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Growing Up With Bobby and Bebe: A Series

Agree to Disagree

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When my parents moved to Colorado 6 years ago, they drove in from Phoenix and walked in my front door into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink. I heard in my heart (when God tells me something, it’s something smarter than I could have thought of…), “They are here for the rest of their lives and your job is simply to love them, not try to change them.”

I think I literally glanced up at the ceiling trying to get eye contact with God, as well as position my ear better to hear the response to my rebuttal, “Even my Dad?!”   [Read more…]

I Choose Life

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Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. [Read more…]

I Had a Dream

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Right before waking up this morning, I dreamt a friend and I were standing in the middle of a four-lane road with cars flying by in either direction. We were discussing the vital importance of practicing the act of writing for 20 minutes everyday, no matter what…

And then I woke up

Prior to waking up and prior to standing in the middle of the road, where I was, incidentally, holding a vintage typewriter under one arm, I had been at a beautiful gathering of writers and journalists who were sitting at tables together, sharing and listening. [Read more…]

Speak: Contemplation

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

I’ve been contemplating many things for quite some time and the more I keep it in, I feel I may implode.

Why have I held these things in rather than go with my usual mode of verbally processing my thoughts to whomever may be in the room or on the other end of the phone? To be fair, my husband would attest to me processing these with him over the years, and each time he reminds me, “Adrienne, THIS is the content of your book. Write it. Write it down. People need to hear.” I love him and need him to say this to me, especially since writing it down is part of the equation: In order NOT to implode I must write these things down and get on with living.

So, again, why have I shared these thoughts I ponder day in and day out with only a few?

Open confession: I’ve feared segments of Christendom. [Read more…]

Who is Invited to the Table?

A year ago when we sold our house and stuff and embarked on this journey as The Graveswolds, God put two words on my heart: GATHER and TABLE. I said, “Really, Lord!? You are teaching us about hospitality, but we don’t even have a house OR A TABLE?!”

And He said, “You don’t need those to experience hospitality. Wherever you go, gather around tables with friends and strangers and break bread. Share your hearts and listen to those gathered. Do this often. This is Kingdom Come. This is the work of peacemaking.”

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up sooner, at least not in my writings or a more formal venue. I honestly thought my voice and heart didn’t matter on a scale other than loving others and practicing peacemaking in the day to day.

I’ve rethought that a bit…and my voice and heart matter big time, just as much as yours!

I’ve grappled with these feelings, and a deep down knowing, for likely my whole life. The last several years they have resurrected, and too many “coincidences” and gut feelings have “fallen into place.” When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, there were reminders everyday, but since life seemed peaceable, I wasn’t sure what to do with how I felt or the things I wondered. It just was what it was and life kept going…my life kept going, at least.

Specifically, these feelings resurfaced when I found myself in Auckland, New Zealand and Australia, last year on holiday, and again, just a few weeks ago. I walked the streets freely, my accent the only thing distinguishing me from the locals at first glance, and that, only if I used my voice. I sat stunned on a park bench one day, overlooking the bustle, watching the swells of people, diverse, colorful and living, thinking of tensions around the world and back home on American soil. And I can’t say it any other way as I thought,

“Holy shit! Some Europeans just went all over the whole freaking world and started ‘discovering’ other places to live, in spite of whoever lived there first…”

Not only that, they swung by Africa and other countries and continents to do a little “shopping” on their way there, for a “workforce” to make their dreams come true. What the what?! #$%^&*?

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A bumper sticker on the back of a car we saw while recently in Australia.

As a kid, celebrating Thanksgiving and learning about the earlier days of the “discovery of the New World” and the founding of the United States, my young heart wrestled with some key, un-ignorable logistics.

Wait…people were already here, so really, did Columbus ‘discover’ a New World?”

I remember a commercial with a Native American chief atop his beautiful horse, overlooking pollution, a tear streaming down his cheek, and my guts hurt. Every single day of high school, and then some, I drove across an Indian “Reservation,” past government-issued housing, to get from my custom home to classes and activities. I pondered, too, the very real possibility that maybe some of my German blood could have been traced to the brutally hateful side of things in the world wars, but hoped they had sheltered or helped, and seen the deception, instead of the devastating alternative. I wondered if any of my earlier Stateside relatives had befriended Natives or rallied for or against slavery in America’s history, or civil rights, which crowd they followed, or if they blazed trails of healing instead. I hoped distant relatives had loved well as much as it depended on them…

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Me, circa 1977, leaning against our house that was an old hunting lodge my parents remodeled, along the banks of the Maumee River in Ohio.

 

I am a vanilla white, mixed breed American girl, born and raised in the United States. From word of mouth, as well as DNA testing, my bloodline includes: German, French, Swiss, English, Irish, Scottish, early Egyptian Jew, and 2.67% caveman… (“23andme” is an interesting way to learn about genetics from a medical standpoint, as well as an historical one). These things don’t define me, but they are part of who I am today, no matter how far removed I am from them.

My family moved to Arizona in 1978 to be closer to relatives. Had my family personally removed the Natives from the Phoenix metro in order to move there? No. We didn’t. We simply moved into the neighborhood, just as we had on the riverbanks of Ohio where we found exquisite Native tools and arrowheads, and, as an adult, I’m aware of this now, mindful of this, conscious of the fragmented reality that my freedom to move about wherever I want, to vacation to the ends of the earth, to drive and fly here and there, have come at a cost.

I’m a peacemaker. Why were there battles in the first place? And if someone “won”, that means others lost, and I don’t really think we have “enemies” since our battle is not with flesh and blood, soooooo, what does that really entail? What happens to the “losers?” Is there a better way to do all this? Is anyone actually speaking to each other or are WE all just pulling weapons on one another, pointing fingers, erecting walls, or corralling people into segregated groups, heaping label after label after stereotypical label on each other?

One thing I know…we have hurt one another. WE. There is no “us” or “them” but WE. And WE belong to each other. WE are a family of humans who cannot choose the members. WE ARE FAMILY. But this God-breathed human family is hurting. We may not have family trees to point a finger at who the bad relatives were versus the good ones, but the human family has a common trunk in the Tree of Life and the breath of God, and somewhere in the Garden WE began distinguishing, deciding, and judging between each other rather than belonging to each other.

I’m from a mixed bag of a lot of history…none of us knows all the specifics on how our blood has been woven into this world’s pain. I know I’m not a racist, nor do I have ill will towards anyone, but the reality is, not knowing what to do about the broken system doesn’t bring healing if I don’t do anything at all. If I’m going to be completely honest with you and myself, I can hope and wish and pray all I want that my ancestors were trailblazers of peace, but here I am today, comfortable in society in 2015 while heartache abounds on every side, so there’s been a breakdown somewhere along the line.

It’s not a matter of pointing fingers…we all have logs in our own eyes. WE have ALL hurt someone at some point, just as WE have all been hurt. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I am sorry. And I forgive you. I’m responsible for my life and actions and how I see and treat others. Help me understand…will you please tell me your story?”

I think TODAY is as good a day as any to start trailblazing peace and love. It starts with US…you and me. WE must stop waiting on systems to clean up the messes of our ancestors, no matter the color of our skin or our dark histories. Our SOULS run deeper than systems. We each must take responsibility for loving others well. Our present state of being is not without context.

The quote at Hemingway's in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

The quote at Hemingway’s in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

Have you ever heard the statement, “Can’t we all just get along?” Some people don’t believe it’s possible, but WHAT IF we tried? “Getting along” doesn’t mean everyone is best friends or believes the same things or even shares all the same interests, but it does imply seeking the good of all people, as long as it depends on each of us. At a table, we are compelled to sit with others and look into another persons’ eyes, to really SEE them and HEAR them and seek to KNOW them.

In this beautiful, bustling, broken, and hectic world, I believe there’s been a breakdown in making peace over time. We are naive to believe ALL the Native Americans and ALL the Pilgrims sat around that first Thanksgiving table…or that just because the lunch counters didn’t have dividers anymore that all the white guys saddled up next to the black guys for biscuits and gravy…or that within our own families, certain relatives were ever even on the guest list. Perhaps mealtime got interrupted, was hurried, or became all about the food and not about who was gathered there to share stories and break bread?

I’m a simple girl…idealistic, but unabashedly hopeful. As long as it depends on me, God has given me a glimpse of my life’s work and it’s to live and breathe peacemaking, everyday. I don’t know all the details of how it will work or look, but Someone modeled Love for me many years ago and it looked a lot like gathering around tables, breaking bread, and sharing stories.

 

Maybe the basic act of breaking bread together again
is where everyday peacemaking must begin?”

The Great Boxing Ring

Two years ago in October, my mom and a couple of my friends and I gathered around a friend who asked us to pray for her. She was weary. Her marriage was tumultuous, to put it lightly, and her head and heart could hardly take it anymore.

We all knelt around her and quietly waited on the Lord before we started praying. One by one we offered love, hope, and encouragement in prayer. As my eyes were closed, I saw a vivid picture in my head…it was a great boxing ring, and my friend and her husband were pitted against one another…fists raised in protection and ready for attack.

 

I waited and prayed quietly for a moment, opened my eyes and closed them again.

There in the other corner, opposite my friend, was the Devil and her husband, and God was in my friend’s corner, behind her, rubbing her shoulders, squirting her mouth, drying her sweat. Suddenly, the opposite corner was being filled with more and more people, one by one, groups, individuals…it just kept getting more and more crowded.

And as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself.

As we wrapped up, I told my friend what I had seen while we were praying and encouraged her how the Enemy of our hearts would have her believe she and her husband were pitted against each other, because of course, that’s how it appeared and felt and was expressing itself in reality. I brought up the point of how our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in a totally different realm, and that she could unfortunately never change her husband other than to leave the marriage, but that it’s not him who is the enemy but the Enemy of our souls.

Fast forward to one night in April, 2014, when I spent the night with my mom while she was in the ICU. We had a pretty amazing evening together, sharing hearts, reading scriptures to each other, talking about revelations the Holy Spirit had given us about this, that, and the other thing. I tucked my mom into bed, saying what she said to me every night of my life growing up and what I say to my kids every night, as well:

“Goodnight! God bless you! I love you!”

…and then I cozied up in the chair at the foot of her bed and fell asleep right away.

Suddenly I woke up and there were two people standing over me, the only light from the nurses station in the hallway. I had to get my bearings the way you do when you fall asleep, but can’t remember where you are. Some friends had gotten off work late and stopped by to bring my mom flowers. We talked in hushed whispers, then headed over to the side of my mom’s bed. She roused and wanted to pray for her friends, and pray she did…prophetically, with God’s assurance. Tears shed, hands squeezed, cheeks kissed, we said goodnight and they headed out the door. It had only been about 1/2 an hour in all since I had fallen asleep to when our friends came for a visit, but during that time, God showed me the rest of the dream from the previous October.

I told my mom how everyone in the world was in the opposite corner of that boxing ring, all ages, every demographic and ethnicity, people of every tribe and tongue…the opposite corner of the boxing ring just kept getting more and more crowded, to the point of crowding out the real opponent, the only opponent, the very place where the Devil was positioned…

…and as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face, now nearly lost in the crowd, grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself…his deception from the Garden had woo’ed the masses to believe that our battle is with anyone and anything other than him, other than the spiritual forces in this world.

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” – Ephesians 6:10-12

 

To me it was significant that the rest of the dream came when I was with my mom near the end of her life. And, as I think of it now, funny how it happened in a hospital. When Noah was in the hospital I had a lot of quiet, late nights to sit and read scripture, pray uninterrupted, and silently listen to God’s heart…then life gets busy for the listening, I guess.

My mom and I talked about it extensively and then spent some time praying.

See, the Enemy of our hearts, in the Garden, woo’ed us into thinking that judging between ourselves was a good idea…he woo’ed us into believing that God’s GOOD for us wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t the whole picture, that possessing the knowledge of Good and Evil was something that would benefit us, that we wouldn’t surely die if we possessed it…but God knew better…He didn’t say we couldn’t eat it, He said not to eat it because if we did, we would surely die…

we would die a death of paranoia, fear, sizing everyone else up, comparison, competition, living on the defense rather than cohesively, ready to throw a punch rather than offer a loving hand.

It’s the Enemy of our hearts, the one set to steal, kill, and destroy, who would trick us into believing that anyone else is in his corner…because we all know misery loves company.

The finale of the dream was quite profound…when the lights came on and the bell was rung, it was Satan in one corner, all alone, and opposite him was God and the rest of mankind, His beloved creation, those made in His image, the ones He said, “It’s good,” about…us, all of us gathered together, living abundantly, not fettered by fear, but loving each other through the telling of an extravagant Love Story.

 

* My prayer is this: Father, You told us to love our enemies, and to pray for them…but it’s confusing who is our enemy and who is our friend…Lord, be gracious with us as we simply love and pray for everyone in our paths…we trust You who sees the bigger picture…Amen.

Have You Ever Felt Labeled?

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What Really “Killed” Adam and Eve in the Garden?

 

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“Temptation”, photo credit: Adrienne Graves

The Garden was a much bigger story than an apple eaten, eyes opened, and disobedience. Too much to unpack in a blog post, but this is something that’s been on my heart for years, so I would love to share some of it here. Please read this realizing this is my opinion. You may think differently. I feel as though this is revelation God has given me over the years of studying the Garden, especially in light of Christ’s Good News and the practice of empathy. Consider reading the rest through that filter…

God told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because if they did, they would surely die. The Snake slips in and says, “You won’t die…you’ll be like God, able to see and know everything…” And, in their initial experience, they didn’t die. They were still standing there, buck naked, just like God made them, in the Garden, alive. Yet, it was at that moment their eyes were open to see from a different perspective…God’s perspective. 

So, if they didn’t die, what do you think happened, then? 

Well, I do believe they began to die, but slow and drawn out…like over years and decades and centuries. This was the moment doubt crept in, questioning God and if what He said and did was really Good or not…doubt that God really had their best in mind, told them the truth or not…a seed planted to wonder whether God really loved them if He said they would die from the experience, yet there they were. The Enemy of their hearts, the one who is set on stealing, killing, and destroying God’s Good creation, God’s very heart, threw out juicy bait, and they took it…not just the bite, but the choice to question and the decision to themselves be the judges.

Their eyes were opened to their nakedness, which was still Good, that had not changed, yet, they judged it wasn’t good at all but something to cover up. Except God had said it was…so, who was right? Adam and Eve, or God?

I don’t think the only lesson in this story is about the fall and how we are all sinners, or just about disobedience.

This was about a loving Father’s heart sharing a consequence of what could happen if they made a particular choice, one He longed for them not to make, but not a Master Puppeteer to make the choice for them…think “Love and Logic” for all you parents out there. 

God knew they would be overwhelmed with the weight, the burden, of knowing between good and evil, discerning right and wrong, but mostly, the idea that it was their responsibility to judge themselves and others based on whatever criteria seemed right. He knew that yoke was slavery, and would, indeed, lead to their most certain death.

We wield this judgment at others and ourselves, every day. We are the ones killing each other with judgment, pointing fingers, valuing one life more worthy than another, attempts to bring justice through the systems of man…and it’s all broken.

Jesus came to share the GOOD NEWS…news His yoke was easy, His burden light. News He was the Light of the World, exposing the darkness and lies of the Enemy. His life was lived among those deemed “sinners” and “unclean” and “irreligious” by the pious ones, the self-appointed holy ones. Jesus knew they were too dead to see that God made man in His image and said it was GOOD.

I believe this is part of the most certain death Christ saved us from…a burdensome life of slowly killing others, and ourselves, through the lens of judgment. He came to reconcile us all back to a Garden relationship like the one God originally intended.

 

Today I Woke Up Lonely

It’s not that I woke up feeling alone…it’s that I had a feeling of extreme loneliness.

How can this be when I am married to my best friend, usually accompanied by a small child, and have a teenaged daughter who actually chooses hanging out with me once in a while over friends? How can this be, this deep feeling, when I have some of the best friends on the planet, family, blood and extended, that are all sorts of awesome, and a beautiful community of friends, past and present, on-line and on Facebook?

How can I feel loneliness today, to the point of tears, when I’m in a town of over 20,000 people?

The feelings were too raw, so I confessed them to Jason in the middle of the kitchen, he plugging away at his computer at the other end of the table.

She said: I’m so lonely.

He, doesn’t say a thing, but walks over and holds me close.

She said: When you are talking on the phone all day, do you actually feel like you’ve BEEN with those people, like you aren’t alone, but together? Does it fill that for you?

He said: Adrienne, when you work from home like we do, you have to be intentional about connecting with friends…

She said: I miss my face to face friends…the ones who have my heart.

♥♥♥

But this isn’t my town and, though I’ve loved these people for 25+ years, they have their lives and routines and friends and pursuing them to breathe the same air at once feels intrusive…almost presumptuous, as if they wanted to spend time with me.

♥♥♥

This season of “houselessness” we’ve embarked on isn’t all galavanting around France and jaunts to Australia or wherever. Sure, those are fun and exciting things that have been on my dream list for years.

But more so, this season is a space of learning. And I’m learning, even more, the necessity for the practice of empathy. I feel this deep loneliness because something in this town is crying out to my soul. I hear these cries in the faces that smile and keep pressing on in the grocery store and at the coffee shop and at the kids’ games.

“We’ve always been a fiercely private people…these walls are comfortable…don’t broach them…”

Sure, on the physical, tangible side of things, I just want to carve out a day with my girls and walk for miles, go grab a great bite to eat somewhere new, open a bottle of smooth red, and share hearts. But they live in Colorado and are hanging out without out me.

My empathic heart senses I’m not the only one who hears the cries or feels the loneliness, in this town, or any town, for that matter.

So what will practicing empathy look like today when I really just want someone else to practice it towards me?

It will look like vulnerability…like telling Jason I’m lonely, then calling or texting a couple of friends, not in expectation that they remove the feeling, but just to share my heart, and saying, “Friend, I’m so lonely today. Thanks for being in my life…thank you for loving me…would you like to hang out?”

Empathy: A Noun?

Maybe that’s the problem?

I like the word, “empathy.”

I’m a peacemaker. How could I not? Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it:

“the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :  the capacity for this”

But its definition says it’s a noun, and my understanding of it is as a verb.

If you are still here reading as the month comes to a close, I hope you will filter each post through the lens of empathy…it’s the lens through which I write and the way I pray to see and treat and understand others on a daily basis.

I fail all the time.

But that doesn’t mean I give up on the practice. Today my legs are sore and I’m utterly exhausted, because in an attempt to practice empathy, I walked 14 miles cold turkey. It’s not that I don’t walk once in a while…I do yoga, lift weights, and walk and sprint as my work-outs, but for usually no more than an hour.

 

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We, the “Graveswolds” are living on a lake in South Dakota for a season that is 14 miles around by the road ways. I decided I wanted to walk around it before the first freeze and we’ll be out of town in Minneapolis next weekend, and the weekend after that could be the first freeze, so this morning, I was totally going to do yoga because it was chilly and sprinkling and I’m DECIDEDLY NOT a fair weather girl, plus I haven’t really “trained” for the distance, just a 5, 6, and 8 mile walk over the last couple months and 2 full days of walking all over Paris last week, adding up to about 18-20 or so miles, and I’m doing a major detox, and on and on and on…

So there are tons of excuses and complaints and reasons why yoga in a heated room would have been yummier.

BUT, the reason I wanted to walk in the first place, and the reason I told my excuses to shut the hell up, were backed by empathy.

You see, I’ve been reading the 4th chapter of John for 15 years, and as a result, the lives of women and water and wells are near and dear to my heart…

…and there are women who are still just girls all over Africa who walk 14 miles every day or every other day to get water for their families. And the water is usually from a dirty, mucky, contaminated source that has to be boiled once they get back to their villages…their villages that, for some reason, don’t have fresh water wells yet…

And these beautiful girls could not only be in schools learning awesome stuff, but they could also be working and gleaning wisdom and nurturing alongside the grown-ups in their lives, even if it is in a field and different from the First World’s idea of childhood.

And these beautiful girls walk even if it’s sprinkling or hot or there are predators…and they don’t have the luxury of a 31 day detox/cleanse challenge or of an incredible husband and kids meeting them at the half-way point with a Nalgene of pure water and lunch of meat and veggies.

Empathy isn’t meant to make us feel guilty for what we have and what others don’t have. The purpose of practicing empathy, whether in deed or heart to heart understanding is to ask ourselves, on any given day, in any situation, upon learning the story of another, this question:

“How would that make me feel?”

Here’s how I felt today as I walked and prayed and pressed on around Lake Kampeska:

  • I was grateful to have U2 singing me along, ministering to my bones, and a chance to talk to both of my sisters in the 4+ hours it took to circle the lake…I hope the children who walk great distances for water at least have some friends or other kids to walk with because that’s a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts…
  • I was thirsty. I purposefully did NOT bring water on the walk, one because I didn’t want to have to carry something, and two, because I didn’t know where I’d stop to pee, and three, because I knew my prince and chitlins were bringing me rations halfway…I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to schlep 40 lbs of *dirty water for half the distance I did today. I know what a 40 lb, 5 year old feels like in my arms, but to carry him for 2-3 hours would break me.
  •  A million other thoughts, but one last observation: It’s true I wouldn’t know any different if this were my chore as an African child, but time is my love language, and today I spent 4+ hours away from my family. While this kind of a break is usually welcome and wonderful and refreshing for my soul, it’s usually doing something I choose to do for relaxation or rejuvenation…different from a tasking chore. And I think of all the time those kids are apart from their parents or community, which may fill their hearts with a sense of contribution and worth, but what wisdom and mentoring they are missing, or what snuggles or smiles or glimpses or loving gestures they simply miss out on with the casual interaction that happens with doing life together, because they are fetching water at great lengths.

 

World Vision International is the largest NGO that provides clean water to the developing world. Their work and presence in nearly 100 countries enables other non-profit organizations to dig wells in villages around the world.

So, yeah. Empathy is asking ourselves, “How would that make me feel?”  It’s a “me” focused question, yes, but meant to experience life through the eyes and in the shoes of another…and it’s painful and beautiful all at once.

I was thirsty…and he gave me a drink.