Thursday, August 24, 2017

Poverty, Abuse & Despair do not See Color

After getting to know people and telling them a little bit about my childhood, I often get a somewhat shocked and confused response.  They look at me, cocking their head to the side, and saying in a serious and slightly high pitched voice, "I never would have thought that about you" or "You don't look like the kind of person who would have had a childhood like that."

I never know quite what to say after that.

It is what it is, and this is what it is.

I was born into a family that most would consider white trash.  My father rarely kept down a job.  He was abusive and mentally ill.  He was an alcoholic and ended up purposely overdosing, killing himself on his prescribed meds after a stint in the mental hospital.  He died alone and miserable.

My mother tried to take care of us, but she had her own battles that kept her from being emotionally present.  She managed to keep us fed and clothed.  I remember having a love of meat that still exists, because this was a luxury for us.  I still get a warm feeling after I go to the grocery store, put all of the food in the cabinet and step back to look at it.  Full cabinets of food are a gift.

My mother often worked several jobs, and we were by ourselves or under the "care" of our father a lot as kids.   This is when he did things like put beer in my cup when I was 3 or 4 years old to get me drunk and laugh when I couldn't walk.  He would put his hands over mine and my brother's mouth and nose so that we couldn't breathe, start laughing as we'd flail about, and then let go right before we passed out.

When my father was still in the picture, my mother would leave him over and over again just to be sucked back into the abusive cycle.  Sometimes, I didn't know where I was when I woke up...a shelter, a friend's house, or a new place my mom had found.  Nothing was stable.  Nothing was sure.

I loved school, because the schedule and routine provided safety for me.  Yet, I remember being a little girl in outdated, faded hand me downs feeling embarrassed around the other kids.  As a first grader, my teachers noticed the bruises and called me into to talk to the principal and school counselor.  I was honest, and this elicited a visit from social services to my home which my mom took a major beating for.

Our houses were often run down.  My mom tried to fix them up, but you can't fix something up that's about to fall down.  There were bugs, smells, decay...we moved constantly.

Despite all of this, my mother always had us in church and this influence began my spiritual journey.

At the age of about 10, I knew.  I knew I was not going to live the life that I was being raised in.  This was after my father died and my mom was a single mom still struggling to make ends meet.

I remember studying Geography in school.  I was enraptured by all of the different cultures and places in the world that were unique and beautiful.  I knew I didn't want to stay put.  I didn't want to live in the town I grew up in.  I didn't want to stay in the place that I found myself.  I didn't want to continue the path that had been laid out for me.  No, I would fight.  Fight to get out physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And that's what I did.

With the hand of God guiding me and sustaining me, I got out of that pit of despair.  I prayed and cried and prayed.  Jesus Christ is the reason I live-not just physically but as a whole person.

He's why I didn't get pregnant at 16.
He's why I didn't end up with a jerk that would abuse me.
He's why I don't live in poverty.
He's why I am more emotionally stable than I ever thought possible.

I don't write all of this to elicit pity.  I write to remind people not to judge based on appearances.  I have battle scars that you can't see.  I was not born into privilege despite how I dress, speak or my skin color.  I was born into a big fat mess that began generations before on both sides of my family.  I made choices that led my life where it is now.  The power of God took me on a different path.  His influence is what changed my mindset.  I could have rejected him, but, by his grace, I didn't.  Even though it has been one scary and uncertain ride, I would NEVER change it.

I continue to battle demons from the past.  I always will.  It will always be worth it, too.

We can blame our society.  We can blame other's opinions.  We can blame everybody else in the world...but that doesn't mean that those things are responsible for the way that our lives turned out.

Take responsibility for yourself.
Work...get off your butt and work if you want a better life.  Work to make yourself more educated, more healthy on the inside.  Work to be financially secure.  Work to make your family what you want it to be.  Stop sitting around complaining that you don't have what everybody else does.

An entitled society is a dangerous society.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Little Purple Fish

Once there was a little purple fish that lived in a pond with other purple fish.  The purple fish were sick, and most of them spread their disease to one another.  The pond she lived in was murky and always dark.  Living in the pond started to make the little purple fish sick too, and she didn't want to stay in the same pond with the other purple fish anymore.

One day while exploring, she found a hole in the side of the pond that led away from her pond. She didn't know where it led, but she thought, "I have to try to have a life without being sick.  I have to try not to get as sick as the other fish."  So, she pushed her body through the hole and swam with all of her might.

As she scurried along through the dark hole, she began to be afraid.  She hoped she would see something soon.  She persevered, and came out of the other side of the hole.

She was in a completely different pond.  "Wow!", she said in amazement. 
The new sights, sounds and smells enveloped her.  It was beautiful, scary and exciting all at the same time.  The water was more clear.  The colors were not muted.  The orange fish she met were friendly and looked healthy.  It was a dream come true.

The little orange fish gladly joined the orange school of fish. She felt loved and included, but sometimes, it was hard for her.  She came from a very different place with very different kinds of fish.  Her new orange friends didn't quite understand why she said or did things the way that she did.  


The little purple fish didn't always understand the orange fish, either.  There was no one else like her in her new home. This made her feel very alone.

She had a routine that helped.  Her favorite time of day was right after the sun came up.  She loved when bright flashes of light that shot downward into the pond splashing on her face.  It was so peaceful; so still.  

One day, she was basking in the first light of day when she noticed a larger light up above.  It was all by itself.  She thought the beaming light was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. She realized the flashes of early morning light in the pond that she enjoyed so much came from the bright light that shone down on her without fail every day.  This was the first time she knew in her heart that she was never really alone.

After that day, the little purple fish looked up at the sky every day thankful for the sun.  She even told her orange friends about the light.  The light brought them together.  

Somehow, they didn't seem so different as they all gathered to look up at the sun, because they weren't seeing the differences in one another.  They were looking at the sun that united them all.

The little purple fish knew this same sun shone down on the pond she came from, but they just couldn't see it because of the darkness.  She felt sad for the fish she once lived with and went back to tell them about the sun. Some believed and swam to the pond filled with light.  Many did not believe choosing to stay sick in the dark pond. 

This deeply saddened the little purple fish, because she loved them, but as time passed, more purple fish swam to the light.  

When the little purple fish was very old, the last of her kind left the darkness to come bask in the sun with her.  This made her very happy and very glad that her little purple and orange family would grow in such a world of light and love.   

The sun had saved them all.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Helicopter Mom's Rant

I'm what many would categorize as a helicopter mom most days.  I watch my kids like a hawk when we're in stores, the playground or large crowds.  I anticipate a broken bone and try to prevent it before we're in the ER.  I try to protect and guide my kids, but I also try to give them freedom and push them to do things themselves when I feel they are ready.   It's just me, and I don't expect others to necessarily agree or adhere to my style of parenting.  I don't want others to expect me to parent the way they do, either.  Yet, it seems my style of parenting can be judged quite harshly these days.

Related imageI recently read an article where a mom pretty much bashed the way I parent.  She felt that she was being judged for being the mom sitting on the picnic bench across the playground while her 3 year old fumbles on large monkey bars.  This mom felt that a mom like me who was worried about her little one falling and breaking a leg was being paranoid and judgmental by looking around to see where she was.  This mother further went on to explain how she lets her children explore their worlds on their own with her at a safe distance monitoring.  She says these are great opportunities for her to have time with other moms.

Okay.  I get it.  You need to let your kid figure things out.  I totally agree with that.  Kids have to try things for themselves if their ever going to gain independence and confidence, but I think this lady's guilt was what motivated her vehement response to us helicopter parents.


I've been in these situations, and it stinks.  I'm trying to help my two year old manage a high step when her kid is dangling on the monkey bars that are way too high for him about to fall and break something.  I look to find her as her son is slipping with a look of terror on his face and desperately asking me for help . This isn't my kid, but is mom looking?  Usually not.  She's deep in conversation or her head is buried in her cell phone.
Image result for mom on cell phone park

Do I get upset?  Yep!  I'm trying to make sure my kids are safe, not only from getting hurt, but from some creepster coming up and trying something, and she plops the responsibility of helping her kid on me.  She'll say it was never my responsibility, but really?  I'm just going to watch your little boy, who has no business trying to climb monkey bars made for a 10 year old, get hurt?

I've been in another such situation at a fast food restaurant in a play place area.  Mom and Dad release their children into the multi-colored indoor playground separate from the dining area while they sit outside of the glass windows and occasionally glance over while they eat and have a conversation .  My husband and I have been in one of these play places with our two children and at least 10 other kids.  We were the ONLY adults in there!  There was a boy bullying all of the little ones that needed to be corrected and another with a water bottle which expelled water from one of those tall slides and then he threw it a few inches from my 1 year old's head.  Did the parents of these kids know what was going on?  Nope.

In yet another instance, my barely 3 year old was being bullied by other girls, and the moms had absolutely no idea that their 4 and 5 year old girls were doing this.  They were lost in conversation and still didn't seem to care what was going on after I went over as my daughter was sobbing.  These girls wouldn't talk to her or let her go down the slide.  I corrected them, because of course, I was burning up inside about it.  Not only were they acting very cruelly to my very sensitive child, their mothers were completely oblivious the entire time.

I totally understand the exhaustion of parenting.  I totally understand the need for breaks and adult time, but I do not appreciate being a babysitter for your kid without being asked!  Go get a babysitter and go out!  Don't pawn your kid off on the nearest adult.  If you don't want to hover around your kids, fine.  At least pay attention to them especially if they are little or little ones are around them.

Our kids need us to help them learn how to start to navigate those big monkey bars, and then they'll be able to go across after we've helped them a few times.  They need us to correct them when they're doing something unkind, and they need us to help them have the confidence to speak up when needed.  I think we can be involved as parents without taking the responsibility away from them to try new things.  Shaping does not stop at the playground!  We need to find a balance between anxious parenting and hands off parenting and not judge one another!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Come, Let us Worship Together

Remember the Sabbath.
Do we?
Keep it holy.
Are we?

A knot develops in my stomach as I think of the "worship" services I've attended in my lifetime. Many were far from worshipping Jesus Christ.  A handful of people performed on a stage singing "Christian" music evoking an emotional response while a crowd stared up at them.  As emotions heightened, the performers amped it up lifting their hands higher, waving their arms harder, skipping across the stage at times.  The crowd loved this. Lyrics chanted repeatedly flashed up on a screen often reminding us of what we needed to do to be in good standing with God.

As everyone took their seats after the mini concert, a charismatic speaker wearing trendy clothes took the mic.  He was very engaging and personable.  He told some funny stories, used a few verses from the Bible to support his points about living a Christian life making heartfelt comments along the way to make us feel better about ourselves.

When his talk was done, one left feeling more of a duty to be a better Christian, yet no real tools to do so.  There was always the nag to be better.  There was never true peace.

You could sign up for service opportunites that had to be filled.  You were doing your part if you helped clean up after church, helped with parking duty, worked with the children in their "church", gave of your musical talents, etc.  This was called service, and the people who are recognized were the ones who gave a lot of their service.

So, this is what the Sabbath is supposed to be?  I don't think so.

It seems to me many churches have lost focus. The focus is turned inward while Christ is used as some sort of banner to adorn the church walls.

The Sabbath is the sign.  It points us to Jesus.  Our REST!  That is what Sabbath means.  The Sabbath is about preaching the Word, not a self help sermon with a few Bible verses sprinkled in for good measure.  It is about the Holy Word of God that is to be heard and learned.  It is about coming together in fellowship to participate in the sacraments.

I think Christian culture has confused what Psalm 26:8 means.  "I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells." Why are we begging God to come.  He is in his house where his people are.  If you don't "feel" anything, that doesn't mean he isn't there.  That's pretty self centered of us to think that a feeling is what is needed for God to be present in his house with his people.

What happened to the service of loving our neighbors?  Service doesn't mean you fill every service slot at church or have to raise tons of money to travel overseas.  It means you show love to the mean old man that lives across the street.  It means you support a friend who is having a hard time.  It means you make time for your own family and their needs.  It means you pray for God to mend relationships and change parts of your heart that need tending.  You don't have to go far to serve God.

We complicate something that is so simple.  Worship cannot be conjured up.   We cannot make ourselves better people.  We are wretches saved by the miraculous grace of God.  "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2

After many frustrating years of filling my obligatory duty, worship on a Sunday morning has become my favorite time of the week.  I sit with my brothers and sisters in Christ singing sweet hymns about our Savior, listening to the Gospel being preached, and breaking bread with them at the Lord's Table. I am reminded of my sinfulness, but also reminded that the debt has been paid in full.  I am forgiven. Thanks be to God!



"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mommy, You are NOT Enough!
Becoming a parent has most certainly stretched me beyond my limits…limits I didn’t even know I had!  Being just a touch neurotic, especially after the birth of my first daughter, I immersed myself in the study of how to be the best parent in the world.
You are probably chuckling at this point if you have had kids for awhile.  The perfect parent just doesn’t exist.  It never has, and it never will.
That’s why I get frustrated by some posts I see these days.  Feeling guilty about not being as good of a parent as you’d like just comes with the job description.  There are those out there that seem to feel the need to tell everyone else how they should parent their children and why they are doing a disservice to their children if they don’t.  Yeah, that may be overstepping some boundaries that the social media world we live in has blurred.
Yet, the response to these highly opinionated posts isn’t necessarily helpful either.  I’ve seen so many people try to uplift other parents by telling them that they are enough for those babies. While I agree God gave them to us specifically for reasons beyond what we know, I do not agree that we are enough for them, and I’ll tell you why.
A year of trying to be enough for everyone led to a bout with clinical depression.   I spent 4-5 days and nights with barely any sleep, a fussy nursing baby, a whiny two year old, mounting laundry, and errands (you get the drift).  I realized I can’t do it all.  It’s nice to hear how wonderful you are, but that’s not where you truly find freedom.
All of my intense research and anxious protection of my children in the beginning was NOT enough.  The days and nights of being by myself with a newborn and 2 year old taught me the very valuable lesson that I will NEVER be enough for them.  
I am only enough because of Jesus Christ within me.  He through me gives me the strength.  I just don’t have it.  Realizing this, takes the burden off of me, because I don’t have to worry about how my failures, my humanity, is ever going to be enough to raise decent human beings.  That’s the thing.  I am human.  That’s okay.  Where I fail, Jesus takes up the slack.  I’m glad I’m not enough!  He is perfect, and I can point my children towards him in my successes and failures.  
My kids need their creator.  I need MY creator.  Yes, these beautiful, precious children have been placed in our family, but they are not mine.  They are God’s children first just I am.  I have the mind blowing opportunity to teach them and they me.  That’s enough for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lord, I Lift My Hands on High

We often hear and see church advertisements asking us to come join in worship.  There are people with their eyes closed and hands raised high looking up at a stage of others doing the same.  We are invited to meet with God in an atmosphere electrically charged with dynamic music and fun speakers. It seems like a lot of fun, right?

You can come in, get some coffee, socialize and sing some repetitive songs that invite you to amp yourself up emotionally.  Then, listen to a pastor give some funny anecdotes, personal stories, and throw in a few verses while making alliterated points.  At the end, the music appeals to your emotions again as there is a call to evaluate your life and make a change.

Yeah, I can't say I had a lot of fun in these environments.  After countless hollow "worship" experiences,  I began to flounder in a pit of despair.  When would I get this right?  Why couldn't I just be a good Christian?  I felt like I saw others on this spiritual high that I could never seem to quite grasp.  If I got it for a moment, it was fleeting, and I spent most of my time desperately seeking to experience it again.  I spent YEARS on a hamster wheel of dissatisfaction.

Not until my thirties did I begin to realize the problem.  Going to church and worship is not about what we do to please God, make him happy with us, or to give to us a spiritual high.  Of course, I was miserable!  I was looking for my own actions and my own heart to give me God.  I was waiting for a moment when I would be able to create within myself a sanctuary fit for God.  I thought my warm and fuzzy feelings equated "good" worship.

It wasn't until I began to acknowledge that I cannot do anything good without the love and grace of Jesus Christ that freedom began to truly come.  When I started looking up at the cross and not within myself, the guilt began to cease.  He paid it all, so why was I still trying to earn salvation by my works?

Worship isn't feeling good as you sing the same words of a song over and over again.  Worship is humbly admitting my sinfulness and His holiness.  It's looking up at that cross and acknowledging that I did NOTHING to deserve the Son of God taking my place. Worship is not so much of us serving God but God coming down to earth and serving us. That is love.  That is salvation.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Women Want

A woman's power of persuasion is intoxicating and undeniably hard to resist.  How easily and cruelly we can turn the head of a man.  It's our gift.  It's our curse.

From the beginning we have taken the lead when we had no business doing so. Case in point-Eve.
Sarah was certain she would never conceive a child, and took matters into her own hands resulting in conflict that exists to this day.  Women can take the love a of a man and exploit it to meet their own agenda.  The thing is though, our agenda is often tainted resulting in heartache and pain.

Image result for mary on donkeyYet, we have an example in Mary, the mother of Jesus, of a woman that did not take matters in her own hands when things just didn't make sense. Her faith was undeniable.  Instead of thinking she knew a better way, she trusted.  She believed God's Word.  She was not cynical, controlling, or manipulative.  She let God's plan unfold.  She trusted Joseph to take her on an arduous, taxing journey when she was 9 months pregnant.  How many of us today would agree to that?!

What would happen if we stopped complaining so much when men in our lives didn't do exactly as we demanded?  What would happen if we got a real dose of humility and stopped thinking we know better?  I'd venture to say the world would be a lot more peaceful.

I'm by no means saying that men are perfect.  I'm saying that humility puts things into perspective-for both sexes.  We compliment each other best when we can take that into account.