Defining Days | Stumbling onto Ravensbruck

I have told a few people this story. I hope I never forget it. Actually, I know I won’t. Last fall, we listened to Corrie ten Boom’s story on CD while driving to our camping spot in Virginia. It reminded me, again, of an extraordinary experience I had in 2005 while living in Germany.

Ravensbruck.

According to Wiki:

Construction of the camp began in November 1938 by SS leader Heinrich Himmler and was unusual in that it was a camp primarily for women and children. The camp opened in May 1939. In the spring of 1941, the SS authorities established a small men’s camp adjacent to the main camp. Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system; around 40,000 were Polish and 26,000 were Jewish.[1] Between 15,000 and 32,000 of the total survived.[1] Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Did you catch that? 130,000 – 32,000 = nearly ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND WOMEN AND CHILDREN WERE MURDERED THERE. I don’t know how these numbers compare to other concentration camps in Hitler’s Germany.

According to Wiki: 

In January 1945, prior to liberation of the remaining camp survivors, an estimated 45,000 female prisoners and over 5,000 male prisoners subsisted at Ravensbrück,[15] including children and those transported from satellite camps only for gassing which was being performed in haste.[16]

With the Soviet Red Army‘s rapid approach in the spring of 1945, the SS leadership decided to remove as many prisoners as they could in order to avoid leaving live witnesses behind who could testify as to what had occurred in the camp. At the end of March, the SS ordered all physically capable women to form a column and exit the camp in the direction of northern Mecklenburg, forcing over 24,500 prisoners on a death march.[16] Some 2,500 ethnic German prisoners remaining were released, and 500 women handed over to officials of the Swedish and Danish Red Cross shortly after the evacuation. On April 30, 1945 fewer than 3,500 malnourished and sickly prisoners were discovered alive at the camp when it was liberated by the Red Army.[16] The survivors of the death march were liberated in the following hours by a Russian scout unit.

The German Communist, Margarete Buber-Neumann, came to Ravensbrück as an inmate after nearly two years in a Russian Soviet Gulag.During the first year of their stay in the camp from August 1940 to August 1941 roughly 47 women died. During the last year of the camps existence about 80 inmates died each day from disease or famine related causes.

Ravensbrück concentration camp
for women
Ravensbrück

View of the barracks at Ravensbrück
Female prisoners

Female inmates in 1939
Operation
Period May 1939 – April 1945
Location Fürstenberg/Havel
Prisoners
Total 132,000 [1]
Dead victims 117,000 [1]

(Credit)

 

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(Photo Credit)

 

My experience:

We moved to Berlin in February of 2005. One weekend in April, 2005, John and I and another friend from work decided to borrow a company car and go for a random drive in the countryside outside Berlin. I had just finished reading through Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, about two weeks prior to this outing.

We were meandering through the quaint country roads and villages when we came upon a little town called Furstenberg. It was quaint and quite beautiful. As we drove through the town to the outskirts, we kept passing tons of police cars. It was clear something was going on. I vividly remember turning a corner and from the backseat of the car I saw a road sign saying “Ravensbruck.” My heart nearly stopped beating. I yelled to our friend to “turn, turn, turn” and follow the signs to Ravensbruck.

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Above: The view from the camp into the town of Furstenburg.

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Above: The view from the town to the camp. 

When we arrived at the camp, there were hundreds of cars, people all over the place, news crews. I couldn’t understand anything as it was all in German, Polish or Yiddish. Thankfully our friend and colleague could speak German and he inquired.

Apparently, we just “happened” to stumble upon Ravensbruck on the 60th anniversary of its liberation.

I still get chills up and down my spine when I think about this experience. I begged the guys to indulge me and allow me some time to walk around the camp and take it all in.

And there was much to be taken in. Clusters of people gathered around one or two silver-haired, stooped women. News crews interviewing others. Old men and women hugging each other and crying.

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And red carnations scattered at random places throughout the whole camp. 

What did the red carnations mean? My friend inquired and we found out that each survivor who had come back for the commemoration was given some red carnations. They could leave them around the camp where something significant had happened, or where they lost someone significant. The red carnation haunts me to this day. Seeing them scattered… one here, two there, a cluster over there. What pain they represented.

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Above: This image alone tells the story of this day. I wish I could have had the courage to hug her. 

 

 

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I watched in awe as various survivors got up to share parts of their stories. I would have given my right arm to have been able to understand what they were saying. But I kinda knew. I had read one of their own’s story just two weeks before. Corrie ten Boom vividly described Ravensbruck. I could close my eyes and clearly see it in my head while standing amidst the cold, grey concrete of what is left of the camp.

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I count this as one of the most moving, most significant days of my life. I don’t know why we happened on Ravensbruck on that memorable day. I don’t know why I was given the gift of seeing the faces and tears of people who were there with Corrie and Betsie. But I hold this one close. I will always hold it close.

And may we never forget their stories. Never forget.

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From BBC News:

“Some 300 survivors gathered at Ravensbruck, 100km north of Berlin, at the site of a former Nazi camp for women prisoners.

Between 1939-1945, some 132,000 women and children, 20,000 men and 1,000 female youths were deported to Ravensbruck. Tens of thousands died from hunger, disease, exhaustion or medical experiments.

A gas chamber built at the end of 1944 also claimed some 6,000 victims.

After Sunday’s speeches, people threw roses into a pond used by the Nazis to dump the ashes of the camp’s victims after they had been cremated.”

I was standing on the edge of this crowd when the survivors were telling their stories. Although I couldn’t understand them, I felt their story deep in my soul.

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Dedication of new memorialization for the infamous tent, where many women, especially Hungarian Jewish women, were forced to subsist in the fall and winter of 1944. A survivor in a wheelchair shared her memories of the tent with other survivors. – Credit

15 steps to owning 2015 (according to me)

I am a terrible goal setter. Let me rephrase. I am terrible at meeting the goals I set. I am great on idea generation, terrible at follow-through (ask anyone that has worked with me on anything). Discipline is a dirty, nasty, elusive word in my opinion. In other words, I have none.

When I sat down to reflect on 2014 and look forward to 2015, I wanted to make a visual of the things that became clear to me that I needed to really, really, REALLY work on this year. Because, although I hate discipline and structure and routine (gag), I NEED it. My kids need it. My marriage needs it. Frankly, I need to get over myself and suck it up and do what is right.

In the spirit of setting myself up for success (please, please, pretty please), I am printing and framing this image to look at every single day of 2015 (if you come to my home, you may see it in every single room. just go with it). I know I will fail. But I know I will succeed sometimes, too. I might not “do the right thing” all the time, but sometimes I will. And looking at this list every day, on a photo I took in paradise last month is going to help me get there. I just know it. I think….. I hope.

This is my list. I give you permission to hold me to it. (i might not appreciate you at that moment, and might call you some names, but i will listen)

 

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1. Smile more, yell less. My kids would really appreciate this. My husband, too. I smile a lot for strangers and friends and others. I “smile” a lot online. (don’t we all) But my family would probably tell you I don’t smile a lot at home. Because its hard to smile when you are yelling. So, I really need to fix this.

2. Be kind. Love better. This kinda goes with #1. I need to be kinder to my loved ones. Softer, more gentle. This requires effort and work on my part… and a visual reminder. Being kinder, more gentle IS loving better.

3. Do the right thing; no excuses. Because I am the queen of excuses (as my mom, John, anyone who has known me well would confirm. good excuses, but excuses nonetheless). This is my reminder to stop looking at my phone when I know it is the right thing to do. Its my reminder to stop yelling, even after I have started. Its my reminder to smile more, because that is always a good, right decision. Its my reminder to stop escaping when there is someone around to be present with.

4. Believe, hope, keep hoping. In the age of instant information, the badness in the world can overwhelm me at times. Especially when I spend all my free time scanning CrackBook and news outlets. Especially when I struggle with more and more questions about faith and less and less answers. Keep believing. Keep hoping, Chels.

5. FOCUS. Focus on this moment. Today. Goals. Tasks. Just focus, Chels.

6. Make lists, meet goals. Have I mentioned how disorganized I am? No, but the “I hate discipline, structure and routine” kinda led you to that conclusion, eh? Yeah. I need to make more lists, which help me meet more goals. Period.

7. Declutter. This is a big family goal this year. We try to declutter all the time. But the clutter keeps coming for us like a nasty winter virus. This year we are trying to stay a step ahead and create the right spaces, right organization, right storage for the things we want to keep. And then get rid of the rest. Did you know there is a link between clutter and depression? I believe it, 100%. The textbook for our decluttering and goal of simple living is Simplicity Parenting. Its just so, so good.

8. Escape less. Here is the deal. We all need to escape at times. I would argue that mothers of small children need it even more. But my children are not tinies anymore. My youngest is 4. Small, yes. Helpless, no. When I say “escape less,” I am referring to the mindless zombie-like state I get in with my laptop or iPad or phone in front of my face, while three love-and-attention-craving girls flit around me like flies to honey. They keep hearing the words, “Not now.” “I’m busy.” “Later.” “Go play downstairs.” But what they really hear is, “I can’t handle you right now. I need you to be away from me. I want to be anywhere but here right now.” So, yeah. I need to really work on this one. And guess what my strategy is? I am going to escape less by Escaping more. The big E Escapes are personal retreats that I am actually going to SCHEDULE ahead of time. The reality is that I usually wait until I am in a state-of-no-return and I scream and wail and fling myself, my belongings and my devices into a car and peel out of the driveway with no plan whatsoever. I find the nearest hotel or B&B and run in, wild-eyed like the crazed, out-of-control mother I am demanding a room, any room STAT. And they give me a room, like maybe a corner suite and I pay dearly for it, even though we can’t really afford it. I tell him “this is FOR MY SANITY, you know.” And he says, “Here is a thought. How about proactively planning some regular getaways BEFORE you lose your %#$)*)_$#* mind??” Good plan, husband, good plan. So, here is to a year of pre-planned Escapes  to aid in me escaping less on a daily basis. If I know my precious alone time is coming, I can unplug and smile a bit more, even if I don’t feel like it.

9. Write more; read more. I really do love to write. And I am going to do a lot more of it. If not for me, for my job at Dalit Freedom Network, or with my abolitionist network at Do A Little Good, or for my girls here on this page. I am also going to journal again. And read a lot of books. Instead of escaping online at night, I am going to escape into a book. Lots of books, actually. I have a shelf on a new bookcase next to my bed almost full of not-yet-read books that I am looking very much forward to devouring this year.

10. Put down the phone. Do you see that? I kinda have to tell myself the same thing over and over in different ways. Putting down the phone helps me smile more, yell less, escape less, plan more, read more and write more. Maybe this should be #1 on the list, after all. My dear friend Christine is going to be doing the same. Her post was really written for me, even though she doesn’t know it. Doing the right thing this year is going to be about 80% focussed on putting down my phone. Sad, but the god-honest truth. If you read this and know me or see me in real life, feel free to raise an eyebrow at me if I am on my phone when I shouldn’t be. I will try to do the right thing after I cuss you out. But, really, go for it.

11. Hike. This past fall I had this new-to-me insatiable desire to go hiking every single weekend. I have always loved the mountains, been drawn to the mountains, but this was something new, deeper. Then it dawned on me, while reading An Alter in the World, that mountains were my sanctuary. They are where I connect most with God. Always. No matter how big or small (although bigger ones are like the great cathedrals in Europe to me, and small ones are like the quaint country chapels).  So I need to go to the mountains more this year. Hike more. By myself and with friends and family. I want to connect more with God, so I will gladly go where I know He is waiting for me.

12. Sleep more. Yes, back to discipline and structure. I need to go to bed earlier, turn off the devices earlier and try to get more sleep and better rest. John and I were talking recently about how good sleep is the catalsyst for just about everything else. If he doesn’t go to bed early, he eats junk food while watching Netflix. So if one of John’s goals is to not snack before bed and watch less TV, it starts with going to bed, not with a meal plan. The same goes for me. I want to smile more and yell less. The quality of my sleep directly affects my mood. Always. I want to hike more. I won’t make the effort to drive to a mountain/hill and hike if I am tired. I want to escape less. I escape most when I am tired and have zero willpower left. So, I really need to set myself up for more and better sleep… for all of my loved ones, as well as myself.

13. Be active. I lead a very sedentary life. This is not good in any way, shape or form. This goal goes beyond the flippant “I need to lose weight and get fit so I can fit in my old jeans.” This is about choosing to move more than sit. It’s about choosing to go outside when I want to sit on the couch. This will most definitely fall under the “do the right thing” banner. I don’t need to run a marathon, I need to stand up and take a walk. Take the stairs. Park in the back of the lot. Small, but important choices.

14. Be present. Repetitive, huh. Be present, Chels. Put down the phone. Do the right thing. Escape less. Focus. Smile. Be kind.

15. Dream. Go. Do. Lastly, but not least. I need to keep dreaming. Always keep dreaming. Keep going places to do what I am dreaming about. 2014 was a great start to this kind of lifesytle. I want to keep at it. I feel most alive when I am pursuing dreams that take me across oceans, across cultures and borders. I feel most alive when I am doing justice work and standing on the top or side of a mountain. So I am going to keep dreaming, going and doing this year, in little ways and big ways.

 

How about you? Do you have a list? A word? A goal or set of goals? Tell me about it! 

Defining Years | Reflections on my 35th year

Today is my 36th birthday. I am a realist, not an optimist. I often spend days like today and New Years Eve lamenting how little things changed, how little I really changed or evolved (for good), how many of the same demons I am battling today, as a year ago.  It can get a little (read: ALOT) depressing depending on how far I let myself wander down that path.

But last night and this morning, I decided I needed to think through and focus on what DID change. Because there have been some big, life-giving changes that have happened this year that are worth celebrating.

So, I am going to go there on this first day of my 36th year. Because what changed is that I decided to go after some dreams that have been on hold for far too long. I started to get honest with myself and others about WHO I really was, and WHAT I felt called to in my life. I am not going to blame my kids for “holding me back.” They didn’t. It is precisely because of them that I realized I really needed to get up and work for my dreams and reimagine my calling in a more authentic and wholistic sense. I want to model what it looks like for a woman to follow her dreams, to hold on to her calling and pursue it in the various ebbs and flows and stages of life. My girls need to see that. I want them to always, ALWAYS hold onto big, God-sized dreams and stay true to their sense of calling and purpose in every stage of their life.

Motherhood has too long been opinionated about and postulated about, mostly by men in the Christian circles. This is both sad and ridiculous. Motherhood is part of my calling. Not all of it. Being the best mother I can be to my three precious girls involves me being the best woman I can be. Being the best version of me requires operating out of my deepest and most holistic sense of purpose and calling. It is always both/and, never either/or. Being called to justice issues, to serve and work cross-culturally doesn’t mean I kiss my babies goodbye for months at a time and “follow my calling”. It means I do what I can in the various stages of life to hold fast to that sense of calling. Leaving for a week or two to photograph people and write stories in India is doable. Going to a conference here and there, volunteering to use my photography for a non-profit locally… all of these steps are doable in my present stage. They weren’t two years ago. I was deeply influenced by Lynn Hybels and Shauna Niequist about this very issue. The following post literally changed my life:

 

From Shauna:

She was an excellent care-giver. An attentive and gentle mother, a loving parent. But in her own words, she was not happy. We had a good, good mom. But we did not have a happy one. Seventeen years after she became a pastor’s wife, she walked into a counselor’s office and said, “I don’t know who I am anymore. Something has to change.”

 

From Lynn:

What’s so sad is that when women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins.

Our kids didn’t win. They got a devoted, conscientious mother, who picked up after them and made sure they got their homework done. They got a mother who adored them, prayed for them, always wanted the best for them. But they didn’t get a happy mother. They didn’t get a fun mother. They didn’t get to see, up close and personal, a woman fully alive in God.

My son needed to see that. But even more, my daughter needed to see that. She needed to see me operating out of strength and passion, and I couldn’t give her that. Fortunately, there were other women in her life who modeled that for her. And I am grateful that as I have chosen to lean into my own true life, I am now able to give her something I couldn’t give her before. But if I had it to do over, I would not have waited so long. I would not have robbed her of the model of an authentically alive mother.

I believe that too many women give bits and pieces of themselves away, indiscriminately, for years and years, and never have the time or energy to discern their unique calling from God, never have the time or energy to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result is a lot of good-hearted, devout Christian women who are exhausted and depressed.”

 

Stumbling on this post a year ago was a game-changer for me. Every fiber of my being resonated with the “old” Lynn… the good, but very unhappy mother. The good-hearted, exhausted and depressed Christian woman. And in Lynn’s words, NO ONE WAS WINNING.

In twenty years from now, I wanted to be able to look back and reflect like Shauna did about her mom’s legacy:

Everyone benefits when women tap into the passions and use the gifts that God has given them. The church benefits, families benefit, marriages benefit, businesses and non-profits benefit. Everyone wins when women discover and live out of the gifts and passions God gave them.

And the last thing my mom teaches me, through her words and her actions, is that if you live a life of radical and honest prayer, if you allow yourself to be led by God’s spirit, no matter how far from home and familiarity it takes you, you won’t have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You’ll be too busy living a life of passion and daring.

 

So, I decided to stop waiting and start pursuing the things that have been a part of the deepest part of me for decades. And this is what happened this year:

 

  • I stopped waiting for the “right” humanitarian photography job to come my way, and I reached out and asked “Is there someone out there who could use my photography to help promote the cause of justice and hope and restoration in your business/mission?” I didn’t go with a group or organization. I reached out, and the Fila’s answered. This was all completely new to me. I knew I didn’t want to go about fundraising for the trip the way I have in the past (sending letters asking for donations). So I researched online how to do crowd funding. I set up an Indiegogo campaign and used my own fine art photography as “perks” or gifts for donations. I am sure I didn’t set it up the “right” way, or make the most cutting edge posts or pleas for funds, but people responded from all over the map. Literally. The first donor was someone I have yet to even meet. She saw my post on a Facebook group all about following dreams and making them happen. So she helped make mine happen. Working out details and childcare and more details wasn’t easy or fun. My mom gave towards this campaign more than anyone… with money and time and energy. She came to stay at the house to help get the kids to school and beyond. And when I got to India and for the first time was able to blend my passion for social justice and women’s rights, cross cultural interaction, and travel with my skill/profession of photography, I sat back and just cried. THIS is who I was made to me, what I was made to do. I told someone, “For the first time in over a decade, I feel like I am operating on ALL cylinders.” What a gift that trip was… to ME.

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  • I took the girls on another L O N G road trip adventure. And fulfilled another lifelong dream of mine. This time, we went north… very, very north. We packed up the van, and started driving to northeast Canada. We picked up my mom in Boston and spent 12 days on the road, touring Prince Edward Island… the place of so many of my 11 year old dreams. Then we drove on to Nova Scotia and literally drove to the end of the road, as far northeast as you could go, and landed in the magical world of Meat Cove. The road trip was fraught with lots of bickering and fighting. It was exhausting and painful at times. I probably pushed too much. The van had tire and engine issues. Looking back, I wouldn’t have NOT gone on the trip… I would have just tweaked a few things. My girls may not appreciate it fully yet, but they spent a week in the land of Lucy Maud Montgomery. This was and will continue to be a dream fulfilled on so many fronts.

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  • After a very painful, dark, depressing few weeks in August with a broken down van (but hey, that van went out in a blaze of glory after having driven us to the end of the road in north america!)… I realized I was deeply unhappy being a primarily stay-at-home mom. I know it sounds so pathetic to say that… and I have to fight off shame every time I express this feeling. I know even by having the choice or having the opportunity to gripe about it shows how affluent I really am. But the fact remains, I was the “old” Lynn, times 10. I wasn’t even being a good mom anymore, I was miserable and on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I sat across from my husband and said, ” I can’t do this. My calling is going to take me outside these four walls of the house. I have known who I am and what my purpose in life is, and I am not living it. I have to find a way to connect with my calling outside the home. Not in spite of the kids, but FOR THEIR SAKE as much as mine,” And thankfully, John was very supportive and encouraging.  This conversation led to me looking for a part-time job, updating my resume, reaching out to loads of connections I had made over the last 3-4 years of justice work on my own. The timing was perfect. I was able to see how even in the last 3-5 years, I had been connecting to my calling in the midst of childbearing, having babies and toddlers in the house and being more of a full time stay-at-home mom. Through this process, I was able to reconnect with a woman I had briefly met a few times at a mom’s group in Chevy Chase, MD. She was working for an organization called the Dalit Freedom Network. Now let me back up.. I want to record what I emailed people as my “dream job” kind of tongue in cheek as I assumed I would never really get my dream job:

If I were to describe my dream job, it would be to work for a social justice cause-related non-profit/or for profit business with bases or projects overseas (preferably asia, but open to anywhere, really) but is based here in the DC area. My job would require  me to travel to various projects overseas a few times a year. I thrive in cross cultural environments and welcome the opportunity to work in that capacity.

And here is the last part of my job offer with DFN:

5. Travel to India to capture stories, photographs, and videos that are needed for upcoming campaigns.

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  • And lastly, we are going to Costa Rica as a family  this year. Traveling as a family has been a longtime dream of mine. For service and for adventure. Both have value and both are gifts I want to give my children as a legacy. My generous mother is renting a home in Costa Rica and we get to go spend some time with her enjoying the amazing Costa Rican countryside and culture. I can’t wait for the girls to experience the jungle, zip lining, canopy tours and hopefully meeting up with a new friend of mine who lives and serves in Costa Rica.

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So, yeah, this year has been amazing. There have been highs and lows, a lot of lows actually. But also spectacular highs. There has been growth and movement in areas that have been stagnate for far too long.

And I am THANKFUL. Thankful for this year of moving forward and not backward in so many areas. Thankful for the opportunity to live out some lifelong dreams, which only breathe new life and energy into new dreams. Thankful for three little girls to live this life with, to take on adventures, to model what it looks like to fight for and press into your calling or purpose in life, even when it looks very different than the status quo or expectations of those around you. Thankful for those around me who have cheered me on every step of the way… in huge ways and in the tiniest of ways that all mean something to me.

Lastly,  here’s to the next year of my life… may it be filled with adventure, new dreams realized, new opportunities available, personal and spiritual growth, peace, change, and most of all love. Love for God, love for my family, love for myself and love for my neighbors (locally and globally).  Cheers & Amen.

 

This is how I want to face this next year…. arms open, heart open, smile on my face, childlike faith. 

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Defining Moments | when love keeps you awake

It’s nearly 1am. I need to be asleep. But I keep thinking about you, my loves. My three loves.

My three unique, amazing, crazy, incredible daughters.

Sometimes I catch my breath thinking about how much I love you. Even when you have driven me crazy today. Even when I have lost my cool with you (more than once). Even when I am at the end of me… not knowing how to respond to the latest squabble or petty annoyance. In the stillness of the nights, when I stop long enough to breathe and think and just be, I am washed over with a sense of love that feels almost suffocating.

How is it that I get to be your mom? How is it that you all love me even when I am a horrible mom to you? Even when I screw up and yell and lose it over and over again? How is it that we get to live this present life together?

You are priceless gifts. I know that. I fully, deeply know that. Even when I lose sight of it in the heat of the moment, or a bad day or even a bad week. You are such treasures.

Adelaide, you are so tender. So loving and sensitive and your love and care for God and others just blows me away at times. You have such artistic talents. Really, truly… you are gifted in so many special ways. The way you engage with adults makes me swell with pride. You are so genuinely kind to others, caring, engaging. I love just sitting back and watching you be you. It’s so beautiful. So, so beautiful. Never lose your sense of kindness and care of people. When you walk in a room, you bring light and joy and just a loveliness that the world needs more of.

Sydney, you are my adventurer. My kindred free spirit. You amaze me with your sense of independence and confidence. I love that about you. I see myself in you so often. I love your sense of style. I love watching you be you. I love that you are full of energy and life and you seem to be made for adventuring in the great outdoors. You love to run and jump and you are good at just about anything you put your mind to. You have so many natural talents and are gifted in your physical abilities. You are a quiet leader. You are confident in who you are. Never loose that. Always be you. Authentic, natural, confident and independent. Your hugs and snuggles are some of the best parts of my day.

Nadia, you are pure joy. You are so full of enthusiasm and excitement of life. You have a sense of determination and will that is a real asset. I think you are going to be a runner. You are fast and you don’t give up easily. I could learn a lot about sticking to things from you. I love being loved by you. You are beautiful, Nadia, and you have a sweetness about you. I know you love your sisters (even in the midst of the fighting) and I love seeing you get more imaginative in your playing and creativity. You love people and you love to be loved. I love watching you swing… with joy and reckless abandon. You are such a gift to our family. I am so happy you belong to us.

Girls, know you are so deeply loved… by so many people. Your dad, your mom, Nanny and Grandpa, Grammy, Aunts and Uncles and many friends. These are gifts from God to you. He has surrounded you with a buffer zone of love and care. I hope you will always know how deeply you are loved by us all. I hope you always know that your mom adored you and often laid awake thinking about you, wondering how she got to be the luckiest person in the world to have you in her life. Even when she screws up (so much), never doubt her love for you.

And tomorrow morning, when I am cranky because I didn’t get enough sleep?? Give me grace because, hey, I was just thinking about you……

Defining Moments | the prophecy

*Warning: somewhat weird terminology if you are not familiar with charismatic/pentecostal spirituality. Push through if you can. And really, I am not a weirdo.

So, I am not super charismatic. I don’t throw around the term “prophecy” very often (mostly never). I don’t know any “prophets” in my current life. I have been “prophesied” over maybe all of two times. This isn’t an everyday thing for me.

So, when my mother’s roommate (who didn’t really know me well at all) felt compelled to pray over me one night 7 years ago in Colorado, I didn’t think anything of it. I have been prayed for, prayed over gazillions of times.

But this time was different. Her prayer turned into a groaning of sorts, and then a prophecy. It was intense, she was intense. I felt tense. At the time, I had no idea what it meant. But I listened, and I sensed I needed to pay attention. Close attention. After all was said and done, I went and wrote it out in my journal. I wanted to be able to go back and read it if/when this prophecy came true in my life. And then I forgot about it.

 

So, here is what I journaled.  (verbatim) November 28,2009

She first laid her hand on my belly and said that rivers of living water were going to come from within me.

She then said that there was a “baby” in me; my destiny/ministry/gifts and that I have been hiding my “pregnancy” and keeping everything inside me. But that God was saying it was time to “birth” this “baby” and there would be a time of travail and laboring to get the “baby” out. 

She said God said there would be a time when I am alone with God and doubled over as if in labor and I would “birth” this. I would know it was God and I would know its my destiny and calling. 

She said that once I would birth this baby, there would be many other women that would come out, also with hidden “pregnancies” and would be given courage to birth their own “babies” and walk in the ministry and gifts of the spirit. 

I was to be the first one and there would be many other women out there who would step forth and there would be a movement of change and life. 

She said many people would be upset at what comes to pass in my life and through my life. 

 

That was in 2009. Before any of my justice work had begun. Before my urgent “travailing” to find my place, as a mom, in the issues of justice around me.  When she prayed these things over me, they made no sense at all. Especially since it had to do with other women.

I am NOT a “women’s ministry” gal. I run from those. I literally run from them. Yes, I am sure I am overly judgmental and that there are many wonderful, authentic saints involved in women’s ministries in churches around the world. I am not one of them. So this idea of leading a movement of women? Total disconnect.

But here I am, almost 7 years after this prophecy…. and I can see now exactly what it was all about.

It was doalittlegood.com . I literally labored and travailed and struggled to find my place as a mom and woman in these justice issues, specifically human trafficking. Late nights for weeks and weeks, searching for a way through that made sense in my life stage. And slowly, slowly the path was made clear. And through that laboring, the birth of a vision came about. It was a vision of seeing more and more moms equipped and educated and empowered to make a difference. To not settle for the status quo of carpools and playdates. To realize engaging in the issues of our day, the passions of our hearts,  was not mutually exclusive to being a soccer mom.

Do A Little Good was birthed nearly 3 years after that prophetic night in Colorado. Although there hasn’t been a mass movement of Abolitionist Mamas, there has been a slow but steady story unfolding. Of everyday women, moms, finding their own place in the issues that tug at their hearts. Of everyday moms finding ways to live justice with their kids. Of other women discovering their places and birthing the “babies” of their dreams and passions and callings.

do-a-little-good-slide1

And so, I look back on this moment in a state of awe. Even for a cynical and doubtful woman like myself, God chose to breathe life and vision into me through the words of a virtual stranger. And thanks be to God, I wrote it down. I was skeptical, but also hopeful. Who doesn’t want to discover their calling? Who doesn’t want to live a life of meaning and purpose?

Looking back, it builds my faith. It encourages me in the dark times… in the lean times. I hold fast to this.

And now, when a new dream has completely messed with me, I have learned to pay attention. To write it down. Even when I don’t have a clue what it means. Even when I can easily laugh it off in a cynical and skeptical way. I will hold on to it. I have faith that in time I will be writing another blog post, another chapter, about fulfilled dreams (literally)… about destiny and calling. About His faithfulness when mine is barely holding on.

Do you have a dream? A vision? Are you laboring with a calling buried deep in your soul? Tell me about it!

Defining Days | The dream.

I would consider myself a dreamer. Both in the actual having dreams at night sense and in the “dreaming about life” sense.

When I was in high school I had the most wildly vivid and realistic dreams. I would wake up mad at someone, or convinced I had just seen the guy I had a crush on at the time, or with my heart racing because of some thrilling adventure I was living.. in my dream. There was a short span of time that I would wake up and immediately call my best friend to tell her all about it. She would answer the phone with “Ok, go. Who was it this time?” And I would rapid-fire tell her all the details, who was in it, what happened, and then muse about what it could mean in real life. Most of the time it was just high school drama… nothing earth shattering.

Then in college I remember having a couple of dreams about someone else. I woke up feeling an urgency to call or write the person and tell them the dream, even though it didn’t really make much sense to me. One particular time I wrote it all out and sent the story to my friend (who the dream was about). I told him, “Hey, I don’t know if this will mean anything to you, but I just felt like I was supposed to pass it on.” And it turned out it was very meaningful… and actually was a confirmation to him about some choices he was having to make in his life at the time. Who knew?!

Since then, I have had some interesting dreams, but nothing that has really stuck with me.

Until today. 

Oh my. Last night something happened. I feel, deeply, like something has shifted in the atmosphere. In my world. Something was birthed or started or SOMETHING. I  am not trying to be overly dramatic. It really has shaken me to the depths of my soul.

And I have no idea why. Yet. 

The dream went something like this… I was visiting some church for a worship time. It seemed in the dream like I had been going there for some time. Jen Hatmaker, a very popular Christian speaker/blogger, was there this time. Somehow I was able to sit with her pre-church time and share my life story and my dreams etc. I don’t even know what I shared with her, just that we chatted for awhile. Then, she had to get ready to speak. Right before speaking, she tapped me on the shoulder and told me I needed to meet someone. She turned to a little boy sitting behind me. He was about 5 or 6. I forget his name, but it was an Indian name. I asked him where he was from and he mentioned somewhere in India (east-ish?). After that its a bit of a blur…. somehow I ended up giving him a ride home to his new house/family. And it was awful. Basically a shack with very sketching “parents.” These parents had another little boy. Both boys slept outside the shack and the parents really weren’t anywhere to be found. I ended up coming to the home a couple of times of day helping the Indian boy get dressed, caring for him etc. He was cold, sleeping outside so I brought blankets. I started talking to John about figuring out a way to adopt this boy or buy him back from the terrible family. And then I woke up. 

And I was wrecked. I immediately posted the dream on Facebook so I wouldn’t forget it. I just felt like someone punched me in my gut. The responses of friends was amazing. Encouraging. Supportive. Believing with me that I need to hold on to this one. To remember, to pay attention  and wait for what is next.

One dear friend posted this video. I finally watched it and I just started weeping uncontrollably. Even now, thinking about it makes me start crying.

I shut it down before the video was even over and ran upstairs. John was showering and I burst in the bathroom sobbing. I told him that we had to do more. That there was a reason we were born where and when we were. That there was a reason our girls aren’t afraid for their lives, aren’t toiling in poverty and hopelessness. And that reason wasn’t that we get to sit back and revel in our “blessings.” We had to do more. We CAN do more. We had to speak up for other children who, unlike our own, do not have someone in their corner. Who NEED our voice, our help. I don’t know what to do. But  I know we have to do more.

This isn’t about stressing about not doing “enough” for the wrong reasons, but about keeping focussed on WHY we are here on this earth during such a time as this. The need is urgent. Millions of children are being used, abused, exploited and discarded. They need me. They need you. They need all of us. 

And so now? Now I just “hold these things in my heart,” like Mary did when the angel came to her and told her the wild things that God had in store for her. I am sure they didn’t make any sense. In fact it sounded terrifying and altogether wrong. But she held them in her heart. And waited. And when the time was right, things happened and she walked on in obedience to the call on her life.

I am not saying I am like Mary or that this dream is anywhere near the significance of her being told she would be the mother of God himself incarnate. But I am saying that I believe this dream of mine means something more than I fully understand right now. And I will hold on to that and wait and trust that God will show me what is next in His time. 

Until then I weep for them…. I pray for them. I cry out for the little Indian boys and girls who need someone to care, to fight for them. For the little American girls and boys. For the African girls and boys. For the European, Middle Eastern, Latin, and Asian boys and girls who are living in a hellish reality today.

We all need to do more for them. We just have to. 

Defining Years | Age Eleven

Eleven – aka my golden year.

When I think about being 11, a warmth flows through me. I immediately smile. My memories are all unicorns and rainbows. All but one, actually.

It really was THAT GOOD of a year, that transformative, that life-altering. I know, sounds dramatic.

Let me start from the beginning of my memories… the good ones:

 

BOOKS

I don’t know if I discovered my love affair with books at this age or earlier. But I was at the height of my drinking them in phase at 11. I entered into my books. I lived many different lives. I became the characters I loved. Books were my constant companions. We were a jolly company. Being an only child, they were like a rowdy group of siblings, taking me on adventures all over the place. I walked fields reading books. Imagining I was Anne Shirley, or Marty. They were so much a part of me at this age. I miss it. I miss the connection I had with books, characters, stories.

My favorite books during this time were The Tanglewood’s Secret by Patricia M. St. John, and any and all books by Janet Oke, especially the Love Comes Softly series. More on that later.

 

BOLDNESS/CONFIDENCE

I also was in the beautiful in-between phase, now referred to as “tween”…. not yet hindered by puberty and all of its vices. I was confident and bold. I knew what I liked and I went after it. When I liked a book, I would write the author and let them know. It didn’t even occur to me that this was not normal for an eleven year old. If I liked a meal someone made, I would tell them. Why not an author or an actor? Yes, I wrote actors, too (Megan Follows who played Anne Shirley, to be exact). I knew I had a voice and I used it. Oh how I miss this sense of confidence, this comfortableness in my own skin. I have never quite regained it.

I wrote Patricia M. St. John about how much I loved The Tanglewood’s Secret. She wrote back and sent me a signed copy. I wrote Janet Oke to let her know how much I loved her books, and that I thought the Love Comes Softly series would make fabulous movies. Oh, and I told her I wanted to be an actress and would be more than willing to act in them. Not joking in the least. She wrote me back, graciously telling me she wouldn’t be the one making the movies but if they DID become movies, she would pass on my offer. I am still a little perturbed that she didn’t pass on my info/offer to Michael Landon, Jr., who has since produced most of the Love Comes Softly movies.

 

INTENSE, based-on-real-life, MOVIES

My favorites movies during this year were… wait for it… The Mission, Ghandi and The God’s Must Be Crazy (as well as Anne of Green Gables, which was on the favorites list since age 7 until the present). I look back and just wonder…. what on earth were my parents thinking when they would allow me to rent Ghandi and The Mission over and over and over. I loved them. (side note: on our honeymoon, we rented The Mission because I wanted to show John some of my favorite childhood movies…. he was appalled.)

And now, at 35, looking back, I see that those movies were actually very formative and very telling for who  I was becoming. Those movies were intense stories of self sacrifice… of men who lived with passion, with compassion, with dedication and with love. Men who lived for something bigger than themselves. Men who died for something bigger than themselves. Men who lived their lives to serve the poor. This is very much a part of me, at the very core of who I am now and what drives me and what haunts me. I long to live a sacrificial life… one of service and love and compassion. Often I struggle with seeing how I can do that in my own suburban American home rather than in the wilds of India or Africa. But I still wrestle with it all the same. These movies were a glimpse into the kind of woman God was forming me into. The God’s Must Be Crazy made no sense in my little insulated Texan life at 11 years old. I had no grand plans of traveling the world or crossing cultures. But I LOVED this movie. And again, I now see why. On a lighter note, having seen that movie before was my instant ticket into the “missionary kid” (MK) group at my college… which was important because I ended up marrying into that group. :)

 

TRAVEL/ADVENTURE

Up until this year, I had traveled no farther than Dallas, Texas if I remember correctly. We vacationed sporadically in the summers at my uncle’s place on the Guadalupe River, or some other place in and around central Texas. A friend of mine, also an only child, invited me to go with her family  on an epic road trip that summer. They bought a Ford truck with a supercab, and a 5th wheel travel trailer and planned to take 5 weeks to loop around the western USA and western Canada, staying at as many of the National Parks as possible. WOW. What an invitation of a lifetime.

So we set out, Heather and I stretched out facing each other in the 2′ wide space of the supercab. We hit up west Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, NM and back home. My favorite places (and yes, I still remember them VIVIDLY) were:

Chama, NM – Durango/Silverton CO – The Grand Tetons – Yellowstone – Banff National Park (where I found out the news that my favorite actor, Michael Landon, had died, on Canada Day) – Mt. Ranier National Park.

It was a blast. We bickered a lot, like sisters really. But we had so much fun. Bought matching ponchos in Colorado. Always matching everything. Including hairstyles. I read through the Love Comes Softly series at least 8 times on the trip. No joke. I took pictures like crazy, wrote letters and sent tons of postcards. I absolutely loved the adventure of it all. I don’t remember being homesick in the least. Maybe I was. I just remember the thrill of pulling into a new place every few days… a new adventure. And I drank of it deeply. Obviously, this was another very formative experience of my life, as I seriously can’t wait to get back in the car with the girls and head out across the states again!

 

AUSTRALIA

Technically my love affair for Australia started when I was 10, I believe. My best friend at the time, Diana (yes very Anne of Green Gables-ish, I know), up and moved to Melbourne, Australia for 3 years. Her father was a pilot with Quantas. I was devastated. And then I was obsessive about it. I devoured everything I could get my hands on about Australia. I read novels based in Australia. I collected anything and everything Aussie. I learned the slang. I checked out books on Australia. I started writing my own books… based in Australia of course. I desperately wanted to go visit her but was never able to go because of finances. One of my dad’s old buddies was also based in Australia at the time, living an epic adventure of his own. “Uncle jack” would come back to Texas from time to time and always brought me Aussie goodies.

Again, a very formative experience in my life. Australia still has a very special and somewhat odd place in my heart. I have another Aussie bff now in my current life. She knocked on my door in our Maryland neighborhood one day and as soon as I heard her speak I practically threw myself on her. She had no chance. She was going to be my friend no matter what.

As a side note, I finally fulfilled my 11 year old dream of visiting Oz in 2000. I packed my bags and enrolled myself in a TESOL (teaching english to speakers of other languages) course in Brisbane, Australia for 4 weeks. I was so enamored with Australia that I had a few people pull me aside and try to talk me down a bit before my trip… hinting that it might not be all that I have made it up to be in my mind over all those years. They were totally wrong. It was everything and more that I ever dreamed. I absolutely loved every moment, every experience (except the creepy one of the guy trying to hide from his girlfriend and break up with her because he was convinced he was in love with me….) in Oz. Australia is always in my top 3 places that I would move to in heartbeat, no questions asked.

Um, hello… My first two daughters are Adelaide and Sydney. A little obsessive still? Nah.

 

And now for the “bad one ” of my eleven year old memories. This was more the “life altering” one, really.  Maybe that is a bit strong, but it really did alter life as I then knew it.

 

DAD’S SECRETS

So, a quick family history rundown. My dad, Jack, was married previously to a woman named Joann. They had a daughter named Paula. My mom, Susan, was married previously to a man named Victor. They had a son named Vic. I am the only child of Jack and Susan. Growing up, I would see my half brother and sister (who were both 9 years older than me ) once in a while. More my sister because she lived in the town next to us and because my dad had this uncanny gift of staying in contact and in good graces with his ex’s (I met several of his ex-girlfirends over the years and they all seemed like chummy friends). I actually called his ex-wife and her new husband “Momma Jo and Daddy John.” Not kidding.

Another little tidbit that is relevant to this part of my 11 year old tale… I was a very, VERY black and white child. There was no grey in my life. I was very , extremely, excessively truth oriented. Meaning, when I would hear my mom on the phone throwing out details like “Oh yeah I saw Sally on thursday” or ” We will see Mary on Wednesday,” and I happened to know for a fact that she saw Sally on SUNDAY and we would see Mary on FRIDAY, I would F L I P out. I would even interrupt my mom to correct her and inform her of her “lie.” I was that detail oriented, and that sensitive to the “truth.” I never lied. Like ever.

So, one day, I was snooping in my dad’s now home based law office. I discovered a box of photos, so I started going through them. I saw wedding photos. I assumed they were of Dad and Joann because they weren’t of my Mom. As I looked closer, however, they were of my Dad standing at the alter with another woman. Not my mom. Not my sister’s mom. This really didn’t sit well with me. I was always told he and mom had both just been married one time before they got together. I told other people this story…. (yes, I was actually sitting there thinking, OMG, I have lied to other people). So, I brought the photo to my mom to ask what it was and who the woman was. My mom kinda flipped out. She wouldn’t tell me a thing, but just said ” You will just have to ask your dad about that.” She was flustered and it was all just so, so strange to my very sheltered, naive 11 year old self.

When my dad got home, apparently after talking on the phone with my mom and being informed of my discovery, also acted very strange. He took me for a drive to “talk.” He seemed sad and quiet and he basically just told me he had remarried after Joann and before my mom to a woman (I forget her name). He loved her and she left him after 6 months and it was just a very, very painful time and painful memory so he never really wanted to talk about it. Even at 11 I kinda got it. I think I may have told him he should have told me because I felt like I had been lying to people about the number of times he was married before. Yeah.

So that was that. Big weird discovery. But his story made sense to me. I think I had some sense of compassion for him about it. We all could have moved on from this, I think, in fairly healthy way.

However. 

The next day, I went back to the box of pictures to look through them some more. I was curious. I was a romantic. I wanted to know more of the story than he was telling me. But the box was gone.

I asked him where it was, and he told me he burned it.

For some reason, this little admission burned a hole in my heart at that moment. Looking back I am so sad at how this played out for the next decade of my life.

As soon as he told me he burned it, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was hiding something from me. And my trust in my dad, who I adored up to that point, and who always adored me was GONE. In one instant. A wall was erected immediately in my heart and I pulled away so fast and so painfully from him. Literally overnight.

This may seem like a major overreaction on my part. And to be fair, I know I have a history of overreacting to things and responding in an extreme way. However, there were other factors that fed this flame of distrust and disdain for my dad that were at work simultaneously. I see all of these pieces in retrospect, of course, but at the time I was not mature enough to make the correlation.

1.) My dad was addicted to smoking, and had been since he was 15. He wanted to quit, and tried a number of times, but couldn’t (not until 2000). Unbeknownst to me, my mom had asked him to not every smoke in the house or around her or me. She told him, “I can’t watch you kill yourself.” So he took to smoking in “secret.” But of course, if you know any smokers, they can’t hide smoking. They come home smelling like a smokey bar. So he would try to hide it from me. And I would play the game of trying to not see him smoking down at the barn or on the other side of the car. He would stamp it out and act like nothing had happened and I would pretend I didn’t see it. And yet I seethed inside and resented his “hiding” it from me. My little mind would just run rampant wondering what else he was hiding from me/us…. more wives? Affairs?

2.) I desperately wanted to have a relationship with my older half sister. At this age and in the years to come my parents hesitantly let me go places with her, visit her home, go shopping etc. She and my parents were not on good terms, so I know now this was very difficult for them. But I persisted and begged and probably manipulated to get my way. All the while, when I was with my sister, she would tell me negative things about my dad very often… (granted, she is coming from a very different family life situation and dealing with the fact that her father abandoned her/divorced her mom when she was 2). I never spent the time to find out if they were true or just lies. I blindly believed her and my distrust of my dad grew exponentially in the years to follow.

It was terrible. When my dad was battling with cancer and approaching the end of his life, we went out to a favorite place on the Guadalupe River, a place where some of my happiest and most fun memories with my dad took place. It was one of those “come clean” talks and he wanted the air to be completely clear between us. Our relationship had improved dramatically over the past 4-5 years, but there was still this “thing” between us that he had never understood. He never knew what had happened… what had caused me to pull away so dramatically and so severely when I was 11. So I told him the story from my perspective. He was shocked. And we were both so saddened.

From his perspective, finding that photo just brought up so many sad, negative memories. He had never intentionally deceived me, just never thought to bring it up because he had semi-blocked it out. After it all came out, he realized he was holding onto photos  and memories he really wanted to forget and clearly move on from. He realized he had no reason to keep them, so he burned them and moved on. No hiding. No secrets. I told him I wished he had just told me that. He said he never even thought to. It was a very sad realization on so many levels. But it was also healing and we were able to finally put that to rest, at least between us.

I still have a very, very sensitive response to trust issues. This experience deeply effected me to the very core of who I am. I deeply regret how I responded to my dad all those years ago, and the painful years that followed. But I also understand how immature and naive I was. Given my disposition, I don’t know that I could have responded any other way at the time.

This has even gone on to effect my relationship with God the Father. I have often struggled with a sense or feeling that he is “keeping” something from me, or hiding something. It is an irrational fear, and one that I can rationally tear apart in my head… but it is still a gut reaction at times. Something I am wanting to shed and working on peeling away from my soul.

 

So that is my ELEVEN. Even with the one painful, but deeply impacting issue with my dad, eleven stands out as a shining beacon of happiness, exploration, adventure and defining time in my life. Eleven is like a security blanket to me even now… I don’t ever want to let it go. I love so much of who I was at 11, and now who I see I was becoming. I love that girl. I miss that girl. When I think about how I want to grow even now in my life, I often think of qualities I had, naturally, at 11… such as boldness, independence, confidence, deep love and connection to books and stories and characters. Life has a way of stripping the innocence from you, of making you cynical and wary of things you used to blindly embrace and embody. I want to become more childlike in many ways, especially as my childlike eleven year old self.

 

Defining Moments | Authenticity & Humility

I’m sorry. 

I have been really crabby, I am sorry. 

I shouldn’t have yelled at you. Will you forgive me? 

I was too harsh with you, will you forgive me?

I shouldn’t have said that. 

Can we start again? 

I usually say at least one or two of the statements above… every day. Or almost every day. Let’s just say I need to say them everyday, but sometimes I screw up and miss my chance.

I mess up a lot as a mom. A LOT. A whole freaking lot. I try not to yell, but I yell. I get impatient. Angry. Annoyed. Irritated. Tired. Done. I just give up.

There really isn’t an excuse. Or rather the excuses we use are really not that great, or legit. Tired, emotional, PMSing, irritable. Sure. But my girls deserve better. I want to be better for them.

I beat myself up about this a lot. Probably too much. But I also know I am being real with them. I say I am sorry a lot. More than I really should be saying sorry. Meaning, I need to get my crap together and stop messing up so much so that I don’t HAVE to say I am sorry so much.

But I am sorry. And I do want to change. And I want my girls to see that part of me. Without a veil of superiority. Without an excuse of adultness. Moms mess up, too. Moms need to apologize for snapping, yelling, hurting feelings. When I am trying to teach and train my girls how to navigate attitudes, emotions and apologies, its not just for the siblings. I am in the fray, too. We are learning together. It’s painful and humiliating at times. But its right.

I found myself getting into an “issue” with one of my daughters…. chastising her about her attitude of pride and her refusal to humble herself and admit and own her mistakes when she makes them. I heard myself saying, “Do I make mistakes?[yes] Do I own my mistakes? [yes] Have I ever modeled NOT owning up to your mistakes? [no]” I might have been too harsh with her in retrospect, but I had a little ah-ha moment there.

I make a lot of mistakes. But I am pretty damn good at owning them (not all the time, but most of the time) with my girls. That is one thing I know I am doing right by them. I may screw them up in other ways, but I know in my heart that when they are older and griping about the “issues” of their childhoods to each other, one thing that can be said of their mom is that she was authentic with them and knew when to humble herself with them. She wasn’t too proud to admit when she had blown it… most of the time.

I take comfort in this. Not pride, but comfort. Its something my own mother drilled into me as I became an adult. She wasn’t as authentic with me in this way, and didn’t admit her mistakes to me as I was growing up. And she regretted it and made sure I understood, as an adult, how very much she wished she could go back and change that. Apparently, I was listening.

So, thank you, Mom. For owning up even after the fact and expressing how important it is for my girls to hear me own my own mistakes even as they are too young to understand them at times. I may get a lot of things wrong down the pike, but this… this I know I am doing right.

If only I wasn’t so “right” all the time…..

 

Defining Days | I want out.

UPDATE:  In the aftermath of this whole deal, some very beautiful voices have emerged that have communicated what I am feeling more clearly than this original rant of a post. I will just link to their posts: 

Sarah Bessey: For those who are leaving evangelicalism

Rachel Held Evans: What now?

Micah J Murry : I don’t know if I am a Christian anymore

My takeaway? I am done with labels. I do need Jesus. I do need community. I don’t need an establishment. I don’t need to self identify with anyone else than being a Jesus seeker and follower. 

 

Original Post:

Yesterday and today. Two defining days for me. All because of an organization’s  (that I am not even currently involved in supporting) employment policy change and the evangelical fear mongering and outcry that ensued and eventually controlled the outcome.

World Vision made a revolutionary statement yesterday saying they would accept legally marriage gays to work for them. Thats it. That was the statement.

What ensued is nothing short of a fear-anger-hate tsunami that blew over the evangelical and progressive evangelical world. Supporters of WV and sponsors of WV children around the world flew into a spiritual outrage and pulled support, dropped sponsor kids like hot potatoes. Their views on biblical marriage and the gay debate easily trumped the call the care for the orphan and widow. In response, the progressive Christians rallied and blogged and rebutted and screamed back and rallied another mass of people to pick up the dropped sponsor kids.

It was an emotional, exhausting, frustrating, bang my head against the wall day just watching this unfold from the comfort of my couch and laptop. I think it is all ridiculous. We are all part of such a cog machine of react-rebutt-react-rebutt all while throwing the same verses, same theological soundbites around like daggers.

Like a scene from the Hunger Games. We could just call this “The Biblical Gay Debate Games.” And yes, it was every man for himself, or rather every denomination/movement for themselves. And they were all out for blood. For the win.

And I want out. 

Then today. Today…..

World Vision reverses their policy. Just like that. Says, “Oops, never mind. Didn’t mean to step on THAT many toes. Forget we mentioned hiring married gays.”

I seriously want out. 

And here comes the second wave…. blog after blog post is going to respond. People who jumped on the “lets screw over the evangelicals and pick up the dropped sponsor kids” are going to be raging at how they were manipulated into supporting an organization that cannot even stand two days against the evangelical fear and rage machine. And evangelicals are going to politely tolerate WV, who finally submitted to their agenda. But no one won. Really. When children in poverty are used like pawns, on both sides of the debate, there is something seriously wrong with the whole thing. No one wins, but everyone gets hurt. Thats how this particular round of the games is going down. 

Its all about control . Its all about power. Its all about being RIGHT. And there will be gloating, and false humility. There will be raging.

You know what there won’t be? Unity. True humility. Honest dialogue. Open hearts and conversations. Because a whole new wave of soldiers just entered the culture war about gay marriage. The trenches just got deeper and wider. Reinforcements are on the way.

And I really, really, really want out. 

Out of what?

Out of this ridiculous game called American Christianity. I surrender. I opt out. If this is what it means to play the evangelical Christian game, one outrage at a time, one tsunami of blogs and statuses and arguments and rebuttals  at a time, I quit the game.

I stumbled on this brilliant blog yesterday and Micah articulated exactly what I am feeling right now. He wants out, too. Here is why. 

Do I still love Jesus? Yes. Do I want to follow Him and live like He did and love like He did? Yes. But I don’t want to be part of the Christian game anymore. And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion that I am going to find Jesus outside the ballpark.

So count me out.

 

 

 

Seasons | A Springtime Epiphany (again)

What is it about the first day of Spring? It is like a shot of adrenalin, a potent antidepressant, and an energy boost cocktail. Every year.

I woke up in the worst mood today. And then the sun came out and I realized Spring had finally officially sprung today. And my soul sighed with utter relief. 

And then I remembered the post I wrote last year on a different blog on the first day of Spring. I had a major, life changing epiphany that day. As I thought about it and reread the post this morning, my soul sighed yet again.

I can often focus on the negative… the unchanged things I wish were changed, the habits I can’t seem to break out of, the habits I never started, unrealized dreams and hopes, frustrations etc. But this morning, I saw light. Not the sun’s rays, but light in my inner tunnel of darkness. 

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Last year’s epiphany? (reposted below for reference) The dreaming of adventuring with my kids? The realization that I am hardwired to travel, to explore, to function overseas and that that part of my soul, my DNA needed to be fed and nurtured?

I did it. 

I didn’t just dream and not follow through. I didn’t fail. I fed those dreams. I nurtured that need and deep desire within me. I stepped out and flew away to a far off land to do something I knew I was created to do. I loaded my girls in a tiny car and set off across the nation to adventure with them.

This past year may have been filled with a lot of failures and defeats. But I recognize now, in springtime clarity, that it was also full of victories, achievements and realized dreams.

And that realization alone gives me a shot of renewed hope and vision as I look at the year to come. 

I have another long list of dreams, desires, goals, plans. Some will fail. Some will fade. And some will soar and succeed. I am ok with that.

There is another road trip on the horizon… another chance to connect deeply with my girls and share adventures and stories and life together in a way that feeds my soul and shares my deepest dreams with my kids.

There is an international trip with the kids in the works this year. This excites me and sustains me. Exploring this planet with my kids is worth every penny, every tear, every sleepless moment on planes, trains, and car trips. Showing them new and vastly different pockets of creation gives them a broader and deeper understanding and awe of the Creator. As it does for me as well.

And in the meantime we live in the here and now. Making the most of our days and moments. I don’t’ really know how to do that very well. But I will keep showing up. Apologizing when I need to (like today). Readjusting my attitude and expectations when need be. Embracing grace, lots of grace. And giving it back to those I love.

 

 

The repost from March 20, 2013: 

my parents used to joke with people as far back as i can remember…. they would say“chelsea, yeah, she was born with her bags packed!” everyone laughs. but everyone who knows me knows how true this statement is.

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(ha! even my preggo pics have a travel theme :) photo credit: http://www.kiddosphotos.xanga.com)

as far back as i remember i loved adventuring… whether it was in the back 40 acres as a 5 year old, riding my horse (bareback) around my neighborhood (at age 7) to my friends’ houses (i would even tie up the horse to a hitching post), or asking my parents to stop the car while driving so i could “climb that mountain over there…” when i was old enough to go to summer camp and spend the night, i begged for 2 weeks (or 3 or 4). when i was 9 or 10, my best friend at the time moved to australia. we wrote back and forth religiously for 3 years. i studied everything i could about australia. that is what began my still-going-strong obsession with all things aussie. at age 11, i went on my first out-of-state adventure… a 5 week RV trip with my friend, heather, and her parents all around the western USA and canada. we stopped at most of the national parks. it was a dream (except when it was a nightmare for two only child daughters to share living quarters for 5 weeks).:)

i guess it only made sense when i approached my parents about spending an entire summer with a group of 30 teenagers and a few adults (all but 1 of whom i didn’t know)… in africa when i was 16. it made sense to them, but not really to many others. i still to this day thank God my parents KNEW me and TRUSTED GOD with my goings and comings and let me go. they were chastised by many, many other adults in our legalistic community for not “protecting” me as any good father and mother would have their daughter.

“how could you let her go with complete strangers?”

“how can you make sure she is safe?”

” how can you trust the other teens since you don’t know what kind of influence they will be?”

to all of these and more questions, they responded the way i want to respond to my own kids someday….

“we let her go because she is GOD’s CHILD first and foremost. we let her go because we feel she is safer in HIS hands and if HE is leading her overseas, that is where she needs to be.” being a parent myself, i KNOW this wasn’t easy for them, even though they believed it wholeheartedly. and so i thank and applaud them all the more for their faith and strength in the face of disapproval and rebuke. (note: there were others who DID support me and them in this endeavor… they prayed and gave financially to this trip that truly changed my life forever. i am ever so thankful for them.)

that summer was , cliché and all, LIFE CHANGING. its like i started living and breathing a completely new life that was so fulfilling and invigorating – the life i was created to live. (as an aside, my perspective on short-term mission trips has evolved and changed over the nearly 2 decades since this initial overseas trip… but i still hold that this experience for me was worth every penny, every tear, every moment, every mistake.)

after this trip in 1995, i found myself going overseas nearly every year until 2008. i have wrestled, again, for nearly two decades, on how to handle being home, being settled in “real” life and trying to be content there. i know there is some balance to this equation. but every time i was able to hop on a plane for another trip, service opportunity, educational opportunity, or adventure, i found myself breathing a sigh of relief. i felt myself actually BREATHING again. it is that life-giving to me. its not just the adventure rush, although i love that. its how my world opens and grows and evolves as i meet new people and see new places, experience other cultures and see the absolute beauty and creativity of such a creative Creator in the variety of colors, faces, foods, and lands. God becomes so much more real and understandable when i experience and see Him outside my own cultural/racial/economic box. i love that. i love seeing Him look ever so different over there. i love seeing how others see Him.

and to be honest, i have been stuffing this part of me down deep inside for about 5 years now. trying to be content and make suburban american life work for me. i have been trying to re-envision life indefinitely state-side. pta’s and carpools. book clubs and home-cooked meals.*

and i have been literally dying inside.

that’s ok, you can think i am a ridiculous drama queen/adventure junkie if you want. :)i am ok with that. all i know is what i know. and i know myself pretty well by now. we’ve been going steady for 34 years. some things have changed and evolved. some things are deeply, hard-wired in me.

my epiphany about all of this happened early this morning. john left for work at an ungodly hour as usual. i couldn’t get back to sleep, so i started thinking about life. sydney came bounding in at about 6:15am giddy with joy because “Mommy! Today is the first day of SPRING!!!!!!” this child has been talking about this everyday for weeks. i couldn’t help but smile and be excited for this new season as well. we snuggled in and i looked up the national geographic kids website. somehow we discovered the “Are We There Yet: World Adventure” videos. If you haven’t seen them, look them up! They are 7 minute videos of sibling duos on adventures around the world. We LOVED them. one of the videos we watched was about going on an elephant ride in Corbett National Park in India. i asked sydney if she remembered when she rode the elephant in thailand. her eyes were as big as saucers and she said, “what??! i did?!” no recollection. and so i pulled up our thailand pictures from facebook and i watched in awe as she relived the adventures through my pictures. she wasn’t even 2 when we last went to thailand. she didn’t remember anything, but went crazy over everything we looked at. she giggled at the elephants painting and playing harmonicas, at the pics of her playing in the jungle in north thailand.

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and i thought, “hey, this is my dream. this has been my dream forever really. i want to do this with the girls… now. why not? what is stopping us?” the short answer – me. my own short-sightedness. my own second guessing. my own doubts and maybe some fears. so i tend to be an all or nothing person… ok, so i am a 110% all or nothing person. this whole doubting season i have been hung up on the fact that i don’t foresee us going overseas long-term anytime soon. and i have lamented that. and then accepted it. and then resented it. and tried pretty hard to fit the mold of staying stateside and doing life how i am “supposed to.” that is pretty difficult for someone hardwired (dare i say by God Himself) for something different.**

and then the epiphany came . it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! WOW. seriously… my mind was BLOWN by this thought. blown, i tell you. we can live here in suburban america, do the pta, have playdates and do homework AND go on adventures together on breaks and summers for a season. IF the time comes to do something more long-term, i will welcome it with open arms. but until or if that happens, i am so down with this new idea i can hardly keep my feet on the ground. my mind is on overdrive dreaming, planning, and pondering.

and just like that…. spring  sprung in my soul. and i felt myself feel more alive just at the thought of this than i have in a long, long time. 

or maybe, like most of us around here on the east coast, i am just so done with winter and cold that i am delusional.

nah….. not a chance.

* not saying anything against this kind of life. i know and respect so many who live and thrive in this kind of life. i am just saying i am not wired for it.

** not better. just different.