We had a plan

Today I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday.  FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “rest.”

 

We had a plan. We had the rest of our lives pretty well mapped out. We’d both worked hard for many years, raised a couple of great kids who were now raising their own kids. We’d suffered through a physical – not marital – separation of seven years, seeing each other a half dozen times a year while he worked 1600 miles away from me and I stayed in California to be close to my elderly and ailing mother and build up a decent retirement.

Now, though, it was time to put our plan into action. My mom had passed away, I had enough time in to get the retirement I needed, and I had joined my husband in Missouri.  He had sold his business to our younger son and, after a two-year transition, was finally sorta kinda almost not working there anymore.

Time to begin the rest of our lives.  Time to start traveling a little.  See the ciceberg_lakemichiganountry.  Spend more time with our other son and his family back in California.  Visit the states we’d never seen before.  New England in the fall, the deep south, the Pacific Northwest to see my family.  On my bucket list was a desire to see Lake Michigan in the dead of winter, when it’s frozen.  (I know; I’m just weird that way.)

That was our plan.

Then God whispered – or maybe shouted is a better word – “I’ve got a different plan for you.”

We got The Diagnosis.

Funny how two words can change the rest of your life.

Now instead of planning trips to New England and California, we are planning trips to the cancer center for chemo.  Instead of checking out campgrounds near Lake Michigan, we are looking for one near the hospital where my husband will have his surgery in the fall, where we will need to stay for five or six weeks.

But this we know is true: We might have been blindsided, but none of this was a surprise to God.  He knew from before the beginning of time what our path would be.  He provided me with a job that provided me with a retirement that included lifetime medical insurance.

This is not what we had planned, but it’s what God had planned, and there’s a reason.  Maybe it’s just a detour; maybe it’s a complete change of direction.  Maybe God will place our feet on a whole new path.

We don’t know how this will come out.  But my husband is strong and determined, and he will not go gentle into that good night.  We will fight, and whatever the outcome, we will win, because of this one fact: God has the rest of our lives, whatever they may be, in His good hands.

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I don’t want that new bathroom anymore

Today I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday.  FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “want.”   {I missed Friday this week so for me it’s Five Minute Saturday}

Just over a month ago, if you’d asked me what I wanted, I wouldn’t have skipped a beat:  To5200 redecorate my bathroom.  I’d looked up all the ideas on Pinterest already and knew exactly what I was going to do, from a beautiful new tiled shower to the lovely new vanity and cabinets, new floor, cute cubbies for nice white towels folded just so, a vase with a few sprigs of some pretty {fake} flowers, all showing off the very cool jetted tub in middle.  And a neat chandelier hanging over the top a dimmer switch and candles on the side for ambience.  I talked about this bathroom incessantly, even though the bathroom we have is already pretty wonderful, and hubbie always just smiled and said, whatever you want, dear.

And then we could tackle the kitchen.  There was this incredible kitchen island I saw somewhere that would be perfect with the new pantry we’d recently had built and the awesome double ovens my hubbie got me for Christmas last year.

If you ask me now what I want, this is what I will say:  I want to be sure we have the very best doctor, the right doctor.  I want to be sure we make the best decisions for the road ahead.  I want to be sure that this man who loves me and indulges me and has cared for me for the past 38 years gets the best possible care.  I want to make him comfortable.  I want to take all the nausea and pain of chemotherapy away from him.  I want it to be me instead of him.  I want him to be with me for 38 more years.

Our faith is strong, and we don’t fear leaving this life.  We both know that God loves us dearly and works everything – everything – for good, so no matter what, it will be well with our souls.

But if you ask me what I want, I will say I want to make it go away.

 

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It Changes Nothing and Everything

My younger son became a father today.  Really he’s been her father for over three years now, for nearly half of her life.  Ever since he married her mom.  When their own son was born a year and a half after that, his first thought was, how lucky am I to have a son and a daughter?

So this piece of paper they are getting today isn’t going to change that much.  It won’t change how he feels about her; he has loved her deeply, completely, from the very first day.  It won’t change his commitment to her; she has been his daughter to take care of and provide for, to love and to teach and to comfort, from the very first day.  It won’t really change anything but her name.

Except…it will.  And I know this because I’m her grandma, and even though I have been her grandma from day one, and I love her with my whole heart, just as I love my grandson and my other two granddaughters, I know that after today, when the judge decreed that my son was her legal father forevermore, it will be different.

She is ours.  She is irrevocably, undeniably, now and forever and ever ours.  She has all the rights of a child born into this family.  She isn’t a stepchild.  She isn’t a step-grandchild.  She is ours.  Even though she has always been ours … she is ours.

And I have to imagine that at some point in her life, the fact that the man who chose to marry her mom also chose her, chose to become her father as well as her daddy, will make a difference to her.  Today all it means is that she gets to have the same last name as all the rest of us, and probably will get to go out for ice cream after the court hearing.  And she will get a pretty necklace from grandma and grandpa with her new name engraved on it.  And she will get a special present from her mom and dad.  And today will be like having another whole birthday.  Woo hoo!  What eight year old wouldn’t like that?

But at some point in her life, when her hormones are all whackadoodle and the mean girls at school have decided to target her that week, and she and her mom are doing what teenage girls and their moms do best (fight), and she’s crying in her room, she’s going to feel sad and lonely.  She going to think she doesn’t belong anywhere, that she doesn’t fit in anywhere, that she has no place in the world.

She’s going to feel all the dramatic emotions young girl-women feel, and maybe she will think about her dad.  Maybe she will think about how he didn’t have to adopt her, but he did.  How he didn’t have to make it official, but he did.  How he chose to love her with his whole heart, and with his name, and that means that she does belong somewhere.  She does fit in.  She does have a place, and it’s in that home and in this family.

And that will help her through some tough times.  That will help her negotiate the hard years, when nothing makes sense and a girl-woman often feels like nobody loves her.

She is ours.  And we are hers.  And nothing will ever change that.  Forever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

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They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our…Fear?

 

Did you ever have a moment in your life when something happened that just took your feet out from under you?  That changed how you thought about something you had been sure of just the day before?  That left you reeling and a little unsure exactly who you were anymore?

Just over a week ago, I was confident in who I was and what I thought.  In these times of quickly escalating world tensions, with the country divided about whether to admit Syrian refugees or not, I had thought seriously about the question.  I am (mostly) conservative and live in a (mostly) conservative area where the sentiment was (mostly) anti-admission.

But I kept thinking about Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  He didn’t modify it with, “Except Muslims.”

I was settled, in my heart, that we should offer the refugees a place to come, a safe place, and we should love them.  And in doing so we will be showing them the love of Jesus.  It may be the only time any of them ever see Jesus in anyone.  How could we not do that?  Why would we not want to do that?

A week ago my feet go knocked out from under me.

Last week the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11 happened in my hometown.  I don’t live in San Bernardino now, but I grew up there, spent the most formative years of my life there, know it like the back of my hand.  I know people who were in that building when it happened; I know people who were among the first responders to the scene.  I know people who lived within minutes of the house where the terrorists had enough ammunition and explosives to destroy many, many more lives than they succeeded in destroying.

And in the week since my mind and my heart have been waging war with each other.  Or waging war together against my soul.  Because guess what?  When it’s up close and personal, when it happens in your own back yard, it is way different than when it happens someplace else.  And until it happens up close and personal, you have no idea how much it will affect you.

I had no idea how much it would affect me.

More than Ft. Hood.  More than Boston.  More than Paris.  Even more than 9/11, strangely enough.  It wasn’t the same magnitude as 9/11, but it was San Bernardino.  My San Bernardino.  Not New York.  Not Boston.  Not D.C.  Just sleepy little San Bernardino, a place no one had ever heard of that was now a name familiar around the world.  My hometown.

I won’t bore you with the details of the war that waged in my head.  Maybe some of you are fighting your own battles in your own heads.  It’s not an easy one, although some people will surely castigate me for saying that.  There are people so quickly and thoroughly convinced on both sides of the question that they lambast anyone who doesn’t immediately agree with them.

More people, though, I think, struggle.  We struggle between our fear and our compassion.

Let me get to the point of this.

A week after my legs got knocked out from under me, I think I’ve finally got my feet on the ground again.  I’ve been praying about this and thinking about it and talking to people I respect very much about it, and I’ve been looking to God’s Word.  So I got up and grabbed my Bible, and it literally fell open to page 2449, which happened to be 1 Peter 3.  And this is the passage:

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

“‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.  He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

That’s it in a nutshell.  We need to do what Jesus would have us do.  We need to do good.  We need to love.  1 John 3:17-18 tells us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

If we, as Christians, refuse to help those who so desperately need help, who are fleeing from the very extremists we ourselves fear, then do we really have the love of Christ in us?  If we believe Jesus Christ came to save all of mankind, and that He is truly The Way, yet we call for the closing of our borders to all Muslims, how many people are we denying the opportunity to ever see Christ’s love in action?

And there are millions of Muslims already in this country, born and raised here, who are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends.  They believe in peace, and kindness, and doing good rather than evil.  They’re not crazed radicals, and they’re not going to kill us.  But right now many of them are wondering if we’re going to kill them.  Or burn their mosques.  Or bully their children.  We’re not the only ones living with fear.  What opportunities are we losing to be witnesses for Christ to these good people when we join in the anti-Islam rhetoric?

God has not lost control of this world.  God’s plan has not been derailed.  God will bring to our shores the people He wants on our shores.  How sad, how tragic if we turn our backs on souls that might be saved into eternal life because we are living in fear.  Why should we fear?  Whom should we fear?  Perfect love drives out fear, and God is perfect love.

So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  We will do as He commands – Love our neighbors as ourselves; do good and not evil; practice hospitality; be kind to one another; and do not fear, because the Lord our God is with us.

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The Best Worst Teacher Ever

I saw a meme on Facebook today that listed several incidents of terrorism around the world, each carried out by Muslims.  Its point was obvious and hard to argue with.

But there was something missing.  What about the incidents of terrorism that weren’t perpetrated by Muslims?  What about Timothy McVeigh, for example?

In the wake of the terror attack in San Bernardino – where, by the way, I grew up, so its newfound notoriety is very personal to me – the shouting is loud and intense.  Blame Islam, don’t blame Islam, blame guns, don’t blame guns, it was terrorism, it wasn’t terrorism (although I think that one has pretty much been put to rest now).  A lot of noise and so little reasoned discussion.

It took me back to high school.

I was standing in line to register for my tenth grade classes.  Where we lived, tenth grade was the first year of high school, so I was in that illustrious group of kids known as “scrubs” — the initiants who were in turn tormented and mentored (note how close the letters in those words are?  Interesting) by upperclassmen.

We scrubs clustered in little groups, filling out the requisite forms andregistration eyeing one another and the ominous tables that lined the cafeteria where we would get our class schedules.  Those of us who had older siblings knew the scoop – Mr. Drake was cool; if you got him for American history, you scored.  Mr. Taylor for English?  He was tough, but I didn’t worry much about English.  It was my best subject.  As far as I was concerned, there was no such thing as a good math class.

The one thing every scrub knew, though, either from a sibling or whispered around that big cafeteria that morning, was just pray you don’t get Mr. Dickey.

Mr. Dickey taught social studies.  Mr. Dickey, the upper classmen would whisper, was a communist.  This was in 1971, and there was a lot of communist paranoia still prevalent at that time.  (I can see some of you guys out there doing the math in your heads.  Really?  Don’t you have something better to do?  I’m old. Let’s leave it at that.)  And even more important to we students, he was The.Worst.Teacher.Ever.

It wasn’t that he didn’t teach you anything.  It’s just that he was sooooo hard.  He made life impossible for you.  He apparently didn’t believe in giving out A’s because no one ever got one in his class.  Or at least that was the rumor.  Mr. Dickey could out-argue anyone on anything.  He could make the class valedictorian look like an idiot.  And he loved doing it.

Let’s face it.  He was just plain scary.   The only way to survive his class was to try to be invisible and hope beyond hope he never called on you.  None of us wanted to see his name on our schedules.

When it was my turn to pick up that little piece of paper that would determine the trajectory of my whole entire life (I was 15; everything was uber dramatic to me), I held my breath.  I gave my name and stuck out my hand.  The woman in charge of the I through L names handed me a card and said, “Next.”  I turned away, took one deep beath, and looked.

First Period:  Social Studies.  Mr. Dickey.

First period?  Seriously?  Yep.  First thing on my first day and every day thereafter, Mr. Dickey.

My life was over.  (Again, the drama.)

Let’s skip ahead a little bit.  Let’s skip past my first-day terror (okay, first week (month?) terror).  Let’s skip to that first time Mr. Dickey called on me.

It came during a discussion of intercontinental ballistic missiles.  It was a few weeks into the course, and I had been successful in being invisible so far.  But this day, my number was up.  As I doodled in my notebook, hoping it looked like I was taking copious notes, and studiously avoided eye contact, I heard that one thing no one in Mr. Dickey’s class ever wanted to hear:  my name on his lips.  Let me tell you, it struck terror into my heart.  It really did.

But here’s the thing.  In the weeks I had been in his class, avoiding eye contact and trying to be invisible, I had also been paying attention.  I had been studying the material, not because I was an awesome student but because social studies is just a fancy name for history, and history was my favorite subject.  And I had been studying Mr. Dickey.

Mr. Dickey would ask a student for his or her opinion on something.  The student would, more often than not, stutter out some vague offering on the subject, and Mr. Dickey would shred it with impeccably logical counter arguments.  In the end, almost always, the student would surrender his or her position and agree that Mr. Dickey was right.

At which point Mr. Dickey would dismiss that student with a disgusted shake of his head, or a derisive laugh, or any number of other humiliating little gestures, and move on to the next victim.

icbmOn this particular day, when Mr. Dickey called out my name and my blood ran cold, the question was whether I thought the United States should negotiate with the USSR to limit the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles produced, and why.

I was fifteen years old.  What did I know, or care, about ICBM’s?  My biggest concern was whether I’d make the first or second string basketball team.  I lived in a little town called San Bernardino, nestled in the foothills of the Southern California mountains by the same name, where nothing overly exciting ever happened – at least not back then.

But I knew I had to answer the question, so I said no, I did not think we should negotiate with Russia.  I did not think we should trust Russia to abide by the terms of any treaty.  We would make ourselves vulnerable to attack and possible destruction if we limited our weapons but Russia did not.

Mr. Dickey then proceeded with a discourse on the possible consequences of a fully nuclear world where there was no trust and no limit to the nuclear weapons on either side, and the likelihood of a trigger-happy finger being on the panic button on one side or the other at some given moment, and the apocalypse that would ensue, and why mutual respect and trust had to start somewhere, and why my attitude was precisely the reason every bad thing that had ever happened anywhere in the history of all mankind had happened.  (That was my perception of his argument, anyway.  Possibly a little over dramatic.)

This is where he expected capitulation and the opportunity to ridicule me. This is where expected capitulation and ridicule.  To be honest, I have no idea how I ever had the nerve to do what I did, because I was not an over-confident kid, and what I really wanted at that moment was to find a hole to crawl into.

Instead, I said something along the lines of, “Well, that’s your opinion.  Mine is, we can’t trust Russia right now and until they prove that we can, we shouldn’t.”

Mr. Dickey looked at me.  He raised his eyebrows.  He pursed his lips.  I thought he was mightily displeased at this high sass from a skinny runt of a girl, and I wanted that hole to crawl into more than ever.  I held his gaze.  Don’t think brave girl gaze-holding here.  Think deer in the headlights.

I couldn’t breathe.  I stared at him.  He stared at me.  The clock ticked loudly.  This went on for ten minutes or maybe an hour.  Okay, the clock didn’t really make any sound at all and it probably went on for about three seconds.  Still.

Then he laughed.  “Okay,” he said.  “Okay.  Let’s talk about that.”  We entered into a discussion on what I thought Russia might be able to do to prove itself trustworthy.  Not an argument; a discussion.  The whole class got involved.

Mr. Dickey taught us more than what was in the curriculum.  He taught us to think for ourselves, to formulate opinions and to be prepared to defend them.  He taught us that there were always two sides to an issue and in order to properly understand it, we needed to understand both sides of it, not just the one we liked.  Or the ones that were popular.  Or the ones our parents adhered to.  He taught us that the best way – the only way – to dismantle an opponent’s argument was to know it better than he did.

And he taught us that intelligent discussion requires full disclosure.  Presenting only the facts that support your position is lying.  Worse, it’s insulting the intelligence of your audience.

Yet in today’s world that’s what we see everywhere, all the time.  Statistics mean less than nothing, because they are manipulated to support whatever position they’re being used to support.  People post memes on Facebook that get picked up and reposted as if it’s gospel truth when in fact it’s … well, NOT.  And a simple Google search will tell you it’s not, but no one seems overly interested in actually finding out if it’s true.  They read it, do a fist pump, yell “yeah!” and repost it.

I thought for a long time that conservatives were the worst offenders, because I saw so much of it from people I know on Facebook.  Then, of course, I realized perhaps that was because many of my family and friends are, um, conservative, and theirs are the pages I see.  So I made a point of checking out the pages of more liberal-minded people I know, and lo and behold, conservatives are NOT the only ones who do it.

Isn’t it time we just stopped?  Isn’t it time we took a breath and really thought about what we are saying, and posting, before we did it?  Checked all the facts, then presented them ALL, the ones we liked and the ones that don’t fit our personal ideology quite so well?  Once it’s all out there on the table for everyone to see, we can make a stronger, better case for our position.  Or, if we can’t, maybe we need to rethink that position.

But we won’t be playing hide the ball anymore.  We won’t be trying to convince people by omission.  Instead of two sides each trying to out-shout the other with its own monologue, we’ll be engaging in actual dialogue.  Reasoned discourse.  Something thinking and intelligent people should aspire to.

That’s what Mr. Dickey taught us to do.

My point in all this?

I guess it’s that this world would be a better place if we’d all had Mr. Dickey in tenth grade.

 

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Let’s Not

france+flag

Paris was on my mind when I woke up this morning, Paris and its people and the heartache, the grief, the sadness and yes, the fear, that must be pressing down on them today.  I imagine every thought in every mind there is colored by the events of last night, when terrorists attacked multiple sites in the city and massacred people who had done nothing – nothing – other than go out for an evening’s entertainment.

As I went about my morning routine I thought how there would be no routine for the Parisians today.  I got my coffee, I checked Facebook.

And there it was.

Already we Americans are turning France’s horror into another “it’s all about us” thing.  Right there on Facebook (where, face it, everything is spewed out for the world to see), the gun-rights advocates are posting memes with their favorite saying:  “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”  Gun-control advocates, in response, are throwing up their favorite annual gun death statistics.

Critics of President Obama are reminding the world that his face was conspicuously absent among those at the anti-terror unity march in France after the Charlie Hebdo attack and speculating that his response to this slaughter will again be “empty words.”  Supporters of the president are shouting back that it’s just like the right to try to smear a good man with out-of-context actions before he’s even had a chance to act on the situation right in front of us.

You know what?  Let’s not.

Let’s not turn this into the Right versus the Left.  Let’s not turn this into an American political snowball fight.  Let’s not use France’s grief, and fear, and soon-to-be anger as a springboard for our own political agendas.

Let’s just stand with them.  Let’s hold our arms out to them, all of us together – liberal, conservative, independent – and offer them our collective shoulder to cry on, just for this short time before we go back to our respective corners and put the gloves back on.

After 9/11, France stood with us.  Although we have had differences over the years, France
has always been our ally.  France was with us, shoulder to paris911shoulder, when this country was born.  Without her, we couldn’t have won our independence when we did.

So let’s not, okay?  Let’s just reach across the ocean and hug her right now.  Let’s pray for her, and her people.

And let’s hope the Lord hastens.

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Hooray for the Women of The View

Unless you live in a cave, or maybe in a Tiny House off the grid, which I’m guessing you don’t since you’re reading a blog, you’ve heard the uproar caused by the women on The View mocking Miss Colorado – and hence the entire nursing profession – for wearing her nursing “costume” and a “doctor’s stethoscope” and giving a monologue about her experiences as her talent.  Although I’m not a nurse myself, one of my best friends is, my neighbor is, my aunt is, my daughter-in-law’s sister is.  And many others I know are.  And so I joined my voice with those who were pretty outraged by those comments.

But I’m rethinking my position.

Now, Pam, and Becky, and Aunt Sonja, and Tricia, and Krystal, before you start throwing things at me, let me explain.

In one short week, nursing has been propelled from the background into the bright, bright spotlight.  People are hearing story after story of how nurses change people’s lives.  How nurses make unimaginably difficult news just a bit easier to bear.  How nurses catch things that save lives.  How nurses make frightened little kids smile in the midst of their terror.  How nurses sit with the elderly during the last minutes of a lonely life.  How nurses care for us, calm us, comfort us, and yes, fix us.

I’ve had a lot of experience with nurses over the course of my life.  I was an accident prone kid who spent so much time in the ER that they knew me by name at St. Joseph’s.  Same thing at St. Bernardine’s as a young adult because of asthma.  My elder son was born 11 weeks early and all I can say about that is God bless the NICU nurses.  God bless them.  God. Bless. Them.

And then there were the nurses who took care of my mom in her last few years, when she faced one health issue after another.  One hospitalization after another.  One round of tests after another.  Nurses at the many, many, many doctors’ offices who made sure she got in as quickly as possible because she didn’t have the strength to sit in the waiting room forever.  Nurses at the hospitals who understood that cranky old women were really just frightened old women who needed someone to brush the hair out of their eyes, or give them a gentle pat, or just talk to them for a minute, amidst all their other duties.  Nurses who never failed to stop in the hall and answer my questions, or get ice water when I asked even though that wasn’t in their job description.

But like so many people, I don’t think about nurses that much.  I think about them when I need them.  And I always hope I don’t need them.  Now I’m thinking about them.  I’m thinking about all the times in my life when they have been the most important people in my world.  I’m thinking about all the hours they’ve spent taking care of me, of my children, of my husband, of my father, of my mother.  I’m thinking about how they then went home and took care of their own families.  And then did it all over again the next day.  And I am so grateful to them, all over again, for the hearts that they have.  And for that, I say hooray for the women on The View, for making me conscious again of these wonderful men and women who choose to be nurses.

I’m pretty sure the women on The View are probably not feeling contrite over their words – except maybe because they’ve lost a couple of sponsors.  I’m just conjecturing here, but their callous non-apology that merely reinsulted nurses by implying that they didn’t have the wherewithal to understand The View’s sophisticated humor, or else they just weren’t listening indicates to me that those women are probably sitting around rolling their eyes and wondering what all this fuss is about.

You know what?  They’re the ones who don’t understand.  They’re the ones who aren’t listening.

I’ve read some posts on social media that said things like, “What’s going to happen when Joy Behar finds herself in need of a nurse?”

Here’s what’s going to happen:  A nurse will be there, and will take good care of her, and will brush the hair out of her eyes, and will give her comfort.

Because that’s what nurses do.  See, nurses are bigger people than, say, talk show hosts.

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Uncivilized Public Discourse

I just read a blog lambasting Franklin Graham for his reaction to Target’s new policy eliminating all reference to gender in its toy department.  The article made some really good points – like, do we need to label dolls and toy kitchens as “girl” toys?  What if a boy wants to play chef?  Or daddy?  Is that wrong?  Of course not.  Same with tool belts and big trucks.  When I was a little girl I could be found digging in the dirt more often than playing Barbie.  Well, most of the time I had Barbie out there buried in the dirt, but you get the point.

The thing is, that blog post, I think, missed Mr. Graham’s real objections, whether intentionally or not.  I hope it was unintentional but given the educational level of the writer I’m inclined to think it wasn’t.

Anyone familiar with Mr. Graham and his beliefs would understand that his objection was not based on wanting to force little girls to play only with dolls and kitchens, and little boys with trucks and tool belts.  There’s a bigger picture here.

Mr. Graham believes, as I do, that God created men to be men and women to be women and that He did not create a third category called “other.”  He believes, as do I, that the Bible is clear in its teaching on this topic.

So, then, his objection to Target’s action is that it is one more step toward complete gender neutrality in our culture, a trend many think is a good thing, but many think isn’t.

Those who think it is have decided that those who think it isn’t are {fill in your word of choice here}: bigots, intolerant, homophobic … the list of derogatory terminology goes on and on.  Maybe we should look at some of those terms.

“Bigot” is defined as “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.”

“Intolerant” is defined as “not willing to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.”

“Homophobia” is defined as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.”

The problem, as I see it, is that the same people who are calling Mr. Graham – and me – intolerant, and bigoted, and homophobic are themselves intolerant, and bigoted, and, what? Christianophobic?  (Or Muslimophobic, because Islam has the same beliefs about homosexuality as Christianity does.)  Because it is obvious from the vitriol leveled at Mr. Graham, and at Christians everywhere who are trying to stay true to what they believe, that those who believe differently will absolutely not tolerate us.  Not only do they disagree with our beliefs, they also malign us as people.

I have no problem with someone debating my beliefs with me.  I have no problem with someone telling me, “I disagree with you; I think you are wrong; I abhor what you believe.”  What I have a problem with is that when I stand up for what I believe in – when Franklin Graham stands up for what he believes in – our beliefs are not attacked.  We are attacked.  All of a sudden we become bigots.  We become haters.  We become small-minded extremists.  We as human beings get marginalized, denigrated, vilified.

I want to make it clear:  I do not hate or fear or have any antipathy toward homosexuals or transgender people.  There are people I love very, very much who fall into those categories.  I do not believe having same sex attraction is a sin.  I believe what the Bible says:  Same-sex sex is a sin.  Extramarital sex is a sin.  Premarital sex is a sin.  Those are all unpopular positions in this culture, but it’s what the Bible says, and it’s what I believe.

But that doesn’t mean I hate, or fear, or have antipathy toward people who engage in those sins.  The Bible also says love one another.  Love your neighbor.  Love your brother,  Love your enemy.  That means – love everyone.  If you believe the Bible, you have to believe all of it.  You don’t get to pick out the parts you want to believe and reject the ones that don’t fit with how you want to live.  (So you folks at Westboro Baptist, you’ve got it all wrong, and you need to put down your signs and open your Bibles, because you really are bringing shame to the name of Christ.  Just sayin’.)

We all sin.  I can’t judge someone else just because they sin differently than I do.  The thing is, Jesus came to save all of us from whatever our particular sin is.  That’s the universal truth.  Do I think a homosexual can be a Christian?  Yes.  Of course.  What kind of question is that anyway?  Anyone can come to Christ.  But in order to walk in obedience to God, he or she will have to practice celibacy, as do the millions of unmarried Christians out there.

It’s a fallen world.  Every one of us has things we have to deal with in this life.  Adam and Eve were the last people to come into the world in a perfect state.  I don’t hold myself out to be any better than anyone else; in fact, I know I’m a whole lot worse than a whole lot of people.

It hurts my heart that our society has digressed to the point of conflating people and their beliefs – instead of having a good, heated debate and then going out for a drink, we’re now more likely to throw the drink at one another and stomp off.  We “unfriend” people who don’t agree with us or who dare to say things we find “offensive.”  We call them haters.

The era of civilized public discourse is over.  The lines are drawn.  As are the swords.

But as for me, I will choose to love as best I can.  I will love my friends, love my neighbors, love my brothers and sisters, love straight people and homosexual people and transgender people and those who are still confused, and with God’s help love my enemies – even the people who unfriend me after they read this.  Even the people who leave hateful comments.  Even the people who won’t tolerate my “intolerance.”

I will stop and take a breath before I speak; I will try to be Jesus to the world around me.  It’s what the Bible tells me to do.  Maybe it’ll catch on.

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Cottage Cheese and Angel Wings

This summer I started wearing shorts again.

I haven’t worn shorts for probably ten years or more.  Ever since the backs of my legs pedal pushersstarted looking like cottage cheese.  There’s a certain age where women trade in their shorts for Bermudas because, really, does anyone want to look at cottage-cheese legs?  And then after that we trade in the Bermudas for capris (or pedal pushers, if you’re from my era) because, really, does anyone really want to look at those elephant knees?  Yuck.

About the same time I gave up shorts, I quit wearing sleeveless tops.  Why?  Well, duh.  I had those flappy arm things.  And does anyone really want to look at those??

So for the past ten years or so I wore longer pants and tops with sleeves, even though I lived in California where the temperatures in the summer could bake a nice triple chocolate cake without an oven.  Because, after all, I was officially middle aged, menopausal, cottage-cheesy and flappy-armed, and it was time to tuck those imperfections away so as not to impose them on the world.  Fully clothed and well covered, I looked pretty good.

Then I moved to Missouri.  The temperatures here don’t get as hot, but we have something else: humidity.  And it didn’t take me long to realize that humidity and tops with sleeves did not blend well.  Plus I lived out in the middle of nowhere so who saw my flappy arms anyway?

Once I started wearing sleeveless tops around the house, I became liberated.  I mean, seriously liberated.  OMGosh liberated.  I remembered that my grandma used to call her flappy arms “angel wings,” and I decided I liked that.  No longer were they ugly old flappy arms; now they were angel wings, and I was dang proud of them.  So from about April until October, it was sleeveless tops and angels wings for me.  And not just at home, either.  Because guess what?  It’s also hot and humid in town.  And once I became liberated, there was no going back.  Plus I realized that I really didn’t care what anyone else thought about my lovely wings.

Then this year came along, with its record rainfall – which means record humidity.  And my capris began sticking to the backs of my legs as if I’d sat in a puddle.  Or had a little accident, a much less pleasant visual.

It was then that I started thinking about why I’d stopped wearing shorts in the first place.  I mean really thinking about it.  Was it because I didn’t like shorts?  No.  Was it because they weren’t comfy?  No.

It was because my body had changed, and my legs weren’t 18 anymore.  Just like the rest of me.

Now, here’s a funny thing.  I started thinking about my husband’s wardrobe and realized it really hadn’t changed much over the years.  Well, except for style trends — he wouldn’t be caught dead in those 80’s basketball shorts these days, but only because no self-respecting guy would.  But other than that, he gets to wear whatever he wants.

It’s different for women.  See, the world has convinced us that once our bodies peak and start down the other side, we need to cover them up.  We need to hide anything that doesn’t look 18 anymore.  Cottage cheese legs?  Hide them.  Ugg.  As in ugly.  Angel wings?  Keep them under wraps.  Bit of a tummy issue?  Spandex, baby.  Chest sagging a bit?  (Not that I have that particular problem since I don’t have a lot to work with there.)  Lift and support – which means wider and tighter  and more uncomfortable bras.  Feet getting gnarly?  Trade in those cute sandals for orthopedic tennies.

Why do we have to do this?  So we can “look good”?  For whom?  And why is looking good so important?  Sure, everyone wants to look nice when they go out, but this goes beyond looking nice.  This is changing your whole wardrobe to hide your body because it no longer fits into what the world says a beautiful woman should look like.

I’m not buying it anymore.

I refuse to accept that a woman’s beauty has anything to do with how the world views the package in which she is wrapped.  A woman’s beauty — anyone’s beauty — comes from their character, not their body.  It comes from what’s inside, not what’s outside.  If that sounds trite to you, reverse the statement — “beauty comes from what’s outside, not what’s inside.”  Yeah … I’d choose trite over shallow any day.

I read an anecdote in Readers Digest once that really stuck with me:  A man and his wife were sitting on the beach when a young woman in a bikini strolled by.  They both watched her for a minute, and then the woman sighed and said, “I’ll never look like that again.”  Her husband replied, “That’s okay, honey.  Neither will she.”

I’m not 18.  I haven’t been 18 for 40 years.  I have the body of a 58 year old, and I’m not ashamed of it.  I’m not going to dress to please other people; I’m going to dress to please myself.  If you don’t like looking at the bumps on the backs of my legs, then don’t look at my legs.  Why are you looking at my legs anyway?

So I’m wearing shorts again.  To go with my sleeveless tops.  My legs are cooler, my arms are cooler, I am freer.  And my body is so happy that I’m not ashamed of it anymore, it’s doing the happy dance – in all its lumpy and flappy glory.

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Boredom Is as Boredom Does

I was weeding the garden this morning, absolutely the most fun and exciting aspect of weeding2gardening, said no gardener EVER.  Seriously, wouldn’t you think that when you tell all your friends, and post all over Facebook, that you’re going to attempt your first-ever vegetable garden, at least one person would love you enough to forego all the you go, girls and just say, hey, don’t forget the part about sitting in dirt full of manure and trying to pull out a gazillion little tenacious weeds, which, by the way, are going to reappear after the next rain so you get to do it all over again?

But anyway.  I was weeding the garden and thinking that task could bore the spots off a leopard when I remembered something my dad told back when I was just a kid.  It must have been when I was in the fourth grade.  I say that because I thought my fourth grade teacher was an idiot.  She wasn’t, of course, but I, in all my nine-year-old wisdom, thought she was.  And she didn’t have such a hot opinion of me either.  In retrospect, that may be because my nine-year-old self wasn’t mature enough (read: smart enough) to refrain from rolling my eyes and sighing whenever I thought she said something dumb.  Which I thought frequently.

Anyway, I digress.  One of the things I thought was just stupid was our weekly spelling homework.  We got a list of spelling words that we had to write out five hundred times each.  Okay, maybe ten times each but it felt like five hundred.  I was a voracious reader from the time I could sound out “See Spot run,” and like most voracious readers, I was a good speller.  I could see a word once or twice at best and know how to spell it, and I was way above grade level at reading and spelling.  (I’m not bragging on myself, I’m bragging on my parents.  This is a plug to all you parents out there to read to your kids and get them excited about books.)

So imagine a very active nine year old having to sit down week after week and write out five hundred words, like dear and aunt and bubble, five hundred times each.  Okay ten words ten times each.  Same-o same-o to a nine year old.  I hated it.  I thought it was stupid.  Let’s write “stupid” five hundred times.

One time I was discussing this with my dad.  “Discussing” sounds much better than “whining and complaining.”  I told him how stupid and boring it was.  I knew all the words.  I got 100 percent on my spelling tests every week, and not because I wrote out the words over and over again.

My dad did not tell me to quit whin… quite discussing the matter and just do what I was told.  He did not poo-poo my preadolescent rant.  He listened, and then he told me that throughout my life I was going to find myself in boring, tedious situations.  I was going to find myself doing things that had to be done but which did not hold my interest.  My choice, he said, was to be consumed by the tedium of my task or to find a way to make it interesting.  (You have to love a dad who uses the word “tedium” with a nine year old.)  Anything can be interesting, he said, if you find a way for it to challenge your mind.

Dad took my list of spelling words and told me to make up a story as I wrote out the words using each of the words in order in the story.  I had a dear aunt who lived in a giant bubble ….  From then on, writing out my spelling words became a lot more fun, and my love of writing stories emerged.

So today as I was weeding, I remembered Dad’s advice and wondered how I could challenge my mind with this onerous task.  Nothing brilliant occurred to me.  The sun was hot, and it’s incredibly humid here in Missouri, and by the way there are bugs in a garden.  Anyone ever tell you that?  Humph.

But as I pulled the weeds I found myself feeling very satisfied when they came out with their roots intact and irritated when they would snap off at the surface, because I knew then that they would just grow back.  And a thought niggled at my mind, and I found myself composing a blog post in my head.

And so weeding the second half of the garden went much faster and was much more pleasant than weeding the first half.  My mind was fully engaged in composing an analogy of weeds in a garden and the weeds of sin and hate and evil in our world.  When your mind is engaged in thought, it doesn’t really matter what your hands are doing; there’s still something interesting going on.  (Plus the second half of the garden is where the herbs are so instead of the smell of good old cow dirt I was surrounded by rosemary and basil, hence the “much more pleasant” aspect.)

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I’ll write up that post about weeds and get it on here sometime soon.  But this post is just a hats-off to my dad, an unassuming man whom no one would look twice at on the street but whose mind never stopped and who taught me that boredom is always a choice, that a person with a brain has an endless capacity for self-entertainment.

Just one little suggestion, though – if you’re weeding a garden, don’t get so lost in your head that you forget to stop pulling the weeds when you feel a sneeze coming on, or you might end up with a handful of sage instead of weeds.

I guess we’ll have pork chops with sage and cinnamon for dinner tonight.

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