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Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Silk suit, black tie, I don’t need a reason why They come runnin’ just as fast as they can ’cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man…”

“Are you gonna write about Duck Dynasty??”

To quack or not to quack- that is the question. A friend asked me this, so here’s the answer.

Nope.

How can you stay silent?! Don’t you CARE about this issue?? Don’t you understand our very way of duck life is being threatened?!?

You know, there’s much about social media and technology that has harmed our society, but I believe one of the most significant ways it hurts us is that it creates a false intimacy. Sitting in our beds with laptops, warm and cozy, it feels like we are just chatting with an old friend, joking and laughing and we forget that what we are actually doing is screaming our thoughts and feelings to a large group of people (and in some cases, the entire world hears us loud and clear #HasJustineLandedYet )

Social media strips away the parts of communication that can make or break a conversation  -there’s no emoticon for a compassionate look, reaching over to hold a trembling hand, silently handing over Kleenex. No Facebook debate can replace two friends in conflict who stop and say “Wait. I want to really understand how you feel about this.”

Jesus was pretty smart when He emphasized relationships. Truth should be spoken, and often. Hard conversations should be had. Friends should be faithful wounders. But it is ALL within the context of relationship. The people you’ve loved and served and taken meals to and laughed with and cried with.  Those people you pursue, the ones who break your heart…but they break your heart because you’ve taken the time to know them, not know their profile pic.

This tendency to think we really know someone when we don’t is part of why casual statements sting so much. It’s possible that Phil Robertson is a world-class jerk- I don’t really know him, I only know what I see on television- but I bet that if you sat with him and broke bread gumbo with him, you might walk away still disagreeing, but feeling heard and understood. The Bible gives us answers to this-

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”- James 4:1

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.”- 2 Timothy 2:23

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples”- John 13:34-35

This is a good lesson for me when I am tempted to blog and rant about a certain subject. My words matter, and on the interwebs and some people’s hearts, they are forever. I can’t stray from truth, but I must consider timing and method. It’s a crazy difficult balance. If you don’t think so, consider whether you are compromising or stomping over people. It’s so easy (and quite frankly, a little lazy) to spout off that X is wrong because the bible says so and that’s all there is to it without care to how your words might be interpreted. It’s just as unloving to be in a relationship with others without ever having those difficult conversations.

Sometimes I think we hide behind wanting to know what someone thinks because it’s a nice distraction from really wrestling with tough subjects. I mean, who has time to struggle though how to love a difficult neighbor when Joe Bob from high school posted something rude on Facebook about Republicans?! I’m kidding of course, no one consciously thinks this, but we are obsessed with the “need” to say what we think to strangers. And then we are Pavlovian rewarded by retweets, new followers and a tiny thumbs up icon. I am guilty.

So this week as we visit extended family, can we put relationship first? Can we care more about what’s going on in cousin Jane’s life than we are about the fact that she showed up for dinner wearing a sweatshirt with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck shooting a moose on it? (I have no idea if such a sweatshirt exists but it probably does because Etsy). Can we love and serve the guy at dinner who uses His name as an expletive? Can we remember that wearing the robe of being on the right team of being right and being righteous is still a set of dirty rags in desperate need of Love and a Savior?

 

 

 

 

“Jesus never said it was an easy road to travel, He only said that you would never be alone, so when your last thread of hope begins to come unraveled, don’t give up, He walks beside you…”

An anniversary. A day marking the passing of time, a day to stop and reflect on the past. A day to remember.

As if they could ever forget.

As though they don’t hear phantom giggles echo down empty halls and see beds with covers untouched. These parents don’t need a day to remember what happened and how their entire world shattered, they are plodding through each moment, remembering.

Sometimes grace means we just keep breathing.

It’s so fleeting. We walk around, convinced of our own greatness and strive for things to complete us, stretch and grasp at any shred of happiness, and we just… miss it. And then 20 babies are met with evil within classrooms filled with crayon drawings and Dr. Seuess.

We gasp and mourn and wonder, does anything really matter?

Charlotte Bacon

Daniel Barden

Olivia Engel

Josephine Gay

Dylan Hockley

Madeleine Hsu

Catherine Hubbard

Chase Kowalski

Jesse Lewis

Ana Marquez-Greene

James Mattioli

Grace McDonnell

Emilie Parker

Jack Pinto

Noah Pozner

Caroline Previdi

Jessica Rekos

Avielle Richman

Benjamin Wheeler

Allison Wyatt

Your names matter. You matter. Not because we said so, but because He did. Because there is One, THE One, who is shouting and whispering for our hearts and this, this is the end game. What we do with Him and how we answer these questions determines everything. We are convinced we have plenty of time to try out different answers to see if one makes sense to our minds.

We don’t.

So today, my heart aches. I’ll watch my own babies play and think about the parents who would give anything to have one more second. I’ll cry for them, and I will cry for those who just…miss it.

“Salvation that comes from trusting Christ — which is the message we preach — is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, “The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” -Romans 10:8-11

“Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend. I have always thought that it’s a crime, so i will ask you once again…”

What could I have possibly done to deserve such ire from a total stranger? Was I swooping in, rescuing my little angel from any hint of danger? Had I invited someone in to my perfectly decorated home, complete with happy calm children making crafts (but not making a mess) at the table? Perhaps I had prayed something so eloquent over my child that the fisher price baby Jesus in our plastic manger started to cry tears of joy…

No. I had made a birthday cake.

Months ago, I made a cake for a friend for her son’s birthday party. I like making cakes, it’s an easy way for me to be creative and hello, cake? I started doing it when Josiah was born as a way to do something different from changing diapers and drying tears. Over the years, I have found that I really enjoy doing it, and REALLY enjoy blessing others with it. So I showed up with the cake and was setting it up when a woman wandered over and asked where it had been ordered from. When my friend pointed at me, she laughed and said-

“Oh my gosh, you are one of THOSE moms, aren’t you?!”

Now, I am absolutely sure she meant nothing by it. I get it- baking and cooking can be intimidating for some people, just like lots of other things are intimidating to me. It didn’t hurt or offend me…but it did make me think.

I’ve been so guilty of this- castigating other people for their interests and skills. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be the person that celebrates other people, that sees that God has made no mistakes and He has lovingly and carefully crafted each person in His image, and that includes talents and interests.

So today, I read a blog post by one of my favorite writers…

http://stuffchristianslike.net/2013/12/11/dear-perfect-elf-shelf-people-open-letter/

Meh. I still like Jon a lot. He writes satire, and it’s difficult to offend me.

Here’s the deal- I like doing Elf on the Shelf. Like cake decorating, it’s a fun and easy way for me to be creative. I don’t post pictures of our elf to brag or get attention or shame other parents, I do it because I think it’s funny and because I know people like to share ideas of what to do with the elf. If the thought of participating in Elf on the Shelf causes you stress, good grief, don’t do it!  Christmas is busy enough without adding things you don’t really want to do. It’s not like your elf is sitting there thinking about how all his friends get to do all these fun and mischievous activities and then cries tiny peppermint tears.  In participating in recovery ministry,  I have not once heard a person give a testimony and attribute their addictions or habits to their parents NOT making a stuffed doll make a snow angel out of powdered sugar. Not once.

But I see this as a larger pattern.  It’s almost like we’ve all felt the pressure of being the perfect parent, making all the right choices and being all things for all people, and so we’ve made an effort to combat that with encouragement that you don’t have to be the perfect parent…and that is a GOOD thing…but we also swing over to the side of scoffing at and criticizing parents who like making animals out of napkins for their kids or the parent who finds joy in baking heart-shaped bread for her child’s class. We roll our eyes and shame the “Pinterest mom”, spitting out that name like it tastes as bad as some of the recipes on there, and forget that He made her.

If you know me at all, you know that I know nothing about sports. And I seriously don’t care. But I have kids and they play sports and I am there, watching all the sports and the sporty type things. There’s yelling and cheering and numbers and the occasional scraped knee, and to be honest, I don’t know what’s going on 99% of the time. I know my kids are stinking cute in their costumes, but that’s about it. But this season, I was sitting behind two moms, serious sport moms, and they were discussing strategy within the game. I found myself wanting to roll my eyes because they are five. Their strategy is don’t pee on the field. But I realized later- I wasn’t irritated with them…I was upset that I didn’t understand what they were talking about. They weren’t doing anything wrong or unreasonable or frivolous. I was being prideful and rude. Ouch.

See, when I’m secure in my identity, when I am convinced of the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, when I am intimate with Christ in a way that I can truly love others, I don’t have to feel guilt or shame or scorn for those who are different from me. I can laugh at myself for making a tiny Duck Dynasty costume for our elf without feeling the need to roll my eyes at those who choose not to participate- because it’s not threatening to me. Dear friend, can I be a gentle sword? When you silently (or not so silently) shake your head and roll your eyes at *that* mom, you are rolling your eyes at something that is precious to Him. You are rolling your eyes at some quality that is a reflection of Him.

So let’s agree- you won’t care if I call a soccer uniform a costume, and I won’t care if you think the Elf is probably related to Chucky.

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I was born a cynic. No kidding, even in my baby pictures, I look like I am suspicious of the intent of the photographer. I have fought this cynicism my entire life, because while it has served me well in many areas, it also has the downside of causing me to negatively interpret others *cough Wes*. But a bright side (see? I’m already growing- I’m seeing a bright side!) is that while I see many others growing more cynical as they grow older, I have grown to be less so. Jesus has been faithful to grow in me the ability to believe the best about others, and to assume good intent.

So most of the time when I hear something that might sting my heart, I assume that the person is unaware of it and did not intend to hurt me or others. But I’d love to share with you some statements that I’ve heard many times that cut, but they are not so obvious as “what’s wrong with your kid?” I think this applies to any parent, but in my case, I am specifically talking about questions or statements made to parents of children with special needs. Let me also say, I don’t say this to cause anyone shame, because I know I’ve said most of these things to others too, not realizing how the words come across.

Seven things NOT to say to a parent of a child with special needs:

1. “He/She looks fine to me!”

I think the intent behind this is to somehow reassure a parent that their child is not viewed differently by a person, but what it can come across as is an expression of disbelief in the child’s diagnosis. This can be especially painful when it comes from family members, as they are usually privy to more intimate details of a child’s struggles than the general public.

2. He/She does great for me!

This is related but slightly different in that it can communicate that not only do you have doubts about the child’s diagnosis, but it can also express that the problems a parent is having with a child is actually the fault of the parent. I had a teacher once tell me “I never hear Josiah wheezing, I think he’s fine”, but didn’t know that Josiah’s asthma rarely shows up in wheezing, but in persistent coughing instead. What I heard was “he is fine and you are overreacting.”

3. Does he/she eat sugar/drink caffeine/get enough sleep?

Trust me that any parent with a child with special needs already struggles with blaming themselves for every difficulty their child has. Please also trust me that parents with these kids, especially kids with emotional or behavioral issues, have thought ad nauseam about their child’s eating and sleeping habits. There’s a strong chance that the parent is way beyond considering sugar and sleep and are well on their way into researching molecular level changes to diet. And the answer is likely to be “Yes. Sometimes she has sugar. Because she’s a kid, and I’m going to let her have a stinking cupcake.”

4. “You’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it”

What could possibly be wrong with being told that you are amazing?? Well, the problem is that what you are saying is they are amazing to be able to deal with such a difficult kid. And no matter how frustrated or tired or overwhelmed a parent might be, they do not want to hear that anyone thinks their child is difficult.

5. “God gives special kids to special parents!”

Here’s the deal- I believe God creates families and He knows what is best. So in that sense, yes, God knows what a child is going to struggle with long before they are born into a family. But the problem with that statement is that it implies that one, He only orchestrates families with special needs kids and the typical families are put together randomly and two, God has chosen that parent for that child because He knew they could handle it. This is bad theology (you can’t handle it. Neither can I. I also can’t handle my typical children. We stagger through the day, desperate for His guidance for every breath, no matter what the situation is.) and it sends a message of unfair burden, like it is not okay to feel angry or frustrated or sad about your child’s struggles. When I hear this, I feel a bit like Frodo, like I’ve been chosen to carry some ring and I’m not allowed to be sad or angry ever about the journey because BILBO AND THE HOBBIT WORLD AND ALL THE FAIRIES AND DUMBLEDORE ARE COUNTING ON YOU DON’T SCREW THIS UP AND THROW IT INTO THE WRONG VOLCANO YOU IDIOT. I probably shouldn’t use Lord of the Rings analogies, but you get my point.

6.”Have you read this awesome poem about Holland?”  http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html

This is no offense to the writer of this poem. Really. It’s just that the chances are, yes, they have read the poem. They have read it because the second your child has a diagnosis, you get copies of that poem emailed to you daily, it comes in cards, it’s printed on pamphlets for therapists, and if you miss all that, it will come by owl. And I’ve found that people have two reactions- they either love it or hate it. For some people, parenting feels nothing like being in Holland. It’s more like being stuck on the tarmac, squeezed in the middle seat next to Tuberculosis Tom and Overly friendly Olga. For some parents, they have not reached a place where they can see meaning behind the struggle. For some, being encouraged to find meaning feels condescending.

7. “I’m sure he/she is going to be fine”

When someone says this to me, I hear “you are worrying over nothing”, and “I am done talking about this.” The thing is, “fine” is impossible to define and no one can be sure about anything. To be honest, people who speak in quick solutions and definitive terms don’t always feel safe to me.

So what are some things that are GOOD to say?

I love you.

Let’s pray.

Go take a nap/go shopping/read a book while I watch him/her.

You’re doing a great job.

I love____ about your child.

I’d love to know the best way to serve you. What are some ways that I could help?

Parents, what are the questions and statements that are difficult for you to deal with? How can Wes and I pray for you and your child?

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