Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Whole New Experience - Father's Day

I haven't been blogging hardly at all the last two years, but every time I tell someone about the developments in my story they say, "You have to write this" "You're blogging about this right?" The internet is so full of cheapened stories. I don't want to cheapen this story or make it fodder for someone else to cheapen. It is still highly emotional for me, but I also agree there is power in our stories and there is healing in sharing them. So, here's a little bit more of this particular story.

Six months ago, I received an email with DNA results in it. I had finally decided I wanted to know more about where I came from. I didn't anticipate finding my dad or finding siblings. I figured I get some ancestral data and use those results to find out if I should be aware of any genetic propensity toward illness.

On January 8th, I emailed my brother, my father's only son and with fear, doubt, trembling, wonder and anticipation awaited his reply. What has since then unfolded has been in a word - overwhelming.

I recently returned from my second trip to visit my siblings and this time my father's widow in what was his home town for the last 30 years. I was in his home. I sat in his chair. I looked through his picture albums. My sister had a candle she found that smelled like dad. She wore one of his shirts as he got prepped for her wedding. It was...profound.

(If you're interested in how all this came to be: http://ignitingwholeness.blogspot.com/2017/02/finding-my-dad.html)

My dad mid-1970s

I began to realize over the course of those five days that a belief I have clung to tightly over the last 30+ years is probably not true. In the deepest parts of my heart, I really did believe that if my dad were to find out about me, if we were to discover each other, either I would ruin his life or he would ruin mine.

I was convinced that I would interrupt his life, cause a tidal wave of disruption and he would resent me for intruding. Or, and this is probably the stronger of the two, he would be yet another figure of disappointment and rejection.

As family member after family member said to me, "He would have wanted you" tears would fill my eyes and I realized there was a huge disconnect. Something was blocking me from allowing those words to penetrate my heart. I could hear it and I believe they meant it. But really? He would have wanted me? Because I can count only a few people who have spoken those words to me and actually meant it. That's painful to feel, painful to write, but it was painful to experience as a child. Let's be real, it sucks as an adult.
The Bishop Family  (Minus big sister Mary)

Growing up in the sick twisted family environment of my mom's family I think added a deeper sting to those labels "illegitimate" and "bastard" than I may have otherwise experienced. My own grandmother never said "I love you" or "I want you" or really...anything positive. On her death bed she told me to leave because she didn't want to see me. Those were her parting words to her only granddaughter who had spent the last two years caring for her, driving her to appointments, taking her to Hawaii for a final trip, "What are you doing here? Get out!" I strain to find memories of any family member actually demonstrating love, affection, or kindness. There was never a feeling of "you belong to us." In God's mercy, there were people who loved me and were amazingly demonstrative. I've written about them countless times and can't thank them enough - they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

As I entered into my father's world, I was careful to keep back and not take what wasn't mine. He was "theirs" and I didn't want them to feel I was "taking" something that wasn't mine. But my siblings, his widow - there are not words for how big their demonstration of love toward me was. Moment after moment, time after time, they invited me in to participate like an actual member of the family. Friends, I was included in family pictures - because I am family. I sat with family in the front rows, because I'm family. That may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but it's those things that are so foreign to me. I've never been included like a sister. I've never been allowed to participate like family.
Dad and sister Chrissy - mid 1980s

I've never had a family. I had hoped that marrying into a big family would resolve some of that, but I was still an outsider and that was made really clear early on. What I've discovered over the last six months is I've always had this family. I've always been my father's daughter and he's always been my dad. My siblings have been there all along, and so was my dad. God has been preparing them and me for this season. I truly believe that at my core. I don't believe that it is coincidence that literally the most kind and generous people (other than my husband) to walk into my life are my biological siblings. I get to claim them as my brother and sisters. I will never take that for granted. Daily, I give thanks for them.

Dad and brother John - shortly before he died 2015

And this Father's Day, instead of not having a dad, I get to celebrate the man who helped create this motley crew that is my family. Instead of thinking I would have been unwanted, rejected and resented, I get to allow myself to imagine him accepting me with open arms. I get to picture his face and hear his voice saying "I want you", I even get I get to allow myself to believe that I wasn't a mistake that has to constantly prove her worth and value.
Dad and sister Ashton - 1990 (?)

I asked each of my siblings (except for Mary who wasn't on this trip) what they missed most about dad, who died 18 mos ago.The answer was similar for each, they missed talking to him. Each of them had a special time they'd call him and talk to him. I think that's incredibly precious - that he was available and wanted to talk to his kids and they wanted to talk to him. And through each of them, I get to know him. I feel his presence in my life, which may sound strange, but I believe he is watching us, I believe he does get to see us and I believe someday I will get to hug him and hold his hand.
Sister Ashton, me, Sister Mary

I have more of my dad than I ever dreamed possible in these people and their memories of him. This Father's Day I am celebrating something new and wonderful - my dad.

Previous Father's Day Posts:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finding My Dad...

I haven't blogged in a long time, but I've rec'd lots of questions about my recent posts on Facebook and wanted those who were interested to be able to get the whole story (at least my version). 

If you read my entries from a few years back when I posted My Story, you're well aware that I grew up not knowing my dad, never seeing a picture and not really sure if the stories I'd been told were 100% grounded in reality. I looked a few times to see if I could find a trail that would lead to him and came up empty every time. Because of how the story played out and my father's age, I kind of always assumed he was married and if I found him I'd be in the middle of a sibling group and enter into someone else's story in not the best of circumstances. The searches only produced 100 men with the same name and in the same age bracket as my father. It wasn't helpful. This was in the days before the internet, when you had to use the phone book or know vital information to ask the bureau of vital statistics for documents. About a decade ago, I hired a professional to search for me and she went so far as to tell me she thought I'd been lied to because she couldn't find anything. 

I had a name. I had a home state. And, I had an age range. Oh, and that he was good looking, tall and a great dancer (essential information for one to help find their parent).

With increasing age and children, I thought more and more about the importance of family health history. I've also just been more curious about who I look like, where my traits come from, do my children have any of my dad in them, etc... At the same time, I also kind of gave up hope of any relationship with family on my dad's side.

This last Christmas I asked Rhett if we could do the ancestry.com DNA test and get my health information and heritage. It never occurred to me that there would be matches from my dad's family on the site. I don't know why, perhaps I was just in denial, but I had ZERO expectations.

I sent in my saliva sample on December 2nd. On January 6th I got an email. Not only was my ethnic heritage a shocker to me, but I had over 300 DNA matches (other people who have taken the test with Ancestry.com) and two of those were as close as 1st or 2nd cousins. I have two first cousins on my mom's side. I know who they are. I know there names. I click on the matches. The last name - the same as my dad's. 

What the what?!?!

I looked at Rhett and said half in shock, "I think we might be able to find my dad..." 

We spent about 30 hours working the family tree for possible ways these matches connected to me through their family line (a second cousin could actually be a 1st cousin removed). Finally, we found him. Then the question was if he was still living. It took about an hour to find the obituary. It listed three children and their spouses. We admittedly Facebook and Internet stalked them. "Do I look like them?" "Are there pictures of them with their, or I guess "my" dad?' 

(BTW - it still feels weird to say "my dad.")

There it was. On January 8th, on my little sister's FB page, a picture of my dad. Just like my mom described him. Curly hair, facial hair, tall, light eyed. 

So, then what?!?

My fear was always to knock on a door, or dial a number and have to tell someone their dad was not who they thought he was. We looked at the ages of each of the kids and decided to FB message my brother on January 8th. January 9th, he answered. What I thought would be a bombshell was not. He was not surprised or bothered at all. We chatted for about an hour and confirmed that indeed I had the right person. The DNA matches were so close, there was really no question.

As the story unfolded, my brother and I set out to get all the siblings connected. We had an older sister no one had met. We searched for and found her. And my brother did the work of informing our younger sister that she had two sisters and that her dad had a story  - about which none of us know all the details. We also have a step sister (my younger sister's half sister) who we wanted to include. The younger girls were raised by dad and knew him well in his last three decades. Their story was really important to me. Knowing him through them is really important to me.

My siblings are all scattered between Tennessee and Virginia, so we picked a middle ground and met this last weekend. 

I owe my big brother and sisters so much thanks. I mentioned meeting in my first conversation with my brother. That night I was plagued by the thought he'd think I was a massive creeper. But that wasn't the case. There's never been any hesitation to think of me like family or treat me like family. Coming from my experience with my mom's family, where everyone is treated badly, all interactions are clothed in manipulation and suspicion, I almost didn't know what to do with all the kindness. The first time I talked to my big sister, we talked for an hour. It was easy. It flowed. It wasn't awkward. 

Our meeting this past weekend was likewise natural, smooth, easy and really - FUN. It met all of my expectations. Someone asked me "Will you pursue a relationship with them?" The answer is "absolutely." But, I don't think I'll have to try too hard. I think we all have the same level of interest in being family - because we are. Words cannot express what that feels like for me.

I knew that I was lonely for a family (extended family) I've never had, but I didn't realize how deep that wound was. This weekend was like a healing salve on that wound. Their kindness is what really gets me. They are just good, nice, kind folks. I haven't known much niceness. If my family was nice to me - it usually meant they were sucking me in to do or say something cruel. 

I'm hopeful. Hopeful for a better story for my kids than I had. Hopeful for a connection I've been missing. Hopeful for a family to love and care for in a way that wasn't accepted or appreciated in my family of origin. 

Thanks to all of you who prayed for us this past weekend. I felt every prayer. And thanks to all of my friends who have stood in the gap a family was supposed to fill. You've made my heart whole and loved me so well. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lessons in Boredom

Its been a little over two months now that I've been exclusively a SAHM. I'm on a bit of a learning curve still regarding productivity and efficiency, two things that are very important to me. There is a tendency to feel I've been busy all day, but nothing got done. Don't we all feel that way though?

Interestingly, I've had a few conversations with other moms that have led me to watch the boys and their adjustment period more closely. When we had babysitters (typically 3-4hrs/day 4-5 days a week), the boys were on a pretty busy schedule. And when the sitters were here, they were involved in active child-centered play. They were being constantly entertained. When I wasn't working, I felt an obligation to be fun. I had a house cleaner, so I didn't have to spend my time mopping, I could be with the boys. We were always on the go. I was always planning something fun.

My focus is different as is my expectation of the boys. We still have a pretty solid routine, but it is much more relaxed. I try to not be on the go as much. At first I maintained my "daily outing" schedule, but I found that I was exhausted and that nothing was getting done at home, which can't become the norm for me.

For the last six weeks or so, once breakfast is done, the boys are on their own. They go to their room or the living room and they play. Together. Without me. It's fantastic. At first they were bored. They didn't seem to to have a direction for play. Then I saw it. I saw little sparkles of it at first and then it exploded.


They started building their own forts. They started "going camping" in their own room. They'd fill their pillow cases with all of the essentials (stuffed animal, toy gun, water bottle and crayons) and head to the living room for a camp-out. They began to pull out toys that had been left unplayed with for quite some time. They started playing board games.

Now, I can easily get in 1-1.5 hours of house work, virtually uninterrupted, while they play after breakfast. If the baby naps, I can even shower! It's amazing.

When a child says to their mom that he is bored, I think the natural inclination is to feel as if you've failed in providing enough stimulation, toys, fun, interaction or playdates. I've started to make them responsible for themselves and their entertainment. These kids have more at their fingertips than 99.9% of the children in the world. Trampoline, slide, huge bedroom, bike, trike, scooter, water guns, kiddie pool, bubbles, sticks, rocks, mud, legos, train set, tools, books, crayons...there is no room for boredom. Boredom is laziness. It's a lack of desire to do the things you can do. It's wanting someone else to do it for you. Because I have refused to pick up that mantel, I have been really pleasantly surprised to see what they have come up with. Henry is reading more than he ever used to. Brock loves practicing math and handwriting. He also likes to help with chores. Alex, well, he is still happy to play in the toilet and eat out of the trash bin. But, overall, I have seen an explosion of activity, self-motivated play, more interaction between the boys, increased creativity and much to my surprise- self-initiated learning.

I'd encourage you to try it. Let them get bored and then let them solve that problem themselves. There's a little more peace in that arrangement for you and a little more satisfaction for them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Solution to the Race Issue...my ramble

Anyone else wondering what in the world is going on in our country these days? 

Seriously - the 1960s called and want their riots, protests, racism and shootings back. 

I'll admit that I have a soft spot for the African American community. I was raised in a low income, very mixed community. I had lots of friends of differing ethnicities growing up. I'll say it - I think I thought I was black for a short while when I was a kid. I love the black culture and in the words of Jerry Maguire, "I love black people."

I've seen my black friends get pulled over and have their vehicles searched for literally no reason. I've seen restaurant owners not accept checks from black patrons, and then turn and take one from a white person. If you're white and you think that Condi Rice and Barack Obama signify the end of racism, you're wrong. Racism is alive and and thriving. People are still using the "N" word. Black people still face a life white folks know nothing about.

I hate that that is true. It makes no sense to me. Never has. 

At the same time, I've also been called lots of names by black people. I've heard comments made about "people like me" and felt the sting of "if only you knew I was that person." You know, people with no fathers. People whose parents accepted government assistance. People who lived on the streets. People who have suffered trauma and abuse... I could go on....

Because of my background it would have been very easy to assume every roadblock and rejection meant I would never "x, y or z". But, because I was not satisfied, I pushed harder, worked harder, studied harder. I withstood being called a goody-two-shoes, a nerd, teacher's pet, "Barbi" and lots of other things that were hurtful and made me question myself, my worth, and my abilities because I knew if I didn't I'd get stuck.

It is easy to let what others say about you define you. It's easy to look at statistics and say "see, statistically, I can't". It's harder and requires courage, bravery, hard work and perseverance to say "take your statistics and eat dirt...I'm gonna work my arse off to be the person and have the life I want."

If you're black, I get that even if you make it out of the projects (like I did) and even if you break generational sin and create a new generation (like I did), and even if you achieve greater things than you ever imagined breaking statistical barriers and stereotypes you still will have to deal with things I do not. You still will have hardships I know nothing about. My point is, don't let that make you a victim. You are a not a victim. 

I have heard two or three times this week that black folks today are victims of a white-supremacy/slave culture. No, no you are not. That's not our culture today. You are a victim of sin. Just like many other people. Sin is the cause of racism and it isn't a white disease. Slavery didn't create the problems facing blacks today. Brown skinned and other skinned people have been targeted throughout history. Even among their own groups - hatred and stigma was placed on darker skinned by the lighter skinned. The slave trade didn't ignite that and desegregation and affirmative action aren't going to stifle it.

Let's not continue to place blame on this very small, yet tragic and horrific, part of human history. The fact is, this is not new. The Europeans didn't invent it. The Columbia Exchange didn't create it. It may have exacerbated it. But, we have moved on.

I can't help but thing that our black ancestors - you know...the ones we see pictures of in out History books covered in scars, hung from trees, would look at things today and shake their heads. Our country, not just for blacks but for all of us has grown and matured. We are in many ways more free and blacks have **legally** achieved more than I think the Civil Rights Movement imagined possible in a historically speaking short period of time. Like I said - there are people who are still racist. But those people can be charged with hate crimes if they act on those feelings.

Which is my overall point. Feelings are just that - feelings. You cannot change people's feelings. You can create legislation to keep them from acting on those feelings...but there's no amount of legislation of "change" that is going to right the wrongs that the thoughts and feelings associated with racism create.

The only cure for racism is a heart turned to God and seeking him. It is a heart of love that sees each man as an individual.

I see two protests meeting in the street. Black Lives Matter on one side and their opponents on the other. They are screaming at each other. Much like in any relationship, standing on the line in the sand pointing fingers never leads to resolution, never leads to harmony, never leads to peace. 

White folks need to realize we're never gonna know the true experience of a black person. I think we have to individually acknowledge our own ignorance and our own inability to know that experience. We can have empathy - and should demonstrate it.

Black folks need to realize, white doesn't equal "easy" and it also doesn't always mean "out to get you". Most police (statistically) want to help. They want to keep ALL neighborhoods safe. Most are not going to shoot someone for no reason. 

Put down the wagging finger and find some common ground. The real enemy is colorless. The real enemy is not white or black. The real enemy is sin. Satan has found a way to divide and conquer. While our nation is facing one of the worst presidential elections in history, about to elect someone most people despise (Trump or Clinton - both fit that description), still waging war, dealing with terrorism... Satan has found another foothold. 

We are all Americans, we are all citizens in a free land. Both sides need to seek unity rather than division. The best way to prove someone wrong about what they think about you is to just live your life. You're never gonna make an argument good enough that your opponent/adversary has an "aha"
moment. In order for people to believe I wasn't just some other kid from the projects that didn't speak well or have any drive, I had to not be that person. That's it. I couldn't stand on the street screaming it - I had to live it - every day, all the time. 

I don't think we'll ever live in a time where all racism is gone, because people are sinful and the human heart is a wicked thing. The human race will always struggle. But, individually, we can have relationships; we can create harmony; we can be examples of Christ's love; we can demonstrate peace. 

That's my goal. I'm not here to minimize anyone's abuse or experience. I just want us all to move forward. Stop blaming. Stop name calling. Stop yelling. Stop demanding. Start being who you want to be. Start setting better examples for our kids. Start just loving people and appreciating them, even if you don't "get" them. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What's My Title

When I was 14, I wanted to get a job. In the state of Washington I couldn't actually do that, so I started volunteering. I volunteered 15 hours a week - after school and on weekends. When I was 15 1/2 I was able to start working. I was so excited. I was finally earning my own money.

From about 16 on I worked as close to full time as I possibly could. I paid my own way for most things and I relished the responsibility. Yes, I'm one of those sick people that likes tasks, responsibility and honestly, work. I actually like work. I'm sure if I never married I'd have become a workaholic.

Missionary. English Teacher. History Teacher. Manager. Business-woman....

Mom. Wife.

In 3-days, I will be "unemployed" for the first time in 22 years. I am so excited about all of the possibilities that await me. I'm so thrilled to have a single minded purpose at home with the kids.

There is also this unknowable. This nameless anxiety. I can't totally put my finger on it.


It's fear. Fear that I won't be good at it. I'm really good at being a teacher. I was really good in the business world. I'm really good at everything I have set my mind at doing.

What if I'm not good at this? What if things don't work like I planned/hoped? What if we can't afford to live without my income? What if I don't know who I am without a title? What if people don't respect me as much?

I'm sure I'm not the first SAHM to feel these things. I won't be the last either.

Here's what I know for sure. There is nothing I'd rather do that pour all of my gifts and talents into the three little people that have been entrusted to me. There is no place I'd rather be than home, managing my home, marriage and family. That is a full-time job, and one that I have not been doing well.

So...no more babysitters. No more splitting time between my kids and a job I don't love. No more deciding whether to do laundry, wrestle with the boys or finish up the papers I need to grade. No more working until 11pm and waking up at 6am so that I can have a few afternoon hours with the boys.

More saying yes to play-dates. More reading books on the couch. More keeping up with household chores. More crafts with the boys. More listening to their stories and more saying yes to silly requests.

I'm open to the idea that this journey will be nothing I hoped for and everything I never expected. My sole purpose and desire is that in 20 years, my boys remember me playing with them and not me turning on the TV so that I could answer emails.

My Title - Mom. Momma. Mommy. to my boys. Sweetie to the man I love. And to every one else...it doesn't matter.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Elastic Waisted Pants

I used to have some really comfortable yoga pants. They were my fav. Soft, stretchy, some paint spots, and a few holes that made wearing them outside of the house completely inappropriate. I wore them for most of my twenties and into my thirties. I finally retired them after my second pregnancy when it was obvious I either needed to stitch them up or let them go.

I think most people come home from being out in "dress" clothes and slip into their comfy pants. The thing is, comfy pants weren't meant to be worn all the time. My first corporate job had a very strict dress code - slacks or skirt suit, hose (no bare legs), dress shoes...you get the drift. Keep in mind, I often had to wear this in high temps in Arizona summers. It was anything but comfortable, especially on the drive home.

As I look at the political, social and religious/spiritual landscape I see a lot of people slipping out of their appropriate attire and into their sweat pants. Much like George Castanza, they appear to have simply "Given Up".

I keep seeing "viral" blog posts recommending that we as believers stay in our comfy pants all the time...and even host cocktail parties in them.

There are a lot of TV preachers that will tell you that the Christian life will make you happy. It will smooth the road ahead of you. It will make relationships a breeze and open all the doors and windows of opportunity. Everyone will like you, because you'll be the most likable person now that you found Jesus.

That's a lie.

All of it.

There is a lot that changes when you ask Jesus into your heart. When the Holy Spirit takes residence in your heart and scales fall from your eyes (Is 44:18, Jn 12:40) and you are able to finally see things as they are and as they should be. One thing that doesn't change is adversity, suffering, human error, sin, emotions, etc...

One thing that stands out as being remarkably clear to me  in Scripture is that we are promised not only just the normal everyday conflicts but increased adversity, conflict, criticism and discomfort (if you will) BECAUSE OF our new relationship with Jesus. There are things that are required of us as believers that make life uncomfortable.

For example, I found a boy in Wal-Mart the other day. It was a huge inconvenience, but I spent 20 minutes with him looking for his mommy, making sure he was safe, helping him clean up his mess. My relationship with Jesus requires me to accept the opportunities in front of me to be the hands and feet of Jesus - to protect, love and care for those in need. Another example, Scripture requires that we save sexual intimacy for marriage. I went through guy after guy after guy in my dating years waiting for one that wouldn't push that envelope. Most wanted to debate, argue, or pressure their way into bed with me. It sucked. Truth be told I often questioned the wisdom of such Scriptural commands. I just wanted to be normal - like other girls. I didn't like it when co-workers referred to me as "the virgin" or appearing to be some relic from years passed when women had respect for themselves and valued their worth. Yet another example, I have been commanded to give 10% of my income to the church. Can you believe that? That God wants me to give that much money to the church. I could do so much with that money - fridge, shoes, new wood floors, cabinetry in my laundry room... And yet, out of obedience I obey. Because obedience is how I demonstrate my desire for depth in my relationship with Jesus.

In our current political and social landscape, Christians who believe the Bible and desire closeness with Jesus are going to be very uncomfortable. A man cannot have two masters. He is either loyal to the Lord and His Word or the the whim of society.

Consider Paul and other early Christians. What culture did they live in? What was "acceptable" at that point in time? I ask, only because often times one of the main arguments for not listening to Scripture is that it is old, antiquated and times have changed. Here's the thing - it's not different. Sin is sin. It always has been. It always will be.

Corinth, one of the cities where Paul planted a church and converted several Romans to this new sect of Judaism. During these times, many cities chose one god to whom they gave their allegiance. Corinth was known for their worship of the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite or Venus is the goddess of beauty, love and fertility. Worship of Venus often involved intercourse with one of the temple's 1000 temple prostitutes. Morals in Corinth were notoriously corrupt, even by modern standards. In fact, in Paul's first letter to this church he scolds them for not taking man, who is sleeping with his mother, more seriously. It is in this rebuke that I think we learn exactly what is required of us in terms of dealing with immorality today.

It's not difficult to decipher. Sometimes we make these things more complex than they need to be.
"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES." (1 Cor 5:9-13) **See also Deut 13:5; 17:7, 12**

Here's a scenario for you. You have 5 kids. One is a drug addict. You love all of your children. It's likely this particular child probably tugs on your heart more than the other four. You may even feel he needs you more than the other four. You've done everything you can think of to reach this beloved son of yours. You've talked, you talked with counselors, you've done rehab, you've paid for so many treatments you can't count them anymore. You've gone to the pawn shop to buy back your own property that was stolen to buy drugs. You've chased him down in the streets. You've been in the ER when he almost overdosed. You've also watched as his younger brother began to shown similar signs. You caught him with pot.

What do you do? Do you invite the addict son to share a room with the younger son? Do you keep him in the house at all? Do you invite him on family vacations?

No. No. No. If you love him, you let him go. Paul says something interesting about the man sleeping with his mother. "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Cor 5:5)

What does that mean? That means that sometimes, in order for us to be saved from ourselves we have to "hit rock bottom". Or as I like to say - one sometimes needs to feel the full weight of the impact of our sin in order to make a change. Some times we change. We can repent and return to fellowship with the body, or we may die in our sin. In which case, we will still meet Jesus face to face, but we will "have some 'splaining to do'".

The world tells us, "If you love someone you let them do what makes them happy." I have so many issues with this statement. First and foremost, you never watch someone you love self-destruct...even if they do say it makes them happy. I've heard the common phrase regarding our friends in the LGBTQ...community, "No one would chose that life with all of it's difficulties." I disagree. People chose every day to do things that are bad and wrong. Addicts, adulterers, binge eaters, criminals, gluttons..I mean, the Croughnut is an actual thing that actual people put in their actual bodies. Heroin is an actual thing. People drop out of high school. People stay with abusive men. People cut themselves with razor blades. We as humans are often so unwilling to deal with pain that we will do any and every thing we can to destroy our flesh in an attempt to make it stop. Often times, that effort includes behavior that actually increases pain. The evidence that trans-gendered and homosexual persons are actually some of the most unhappy people in the world BECAUSE OF their sin is overwhelming. I have a bookshelf full of studies (non-Christian psychological studies) that show that.

If we love them, we will not affirm or support their self-destruction. If they are professed believers, we lovingly minister to them, unless or until their disobedience to scripture requires that we do not associate with them. If they are not, we love them. We don't require a change of behavior, but we don't affirm that behavior.

Am I a bigot? No. I'd argue that this response is actually the most loving thing a human can do for another. If you see someone trying to kill himself (emotionally, spiritually or physically), you don't clap your hands while they pull the trigger. Even if he tells you it makes him happy.

I think what has happened is that we were comfortable as a church in American culture. We put on our elastic waisted pants and sat down with a bowl of popcorn and our fuzzy slippers on the big sofa. We just hung out. The truth is, that was okay, because they weren't that different from us. But, times have changed. We aren't the same as the culture around us. And we're not supposed to "fit in". We're not supposed to be comfortable. We are supposed to be very uncomfortable. During the early church Christians faced stoning, whipping, being hung in Nero's garden and burned alive for their faith. We face minor discomfort, losing some Facebook friends, being called names and potentially in rare cases losing a job. Imagine if you faced death?!

When dealing with "the world" (non-believing folks) we can't be in our comfy pants. You need those support hose and that suit. You're gonna have to endure being slightly uncomfortable for the sake of Truth. For the sake of the Gospel. That's what being a Jesus follower means.

So, to all the writers, speakers and teachers, who are having their heartstrings pulled by the shooting in Orlando and all of the people who think they have transgender kids or maybe your silly enough to be fooled by Bruce Jenner...Yes, we should love them. No, we should not affirm them. Yes, as long as they are seeking Jesus and not their own interests, they should be welcome in our midst. No, we should not allow ourselves to be bullied into "associating with immoral" people. Why? Because that is the Truth of God's Word. That is Jesus' version of Tough Love. No one ever came to know the true Jesus through a false Gospel.

I know it's not fun. I know you wish you could keep those comfy pants. But, friend, church, it's time to be uncomfortable.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Empty Tomb, A New Life, A Thankful Heart - Revisiting Old Friends

Easter is about an empty tomb that signaled new life, redemption, adoption, hope, eternal life...Yes, a new life. I happened to be in my hometown this Easter and planned to spend it at the church of my childhood. In the instability of my childhood there was a sanctuary, both literally and figuratively, that was the shelter in my storm.

In the midst of much chaos, my mom had the foresight/insight to make sure we had a good church home. When we were homeless, the people of this church offered shelter. When we were hungry, there was food. When we were unclothed - clothes. This was "the church", folks. We read a lot about the dying of old churches. This was a conservative Lutheran church. The kind people scoff at because there's no lighting system or "worship" band. There's an organ. There's a choir, with choir robes. There's hymnals and vestments. But, I'm telling you - there is Jesus in a real, live, living and visible way. The hands and feet of God are moving in that church and the heart of Jesus was warmed and filled as the body of Pilgrim Lutheran Church ministered to me and my family.

Easter Sunday I turned the corner into the parking lot I'd not entered for nearly 18 years. Tears began to fill my eyes. I'd not expected that. I was hoping to see many familiar faces. The faces that literally put that church together, brick by brick and pew by pew. But, as I turned the corner, I felt like I was coming home.

Easter Sunday Pancake Breakfast - I approached person after person, whose eyes filled with tears as they looked in the face of a child they once knew. Hugs, tight, as you hug only those you have loved and hoped for. One lady, who provided Christmas dresses to a very poor girl, burst into the ugly cry without prompting, "I've prayed for you every day and wondered what happened to you..." The power of a faithful prayer is immeasurable. One woman, who I hold in especially high esteem, blessed me so. She comes from a long line of saints - faithful to the Lord. Faithful to her husband. Faithful to her children. Faithful to the Lord's church. "I am so glad you came today. You made my Easter."

There's a big difference between, "It's so good to see you" and "It's so nice to see you are happy and well." You see, statistically, I should not be well. I should not be happy. Statistically, I should be a dropout. I should have remained in poverty. I should have struggled in my relationships with men. Perhaps even mothered a child as a teen. I am not who I "should" be. Just in case you're wondering, yes - I was well aware of that as a child. I was aware that we were extremely poor. I was aware that there was an expectation of poor people. There is also an assumption of laziness, of filthiness, of stupidity, of a whole host of things I was not.

Much like Jesus was "supposed" to stay dead, I was supposed to "stay" poor. I was not destined for greatness. But, then there's Easter, isn't there? There's redemption. There's beauty in ashes.

As I sat in service and surveyed the Family that encircled me, I saw the baptismal, where I was baptized at six-years old. I remember vividly that moment. I remember how special I felt to be adopted into this family. I saw families. I saw marriages - 63 years, 72 years, 44 years....WOW! I saw kids, grandkids and greatgrandkids sitting in the pews with the anchors of their lives. Perhaps they don't realize what a gift that is. Perhaps they take it for granted. Perhaps not. I don't know. These marriages. These families. These were the "prize" I wanted. I could see the contrast from my own reality against theirs. As I prepared for marriage and adulthood, these were the images in my mind. My goal, if you will.

I recall during my dating life with Rhett, when we talked about the future, my goal, my dream for the future...I want to sit on my porch, in a rocking chair or swing, holding the hand of my love and watch my grandkids laugh and play. I want to see the fruits of my labor. I want to the Lord to look down with favor and say, "Well done. YOU have been faithful." You see, a girl doesn't come from the Union Gospel Mission to where I am without a few things. Hard work. The kindness of strangers. A little more hard work and the prayers of faithful believers make for a changed life - A changed destiny.

A few "food" for thought items if you're still tracking. My god-parents, with a teen-aged daughter in their home, took in a homeless stranger and her two children (one of whom was a teen-aged boy). They were in their 50s. They didn't need to do it. There certainly was no glory in it. There was no reward. But, it was the right thing. It was a "Jesus" thing. That's a challenge to me. How willing am I to do hard Jesus stuff? How willing are you? I don't know much, but they changed my life. Constant, faithful, stability in my life, even when it was thankless. I owe them much.

My Kindergarten teacher and her family, who were a part of our church family, invited a strange homeless woman and her two kids to spend Christmas dinner with them. That night changed my life. "This is a family!" Wow!! Families laugh. Families play. Families have fun. They don't yell. They don't hurt. They don't disown. They love. These were the images that permeated my dreams for Christmas with my future family - the one I would build.

None of the people who stand out in my mind or in my memories are perfect. None of them have lived life without error. But, they all, without exception have one thing in common - They honor the Lord with their lives by loving people. Jesus whittled the Gospel down to one commandment - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself." They have demonstrated obedience to that commandment in such a way that there is impact. The results are generational. I have a healthy marriage as a result. I have healthy, happy children who are benefiting from that obedience. This is "Trickle-down-Jesus-nomics". This is the living, breathing, Gospel. This is the heart of the Lord. This is where it's at, folks.

So, my challenge to you (and myself) is two-fold. Assume nothing about the "lesser" of this world. There's a lot of politicians and political positions that will tell you poor people are lazy and just need to work harder. Consider the children in these situations before you open your mouth and spread ignorance. If you don't know anyone outside your income bracket, take some time to volunteer at a food bank, soup kitchen or shelter. I guarantee YOU will benefit from that experience.

Secondly, invest into your church. Get uncomfortable. Do hard Jesus things. Sometimes that hard Jesus thing is modeling what it means to be a good husband. Love your wife. There might be a little girl watching you, wondering what dads and husbands are supposed to do, so that she can make a good choice.

Happy Easter! He is Risen! The Lost have been Redeemed!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sick, Sicker, Sickest....

Kids are like little germ factories. I think boys are the worst. They are filthy. There's really no point in trying to clean them. I mean, let's be really honest here. When I asked my two year old why he smeared poop on the walls, his reply was "Cuuuuuzzzz, I wanna pway". Awesome. Was that fun for you? Because I'm more grossed out than I ever thought possible right now. They wipe their boogers on the furniture, because it doesn't occur to them to grab a wipe, or towel, or tissue, or even...their shirt. Nope. Nose to couch...and, again...I puke.

So, this cold season hit in November and my three "boogers" started catching stuff. At first, it was no big deal. The hubby was home to help, it was all good. And then, the hubby caught the cough the middle-son was carrying FOREVER. The hubby refused to go to the doctor, you know, because he's a man and men don't go to the doctor. PS - if you're a dude reading this - that is why you will die on average 7 years earlier than your wife, because you don't go to the doctor. Well, that did it for Rhett. He had Pneumonia. Two rounds of antibiotics and six weeks of fighting that crap brought us close to Christmas. We had ear infections. We had colds. We had allergies. We had hand, foot and mouth. We had RSV. We had asthma with our RSV. We had the flu and then, most recently, we've had the stomach virus uniquely designed to make everything you've eaten in the last decade exit your body violently and quickly.

And...I all the while am wiping noses, cleaning bed sheets, sanitizing the house, and doing my best not to go completely and utterly crazy.

Before I had kids, my friends with kids would say things like "Just wait..." "You don't even know tired" "You don't even know messy" "pah-leeze, you are not that busy..."

They were partially right. I hate saying things like that to other single people, first because many of them want desperately to know the life I know and second I remember that I lived a full life before kids. I did get exhausted. It was a different kind of exhausted, but it felt like exhaustion.

The last four months have been easily the most exasperating, trying, unrelentingly stressful months of my post-college adult life. I've repeatedly said, "If we get sick again, I just won't be able to take it..." and then we get sick again. And I take it...I think.

I''m still not sure I'm taking it. I'm not sure I'm gonna make it. Every day is an endurance test. I've had to say "no" to more things than I liked. I've had to put the gym on the back burner...and turn the burner off. There just isn't a space for that when the kids are puking every hour on the hour, or need breathing treatments regularly, or have ear infections...you get my drift.

You know those books that talk about how to get your kids to sleep through the night. Lies. They are all lies. My kids have slept through the night before. But I wouldn't say that they sleep through the night. Like something that happens on a regular basis or it's something that can be anticipated or counted on. There's babies crying for momma at least three times a night. Sometimes I don't even recall getting up. I never recall them sneaking into my bed.

Last night, in the middle of a 5:30 am nursing session, there was explosive diarrhea. In my crotch, down my leg, across my stomach....all over the child. Basically, everywhere. So, that's a wonderful way to start the day. And, I missed the additional 90 minutes of sleep I usually get after that feeding, because, once you shower - there's no going back to bed.

Here's one thing I will say to anyone who thinks your life can remain the same after kids. "Your life is not your own." You can live like it is when you don't have kids. You can go on trips. Make spontaneous plans for lunch or dinner. You can buy things you want. You can wear the same shirt ALL DAY without getting pooped or puked on. Because, you think your life is your own.

Having kids is the best reminder that I can think of, except for maybe prison, that our days are not our own. They don't belong to us. When you have kids, you can have a plan. You can even plan around nap times, food times, puke times, potty times, snack times and that plan might still blow up in your face. Your days are no longer your own. They belong to "them".

I'll be honest. Sometimes I get angry. Really angry. "This blasted flu!! All I want is to go to the gym for one hour!!! Is that too much to ask!?!?"

Well, I guess it is. Because all my kids got sick. Really sick. And I still can't tell you the last time I went to the gym.

At the end of the day, I have to take a deep breath. I have to remember. These days are not mine. They are not "theirs" either though. They are the Lord's. He made this day. I just have to "steward" it. Stewarding the last four months has cost me every ounce of pride, selfishness and "control-freakishness" that I had in me. I know I'm being pruned/refined or whatever you want to call it. I can feel it and it doesn't always feel good. But, I do know that "He who began the good work in me is faithful to complete it". I'm becoming a much more present mom. I'm becoming a much more patient person. I'll eventually be a better wife and mom because of the days that I just let go and hang on for the ride.

Wednesday, I will load all three of my minions on a plane and fly them to Seattle. I know I've grown as a human, because I haven't really given much thought as to what that will look like. I'll do that tomorrow...if I have time. Either way, I'm sure we'll be fine. :)

My advice to new parents - let go a little. Life is not every gonna be as you planned. If you hang on too tightly, you'll probably miss a lesson.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

SAHM, WAHM, What's Next? Gratefulness!

Perspective is everything...

Have you ever really wrestled with a decision? I mean wrestled, like to the point that if feels like you've physically engaged in that mental process? I have - it's exhausting. I'm not sure about you, but I HATE when decisions are not final. When things linger and final decisions aren't made, I don't function well.

Since I was pregnant with Brock, I've been planning on quitting my job at some point to be "a stay at home mom". Some women dread this title. I have created big dreams and hopes around this title. I mean come on - trips to the zoo, trips to museums, coffee dates with other mommy friends, crafts with my boys in the afternoon, swimming in the pool twice a day... It would be complete and utter utopia. I wouldn't have to worry about the "pile" (I teach online, so it's really a "virtual pile") of papers to grade, or phone calls that have to be made. I could just relax.

It has been interesting balancing the "work-at-home" game. I do fight feelings of guilt when I am working and I hear my boys with a sitter in another room. I also am not able to devote endless amounts of time to doing my job "perfectly" or outperforming everyone I know. You see, I'm that girl. I'm the one who isn't happy with "meeting expectations", I feel like I need to exceed them...ALL THE TIME. It's a cancer of the brain, I've decided, that leads us to believe that is even attainable let alone sustainable.

We are financially at a point where it wouldn't be awful for me to quit. However, it would mean the end of some of our annual trips, could mean no private schooling for the kids (which is important for us), it would mean I'd have to curb my generosity to several ministries that are important to me. And...bye-bye any luxuries that are still remaining in my beauty routine. (Yes, I still have one. Yes, I know it's not obvious.)

So, we set a date for when I would give notice. I started a daily count down. But I wasn't settled. Something wasn't sitting right for me. I couldn't get this thought out of my mind that perhaps the real issue wasn't that I didn't have time to do all the things I wanted or that my job was keeping me from being the mom my kids needed, but the real issue was my attitude. Perhaps I had attached some expectations of being a SAHM to that title that didn't fit. Perhaps, I was just hoping it would alleviate some of the fatigue that accompanies the life we live with three rambunctious boys.

I asked a friend who is a little farther down the marriage and motherhood journey than I am for some wisdom. Her response was exactly what I needed. "It's possible God is asking you to do something crazy. But, the ability to earn an income like you do while still being with your kids is a huge blessing and one I wish I had." She was able to simplify my pros and cons into one sentence that made me feel small minded and ungrateful.

There are families who struggle to make ends meet who don't have the ability to bring in a second income the way that I do. Perhaps, this job isn't the thing standing between me accomplishing my goals, but rather the means by which I will accomplish them. I excused myself to the restroom and took a moment to apologize to the Lord. I know what it's like to struggle financially. I also know what it's like to be in a position to be a blessing to others financially. How ungreatful can I be that I would basically say, "No thanks. I don't want the added stress."? 

So, the last month or so has been a time for me to look at my time here in my office, sitting at my computer, chatting with students, lecturing middle schoolers about World History and American History, and grading papers with a renewed view. A view that sees this time as my contribution to my children's education. My contribution to our retirement fund. My way of contributing to our family's healthcare costs. My contribution to the missionaries, ministries and non-profits that I'm passionate about and for. This is my opportunity - one that not many have.

There's so much stigma among SAHMs of women who work. There's so much stigma among Working Moms for women who are SAHMs. I don't meet many WAHMs. But I'm thankful to know a few. I'm also thankful to be one of them. And the reality is - I get to do trips to the zoo, coffee/playdates, swimming in our pool. And no, I'm not winning employee of the year. However, I am, I believe, being obedient to what I was called.

What amazes me is after my little chat with Jesus in the bathroom of an Indian Restaurant, I had such a peace. That discontent that wouldn't let our decision for me to quit to settle, was suddenly settled. I actually felt joy about it. Strange. This hope of quitting suddenly turned into an abundant joy for the opportunity to work.

I'm not sure what God is calling you to. I'm positive it is totally different than what he has called me to do. Listen to Him. Ask someone wise who has traveled the road a little longer with success to speak into your life. And, keep talking to Jesus until you find that peace. That assurance that you are walking in His will. In His will is such a fantastic place to be!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why I Don't Like Hitler, I mean Trump...

A few years ago I wrote a blog about why people need to stop comparing other world leaders to Hitler. There seemed to be this rush to say, "Obama is Hitler." "Bush is Hitler." It seemed as if not liking someone was cause to call them a Nazi Fascist. It made me sick on multiple levels, most of which being that it took some of the nastiness and evil away from what Hitler actually did and stood for and equated it with being unlikeable. They are not the same.

Most of you know I'm second generation American from German immigrants and lived abroad in Vienna, Austria (Austria - not Australia...no kangaroos there) for a period of time and continue to keep ties with Vienna. I have said, "Wien bleibt immer noch mein Herzland". It might not be my "homeland" but it will always be my "heartland".

During my time there I was privileged to get to know all kinds of Austrians, even some "older" ones. Ones that remembered Hitler marching through the Hoffburg with confetti and droves of people cheering him on. Ladies, who had to duck behind buildings as they walked to school in order to avoid being hit by bombs. I'm so thankful for the honest conversations we got to have about Hitler, their feelings about their own History and Hitler at the time and as they looked back on it.

I once asked a woman what people thought about Hitler when he was rising to power. You see, Hitler came to power in tough economic times. He didn't win the title of Chancellor by telling Germans that he was going to exterminate the Jews. He won on a ticket that said, "We'll make Germany the great nation it once was. We'll get rid of outsiders who are taking your jobs. We'll build factories so you can feed your families and have wealth again. We want to make sure that the True Germans get what they deserve, which is the great nation we used to have." Most Germans were still smarting from the loss of WWI and feeling the economic drain of having to pay reparations for the damage Germany did to other nations during WWI. The reparations payments were crippling to the German economy, but the German Jews were a perfect scapegoat. Slowly but surely, Hitler built on an historical tradition of discomfort with Jews, old Catholic tales of how "the Jews killed Jesus" and propaganda that promised a thriving economy.

This one particular woman told me that her father was working in one of Hitler's new factories. Each morning her mom was so pleased with the new job (and income) she'd go on and on and on about how great Hitler was and all the good he was doing for Austria. Her father sat silently (as many German men do). Finally, one morning he couldn't take it anymore. He asked her sternly, "Do you have any idea what this leader of yours is making in that factory?" You see, he was sent to work in a weapons factory. He wasn't stupid. He knew the future was bleak with this kind of leadership. If all the jobs are coming from building weapons, eventually there's going to be an ugly downfall from that kind of "production".

I thought that was interesting. All this woman's mom knew was that her financial situation was improving. She didn't know about the piles of shoes and teeth in Auschwitz. She didn't know about the crematorium in Dachau. She didn't know about the impending "Kristallnacht". She only knew that her family, her kids, her personal situation was improving. Her husband knew better. He knew the likelihood of Hitler's leadership having long term positive impact was unlikely.

Hitler was a skilled orator. He was adept at saying just enough to garner support and not saying what his plan actually was. In a staunchly Catholic country like Austria, he of course did not say he was an Atheist with connections to the occult. Instead, he simply told them History was wrong and Jesus was not a Jew. How cold he have been? The Jews killed Jesus. This kind of twisting of the truth and manipulating speech to convince people he was "one of them" was one of his most frequently used tools.

What does History teach us about men like Hitler? Beware. Beware of men that promise to line your pockets at the expense of others. Beware of putting your own well-being ahead of your neighbors. Beware of men whose plan is unclear, and promise is grand. Beware of men like Donald Trump.

On so many levels, he is walking directly in the footsteps of Hitler. He is about as narcissistic, egomaniac as they come. Is he a good businessman, sure. But, a country is not a business, and beware of anyone who says it should be. You see, a country, a community of people is interdependent and what we do to each other will be the legacy we leave behind for our children. Men who lie and change their positions or opinions on deeply rooted beliefs like abortion, religion, marriage, etc... just to obtain more power (or votes) are dangerous.

I haven't even touched on the disgusting way he addresses women, refers to women and treats women. He has "promoted" his daughter and other women in his business. I'd argue he's done that because 1) He likes to be surrounded by beautiful smart women and 2) He's not a fool. If a woman is doing the job better of lining his pockets with more gold, of course she'll get promoted. This does not make him an advocate for women. He's an unfaithful husband with a lack of commitment to one of the most important institutions in our culture - family/marriage.

I can't help but picture him at a G8 summit or any other table with international leaders and see him make us all to be a gaggle of buffoons. He lacks the character, the finesse, the stamina, the ability to deal appropriately with people with whom you disagree to build relationships that are helpful to us as a nation.

I keep hearing, "But, what if he wins the nomination and we're left with him or Hillary." If he wins the nomination shame on us. Shame on you and shame on me. Shame on everyone who has stood idly by the last 10-20 years allowing bad men to have more and more control and lessening our support of good men. It's not Trump's fault, it's ours. We have created a system that has allowed this man to rise so quickly and easily to power.

At the end of the day, own-ness is on each and every one of us. Just like we blame Germans for not stopping Hitler and standing by while he trampled the rights of MILLIONS of people to benefit himself and "make Germany great again", History will judge us. Our children will one day ask us, "Did you vote for Trump? Why?" If your answer is that he's a good businessman and promised you financial success, I beg you to think over that again. History is doomed to repeat itself. We're watching it happen today. Be the one who stops it. Be the voice that speaks out! No amount of financial security is worth the price Trump would have us pay.