Loving with Radical Inclusivity

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Glennon Doyle Melton (heretofore referred to as “G”) had some things to say about that at the event I went to on Thursday. She spoke about resisting the temptation to refer to others as “haters.” It’s unkind and unhelpful because people don’t actually think of themselves as “haters.” G said something to the effect of: If you gathered a group of people in a room and told the haters to go to one side and the lovers to the other–everyone would go to the side of love, right? Who thinks of themselves as a hater? No one, that’s who. Even white supremacists think they’re loving, it’s just that they love white people to the exclusion of other races. That’s not the kind of love G practices, and it isn’t mine, either.

And yet, we do have unkind rhetoric that pops up during heated debates. It’s particularly painful in an election year in which social media has become the mode of communication between friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. What do we do when presented with words from human beings conveying, at best, unkind and unloving messages? How do we respond with love and not engage in what my grandmother calls tit-for-tat? How do we build bridges between people we disagree with rather than putting up walls between us? 

Last week, my Hebrew Bible class at CTS arrived at the books of Psalms, Lamentations, and Song of Songs. As we have every week, these readings were paired with parallel accounts from the Ancient Near East. Focusing on Egyptian love songs from the reign of Ramesses II in 1290-1224 BCE, I talked a bit about how strange and wonderful it is that we’ve been left with these very human stories:

…we often think of love in other times as being in some way different, restrained, or restrictive because it [was] a different time. Yet there is a timeless nature to love, isn’t there? It is the quintessentially human and eternal aspect of love that, when we read about it, bridges the gap between our world and theirs. Looking at the ancient Israeli texts about love [Song of Songs] and now at the Egyptian ones […], it is a reminder that love is love today, tomorrow, and millennia ago. The challenges are perhaps different, but there’s a universality to the feelings that comes through in these texts.

…Even the heartbreak or separation conveyed feels precisely as it does today. These are human beings living lives thousands of years ago for whom the range of emotions is very real and every bit as relevant as it is today. It humanizes these people we think of only as hieroglyphics in museums, ancient tombs, and textbooks. It makes me wonder who else we might be willing to humanize if only we understood that their love and their feelings are just like ours.

All to which brings me back to the current cultural context and what’s happening between loving-people and other loving-people over social issues (such as LGBT rights, refugees, and where we pee). My thoughts on how we should love are simple: we should love with radical inclusivity. Everyone thinks they’re loving someone, but if your brand of love doesn’t include everyone, it’s not the kind of love I practice.

I don’t care about your politics or mine. I really don’t. I love you and I really don’t care what you think about the national debt and school choice. But here’s the thing: I do care about loving people. I care about loving people as Christ loved them (and as G so honestly modeled for us during the event) arms outstretched, hands wide open, loving until it literally killed him. Loving into, through, and past the pain.

As another sister at the event noted: not every issue is political. Social issues become political when open-armed love is removed from the equation. They become a wedge when compassion for humans is replaced with bureaucratic concern over policies. I think more fruitful discussions can occur between people who disagree if we all just begin from a place of love and of honoring our shared humanity. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about the things that matter.

So I’ll leave you with this: because I try (imperfectly) to approach everything from a place of love, I cannot keep silent on issues of justice, equality, and inclusion. I can’t. I won’t. So maybe what I say will seem controversial sometimes, it’s just the nature of radical love. Join me, won’t you?

Grace and peace!

In my next post: I’ve been called a “lupus warrior” and a “preacher warrior sister“. Which is weird, because I’m kind of a pacifist. So what does warrior mean?

PS. And thank you to everyone who took the time to read and respond to my last post about anxiety and meeting Glennon. Anxious, sweaty badasses unite!

 

 

I, too, am an Anxious, Sweaty Bad Ass

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Over the last two years, I have had the privilege of meeting many of my theological heroes. Such titans as Brian McLaren, Frank Schaeffer, and Diana Butler Bass have talked with me, signed my books, and even shared a hug. It’s not a competition, of course, but last night, I had the pleasure to meet someone who has impacted me beyond theological concerns–in the realms of mental illness, parenting, marriage, and… life. Last night, sick with anxiety, I met the incomparable Glennon Doyle Melton: truth teller; founder of Momastery and Together Rising; love revolutionary; fellow sweaty, anxious bad ass.

Something you should know about me: I live my life in a near constant state of fear. Along with the lupus (which keeps me in a constant state of pain), I’m a life-long anxious over-thinker. Growing up, I was afraid of almost everything. No one’s fault, it’s just how I’m built. I pushed past it and hid it when I could. Other times, I would just burst into tears seemingly for no reason (elementary school friends may remember this about me). Anxiety runs thick in my veins, it pulses and shoots through me at various inconvenient moments. It’s been manageable and it’s been overwhelming, but it’s always been there.

Anxiety may be the most consistent thing about me.

Fear of social situations is probably the worst of it. I’m almost good meeting with someone one-on-one or with small groups of people I know. I’m okay with going to an event if I have someone to tether me with their presence. I’m semi-comfortable going places I know well (why do you think I’m at Barnes and Noble and Starbucks so much?). And yet, even in these situations, I’m still under a slight haze of anxiety that propels me to, at the very least, pretend to be “normal.” Outside of this, things can get… dicey. From anxiety attacks to all out panic, my fight or flight reflex is usually working overtime when I’m out of the safety of my house.

Such was the situation at Trinity Episcopal Insights series last night. I was sick with worry all week. But Jessie, what’s the WORST that could happen? Well, friends, I. Could. Die. I even tweeted about it Wednesday night, only to get the kindest reply in the history of replies from Glennon, herself. This reply gave me a talking point and allowed me to at least show up, sweaty and scared as I was.

When I got there, my heart was racing and I literally felt like I was going to throw up. This is no exaggeration. Seems overdramatic, maybe, but it’s accurate.

If you want to strike fear into my heart: “reception” or “meet and greet” will suffice. But I did show up. I walked into the room (early, natch) and stood there like the anxious mess I am. A nice man offered to bring me wine (no, thanks) or water (yes, please!). I sat down at an empty table, occasionally glancing up at groups of women, friends who seemed to belong to each other in real life. I was alone, terrified, and intimidated by their effortless ability to exist.

Then Glennon walked in all… Glennon and I just sat there, teary-eyed, terrified, wanting to run the hell out of there, and unable to move. I texted my BFFC–best friend from college (Hi Emma!)–who introduced me to Glennon a few years back. She reassured me as she’s done about a billion times since we met in Psych 100 almost 16 years ago.

I was pretty sure I couldn’t do this. I would just stay at the table. This was too much. I was too scared. I think someone sat down at the table in the meantime. I’m pretty sure she introduced herself. I’m certain I barely got any words out.

Then, a very kind soul from the church approached pitiful looking me and asked, “Are you okay?” (I think that’s what she said, I can’t really remember because: anxious haze).

“I’m just REALLY nervous…”

“Well, would you like to meet her?” Friends, this was mercy. Who was the miraculous angel who saved my life in that moment? I wish I knew. Luckily, the tears had started to dry in my eyes by then. If I’d gone up there teary, I would have bawled. And you guys, I’m an UGLY crier. Seriously. A red-faced, blubbery mess. It’s not pretty.

I don’t remember the walk up to meet Glennon, or even what she first said to me (anxious haze), I just knew I had a talking point: “I’m really nervous. You tweeted me last night. I’m Jessie from Twitter.”

“Are you the girl who was afraid to come tonight?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

Awww. But we’re here! We made it!” she exclaimed. I tried to respond to her exclamation, I don’t know what I said–it was probably words. But then came a hug that made me instantly feel better as hugs tend to do.

Hugs, for me, are grace. I’m a hugger from way back. Hugs comfort and speak volumes in moments when words fail.

We talked like “sisters” do because that is what Glennon does. This is what she does even when she, herself, is anxious. She relates to people. And she did that with everyone in that reception hall. She gave me anxiety advice for these social situations (first, get some food). Then spoke to me about our mutual love for the UCC and my seminary studies (she applied to CTS a year or so ago. My seminary, you guys. I could have had CLASSES with Glennon Doyle Melton. But she can’t go, she’s already doing her important work, obvi). We took a photo together. She signed my book (and the free book I’m giving to my BFFC). The inscription is perfect and reads, “Jessie, Be still, preacher warrior sister…”

Later, when we got to the actual “event” part of the event, Glennon candidly spoke on stage as only she can: with humor, authenticity, wit and wisdom. She told the truths we all know too well about love, life, marriage, parenting, pain, anxiety, Jesus, kindness, and faith. She is exactly who she appears to be online in all her messy, feeling, human-ness. 

I have more to say about the event; it was formative for me in many ways. I want to talk about what she had to say about “hate,” politics, and about how we love, but right now, I just wanted to get the experience out and share some of it with you. Some parts can’t be conveyed in words and I want to keep them for myself.

But here’s today’s take away (tl;dr):

I showed up.

I showed up scared.

I showed up scared and alone

I showed up scared and alone and no one died.

Hi, I’m Jessie, and I’m an “anxious, sweaty bad ass.”

I’m also a preacher warrior sister. Glennon said so, so it must be true.

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Thank you, G, for reminding me that I, too, can do hard things.

Grace and peace.

 

We Need to Talk About Sisterhood

Be someone who roots for others.

Be someone who cheers for others’ success and not someone who roots for their demise.

Friends, we need to talk about sisterhood.

Today, I stumbled across this uplifting post by one of my literary-lifestyle heroes, Liz Gilbert. In it, she poses for a silly selfie with Glennon Doyle Melton, another one of my author-lifestyle heroes. I do so loathe the solo-selfie craze, don’t you? Yet, I “get it” when it comes to posing with friends. I understand that we want to memorialize these moments in digital format. I appreciate the glimpse of two (or more) souls who have connected for a moment in time for the purpose of being in fellowship and sisterhood together. When I speak of sisterhood, I do mean women. There’s something special about women, but I also speak more broadly. I figure, if “brotherhood” could masquerade as a reference to “all people” but really mean all men, then sisterhood ought to have that same power.

This was the caption to my re-post of Liz’s photo on Facebook:

Can we talk about the incredible sisterhood being built, celebrated, and fostered by these beautiful souls and their contemporaries? Do we need to discuss how overwhelmingly comforting it is that there’s a group of strong, creative, loving women out there FOR each other instead of competing against each other? Can we all emulate this sisterhood in our daily lives, stretching it to include women of all races, ethnicities, faiths, and orientations? Can we just celebrate each other all the time? Because this is why I’m here. ‪#‎bethebestyou ‬‪#‎loveallthepeople‬‪ #‎supportoneanother‬ ‪#‎sisterhood‬

This is why I’m here. Sisterhood. Community. Love. Compassion. Forgiveness. Why do we not do more of this? I’d like to think that Liz, Glennon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, etc. are working to change the stereotypical “chick” fight foolishness that is perpetuated throughout our society. The petty, childish, high-school, catty image that many (even many women) still believe exists between us grates on me. This is only a “thing” if we make it one. It only exists as long as we allow it to. It needn’t continue. We have the power to end it.

When we talk about peace, when we preach about love and compassion, when we admonish hate, I think we often forget that it begins with sisterhood. It starts with relationships between human beings who seek genuine community. This can happen in church. It can happen at school. It can happen in our neighborhoods. It can happen online. Too often it doesn’t. Too often online society perpetuates this female-cannibalization, pitting woman against woman because that’s what we have historically done. Not just women, but men, too. When our ends necessitate the destruction of our “competition”–whether in work, love, family matters, friendship, religion, international relations, leisure activities–it has a tendency to lead to our mutual destruction rather than to our own success.

If we are to behave like full participants in this human experiment, then we need to stick together. The leaders and armies who perpetuate the status quo will always be there to try to tear you down. Those people might be men, but they might also be women who are hell-bent on being the only woman in the room. You do not have to be a part of the status quo. You do not have to continue to languish in the way things have always been. You have a voice and you have the option to decide. Be bold in your love and compassion. Be brave with every step you take. Cheer for your contemporaries, the women who came before you, and those who follow. Root for one another and work together. Refuse to let anyone tell you that you cannot. You can. “You’d be surprised what can’ts you can when you must” and what help and support you can be to others who “can’t.” Be there. Love. We belong to each other.

We will need our sisterhood.

We will need our sisterhood.

A note on race: I know I’ve mentioned primarily white women here, but I do not mean to exclude the incredible sisterhood that has thrived between women of other races and ethnicities. I’m thinking especially of those I know somewhat well: Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou (God rest her soul), Malala, and Rayya Elias. There are more, of course, and that world is only beginning to open up to me. [Remember that when you read my words, they are those of a newly-progressive, former-conservative pale white girl born in the city, but raised Amish Country Pennsylvania, in an interracial marriage who is exploring, striving to understand, and speaking up. I am not fully evolved. I am not perfect.]

Depression: Let Us Not Fight the Battle Alone

Like many, I have spent considerable time over the last few weeks pondering the loss of the great Robin Williams. It seems that nothing in the news, not even the happiest or saddest story, is immune to nastiness and negativity. So, naturally, people—most of whom have never lived in the black-hole of despair and crippling anguish that is chronic depression—came out talking about how selfish suicide is and proposed various bogus theories regarding how to “cure” people like Mr. Williams of these terrible thoughts. If only he’d had more faith! If only he were stronger! If only he had a better support system! If only he’d turned his frown upside-down! Hogwash, all of it.

Those of us who have lived with depression, including myself, realize that it is never that simple. I am a big proponent of optimism, gratitude, and focusing on the good in life, but I am also a person who has battled anxiety and depression for about seventeen years. I know what it is to fall into that darkness and feel there is no escape, to see all the good around, to feel the love and support of family and friends, and still not want to live one more day. I went through that in my teens, college years, and again about 6-10 months into my marriage. When I was 14, a mysterious illness ravaged my body and left me bedridden for months. At 15, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematous and my life has never been the same.

Battling this crippling illness and the emotional war it wages has been the greatest physical struggle of my life. It is unending, disheartening, and unbelievably painful. To be “disabled” at such a young age can break a person. I can admit now that it very truly broke me many times. Because of this physical battle, I suffered for years with paralyzing anxiety and depression that would wax and wane—sometimes a storm wrecking my life and other times a quiet breeze whistling in my ear telling me over and over again that it was not going to be okay.

Since finding my “calling” and having children, I have been spared the plunge into that pit of despair. At 32, I like to think I have conquered depression; that the daily happy presence and love of my husband and children is enough insulate me from going to that place of misery ever again. I hope that the cold, dark thoughts and mindset that come with depression will drown in the light of my faith, my eagerness to follow Jesus, and my studies in theology. I assume that, if only I catch it early enough—as I did recently when I began feeling the mean reds attack—I will, at least temporarily, immunize myself from falling into that Dante’s Inferno-like state from whence no good can come. The truth is, however, that depression is a very complex beast with causes that range from physical, chemical make-up, to the change in seasons, to situational issues and everything in between. And over none of that do I, or anyone, have complete control. I hope I do not fall down that rabbit-hole again, but I cannot be sure that it is conquerable or that I am completely immune to it.

So what? Where does that leave us? Is it hopeless? Should we, all of us who battle these demons, just throw up our hands in exasperated despondence and let them swallow us whole? If all the therapy, medication, faith, money, and support in the world can’t save a man like Robin Williams (also diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness), what hope is there for the rest of us? For me, the hope lies in this simple fact: I did not always feel like that. So far, I have always, eventually come out of it. And so, I try to fight back early and hard, using coping mechanisms I have learned leaning on my support systems as I am able, and trying to hold onto whatever sliver or shred of hope remains. Will that always work? I cannot know. I cannot be sure, but I have to keep trying. I have to keep fighting. And I have to keep looking out for others I know are waging similar wars within.

I will leave you with this thought and encourage you to look out for others who might be fighting this type of battle alone:

 

Respecting Freedom

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I am the wife of an American Airman who, three years in, has yet to deploy. We have not sacrificed in the same way that many of my friends and family members have, but we have sacrificed. Among other things, we have moved our little family across the world twice and faced a few separations (6 months and 3 months) from my husband. As I reflect on the meaning of Independence Day, I am thankful for the sacrifices of my fellow military spouses and their significant others. As violence, hate, fear and discord spread around the world and make it an increasingly frightening place, I am also thankful for the people all over who work for peace. Many of them work in other ways that do not involve military service, I am thankful for them, too.

I have seen some progressive voices decrying this day because they view it as one honoring some misguided sense of American supremacy and a celebration of war and violence. I have to respectfully disagree. I can understand and echo the sentiment of worrying about nationalistic worship inside the walls of a church and pairing it with where our true allegiance ought to be, but I cannot get on the side of condemning people who wish to honor this day and the courage of those who came before us.

This is not a day to glorify war, and I don’t think you will find many service families celebrating today because of that. None of us like war. We do, however, celebrate our freedom. We honor the brave souls who, military or not, have sacrificed in service to that ideal. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness still means something today because of all who have worked for freedom and peace throughout this country and beyond. On July 2, 1776, our forefathers declared their independence from the tyranny of a king an ocean away. It is true that what followed included violence and war, and yes, America has a history of many misdeeds in addition to its long list good deeds. Yet the purpose of the American democratic experiment has largely been accomplished. It has made us a nation of free people who, in many ways, are still trying to figure out how best to make this whole experiment work. Various voices share their opinions on how to get there and what it means to live in a free country, but on days like this, the united sentiment–united in our freedom and our wish to honor those who have fought so bravely for that freedom–is a good thing. It does not make us less Christian or more Christian, but it makes us appreciative and thankful to live in America.

And so I’ll just end by saying, “Happy birthday, America.”

Look for Goodness

What do you do when you begin to have questions about assumptions and beliefs you’ve held onto for the majority of your life? Do you push down those questions, swallowing them so that change cannot shake and rattle your world? I did. For a few years anyway, but that curiosity for answers to pressing questions can only stay hidden for so long before it begins pounding and kicking at the doors, demanding to be let loose. What do you do when that happens? Read. Learn. Think. Write. That’s how I am handling it anyway. The past few weeks have been the beginning of an eye-opening journey it is likely to take me years, decades, or perhaps the rest of my life to travel. More on this later, however, because today I want to talk about gratitude and optimism.

All who know me well, know that I firmly believe in God and, for me, Jesus has been the way. I wrote last week about Glennon Doyle’s gratitude project and am happy to report that I have spent each day in silent reflection on three things for which I am particularly grateful that moment. These have ranged from the very specific to the very broad, from personal to cosmic, from theological realms to the physical, and from the profound to the seemingly superficial. I suspect that will continue to be my approach.

The greatest outcome of this practice (that’s what it is, in fact, not an exercise, but a common practice I plan on continuing long after the 40-day commitment I have made) is a change in my attitude. I do generally try to find the good in all persons, places, and things. I succeed most of the time. Yet worry, doubt, and fear do sometimes seep in and try to overtake the good. Beginning or ending my day with purposeful thoughts about those things for which I am grateful has focused my soul, purpose, and energy on hope. Hope for the world, hope for my day, hope for my kids, hope for my husband, hope for our marriage, and hope for our life together as a family. It has put into perspective the news items of the day and allowed me to view it all through a lens of faith and love. Faith in God’s purpose for all the people of the world. Faith in people’s genuine goodness. Faith that, no matter where you are, God is speaking to you in some way, shape or form. Faith that no matter who you are, there is some good inside of you–there is some good outside of you, too.

You see, I have this sneaking suspicion that gratitude, goodness, and love are in some way involved in defining the very meaning of life for which philosophers, theologians, artists, and the average person have been searching for millennium. I also firmly believe that meaning and some questions won’t be answered until we reach whatever afterlife we are headed toward. That’s why I am inviting you to read more, learn more, and reflect on that for which you are thankful and to make a purposeful effort at facing this journey called life with an eye toward goodness, gratitude, love, and faith. Faith in whatever it is that makes sense to you, however that Supreme Higher Power (Universe, God, whatever) is reaching you today. And hang in there through the tough times. Everyone has them and even when we cannot change what is happening to us, we can change how we react to and think about it if only we work at it.

God bless!

Resolution or No?

The force is strong… that force that pulls at each of us as every old year presses to a close and the new year rockets toward us at breakneck speed. Of which force am I speaking? Well, I’d have thought the title would give it away, but okay: I’m speaking of the force I am calling “resolution pressure.” It’s like peer pressure, actually, but really, it doesn’t matter if your peers are making a resolution or not, at the end of the year, this force weighs on each of us to make a resolution. Make a change! Improve yourself! Make 2014 better than 2013! Do something with your life! Be successful! Lose weight! Get healthy! Quit smoking! Be nicer to people! Read more books!

Whatever it is, whatever resolution you feel pulled toward, make it count. Do not just resolve to get healthy and give up on January 6. Don’t start wearing the patch and then casually pick up a box of cigarettes at the convenience store. Do not approach days 1-4 with sweetness and light and then buckle at the first sign of frustration. In the words of Nike, “Just do it,” (is that even their slogan anymore?). Do not make a resolution that you cannot possibly live up to, no matter how tempting it is. Be practical, of course, but if you are going to make a change, just do it.

I have heard people say, “I don’t do resolutions, but this year I’m…” Nice try, but newsflash, that’s a resolution. If you feel better not calling it that, well that’s okay. If you are making a decision on January 1 to change something in your life for the better, yep, that’s a resolution. Maybe it’s not very specific, maybe it’s something you’ve been meaning to do anyway, but regardless of your reasons or what word you use, it is still a resolution. There was one year, I think, when I said I wasn’t making a resolution–maybe it was last year because I cannot even remember last year’s resolution–but then I did. In the SAME BLOG POST. Pathetic. It’s a resolution. So this year, rather than play semantics, I’ve just decided to give in and go with the crowd. I like having a goal, anyway. And what better time to declare one than at the start of a new year?

When I thought about what my resolution would be, a quote from Meet Joe Black came to mind,

“You have to try, because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.”

It’s actually part of a much longer quote from Anthony Hopkins’ character about the importance of passionate love in life, but this last part has always stuck with me. My only real resolution this year is to try new things, especially if I don’t think I will like them. I am the type who assumes they don’t like something simply because it is popular not to like it. I said for the longest time I didn’t like sushi, and then I met my husband who took me to many sushi restaurants before I actually gave it real a try (my very first attempt at sushi years before literally left a bad taste in my mouth). And guess what? I loved it. I love it maybe more than he does now.

So far, it is January second and I’ve tried exactly nothing I wasn’t already planning to try. I don’t want to force the issue, though. When things come up, so long as it doesn’t violate my pescetarianism, compromise my health and well-being (or that of anyone else), and is not illegal or in some other way a violation of my own moral code, I vow to seriously consider giving it a try. I realize that is heavy on the caveats, but it’s not as if I can try veal for the first time this year or start base jumping just because it’s something I assume I wouldn’t like. Veal really compromises almost all of those caveats. And, er, the very idea of base jumping terrifies the living hell out of me and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t exactly fit in with maintaining my well-being.

Like last year, I have also decided on a word of the year. This was a concept my friend Emma (brilliant lady that she is) introduced to me. I wasn’t overly successful in implementing my word last year: CALM. In fact, that’s more often how it appeared in my mind during tough times, in uppercase letters and bold: C A L M! 2013 was anything but calm. Dealing with a new baby, my oldest son’s diagnosis, and a major move from Germany to Pennsylvania (for two months), and then on to Little Rock, Arkansas (for the foreseeable future) brought much stress into our lives and sometimes, we freaked out a bit. However, the word came to mind each trying moment and that reminder did, I think, help me calm down much more rapidly than if I hadn’t declared it my word of 2013.

This year, we’re continuing to work on our “calm” and intermingling “JOY.” This may be an easier task, there is so much joy in my day already with my two little guys when they wake up and give me a bright beaming smile or giggle out loud about something silly. Or with my big guy when he gives me a kiss as he returns home from work or we snuggle on the couch to watch fascinating television together. I just want to appreciate these instances more and stop to reflect, even briefly, on other moments that may bring joy. I want to look for joy even in moments that do not seem particularly joyous. I just feel like, for most of us anyway, our lives are what we make them. We can choose to see a whole lot of trouble at every turn, or we can roll with it and, in the words of the endlessly fascinating Buffy character Faith:

“Find the fun.”

So that’s what I’m going to do: find the fun. Except that I’m calling it joy because it just sounds classier.

Try.

Joy.

I can do this. Here’s to 2014!

Time: So Little and So Much

I like time. There’s so little and so much of it.

– from “Angel”

My little family of three is less than three weeks away from becoming a family of four (and even more heavily testosterone laden). At moments during this pregnancy, it felt like these weeks would never arrive and now that they’re here, it seems as though they’ve come around quite suddenly. Pregnancy, like many things in life, feels at once blisteringly fast and painfully slow. I do not wish to wax poetic about the joys and struggles of carrying a child for nine months nor complain about the pleasures and stresses that come along with motherhood. I realize there are multiple perspectives and am fully aware that many do not get to experience these gifts.

As I sit here watching my son play, intermittently happy and then running to me upset when he becomes frustrated (which happens approximately every minute or so at two-and-a-half years of age), it occurs to me that time is an incredibly curious phenomenon. In many respects, it does seem as though it passes more rapidly as we age. It is true that a minute is a minute regardless of how old we get, and yet there’s a relativity to time that shifts dramatically in varying circumstances. Two minutes seem an eternity to a two year old stuck in a time out, but fly by for the student trying to squeeze a few more test answers before the professor announces, “Time’s up!” Waiting at a red light for sixty seconds is incredibly frustrating (especially when running late) and yet those same sixty seconds tick down ever so quickly to the football team desperately trying to score the winning goal at the end of the fourth quarter.

Time’s fleeting and seemingly bi-polar nature is something wholly out of our control. I suppose the moral of the story is to enjoy every moment of life and try not to worry about those things over which we have no control. My easily frustrated toddler who, at the moment, cannot get enough of Mama’s love and attention (especially at the most inopportune moments) will become a busy young boy soon enough and, let’s face it, I’ll miss these days and that “clingy-ness” that sometimes wears on a tired pregnant mother.

Yet another curious observation about time is how easily some seem to classify it as “wasted.” Priorities in life differ from one person to another. So, too, do our interests and hobbies. People occasionally deride those who spend their leisure time watching television or playing video games. Such time is clumsily classified as frivolous and wasted. It may be true in some cases. Some who enjoy nothing more than the “great-outdoors” find it “sad” that there are those of us who, for one reason or another, do not. Then there are those who enjoy spending their time with their nose in a book and laugh at those who stare “mindlessly” at the “idiot-box” for hours a day (I am a reader and would argue there are plenty of books out there that are doing absolutely nothing to contribute to one’s IQ or knowledge base).

Any number of comparisons can be made regarding what is and is not wasted time. This, I think, is a judgment that is largely relative and best left for each individual to evaluate alone. For my money, I agree with this sentiment:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

-Marthe Troly-Curtin

I will leave you with one final thought from C.S. Lewis, as I seem to be turning to his wisdom with increasing frequency even when I do not, necessarily, agree:

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

– C.S. Lewis

Enjoy whatever time you have, however you choose to spend it.

Blessings!

I Am Not a “Joiner”

Despite my best laid plans and intentions to the contrary, I must confess and accept that I am simply not a “joiner.”

Perhaps I once was. I remember a very busy childhood, throughout which, despite all of my socially-based anxieties, I managed quite a bit of sport and extracurricular involvement. I had a difficult time adjusting to middle school where I began to feel quite out-of-step with my peers (though, I have surmised this is not an uncommon phenomenon). I became involved in sports medicine and coaching in high school, believing, after two ankle fractures in softball (and reconstructive ankle surgery), I probably was more suited to these roles. This was a way of involvement that allowed me to maintain some sense of self and, yet, a sense of belonging. It also provided me opportunity to help people without feeling like I had to compete with my peers (my distaste for competition is a subject for another day).

My lupus diagnosis, which came toward the end of my sophomore year (after I had already missed four months of school), did nothing to increase my level of involvement. I remained a student trainer and coached when I was able. Still, I didn’t want to leave high school involved in only NHS and training, so I tried several new clubs my senior year. This busy-ness (and a bad medication) led to an eventual “crash” and hospitalization in the spring of that year (I will spare you the details). You see, pushing myself to be a “joiner,” something I unequivocally am not, was not kind to me then. It is not kind to me now, either.

Since becoming a military wife and moving to Europe, I have tried to overcome this “not-a-joiner” status to no avail. I am better in small groups or, better yet, one-on-one. It is not that I do not like people, I actually do quite a lot (why else would I aim to become a pastoral counselor?). It is just that social situations make me incredibly uncomfortable and cause a level of stress that is not healthy for me as I live with and battle lupus and fibromyalgia. This level of stress makes these activities unenjoyable, despite the wonderful people with whom I might congregate. While I’m pregnant, in seminary, and raising little Weston, I can handle one social activity per week. Any more than that, and I feel overwhelmed and risk a flare-up that I cannot afford to have right now.

I know that when Weston (and my yet unborn baby, Isaac) are grown a bit, they will be involved in many activities. I shall enthusiastically support them. I will be their biggest advocate and “cheerleader.” At this point for me, however, especially during times when my body doesn’t cooperate, I just have to accept this fact: I am NOT a joiner. I am not a gregarious, outgoing social butterfly. I am a homebody. I like to spend time with my boys, read, study religion and philosophy, and analyze pop-culture from a spiritual standpoint so that I am able to meet people “where they are.” While my two little guys are still young, I shall stick with my level of comfort so that I am able to care for them best.

It may change over time… or it may not. I have reached a point of acceptance about which either outcome will be fine with me.

So, to all my friends: you are loved and appreciated. I do want to spend time with you. Sometimes, however, the very idea of an impending social function causes flare-up inducing stress and I am physically incapable of attending. Please do not take it personally when it seems I drop off the edge of the Earth every time a new social event is announced. I’m still here… safe and comfortable in my happy bubble, and I’m okay here.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

-C.S. Lewis

Blessings to all!

You Can’t Win

Recently, I have been listening to Kelly Clarkson’s excellent song “You Can’t Win” often. It is one of those songs that is inherently relate-able (regardless of whether you like her music or not). The message of the song is pretty clear: It matters not who you are, what you do, or what you believe, you really cannot please everyone (or often, anyone at all). I could take apart the song, lyric by lyric and discuss how I relate to it, but I’m just going to go with one for now:

“If you speak, you’ll only piss ’em off. If you don’t, you’re another robot. If you go, they’ll just say you quit. If you don’t, you might lose your sh–.”

The impetus inspiring today’s iTunes repeat Clarkson-a-thon, is the recent rise in snarky or nasty political tweets and FB comments I seem to come across regularly. I do not wish to engage in a political debate on my blog or any other social media format because I am not sure it serves much purpose other than needlessly making enemies of friends and family members. Certainly one *can* share whatever comment one wishes to, it’s a free country and a (mostly) free internet. But just because you can, does that mean you should?

I think part of the problem is the rise in social media use and the feeling of “anonymity” associated with it. The online forum encourages people to say things that they would not dream of uttering in person. Ironically, the Internet makes everything one says quite public, which is why any notion of online anonymity is a complete façade. I learned a lesson years and years ago about taking care with my political comments (all of my comments, actually). I once boldly expressed my political opinion anywhere I was permitted to do so, but that has changed dramatically for me in the last 5 years (in part because I have been called to ministry). Now I often leave my personal opinions off social media (FB, especially), because I do not wish to lose friends over these sensitive topics.

I suppose I take particular umbrage with the instances where even having a thought or belief about something or stating that you watched, for instance, the RNC or DNC speeches is somehow an affront to someone. Those who know me, know I’m not a nasty person, bigot, racist, sexist, or homophobe and yet somehow the very idea that I am a Christian is somehow offensive to some people.

Something that is lost on many these days is that, as Christians, we are to follow Christ’s example of genuinely loving and accepting everyone. I try to follow this path each and every day. So it baffles me that when my moral code is a point of derision. Yes, I believe life begins at conception and that abortion ought to be used VERY infrequently in special circumstances. Why does this make me some kind of enemy to my fellow women? I do not wish to offend anyone. I can respect your opinion, and I’m not trying to take away anyone’s rights. I just don’t understand when it became a crime to have a belief system and a moral core. But, I digress.

Social media, in and of itself, is not to blame. Individuals chose what to post and what not to post. Certainly, it is the polarizing nature our two-party system in election season that brings out the worst in many of us. Social media is probably only at fault insofar as it makes all opinions more widely visible. Were people always so nasty and angry? I certainly hope not. Nor do I hope this is a trend heading in that direction for the duration of our time on Earth. I think it has always been the case that a bold and vocal minority makes bigger waves (especially online) than a silent majority. I am proud that, in America, all opinions are able to be presented, regardless of how agreeable or disagreeable. I am exceedingly grateful that we all have the right to practice our faith, no matter what we believe. My only wish here is that people on all sides would think before speaking and use more caution in the public expression of their opinions. I realize commentators and talking heads are paid for their opinions and that is all well and good. Read whomever you want, but think about what you read critically and temper your approach if you wish to maintain good relationships with others.

I don’t know, maybe you just can’t win. Perhaps my public thoughts here will fall on deaf ears. You are all welcome to your opinion just as I am mine. I implore you to consider that this political season will eventually come to an end, and my hope is that we all find we have as many friends after as we did before.

May God bless us all.

I shall close with lyrics from my favorite singer (who also happens to be vocally liberal), Aimee Mann:

“All you wanna do is something good, so get ready to be ridiculed and misunderstood. ‘Cause don’t you know that your a [expletive] freak in this world, in which everybody’s willing to chose swine over pearls? So maybe everything is all for nothing, still you’d better keep it to yourself, ’cause God knows it’s not safe with anybody else.”