cheek pressed against the cold ceramic, and thank Jesus that I didn’t cut off a finger or lose an eye. Also, I thank Him for YouTube and Lowe’s.

Nothing happened in November and nobody freaked out. Translation – everyone freaked out.

For the most part, the year was fine.

Then a few days ago, just as it was almost closed, death stuck its foot in the door of 2016. It took a kind, genuine, honorable person less than a week before 2017 bloomed on the notes of Auld Lang Syne. He was one of the very best and I miss him a lot.

The word I picked for 2017 is trust. I was going to pick reconciliation. Frankly, I don’t know which one is worse. I mean better. They’re both so amazing. I’m looking forward to posting more about this soon.

Christmas: The Gift of Jesus

December 25

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (NIV)

A heavenly orchestra sounds the most glorious symphony. A multitude of angels lift their voices in a celestial lullaby. Rejoice, for the Savior has come!

The deepest desire of countless generations, the fulfillment of prophecy, fully God and fully man, Jesus on earth.

His human life guaranteed eternal life to all who believe. Jesus, the Greatest Gift, bestowing upon us the gift of eternity. He was hope personified, love perfected, a joy-protector, and a peace-provider. He was, and he still is.

He came for you. He was born, so that you may live.

The Messiah-King reigns in heaven, and in our hearts.

Hallelujah!

For Today: Consider all the gifts God has given you – especially his son – and think about ways you can be a gift to him. How can you share him with those around you? How can you be a reflection of Jesus to the people in your home, your workplace, your community? Will you let God use you to love others?

Advent Day 28: The Gift as Promised

December 24

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Gifts are set out. Children are giddy with excitement. People are preparing to travel. Families gather. Soon the sun will set, and an expectant hush will fall across the earth. The stars will shine against an inky black sky like they did that night so many years ago. The waiting is coming to an end. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day that marks the birth of the Messiah. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Savior of the world, born.

The planning, the praying, the seeking after God – leaning in to hope, love, joy, and peace – recognizing Advent, it all comes to this. The eve of the Messiah’s birth.

Take a moment, find a quiet place. Breathe in the peace he provides, and exhale the stress of the season. For tomorrow, we celebrate.

For Today: How have you grown closer to God during this period of Advent? How has he shown you hope, love, joy and peace?

Advent Day 27

December 23

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19: 11 – 12 (NIV)

God told Elijah to leave the cave where he was hiding, stand on the mountain, and wait because He was about to pass by. That, right there, is intense enough. What came next was beyond powerful — wind tore mountains apart and shattered rocks, an earthquake rumbled up from the depths of the earth, a fire ate away at the land.

It’s natural to assume that the Almighty God was about to make an entrance, that each display of force served as a herald of his arrival. But scripture says God wasn’t in any of those things. Scripture says that God came after a gentle whisper.

To understand the significance of this, you have to consider Elijah’s emotional state. He was on the run from Queen Jezebel after killing Baal’s prophets. In the midst of fleeing, an angel of the Lord instructed Elijah to rest, then eat, rest, then eat. God knew that Elijah was exhausted.

He wanted Elijah rested, and He wanted Elijah to focus — hence the miraculous show of force. When God knew He had Elijah’s full attention, then came the whisper.

There it is.

Rest precedes the whisper — it did for Elijah, and it does for us — and sometimes, big, big things slam into our lives to get our attention and to prepare us. Prepare us to hear God’s still, small voice; peace comes on the wings of that whisper.

For Today: Looking back, can you recall times when God used something huge to get your attention, and in the aftermath, whispered peace and love into your life?