marriage, a First Lady, and my guy

I haven’t written about marriage in a while, but today it’s on my mind. Yesterday America lost one of our Mamas. Barbara Bush was an amazing First Lady and First Mom and taught by example the value of investing in your family. Everywhere you look on the internet today, there are articles titled The Bush’s Fairytale Marriage and The Epic Love Story of Barbara and George. While dirty dishes sit in the sink and a pile of towels sits on the floor of my laundry room, I’ve spent my day reading everything I could find on how two people managed to survive 73 years of marriage and create a family legacy that is interwoven with our nation’s story. 

“You have given me joy that few men know,” George H.W. Bush wrote to her, according to a collection of letters published in 1999.

“I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” said George H.W. Bush.

Marriage is hard, y’all. It’s not as hard as parenting and it definitely comes with better perks. Nevertheless, it’s hard. In 2016, when we celebrated our 22nd anniversary, I wrote a list of 22 secrets to staying married. It’s a list of hard-learned, good stuff. If you’re struggling in your marriage (or you just need a good laugh) read it.

In ten months we will celebrate 25 years of marriage. We’ve started making plans to celebrate with an epic adventure. But 73-year fairytale marriages are not made of epic adventures. They’re made of daily choices to love and honor the one you’re with. George and Barbara clearly made a lot of wise daily choices. They praised each other often. She always referred to him as her “hero”. He gave her public accolades for raising their children. They have shared that they prayed together nightly and sought God in every circumstance they faced. When life was hard after losing their daughter, they drew closer. I continue to learn that kindness and honor lead to peace and contentment. Thank you, George and Barbara for reinforcing that lesson.

This week my dear husband began a new chapter with a new job and new title. He is MY hero. Just as he served our nation honorably, he serves our family honorably. God uses him to provide a lifestyle that is more than I could ever deserve. He works hard, he makes me laugh and roll my eyes no matter what circumstances we are walking through.  He’s an amazing protector. He brings me joy. He calms me. And above all, he loves me really really well.

Also, he’s pretty cute in snapchat filters. 😀 

i met a girl

Eight years ago today, after sitting through a meeting at Serbia’s Ministry of Social Welfare and listening to the heart-wrenching story of our daughter’s first five years of ife, our family drove to the little village of Velika Plana and met the girl who was about to rock our world. 

I’ve been studying Gideon and I keep marveling at the similarities between Gideon’s battle story and the story we’ve lived over the last eight years as we’ve fought for our girl’s freedom and health. Dear Hubby and I are social creatures. According to Myers & Briggs we’re both about as extroverted as humans can be. Before Sofija Bea Brave joined our family our social circle was big. Like REALLY big. We were involved in ALL THE THINGS. We hosted dinner parties and small groups every single week and when we didn’t have a crowd at our house, we were out and about surrounded by people. What we considered our “army”, was HUGE.

Judges 7:2-3MSG God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me. Make a public announcement: ‘Anyone afraid, anyone who has any qualms at all, may leave Mount Gilead now and go home.’” Twenty-two thousand soldiers headed for home. Ten thousand were left.

One of the hardest realities to face after bringing our baby girl home was that our people were quickly disappearing. Our army was shrinking. It scared me and it hurt. It REALLY hurt. But God had called us to win a war. He knew who we needed on our team and He knew how easily it would have been for pride to take over and convince us after every small victory that “I did it all myself.”

And then, a year and a half into being a family of six, Dear Hubby’s investigation began.  The fire got REALLY hot and our army shrunk again.

Judges 7:4-6MSG God said to Gideon: “There are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut. When I say, ‘This one goes with you,’ he’ll go. When I say, ‘This one doesn’t go,’ he won’t go.” So Gideon took the troops down to the stream. God said to Gideon: “Everyone who laps with his tongue, the way a dog laps, set on one side. And everyone who kneels to drink, drinking with his face to the water, set to the other side.” Three hundred lapped with their tongues from their cupped hands. All the rest knelt to drink. God said to Gideon: “I’ll use the three hundred men who lapped at the stream to save you and give Midian into your hands. All the rest may go home.”

I always thought that it was weird that God told Gideon to keep the ones who cupped the water in their hands to drink it. But let me tell you something. As our army shrank from huge numbers to a handful, I learned very quickly to appreciate those people who not only took things into their own hands but who held God’s Word in their hands and drank from it themselves. Let me tell you something else. When you’re fighting for your family and the lives of those you love, you do NOT want people advising you that aren’t passing along advice that they receive directly from God. I appreciate a good sermon as much as anyone else, but when it comes down to matters of life or death, I don’t want to hear the words, “I heard this great sermon the other day and thought of you.” Nope. I want to hear, “I was on my knees the other day and God said…” or “I was reading the Bible this morning and God showed me something for you.”  When it comes to survival and winning the war, I’ll take an army like Gideon’s victorious three hundred over the thirty-two thousand of distracted, misdirected, and fearful soldiers he had in the beginning of the story, any day.

I won’t lie. The girl I met eight years ago scared me. The thought of parenting her seemed like the most daunting task I’d ever faced. It has proven to be just that. More days than not I have had moments when I cry out to God that I just can’t do it any more. And then, He reminds me that He NEVER said that He would not give us more than we can handle. What He will do is ALWAYS be there where we meet the end of ourselves. Gideon faced an Army of at least one hundred and thirty-five thousand Midianites with only the three hundred warriors God left Him with. God made it very clear that the Midianites could not be defeated through the strength of Gideon and his army. But where their strength ended, God got to show off.

Over and over and over again, in these last eight years, God has had opportunities to show off. Piece by piece my girl is being healed. In the process, God is replacing each of my own broken and weak pieces with huge chunks of His strength. My daily prayer and anthem have become… Less of me. More of Him. That’s how wars are won.

The feral five-year old we met in April of 2010 has turned into a mostly domesticated thirteen-year old princess. She holds my heart and has her Tata wrapped around her little finger. Although there have been many times when I’ve wondered what the hell I got myself into, I can’t imagine my life without her.

Eight years ago I met a girl. She rocked my world. 

 

Stimmer Day 2018

Tonight, all over the world, public buildings and famous landmarks are “lighting it up blue” for autism awareness. It’s a gesture that’s always irked me and that does nothing little for the autism community. But hey, we get a day.

I’d like to share how we acknowledged this day around our house. Around the time that the seizures began, Sofija started waking up at night. Her nights have grown shorter and shorter over the last several weeks and as of this morning we’ve gone four straight nights without sleep. Pray for us. I’m deliriously tired and my written communication is MUCH more coherent than my verbal at this point. In an attempt for us all to get some rest, we granted our princess’ wish to climb in bed with us around 4am. We have a queen-sized bed, y’all. Baby girl is 5’8″ or so tall. Ummm… yeah. No sleep was happening. Around 6am, after much tossing and turning I felt my back growing damp and warm. That’s what I get for buying cheap generic pull-ups. After cleaning us and the bed all up, sweetness decided to break a lamp and pour water all over the carpet. Then she spent four or five hours attempting to bite and hit herself. In case you aren’t aware, this is autism. A couple of days ago autism looked like a rockstar selfie-taker… 

In between seizures, and sleepless nights, and self-injury, that girl is the most charismatic thirteen year old girl around. Today was a very autismish autism day, but every day is not like today. Some days with her are filled with dancing, and laughing, and nail painting, and wonder. That’s the way autism works. People on the autism spectrum can often move around on that spectrum.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, autism awareness looked like this today… 

That man-child is the King of Cool with the BIGGEST heart on this planet. His doctor challenged him to drop a few pounds this year. He started walking all over our island for several hours a day and watching his carbs. He just weighed in and in three weeks he lost a little over ten pounds. He’s my hero. Today, while his sister was doing her darndest to make the world (or at least our neighbors) aware of all that can be hard about autism, our boy was busting his butt to get ahead on his schoolwork even though he had the day off. He kept headphones on all day and paced around the pool listening to an audiobook when his sister’s meltdowns overwhelmed him. There were hours today where he looked like a typical seventeen year old boy. And there were moments when I saw him stimming and  fighting pretend battles (complete with sound effects) all over the backyard. That’s how autism works. People on the autism spectrum usually fall into a specific developmental range, but just like every other person on the planet, they have good days and bad days and peaceful moments and moments when they are overwhelmed. Their good and bad and peace and overwhelmed just might look a little different than yours or mine.

With the number of people in this world on the autism spectrum, I really can’t imagine that there are many people who aren’t “aware”. However, there are far too many people who believe that autism always looks like the characters they see in movies or on television. When I tell people that my children have autism, without fail, they ask, “What are they good at?” That question has often stumped me. But if you really need to know… The boy stimmer is really good at beatboxing and video games. The girl stimmer is really good at kicking our butts.

If you’ve read this far and you really want a little more “awareness“, here ya go:

More than half of people on the autism spectrum have an IQ below 70.

30% of people on the autism spectrum never speak more than a few words in their entire lives.

By conservative estimates, at least 20% of people on the spectrum also have epilepsy.

The average lifespan of someone on the spectrum is 36 years.

90% of childhood deaths in autism are due to drowning.

And then there’s the cost of caring for a child or adult on the spectrum. On top of the thousands of dollars we spend each month for behavioral health, autism has cost us dozens of lamps, five or six televisions, several iPads, a couple of iPhones, two Macbook airs, gallons of spackle, countless drywall patches, an entire tiled wall behind a bathtub, two beds, four mattresses, several shoes thrown out of car windows, the steering column on a Land Rover, all of the A/C vents and radio controls in the same Land Rover, a few chairs, a dresser, dishes galore, etc., etc., etc…

Autism has also cost us more relationships than I care to count. But, after those who just can’t handle our family were sifted away, we were left with pure gold. We have an amazing village of people that are very much aware, who seldom grow compassion-weary, and who love our stimmers both for and despite all that they are. For the gold in our lives reading this, thank you for being our village! For those reading this and living in the autism trenches, find your village, embrace your village, and know that it’s okay for the sediment to sift away. Our kids need us to be their biggest fans and it’s really hard to be a fan if we have to spend all of our time apologizing for them.

I’ve been asked what I would want people to know if they see us in public and have questions about our children’s behavior. If you’re not lucky enough to bump into us out and about and have me scream-answer your questions as I’m sitting on top of a woman-child in the middle of a department store to keep her from ripping my hair out, here’s what you should know:

We’re okay with questions, but we’re not okay with condemnation. If you think we’re weird or we make you uncomfortable, please just walk away and talk to your neighbor about us when you get home. If you see a parent managing a difficult behavior and you desire to help, ASK FIRST! Follow the parent’s lead and instruction and respect their wishes if they ask you not to interfere. We SO appreciate a stranger’s willingness to help, but sometimes help can do more harm than good. We NEED encouragement. Chances are really good that there is some area of your life where you could use a little encouragement too and when you tell the dad holding his squealing son on the bench outside the grocery store that he’s doing a great job you’ve sown a seed of encouragement that you will surely reap. PLEASE have compassion. You’re teaching your kids how to treat our kids by the way you treat every parent or child that is different from you. Teach them well.

Be aware. Or beware. Or whatever.

Happy Good Joyous Rocking World Autism Day 2018!

 

 

passover, prodigal parenting, and temporal lobes



Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Passover is a celebration of freedom commemorating when God liberated the Jewish people from slavery. You can read all about the Passover in scripture HERE, but the gist of why it’s called “Passover” is that the Jewish people were to put the blood of a male goat or sheep around their door frames so that their homes would be “passed over” on the night that God delivered judgment on Egypt by killing the first-born child of each home. The homes covered by blood were protected from judgment.

I’m not so great at Bible timelines, but around thirteen hundred years after the Jewish people were freed from slavery, on the first day of Passover, Jesus had dinner with his disciples, washed their feet, and told them that one of them was about to betray him. On the Christian calendar, that last supper is commemorated today. So yeah, it’s a good day to wash someone’s feet. 😉 In the three days following that last meal, Jesus was betrayed, tortured, beaten, crucified, and on the third day arose from the dead. For those who believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that we may have eternal life, our passover looks like a cross and an empty tomb. The blood of Jesus spares us from judgment.

I sat today and read the story of the crucifixion and I was brought to tears.  I just kept thinking about God the Father witnessing his son being tortured and killed. He allowed the horrors of the crucifixion so that every human thereafter could live in the freedom of the resurrection. He watched and waited because he had complete faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. As a parent, I can’t even imagine.

At the moment, I have one prodigal child and one that has recently developed epilepsy. In both situations I’m having to make daily (sometimes minute by minute) choices. I get to choose fear, or I get to choose faith.  In all the choosing I’m also doing a whole lot of seeking wisdom.

Parenting is hard, y’all. I firmly believe that the Bible is meant to be the guide book for everything in life. But guess what? Other than dishing out discipline and leaving them an inheritance, it doesn’t give many specifics when it comes to bringing up little humans. Wouldn’t you just love to know how Noah convinced his kids to get on the ark? We know they were there. But seriously… just getting my kids in the car for church is like herding cats. Or how God, knowing the pain and suffering Jesus would endure, didn’t interfere?

Because I already know that someone is going to comment with, “What about Proverbs 22:6?” I’d like to point out a few things about that verse. 1) It says, “Raise a child in the way they should go and WHEN THEY ARE OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say a dang thing about when they’re young and stupid, and have an underdeveloped frontal lobe, and the inability to make rational decisions. 2) It’s REALLY vague. The writer makes the assumption that every reader actually knows “the way they should go”. Hello?? Have you met the human race? NONE of us have “the way” all figured out. 3) The very next verse says, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” So maybe, just maybe, that verse is actually referring to teaching our kids to work hard and stay out of debt.

Although it’s hard to find many intimate conversations or outtakes between parents and children in scripture,  I have found one thing that is always consistent: when children are sick, struggling, or even dead, moms and dads always seek and cling to God on their children’s behalf. Biblical parents had crazy faith, y’all.

I believe that the only two tools our enemy needs to keep us from being in intimate relationship with God are isolation and distraction. Unfortunately, I think we’re living in a time when everyone is more isolated and distracted than at any other time in history.  I’m pretty sure that my need for my laptop and phone have made my faith look ridiculous when compared to the mom in 2 Kings who literally held onto the feet of the prophet Elisha until he came back to her house to raise her son from the dead. I want that kind of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Possibly the most detailed account of parenting in scripture isn’t something that actually happened. It’s a parable (a simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a spiritual lesson) about a prodigal son. I love the story for many reasons. First off, I’ve been a prodigal child. I’ve run from God, made some pretty awful choices, squandered things He’s given me, and come crawling back begging for grace. Every. Single. Time… God has wrapped his arms around me, celebrated me, and given me waaaaay more love and grace than I could ever possibly deserve. I also love it because the father in the story was there waiting and prepared to celebrate the son upon his return. He had a ring and a robe and new shoes and a fattened calf just waiting for the celebration of his son’s return. He had faith that his son WOULD return.

In 2010 our baby girl had an MRI that showed she had scarring in her temporal lobe. To be specific, she had extra tissue on her right hippocampus and right temporal horn. In that first year that she was ours she would frequently freeze. We, along with her pediatrician, had suspected that she was having seizures so we saw a neurologist that ordered the MRI and two EEGs. The first EEG showed some abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The second EEG also showed some slow/abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The freezing stopped and we just assumed it had been caused by her brain trying to process a whole new world of information.

Fast forward to two weeks ago… she climbed in bed next to me one morning and in the middle of rubbing my face and asking if she could have cake, she got a look of terror on her face, screamed, began smacking her lips and swallowing, and then couldn’t form words. It took two or three minutes for her to be able to speak. A few hours later, it happened again. The next day we saw it happen two  more times. The day after that, it happened four times in three hours. On the third day I started recording what we were witnessing and sent it to her doctor. While waiting to hear from her doctor, Dr. Google quickly told me what is happening looks like temporal lobe seizures. Last week an EEG showed bilateral seizure activity in her temporal lobe. We’re still waiting to get in with a pediatric neurologist for an MRI to see if there is any change from what the 2010 MRI showed, which means she is not yet on anti-seizure medication. She’s still having several seizures every day and her mental and verbal processing is definitely “off”.

Let me tell you something. Watching your child go from doing complicated math to not being able to form words in a matter of seconds is NOT fun.  It’s realllly hard to choose faith in those few minutes when I can’t reach her. It’s also realllly hard to choose faith in the moments when I can’t reach my prodigal.

But then I remember…. we’ve been passed over. This house and this family are covered by the blood and God ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

When she is old she will NOT depart from the way she was brought up

Jesus was wounded so that she IS healed

It only takes faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains…

I hope you experience all that Resurrection Sunday has to offer. May your dreams be resurrected. May your faith be resurrected. May your joy. and hope, and relationships, and all the goodness that this world tries to steal be RESURRECTED. And may all the yuck pass you over.

If you’ve actually read all the way to the bottom, thank you. I forget that I even have this blog and I do appreciate those who haven’t given up on me as a writer.

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Orphans and widows and agents and guns…

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” ~ Billy Graham 1918-2018

Today, Christians around the world are torn between grieving and celebrating the life of the Reverend Billy Graham. Only God knows the impact that man had on heaven and this world. The quote above is one of my favorites and in his honor, I am taking a stand.

One week ago a nineteen year old boy walked into the doors of a high school in Parkland, Florida and opened fire. He left seventeen people dead and dozens more wounded. In the week since the massacre America has lost its mind fighting over guns.

My stand…

Do we need to talk about guns and whether or not he ever should have been able to get his hands on them? Absofrickinlutely.

Are guns the first topic we should be discussing? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Nikolas Cruz  buying the gun he used to carry out the massacre was the very last in nineteen years of failures.

The next discussion many want to have is the long list of FBI failures. Do we need to discuss those failures and demand accountability? Absofrickinlutely

Does the FBI hold total responsibility for the massacre? Nope

Many (including me) also want to discuss the fact that there is basically NO mental healthcare for children in this country. I know. It’s a battle I fight every single day. Nik was mentally ill. There are many years of documented evidence of his mental illness. We know that police were called to their home on at least THIRTY occasions. He was also adopted and (by my completely unprofessional opinion) has MANY (almost all) physical characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome and/or in utero drug exposure. I have my own grown-in-the-heart-not-the-womb and exposed-to-substances-in-her-bio-mama’s-womb child. My precious twelve-year-old is now three inches taller than me and only two weeks ago, she left me with two black eyes and a new bald spot. Her behaviors are less frequent than they have been in the past, but because of her size she can now do serious damage when she rages. Did I mention that the day I got the two black eyes and lost a considerable amount of hair she was battling both me and a 6′ 4″ 250lb+ man? Yeah. She’s a badass. If I were a fighter I might even be impressed by her badassery. But I’m not. I’m a lover and I’m tired of getting my butt kicked. And guess what? No matter how tired I get of it, there are no great solutions or significant support to help me. I just have to take it, and we have to continue to spend whatever resources necessary to provide two on one care around the clock for her. Also, I try really hard not to think too much about the future because the reality is, the only difference between my child and Nikolas Cruz is that she is just intellectually delayed and psychotic enough to never be able to drive or for any sane person to give her a weapon.

So, is the American mental healthcare system to blame for the Valentine’s Day massacre? Nope

My stand is that the discussion on what happened in Parkland, Florida needs to begin with THE CHURCH. Nikolas Cruz was orphaned… TWICE. Did you know that God had an awful lot to say about who’s responsible for orphans? Lynda Cruz was widowed… for thirteen years before her death last November. Where were the Christians? Where was The Church?

In the eight years since we adopted our daughter, I have grown closer to God than I ever thought possible. I’ve devoured His Word like it was food and water. The more I dig and the nearer He feels, the more heartbroken I become over how we as Christians have redefined HIS Church and how badly we’ve failed to resemble His heart.

I love, love, LOVE Psalm 68 and I highly encourage you to write it down, or at least to read it. It is so telling about the heart of God. You and me? We were made in HIS image. We were created to spend our lives seeking after God’s heart. If we call ourselves Christians, we are claiming to be followers of God incarnate. And guess what?

Psalm 68:5

He is a father to the fatherless
and an advocate for widows.
God rules from his holy palace.

Do I believe that Nik should not face justice? No. I am a HUGE proponent of personal responsibility and I believe that it is something in short supply these days. His actions were beyond horrific and I’m certain the consequences will be also.  That being said, parenting a child exposed to drugs in utero gives me the unique perspective that he probably has no ability to connect consequences with actions. So I have no clue what justice should look like for him.

That’s my stand. Every person who calls themselves a child of God (including me) need to look in the mirror and ask, “What am I doing to care for orphans, widows, and those around me who are suffering?” “What am I doing to prevent the next Nikolas Cruz from ever getting to the point where police are called to his home, CPS and special education services are needed, he ends up on the radar of the FBI, and then… buys weapons and carries out a horrific massacre.

America, we may have a gun problem, and a violence problem, and a mental health problem, and an education problem, but none of that will change until we address our heart problem.

The blood of seventeen people is on the hands of you and me.

e pluribus unum

Every single time a piece of American currency passes through our hands, we are touching the phrase, “e pluribus unum”.  Out of many, one. The phrase is on the Great Seal of America. It appears on every passport, coin, and bill. It is included in the seals of the President, Vice President, Congress, and Supreme Court and has been a motto of the United States since 1782. Yet, today, after having a reminder that we are “ONE” in our faces and hands for two hundred and thirty-five years; Jason Kessler lured hate-filled racists from every nook and cranny of this country to Charlottesville, VA under the premise of “uniting the right”. 

The phrase e pluribus unum can be traced back to Roman senator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero wrote an essay to his son in the year 44 BC titled De Officiis (Of Duties or On Obligations). The essay was Cicero’s attempt to define ideals of public behavior. He includes the following  sentence in the book, with a phrase credited as the origin of “E Pluribus Unum.” Cicero writes, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many” (unus fiat ex pluribus).

De Officiis was written forty-four years before the birth of Jesus. Although it was not a Christian book, in 390 it was declared acceptable for use by the Christian Church and it served as a moral guideline throughout the Middle Ages.

Why the history lesson? Because it’s absofrickinlutely ridiculous that two thousand and seventeen years after the birth of Christ, two thousand sixty-one years after Cicero wrote De Officiis, we’re still struggling to love one another. That we still have people gathering over the common bond of hatred.

I’ve made an interesting observation over the past five or six years. Feel free to comment and correct me if I’m wrong. What I’ve seen and experienced is that the majority of people at least make an effort to love their neighbors. However, the hate-filled minority (of all groups) tend to have the loudest voices and the biggest platforms. I know plenty of Christians who love well, but the ones who call themselves Christians and spew hatred are always the ones seen and heard. I know people of other faiths and of no faith. Most of them love others pretty well. I know lots of people that are registered Republicans and lots of people who are registered Democrats. The majority of them do a decent job of loving others. Unfortunately, the nastiest people on either side of the Congressional aisle seem to be the ones with the loudest voices and a media platform.

A year ago I wrote an essay titled “Heal this land.” The month before I shared the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. The month before that I wrote a piece on loving our neighbors. Some time before that I wrote a piece explaining why my voter registration card says, “Independent”.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m fairly certain that the rest of America is just as tired as I am of the loud divisive minority telling us that we need to be afraid of anyone that isn’t exactly like us. Is our nation in crisis? Absolutely. As long as people are dying because other people see them as “less than”, we are without question in crisis. Do we need to live in fear? Absolutely not.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, LOVE, and self-discipline. (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

The people who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend to celebrate hate are NOT Christians! They simply cannot be. If you hate ANYONE, you live in the darkness and you are blinded by that darkness.

Mark 12:30-31  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. No other commandment is greater than these.”

I wrote this over a year ago, but it bears repeating…

Who’s “your neighbor”? It’s the LGBT family with a child on your son’s baseball team. It’s the Muslim family living at the end of your block. It’s the Republican living to your left and the Democrat living to your right. It’s the gun-owner standing in line with you at the grocery store and the journalist on the mat next to you in your yoga class. Every. Single. Human. Being. Is YOUR NEIGHBOR!

LOVE. THEM. ALL.

E Pluribus Fucking Unum

Out of many…. ONE

Unus fiat ex pluribus = When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.

If you can’t remember that we are ONE, that the entire human race is worthy of being loved, carry a fucking penny in your pocket and read it on occasion.

John Pavlovitz wrote a GREAT post today that pretty much sums up how I feel about the happenings in Charlottesville. That crowd DOES NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT ME! What they are doing/have done is HATE. It is RACISM. It is COWARDICE. Why cowardice? Because one of the most courageous things a human can do is to lay down all of their fears and preconceptions and intentionally love people who do not look like them, worship like them, vote like them, or speak the same language as them. 

In these United States, we call ourselves “The Land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.” It’s time to BE BRAVE, America.

 

“That’s enough.”

Lining Up On Beach

This week I took all my boys to see the movie Dunkirk. I think you have to see way more movies than I do in order to be a movie blogger, but this movie inspired me. It’s a movie written by men, for men. There is no character development and little to no relational details. Through the entire film I just kept wondering what everyone’s names were, what their background stories were, and who was waiting for them at home. The constant action and fighting completely stressed out my war-traumatized husband. It is honestly not a movie that I’d recommend to my girlfriends and I probably won’t watch it again. But… there is an exchange near the end that brought me to tears.

It’s a historical drama so I’m not spoiling anything by saying that there were survivors. When the survivors make it back to England, they go through a line where people are giving them necessities. An old man is handing out blankets (I think) as they board the train that will take them home. He says to each of them, “Thanks, lad.” One of them responds in a questioning tone with, “All we did was survive?” To which the old man responds, “That’s enough.”

Far too often we humans have a habit of expecting more of ourselves and our fellow human beings, than simply surviving. And often, survival is our greatest accomplishment.

I do believe with all that I am that we were created to THRIVE. But I don’t know a single person that escapes this life without seasons (some short and some very long) of struggle. We all spend seasons in the fire.

James 1:2-4 …when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Notice it says, “when” and not “if”. Troubles in this life are a guarantee. Notice also that it says, “… your endurance has a chance to grow.” Do you know what endurance means?

endurance

noun
1. the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
2. the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other
adverse conditions; stamina:
Endurance = Surviving
One short interaction between an old man and a young soldier in Dunkirk broke me. During the years that our family sat in a furnace I beat myself up for how little I accomplished. Getting out of bed, breathing, caring for my family; took every single ounce of my energy and endurance. Relationships fell by the wayside. Career, education, and ministry goals were shelved. Anything other than keeping our family together and alive, fell to the very bottom of my priority list. My singular focus was on survival.
As we’ve walked out of the furnace into a season of thriving, I’ve continued to struggle with how little I accomplished in those four years. I’ve always set the bar high for myself and given myself little grace when I don’t reach that bar. My guess is that many of you fight that same battle. Here’s the thing, God did create us to thrive and there is no thriving without grace.
Let’s give ourselves some grace.
I invite you to embrace a bit of freedom with me. If you’ve survived your hardest days, well done.
That’s enough.