My Silence Is Not Insensitivity

Last night, after spending a beautiful evening with my husband celebrating our upcoming anniversary, our happiness turned to sadness when we learned of the police shootings in Dallas.

My eyes were fixed to the TV and my heart was crushed. This is not the first time. This has happened every single time breaking news of a tragic, violent event crosses the air waves. This has happened far too often in the last few weeks. How does this happen? Why does it keep happening? What are we doing wrong? When will this stop?

It’s so easy for us to jump on social media and give our two cents to such events. It’s easy to be armchair cops or blacks or whites or gays or men or women or Christians or Muslims. We brashly type out a message full of angst, vindication, and told-you-so’s feeling justified in our serves-them-right, 140+ characters. We make judgments based mostly on our personal experiences and little detail (breaking detail) of what has just happened. I, too, have thoughts that seem like relevant explanations but choose to remain silent in the emotionally charged aftermath. 

I can’t help but think we are all so hungry for validation, equity, understanding and love that we find our “voice” or our “people” through sensational means, through channels easily accessed with social media and the Internet. We find commonality with others and feed our need for relevance and purpose. But what happens, it seems, is that we have become more isolated, more segregated. Instead of informing and educating and supporting others, we become defensive and arrogant. We demand respect whether it should be given or not. We have to prove ourselves to the world. There is “proof” of good cops and “proof” of bad. “Proof” of racism and “proof” of homophobia. “Proof” of Christian and Islamic hate and “proof” of righteous Christians and Muslims. But what we lack is proof of conversation, healing and grace. And, I remain silent.

It’s hard to make sense of it all. I am scared. Scared for the future we are making for our children. I am saddened. Sad that, now, I look at everyone through a lens of distrust. I am paranoid. Afraid that the person next to me isn’t trustworthy; that something I do could cause him/her to respond in anger. I am disturbed. Disturbed that violence is the only answer for so many. But, I remain silent.

Why? I am a white, Christian, conservative female who has not dealt with tremendous, personal tragedy. To some, the filter in which I view this world is covered in privilege (the word that is becoming synonymous to hate) so my words are discredited. To others, if I speak of injustices or give legitimacy to an issue, I am a sell-out or an opportunist. Either way, assumptions, accusations and judgements will fly. So, I remain silent.

I remain silent publicly, but I pray my heart out to our true and loving God. I weep. I hurt. I scream. I praise Him, I question Him, and I desperately try to hear His will and place meaning to all the heartache and tragedy. I do not pretend to know the hurt and suffering of so many throughout our country or the world. I do not know what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes — to know the pain or the courage of another. But I do know God can heal and that prayer can change everything, if we will humble ourselves, put down our arms and our judgements and let love, let God do the fighting. Sure, this may sound naive or even sanctimonious but I believe there is good in this world and others who are remaining silent publicly but choosing to fight spiritually. My silence is not insensitivity, my silence is being heard by the One that truly hears our cries. I will remain silent and serve others as God has called us — humbly, lovingly and with grace — something I strive to do every day.  

I am praying deeply for everyone grieving from the loss of loved ones, for the perpetrators, their issues and their families and for the healing of this great country. May God be with you, with us, and comfort us.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Sheepishly Sheep

When things begin to get a little hard, I can’t help but question why. I look back at decisions that got me to this point in my life and ask if there was something that I did wrong, or that I missed, or that I could’ve done differently. This happened today. I began to look back over the past couple of years and worry that I have set up our family for, well, failure. Were the decisions I made the right ones for us, or, have I just been running away when things got tough?

Let me back up and provide context for you. A little over 2 years ago, I left a well paying position with a company that I had been with for over 10 years. The decision was a tough one, but we just had our 3rd child and I was really feeling the tug on my heartstrings to be more available to my boys. There were several difficult decisions I had to make for myself and we had to make as a family. I had to let go of my competitive desire and drive to go higher with my career. We, although responsible with money, had to decide if we could, and were willing to, live on less income. We did a lot of soul searching and trusted that God was calling me to move. So I did. I left that job and jumped into another job with a more flexible environment. After about 8 months, I left there and worked from home doing freelance design work for a good client. When that became too much for me to deal with I “broke up” with them. Yep, I fired a client. (Something I am not proud of, to be completely honest — at least the manner in which the break up went down.) To help cover some of our expenses, I started a fun little side business making vinyl decals, quirky shirts and monograms.

Over time, our expenses have increased while our income fluctuates. I remember other single income families telling me that God has always worked it out for them. That when it just didn’t look like they could stretch another dollar, God provided. Of course, this reminds me of Matthew 6:26, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? But doubt and uncertainty creep in and steal my spiritual fruit! Especially patience, peace and joy. With time, comes more activities, even more expenses for the boys and then good ol’ Murphy’s Law — let one little thing happen and boy does it snowball quickly. So today, after another good dose from cousin Murphy, I freaked. Ok, it’s time. I have to go back to full time work. Right. Now. We can’t keep on like this. I started an email to an old co-worker but then paused. Here I am trying to control everything. Jumping into a highly jillogical, highly irrational mode without taking one second to pray. I deleted the email, I paused and I prayed. It’s like God said “Slowly… step away… from the keyboard…” Yay for me, I listened! But, this got me thinking that I’m a runner. Maybe I run when things get tough. Hmm.

I had to stop by the church to look for something this evening. Our pastor, Brother M.R., was out and about in the hallway so I asked if he happened to know where I might find this item. We struck up a conversation about a position at the church which led me to tell him about my “struggle.” I didn’t go into great detail but I told him that I was concerned. He then told me about a time he spent with a real-life shepherd. (Wha!? What’s a shepherd got to do with this?) He said the first thing the shepherd did when he woke in the morning was to find the sheep that had fallen over and couldn’t get up. The shepherd would help them up and get them back with the flock. Brother M.R. said he asked the shepherd why he even bothered with those sheep. Why didn’t he just get rid of them? And the shepherd replied “they are the best sheep. They depend on me. They are loyal and they trust me.” The other sheep weren’t as obedient. Sometimes, the shepherd had to break their legs to make them reliant on him. Then comes the sheep dog. The dog is responsible for keeping the sheep moving. He causes discontentment and aggravation to get the sheep going. As Brother M.R. was telling me all of this, the picture he was painting was becoming clear. I asked a few more questions and he patiently explained again. We must rely on the Good Shepherd for guidance and understanding. When there is discontentment (insert sheep dog), God is telling us to move. But when we are content (God’s will), we are right where we are supposed to be. That doesn’t mean that we won’t fall over, or suffer through difficult times. But during those times, God will provide. He’ll stand us up and keep us close. Brother M.R. mentioned a couple of situations in his own life that were difficult but he was content. He said, “We had no where to go.” We were content through the struggle, and we made it through.

This was just what I needed to hear. I knew what I felt at that place in my life 2 years ago was genuine discontentment — God’s voice nudging (ok, probably yelling at me) to go. When there is true discontentment, God is telling you to move. We may not know exactly where we are moving to yet, but we’ll know when we get there. As Brother M.R. said, just look at Abraham. He did just as God asked even going as far as placing his son on the alter, and God moved him to where he needed to be and the call was far greater than what Abraham could’ve imagined. I mean, if God said, ‘I’m calling you <here> do you think you would go? If we don’t have the full picture sometime we won’t. But when God says move, you better move to reap the full reward in the end.

I hope I used Brother M.R.’s illustration in a way that is clear for you to understand and apply to your life. Contentment doesn’t mean “Happy Place.” Contentment means “God’s Place.” And Discontentment, true discontentment in the spirit means get on that holy scooter and ride. God will give you the map, even if it’s just one mile at a time.

Over these couple of years I have learned a lot about myself, my insecurities, my strengths, my lack of domestic godessness, but mostly about my children. Today, I feel like I know them inside out. I know they’re ups and downs, their happys and sads, their pokes, twitches, their smells, and sometimes, even their next move. I feel strongly connected to my boys and thank God every day for that. That is why I am here. But, I’ve also learned that it’s easy to say you’re going to rely on God and not so easy to actually do so. God never said it would be easy, but He did say we’d never go alone. (Thanks Ginny Owens, If You Want Me To)

So, we’ll just lay here on our side ’til dawn, when the Good Shepherd scoops us up, gets the blood flowing in our legs again and plops us back on the path close by His side.

 

 

Just Make It Stop

For several days now, my youngest son has been crying every time I am around. All day, just the two of us, whining and crying. If I leave him with a caregiver, or even his dad, he’s fine… until I come around. With a busy schedule, errands to run and other children to care for, this has become extremely frustrating and hard to deal with. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to be around him. I just shut down. “What is wrong with you?” “Why are you crying?” “Just stop it!” “Please, just chill out!” “I can’t hold you right now.” “Really, you’re now upset about that?”

Something just isn’t right. He never acts this way. He’s usually easy going and playful — getting along fine, playing with his toys while I work on laundry or chores. But, he’s just not himself right now. Because I love him and want him healthy, I know I have to pay close attention to his symptoms. It could be he’s in pain from an ear ache or a belly ache. Or, maybe it’s just that he’s finally reached the unforgettable stage known as the “terrible two’s” which is leaving him feeling a little messed up, clingy and nervous. And maybe, because of that, he just needs someone he knows he can be himself with — whether happy and healthy or ornery and annoying. And maybe, that’s me.

When I step back and think about my relationships, I think about how interesting and different they are. Some people accept me only at face value, some enjoy common interests, while others take me fully for who I am. I’m not talking only the about the good, fun, harmonious times, but the down and dirty, ugly-crying, self-centered, annoying, irrational, I-cannot-be-around-you-another-minute times. With social media and the increasing desire to gain followers and likes, I find it easier to keep things superficial. But what happens when you need someone to truly understand you during a certain season of your life? Who is it that you can pick up the phone and (gasp) call at any moment? Who is it that knows and accepts that there’s something more going on and won’t give up until they help you through it?

Gosh, the names are popping up as I type. I’m so thankful for dear friends that see the warning signs in me. At first, they may be aggravated, confused or annoyed by my behavior but they love me enough to not let go.

Are you that kind of friend or family member? It can be so hard to see past ourselves and realize that there’s a greater issue. I think about addictions or mental disorders that are overlooked either because we don’t care enough to deal with them, or we just are too passive and ignore the warning signs until they’re too far gone. Can you recognize the symptoms?

Don’t get me wrong. We can’t be the fixer for everyone and every issue. But we can be ready to support them instead of turning away from them. And above all, we can and must pray them through it.

My baby, ok toddler, is napping (the only time he doesn’t seem to cry this week) so I’m taking a few deep breaths, praying for him to wake up happy and for me to have a patient heart, and prepping myself for the next round. I’m focusing my lens of compassion on his behavior, I’m overlooking my weariness and putting aside the things that will keep me from helping him get through this. It’s not easy for either person involved, but God knows, I love him too much to give up.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on LOVE — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body control your hearts. – Colossians 3:12-15

Come to me when you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

Love Destroys Everything

Today, my oldest son turns 8. In a blink of an eye my tiny infant has become a strong-willed, life-affirming, enthusiastic, smart boy. 8 years ago, we never could’ve imagined what life would look like now. Three boys later, it’s full of chaos, legos, matchbox cars out-the-wazoo, and so much love.

On the car ride to school, I did what I do every year and tell Ethan about that blessed day. Letting him know that we had no idea what was coming! He chimed in telling me how great life was until 4 years ago when “OWEN” was born. I quickly cut him off. He’s heard his daddy say something similar about the birth of his twin sisters. (If you ever want to see Josh act dramatically, just ask him about their birth! —hilarious) Ethan went on, exclaiming that “Owen destroys everything! All of my lego sets get destroyed! BY OWEN!”

Then, I realized. He’s so right. Whether we expect it or not, everything gets destroyed. No matter how much preparation we do, nothing can set us up for what will come. When we let love in, we are opening up our world to an experience that is new, unpredictable and never the same. Our worlds are just like the lego sets. We meticulously craft them —either “by the book” or our own design — paying attention to every little detail to make sure it’s how we want it, then, often without warning, someone we love comes along and wrecks it. Brick-by-brick, piece-by-piece, shifted, rearranged, built up or torn down. This leaves us with a choice. Do we respond with resistance or do we accept the change and rebuild our worlds with grace, acceptance and love?

I can tell you, my world has been destroyed over and over again — 3 boys, 3 personalities, and 3 hearts full of joy — they have wrecked me. I thank God for that. If I kept building the way I had planned, the walls that were around me would be built to fulfill selfish desires, but God knew. He always does.

It’ll take Ethan some time to realize that having his (lego) sets destroyed were all part of a bigger plan. Though extremely aggravating, I know, rebuilding them brings a new opportunity to do something different, to experience something greater and to figure out a way to live with and love the destroyer, Owen. Love destroys everything, but love also rebuilds better than we ever could alone.

 

So It Begins

To blog or not to blog. The poignant question that has coasted through my mind for some time. Can I? Should I? Will I? But, really, who cares what I have to say? Often, my thoughts are random flares of nonsense or self-deprecating humor (that doesn’t exclude my family!) — a stuttering stream of consciousness that can make just about anyone more confident in their own intellect. So, is what I have to say or what I think valuable enough to create a blog? I mean, I do, eventually, connect the dots although usually in a peculiar, highly jillogical way.

What is jillogic? It can simply be defined as the culmination of thought, reason, experience (or lack of) and the continual practice to understand and live out the will of God for my life. Interesting? Maybe. Senseless? Sometimes. Sporadic? Very. Enlightening? Meh. Jillogical? Definitely.

Let’s do this.