Just Look...

Just Look...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Dear Graduating from High School Me:

Well, you did it. You survived the trials and perceived (and some actual) injustices of growing up. You flourished in the good times and you kicked furiously to stay above water in the hard times. You honestly made high school look easy and I know you're proud of yourself. You achieved much.

I also know you're terrified. The work you did, the image you built, the recognitions you received are all going away now. You are back to the drawing board. What if you aren't good enough? What if it was some fluke that high school worked so well for you? What if you don't make any friends in college and you can't find a major and you just spend your days wishing for anywhere but here, anyone but them, anytime but now, anything but this?

I just want to tell you this: it wasn't a fluke. You are you. You may be terrified, but you will make it work again. And again. And again. You'll mess up along the way and sometimes the path won't be straight or pretty or easy. In fact, the biggest decisions of your life are up ahead. You are going to make one choice that many will naysay and another that is going to rock the very foundations of your world. But guess what? Both will prove to lead to the most beautiful pieces of your future. One will bring you a career that gives you a joy that you have never known existed. The other will bring a husband and two girls who will make you laugh like you have never laughed and love more deeply than you ever thought you could love.

You have formed so many relationships in the past four years. There are some of these that have taken more from you than you have been given... some that have suffocated and strangled you, nearly choked the beauty that makes you, you. It's time to loosen yourself from the stranglehold those poisonous relationships have on you. You really shouldn't have held on this long, but you live and learn. Remember, in the future, those feelings you had when those people made you feel worthless and silly. Keep yourself free of those sorts of entanglements as you continue in life.

And for those other friends? The ones who made you better, who clarified you in a way that made you truly see yourself? I know you're scared to lose them. And, even though I know you don't want to hear this-- you ARE going to lose some of them. Not because they aren't worthwhile or because they weren't your true friends, but because life just does that sometimes. And even though it will hurt, both now and the first time you realize that something amazing happened and they WEREN'T the first person you thought of to call, it doesn't change who they have been to you in these years. Treasure the memories of those friendships.  Many others of those friends will remain by your side. Some you will continue to talk to regularly and even if you don't, they will be friends you can talk to at any point and feel like nothing has changed. Be grateful for those people. They put the color into your life. And be open to the new relationships that come in your future.

There is some mending that needs to be done. And I'm going to tell you something you probably don't want to hear and I know you won't listen, but I'll say it anyway: Now is the time. It's not going to get easier with time; in fact, it's going to get harder. So fix things now, while there's just a little bit of pride at stake. Life's too short to leave things unsaid and to build heavy walls that get too big to tear down.

Say some thank you's. I know your teenage ego thinks that you are the one who got yourself here, but it SO isn't. Your parents deserve your gratitude. Do you know that there were entire days and weeks (and maybe even months) that they walked around feeling like you were mad at them for just BEING? Yet they stood by you and loved you and came to your band concerts and your honors banquets and paid for your youth group trips and took you on vacations and ran a pickup-delivery service. Let them know you saw it and you appreciate it. And those other adults-- the teachers, the youth pastor, the coach, the family friend-- tell them, too. They have poured into you for so long and they are pretty down right now too. They deserve to know that you aren't just going to skip off the stage and forget they ever existed.

Here's the thing... some moments you are excited, some you are terrified, and some you are heartbroken over the ending of your time at CHS. But whatever you are feeling right this minute, just know that it's all going to work out in the end. You're going to come out on top. Not just on top, but with a fabulous life that you are going to LOVE with a heart that is so full of joy and delight and vigor. I would say don't worry about it all, don't sweat the future, but you will. So instead I'll remind you that there is One who brought you to this point, and He didn't bring you here to leave you. He brought you lovingly through the sadness of your freshman year and delightedly through the highs of the other three. He held you safely in His hand and protected you from so much that could have changed the path you have taken. And ... you know I'm going to say it... He will go on with you and do the same thing for the next four. In fact, for the next seventeen! His plan is so far beyond anything you could have ever dreamed. It actually will turn out pretty close to the opposite from what you are expecting right now, and what a blessing that will be. The years behind you have been mostly great. You're a high school person. But my goodness, what pleasures are ahead in the years to come. Walk forward with courage. March on with excitement. Step away with faith. Because it's all going to work out beautifully.

Your Happy, Accomplished, Healthy 35 Year Old Self

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Don't Rat Me Out.

I made this to show this morning in our Missions Focus service. This month's focus is our trip to Cambodia in July. I used photos provided by People for Care and Learning and Steven Curtis Chapman's song, "Miracle of the Moment". If any of these things violate any sort of copyright laws, please don't rat me out. It's Kingdom work, people... Kingdom work. ;)


Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Get It.

So last week, I started leading a Bible study at church on The Seven Experiment, by Jen Hatmaker. This book wrecked my world like nothing I have ever read or done. I read it the first time this past fall and when I finished, I could not find my footing in a world I thought I knew; in a faith I thought I knew. 

I grew up in a generous home. My parents gave to the church, they gave when people needed it, and they gave to us. In the midst of their giving, they also were good stewards of what they had and they budgeted responsibly. They were great examples to us. I have always had a love/hate relationship with money. I don't personally like it very much at all. I don't like thinking about it, planning around it, counting it, or dealing with it in any way. However, I do love what you can do and get with it. I have always considered myself a generous person. I have no problem giving money or spending money on others. In fact, I actually love to do it. 


Seven alerted me to some little details about myself that did not make me proud. I may have been generous and happy to give my money to people and causes, but I sure wasn't very aware of my own town and needs that exist here. I realized that I had no clue if we had a homeless population in Cleveland (we do) or what ministries were already doing work on the front line. I hadn't considered that the stuff I had (and the stuff I wasted) could actually be harmful to others. I was ignorant to so many pieces of the social justice puzzle. And I was the one who was supposedly leading young minds down that path in an entire semester long class! 

So last October (I think), I went and met with a trusted mentor for a sounding board. I didn't expect him to "fix me" at all because, honestly, I didn't know what needed to be "fixed". I just needed someone to listen. And maybe point me in some direction. Several things came out of that meeting, not the least of which was a couple more meetings with leaders from different local agencies and humanitarian groups. From those meetings have come some specific actions and even an upcoming mission trip. I started to think I might have a chance at "fixing"me.

At the end of that month, I took my Holocaust Lit class to a conference that focused on a little village in France, Le Chambon. This deeply religious Protestant village of 500 Christians sheltered 500 Jews during the Holocaust. This conference, mind you, was not a religious conference. The focus was simply on choosing to be the rescuer. However, I left reminded that the Holocaust occurred in the heart of Christian Europe. It would not have been possible without the apathy of Christians. Why, then, if the world cared so little, did a few in this village care so much? The point was made by the survivors that any community anywhere has the choice to make and can choose right. People who seem very ordinary can do something extraordinary.

Christmas is a natural time to focus on others, in my opinion. It's easy, when the lights twinkle in the tree and everyone's singing about Little Baby Jesus, to give out of your abundance. But heaven knows (and in this case, Heaven did know) January is the time when the rubber meets the road. So this year, our church planned a reading initiative of the Bible. We read the entire Bible, aloud, from start to finish. Church members signed up for times to go to the church and read aloud. I signed up for a time later on, in the hope that it would be New Testament  because I wanted Emma and Kelsey to read some and I knew the New Testament would be easier than Old. (I didn't think at the time to pray that we did NOT somehow hit during Song of Solomon, but thank goodness we didn't.) Wanna guess what part we read? Yep. Matthew 25:35-40 was part of it. 

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" The King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to the one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

OK. Got it, God. Yes. This little emotional high from Seven can't stop with Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. I continued to grapple with my uneven ground. The difference in what I had always known and what I felt like God was calling me to... the comfort of the pew and the stones under bare feet on the sidewalks of life... the temptation to close my eyes to what was around me or to really LOOK.

Then came March, and I went to the Director's Training for Royal Family. Again, I was challenged by various speakers and presenters that it HAS to be us. The church is the one who has to rewrite the story. I listened to the head of Colorado DCS as she urged churches to lead in answering the call to foster and adopt. The church is not and cannot be in opposition to government and they can't come to us; we have to go to the government and work alongside them, recruiting for them.

Then came the idea to lead this Seven study in late April. And tonight, as I prepared for my lesson next Wednesday, what did I see but ... yep. Matthew 25:35-40. I'm not sure those verses really give us much wiggle room. You don't get to offer up our myriad of excuses as to why we didn't do the things we were specifically called to do.

I'm not sure what form this is going to take, for me or the members of our Bible study. But I know that I am anxious for the journey.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Will Save Us

I'm having a day and night in which I need to decompress and writing is the best way to do it, but I am rather certain it will end up disorganized and messy. I guess that's real life a lot of the time, though right? Disorganized and messy?

I've spent this entire day in bed, other than a mid-day span in which I got up and showered and ate lunch and the past three and a half hours. I've also had lots of liquid leakage from my eyes. At everything. All day. I have had a raging headache and lots of body pains, so I'm not sure the tears are from pain or from the emotional crash that comes after two months of major stress. Either way, I was pretty unfit for normal life until the past couple of hours.

I am one hundred percent guilty of over-scheduling myself during certain times of the year. Spring is certainly one of those times. I abuse myself emotionally and physically and I'm pretty difficult to live with. (For about three weeks, I refused to allow Kraig or the girls to talk to me about the Run for Cover 5K. I got actual physical chest pains every time I thought about it, so I tried to limit the number of times it crossed my mind. Yes, I am as much of a joy as I seem.) Today during one of my crying jags, I apologized to Emma and Kelsey for being irritable during the past two months, to which Emma responded, "It's ok, Mommy. I've been pretty awkward lately too." I'm not sure how to take that, but it sure made me feel better.

The thing that these seasons of great challenge do for me is that they strengthen the bonds I have with other people. (Well, at least any other people who aren't completely put off by the fact that I am a giant pain.) If I had one piece of advice to give, it would be to put yourself in communities that matter to you, communities that you can make better by your involvement and that can better you. I am, in general, a giant fan of people. I thrive on relationships. I could never work a job in which I did not have meaningful interaction with others (although very occasionally, I think it might be nice to try some time in a cubicle ALONE). ;)

In the month of April, I have worked in three different communities on three different projects.

My first was the Run for Cover 5K, which I have already addressed on this blog. The kids I worked closely with on that project will be kids I will never forget, as long as I live. They remind me that there is such a bright hope for the future, that for every nineteen year old who has lost hope in humanity and chosen to bring about destruction, there are so many more nearly nineteen year olds who choose instead to bring light rather than darkness and good in place of evil.

This weekend was the Royal Family 5K, a third annual event sponsored by my church. Yesterday reminded me (as if I could forget) how blessed I am to be part of this community of South Cleveland COG. Not only did my committee work with me but our church members are the primary support and participants in this event. I had friends who came and walked or ran because they care about abused and neglected children (and also about me). I can't begin to express the feeling in my heart when I look out at a sea of RF5KC shirts and faces of those who care about His children. The defining moment for me yesterday was when a camper from last year, AJ, spoke briefly at the awards ceremony about what Royal Family Kids' Camp meant to him. It's one thing to tell about the kids and the camp-- it's quite another to put a face and a voice to this ministry.

And for non-5K events, last night was our CHS Prom. This event confirms my heart for my CHS community. From parents who came out to help on Friday and provided us lunch while we worked to prom committee faculty members who put that place back in shape last night a full TWO HOURS faster than I would have expected to the students who are the reason for all of the work. Julie and I spend a year planning, a good four months of work, and three days of insane effort on each prom but we could not do it alone. This year we knew of some kids who needed some financial assistance and our incredible faculty contributed to flower purchases, tux rentals, dress purchases, and dress clothes loans for at least twelve kids. The evening was a complete success and my heart is full of love for my fellow Raiders.

Through the course of these past two months, I can't tell you how many small gestures of goodwill that have been offered me by other members of my various communities. The money continues to come in for my mission trip to Cambodia, even more from people I never even asked! I have a family who always will pick up the slack when my scheduling gets in the way of my parenting. :) I get texts and fb messages of offers of help and support and encouragement so very frequently. One special new friend even sent me a little note and "sunshine" gift on a day when she knew my nerves were especially fraught. I got a text from a student on Friday night that said, "I know you are probably stressing, so I thought I'd text and say relax." :) This morning I woke to texts from friends who were celebrating with me the completion of these events.

 I say it all the time, and maybe it's not true for everyone, but it is SO true for me-- I am the people in my life. I absolutely would not be capable of anything I do without the support and encouragement from those around me. So to those of you who are members of MY community, I say thank you. You will just never know what you mean.

And to those who are looking for something in life-- to you I would say, find those people. Find the people who will love you and hold your arms up when you are too tired to do it yourself and pick up your kids from school and send you a Coke and offer to do menial and annoying tasks so that you don't have to and wrap their arms around you and let you cry on them when that's what you need. Find that community you can work alongside in the effort of some common good. Because in the end, that's what will save us from this life until we reach the point of being taken by Him to that other life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Mish-Mash of Randomness

A motley assortment of random things... of course, when is this blog NOT that???

This spring is so quickly winding down to a close. I can hardly believe that prom is less than a week away and, in a week, all of my big spring projects will be (hopefully!) successfully completed! All that May will bring is photographing a special wedding, leading a Bible study at church, and sweet Emma's TENTH BIRTHDAY PARTY. I have been really blessed so far with everything truly working out for the good in regard to these projects I stupidly take on. :) 

Last week in our Beth Moore study, she said something that resonated so heavily with me and I thought it might appeal to someone else. She was talking about worry and the way that we borrow tomorrow's trouble and basically ruin today with it. I am not going to be able to word this as succinctly as she did and have it make sense, so just bear with my wordiness. She said that when I (for example) look into the future, the me that I am seeing is lacking His grace. The grace God gives us is like manna. We get the exact amount we need for today, and today only. It is given to us daily. When we live in tomorrow, not only do we miss today's grace, we are looking ahead to a time that appears so much harder because we are seeing it without the perspective that will be provided by tomorrow's grace (when "tomorrow" becomes "today"). Wow. I bet Beth Moore would be astounded at how horrifically I butchered her statement. Anyway, and I am betting no one got that at all from this explanation, but I LOVED that explanation of what damage worry can do. I had never considered the grace aspect of it. 

Along the line of wonderful words from the Lord, great word this AM from Pastor Chris Moody... It has to be about the "will", not the "feel". Shouldn't have come as a surprise to me during the altar service when I felt the Lord remind me that, all too often, my emotions are based entirely on external circumstances instead of internal peace and joy. When the weather is pretty and events are working out and my students are responding well and my friends are keeping in close contact and the girls are getting along and my house is organized, I am on top of the world. But boy when one of those things goes south-- so do I. Nothing changes in His will. My emotions have to be based on that stable force. 

And finally, I am so excited to be leading an elective at church on Jen Hatmaker's Seven Bible study. It starts on Wed the 24th and I am just PUMPED. I read the Intro today and watched session one of the DVD. I have loved Jen and her husband, Brandon, since I read their first words. His book, Barefoot Church, is just PHENOMENAL too. Both call modern American Christians to live... well, like Jesus lived. Crazy out of the box thought, huh? ;) Anyway, I got a lot of cool thoughts and ideas today while I brainstormed my class, so I am just hoping someone other than me shows up. ;)

Well, we've reached that time of year that turns me into a meteorologist. I have checked my 10 day forecast on my weather app no less than 9 times today. If you were wondering, it has not changed in the past six hours. If it is possible to wear an app out, I am going to do it with this one. My obsession with the weather is due to coordinating the RF5KC on Saturday morning and the prom on Saturday evening. We have been BEYOND blessed the past SEVERAL years for both events and have had perfect weather. I just pray so hard for the same this year. If you have not yet signed up for the RF5KC, feel free to comment on here or email rf5kc@yahoo.com for an application. We will accept them until the time of the race, though extra t-shirts are limited. It's a way to make a difference in the life of a foster child in a single Saturday morning, so please get involved. If you aren't a runner or walker or creeper (not that kind) but still want to help, contact me. I still need volunteers.

Happy New Week!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yom HaShoah-- A Day to Remember

Today I had the privilege of taking a small group of students to the Day of Remembrance Ceremony at the State Capitol. It was a beautiful, warm Monday and they were kids who had chosen to accompany me, even though it meant leaving school at 11 and not returning home until nearly ten-- and spending nearly six hours in the CAR. One of my students had been asked to read the reflective writing that he had composed after the fall Holocaust conference. It was just a wonderful day filled with precious survivors, beautiful Hebrew prayers, old friends, and hope for the future.

As my student finished reading his piece about standing up to overcome indifference, he graciously thanked the generation of survivors for being willing to share their stories and promised to do his part to never forget. As he walked away from the podium with a giant smile, I watched a frail elderly survivor across the aisle lock eyes with him and nod a nod of respect and gratitude. They played a memorial slideshow toward the end, honoring survivors and liberators who have passed in the past year. I think there were between 10 and 15 of them. It is a scary thought to me that eventually there won't be any survivors to talk to and whose stories to hear first-hand. I like to think that the lady who was so enamored with my student felt that way because it blessed her heart to know that, even when she and the others filling those chairs are gone, their legacy will live on in the lives of these students who will battle indifference in our world.

At the very end, a rabbi read a prayer of benediction. I went up to her afterward to ask if it was a personal prayer or one that had been published because it spoke directly to my heart. She so kindly offered me her paper with the prayer (and her reflection) typed on it. Especially in the wake of the successful Run for Cover event, this prayer just contains an incredible message.

"A Prayer for Overcoming Indifference" 
by Rabbi Naomi Levy

"...Forgive us God, for remaining aloof while others are in need of our assistance.

Wake us up, God, ignite our passion, fill us with outrage. Remind each and every one of us that we are responsible for Your world. Don't allow us to stand idly by. Inspire us to act. Teach us to believe that we can repair some corner of the world.

When we despair, fill us with hope. When we doubt our strength, fill us with faith. When we are weary, renew our spirit. When we lose direction, show us the way back to meaning, back to compassion, back to You. Amen."

My absolute favorite line is "Teach us to believe that we can repair some corner of the world." Wow. Grant it, Lord. For if we all believe that we can do that, the world will no longer need much repair.
I love the symbolism represented in this picture of the elderly survivor's (probably) granddaughter lighting his candle for him because his hands were too weak. It depicts an actual passing of the torch of remembrance from generation to generation. Beautiful.

Sidenote: I'm not certain of this site because I didn't look around much, but I did like the post from today. Check it out if you have time.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review of Niequist's Bread and Wine

A little over a year ago, a friend suggested a book called Bittersweet. I resisted for a while simply because it was nonfiction and, at that point, I preferred fiction. However, I finally bought it and boy am I glad I did! I sopped that book up like gravy with a biscuit. That is, if I liked gravy. Which I don't. But that's beside the point. To be totally honest, when I finished the book, I copied several passages into the notes section on my iphone just so that I could continue to ruminate on it. It absolutely  dazzled me. As soon as I finished it, I got what is actually her first book, Cold Tangerines. It was every bit as savory as Bittersweet.

Niequist's style is part conversational, part poetry. I love the essay structure of her books and the way she is transparent and real. As you might imagine, when I heard that book three was in progress, I was thrilled. Bread and Wine releases on April 9 and it will be ohsoworth your time and money! I jumped at a chance to get an advanced copy and read it early in exchange for reviewing it.

As a non-cook, I hoped that I would enjoy the essays enough to make up for my lack of interest in the recipes. Let me tell you, IT DELIVERED. I find that the only way I can read Niequist's books is with a  highlighter in my hand. And sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to highlight the parts that DIDN'T speak to me rather than the parts that did! :)

I can't cite all the quotes I LOVED, but I want to touch on a couple of the basic ideas that especially moved me.


This is something that I have really felt the Lord working on me about in recent years. I got into a funk when I just preferred staying home and being with my family instead of socializing. At some point, I realized that I am called to interact with others and that the best way for me to do so is to have them to my home. Since then, I have hosted Pinterest parties, book clubs, student groups, couples dinners, game nights, a Three Kings Party, and lots of gatherings for my daughters and their friends. I want to have the house that people feel comfortable in and enjoy coming to, even if the food ISN'T sophisticated or even, at times, homemade.

"It's not, actually, strictly about food for me. It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories." (introduction)

"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how old." (pg 95)

My Deepest, Darkest Secret

...that probably really isn't a secret at all. I have a desperate desire to be liked. What? Most everyone has the same desperate desire? Good to know. My desperation manifests itself in DOING. If I can just DO enough, everyone will be happy. If I can just DO enough, people will enjoy being around me. If I can just DO enough, I'll always have a posse of close friends. If I can just DO enough, people will want me on their committees and in their organizations. I'll make myself ESSENTIAL to these people and groups. Then I'll NEVER be alone. I am so fearful of stillness, quiet, and solitude. This is not something I am proud of, because the fear comes from a root of insecurity. My mind is never still, always assessing and reassessing the interactions I have with others. Is she happy with me today? Did he act like that comment I made bothered him? Did they seem more quiet this evening out than they normally are? And in this regard, I think Shauna Niequist and I might be the same person.

"...forced me to confront the part of me that believes people only love me and keep me around because of what I can do for them. Some people are included because they're beautiful, or rich, or really smart. Some people are included because they're professionally successful. I get to stick around because I get stuff done. That's my thing. I'm a get-stuff-done person. I'm a utility player, a workhorse." (pg 105)

"We have, each of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes. We're spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it. When things are too crazy, the only voices I hear are the voices of fear and shame. I stop being able to hear the voice of God, the voice of rest, the voice of hope and healing and restoration, the voice that gives new life to dry old bones. And instead I hear that old song I've heard all my life: You're not good enough. You're not good enough. But that voice is a lie. And it's a terrible guide. When I listen to it, I burn the candle at both ends and try to light the middle while I'm at it. The voice of God invites us to full, whole living-- to rest, to abundance, to enough. To say no. To say no more. To say I'm going to choose to live wholly and completely in the present, even though this ragged, run-down person I am right now is far from perfect." (pg 155)

"We fragment our minds for a reason, of course-- because we like the idea of being sixty-seven other places instead of the one lame, lonely place we find ourselves on some days." (pg 187)
Learning to Accept Myself

I am not really comfortable going into lots of details on this one, but I will just say that my body has changed drastically in the past ten years and there are days that I am harder on myself than others about it. I also feel guilty sometimes that I am NOT more bothered than I am. Truthfully, I am pretty comfortable with me in my own mind. I only become dissatisfied when I look at myself through the eyes of others. I honestly have decided recently that I can't do it all and, for right now at least, my focus is going to be on other people instead of my physical condition. I have spent way too much time comparing myself to others and feeling ostracized and different because I haven't laced up my shoes and headed for the track or the gym. I'm done with those feelings. I'm going to be the me that God has called ME to be.

"Part of being a Christian means practicing grace in all sorts of big and small ways, and my body gives me the opportunity to demonstrate grade, to make peace with imperfection every time I see myself in the mirror. On my best days, I practice grace and patience with myself, knowing I can't extend grace and patience if I haven't tasted it." (pg 33)

"What I'm finding is that when I'm hungry, lots of times what I really want more than food is an external voice to say, 'You've done enough. It's OK to be tired. You can take a break. I'll take care of you. I see how hard you're trying.' There is, though, no voice that can say that except my own, so the work I am doing now is to speak those words for myself, to give myself permission to be tired, to be weak, to need." (page 63)
This part is long, but I think, especially for women (and probably doubly especially moms), it is SO powerful. So I am including it. This portion is enough reason to go buy the book right now.
"But that's what shame does. It whispers to us that everyone is as obsessed with our failings as we are. It insists that there is, in fact, a watchdog group devoted completely to my weight or her wrinkles or his shrinking bank account. ... Shame tells us that we're wrong for having the audacity to be happy when we're so clearly terrible.
     Here we are again, my favorite time of year, summer at the lake and the idea of someone -- anyone!-- seeing me in my swimsuit makes me feel anxious. Let's be totally honest. It doesn't make me feel anxious; it makes me feel ashamed. I want to find any and every excuse to stay covered, stay inside, stay invisible.
    But if I do that, I'll miss the best parts of summer. I'll miss the beach. I'll miss the breathtaking plunges off the back of the boat into really, really cold water. I'll miss paddleboarding and boogie boarding. I'll miss watching Mac flat around, kicking his legs with a huge smile on his little face, and I'll miss racing Henry in the lake from there to there a thousand times in a row.
    So this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to swim. I'm going to paddleboard. I'm going to make sand castles and make-believe and make memories with my kids. I'm going to cannonball into the lake water. I'm going to live in the body God made me, not because it's perfect, but because it's mine. And I'm going to be thankful for health and for the ability to run and move and dance and swim.
    And this is what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide. I'm not going to bow out of things I love to do because I'm afraid people won't love me when they see my underbutt.
    This is the promise I'm making: this summer, I'm not going to be ashamed of my body. Or at the very least, I'm not going to let a lifetime of shame about my body get in the way of living in a rich, wild, grateful, wide-open way. 
    I'm not going to give in to the cultural pressure that says women's bodies are only beautiful when they're very, very small. I'm going to take up every inch of space I need, even though our world is obsessed with the idea that women should only take up the tiniest bits of space. I'm going to practice believing that I am more than my body, that I am more than my hips, that I am more than my stretch-marked stomach. I'm going to allow my shoulders to feel the sun, and even (gasp!) my thighs, instead of making sure I'm always, always safely covered and out of your view. 
    I'm not going to bow to the voice inside my head that says I should be ashamed of myself for being so fat, so wrong, so unruly and wild. I'm not going to develop a relationship with my cover-up that borders on obsessive. This summer, I'm not going to hide." (pp 220-221)
Because Apparently God Thought Hatmaker's Seven Needed Some Backup

I have written about this before, and seem to wrestle with it most all of the time. I am not satisfied with my religious life. I cannot shake the feeling that there is so much more out there (and not the kind of frantic "doing" that I have already mentioned) and we are not doing the job. I am way too content to sit in the sanctuary of South Cleveland and wait on the walking-needy and the love-hungry and the God-deprived to come find me. It shouldn't be hard for them to find me, right? I'm here on this pew or in this classroom during pretty much every scheduled service and class. So WHY AREN'T THEY COMING??? Because they aren't going to. Because God doesn't even expect them to. Because Jesus didn't tell us to use this strategy. Because HE didn't either. So it's time for a wrestling match. My instinct versus my intellect. My gut versus my laziness. My calling versus my culture. My relationships versus my order of worship. And I think God's not going to let this one go until I get it.

"The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and our towns." (pg 192)

"It's so easy to decide that because you can't do something extraordinary, you can't do anything at all. It's easy to decide that if you can't overhaul your entire life in one fell swoop, then you might as well just do nothing. We started where we could, with what we had." (pg 193)

"When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they're different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ." (pg 236)

"My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us." (pg 237)

"I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards." (pg 238)
This book will bless you, guaranteed. As for the recipes, even I found a couple that I am anxious to try! I would imagine that most people who do enjoy time in the kitchen would really especially enjoy the recipes and cooking tips included. As for me, the poetry and prompting were enough for my heart. BUY IT. You will not regret it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Because Some Days are Good Ones on Which to Change the World

Today was a little event that has been almost six months in the making... a little event that was the brainchild of a couple of kids on a drive to Nashville to a Holocaust conference... a little event that THEY sold to six other classmates in Holocaust Literature to choose as their Memorial Project... a little event that I in turn roped my wonderful cousin and HER Sports Marketing class into partnering with us on... a little event that raised over $2000 to build homes in Cambodia for displaced families! This little event was called the Run for Cover 5K and it benefitted People for Care and Learning's Build a City project. I am so forever grateful that we pulled it off, that I had these people to work with, that we raised that much money, and that our friends and family and fellow Raiders and community supported us the way they did.

Below is my fb status just now, which is accessible on here for some with whom I am not fb friends (and all of the kids), so I thought I would post it.

Know what today was? A great day to change the world. I have never been more proud of my people and I can't say enough how blessed I am to teach the people I teach, work with the people I work with, have the family I have, live in the community I live in, and be friends with the people I am friends with. (LONG AND EMOTIONAL STATUS COMING UP)

To my former students who participated (Leah, Erica, Hayley, Anne, Adam Moss, Megan Ownbey, Sara Anne Ownbye, Heather Jackson, Jackie, Elijah, Morgan)-- you guys amaze me. I love to see the heart that you have for people and what you are already accomplishing. I wanted to get a pic of all of you, but it was too busy.

To Robby, who so willingly agreed to be the lead cyclist and come out early today-- you know how much I love and adore you and it thrills me to see you, all these years later, headed to law school with that 4.0 still intact.

To my "running" friends (Amy and Sarah, Anita and Emma, Karla Bolanos, Kraig, Jason and Andrew Moore, Amy Smith and her running maniacs, Bennett and Reed, my girls Emma and Kelsey) who chose to spend your morning running for a cause, you will never know where your impact stops and I will never forget your support of me. Thank you for CHOOSING to spend your running time here.

To my NON-running friends (Julie Phillips, Melissa Barnett, my mom and others who fit into one of the other categories as well) who came out early on a COLD Saturday morning only to stand beside me and stand UP for Cambodian people who need a home, YOU are the people who make this world a better place and I am beyond privileged to call you "friend".

To my COWORKERS and other CCS personnel (Paula Ware, Kathy Phillips, Susan Tindal, Becky Davis, Lisa Brewster, Danielle DeBusk, Sandy Farlow, Becca Lay, Andy Byrd, Cassie Cantrell, Nick Cantrell, Sheron Smith, David Moore, Don Spivey, Katie Turpin) who love these kids (and hopefully me) and either gave a donation or participated this morning-- You KNOW how much this matters to these kids and YOU are the reason they are the people they are!

To the parents of these kids (the Currins, the Hutts, Gina Moser, Mr. Stukanov) who came out and loved on all of us-- I want to take parenting classes from ALL of you. You have it figured out. :)

To Melissa Barnett and the CHS football cheerleaders who elected to take part in this and let their money go to a cause instead of a banquet-- man. I don't even know what to say except that you showed this morning what the heart of a Raider really is.

To all current CHS students (who won't see this) who ran/walked, either out of love for your classmates, compassion for people, or a desire to make me happy-- IT WORKED. There is no better school anywhere and certainly no better students.

To Melissa Adams and the marketing class (I don't remember all of their names, so I won't name any), who partnered with Holocaust Lit-- There is no way this would have been the success it was without you guys. Your efforts (and CRAZY amount of corporate sponsors gained) were the perfect partnership for us. Melissa, from co-teaching yearbook to this event, there is no one else I would prefer working with than you!!! LOVE YOU!

To "my" kids (Grant, Justin, Becca, Olivia, Victoria, Oleg, Alex, and Walker), who won't see this until May 10 (but I will write them all a card)-- Y'all. I know you are proud of yourselves, but I wonder if you will gain a full appreciation for what you have done until you are older. You DID it. You GOT it. YOU are the change that we need in this world. You took knowledge of a tragedy that happened almost seventy years ago, let the implications of that seep into your mind and heart, then looked around to see what you could do for YOUR world in 2013. And most importantly-- you DID. You built at LEAST two houses across the globe for people who have been living on a garbage dump. I don't have the words to tell you how proud I am of you and how much I LOVE each and every one of the eight of you.

I could die (or retire) happy right now. :)