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“I Love Her More…”

free photo courtesy: pixabay user/emrahozaras

free photo courtesy: pixabay user/emrahozaras

 

I can’t sleep.

I’m not sure if it’s the hormone expressions of a 46 year old woman, the fact that I had to use the bathroom, a text from a friend in the middle of the night asking for prayer, or the fact that my 7 year old son has been sleeping with me for the last week and periodically throughout the night I get a heel in my side or an elbow to the face. We call him a sleeping octopus.

Either way, I just had one of those “Love You Forever,” moments and so now I have been awake since 3:54am.

Parenting isn’t easy.

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NOT Another Political Rant

(*This post is an unabridged version of a comment I left on someone’s repost of some guy on Facebook, a selfie of a 50-year old male caucasian US citizen of Slovak decent with a nice SUV in the background in front of a Walmart, ranting about what he assumes is an illegal alien or recent Mexican immigrant using an EBT card, driving said SUV, and he’s been working 7-day weeks his whole life and is in debt and why doesn’t he get an EBT card?)

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Imagine the ripple effects of our words, loving or hateful…either one, there are ripple effects. What kind will you set into motion?

 I was just pondering this the other day how we compare what we see on the outside when we don’t have a clue of what’s on the inside, the deeper story of EVERYONE AND ANYONE. I was thinking about how some people say they’re successful financially because they work hard, however, my husband works just as hard at his job in the non-profit world as the immigrant farmer in southern California who is farming the organic veggies for the hipster artists in popular cities who work the same amount of hours but their work looks differently from the person who’s working just as diligently in a high pressure factory job or a white collar profession, the same amount of hours, different amounts of dollars. The truth is if the guy whose 50 year struggle still has him in heap of debt is complaining about immigrants being better off than he is, I wonder if it’s more a question of the way he stewards his money (and maybe his attitude?) and whether he lives within his means (see Dave Ramsey). Because some people around the world live on a fraction of what the average US citizen (or other first world citizen) makes in a year and are not indebted to “the man.” As are some US citizens living on way less than the next door neighbor, working just as many hours, but they live within their means.  [Read more…]

No One is Born an Asshole

Let’s say that one more time, not for shock value, but for the sake of truth and hopefully conveying my heart:

No one is born an asshole.”

This can be said a plethora of ways: jerk, cheater, meanie, bully, etc. But the reality is, we are all born little, sweet, and tender.  Having had 3 babies, I can say with confidence, from experience, none of them were born jerks or buttheads.

It’s pretty hard to believe, especially in light of all that we hear about in the news and people we have met in real life. So then, why is there pain and hurt and brokenness in the world? If we are all born chubby sweeties, where do we learn how to be total jerks to one another? Why is there hatred, war, fighting, bullying, jealousy, backbiting, estrangement, angst, and bitterness in the world? Why is there such a thing as an “enemy” and why can’t we get along with our neighbors? Why is “peacemaking” such a touchy subject and why are there “sides”  to choose if we were all meant to be on one team? This could be the answer!!!

This is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about people’s stories. It’s also why as a peacemaker my heart gets bruised and discouraged sometimes. Because, you see, I am hard-wired with not only the heart of a peacemaker, but also with deep empathy that gets me into trouble when “sides” and “enemies” and “opposing parties” and “different vantage points” exist. And deep down, I also believe God’s a truth teller, the best there ever has been, so when He says our fight isn’t against another person but is a spiritual battle, I take His truth to heart.

Please understand me when I say, when I hear a person’s story of how their heart is hurting and so and so did it, my compassion is with the person who was hurt. At the same time I wonder about the brokenness in the other person and what would cause them to be hurtful. What is it that they are still holding onto, what hurt or unforgiveness, that has now become their filter for life?

Ever since Noah was in the hospital with a long list of things wrong with him but no official diagnosis or definition to explain the causes, I’ve been a fan of the question, “Why?” I do have some ideas and leads to why my boy was never well, but I may never ever truly know, and that’s often the case with why some people act mean, are hurtful, and can be overall jerks.

The hard part to wrap my head and heart around is knowing they weren’t born that way…

I understand what my mom meant when she said to be careful about peacemaking. When she first said that to me, I thought it was a ridiculous statement, but walking through pain with people, and being hurt myself at times, I get it. And I’ve listened as people have shared that deep down, they don’t want to make peace…because peace would entail vulnerability, and trust and vulnerability were what they were practicing when their heart got hurt in the first place.

Not everyone wants to make peace. Some people want to hold on to their offenses because they believe it helps or at least establishes a bit of defense and protection from further injury.  The heart and mind can be a war zone and as humans who are made of flesh and blood, when our feelings are hurt, our usual first response is to protect ourselves…and never let it happen again.

So back to the part where no one is born an asshole…I know I’ve hurt the feelings of others. Sometimes I meant to, but usually I did not. And I can’t dissect everyone, but I can start on myself…a heart and mind lab where I ask myself why I treated so and so like that or why I reacted in such a way or why I’m thinking certain thoughts or letting things swirl around in my head rather than checking my heart, going directly to God, and then to the other person.

I can listen to others, especially and even people different from me, and then allow myself to wrestle a bit, challenge myself and my filters and thinking. And learn…be transformed by listening. Not allow fear to set in but allow God to remind my soul why He warned against that One Specific Tree in the first place…why it wasn’t the Tree of Life he said not to touch, but the one where He KNEW we would wield what we THOUGHT we knew about others…the one where we would start blaming the other guy for our choices.

People aren’t jerks just because they think differently than us. Maybe we have wars and battles and hurt and division because we are all walking around believing we are perfect?

In this world, we may have a propensity for selfishness and sin, however, much of it is learned. Our first identity was as children of God. The more we store up our offenses on the inside, trying to hide our imperfections in costumes of perfection, the bigger the rage and lashing becomes.

What IF we started relating to one another the way Jesus did? What IF “loving our enemies” actually looked like LOVE rather than mud-slinging and God-slinging and cyber-bullying and social-media bullying and Bible-bashing and political bandwagon and heated personal opinions?

What IF we stopped looking at the faults and shortcomings of others and started with our very own hearts?

Revival never came through mandatory attendance…it can only come through a laying down of our own lives and looking to the Very One who created us and knows every one of our hearts.”

What IF we learned a little something from Jesus when He said to become like children in order to inherit the Kingdom of God? Maybe He knew they weren’t born assholes, too, otherwise, wouldn’t He have admonished His listeners to become more like the Pharisees?

I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

(*This post has links to some fantastic, and life-altering, scripture. In light of what I shared above, I hope you’ll be able to read all of it and be encouraged and challenged by it, as I am every time I read it. It rubs me wrong, which must make it beneficial…like sandpaper to a piece of rough wood.)

An Alien, A Professor, and a Womanizing Motorcyclist

(*I’m not a celebrity stalker, but the death of Robin Williams so close to my Mom’s makes it all raw and real and I’m moved to share…)

We moved from Ohio to Arizona in 1978 and shortly thereafter I became a “latch-key” kid. Part of the transition included my Mom going to work once we got settled into our “master-planned” suburban neighborhood. So, for about two hours every day after school, before my older sister got home, I was alone. Incidentally this is when I became a closet eater, but that’s another blog and another story. On the days I wasn’t riding my bike over to my best friend’s house to play Atari, choreograph endless dance routines, or swim in her pool, I was at home, acting brave, but really actually quite scared and alone.

But the truth is, in the midst of being alone I never felt lonely. It’s a funny thing what food and television can do to one’s mind to believe in a false sense of comfort, community, and protection.

With packages of Saltine’s in hand, along with freshly sliced rounds of cheese and copious scoops of Nestle Quik powder in my 2% milk, I would sit on our Chevron striped couch and watch “Mork and Mindy”, “Gilligan’s Island”, and “Happy Days.” And as I did, the alone-ness disappeared. Sure He-Man, Tom and Jerry, and Jonny Quest helped pass the time, but somehow Mork and his innocent wonder, Professor and his brilliant discoveries, and the Fonz and his simple-minded strength and confidence made this at-home-alone-kid feel very much protected.

photo courtesy of: http://www.endedtvseries.com/tag/mork/

photo courtesy of: http://www.endedtvseries.com/tag/mork/

 

It’s frightening to look back and think about how much TV I watched while unattended. It’s a wonder my brain didn’t turn to mush as my Dad always declared. I had it down to a science, knowing when to turn it off so the tube wasn’t hot to the touch when he got home from work. Though we watched TV sometimes as a family (I remember Masterpiece Theatre, NOVA, The Muppet Show, Little House, The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and mini-series like The Thorn Birds and Shogun…), the statistics of children watching extended amounts of media isn’t from this day and age…it started way back when I was little, and yes, I did ride my bike and explore for hours on end without a care in the world, but many days, I vedged in front of the boob-tube.

I had a crush on that alien, Mork from Ork. My friends and I used to shake Na-nu Na-nu style. I mean, I actually wore rainbow suspenders, people. I didn’t love Mindy because she seemed slow to notice the treasure that was Mork right in front of her, but she eventually came around, smart cookie.

I know Mork was just one of many heart-warming characters Robin Williams played over the years (did you know the producers allowed him ad-lib time while taping because he was just that brilliantly funny to come up with stuff on the fly?), the others with lasting impact in my memory and so many of yours, too, but to an elementary school girl who was alone, trying to feel “at home” in a big empty house, his quirky innocence, hand wringing, and calls with Orson at the close of each show, honest heart-felt calls laced with authenticity, questions, curiosity, and growth, that down-to-earth alien sure helped my alone heart feel right at home.

Shazbot, Robin Williams! I’m so sad you are gone!  I pray blessings over Robin and his family, healing and comfort…continued laughter. He was designed with many a gift, but one in particular that impacted much of the world was the gift of healing through laughter. What a profound and beautiful thing to know one’s gifts and walk in them! Oh, the ripple effects! Lord, thank You for making Robin Williams and introducing him to the world at the same time I have been on Earth. Lord, You know that sense of humor is something my family cherishes greatly, especially in the midst of trial and grief. What a gift his life was! What. A. Gift! Thanks, again, God! You are an AWESOME CREATOR!

How do I Pray?

Sometimes I pray like this: (*closing my eyes as I type so it’s prayer and not prose…excuse typos…)

Father, I love you! You are good and holy and lovely! You are BIG and I’m NOT! I’m grateful for Your grace each day, thankful for Your love, in awe of Your mercies, humbled by Your constant forgiveness in my life. YOU are AMAZING!

I’m glad You know what You are doing…I’m grateful You run the Universe and it’s not my job! I’m thankful to have a body to live in here on this Earth, but more so, thankful to have Your Holy Spirit alive in this temporary body. I can’t thank You enough for the family and friends You have placed in my life! Seriously! These people…amazing!

Father, You know everything. I know this full well. You know my heart is deceitful above all else and that my mind and own will wish for certain things and outcomes. So when I pray, I know I don’t have to pretend or hold back things in secret. Please search my heart. Of course I want to spend more time on this earth with my Mom, Lord, but not to just sit around, and You know that, too! We aren’t meant for here. We aren’t even from here, yet we all battle so much to stay here…to make HERE the end all, be all…but it’s not! Lord, I want my Mom and Dad around so we can be part of what You are doing in the earth in these end times…REVIVAL!

I’m so very grateful you left the book of Job in the Bible so we could see how very low the Enemy of our hearts would stoop to try to trick us into believing You aren’t good. I know this is a spiritual battle! WE BOTH KNOW IT!!!! I know You adore my Mom, in fact, You adore all of Your creation, and that is why modern day Job stories even transpire, because You are still 100% behind us and You believe deep down we’ll stay focused on the eternal, rather than grip tightly to what we can see or feel, this earth life, NON-REALITY.

Lord, I’m praying for miracles! It’s time! This generation needs YOU, needs HOPE! I’m not praying for miracles for the sake of miracles, or even just for my Mom’s healing. Historically people were healed and witnessed YOU first hand on earth performing miracles, yet they didn’t even believe! But Lord, LORD, we are selfish, so self-reliant and sufficient! The earth actually believes it doesn’t need YOU! and we have believed LIES! The Enemy has been so very successful to deceive the masses! Little by little we, I, have believed un-true things! Father, I’m praying for hearts around the earth to be softened to Your love for them! The lies of the Enemy need full exposure!!!! They have gone on too long and are too loud! His whole purpose is to accuse…“to steal, kill, and destroy” but You have come that we would know life, full, exploding at the seams, LIFE! Father, that is the life I desire for Your creation to KNOW!

Lord, You are aware of our family’s life circumstances right now…the Enemy has tried to snuff out our Dad with Parkinson’s and our Mom with cancer. Lord, if we live we are in YOU and if we die, we are in YOU, but they are both too young to be this old! Father, please pour Your healing oil over their bodies from head to toe, fillling them with strength they knew in their 30’s, with wisdom from their 60’s, and with Your anointing to carry out what it is You have orchestrated for them to do, here and now…in the Earth, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…

And sometimes I simply just pray, “Lord, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

A Break for an Update

First I want to begin with many thanks! We know people are praying for us and cheering us on because we have gotten emails, calls, texts, and messages over the past two months as we continue to walk through this time of transition.  Thank you, thank you!  Your encouragement and support, listening ears, and prayers have helped us keep our heads above water as we jump out of the boat!

Quick recap: The former president of Compassion International retired a year and a half ago. The organization was in transition for a long time as they searched for a new president, one they finally hired last summer. Jason was excited and hopeful for the great changes which were sure to take place in this new season and for the future of the ministry. Then, on a Sunday night in January, before an important Monday morning meeting where the first of the changes were to be revealed, Jason said to me, “Well, tomorrow I’ll either get a great new promotion…or I’ll lose my job.” I thought the second part of the statement was ridiculous since he was a pivotal and valuable leader at Compassion with fresh ideas and great work ethic.  He was home the next day by noon, his entire department had been eliminated.  As the disbelief wore off, I learned it was part of a total re-organization.  Last Friday was his last day.  His desire is to find something back at Compassion, but we are open to wherever the Lord leads.

So, here we are. During the last 6 weeks we have dreamed. As a family we have come to some decisions through prayer and patience. We know we don’t want to be a family unit where Jason is doing his thing, I’m doing mine, and each kid is doing theirs. I’ve joked over the last 4 years that my PhD engineering husband is doing my dream job in the non-profit sector, working with women and children in third world countries, traveling and learning stories, while I’m at home doing dishes and laundry. Every time he heads to the airport without us, I have to pray and repent of jealousy, holding onto the idea that maybe one day we’ll get to go, too. I’ve threatened on multiple occasions to donate our entire laundry pile (after two or three weeks accumulation) to the local charity just because it’s clearly ridiculous we have that many clothes, and two, if we had less laundry I’d be doing less of it, my time freed up to travel or write. My mathematician husband always has a rebuttal like, “With less clothes you’ll just be doing laundry more frequently.” Not so if we wear the same thing a few days in a row, buddy, or if you turn your boxers inside out!  Anyway, and when I’m feeling overwhelmed where no margin is in sight, or if I have been eating too many carbs and am bloated and puffy, I just start going through closets and drawers and cupboards and corners and start purging things, stuff, American Dream accumulation, and Ryan and I hop in the car and unload 50 lbs of donations at the local charity and all is well…for a little while.

So, part of the plan is to purge. And I mean purge, baby! We’ll have a huge garage sale in a few weeks for the first round of purging. Meanwhile, we’re going to finish the basement (part of it is done, so the remaining part is just walls and a couple of doors.) Then we’ll stage the house and our deep down prayer is to sell it without even putting it on the market. Stay tuned and if you want it or know of someone who does, let us know. Then, once it’s sold, we’ll sell the rest of the furniture and accessories that go along with it, if not to the buyers, in another moving sale, and then…

…well, and then…

…and then we’ll be freed up to go wherever God says “GO!” and do whatever God says to do. Even it it’s simply to stay here, but build something smaller. The key word being:  Together. As a family. Em has already asked me to homeschool her for 7th and 8th grade.  She wants to run with Bevy Kids and we can do that from anywhere in the world. And Ryan, well, he’s flexible being 3 and all…

So, yeah. Bonus for any helpers: if you’d like to come help me with purging and getting things on Craig’s List, you get first dibs on items. Think: I’d like to keep maybe 1/3 of my closet…you do the math!

There you go. Meanwhile, if you know of a contract or full-time position for my very talented husband, you can find his experience here – www.linkedin.com/in/jasonaarongraves.

What If…God said, “Bang!”?

We’ve read the account of Creation to our kids many times.  Our oldest is in 6th grade and has gone to private, public, and home school during this time and has also learned about evolution.  And this does not freak me out one bit.  Because we talk about things at home, in the car, at dinner, during tuck in, all throughout the day.  Because talking to our kids matters…

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”

“Mom, do you believe in evolution?”

“Mom, were we monkeys or amphibians at one point?”

“Mom, do we all share the same DNA?”

And this is what I say, “You know, I don’t know.  I do believe in God, that He always was and always has been.  I believe He is the Creator of the Universe and everything in it.  I wasn’t there when He made everything.  I don’t know if He said, “Bang!” and it set all things into motion, but I do know He spoke things into existence.  Those mountains we see everyday on the way to school, He said to the land, ‘Be mountains,’ and they were, and He said it was good.  I wasn’t there when He spoke to the waters and told the waters to bring forth life, but if the account in Creation is true, then it’s probable every living thing in the waters shares the same DNA.  And when He told the land, ‘Bring forth life,’ and the land obeyed Him, creatures walked on it.  He took dirt from the land and breathed life into it and called it a human, so we do share the same DNA, in that sense.  I do think many things in the earth have evolved over time and different animal and plant kingdoms either adapt or die out, even rock formations have been molded over the years.  But I wasn’t there when it all started, so I don’t know exactly how it went down, how long ago it was, and, to be completely truthful, since I wasn’t there,  I can’t tell you the play by-play details.  But I can tell you this, God is a really big deal.  He is the Ultimate Creative.  He loves us, every single one, and He made us.  And in the scope of eternity, I would encourage you to explore His amazing Creation, but don’t ever allow your life and heart to be derailed by the details, debates, or hateful banter around the subject.  There are 7 billion people on this earth, each uniquely designed by God, with free will.  It’s not our job to convince someone of how the earth came into existence or not.  We are here to live LOVE.  Sure, it’s lively discussion and challenges us to use our amazing minds to dream.  But Em, there are so many things I do not know, and I’m not afraid to admit not knowing because not knowing doesn’t discount God.  God is ginormous and doesn’t fit into a box, so for me to tell you how God created the Universe with every nitty-gritty detail is preposterous.  But it sure is fun to live in wonder and awe and anticipation, because how cool would it be to die one day and maybe get to see how it all went down on a giant IMAX in the sky?”

As a parent I’m not afraid to tell my children, “I don’t know” when they ask me things.  It gives us opportunity to explore, study, and learn together, not necessarily finding the answer, but continuing to live in awe, curiosity, and wonder of the One who has the answers.  What if the point of the beauty of this world isn’t to debate about the How or When, but to live in it and steward it and be loved by the One who spoke it into existence?

Science says we use potentially 10% of our brains.  What if God sees the other 90%?

I don’t know, and I’m okay not knowing.  In the meantime, while others are fighting about it, I’m going to work on the “Love the Lord, self, and LOVING OTHERS” part.

What If…God isn’t Santa Claus?

When I was in elementary school I went to the mall with my friend and her mom and we ended up in a shoe store where I found the shoes of my 3rd grade dreams. Since I faithfully did my chores around the house, I tucked my hard earned cash into my rainbow velcro wallet and felt empowered to count out the dollars in exchange for my dream shoes. We likely hit the french fry place and walked around a bit more before heading home. When I walked in the door I was so excited to show my mom my dream shoes and tell her why purchasing them was the best decision in my 3rd grade world.

She hated them. She didn’t use the word “hate” since, well, moms don’t usually, but she let me know I’d be returning them, like within the hour.  I was crushed.  Now, before you judge my mom and her parenting, thinking how you would have let me keep the shoes or whatever, you must know two things.  My mom was a model and did and does have a keen sense of fashion.  And, two, I can still conjure up the pair of shoes in my memory and I assure you, they. were. hideous.  We returned them.

Thom McAn, circa early 80's, similar, but not the exact shoe of my 3rd grade dreams, photo: "anthropolotique, etsy"

Thom McAn, 1980, similar, but not the exact shoe of my 3rd grade dreams, photo: “anthropolotique, etsy”

That night I curled up in my antique sleigh bed, looking out at the full moon.  I remember it being a bright moon, the picturesque kind of roundness and brightness usually the backdrop for Santa and his reindeer shooting across the sky.  And I prayed.  It’s so clear in my Sherlock mind palace as I type this.  I prayed something like this as I looked up at the Santa Claus moon, “Dear God, if you are real then I believe those shoes will be sitting next to my bed in the morning.  Amen.”

And, just like Santa Claus, God disappointed.  I didn’t get what I wanted.  The shoes were not bedside when I awoke and I remember wondering if God really loved me.  In my kid head and heart, I was filtering my view of God and His love for me through a fictional character who gave me things I wanted based on my wish list and whether I behaved appropriately.

But what if God just loves us?  What if God isn’t Santa Claus?  What if He is real and His love for us isn’t based on performance, or if we pout or cry?  What if He actually does see us when we’re sleeping and knows when we’re awake?  What if we stopped spending billions of dollars during the holidays to convince others of a faulty, broken kind of conditional love and started spending time sharing God’s unconditional love, to everyone, naughty and nice?

Maybe you stopped believing in God around the same time you found out the truth about Santa Claus?  I don’t know.

But what if God isn’t Santa Claus?

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”  – Jesus, Matthew 10:29-31, The Message