1

Come together.

I recently saw an ad that I want to share with you guys. It was posted according to the article it was attached to, as a response to the heinous Pepsi ad that got a lot of backlash. Pepsi actually removed the video and apologized for its content, since it was seen as so offensive. (If you’re unfamiliar with the story, read it about it here) Since that though, Heineken has actually put out an ad with a similar theme of bringing people together. Now before you watch it, I want you to understand: I am not making any kind of statement about whether or not I agree with alcohol use or any of the political statements made in the video. Please hear me. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with any of it here. If you want my opinions, we can talk privately where my heart and personal experiences can be properly heard. I do not believe that the internet is a constructive place for controversy to be discussed.

What I do want to highlight is the ad itself. Watch.

 

Now like I said. I am not making any sort of statement about alcohol, climate change, transgender issues, or feminism. That is most adamantly not my point. But what I do want to talk about is having conversations.

What Pepsi failed to understand with their tone-deaf ad was that people need to hear each other’s heart before understanding can be reached. You can just hand a riot police officer a cold drink and expect the protest to dissipate. People feel strongly enough about their causes that they are literally moved to action. In any sort of protest or demonstration, people have passion. Whether it’s the Women’s March, a Black Lives Matter protest, a March for Life, or even a teacher’s union strike, people are fired up. and in those emotionally charged situations, no amount of drink, Pepsi or cold brew, will help. What Heineken seemed to understand is that when we sit down with each other in a calm and rational manner we are more likely to hear each other out. Believe it or not, that is a Biblical principle, folks.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)

The Lord himself calls us to use reason to understand things. (I didn’t use the famous “Come let us reason together” passage in Isaiah 1 because in context it’s about being forgiven of sins, not understanding each other)

I think we need to do a lot less forming opinions and a lot more spending time together. Jesus ate with sinners and shared his heart with them. He never wrote a strongly worded Facebook status about how their lifestyle was gross and ungodly. Jesus won followers through love and relationship. And through that relationship, people understood the truth and their lives were changed. In the immortal words of John Mayer, “Is there anyone who ever remembers Changing their mind from the paint on a sign?” conversation-1940x900_31263.jpg

Transformation and understanding is a powerful thing for both parties. And it only happens through that love and relationship. Stop trying to shout the truth into an already overloaded information sphere – speak it tenderly to friends. Support each other in hard times. Love each other as brothers and sisters; equals. As Christians we are called to point others in the right direction, not force them into submission. God will do the hard part.

That is all.

 

3

Not knowing what’s right.

I have a student in one of my classes that transferred from a remedial class. I’ll call him Jacob. Jacob is a very sweet kid and I’m glad to have him, though he can be a bit of a distraction. He loves making others laugh and is generally a delight to have. We have a pretty good working relationship. Unfortunately today I’m pretty sure I severed that relationship.

Jacob brought a speaker to school – one of those bluetooth things. It started playing music during class. Now I’m pretty chill about things like that. I don’t take a phone away if it rings as long as it’s the first time and the student puts it away. So we laughed together and I told him to put it away. Then it happened again. So I told him, obstinatea bit more sternly, to make sure I didn’t see or hear it again. Guess what? I did. So on the third time, I told him that if it happened again I would take it. Lo and behold, the speaker announced itself once more. It was five minutes until the bell rang, but I had laid out a consequence. So I told him to bring it to me. My plan was to return the speaker when the bell rang, a whole five minutes later. Problem is, Jacob didn’t give me the speaker.

Jacob started explaining to me that it was an accident and the speaker didn’t even belong to him. Why should he have to give it to me if it was an accident? The conversation became more and more serious until I finally told him – If he didn’t give me the speaker, I would have to send him to the office for defiance. right thingHe continued to try to explain himself and I could see that he was fighting back tears. In one last attempt for peace making, I told him he could hand over the speaker and I would give it back at the end of the day. He still tried to convince me I was wrong, so I wrote him up and sent him to the office.

After he left, I cried. Did I make the right decision? How could I know? I value the relationships I have with each of my students. I especially value the relationships I have with struggling students, but what could I do? If I didn’t follow through, I would be inconsistent at best and a liar at worst. Now that I have though, I’m afraid I’ve ruined our relationship. Any sort of respect he had for me is probably gone.

I have always adhered to the biblical philosophy of letting your “yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37). The problem is that it’s easier to passively change your mind. I do it every day (think “my diet starts tomorrow”). I suppose it’s good practice for when my son one day grows to adolescence. But I hate it. I want to make my kids like me so that we can work together peacefully. Teaching is Hard

Remember when we were kids and everybody told us that the right decision is often the hard decision? It never stops being true. And it never gets easier. Pray for me, y’all. I want to always do the right thing.

That is all.

0

Why I Love the Bible. 

This morning I was in the sound booth, as usual, singing along to one of my favorite songs. The chorus explains how He is our rock, our shield, our strength, etc., and I was thinking about what that means to me in my life right now. It means that as a parent, I can lean on Him. As a daughter, I can Open-Bible-1024x683come to Him. As a wife, I can talk to Him. And then I got to thinking about the Bible because all of these thoughts are biblical of course. And I thought back over some of my favorite Bible stories. I thought about how different pieces of the Bible relate to my life in different ways. That’s what we mean when we say that the Bible is the “living” word of God. And wouldn’t you know it? My Dad touched on this in his sermon too.

I had a professor in my first semester of college at Evangel. When I first started his class, I honestly hated it. I thought he was weird. I thought he was one of those crazy literature professors that reads meaning into every little thing even when it isn’t supposed to be profound. He was ancient and talked about how he loved the way his wife moved through the house and the gentle timbre of her voice and other nonsense. But, as often happens, I realized that I was wrong (weird) and I grew to really appreciate him. He had a way of reading poetry that made it come alive. I once even visited he and his wife (who wasn’t nearly as enchanting as he described, but I digress) at his home and we talked about life. I learned a lot from him.

Probably the best thing I learned from him though was to read the Bible like a piece of well written literature. Read the Psalms with a poetic mind. Consider the authors and their worldview to better understand their point. The whole Bible is so rich and beautiful.

Since that class, my view of the Bible is totally changed. I see it as dynamic and I analyze it as I would any good piece of writing. And what’s so cool is that every analysis brings new truth.

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lol medieval art.

I am reminded of a favorite Bible story of mine, about King David, dancing undignified before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14). He was accused of nakedness and his wife became angry. But he didn’t care. Cool story that reminds us to care only about the Lord’s opinion. But upon deeper study, we can learn that David actually was not naked, but was wearing a thin, traditional undergarment but the robe had been stained pink with the blood of the sacrifice he offered to God. So what the others thought was shame and nakedness was actually evidence of a grateful celebration to the God who had brought them safely through a battle. Even cooler at that deeper level.

The Bible describes itself as he bread of life. Nourishment. But there is an admonishment in the New Testament about living off of the milk instead of digging deeper into the meat that’s there. (Hebrews 5:12) The Bible is at once milk, made for baby Christians and those with little understanding, and a thick, rich, juicy steak, for the mature and seasoned believers. How can it be that a book – written by forty different authors in three different continents over two centuries – how can it be that this book is consistently challenging to us no matter what season of life we are in?

There is no answer except divine intervention. I love that my favorite verses can bring me to tears even today after over a decade of life as a Christian. I love that as my experience in life changes, so does the understand and beauty of the truths within the pages of an ancient book.

There are times that I neglect reading the Bible because life happens. But I love when I pick it back up because I learn so much every time. I pray that you find yourself as enamored with the truth as I do.

That is all.

3

Practice makes… practiced.

Okay. I’m gonna be honest with you. I had almost half of this post written when I realized it was all wrong. I was going to write a heartfelt confession about my failure to be at peace with life. But then I started grading papers.

I recently assigned my kids an easy assignment – write me a haiku. It’s a short poem with a set number of syllables. I came across this little gem and I thought I had found the best one of the bunch.

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It’s funny right? Hilarious actually. This kid is awesome. He’s quiet but so so clever. When I think of students I enjoy, he’s right up there at the top of the list.

But then I found this.

IMG_3243 The student that wrote this isn’t one of my trouble kids. He isn’t a behavior or academic problem. In fact, I know very little about him. He’s relatively new to my class and we haven’t spoken much. This didn’t come as some great reveal about how my most frustrating kid is having problems at home. This kid is actually a pretty nice kid who has friends and laughs a lot. I would never have known that his heart is breaking.

I guess the lesson to learn is not that I need to find some sort of inner peace and not beat myself up about mommy guilt and all these other things I already know. It’s that as long as I show up, I’m doing pretty good.

I’m not saying we should aspire to mediocrity. In fact I think that “parent” is the most important title we have and we should be striving to do our best. But I think we should bear in mind that what our kids need from us the most is not a perfect zen environment or Pinterest worthy snacks or sagacious advice or the best products available. Our kids need us to show up. If my students have taught me anything, it’s that no matter how mature they seem, no matter how independent they want you to believe they are, they want support. They want love. They want their parents.

adequateWhile it is true that I feel like I know nothing – often I feel like I’m just a kid myself and that it’s ludicrous that I am entrusted with a tiny human and a car payment – It is also true that I have everything I need to be a successful parent. Even just typing those words seems odd, because I, like every parent probably, struggle so hard with feelings of inadequacy. But you know what? I’m a good mom. And as long as I continue to be present and work hard to love my kid in the best way I can, then I will be doing a good job. As long as I continue to work on my marriage instead of walking away; as long as I choose to come home and be a part of what’s going on in my family; As long as I don’t give up, then I’m doing my part. And every time I feel like somebody else could be doing it better, I can rest assured that the most important part of being a parent is being present. Everything else will work itself out.

That is all.

 

0

Mommy Guilt.

I know that as soon as you see the title of this post, you will understand exactly what I am talking about, provided that you are a mother yourself. I still struggle with that label though, because it’s so new and it feels so foreign. Asher is now 7½ weeks old, and I love him more than I can explain. But I’ve come back to work now, and my time with him has been instantly cut almost in half. So this newness that I am adjusting to is once again shifting into some other newness. And it’s hard.IMG_2675

Being back at work, all my colleagues ask “how is baby?” and he’s fine. He’s doing great actually. I am fortunate enough to have my mother to watch him during the day. Occasionally a co-worker will ask me how I am though, and that one is a little more tough to answer. The actual work part of being back is fine. I’m enjoying my students and we’re getting things done. But I can’t tear my mind away from where I feel I really should be – with my son.

Some people told me that it would be hard, and I believed them, but I didn’t realize what kind of hard it would be. It’s not the exhaustion from still very limited and interrupted sleep that gets me. It’s not the physical tiredness I still have not totally recovered from since giving birth. It’s not even the cold I’ve been battling for a couple of weeks now, which I would normally treat with medication I can’t take since I’m breastfeeding. It’s the crushing guilt.

I’m being very honest about this, I know, but I also know I can’t be the only one. I get home and all I should want to do is hold the baby, but sometimes I imagesdon’t want to, because he’s crying. It’s a lot easier to let my mom continue to meet his needs and soothe him so I can get things done. Since I’m back at work, I don’t have as much time to do things like cleaning or laundry, and we just moved so there’s a ton of organizing and even some unpacking left. And when I’m holding Asher I can’t do any of that, because with me he often just wants to nurse the entire time I have him. And I hate to be so selfish, since I want the bonding and special connection that it brings, but breastfeeding is hard. Sometimes I want to quit, but then I think I might have nothing special with him.

I miss him so much during the day. The mornings are hardest, because I leave the house at 6:30 and when he wakes up shortly after I know he’s happy and smiling and having a good time. And I can’t be there. And then, If I want to have any kind of functionality as a human I need to get to bed before 10 to get a few hours sleep before he wakes up to nurse for the first of at least three times in the night. Early bedtime means more time with him I don’t get. But still, when I get home, I feel so pressured to get things done. Not by anyone who lives in my house. Everyone is very supportive. But I can’t just check out from my home responsibilities. My husband is equally stretched if not more so, since he also goes to school on top of work.

So I swing on this pendulum that has an overwhelming desire to hold my son and stare at him for hours so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on him on one end, and wanting to let my mom keep him longer so that I can accomplish necessary tasks and not be exhausted by the demands of a crying baby on the other. Add to that the fact that my hormones have not totally levelled out yet and I cry almost daily, and it makes me wish that women had never joined the workforce.IMG_2633 (1)

I’d like to say that I have some beautiful hopeful feeling to cling to, but I’m still working on that. I know all of the scriptures to lean on and I know that this won’t last forever, but for now, my takeaway is just to try to not be so hard on myself.  I spoke to a very dear old friend who put my life into perspective and reminded me that I’m working hard and going through a lot. That even though I’m not around as much, my son and I will still have a special connection. I’m not just being a big whiney baby. That even though a lot of women have to deal with worse, I am, in fact, okay to struggle with my own circumstances. It’s okay to admit you’re tired and pressed and guilty. It’s okay to feel the things I’m feeling.

I’m looking forward to days that don’t feel so hard, but for now, I’m just taking it one step at a time. And it’s enough. I am enough. download

That is all.

 

2

Of Love and Loss.

I write entirely not often enough. In the time since my last post, so much has IMG_2594happened. I’ve had a baby! A beautiful and perfect baby boy, Asher. I’ve gained so much, so much love, so much warmth, so much respect and understanding for other parents, but I’ve also lost someone very valuable to me. My grandma, who was living with my parents, passed away almost exactly a month after my son was born. It puts us all in an interesting position of grief and celebration.

My gorgeous boy has been such an exciting arrival. I am an only child, as is my husband, and this is our first baby. Not even our cousins have started having kids yet, so as you can imagine, it’s a big deal. We were completely taken aback by how much people wanted to bless us. Almost everything we needed was either given to us, or bought with money and gift cards that we received. Everyone was so excited about our baby, and especially my grandma.

IMG_2496For those of you who knew her, you know that she was very sick for a very long time. She went in and out of the hospital more times than some people do laundry. But when she found out I was pregnant, she was determined to meet the little one. It’s all she could talk about when I was around. “Is that baby here yet? I want to pat his bottom.”

There have been times that she was so sick that I even started to question God. Why did he keep her here instead of taking her home to heaven, where she really wanted to be anyway? I know that may sound incredibly harsh and insensitive, but she missed my grandpa. She missed her deceased siblings. She missed her parents. And she was in so much pain. She was constantly battling some sickness or another, and never without pain.

And then, early one morning, my mom called. I knew what the call was about, because she had been particularly sick – so sick that even the hospice care staff expected she wouldn’t last long. I stepped out of my bedroom, walking past the bassinet that held my perfect, sleeping infant, and took the call in the living room. It was sad. Expected, but still sorrowful. Over the next week we made preparations for the memorial, and people who had known my grandmother in her life came to pay their respects. Some family members I don’t often see came to pay their respects and say goodbye. But they were also anxious to see the new baby. It felt odd, showing off a precious new life and saying goodbye to an old one at the same time.

As the day wore on, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 3 –

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die…

And sometimes those times overlap. Sometimes the last memories you get with your grandma will be of her holding your brand new baby. IMG_2497

Though it hurts, I am grateful that God gave us that. I am grateful that she no longer suffers. I wish Asher could have known her, but I am glad that at least she got to know him.

I will forever praise the God who gives – and takes away.

That is all.

4

Raising awareness – why?

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed a trend – social media makes it so easy for us to raise awareness of certain causes. raise-bullying-awarenessBullying awareness, ALS awareness, autism awareness… the list goes on. And while yes, it’s cool that people are now more aware of these things… what purpose does that actually serve?

I saw an advertisement the other day for a company that donated to breast cancer research – and it was not Susan G. Komen. Their argument was something along the lines of this: who doesn’t know about breast cancer? It’s sort of like advertising for toilet paper (in general, not specific brands). Who doesn’t use this already?? Wouldn’t it be better to use our energy on solutions? Wouldn’t it serve us better to have a breast cancer donation month instead of an awareness month? In the United States, there are 69 documented cancer awareness“awareness” months. Meaning that over the 12 months of the year, over 69 things are being highlighted for awareness at some point. One of them is vegetarian awareness month, people.

I don’t mean to sound snarky here, but really? This number does not include the appreciation and celebration months either. These are just the ones that say “awareness” in the name. And you know what? We, as a result are a pretty informed culture. We know about a lot of different things. Cool. But it’s difficult to pinpoint if anyone is actually doing something to help these causes (not talking about you, vegetarians. You’re good on your own).

Facts are great. Knowledge is important. I feel like “awareness” is just another buzzword to help us feel important. Joseph-Kony-2012-PosterLike Kony 2012 – tons of awareness. But what even happened? I bet you have no idea. And what about the ice bucket challenge? People were supposed to pour a bucket of ice on their head so that they didn’t have to donate $100. What kind of backwards help is that? Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, changing your profile picture, hashtagging your status or otherwise “raising awareness”, why don’t we actually do something. Donate money. Volunteer time. For heaven’s sake, just pray if you can’t do anything else. Actually, pray before anything else. It’s so much better than just throwing information into the wind and hoping somebody, somewhere will take some kind of initiative.

That is all.