Sunday, September 30, 2012

Advice I Need

Source: Pinterest
I need this advice. It sounds silly, but I often forget to do what makes me happy. I bought a ringtone for the first time EVER the other day. The song makes me smile. My phone rings at least 20 times a day, so this purchase insures that I will smile at least 20 times.

Not a bad investment. This week I am trying to figure out how to incorporate more of the things that make me smile into my week.

I am hoping to add more of the following:

  • reading
  • aimless walks
  • roadtrips
  • chat with friends 
  • hot drink parties
  • cooking from scratch
  • meeting interesting people
  • finding design that challenges my view of something
  • finding buried treasure. I haven't actually done this, but I bet it would be fun.
  • Visiting new places
  • learning about topics that aren't practical, but I find interesting. Things like the history of American feminism. 
You can ask me in a few weeks if I have actually done more of these things. 

What things make you happy that you should do more of?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Babysitting For A Murderer

This isn't too far of a throwback, but I have been thinking about it lately. Enjoy!
A popular sticker around Seattle.

It was 2005 and our apartment was on top of a Safeway & a Starbucks. I got in the elevator, went down one floor and the smell of brewing coffee met me. Have I mentioned how much I love Seattle?

I spent lots of time in that Starbucks and became friends with a barista named Autumn. She had dyed black hair, plugs in her ears, piercings in her face and tattoos on most of her skin. We hit it off from the beginning. I would invite her to church up in my living room on Sundays and she would return the warm gesture by inviting me to her burlesque parties. Neither of us ever took the other up on the invites.

Slowly my friendship with Autumn began to grow. We couldn't be more different and yet oddly we found the other refreshing. After about a month she was my closest Seattle friend. I would meet her when she got off work & ride the bus with her. She lived near the campus I went to regularly to meet college students. We would talk about God and she would ask me questions I didn't have answers to. "I can't answer that. You just have to meet Him for yourself" I would say.

Autumn had a one year old little girl named Opal & a boyfriend named Merlin. Like the wizard. He changed his name to Merlin because he hated God and felt that naming himself after a wizard would reinforce that point (this is Seattle remember).  Meeting Merlin was nothing compared to what came next.

The big news came in a parking garage when I was about to give her a ride home. She was talking about slam poetry and mentioned that she started performing in prison. Uh...prison? That's when it came out. She was a murderer. Mind you we are alone in a dark parking garage when I make this discovery. Freaking out inside, faking a causal smile on the outside. The crime wasn't intentional, but it happened all the same.

Two weeks later I found myself driving to Autumn's house at 6:30am. Opal needed a babysitter while Autumn went and got her drug treatment at a nearby rehab clinic. I sat with a sleepy Opal for an hour in Autumns room. Very much a reflection of Autumn's life, her room was a wreck. It was decorated with black ravens and pornographic pictures of herself. It was the darkest place.

I would sit and rock little Opal while singing worship songs to try and keep my sanity. I would bring my Bible and read scripture , pray & declare promises over Opal's life. Autumn would come back and we would walk Opal to her daycare. Then we would drive back to my apartment. She would start her shift at Starbucks and I would go home and make breakfast.

I did that for about two weeks until Autumn was able to get Opal into daycare earlier. You may read this and think me some sort of Christian hero, but I am not. If I had visited her house before offering to babysit, I would never have volunteered.

 I learned a few things during my time with Autumn & Opal.

First, I learned that in really dark places God's presence glows the brightest. Autumn's creepy bedroom changed completely when I worshiped and prayed with little Opal. The ravens were overshadowed by the goodness and lightness of God. All else melted away. It didn't matter how dark and oppressive the environment was, it mattered that I met God there.

Second, I realized that the Church isn't going to change the world by promoting a certain agenda. It is going to change the world by sitting in creepy living rooms. Holding babies that aren't ours. Listening to stories that make us uncomfortable. The Church is going to change the world by loving and serving the broken & knowing that without the grace of God their mistakes could have been our mistakes.

Third I realized that the goal of loving people isn't for a happy ending. This story didn't have a happy ending at all. They disappeared without telling me where they moved. No one gave their life to Jesus or came to church. I told Autumn once that even though she doesn't want Jesus now, some day she might. And if she ever does, she can call upon Him and He will come without delay. I'm hoping she remembers that & in heaven I can find out it was a happy ending after all. We don't love so that we have great stories of happy endings. We love people because God loves them, and that is reason enough.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Am A Celebrity In Taiwan

Taiwan was good to me. The extent of my stay was the airport, but there was so much to love. It was just a layover on the way to Thailand, but it gave me some very enriching experiences.

First, was the Hello Kitty Lounge. I would like to note that this is not a children's area. This lounge is for adult passengers & it was in fact full of adults. Hello Kitty was splashed throughout the entire space.  If you go to Taiwan you most definitely need to stop by. Don't worry, you can't miss it. There are life size cutouts of Hello Kitty pointing the way to the lounge throughout the entire airport.

Also, I had some delightful dumplings and some kind of ginger soup for breakfast. Yes, breakfast. When in Taiwan...

The best part about my visit was the fact that I am apparently a celebrity in Taiwan. My friend Amy was traveling with me and she was the first to notice it. Everyone was staring at me. Then they started whispering to each other. Next thing we know their phones come out & photos are being taken. Here I am sitting at the gate where these people had just snapped my photo. 

Then my loyal fans began to nonchalantly try and see the name on my boarding pass. I didn't oblige. They would know I am not whatever celebrity they thought I was & I would go back to basic pedestrian status. 

I would like to thank the person in the Taiwan airport that started the rumor that I was famous. It was great fun & by far the best lie ever told about me. Sadly, when I returned to America I was not greeted with the same respect & fanfare. The rumor died somewhere over the Pacific. 

Amy & I were never able to figure out who they mistook me for. Any guesses? 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Geography of Love

Let me tell you about the problem I have with God's love. I know He loves me, but I always find myself a bit baffled about the location of that love.

Life is one big story. I know that God loves me in my big overarching story. Skimming through the chapters in my life I sense His love & purpose for me. I see His faithfulness at all the big mile markers. I get God's love on the 'macro' level.

The dilemma I find myself in is this: The story of my life is a culmination of ordinary days.

Totally lazy days.
Days full of striving.
Emotional days when I act like a 12 year old who didn't make the cheer squad.
Days when I do what I know I shouldn't do.
Fantastic moments when I say something that sounds more profound than it actual is.
Days when I manipulate because I don't think God knows what He is doing.
Days when I don't like what God is doing.
Days when I do better than I ever imagined I could do.

We live in days. Some are great & others are very unimpressive.

Too often I find myself just trying to get past the days to the big themes of the story.

I saw this verse a few weeks ago & it has become a sort of mantra for me.

"Be HERE..." Here in the awkward moment. Here in the boring moment. Here in the small victory.

"...the King is wild for you." He doesn't just love me. He is wild for me.

I need to stop trying to get to the next place & the next day. He is wild for me right where I am.

God's love isn't just some big & ambiguous 'everywhere'. It is here. It is today. And it is wild.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Naptime Abolitionist

I have always been a big fan of naps. My very favorite kind of nap is when I am the one napping. That kind is a rarity since children arrived. My second favorite kind of nap is the one my kids take.

Every afternoon around 1pm it is naptime at our house. The kids go off to rest in their rooms & I settle into work. I turn my attention from the numbers my son is learning to a different set of numbers. Numbers like these:
  • 27,000,000 - the number of slaves in the world today
  • 2 - the number of children trafficked into slavery per minute
  • $90 - the average price of a slave right now
  • 100,000 - a conservative estimate of how many American children are victims of sex trafficking   currently
  • 2,000,000 - the number of children enslaved
  • 13 the average age of entry into the sex industry in the U.S.
  • 99% - the number of slaves who will never be rescued
  • 300,000 the number of children who are being used to fight armed conflicts
  • 720 - the number of children in Texas trafficked every month
Why do these numbers matter to me?

I am a naptime abolitionist.

I don't have an FBI badge, a law degree, or a social work position. I don't have millions of dollars to donate. But, I do have naptime.

So, when 1 pm rolls around I put away the laundry & pull out my files. It doesn't feel like much, but it is what I have to give. So for that hour I do my 'other job'.

I work for an anti-trafficking organization called UnBound. We have six chapters around the United States. Our work focuses on awareness, prayer, rescue & aftercare, and public policy. We are a collection of people giving up our naptimes & Starbucks latte money, and donating the skills and resources we have to end human trafficking.

Maybe you don't have naptime. Maybe you have coffee breaks at work or an extra $15 a month you can contribute.

Giving up naptime is a sacrifice, but anything worth having always comes at a cost.

If you want to learn more about human trafficking, check out UnBound's website.

27 million people have no voice. Will you lend them yours?

Friday, September 14, 2012

I Slept On Sticks Last Night

Well, I missed Throwback Thursday yesterday. I guess this week it will be Flashback Friday???

My son when he was two.

I am really not sure why I woke up. But last night at 1:30 am I woke up. I did what I do anytime I wake up in the middle of the night. I go check on my kids. No clue why I do that, perhaps it was just a habit I got into when they were infants. 

I went into Tait's room to check on him. He was on the verge of sliding off his bed, so I went ahead and slowly pushed him back into the middle of the mattress. That was a mistake I immediately regretted. He woke up. Great. And now he was crying. Even better. Seeing as how his half-asleep cry session was my fault, I snuggled up next to him to help him go back to sleep. 

You need to know one thing about my son.  He LOVES to play drums. His little arms are constantly banging out rhythms everywhere we go. Unlike most kids his age he doesn't care if his stuffed animals are in his bed or his blankie is next to him. He sleeps with his drumsticks. Not just one or two, but he sleeps with however many he can find before we tuck him into bed. Last night he slept with six drumsticks. 

As I  snuggled next to him he stopped crying. I tried to lay very still so he would drift off into sleepy bliss. The only problem was the six drumsticks. They were jabbing my face. He had them laid next to him on the pillow and I plopped my head right on top of them. It was really uncomfortable, but it seemed to be the ideal spot to snuggle Tait back to sleep. I laid there for about 10 minutes. 

I was thinking about how it was 1:30 in the morning & the last thing I wanted to do in the middle of my groggy night is lay on top of splintered sticks. Eventually he fell asleep. I hopped out of bed, rubbed my scratched face and went back into my bedroom. Once in my bed I got under the covers & pulled the blanket over my head. 

Since being married I have slept with the covers over my face. Jady can't sleep if there isn't a fan blowing & I seem to wake up every hour with the need to drink a gallon of water if the fan is on. Jady promises that the fan has nothing to do with it, but I find it hard to deny the fan is the culprit. Either way, I started sleeping with the covers over my head. 

I laid there thinking about the sticks and the fan. The little things we do to serve the people we love. Somehow laying there on Tait's sticks and hiding under the covers from Jady's fan made me smile and think about how fantastic they are. I love the sticks and the fans even though they aren't my personal preference.

Jady sacrifices things for me. Like not having a laundry schedule that runs with military precision ( or any precision for that matter). And when I am old and my joints ache my kids will sacrifice for me. To take care of me and make sure I have an extra cushy chair when I come to visit. It's just what you do when you love people. Sacrificing makes us love them more somehow. It reminds us that they are worth a bit of discomfort and a bit of not having it our way. 

I have known so many friends who chose or rejected marriage based on the things they would have to sacrifice. Not the big important things. But the things like where they buy their clothes, what music they listen to and their preferred way of communication. We often look to love those who require us to change the least instead of who we can love the most.

When we prefer others, we love others. When we prefer ourselves, we love ourselves. I'm not the best at this. I'm not even good at it. But I am thankful for nights of sleeping on sticks and the way they remind me to love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can You Handle My Awesomeness?

Here is a picture of my family from 8th grade. We were living in Siberia at the time. Although the jacket came from Guatemala...

Can you handle my awesomeness???

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Way vs. God's Way

...It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex;
a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage;
frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
trinket gods;
magic-show religion;
paranoid loneliness;
cutthroat competition;
all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants;
a brutal temper;
an impotence to love or be loved;
divided homes and divided lives;
small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;
uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.

I could go on...

...But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affections for others, exuberance about life, serenity. 

We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely...
Galatians 5:19-23 (MSG) 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Not Personal, It's Politics.

Throwing it back on Thursdays. This post seems to apply right now.

Ahh. It is that time again. Election season. This occurrence happens every 4 years when people become quite vocal about their opinions and everything that is wrong with America. I was a political science major - I love politics. I love that we live in a country that allows me to have a voice. Our views are important and I have no problem with people expressing the things they are deeply concerned about regarding our country and it's leadership. I know that my readers come from all spectrums of political views.

But, as this election season gains momentum, I'd like to suggest a few things to make this experience more pleasant for all of us...

1. Don't Assume You Know What Someone Thinks - You may think that all Christians are Republicans and all environmentalists are Democrats. But really, they aren't. You might be surprised to find out what people really think. It gets awkward for me when you are bashing a political party and assuming that I agree with you. Please, don't put me in that position. 

2. Discuss, Don't Bash - America is a fantastic place that allows us to openly discuss what we believe and our reasons for believing it. I love hearing about different points of view & why you don't want to vote for someone. Just be respectful as you do it. 

3. Social Media Overload -  Some of you think you need to post your opinions on social media. Just remember that the voting age is 18 & your posts should sound like someone over 18 wrote them. If you are going public with it, sound like an intelligent person. Let's not make a political statement followed by LOL! or OMG! Just a thought to consider...

4. One Really Is Enough- This applies to yard signs and bumper stickers. Yes, put a sign in your yard! If you have a Ron Paul sign in your yard, I know who you support. The same with stickers. If you have a bumper sticker that says ROMNEY, I know that you think he is the best candidate. Putting 10 stickers for Romney doesn't make me think, "Wow. He really MUST be the best candidate." It makes me think" All those stickers...what are they gonna do when they want to sell their car???"

5. Get the facts. Pray. And Vote. - I highly suggest reading the actual transcripts of the debates and not just getting your opinion from political commentary. Make sure you know what someone really thinks about an issue. Pray about who to vote for. Then go vote. 

Alright. Those are my thoughts on that. At the end of the day we are all in this together. Let's be nice as we exercise our rights.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Crawled Into A Really Small Hole Once

I crawled into a really small hole once. A hole I didn't think could hold me. A hole I didn't think could encompass the full scope of who I am.

There were times I wondered if I was shoved into this tiny space or if actually chose it.

It got boring in that hole. It wasn't big enough for my dreams. It wasn't big enough for the person I was trying to become. It wasn't even big enough to bring a friend into.

There didn't appear to be room for the fullness of who I was. The only version of me that could fit in the space was a very edited version. So edited I seemed nonexistent at times.

Just me and my hole. God was there though. Sometimes I got mad because He seemed to take up so much of the space. Space I could have used for other things.

I got mad. I got mad because it seemed the hole was holding me. My very source of discomfort was becoming my comfort. I didn't want to love the hole.

But I did. I began to own the mud walls. I smiled when I felt the dirt under my fingertips. It became home.

I began to find some resemblance of myself in that little cleft of the rock. A sense of belonging to it.

I have been told that His glory passes when we are in that place. I can't really say that I saw it at the time. It felt more like being stuck in a small hole.

I would prefer not to get stuck in another hole again.

However, if it happens, I know I will see more Glory. And that is what this journey is about.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celebrating The One-Legged Lady

My sweet daughter. A lady who always speaks her mind.

I love being a mom, really I do. There are moments when it can be a bit challenging though. Moments when your daughter points out things that are best left unsaid. Especially when you are in a public place. 

"Look! She only has ONE leg!!!"
"Mom, that guy's eyes are so creepy!"
"Hey!!! Why is the fat lady shopping in that motorized cart? Is she too fat to walk???"

We were in Target once when something terrible happened.  The cashier was a woman in her mid 30s & as we inched closer to the register my stomach dropped. There were people lined up behind us so there was no way of escaping what I knew was about to happen. The female cashier had a beard. Not just peach fuzz, some real facial hair. Dear God, please don't let Sophie say anything. PLEASE!

Next thing I know my darling daughter yells, "Mom! That lady has a beard! No, really she has hair on her face.". She didn't say it or whisper. The volume was full on yelling. Ugh.

Desperate to get her quiet I found myself saying, "Yes she does. But doesn't she have pretty eyes?". It was an attempt to patch what I am sure was a painful blow to this poor lady who just got called out  for her hormone imbalances. 

Thankfully Sophie agreed that her eyes were pretty. Checking out was still a painful process. Do I apologize to the lady? Do I act like my daughter didn't just publicly shame her? I ended up just handing her the credit card & getting out without mentioning it.

Walking to the car I realized that most people, women especially, do that too. Focus on what is wrong not what is right. Focus on the peach fuzz on their chin instead of their crystal blue eyes. Most of us don't know how to celebrate imperfection. Especially in ourselves.

Now when Sophie points out the old lady with shaking arms, we talk about how pretty her long fingers are. The lady with burned skin on her face actually has a beautiful smile. The child in her class who is autistic may do things that she thinks are strange, but he also has a contagious laugh.

I don't want my daughter to be like me. Secretly, I see all of the imperfections in people and get disgusted. Especially with my own imperfections. 

I want my kids to know how to celebrate the woman with one leg. How to praise her for what IS beautiful about her. Not just so they can be nice, but because it will be them one day.

One day they will realize that they aren't perfect. None of us are. Our bodies carry more fat than we would like, our athletic abilities fall short, we didn't grow as tall as we wish we had and our hard work won't always show on a test score.

I want my kids to admire the woman with one leg for her strength, because one day they will realize that they are not perfect themselves. They will discover their missing "leg".  And I want them to celebrate anyway.