Thursday, June 23, 2016

You Have So Many Things To Love When You Love Everything

How To Love WellIt doesn't take much for our children to get us thinking, does it? My oldest draws pictures all the time to express what's in her heart, and although my boy doesn't care much for drawing, he loves to tell us stories and make silly analogies that give us a little bit of insight into the way his mind works. Children are often so much more clever than we 'grown-ups' give them credit for, but what I treasure the most is how they challenge me to get back to the basics, to a simplicity that I lose when I have my head in 'the world' for too long.

You have so many things to love when you love everything.

Ever since she drew this picture, I've had her words rolling about in my head from time to time. There's so much to hate in this world. There's so much to fear. There's so much to wonder and worry about all over the place.

What Is LoveAnd yet she wrote about love. That is what sticks with her, and I'm so thankful. It's not what sticks with me anymore after innocence lost and years of words that don't match the actions. That's the reality of life as we get older and find that we have to return to recall its fight to remember its truth and beauty. It's far too easy to get caught up in everything else.

I am wanting, simply, to love well. I could hate that I'm not always good at it. I could be afraid that I might cause another to forget its true meaning. I could worry that I'll never be able to do it well enough. But those thoughts are NOT the ones that should stick with me.

I have so many things to love.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Compassion And The Bathroom Issue

I wasn't going to write about this.

But it has exploded.

I will try to word my thoughts in the most compassionate way possible, as I always do, but I have no doubt that it doesn't matter. I will be labeled a bigot and my feelings will be dismissed as 'just motivated out of fear and hate', as I've gotten so used to hearing these days. It sucks, and it hurts, and I don't know if I'll ever get used to it, but I've come to one conclusion – I'd better get used to being uncomfortable, and if I'm going to be uncomfortable, I might as well go all the way.

In America we have a tendency to get all riled up about issues that on the surface appear to be quite trivial. I do wish I saw more zeal for the 'bigger' stuff, and I could go into a whole spiel about that, but those seemingly trivial issues still matter – because in this country there has been a massive shift in what it means to be truthful. And once we throw truth out the window, I don't know that it can ever be retrieved.

This is what it has come down to – who should use which bathroom? Should biological males have a legal right to share a private space with biological females? Will offering legal protections to the transgendered create issues with predators taking advantage of such laws?

Or better yet, are any of those things the 'real' issue?

Conservative Christians are often accused of lacking compassion, but I'm here to tell you that we have a lot of it. Many of you don't recognize it because of a difference in thought, not a difference in caring. I look at Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner and see a confused individual in dire need of counseling, guidance, and direction. I see someone who suffers psychologically and bears emotional scars as a result, and instead of this person being given what is desperately needed, he is encouraged to continue in turmoil and celebrated all the more for it. In all honesty, it breaks my heart. You may not agree with any of that, but what kind of hypocrite would I be if I went along with what our culture tells me to do and accept as normal something I find to be heartbreaking and in complete opposition to reality?

I know about the terminology and gender theory and the studies that claim that gender is not binary, etc, but research is ongoing and the results are ever-evolving, and as much as progressives like to try to convince us that their views on this matter are 'truth', there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. And for most of us on the other side, we are unwilling to bend on what we believe to be the actual truth.

I want to ease suffering. I want to see hurting people healed. I want to see love in action because this is the life Christ has called us to lead. What I don't want to see is people being told lies, truth being distorted in the name of tolerance, and emotions reigning supreme as we determine how to legislate our nation. That last one is a biggie. I can have all the compassion in the world, I can truly love someone and hurt for him, but I don't have to agree with him when he says he has a 'right' to something. I can't compromise my convictions about rights to privacy and the rights of women and children just because it's popular, and that is because I do value the protection of the vulnerable and innocent.

I am aware that I have been in bathrooms and other situations with transgender people. I never considered it to be a problem and treated them with the same respect I would give any other human being. But how do you enforce a law based on something as ambiguous and subjective as gender identity? A man doesn't have to put on a dress to use the women's facilities if the law is based on how he 'identifies'. He can walk right in looking just like a man, and even undress in the locker room if he wants. There's simply no way to tell how a person 'feels' about his or her gender – unless we all start carrying around paperwork from our psychiatrists in order to use the bathroom.

I certainly have no intention of standing guard at the door checking everyone's pants. What I do intend to do, however, is be aware of my surroundings, and if anything appears to be suspicious, I will take measures to keep myself and my children safe. In the past, if I'd ever walked into an empty women's locker room and seen a male standing there, I would have immediately been on the alert and questioned his intentions. Now what I am being asked to do is take it on faith that his intentions are good. I am being asked – no, TOLD – to no longer act upon my common sense.

I won't do that.

The media has a tendency to paint conservatives as 'outraged' about everything, but I can guarantee that hopelessness has a stronger hold. The anger is often overshadowed by the discouragement. This is not my country. This is not my culture. But here I am, trying my best to navigate it. The one thing I need to remember is that there is no reason to feel hopeless – because of who my hope is in. The best I can do right now is offer that one bit of encouragement to you.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

In The Desert

+-Parenting older vs younger childrenShe can tie her shoes now. She's lost four teeth, makes her own snacks, and has better handwriting than many adults I know. No one can make her baby sister laugh like she does. I look at her sleeping, long limbs stretched out across a twin bed, and try to remember how small she used to be, like the baby I have now. And even though I know it was just as hard back then, I also know that it was long ago.

This is an interesting place where I am – at the beginning again with a new child, but knowing all too well how quickly I'll be five years down the road. So I keep asking myself why I still get so irritated. Why do I let the little things add up? Why do I allow the baby's mood to determine how my days go? Why do I still get weary even though I love them so much? The answer, I'm aware, is simply that I'm living in humanity. Perspective goes a long way, but it doesn't make the living any lighter.

When we first decided to move to Arizona, I was convinced that I would hate it. I had never been in a desert environment, and having grown up in a wet climate with lush green all around, I assumed I'd feel completely out of place in all the dust and heat that awaited me. A desert had always held negative connotations for me, like isolation and bleakness.

Surprisingly, I ended up loving the desert. It holds its own beauty not found anywhere else on earth, and there's something about its solitude that can give a sense of freedom. I can understand why U2 named my favorite album (The Joshua Tree) after a desert plant. In an interview Bono said, “Spending time in Africa and seeing people in the pits of poverty, I still saw a very strong spirit in the people, a richness of spirit I didn't see when I came home… I saw the spoiled child of the Western world. I started thinking, 'They may have a physical desert, but we've got other kinds of deserts.' And that's what attracted me to the desert as a symbol of some sort.”

Metaphorically speaking, we've all lived in many deserts. All too often I've walked paths in which I've had to reach really hard for that richness of spirit, and sometimes I just couldn't pull it off. I know deep down that there's beauty to be found, even there, but that doesn't mean I can always see it. Even in the dry path I'm walking now, with the scorching sun at my back, a cactus blooms. And I may miss it if I'm too focused on the rest.

And if I'm being completely honest, I've been missing it a lot lately.

My third child teaches me daily about the importance of letting go of expectations. It has been a recurring theme for me throughout her little life thus far – reality not matching up with my ideas for how things should go down. Babies are like that anyway, you know – always thwarting your well-intentioned plans (like naps and leisure time). This third go-round for me has revealed just how much of my hangups in life have to do with holding tight to what's comfortable and safe, of how much my joy in life is dependent on everything it shouldn't depend on. I'm still living in the expectation of what should be, not what it truly is.

Those unreasonable expectations hold disappointment on the other side. When I convince myself of how my day will go. When I make a choice, believing I already know the outcome. When I fold the laundry and expect all the socks to match up. (I'm a silly creature – you'd think I'd have learned by now.)

I believe we're meant to crave the unknown wild, but instead I run from it, afraid of what I might find there. I'd rather it all work out. I'd rather have control. I'd rather not feel so small. Or so I think.

Spend just one night camping underneath a starry desert sky, and the smallness you feel is unlike any other. It envelops you...embraces you. It can be an amazingly freeing feeling to realize how tiny you are in the vastness of the universe – but only if you don't allow it to overwhelm you first.

If only I could remember my oldest every time I look at my youngest, and think about how soon she'll fill up that bed instead of being overwhelmed by her smallness. If only I could always see that the worn-out-cranky-kid-chasing days will soon give way when the sun sets just up ahead. If only I could stop caring about lost socks. If only I could fill up on that richness of spirit instead of running on fumes and frustration.

After all, I can't spend too much time in the desert if I haven't quenched my thirst.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Can I: A Resolution Of Sorts

Six months in and she's got my heart. She did from the beginning, of course, but that heart is only getting more deeply embedded in that fragile place where parents' hearts go, where it shatters at every story on the news and thunders with panic at every feverish night, and yet somehow keeps repairing itself at every wide-eyed grin.

Oh, Cora Ivy. I gave her that name because it means heart of faithfulness – my prayer for her – but how can I dare long for such a treasure when my own faith is ever-waning?

It's the season of faith. The ornaments hang from the tree so confidently, and those lights flicker with abandon, while inside my heart is a wrecked mess of sadness and fear and longing that's within all of us, but no one seems to talk about anymore.

How can I look into those beautiful little eyes without thinking about all that they will see?

Parenting Fears

Thinking back on my own trials, I can't help but wonder what hers will be. What theirs will be. I
know not what it is, just that it is to come. Living life in a fallen world, no one escapes the battles that overwhelm the soul. Has my path prepared me? How can I help them through it all when my own search hasn't always turned up answers and has too often left me brokenhearted?

How can I teach them about their worth when I struggle with my own? How can I tell them to be bold, that they need not worry about what anyone else thinks of them when their own mama has never learned how to do it? How can I give away patience when I've run out of it?

How can I teach them how to love when the world will never cease to throw at them every false version of love it can come up with?

How To Help Kids Understand FaithHow can can can I…

How can I sit there and tell my big girl not to be so hard on herself when Lord knows I do it to myself too? How can I encourage my boy to be strong when I feel weak? How can I give this tiny baby who strokes my face as she curls up against my body the security that she truly needs?

I sing along with the Christmas carols - “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” - and the feelings come and go. Here comes the hope. Here come the fears. And so on it goes as it has since the beginning of time.

Before bed I read them The Little Engine That Could, and I dwell on those words more than they will ever know – I think I can, I think I can – turn out the light, and keep chugging along. I keep chug-chug-chugging. It's all I can do.

Then when all has quieted down and I retreat to that place within that can get messy and harsh and fearful, I force myself to fill it with hope. I think about the story my clever little girl wrote and illustrated for me. I think about my energetic little boy proudly bringing in the chicken egg he collected from the hens all by himself. I remember the first heartfelt, unprompted 'thank you' and the last big hug I got, and I let my thoughts linger on all the laughter and joy in between. Because that's the place my heart needs to go.

It's more than how can I. It's why can't I. It's how can I not.

So I'll keep chugging along, but I'll change the rhythm of the engine. I know we can. I know we will. And we will indeed, because what more could be worthy of yearning for but the faith to carry us through?

I must pull my heart from the trenches and place it on the mountaintop. It belongs to them, after all. They need their mama's heart to soar above the oceans so they can fly too.