Autumnal Thoughts

I’m one of those people who love autumn. I love the cool mornings and evenings, perfect for fire making and cozy sweaters. I love the warm days that invite us to drag books outside and spend time at the park. The musty smell of leaves, the wide array of colors, and squirrels rushing to store their cache of nuts…I adore all of it.

 

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall…”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald 

I enjoy the dark mornings. Don’t hate me. I enjoy the early evenings. I know, it’s ridiculous. I love cold, rainy days where the leaves whip furiously around the sidewalks. I’m not right. I’ll admit it.

 

 

I think what I truly love about the fall, though, is the contrast. The beautiful blue sky with sun shining brilliantly juxtaposed against chilly wind. Or the other side; the gray, stormy clouds that come with this month blended with the collage of colors the leaves provide is a world on the verge of change.

Possibility is seen here, and I love that.

 

Autumn offers a world full of possibility.

 

I know that some people look around at the leaves who are giving their last shout in brilliant colors before they dull and fall to the ground. Some people feel that this time of year speaks of a decaying world, of death.

To me, though, this season speaks of things to come. It speaks of resurrection.

 This time of year  reminds me that everything changes. I know that we still have winter to get through (I like that, too!) but autumn reminds me that I’m not in charge. This season speaks the truth that there is a master plan and that even death has a purpose.

There would be no spring without a fall. If the leaves never fell from the trees, if they stayed always green, I would miss out on the wonder of the world coming to life again.

 

As a Christian, I have hope in death because I know that it is not the end. I know that however my life ends on this earth that what happens next will be more glorious than the most beautiful spring I’ve ever seen.

That knowledge gives me hope.

I don’t long for that next journey, mind you. I love it here. This world’s magnificence takes my breath and draws my wonder. I could never even imagine the artistry found in nature – the insects, the trees, the wildlife, the mountains, the rivers and creek beds – it’s all so much. Don’t even get me started on my people and my deep, deep feelings for them.

There are times, though, when fear of the unknown can overtake me. I can become melancholy and cold with worry; worry about my future, my husband’s future, my children’s future, my parents’ future, the world. I can give into the fear that it’s all going to end in some horrific, catastrophic event.

Or I can rest in the knowledge that I’m not in charge. That whatever happens in this world something marvelous is coming next.

This translates to everyday life worries, as well as apocalyptic thoughts. Being in a season of change, from weather to employment, to how you think about the world, can be scary. I think it’s most frightening when you think about all the possibilities. I say it all the time, but living in an imagined (possibly icky) future is not living.

Life is better lived in the now.

 

During this season take the time to savor the subtle changes in the leaves. Enjoy crunching leaves beneath your feet, as cliche as that may seem. Notice the way the night sky looks different, the clouds that give glimpses of what eternity could look like. Take the time to take in the beauty of the trees with no leaves to obscure the intricate details of their limbs. 

Take heart, and know that it will all come back around again because God never changes. 

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

 

Be brave, misfits, and be where you are.

 

 

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A Word on Hospitality

I love having people in our home.

My friend Bethany thinks I’m making that up, but I’m not. I enjoy cooking for and with other people. The hubbub of a houseful makes me giddy. Friends (or almost friends) stopping by unexpectedly gets me really jazzed up.

This has not always been the case for me, though.

I’ve definitely had to learn hospitality skills. There were times in my recent past when I made the children hide when someone came to the door. Now, though, I’m likely to invite the stranger knocking at my door in for lemonade or coffee in spite of any chaos around me. 

Photo Credit: chris law photography Flickr via Compfight cc

During my early years as a mother we were living in a new, bigger city and I didn’t know anyone. Thankfully I made a few friends fairly quickly and because we had similar parenting styles and kids around the same age we spent a lot of time together. We cooked together, folded laundry while we visited and generally just enjoyed not being alone with our children all the time.

We had intentional community.

I also had a friend who was well past toddler parenting and made the best pasta carbonara I have ever had. She was my soft place to land on days when I didn’t think I could do it anymore. She enjoyed my little people and seemed perpetually relaxed – something I needed a lot of.

 

So, here’s a few things I’ve learned about hospitality:

 

 

People really aren’t coming to see your house…  

I know people say that all the time, but really, humans want to visit with humans. It’s that simple. If you’re going to friends’ houses and judging their decorating or housekeeping skills you need to check yourself. Learning how other people live, seeing their decorations and dishes, gives you insight into how you live your life. People come to visit your home in order to be more human. That’s it. It’s that simple.

 

 

There are seasons of hospitality…

I made the assumption that there was something wrong with me when I couldn’t have people over when I had a six week old. I had friends who could, so why couldn’t I? The fact is I just don’t recover well, not from childbirth, a cold, or exhaustion. I need to rest and be gentle with myself. Once I’m back, though, I’m back. Then I can be hospitable. Until I’m there I rely on the kindness of my friends and family to supply a cozy, judgement-free place where I can recharge.

Now that my kids are all older having people over isn’t hard, either. My people aren’t sick every other week, there’s typically only one towel (the hand towel!!) on the bathroom floor, and I’m not nearly as exhausted as I was in those early years of parenting.

 If you’re in a season of small children don’t be hard on yourself for not feeling hospitable. It will come. Find a friend who could care less if you haven’t showered in days and is happy to wade through toys and piles of laundry to sit at the table with you.  If, like me, you’re in a season where having people over is easier be the soft place. Invite the younger mamas into your home, remind them that all is not lost.  

 

Perfection is an illusion…

Seriously, even when things look perfect they’re not. There’s dust or cracks or something out of place and that is fine. If you only allow people in your home when you’ve dusted, vacuumed, mopped, and have a clean hand towel hanging in the bathroom (who does that????) then they will believe that is what is expected of them. Help lower the standards for house keeping! Let people see your dirty dishes in the sink, your laundry on the living room couch, and your kitchen table that doubles as an ironing board. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to hospitality.

Now, when you have a party or a special even go ahead and clean away, make that house sparkle! But in the meantime treat friends as family and let them come regardless of the state of your home. Shame has no place in hospitality.

 

Hospitality can feel a bit like baring your soul…

Here in the United States we’ve gotten pretty weird about having people in our homes. Magazines and television shows give the illusion that homes are in order all of the time. When you live in your home, though, order is relative to the day and time. If you’re homeschooling, have small children, have more than one parent working outside of the home, carting your kids to various activities through the week, or are a person your home is going to look very different from day to day.

The first time I have someone over I feel a lot of things. Sometimes I’m embarrassed, especially if I have to rewash all the silverware because one of my people put it away with scrambled eggs stuck to everything. Mostly I feel exposed, and proud. It may sound weird but I like my house more when there are people in it. Inviting a friend into your home requires trust. I have to trust that my friend will accept me as a really am, not just as I present myself to the world.

That trust has never been misplaced.

 

I hope you’re feeling encouraged to have people over. I am so grateful to each of my friends who has taught me to have people into my home by inviting me and my family in. Some of my most profound conversations have taken place while sipping tea and talking over children running about. I have learned more about Jesus’ teachings when I’ve put a call out to a friend and she’s said, “Why don’t you just come over?” 

 

Be brave, misfits, and invite people in.

 

My door is always open.

 

But my toilet is not always clean. 

 

Come on over anyway.

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Why I Have Hope, Part 2

In Part 1 I told you about a time when violence took me by surprise.

Community can take me surprise, too, which is why I have hope.

 

My family didn’t look like any other family that I knew. It was the only way we ever looked, though, so to me it was normal. To you, your family is normal. That’s the awesome thing about families: even the weird stuff is normal in your own family.

Sometimes being different did feel isolating, but it wasn’t often. Honestly, it was only as a young adult that I was able to reflect on how difficult life must have been for my brother, Todd. When you’re a kid you just take what you get.

The beautiful thing is there were always people for us. Mom didn’t have a ton of people inviting her for coffee and playdates but she had enough. Enough to let us know we belonged, enough to drown out the mean voices.  It was those people who helped the good outweigh the bad.

 

Once Erik came along it was really interesting how people either took him or not. Those that liked him really liked him, and those that didn’t never did. Of course he was kind of like a cat and kept showing up at the houses where he seemed particularly unwelcome.

That guy.

I think he may still be a little like that.

My parents always stressed the importance of focusing on the good things. The good things that happened, the good about ALL the people in our lives – even the ones that give us trouble. Mom and Dad taught me that everyone has value.

Essentially, Mom and Dad taught me to believe in the good of community.


Yes, we had bad experiences just like everyone. We also encountered some really stellar people, like a guy we’ll call Stephen McStephenson. I was in fifth or sixth grade, so around 11 or 12 years old. Stephen was newish to our school and the news on him was that he was a type of animal; a zebra.

I had no idea what that meant, I just heard it whispered amongst kids at school.

One day he ticked me off, as boys that age tended to do, and I used that name on him. I still had no clue what it meant, but I shouted it and the room hushed. Immediately I knew I had done something forbidden. I don’t even recall Stephen’s reaction.

Someone clued me in on what that name meant. I felt sick the rest of the day. I felt ashamed and disgusted by myself. I walked home alone slowly, unable to look anyone in the eye. I sat at my kitchen table with my snack. After five minutes of not being able to eat I  knew I needed to take a walk.

I went to Stephen’s house and apologized. I apologized to his mother and to him. I cried, probably the ugly cry. Then the three of us sat at their table and talked.

That boy and I were not best friends after that, but there was definitely an understanding.


I didn’t know it then, but I had a few choices with my shame. “According to Dr Hartling, in order to deal with shame, some of us move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. Some of us move toward by seeking to appease and please. And some of us move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame.” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 46)

According to Brown, sharing our story, our shame, releases it’s hold on us. That’s exactly what I experienced when I went to the person I had hurt and confessed my shame. Puff. It was gone, never to have hold over me again.

There’d be plenty of other times, though, when I didn’t do the best thing with shame when it came knocking. 

I have to think that’s what people who are racist (or any kind of -ist) do. They have shame but turn it the wrong way. Individual life experiences coupled with They hole up with people who think the exact same way and insulate themselves against any type of growth.

Aren’t we all guilty of that, to a degree? I’d gravitate toward hanging out with people who think the way I do. It’s just more comfortable.


The gift of my childhood was that I was able to see the very best of people – and the very worst.

And that’s where my hope for us all comes in.

Due to the uniqueness of my family I was exposed to the truth of humanity: we are not all good and we are not all bad. The hurtful things that we can do to one another will never surprise me. However, the amazing kindness that comes from us is what leaves me the most changed. 

After watching events unfold in Charlottesville it was hard to not give into the feeling that neo-Nazi’s were everywhere waiting to take to every street. That’s the problem with the media. The news is only able to focus on a handful of events at a time.

The media will not focus on the stuff that unites.

The news has no way of portraying all the things – good and bad – happening all at once around our towns, countries, and the world. They’re focused  on the most buzz-worthy stories, the stuff that will pull us in and keep us coming back for more, or never leaving. We can watch news 24 hours a day if we choose.

Or we can be smarter than they think we are.

We can leave our homes and get out into our communities. We can find organizations to get involved with that will educate us on race issues, immigration, and anything else that you might be interested in. Don’t get your info from social media feeds and websites. Get out there and be a part of it.

I’m preaching to myself here.

What would it look like to give each other room to share our stories? Even the ugly ones. Especially the ugly ones. Though, Brown cautions against sharing our shame with people who aren’t safe. Only special people get to hear that stuff. 

I guess what I’m talking about is having relationships with people who think in ways that are uncomfortable for us. Learn how to have conversations with people you don’t agree with  and love them anyway. We don’t always have to choose the easiest ones. Read more of what Brene Brown has to say here. I really know we can do this together – as long as we don’t pretend it’s not happening.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:5

 

I have hope because I have community. I have hope because I can share that community with others. Hope will not put us to shame. Keep track of the hope-giving moments in our world and hold on to those. That’s how we’ll learn how to move through the life-sucking moments. 

 

Be brave, misfits, and have hope.

Oh, September

How’s September been for you?

Do your wheels feel squeaky? Or maybe your wheels feel like they just can’t quite get on the track. Worse, perhaps your wheels feel that they are going way to fast down a hill a hill towards a cliff.

That’s how September can feel for me some days.

August feels slow and lazy, the way I remember it did when I was a kid. August is like a bunch of Saturdays strung together. In August I took  to putting in my headphones and listening to my favorite Avett Brothers songs while swinging in the backyard. Auto insurance, wrong decisions, and homeschooling fall away the closer I get to the clouds.

August is blissful, even with it’s oppressive heat.

Sleeping late, savoring the last days that the pool is open, evenings at the park – all of it.

 

Looking back on September, now, though, it feels like a bunch of Mondays strung together.

September was a bunch of start and stops with a new schedule. There was a lot of unfinished checklists as we figured out what was actually humanly possible in a day versus what my recovering perfectionist mind told me we ‘should’ be doing. Parts of September involved me sitting in a stupor as I let my brain and body catch up.

September is when all the things I want to do collide with reality. September is the month that forces me to slow down. 

I spent too much time debating which planners might be the most useful. I don’t even want to talk about the printing mishap; the one in which I hit print without registering that there were 84 pages in the printable planner sample I found. WHO DOES THAT?

I read and re-read about unschooling. I bring home way too many books from the library. I attempt to be organized and on top of meals – yet resort to weekly spaghetti and taco nights.

We’re in what’s supposed to be the last hot spell of the season. It’s been near 90 every day. The leaves piled up in corners of the yard are brown and  ugly  yet the grass is green and needs to be mowed every week. It’s just as well, I suppose, because Spencer doesn’t want to put his flip-flops away.

Actually, he lost his flip-flops.

This is the time of year that requires work to find our groove. I struggle to do the same things every day. I feel jealous of homeschoolers on Instagram who have Waldorf/Montessori children playing with wooden toys while classical music plays in the background. Here at the Shepherd Abode we’re just trying to find spoons to eat breakfast with.

Spoons are a hot commodity around here.

Some days I love it all and some days…I just don’t.

Such is life.

Now we’re at the end. That’s it. We’re turning the corner into fall. Here in central Kentucky we’ll be getting actual autumnal weather soon.

Why is that I always get it at the end?

This little heat wave we’ve been having is a perfect metaphor for my life. September felt like that heat was building up to something, I just didn’t know what. Last night I took a walk at 7:30 and it was cool and see-through dark. I felt like I could fill my lungs again for the first time in weeks.

The pressure-cooker feeling was gone and in its place was a brand new season.

That’s where I am, too, as are all of my people. My young adults are adulting away. My 13-year-old is on the verge of all the changes. My almost eight year old helps me see that everything is awesome. My hubby is settling into his new life. My parents make senior-citizening look easy, even with knee replacements and other difficulties. I’m doing okay, too, figuring this 40-something gig out.

I laugh a lot, but I cry when I need to.

September seems to be when my part of the world breathes a sigh of relief.

How can I not join in?

Whether you’re homeschooling, life schooling, or just trying to make it to work every day with both pairs of shoes on – we’ve got this. We’re all in it together. Let’s sigh together as we turn the calendar page. 

 

Be brave, misfits, and use pencil in your planners.

 

 

P.S.

I’m mailing out the Brave Newsletter this evening – make sure you’re signed up so you can get the good stuff, too.

 

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Five Hours

If you prefer to listen to this post just press play below.

I noticed one of my friends on my way in to the drop-in center this morning. She was talking with a man so I knew not to wave. It was early to see anyone out and I found myself thinking of all the scenarios that found her out on the sidewalks at that time of day.

Did she get kicked out of somewhere semi-safe?

Did she need something to eat?

Had she been out all night?

She made it down to us just before lunch was served. Leftover drunk hung around her head making it too heavy to hold up. We each asked what we could do, what we could give, that would make it more bearable. Silent tears cause her mascara run.  Another friend stood to tenderly wipe the black marks away.

The bloody scratches on the woman’s arms confirmed what I’d always assumed: she was a fighter.

 

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” ~ Goethe

 

Every day that I spend in the drop-in center is an education, a reminder of how little I actually know of the world.

The table we all sit at is old and covered with a brightly colored vinyl tablecloth. The bowls holding chips and packaged sweets serve as a small comfort to women who are struggling with homelessness, addiction, and sexual exploitation.

We color together, sometimes play with play dough, and share a meal. We break bread at that table, us women. We share holy communion with one another, amongst crude language and a sadness that I do not know.

They swap tales of slum lords, pimps, and past times shared with one another. I’m informed that if you don’t have tits and ass you won’t get anything down there. Nothing to rent, nowhere to stay.

There is laughter and teasing. One friend shares a couple of jokes she knows as she cleans her feet with peroxide. She can’t see to put on her bandaids so I ask about the glasses on her head. She tells me, “Those don’t work. They just hold my hair back.” This strikes me so funny I roar with laughter and everyone else joins in. It’s all so absurd and normal.

Over the course of my five hours I am changed.

I have had to tell a woman that no, I cannot get her a pair of underwear because our clothing closet is closed on Saturdays. She takes it like a champ and says she’ll go to the store and work it out. I’m still ruminating on why I have 12 pair of underwear at my disposal and she has none.

I see a gunshot wound. I hear stories of destroyed childhoods that make me want to claw my eyes out. I learn some new slang words that I will not be trying out any time soon. I learn that joy is always attainable, if only for some moments. I learn that the truth doesn’t always come out in words. I learn that my unwillingness to call out wrongness has a cost.

Five hours. All that and more in just five hours.


 

After the place has cleared out and it’s just us volunteers I confess my occasional irritation with our friends. I don’t understand why they don’t all jump in the life raft we offer in the form of rehab, shelters, and job training. We talk some more over happenings of the day and then head our separate ways.

I drive to Kroger and purchase some pre-made sushi and on an impulse buy a peach pie. Once home my family asks about my day but I can’t talk about it right away. It’s too much to verbalize. I still have some processing to do and I’m tired.

I find myself in the kitchen mindlessly eating a pretty hefty portion of that impulsive peach pie. It seems that even I, good Christian woman that I am, can fall prey to mind-numbing addiction just from hearing their stories. What must it be like to live them?

 

The thing about my five hours is this: I know it will end.

No matter how heavy or chaotic or wonderful our time together is at the center I know where I’ll be sleeping. I know that I’ll have dinner. I know that the men in my life aren’t going to hit me. I will not be sexually exploited where I’m going. I am valued for more than my genitalia.

My friends live in crisis every second of every day.

“Stress will kill you,” one of them said to me in between phone calls searching for an apartment. “I have got to get off the streets.”

I nod my head like I know what she’s talking about.

But I don’t.

I mean, I know the feeling but not the reality.

We in the church don’t like to talk about class privilege, but that’s the thing separating our realities.

That’s a post for another day, though.

 


Today I’m content with my five hours.

This evening I sit and look at the sky as I always do. My five hours today has my friends on my heart as I gaze heavenward. I wonder where they are and if they’re safe. My prayer is that they don’t die; that they know they are loved.

I also give thanks for all the things that they teach me, for how patient they are with me. They treat me not as I am but as I ought to be, as I could be, and that leaves me changed. My friends see me as Jesus does, not as I am or the things that I do. How can I not learn from that?

Tonight I think of their names and faces and smile that I get to know them. I can’t remember the funniest joke I heard today, the one with the super naughty word. I look forward to getting to ask about it next time I’m down there.

I can’t wait for my next five hours.

Be brave, misfits. May you be blessed to know others who see you as you could be.

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Why I Have Hope, Part 1

It was a big deal when my brother started to come to school with me. We could walk together, to and from, and I felt like such the big sister. I was very proud of my position.

 

I don’t remember the first time it happened, someone pointing out that my brother did not have the same color skin as me. I do remember the day I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore, though.

This kid, I still remember his name, called my little brother a ‘gook’. I had learned from a family member the nastiness of that word and it brought up all kinds of pent up, never-used feelings. I wasn’t having it.

I had my little brother’s hand in mine as I tried to punch this kid. The boy and his friends laughed at my inexperience with violence. The rage launched me forward onto him while the kid’s big brother watched, his companions cheering us on. I feel like he was shocked. He didn’t know I was that mad. I remember him saying, “Kara, Kara. Stop.”

But I couldn’t stop – the thing propelling me forward was bigger than me.

I was incensed on behalf of my very small brother. My brother  with his beautiful dark eyes and dark hair and coffee colored skin. I loved our differences. I was proud that my brother was Korean, that he was different. He was so beautiful to me.

I don’t remember a lot except that I was screaming hysterically as I ran home. I raced to my garage, where I grabbed a hammer. I wanted to inflict the worst kind of pain on those boys.

It didn’t matter that they had not made Todd bleed. His wounds were invisible but deep. You could see the wariness in his eyes. After all, some of our own family members had no problem making fun of his race.

Why should he be surprised by the kids at school using mean words on him?

Why should he be surprised at the teachers who pretended not to overhear?

Why should he be surprised at the adults who asked idiotic questions of him?

Back to that day, the day when violence came into my heart. I chased that boy for two blocks, anger growing with every pump of my legs. The boy was faster than me and reached his house before I could reach him. His mother was sitting on the front porch.

He ran up the two concrete stairs and stood behind his mother. I stood gasping for air, grasping a hammer tightly in one hand, sweat rolling down my forehead. It was the voice of his mother that calmed the fire in my heart.

Thinking back on it, I believe it was her understanding that acted like cool waters.

I thought, “She gets it.” 

His mother didn’t look like the other mothers at my elementary school. Her clothes were different, her accent not the same. Maybe she understood being on the outside. Maybe she recognized the flames engulfing my heart.

She listened to my tearful story, words coming between hiccups, snot and tears running down my face. She nodded her head and took her son’s hand and told him to apologize. 

I went home exhausted, defeated, and scared.

For the first time I saw that the thing my little brother was up against was an indomitable foe.

I was also frightened by the monster inside myself.

Racism is raised generation by generation on hate. Racism is fed small children to keep it growing into a proper big monster. How would I ever beat that?

 


 

For me, the day I chased that boy home with a hammer in my hand, I realized something new: knowing the person at school wasn’t the same as knowing the person.

When I saw that boy’s mama was waiting on the front porch I had clarity about his life. For one, he had a mother. I don’t think I’d ever considered that.

For another, he had a mother who was different. Lastly, I could see that his life was not the same as mine. There was something about the way his yard looked that suggested that what happened in my home was not the same as what happened in his home.

Suddenly his chipped front tooth didn’t add to his malice; it was just a chipped tooth.

I think he learned something new that day, too. I think he learned that someone can be pushed too far, that they can lose the ability to choose reason. Sadly, I think he learned to like that feeling, at least while he was at school.

That was not the last run in this boy and I would have. He and I would have words again on a school bus in high school. He didn’t grow out of bullying even in high school. One afternoon, I would sit back and watch as someone pummeled him, after months and months of taking mean words, and think, “Yeah, I remember that feeling.”

By the way, it isn’t a good feeling that you’re left with after you do violence. It’s a lonely feeling.

Doing violence leaves you feeling separate from everyone.

I need you to know that I wasn’t always the champion of the underdog. There were times that I did the bullying, a fact that still fills me with regret.

It seems that learning to do the right thing is an ongoing process. The pendulum is always swinging between reaction and inaction.

It’s the middle where it’s good. That’s where we can make some progress.

 

 


 

We need to accept that there are race issues in the U.S. My experience in America, as a person with pale skin, versus the experience of someone with darker skin, or a different accent, differ greatly. 

We appear polarized as a country, and I know there’s truth to that.

I’m not buying it completely, though. No photograph or video can ever fully encapsulate the complexities of our lives.

Those of us in the middle are a little confused. But here in the middle we can see both sides a little more clearly than if we were swung over to the far left or the far right.

Still, I want to make sure that I’m not falling into the white moderate default of inaction. Neither do I want to run home for my hammer, a reaction that is not helpful.

 

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice…” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

So what do we do? 

We know that hammers don’t work. We also know that apathy will not move us forward.

As always, I believe the answer is community. I believe it’s about inviting people into our lives and into our homes and having (potentially uncomfortable) conversations. Be willing to know people in your home and in theirs.

And this is why I have hope: it’s never too late to move forward.

 I’d like to point out that racism does not always wear a white robe and march with tiki torches. Racism uses words like ‘they’ rather than ‘us’. Racism, like all -isms excludes rather than includes.

Most often racism is silent, pretending not to see inequalities or hateful behavior.

 

Be brave, misfits, not silent. It’s okay to shake up the order of things.

Just leave your hammer at home.

 

Also, for further reading on the issues of racism:

Is there a Neo-Nazi storm brewing in Trump country?

A Reformed White Nationalist Speaks Out on Charlottesville

The White Flight of Derek Black

ShannanMartinWrites

I’m Racist (and So Are You)

 

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Now it is Sunday

Now it is Sunday.

The day given over to rest in the presence of God.

We’ve been doing Sundays the new way for so long that it doesn’t seem like the new way any more. Still, some mornings I find myself thinking back on the old way, the way Sunday used to go for us. Those memories are taking on the lovely haze of the good ole days.

That’s not true every day, though.

There are times that I look back on the old way of our Sundays when a feeling of despair clouded our mornings.  There are times when reading  a favorite author’s call to ‘be the church’ that I feel the sting of failure.  There are times when I look back on our days in ministry and feel a weight tied to my heart.

I can run a roll-call of people we considered friends and attach a hurtful action to each of them. Worse are the times that I recount the failures of church leaders that we shared in ministry with. The feeling of abandonment and betrayal is as fresh as when it first happened, even though more than ten years has gone by in some cases.

I’ve been reading 7 Principles for a Successful Marriage, a great read, by the way. One of the points that Gottman makes is that individuals can re-write their relationship by focusing on bad memories. Meaning that when your relationship with your spouse is healthy you will look back on hard times not with bitterness and resentment but with understanding. Basically, you will remember more good than bad.

I think my marriage to the church became an unhappy one.

It began in a romantic way, as love often does. I could see none of the warts. When the wounds came I was unprepared. I had no idea that there was an ugly side to church. My husband became a church employee soon after we became church members so we didn’t have a lot of time to assimilate before pain was inflicted.

His salary was low but we didn’t care because we were fulfilling our purpose. After a year he was told he wouldn’t be getting a raise because I could work, but because I chose to stay home with our children his salary did not increase. That happened more than once, in more than one church. That is an ugly side of church. 

I could fill a book with the ugly side of church. Maybe two.

I do not want those memories in my heart any longer. Sometimes I think that telling everyone how much it hurt will get rid of the shame that is there, too. I don’t know.

 

 


 

There was much good, also. I cannot forget that. So much. Enough to fill four books.

The generosity of those we shared life with was amazing.

Early in our ministry (and marriage) when money was tight $500 appeared in our mailbox. That money was a miracle.  We were a able to do a car repair AND buy Christmas gifts.

In another city in another church a grill showed up on our front porch one Sunday a few years later.  At another a  new friend bought all four of our children brand new winter coats. I could go on and on.

Stepping away from church is giving me time to heal my relationship with it, to put back some good memories. It’s doing the same for my kids. I think it’s doing the same for Lee, but he still misses it so much.

Church hurt is not comfortable for me to talk about. I don’t want anyone to feel responsible but not all of my hurt was internally generated. I think we can do better.

I didn’t realize how much I needed time away from the place we fell in love with Jesus at. Stepping back has allowed me to see it all, though. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My part, their part, and our part.

Yesterday was Saturday, a day that I often feel is capable of anything.

 


 

Now it is Sunday.

The day I used to give away grudgingly, reluctantly, and with a little bit of resentment.

The day starts quiet. I read some. Lee sleeps some or finds a church to worship at alone. I find my way to my book of prayers, to my bible, to my worship play list on Spotify. There is no hurry up and get there, no have-to’s or shoulds forcing us to swallow faster than we’d like. No expectations hanging over our heads.

Sunday belongs to us, which means we are free to give it to God, because every good and perfect is from above, anyway.

Am I giving what has already been given or am I choosing to share? 

I am sometimes tempted to think that the new way is too slow, is not filled with enough stuff. I can begin filling in shoulds and have-to’s but that is not the rhythm God has for us. Sunday is for resting in His presence and reveling in His companionship. 

Taking my morning walk I watch people as they go to their cars, dress shoes clip-clopping on the sidewalk. They don’t look at me and I wonder if they’re judging me for not going to church.

I think I used to do that.

Internally I would shake my head and wonder at how others got along without the church.

When we first left the ministry I worried that Sunday would feel like Saturday in our new life. That it would lose its specialness. 

There were some Sundays that did feel that way. Some Sunday mornings found me binge watching Gilmore Girls and feeding everyone peanut butter an jellies. I am learning  even that can be an offering. 

I  choose to make Sunday important. A special lunch, private prayer, and just generally being more aware of God’s active role in my life, and in the life of my family, are a few things that set Sunday apart from the other days of the week. It’s all up to me. Nothing is mandatory. Unless I begin forcing things. 

Wherever you choose to spend your sabbath the only thing that’s important is that you’re choosing to share it; that you’re not putting shoulds and have-to’s on the sacrament of worship, and that you recognize it for the gift it is.

When the hurt got too big my instinct was to pull away from church. It’s counterintuitive but it’s my church community that has been the catalyst for healing for me. 

I find solace in house church these days, but I still love churches in buildings, too. Church is where I learned hymns and the story of Passover – how can I not love that place? Sitting in a small group, outside in lawn chairs, singing songs to my Creator has helped to close up some old wounds.

Jesus came for relationship, so of course it is relationship that rescues us from hurt.

What I’m trying to say with all of these words is this: Sundays don’t have to hurt. If they do talk to your pastor, talk to friends, figure it out but don’t keep letting the hurt stack up. You can talk to me, too.

Happy Sunday, friends.

 

 

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The Process of Pain

I am a denier.

Or at least I used to be.

I’m one of those people who others  always thought was just fine, maybe even more than fine. I’d smile real big and say, “I’m great!” and quickly move the conversation to how they were doing.

I thought that was my job. I thought that I was supposed to do that. As an encourager I enjoy making others feel good, better. I love to make people laugh. That’s how God made me.

He never meant for it to cost me, though.

That was all me and perfectionism working really well together. I read a quote recently that washed all over me.

 

 

I had this idea of what people needed from me and it cost me a lot. In order to be the happy person all of the time you have to deny your feelings of sadness, anger – anything that gets in the way of being perceived as happy. Some of it was a coping mechanism to get through really Hard Times. Sometimes faking it is all you can do.

I had given myself the wrong idea that believers don’t struggle, and that if they do it was in private. One of the biggest things counseling did for me was teach me to mourn.  While I have not had major losses of people I have suffered pain at the hand of the church, had to say goodbye to friends, watch my kids go through serious loneliness, observe my husband’s family relationships unravel, stand by as he leaves a career that he loves and navigate the difficult waters of finding a new one, put all of my most beloved possessions in a storage unit…you get the picture.

It’s a lot.

Life is a lot.


I was shocked at the depth of my sadness and I will tell you that giving myself room to be sad was uncomfortable. It hurt. I’d spent YEARS pushing that crap down and allowing it to come up to the surface was painful. That’s the thing about pain, though, isn’t it?

Pain will demand the spotlight. In the moment, or years later, it must be dealt with. Denying only delays the inevitable.

While acknowledging the difficult junctures was distressing  it all it was also refining. I felt myself becoming a new thing, being transformed.

That’s the beauty of struggle, isn’t it? You do not come out of it unchanged.

He makes all things new.

Suffering leads to  endurance, which leads to character which creates HOPE.

Hope does not disappoint.

Hope is the thing with feathers, the thing that reassures us that it will all be okay.

Without suffering, can we even have hope?

 

I don’t think so.

 


Pain is a process that has to take place in order to make us new. It’s how we get stronger, it’s how we become usable. Without going into the kiln pottery won’t hold their shape, won’t hold water, and won’t look as pretty. 

Pain is not a thing to be avoided OR embraced. It’s to be accepted and allowed. It’s not our job to do anything with the pain.

After my Dad’s open heart surgery a couple of years ago he was uncomfortable. He told me there was a pain in his ribs. I didn’t tell him it was the huge chest tube. We made the unfortunate discovery that his i.v. pain meds had run out. I remember looking into his ICU room and thinking, “Well, crap.”

I couldn’t tel him that the pain wasn’t there. I couldn’t tell him that it would never go away. Neither of those things were true.

I could only tell him the truth: the pain was going to be there for a while, and that it would get better. Eventually.

Dad could only breathe through the pain and accept that it would be there for a while. Consenting to the pain it seemed to help ease it up a little. After breathing for  an hour or so he was able to sleep. If he had fought the pain the distress would have only increased. If he had tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t there for my sake or his, the torment would have driven him mad.

Acceptance of any type of struggle, physical, spiritual, or mental gives you permission to deal with it.

I don’t know why we have pain, why we have to have struggle to have hope.

What I do know is this: Jesus will call to you even in the struggle.

He will call you out of that pain.

Every day.

Again and again, for as long as it takes.

It’s not a one time get-of-jail-free card with Jesus. It’s an every time, all the time kind of love.

It’s a my-life-for-yours, resuscitating, rescuing love.

Perfection and paralysis don’t have to be your companions.

Accept the things you cannot change. Allow Him to change you. 

There is no end of the story.

Be brave misfits, even in the process of pain. Especially in the process of pain.

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Love Your Now

Our youngest is seven and the next oldest kid is 13, then 17, and 19. Liam is a child of the Big Gap. 

I jokingly tell people that it’s like he’s been raised by a pack of wolves.

 I’m only half joking.

Liam doesn’t talk like some seven year olds. He’s picked up on his older sibling’s speech patterns and says charming things like, “What the crap?” and “What up, boieeee?” He refers to all people as dudes, knows what twerking is, and hands out sarcasm like a pro.

The sarcasm thing may not be the fault of the teenagers.

This sweet little boy of mine enjoys Curious George, yes, but when he was three Gollum was his favorite character.  When we’re doing our annual once a year family photo Liam yells “photobomb” just before the shutter clicks.  No matter how many takes we do he is always caught  jumping Superman style in front of everyone, tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth,  eyes crossed.

Most last-borns tend to have big personalities.

Our Liam definitely has charisma.

See? Charisma.

That Big Gap means that I sometimes scoot him along with the others, forgetting that he is not just small but also young. I kid that he never got to nap in his own bed, but it’s not much of a joke. He learned to sleep anywhere as a baby.

Now that he’s older I have to put effort into providing him similar childhood memories as his siblings. My three older ones played with each other constantly, always outside. 

Liam has no close-in-age sibling to pal around with in the back yard, though. I will say he’s extremely adept at playing alone. As long as one of us is close he’s pretty content to do his own thing.

One thing I’ve noticed about him, though, is that he loves one on one time with each of us. He’ll take time each week to visit his sisters in their room, hanging out and chatting about Minecraft.

Always Minecraft, endless conversations about Minecraft.

He and I go on a walk every morning and we just talk. I love talking to this kid. It reminds me of when the others were young, when we spent our days talking with each other.  He has a thing he likes to do with each family member, too. Liam and Kiley watch movies together. Liam and Laurel go to the park. Liam and Spencer wrestle (then fight). Liam and Dad do things that Mom says no to. Liam and Mimi find stuff on YouTube. Liam and Grandad go to stores together. Liam and Mom do all the things.

 


 

Sometimes Liam asks me for a brother who is his age. Actually, he asks me for a twin and doesn’t get it when I tell him it’s too late for that.

I feel kind of bad when he asks for a sibling.

Our family looks the way it looks, though, and there’s no changing it. Plus, I love getting him all to myself.  When the older kids are out doing their young adult thing he and I get to do 7 year old stuff. 

The feel of his still-small hand in mine, the weight of his body on my lap, and the grassy smell of his hair anchor me in the present. He reminds me not to take parenting teenagers too seriously. Liam makes me realize how little my others were at that age. I didn’t know that then.

I thought they were so big.

To the mom that I was then, they were. The mom that I am now, though, sees 7 as very little. Perspective literally makes you a different parent, a different person. 

That’s okay.

Sometimes I feel badly that my older two didn’t get this chilled out version of me. The me that let Liam dye his hair green this summer. The me that  doesn’t care that some of my people  (boy people) wear the same clothes for more days than I think is healthy.  The me that’s okay with where we’re at in life tells the ghost of my past self to pipe down.

Her days are done.

I can honestly say that each of my kids got the best version of me that I could offer.

That’s all we can each do.

I find that I love having a big gap between my three kids and my last born. I will admit that every now and then I find myself wondering what it would be like if Liam had a sibling close in age to him.

But he doesn’t, so there.

What he does have, though, is a family that loves him very, very much. My older kids share stories with Liam of tickling his belly during diaper changes, rocking him to sleep, watching him learn how to walk, and seeing him fall asleep in his highchair. He loves hearing those stories. 

Those stories remind him that he’s always been ours.

Now that they’re all getting older I’m finally experiencing Liam as all mine, just a little.

I love that dabbing, pop-culture savvy Big Gap Child of mine. He reminds me that everything turns out the way that it’s supposed to be. Liam reminds me to love right now.

I asked for a serious face. I sure got one.

 

Every day I seem to be learning the lesson of loving where I’ve landed. Every day I seem to be learning to let go of plans and pictures. Every day I get a chance to embrace the amazingness of now, with  my big (semi-adult) kids and my big gap child, my hubby, my parents, my brothers, the sky that always astounds me, and the grass that feels wonderful beneath my bare feet.

Be brave, misfits, and love your now.

 

 

 

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How to Get Back on Track

My husband told me that summer would be over soon and I lost it.

Like, I got really mad.

Because we have not summered nearly enough. I have not checked off nearly enough of the items on my summer list. I’ve got to hop to it.

It’s easy to lose focus, isn’t it?

Especially when you have many needs pulling on you.

I find myself overwhelmed by a to-do list. Lists make me happy, but sometimes when I look at the things I have to do I quit before I even get started. I am tempted to stay in bed and read all day.

Sometimes, I do stay in bed and read all day. I have no problem with that. When I want to get back on track though there are a few things that I do:

 

1. Just one thing

Routine has always been difficult for me.  I like to take morning walks with whatever kids will go. Liam always goes and Liam always fusses about it. Without fail this kid of mine fumes that he has to go. He’ll even say extreme things like, “I hate my life!”  I’ve learned to calmly stand by the front door (only occasionally losing my cool and shouting) and wait for him to get his shoes on.

Grumpy start.
That’s our routine.

You get him out the door, though, and everything is fine. He happily chats about Minecraft, the dogs, his favorite t-shirt, what he’d like to eat for lunch, and birds he sees along the way.

If we’ve been out of the habit for a while the first day is really hard. It’s a little easier to do it the next day, and then the next day, and the next day.

Pick just one thing and stick with it for a week. Follow through in spite of any obstacle and you’ll find your priorities coming back into focus. I learned this years ago, I think from Marcia Somerville and Tapestry of Grace. For getting back into a homeschool routine she suggested beginning with just one subject. Each week you can add a new one. So begin with math, then layer on until you’re doing the things you want.

I started applying that method to my life and was pretty pleased with the outcome.

As a recovering perfectionist it’s my tendency to make a massive schedule for the day. The first time I fail or miss something in the schedule I quit and vow to start again the next day. I can repeat that pattern every day for a couple of weeks before I catch on to the madness.

One thing. That’s all you need to get going!

 

2. Be realistic about the list

I’m sure I’m not the only recovering perfectionist out there. If you’re still stuck in that place you might not know that creating a too big to-do list sets you up for failure. Now you know, though. You’re welcome.

It’s important to be realistic about how much can actually be accomplished in a day. Ryan McRae, aka The ADHD Nerd, suggests a short to list with two bonus items. If you get to them it’s a bonus! Here’s a post of his that I return to when I’m feeling bereft in a sea of discarded lists.

I really like my quadrant idea. I break my day up into four sections:

6 a.m. – 10 a.m.

10 a.m.-2 p.m.

2 p.m.- 6 p.m.

6 p.m.-10 p.m.

I put things in each of those sections, including meals, etc. It really works.

When I use it.

I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish, though.

Don’t overload the quadrants!

Friendly kitty.

3. Leave room for nothing

For real, leave room in your day for nothing. Time to sit and think, stare out a window, lay in bed or on the couch. Nothing is very important for brains.

Quiet time allows us to process our day but it also allows our priorities to come back into focus. There are times in our family life that there is a lot of going. That’s typically when we get really off kilter. The van is filled with trash and shoes, laundry isn’t done, dishes get scattered about the house, we don’t know where our things are.

Giving yourself space to do nothing can feel counterintuitive when you’re trying to get back on track. Thinking is important, though. Constant motion does not lead to more productivity but quiet time does. 

 

We’ve been steady with morning walks for almost two weeks now. Today we’re going to add in math games. Next week we’re jumping back into history. Starting with just one thing takes away the feeling of urgency. It also allows me to sit back and view our day, where the free spaces are and where the time-sucks are.

Lots of breaks.

 

 

What do you do to get back on track? Share your gold nuggets in the comments!

 

 

 

As always, be brave, and leave time for nothing.

 

 

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