Future Fear

snapchat-1951346079Every morning as we’re waiting for his bus, my son Bo (with ASD/Down syndrome, and a trauma background) and I scroll through Snapchat filters together. He loves them and still can’t figure out why he can’t make them go away by patting his head. I love that he snuggles in close to me in the quiet of the morning. 

We laugh together and it’s usually a great way to start the day.

But there’s one filter that makes me uneasy. The filter that turns my sweet baby’s face into a grown man’s. It starts me off on a jackrabbit trail of anxiety and “what wills”.

What will happen when he’s actually big enough to look like this. When the puberty that is rapidly approaching passes and we are left with a grown-up man with the behavior of a toddler? How will we keep him from hurting anyone? How will we keep him from hurting us?Snapchat-265284912

One of his favorite things right now is wrapping his arms around me for a giant hug and then pushing me hard away from him a split second later. It’s a struggle now to keep my balance. What will happen when he’s stronger?

He’s ten-years-old currently, but looks closer to a five or six-year old which means he’s still cute. Strangers often smile at him, and when he acts out, are usually willing to give him a pass. What will happen when he’s not cute? When his endearing smile is not enough to keep him out of trouble?

We are already past the age that he’s portable, meaning easy to take with us places he doesn’t necessarily want to go. The days of wagons, strollers, and cart-riding are behind us and we are already feeling “stuck” at times. We’ve adjusted our lives so much with a “divide and conquer” approach of separate vehicles and “who’s going to stay home with Bo” conversations. We already assign a 1:1 to him when we go out. What will happen if 1:1 isn’t enough?

Frankly, I’m exhausted, frazzled, and a little sad, now. What will happen when it’s harder?

I’m reminded of the idiom about borrowing trouble. And I don’t want to do that. But, I DO want to prepare. So for now, we work really hard to curb the behaviors that are sure to only get more challenging with age. And, we try to offer him a safe place to land where he can decompress after a stressful experience. We adjust his meds for good sleep and see a psychiatric RN regularly. We’re working really hard on effective potty training for increased consistency.Snapchat-190439023

I recognize that if I’d been given a glimpse six years ago into what caring for him looks like presently, I would’ve freaked out, too. And yet, we’re doing it. Not always well, and never easily, but we are getting through, day by day.

For now, I’m sticking with the hat and eyeglass filters and avoiding a glimpse into our future. I can’t handle tomorrow’s stress. Today has enough of its own. I don’t know exactly what the future looks like, but I do know…there will be grace for that.

Dear Evangelical Church,

You pushed her out.

When she was small, you filled her head with stories of a big God who fought for small Davids against giant Goliaths, who parted seas for weary people chased by strong men, who protected the righteous from the hungry lions and a fiery furnace, and who sent His Son as a baby for a poor teen mom to mother.

You gave her prizes for memorizing Bible verses:

  • For God so loved the world He gave his only son that whoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
  • A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
  • Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

That was the God she knew and understood. The one who cared for the underdog and the marginalized. The God who protected her and provided all her needs. The God that loved her and was FOR her. The God who died for her simply because he couldn’t live without relationship with her.

And then, she got older.

She insisted on breaking arbitrary “rules” like the time she threw an orange at a friend across the church foyer and you turned it into a cataclysmic event and moral failing. In the ensuing drama, it was never mentioned that she was only there because she volunteered to watch the small children for the moms who were in a meeting. The focus was simply on her blatant “disrespect” for the 80s decor and furniture.

Or her inability to meet the letter of the dress code because of her tall stature, with her long legs and six-foot frame. Even dresses that were technically within the limits looked to be out of bounds, leading to loud whispers and rampant gossip.

She was tall and appeared confident and was expected to act and react with the wisdom of a forty-year-old, even though she was only just a girl. She was treated with disdain.

She learned from you that God’s rules are subjective, his love conditional. He desires relationship with her, but only if she behaves a certain way, and she will never be sure of what way that is.

And then, she reached adulthood.

And you showed her by your social media pages that refugees are scary and will harm our children. Immigrants will take our jobs. The “others” bring inequality on themselves.

She learned from you that God will not protect her. He will not provide for her. If other people were not created in His image, surely she wasn’t either.

After she got to know the “others” first by serving the homeless, and later moving across the world to serve those scary refugees, she finally concluded that your god doesn’t even exist. It was a logical leap. You were, after all, wrong about so many things.

The unconditional love you told her about was just a fairy tale, a myth, as you proved by your fear, your judgment, and your actions.

She walked away entirely.

I have a confession. I admire her for that. It takes great courage to reject the life and the lies in which you were once entrenched, to leave behind what you know, and walk alone.

Of course the whispers and the judgment only intensified with her decision, but she honestly doesn’t seem to care as she forges her own road.

It’s taken me so many more years to see what she found upon entering adulthood. I bought the lies so much longer. Although, our conclusions are different, we are so much alike. Our deconstruction allowed us both to break free from the capricious rules, from tough love, from the politics so entwined with the church.

For her, it led to atheism.

For me, it led back to unconditional love, to scandalous grace, to freedom. I found Jesus, again. And, while I’m still a little sketchy on what that means for my life, I’m clear on what it means for those around me…unconditional love, scandalous grace, and freedom.

Including my atheist daughter who continues to give of herself and serve those she finds in need.

Because there is grace for that.

From Delight to Crap

Recently, we took the whole crew to the human trough, also known as Golden Corral. Our oldest was busy, but we also had our married daughter, her husband, and baby, so eleven of us.

This visit, I decided to let Bo (9yo with Ds/ASD) come with me to fix his plate so he could make his own choices. He was ecstatic and delighted in carefully making selections of all the foods he loves. I noticed, like our neurotypical kids, his plate of food was all in the same color family…from beige to bright orange which made me smile. He wasn’t a fan of the fried shrimp he chose, but he loved the sweet potato casserole for which we got seconds.

Like all kids, dessert is where his true passion lies and he was in heaven with all the choices. After looking the selection over carefully, he finally landed on a chocolate cupcake with pink frosting which he quickly devoured and was rewarded with another one. After he finished that one, he noticed his brother, Eon, had just returned to the table with an exact duplicate. He very excitedly pointed and showed everyone around that Eon had a cupcake. At first, I thought he wanted Eon’s, but it soon became clear that he was just excited someone else was going to enjoy the thing he loved. He mimicked each bite his brother took with excited clapping in between. If he could speak, it was so obvious he would’ve been saying, “Isn’t it amazing? That frosting is so good! Don’t you love it?”

As empathy is a skill he has not yet mastered, we were delighted with his delight for his brother. We were all smiling and laughing. I winked at my husband and when I looked back over to Bo, his whole hand was suddenly covered in poop. It took a second before we comprehended what we were seeing. Then, the whole table erupted with cries of, “EW, ICK!” from the younger kids. I dove for my purse that had the wipes in it and hastily wiped it all off, while my dear husband prepared to scoop him off to the van for a change of pull-up.

Immediately, I was horrified and embarrassed, although I tend to roll with these things pretty well and it didn’t take me too long to laugh it off.

I share this story because it is so typical of our life with disability. We have very high highs, followed a split second later by very low lows. Usually, as in this case, we have a great sense of humor and are able to bounce back pretty quickly. But sometimes, it’s a lot and more than a little overwhelming. I know that we are not alone in this experience (okay, maybe we are in this particular experience, but I’m speaking more generally.) I know of many great families who are currently dealing with the “lot” part of parenting kids with disabilities.

I don’t have answers on how to live in daily bliss with these types of challenges. I’m not great at keeping my cool when a child is knocking over chairs and threatening to upend the dining room table. I could use some work on how to calmly endure backseat spitting when a sibling is losing their shit over it. I definitely need some tips on how to keep my sanity when the one thing that calms Bo is his favorite youtube videos of children shrieking and behaving badly.

The only thing I do know is that this life has given me a new lens. I see the world differently. I see people as more valuable. I am more convinced of Imgago Dei in everyone, regardless of ability, class, education, choices, behavior, or status.

I recognize that everyone has a story to which I’m not privy. I can and should withhold judgment, always. Acceptance, inclusion, and unconditional love are key. I have a much deeper understanding of grace and now recognize that everyone needs it including, maybe especially, myself.

Delight and crap seem to be the two speeds of my life right now and, as always, there is grace for that.

The Good, the Bad, the Serb.

It struck me again as we were snuggling after his morning shower, the overwhelming sense of joy because I get to be his mom. It doesn’t happen very often anymore, maybe because I’m lulled into complacency after six years or perhaps the challenges outweigh the joy, at times.

I realized that those who aren’t walking this road can never really know the contented feeling of snuggling a nine-year-old boy who acts very much like a young toddler. The thought of similar things when I was beginning this journey caused fear to well up. I could feel my throat constrict and my stomach feel queasy with panic over the very things that are now daily life.

I couldn’t have imagined being okay with a pre-teen who prefers musical infant toys to video games, or changing diapers on a child too big to pick up. I would’ve been appalled to think of fixing sippy cups for a third-grader.

Most of us spend our whole lives trying to mitigate disaster, to avoid pain, and to dodge unpleasantness. I still do, yet this boy of mine continues to teach me that embracing the hard has its own rewards.

When we’ve spent literally years trying to teach him how to live in a family, and he seeks us out to sit with us while he’s playing on his tablet, I am so grateful. He came to us without knowing how to show affection and not having any desire to learn, so I don’t take it lightly when he leans in for a kiss. Because he spent so long ignoring every question as his little non-verbal self didn’t know how to respond, I am delighted when he answers his brother’s query about how school was with a loud, “Good,” even though he’s likely just parroting what he was taught to say.

Things that seem so simple and trivial to most, are monumental in our world.

Please know the good does not make up for or in anyway overshadow the ugly. There is an inordinate amount of hard in parenting this child. Late night ER visits, physical pain from playful bites or aggressive throws, shitastrophes of epic proportions, constant neediness, broken furniture and electronics, and so many questions and self doubt.

Are we doing this right? Is there a right way to do this? How do we calm him down? What happens if we can’t? Will there be a day we cannot control him? What will puberty be like? Are we doing enough? …a never-ending sea of questions.

He wasn’t what I was expecting those six years ago when we flew across the world to add him to our family. I expected, no I wanted, a stereotypical child with Down syndrome. I wanted it to be just challenging enough to make us look good, but not so hard as to effect our daily lives. Laughable, I know.

This kid that I wanted to seamlessly fit into our family wrecked us. We are forever changed, indelibly altered but, though life will never again be easy, I am beyond grateful.

Perhaps, just maybe, without the pain, the joy wouldn’t be so powerful; without the difficulty, there would be less delight.

One thing I’m absolutely sure of though, there is grace for that.

Racism, Heresy, and Hope

When the events of Charlottesville happened, I was hopeful that real conversation would ensue. Many of my white Christian friends seemed genuinely puzzled by what was happening and the swift explosion of condemnation to it. I thought, perhaps, they would seek to understand perspectives they had not before fully considered.

Of course, I was wrong.

moneyMy social media pages are now full of memes poking fun of people “offended” by various things, (as if that’s what any of this is about), quotes from token conservative black people (as if the fringe should ever silence the collective whole), and false equivalencies (no sane person wants to remove the names of our founding fathers from anything), all of which were posted by fellow believers.

It’s for these people this post was written.

Sunday, our pastor spoke on Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece.” He shared that a work of art comes from the inner most part of who the artist is. And he asked this question:

Is it possible to stand before a masterpiece and not recognize it as such?

The answer, of course, is yes. What I’ve learned in the last few weeks, is that while some of us don’t recognize a work of art because of simple ignorance, many of us refuse to see. Willful ignorance is our downfall. Standing before us are people of color, individual masterpieces of God, and we refuse to acknowledge them as such.

I can hear you protesting as you read this. You are denying that you are racist. You would never wear a swastika. You love everybody. You don’t even notice color. Purple, green, brown, yellow, whatever, it matters not to you. People are just people.

You simply don’t understand why this is such a big deal now, in 2017. Slavery was outlawed hundreds of years ago. Civil rights were won over fifty years ago. The playing field is level and you’re tired of everyone playing victim and throwing the race card. You’re convinced the media is playing us all against each other and creating drama where otherwise there would be none.

Does that about sum it up?

Well, I contend that you are not just racist, a case could be made that you are also dangerously close to heresy, which is defined as adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma, or code of tenets.

One of the basic doctrinal principles of our faith is Imago Dei. Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

All of us are image bearers of God, worthy of respect and equality. Instead of honoring that, you are placing your opinion, your experience, your desires, and your rights above people of color.

Collectively, people are sharing their experiences of being black in America. They are sharing their pain, their fear, and their reality. And your response is to silence them, to whitesplain what really happened, how they should really feel, and what’s really going on.

Because you have never had to worry for your life in an encounter with police, you are convinced that is truth for all. Because you have only ever been pulled over for valid reasons, you are sure that is true for all. Because everyone you know has a shot at a fair trial with a jury of their peers, it can’t possibly be true that people die without deserving it.

Because you have the luxury of living in a system created for you, your skin color, your culture, your hair type, your manner of speech and dress, you don’t ever have to think of race or race relations except when it’s all over the news, therefore, you are convinced that suddenly, race relations are “worse than ever” and it’s probably Obama’s fault.

Thinking about these things makes you uncomfortable and defensive, so instead of actively listening and lamenting, you poke fun and trivialize it, not realizing that you prove the point that equality is a myth by your very actions. It’s all about your comfort level, your feelings, your opinions.

By denying people of color their lived experiences, by whitewashing our history, by trivializing and belittling their woundedness, you are demeaning their humanity. You are denying their equality. And you are spitting on the artist who skillfully created them, the God you claim to serve, the God in whose image they were cast.

You are viewing these masterpieces through the value system designed by our culture, instead of the Word of God which tells us in Psalm 139 that they, like all of us, are skillfully and wonderfully made.

You are not adhering to Imago Dei.

Another tenet of our faith is loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is so easy to say, it has almost become cliche in our churches. Of course we love our neighbors. We are nice to the barista, we don’t throw the finger to the guy who cut us off in traffic, and we faithfully pack our shoe boxes every Christmas.

But love is more than that. More is required. We must love all people as we love ourselves.

In the same way we desire only the best for ourselves, we must want the best for others. As everything in us rises up to defend ourselves, we must rise to defend them. Just as we would fight to the death to preserve our own lives, we must be willing to fight for theirs. In the same way we seek comfort and solace in the face of heartache, we must reach out and offer it to them. As we want people to react kindly to us when we are not our best, we must extend grace to them.

So, what have you done with the plethora of emotion an entire group of people is experiencing right now? Have you come alongside to better understand, to right injustice, to bring healing, to be a bridge?

confederateYou have not. You have dug in your heels, defended your position, and shouted down the wounded. You have put objects over people. You have done everything but love your neighbors.

And you’ve done all of it with a self-righteous zeal…in the name of God. (Saul would be so proud.)

Again, I stand by my statement. If you have participated in this mess, you are not just a racist, you might also be a heretic, not even standing by two of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.

I’m calling you out. It needs to stop. You need to stop. It’s time to step away from Breitbart, FoxNews, AllenBWest, and all the memes that are telling you it’s okay to be a bigot.

It’s not.

But here’s the good news.

You don’t have to stay here in this mess. You, too, are a masterpiece of God and the rest of Ephesians 2:10 says this, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” That’s the amazing thing about our God, we always get a fresh start in Jesus and he has good things planned for you.

Are you ready to do good things?

Become a student. Here is a sample of recommended reading to get you started:

Books:

Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity Within the Church by Doug Serven

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity by Edward Gilbreath

Articles:

Anything from Jelani Cobb

Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism

The Ultimate White Privilege Statistics & Data Post

Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation and Started Talking About White Supremacy

It’s uncomfortable and it’s not easy. Everything inside you will want to well up and defend yourself as you learn more, but don’t you long to be a bridge of healing and a source of hope? I know, as a follower of Jesus, you do, and I believe that together we can.

I know from experience, there is grace for that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

 

Self Preservation, Heart Surgery, and Refugees

A new kind of war hit social media last week. Accusations flew, mud slung, inaccuracies were rebutted but then resurfaced, over and over.

This post is not about the response of the American government to the Syrian refugee crisis. We have no control over that other than to call and write our leaders with our own opinions and hope we voted well.

This is about our public response as Christians to what the government may or may not do.  

These are a tiny sampling of the comments from fellow Christians I culled from Facebook. It’s fairly representative of those that oppose Syrian refugees resettling in America, neither the worst, nor the best:

These are women and children who have been taught from infancy to hate Jews, Christians, and Americans. It doesn’t matter what the facts are concerning the make-up of the group. What matters is the culture of “death to America” which we are bringing here. That is a sad fact. But it is the only fact that matters.

If God has opened your heart to helping these people, feel free to hop a plane and go. Until people are willing to GO YE, don’t talk to me about opening our country to that type of violence. God has blessed my family with 5 children on earth to care for. Their safety has to be my first priority.

if you want the refugees to come here and then put them in your backyard in tents- all of them. Also pick up hitchhikers every time you see them and encourage your children to do the same. Round up every homeless person that you pass on the street and put them in your house every night. And while you’re at it release every prisoner from every Prison in America because apparently we can Jesus the evil out of them. Christians were not meant to be mamby pamby flower children- we are to use our brains to uncover the truth about evil

We are not talking about helpless women and children- a MAJORITY of these refugees are 18-25 year old men who grew up baptized in 1 truth… Those who do not submit to Islam must die. If someone broke into my house with a gun would it be more “Christian” of me to welcome him in for tea or do whatever I needed to to defend my family. These men are coming from devastated war torn countries with no respect for government or rule of law… What the heck do you think is going to happen when they get here and are told what they must do to be an American citizen? It’s ideologically impossible to impress democracy onto people who fundamentally believe that everyone should believe the same garbage they do or die.

Why isn’t such heart and love put into OUR OWN homeless people?! We cant help veterans but we can welcome alllllll of these fleeing people with open arms? Another question, why are MEN fleeing their country? Why are they not joining their military to fight for their country instead of running away to good ol America? It’s nonsense.

I am a Christian, but I am also a mother, I am not willing to risk my life or the lives of my children for anyone! It’s a risk and they should be denied!!!! Period!! America needs to start taking care of AMERICA!

So many logical fallacies, I don’t know where to start. Too many theological errors on which to comment, not to mention factual inaccuracies. Oy vey.

It’s been said repeatedly that we can hide who we truly are and only project an image on social media. While that may be true with parenting, financial success, or home management, it does not seem to hold water with actual faith in Jesus Christ. Instead, we just post whatever gut thought we have or whatever sound bite has been fed to us by those whose ideology we rely on for “truth”.

Our underlying worldview is revealed in times like this. It becomes painfully obvious to all what beliefs guide our core. The world sees clearly what is in our hearts.

  • When fear for our own safety, stability, and comfort overrides our human response to the plight of other humans…
  • When we post hysteria based, bigoted, ego-centric comments without basic fact checking…
  • When we condemn those that disagree with our views with pride and venomous words…

It’s time to step back and examine our hearts.

So I did. In doing so, I admit that I have been guilty of all of the above, most obviously, bowing at the alter of being right. I love a good debate and I love to research, two things that mix poorly with social media graciousness. Did I mention that I have little patience for people who just blindly repost things without checking the source/facts? Clearly, last week was a tough week for the likes of me. (Sarcasm intended.)

I take the plight of the refugees personally. Maybe it’s because for the twenty-five years I’ve worked in healthcare, many of my colleagues have been immigrants. I have worked alongside people from the Philippines, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Jamaica, Mexico, and Africa. We have laughed over language and cultural mix-ups and shared each other’s lives, celebrated one another’s victories, and mourned a few losses. They have brought a richness and color to my life, to our community, and to our country.  I have been blessed for the experience.

In my book, refugees, immigrants, people are not a drain, but an investment. These folks, once settled, are productive members of society and often harder working than their American-born counter-parts. Their children are educated among ours and become tomorrow’s physicians, scientists, artists, engineers, etc.

But in thinking deeper, it’s more personal still for me. Perhaps it’s because, for all intents and purposes, I am parenting a refugee.

My son was rejected by his country of origin, denied basic civil rights, and faced eventual, but certain death had he stayed. He fled to the United States. Even though he posed a threat to no one, there were many Christians who questioned his right to come here.

  • “What about all the children in this country who need homes? Why wouldn’t you adopt an American child?”
  • “Don’t you have enough children? Aren’t you worried what this will do to them?
  • “Who’s going to take care of him after you’re gone? Eventually, he’ll be a burden on the taxpayers.”

All questions/veiled accusations I heard before we adopted him and many I occasionally hear to this day. And while I have sound, logical answers for all of them, they often fall on deaf ears. People believe what they want.

So when my fellow believers circle the wagons against “those people”, outsiders, those who didn’t have the good sense to be born in the United States, it hurts my heart. Because my son is the other. And while he will never read your words, I know many others will.

And that’s the problem with social media and American Christianity. We spend too much time circling the wagons against the “other” to preserve our way of life. This time it’s refugees, but there have been more – people whose brand of sin we abhor, those whose lives are in shambles because of poor choices, addicts who’ve been helped only to fall into addiction again, welfare recipients, etc.

And people are watching. Those who don’t know the first thing about Jesus read our gut responses  we so freely share, the mud we so liberally sling, and scroll past our ugliness disgusted or worse, confused.

They see our prayer memes and Scripture posts, but in moments of global crisis or political disagreement, they see walls of self protection and preservation of our own comfort. Our rights are the only ones that matter.  Loving our neighbor, ministering to the least of these, dying to ourselves… all of these take a back seat to self preservation.

And I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t understand the fear.  I do. Fear is so powerful and has stolen more of my life than most. Maybe because of that, I know there are so many promises from our God that directly address it. He has not given us a spirit of fear; when we walk through the fire, He’ll be there; Be strong and courageous; and on and on.

People, others, are reading when we post scared, judgmental things and it drives them away from Jesus. The reality is public policy will likely not be swayed by our posts on social media and most of us will probably never encounter a Syrian refugee,  but our neighbors who need Jesus may be turned off by who they think He is after reading what we have to say.

Can we not offer them hope instead of fear?

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as our self.

We love God with all of who we are, first.

And then, we love those around us with the same love we have for ourselves. In the same way we desire only the best for ourselves, we must want the best for them. As everything in us rises up to defend ourselves, we must rise to defend them. Just as we would fight to the death to preserve our own lives, we must be willing to fight for theirs. In the same way we seek comfort and solace in the face of heartache, we must reach out and offer it to them. As we want people to react kindly to us when we are not our best, we must extend grace to them.

Whatever privilege, rights, comforts, and benefits we cling to, we must insist that those around us can access them, as well.

We love them as we love ourselves.  

Can we take a breath and remember that kind of love when we feel threatened before posting our response on social media? Can I remember it before responding when I feel someone has spewed something asinine? I don’t know. I’m working on it and while my delete button has been used a lot lately as I reconsider pressing enter, it could certainly use more action.

“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45b

It’s not a social media or a keyboard problem. It’s a heart problem. Whatever’s in there is going to come out. So rather than just censor ourselves, I suppose we should allow God to perform a little heart surgery. I know I’m due and I think I know just where to start. It is a terrifying prayer, but one He has been ever so faithful to answer the few times I’ve bravely and sincerely asked, “Lord, please break my heart with what breaks yours.”

I have to warn you, though. The last time I prayed it, I brought home a refugee.

 

 

 

BUT

Once upon a time, I watched the video of Rodney King being beaten by police officers in abject horror and wondered what in the world he did to have deserved it. It didn’t seem like anyone should’ve been subjected to a beating like that, BUT I knew there had to have been more to the story than what the media was initially portraying.

Of course, I was right. This wasn’t about race. He was a convicted felon who led officers on a high speed chase to avoid being caught driving under the influence, a violation of his parole. Yes, the officers used excessive force, BUT if he’d just pulled over when they first tried to stop him, none of this would’ve happened.

The officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive force. They were acquitted. I again watched in horror as riots ensued and a city I loved burned. Still disbelieving that this could be about race, my twenty-two-year-old self muttered intelligent things like, “If they want to be taken seriously, this isn’t the way to do it.”

I was a fool. 

Yesterday, I ran across a post on Facebook by Rachel Held Evans. She posted a video with this statement:

We don’t “need all the facts” to see clearly that in this video, a white male police officer straddles a young, defenseless black girl in a bathing suit, shoves her face into the ground, and then sits on top of her for several minutes. When a few of her teenage friends try to come to her aid, the cop pulls a gun on them. This is inexcusable. This is misogyny and racism and excessive force. And perhaps the saddest thing is that my black friends, as angry as they are, are not surprised. I am surprised because I am white, because I am privileged, because I have not had to face racial profiling all my life, because no one looked at me sideways when I showed up to a pool without a pass for a party as a teenager. The reason “Black Lives Matter” has become a mantra is not because advocates for racial justice are unaware that all lives matter. They know that. “Black Lives Matter” has become a mantra because black bodies are consistently deemed less valuable than white bodies in this country. And as so many black women know, their bodies in particular are often regarded as property, just as we see in this video. What happened to this girl and her friends was a violation of their humanity and therefore a violation of the image of God within each of them. May it spark holy outrage and a commitment to radical change.

Of course it didn’t spark holy outrage and commitment to radical change. Later, author Jen Hatmaker also addressed the video on her page commenting: The McKinney video has me trembling. Words are failing me. Kids everywhere at a pool party. Only the black kids detained, cuffed, and thrown to the ground. When that tiny girl was thrown to the ground by her hair and kneeled on by that officer while she sobbed and cried for her mama, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I cannot believe not one adult stepped in to defend these children. Christ have mercy.

I watched the video and sobbed. I wanted to reach through my computer monitor and stop it. I imagined what I would do if I were there in the flesh and I can tell you that I would be sitting on my butt in a cell right now without a doubt. Holy outrage doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

And then I began to read the comments on Jen’s post and my blood boiled. Calls for her to “simmer down”, not “jump to conclusions”, and calling her an “Al Sharpton.” Okay. Breathe. But then the BUT posts became the norm. The ones I was familiar with from my Rodney King days.

“yes, the cop over reacted. BUT the kids also need to listen.”

“I am not saying the way it was handled was ok by any stretch. BUT everyone is saying poor pitiful kids who bullied the residents before the cops arrived! Bottom line, if the kids weren’t there, it wouldn’t have happened.”

BUT if the kids would have stopped the nonsense & listened to the cops, it would never have gone to this.”

“Yes the officer seemed to take it a bit to far BUT she very clearly was resisting.”

“The cop over-reacted for sure, BUT good grief, how many times did he tell her to quit running her mouth and to leave?”

The posts that excuse the brutalization because, basically, she had it coming. She deserved this.

Its obvious that most of us have missed the point entirely, and that is what’s discouraging. When will we stop justifying brutality with the excuse that the abused had it coming? It’s not about the party circumstances. Each of those kids could have been at fault and non-compliant. You don’t treat anyone like that. Especially a minor. If you need to make an arrest then do so in a controlled manner. Your rage cannot dictate your actions. You wear the badge. You don’t draw a weapon unless you fear for your safety. This was gross abuse of power: Plain and simple. In today’s polite society, most people are not actively racist. The problem is so many of us are passively racist, or maybe classist is a better term for it. We love African Americans, so long as they behave. We even have friends from that community, we claim as some kind of trump card for saying every other offensive opinion that we harbor or share. Those friends—they likely enjoy the same socioeconomic status as we do, and they are probably well spoken and always say please and thank you. They don’t talk too loud or ask for a handout. We love the African American community, as long as it stays in its place and doesn’t mess up ever. Because apparently as long as you’re misbehaving, or out too late, or play your music too loud, or knock on the wrong door, or talk back to an officer, or steal a bag of chips, or go into a Walmart, or sell loose cigarettes, it’s completely justified to be completely dehumanized or worse. You had it coming the moment you stepped out of line. The ugly truth is that I as a white man retain the liberty to reason and protest against police abuse of power. My African American brothers and sisters do not. Unless they sit quiet and shut up when they’re in trouble, then all bets are off and we’re all ok with it. God forgive us. —Travis Shillington

And most have no idea it’s even a thing. That we harbor passive racism in our hearts and we are shocked when something like this hits the news and “the race baiting begins.” Because it’s never about race for us. We’re white. It doesn’t have to be. We sit back and, as some strange rationalization, think black people enjoy “playing the victim” as we like to call it. Yeah. Because being victimized is something we all aspire to. And so we do what we do and start calling for all the “facts” and posting links and spewing details so we can prove that this really wasn’t about race.

When, if we had a heart at all, we would just shut the hell up and lament. But, if we can’t do that, maybe instead of fact-spewing, we can ask questions. Why do black people think it’s about race? Why is there underlying tension with police? What is “white privilege” and why does it make me so angry when people say it?

These are the first steps to healing, to a changed heart, to an open mind. It can take the BUT right out of you.

Recently, the Duggar scandal was big news. I quietly watched as, in the comment section on article after article, Christians defended Josh Duggar, fully pardoning his “teenage mistakes.” By far, the most over used Scripture in his defense (almost every third comment) was, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)

Yesterday, as a young woman was publicly brutalized and humiliated for teenage mistakes, Christians applauded her victimization by their BUTs. And I have to wonder, where was all the invoking of John 8:7 then?

Dear Conservatives

Dear Conservatives,

I used to be one of you, exclusively. In the interest of objectivity, I’ll throw out my bias here and let you know, politically speaking, I have no idea where I fall anymore. I am all over the map. I still have conservative leanings. Occasionally, I still enjoy a good Chicks on the Right or even (shhhh, don’t tell anyone) Matt Walsh post. To be clear, I often read them, as I like a wide array of perspectives, it’s just that I only enjoy them occasionally.

I read the comments, too.

I have to tell you. As a former you, I’m a little appalled at the hate speech. The vitriol is thick. You seem to really relish in painting all liberals with a really broad, nasty brush.

Don’t worry. I’ve read plenty of comments from the other side, also. The vitriol is thick over there, too. Turns out, you’re all unthinking idiots, as well.

But, dear conservatives, you get this post because you have one bomb in your repertoire that you use liberally, no pun intended. And it needs to stop.

Libtard.

You probably thought it was so clever the first time you heard it. A genius mish-mash of liberal and retard, blended together to show those filthy liberals just how stupid and worthless they really are.

Except it’s not clever. It’s lazy. Instead of articulating a valid argument to characterize the flaws in another’s point of view, you just sling a name at them to make yourself feel better. So clever. Perhaps you should consider the old adage: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

But it’s more than lazy; it’s hate speech.

By using that word, you’re no longer just slamming your opponents. Now, you’re marginalizing and denigrating an entire people group, those who have fallen under the medical diagnosis, Mentally Retarded (now known as Intellectually or Cognitively Disabled.)  And, frankly, those people put up with enough crap without you trying to puff yourself up with your own importance at their expense. Stop it! And don’t tell me you didn’t mean it that way or you weren’t talking about them. As the mom of two boys who fall into that category, I don’t believe you. You are making a clear and distinct comparison to my boys and people like them when you choose to use your own particular brand of that word.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes and thinking about your right to freedom of speech, by golly, and how this politically correct business has gone too far.

Maybe. Except, I’m telling you that using the R-word, in any form, is incredibly hurtful to me and to families like mine. It wounds us a little each and every time we hear it or read it, even in the comments section on polarizing articles.

You may not realize this, dear conservatives, but people to the left of you view you collectively as a group who doesn’t care about people, only about your rights and your need to be right.

So here’s your chance, conservatives. Stop using libtard. Grow a vocabulary and prove them wrong! Care about people, after all. Maybe then you will actually be heard.

When Knowledge Is Fear

They say knowledge is power. Sometimes, they’re wrong. Sometimes, knowledge just increases fear and the feelings of helplessness.

The Serb is going under the knife tomorrow. He’s having another tympanomastoidectomy, the same surgery for the same ear he had in November of 2013. This time, his surgeon doesn’t need to reconstruct the small bones of the ear canal which is good, and he doesn’t think the tumor is back, but he doesn’t actually know what he needs to do because he’s not sure why the results were less than stellar last time. This surgery is more “explore and patch” in nature.

No matter, my boy suffered last time. He did great in the hospital with the IV pain meds, but once they sent us home and we could not get him to take pain meds no matter how many tricks we tried, he hurt and was miserable and it was awful.

Last time, he was not a seasoned patient and was a more willing participant of whatever treatment they doled out. He is older and wiser and, I’m sure, will have none of it. He knows too much.

Last time, the risks of not having surgery far outweighed the risks of surgery. This time, it seems less clear, less life-threatening, more open to second-guessing. We know too well what this could cost him.

Last time, my friends list didn’t include fellow adoptive mamas who’ve lost their children with Down syndrome.

I find myself afraid. Can’t breathe, eyes welling up, constant migraine, afraid.

I want so much for him to never feel fear or experience pain, but that’s an unrealistic goal for any of us. Instead, during this hospital stay, I want to keep him from unnecessary harm, to comfort him well, to advocate for him with wisdom. I want to be a good mama.

And, if things go awry, I want to remember to breathe and know there is grace for that.

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Forty-five, and What Remains

So, I turn forty-five on the fifth of next month. FORTY-FIVE! How the heck did that happen?!? I very clearly remember being in my twenties. Wasn’t that just last week? I remember thinking, erroneously apparently, that people in their mid-forties must actually know what they are doing. They are grown-ups, after all.

Turns out, I was wrong. Or maybe all the other forty-five-year-olds do know what they’re doing and I’m the anomaly. That would be about right.

Not gonna lie. Forty-five is kicking my butt. I’ve never had a problem with any other age. Thirty wasn’t a big deal. I’d just had a baby and had more important things on my mind like how to eke out another five minutes of sleep and if my shirt really stunk like spit-up or was the stench just permanently burned into my nostrils. Forty is the new thirty, so that wasn’t a big deal, either.

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This is the face of nearly-forty-five. Yikes!

But forty-five? There’s nothing cute to say about that. It’s just old. Close to fifty. I look at the hands typing this post and they’re not mine. They’re veiny and wrinkled with swollen knuckles. They’re my grandma’s hands. How did my grandma’s hands get on the end of my wrists? It’s very troubling.

I have one thing going for me. My stress and anxiety have decreased my appetite so much that I lost weight recently. I am now the thinnest I’ve been since high school. Sadly, I’m here to tell you, a size six forty-five-year-old body in no way resembles a size six seventeen-year-old body. There is nothing cute about it. There are all kinds of dimples and sags and squishy and just…ick. Sigh.

I’ve always been told I look young for my age, but nearly two years of sleep-deprivation is taking its toll on my face, as well. Upon finding out I have eight kids, a new patient of mine (who is eighty-four, herself) responded, “Oh, are they all grown?” What the heck? I wanted to ask her just how old she thought I was, but I was afraid she’d tell me. Another patient, just today, mentioned a hairstyle that would look better on me as I’m apparently “showing too much forehead.” Ouch.

If I’m being honest, while my vanity is taking a hit as I age, it’s not my greatest struggle. I’m disappointed in the person I’ve become…or rather not become. Let me try again. I’m disappointed in the person I’ve remained.

While an honest assessment reveals some personal growth and maturity over the girl I once was, so much of her remains. I continue to trudge around mountains I thought for sure would be long conquered by now. I hoped middle age would find me firmly planted in the driver’s seat, not with a death grip on the door handle, legs flailing behind, waiting for one good pothole to completely throw me off track.

I thought I’d know more stuff. Well, more useful stuff, anyway, although I do enjoy beating my younger counterparts at Trivia Crack. Just when I think I know something useful, like how to use my phone, bam! Time for an upgrade.

And my old nemesis, pride? I really thought I’d have licked it by now. I thought for sure humility would have won the day and I’d be all gentle and Titus 2ish, as an older woman. The other evening at rush hour, I was heading out the door to take one of the girls to basketball practice and UpcycleDaddy tells me to take a different route. My normal route, the back way, has an intersection that doesn’t have a traffic light and it’s nearly impossible to turn left onto the main street at certain times of day. Like rush hour. On a Friday. Which I now understand, but as I steered the SUV the original route, my internal conversation went something like this:

“Go the front way. Really?!? I take this way everyday on the way to work. Pretty sure I have the stones to make it out there. I bet HE doesn’t go the front way. He just said that because he doesn’t think I can drive. Give me a break!” 

Guess who sat at said intersection for nearly eleven minutes making her daughter late to practice? (While her daughter innocently asked, “Didn’t Dad tell us to go the other way?” and steam came out of my ears.) Yeah, still waiting on that gentle spirit.

I guess I thought, was hoping even, that I’d be someone else I liked better, admired even. But it turns out that me at forty-five is just me, only older, and more wrinkly, and squishy.

And less sure.

I remember that younger me was so certain. I don’t know where actual conviction ended and bravado began, but I do remember feeling sure of things from theology to politics to parenting, especially when thinking about everyone else’s life.

This me is different in that regard. While I have more certainty in my own choices, or at least certainty that they matter less than I once thought they did, I see so much more gray in the choices/lives of other people. Grace is bigger than I could’ve imagined it to be. I wish I’d known that once upon a time.

I could’ve used a lot more grace along the way. I could’ve given it, as well.

Jesus compares us to sheep in the book of John and says that we will recognize His voice. I find that I am better at hearing His voice as I’ve gotten older, but I spend less time listening for it. I don’t know why that is. The cacophony of voices compete for my attention and He doesn’t, I suppose. And I’m too full of myself to allow Him any room. (Again, with the pride! Yeesh.)

So, while everything in me wants to well up and dye my hair pink, or get another tattoo, or pierce my nose as rebellion against the calendar as time marches on, I think, instead, I’ll turn inward and focus on what remains.

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30

And I will unplug more and listen to the voice of my Shepherd and let Him direct the passion (that I thankfully still have) and continue to extend grace to myself and those around me. Because there is grace even for forty-five.

Although, I do love pink and my roots have grown out…