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Category Archives: Life Lessons

I didn’t “let you do anything,” sir (a declaration)

I am one of the many women you brushed up against in line. One whose waist felt your arm slither around and hold a bit too closely as you helped me into a vehicle. A female whose body you leaned into for a hug instead of a handshake, pressing your hand into my back so that my chest came into harder contact with yours. Those are my legs you ogled in a meeting because I dared to wear a pencil skirt. It’s my laugh you heard when you told me the racy joke. My big brown eyes that looked away over a lip-sticked smile when you made the flirtatious suggestion.

None of what you did was wanted.

None of it appreciated or invited.

But, like the Republican presidential candidate, I’m sure you believed one of two things: (1) she’s giving me cues that she wants this or (2) I can do this because I’m me and she’s her.

And did I kick up about it? Did I slap your face? Go to HR? Write a blog post, even? No. So that must mean I wanted it, right? Must mean I enjoyed it? Must mean you’re allowed to be this way.

No. Here’s what really happened:

You stared at my legs. I asked myself why I didn’t put on the slacks because I knew I had a meeting with men today. Then I berated myself for the idea of changing a completely acceptable wardrobe just because you can’t focus on business in a business meeting. Then I thought about moving to another seat, one that wouldn’t give you such a good view of my knees. Then I berated myself again for thinking of how to accommodate your ridiculous actions and how un-Sheryl Sandberg that is of me. Then I thought about just taking the bull by the horns and interrupting the entire meeting to say, “If you could stop staring at my legs, I’d appreciate it,” but then all the other men in the room would either think I was an ice queen or suddenly also become aware of my legs and the other women would withdraw from me, grateful it wasn’t them but eager to not be put in the ice queen territory, too. And then I needed to stop allowing myself to care that you were ogling me because I had valid contributions to make to this meeting that would be helpful to the project, so I turned away and worked.

Or let’s talk about how you do business hugs instead of handshakes – only with the women, of course, because you’re “a hugger.” So, you throw your big arm around my shoulders and pull me in, pressing my breasts against your chest and holding me there until you’ve gotten your fill, talking the whole time about how good it is to see me and how you’re looking forward to being a part of this project, blah blah. Since I didn’t slap your face, I must have “let” you, right?

“…they let you do it,” Trump told Billy Bush. “You can do anything.”

While you were busy getting your cheap feel, here’s what I was thinking: If I say something right here, right now, will I lose my job? Will this project go south if I embarrass him and he quits? He matters more to this than me because he’s the one with the money/prestige. If he leaves, his funding leaves, too and then we’re back to square one on this. Does it really matter if he feels my breasts for a few seconds if, in the end, we get the project done and it makes a positive difference in the world? My comfort level isn’t as important as getting the job done. This is just part of it. Part of working in a male-dominated industry. You don’t want to be “that” woman who can’t work with men and get along or you’re done in this industry, Rebeca. Be a grown-up. Smile. Overlook it. Stay focused on the mission. Laugh.

I did.

I smiled. I laughed.

You took that as acceptance and possibly even encouragement.

It’s no wonder you are confused by the female outrage over that Trump video. You’ve been hugging and ogling for years and you know dang well that women are fine with it because none of them has ever objected and most of the time we smile and laugh right along with you, right?

Let me clear things up here.

I fake smile and fake laugh so I can do my job.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be effective in my role.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t get fired.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I have relationship capital.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that you’ll keep working on the task.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t slap you.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be a team player.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that the situation will end and I can get back to business.

I fake smile and fake laugh.

And you see and hear acceptance, even invitation.

 

If Donald Trump becomes president, your belief system on this will be exemplified by the leader of the free world. Suddenly, the sexual innuendo, flirting, hugs, touches, and ogling will be even more acceptable because, hey, that’s how the president gets things done and it worked for him, right? Married to a topless model, living in the White House, millions in the bank – the guy is the epitome of Man of the World and what man doesn’t want to be that?

So I wanted to be clear right here, today. Make a declaration, even.

You touch me, you flirt with me, you treat me as a sexual being that you are entitled to access, you’re getting called out on it. It shouldn’t require me to sacrifice my career, but that’s a length to which I will go now. Why now? Because the threat level has risen with every defense of Trump’s behavior that I have read on Facebook and Twitter or listened to on the radio or watched on television since that video came out.

I don’t walk in a room and stare at your penis. I don’t crack jokes about its size or call it by derogatory names because I’m not thinking about it at all. I don’t picture how you would be in bed. I don’t try to determine if you want me. I do not even care that you are capable of sex. I’m not interested. At all. Ever. Even a little bit. No, not even that much. The door is closed. There is no crack in it. No window for you to climb through.

Your sexual nature is not wanted.

Not even if you’re famous.

Not even if you’re rich.

Not even if you’re the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States.

You want to work together like two adults who are talented, intelligent, resourceful, and can get the job done? Bring it. Let’s do this thing. I am all over that like white on rice. You wanna joke and kid while we work? Absolutely. I love a fun workplace. You wanna explore ideas and brainstorm about how we can do this job better, how we can enrich the culture of this country with the stories we bring them? Holy heaven and hottest hell, yes, I am down for that.

But check the rest of it at the door. I’m not going to quit genuinely smiling just because you walk in the room and mistake it for sexual invitation. I’m not going to quit genuinely laughing because you find it sexually attractive. I like to smile. I like to laugh. That’s for me, not you. That’s me enjoying the amazing life I get to lead and the adventurous career I have – it isn’t an invitation for you to be a part of it in any way but a colleague.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight here. Whew, I feel lighter already, knowing I won’t have to have those internal debates anymore.

Now, let’s get to work.

 

 

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A Gentle Request for How You Respond to Jim’s Passing

Jim

James D. Seitz

On Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 11:33am, my fantastic father-in-love James D. Seitz finished his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 82 years old. I loved him dearly. I am not loving something about the response to his death, so I’m writing.

Three years ago, the Hubs and I moved the kiddos down to Naples to help out with Jim’s care. He and Grace allowed us the honor of being a real part of this journey and, while I won’t lie and say it was anywhere in the same ballpark as easy, I’m glad we did. I’m happy we got that time with him, that my kiddos know the amazing grandfather they had, that my mother-in-love and I grew closer as we cared for the love of her life, the man she was married to for 55 years.

Now, most of my Facebook friends are actual friends. They’re people I went to school with, have worked or volunteered with. A few are readers of my novels and I have the gift of their feedback and input as I write additional stories. The folks I call “Facebook Friend” are mostly real relationships. So, rather than call a lot of people and repeat our news, I posted on Facebook that Jim had passed.

               And I got the expected “Sad” and “Love” clicks (thank you) and kind comments from people. It’s been helpful to receive all that, to not feel as if our little family is alone, to realize that a lot of people are acknowledging that a good man’s life has ended.

               But something that has kinda driven me insane is how people barely get the, “I’m so sorry,” out before they jump to, “But you’ll see him again in heaven.”

I’ve done this exact same thing to friends who lose people to death. I’ve done it a lot, even from the moment we were told Jim needed to go into hospice care. Emotion overwhelmed my mother-in-love and husband, so I’m the one who tried to give Jim the news. He read it on my face before I could speak and said, “I’m going to heaven aren’t I?”

I responded, “Yessir, and I’m a little jealous.”

So, yes, I get the instinct to focus on the positive (heaven!) and brush right past the hideous (death). But, I want to go on record as saying I really don’t like it.

I’m a processor. I need time to process, reflect, think, ponder, be quiet and still before I feel as if I can move past a significant emotion. Right now, I hurt. A lot. I’m sad. I miss Jim – even the one who couldn’t speak because Parkinson’s stole his voice. I miss how he always, always smiled when I came into the room. I miss having someone in my life who wanted to hear every single, solitary detail of every single business trip or event I participated in. I miss the one who enjoyed listening to who came with whom and who wore what to this film premiere or that gala. I miss the man who knew the backstories of so many influencers in this town – how they became the people they are today. I want to hear his stories again of chairing balls and functions and how to navigate Board member and funder relationships. I want to ask him a question and see him turn his head, look off in the distance, and give my inquiry real thought before responding with some piece of wisdom I couldn’t have found otherwise. I’ve missed all this for a long time because Parkinson’s took it away but I couldn’t mourn it because we all had to focus on the care required by that moment, that hour. Now that he’s gone all of what was taken by this disease hits at once and I miss him.

I miss him.

I don’t care right now about heaven. I really don’t. I care that right now, today, I can’t go up to his bed, kiss the top of his head, and say, “Hello, blue eyes. I love you.” I care that my mother-in-love, a woman who has been an incredible mother to me for twelve years, is alone for the first time in her 77 years of life and isn’t sure how to navigate the silence other than turning on the radio and leaving it on all day. I care that my husband isn’t sure what to do with himself now that he doesn’t have to go and lift his daddy from the wheelchair and place him into bed every early evening or run over there when Jim needed taken care of some other way. I hurt that my youngest doesn’t have much memory of her grandfather as anything other than a Parkinson’s patient and I hurt more that my eldest does and misses the grandfather he knew before this hideous disease invaded our lives.

I don’t care about heaven right now, y’all. Trying to skip over the pain doesn’t lessen it. It forces me into a place of smiling and nodding, pretending that yes, sure, I’m all good, because, hey, we’ll see him again and isn’t that grand.

It’s not grand today. Please let it be okay that it’s not grand. Just for a little bit. We can rejoice in stuff worthy of rejoicing about in time. For now, I need to take a friend’s very wise advice and be gentle with myself. I need to let myself recognize that even though this was a long, long battle that I thought gave me time to be prepared, I was wrong. It still hurts. Each day is a little better than yesterday – I laughed a real laugh yesterday morning with the kiddos, went to the office, and even managed to keep a lunch date with ladies from my neighborhood – but it still hurts. And I’m going to let it hurt for a little while longer. It should hurt. A truly wonderful man is not here anymore. It should hurt.

I try to think of what I will say to people in the future when I hear that death has taken someone they loved off this earth. I don’t think I’ll jump to references of heaven. I think I’ll say, “I’m sad that you’re sad,” or “I’m so sorry this pain has come,” or borrow from my wise friend Mary and say, “Be gentle with yourself.”

Anyway, I do appreciate all of you who have offered comfort and even those of you who have jumped to the heaven references. I know you mean well. I know that. I love you for that. I just wanted to ask you to let me sit here in this remembrance of him and missing him for a little while longer before I have to take a deep breath, set it aside, and pick up full time living and hoping again.

Because even the promise of heaven doesn’t give back the exact same as what was. And saying goodbye to what was…takes a little while.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in Life Lessons

 

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The Tyranny of Self (a/k/a Mike Dooley’s Madness)

A supporter of the non-profit I lead told me about a man named Mike Dooley. “Watch his videos,” she urged. “I think you’ll find his ideas very interesting.” Her faith is the root of mine (she is Jewish; I am Christian) and I love her dearly. She’s kind. Generous with her heart. Sincerely motivated to serve in whatever way she can, in whatever roles of life she lives. A seeker of wisdom always. I like her a lot.

So, I Googled around and found Mike Dooley and his TUT organization. From his website:

TUT’s mission is to remind us of life’s fundamental truths: that life is magical, we are powerful, and dreams really do come true.

Okay, that all sounds happy and positive. I decided to push the twinge I got while reading it (something is off here, said the twinge) to the back burner and signed up for the daily emails. Past the end of my workday at that point, I closed the laptop and left the office.

TUT - Dooley

Screen Grab from Dooley’s website (tut.com)

The next morning, a welcome email from Mike Dooley sat in my inbox. Click “EmailfromTut” to see it.

EmailfromTut

Pleasant. Upbeat. Encouraging, and a reminder to read every email all the way through to the end as many people like the P.S. portion the best. I laughed. Good marketing tactic there. With a few minutes to spare and a desire to let my friend know I’d engaged with TUT, I cruised back to the website and clicked on a couple of the videos.

Which is when the twinge-ometer nearly broke itself in a frenzy.

Dooley is an evangelist for the “New Thought” movement. At its core, this philosophy teaches that humans are divine, thoughts are powerful, and sickness is a result of wrong thinking. Dooley’s words sound like truth – but Dooley twists them ever so slightly and in that twisting he loses the power and truth of the idea.

A dynamic, potent truth in Mike Dooley’s mouth withers under the tyranny of self.

THOUGHTS ARE POWERFUL

Let’s start with the idea that thoughts are powerful. In an interview on “View From the Bay,” Dooley spoke of spending 5-10 minutes each day visualizing what/who I desire to be. He promised that this visualization would engage the “Law of Attraction” and the universe would make that visualization a reality. The show’s co-host shared that she eats poorly and wants to be healthy. Should she envision herself eating apples and bananas? No, Dooley said. She was getting sidetracked by the “how” and need to simply envision herself, right now, as healthy and the universe would order itself to that end. Her thoughts would make it so.

It is true that thoughts are powerful. Consider those ancient words of Paul, “We…take every thought captive to obey Christ…” Or those even older words of Isaiah, “You [God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

Clearly, thoughts hold power. If not, there’d be no reason to be mindful of them staying focused on God. Dooley speaks this truth, but goes a step further to grant humans ownership and control of that power.

Can we think things into existence? Well, we certainly can speak them into existence. That’s established in the very first chapter of the very first book of scripture, Genesis.

Jew or Christian, we agree: God spoke creation into existence (a fascinating occurrence we are still discovering the detail of) and He “created mankind in His own image.” Ostensibly, that image that includes speaking things into existence.

Let me digress a moment here to reveal my serious belief in the concept of speaking things into existence…I’m married to an Eeyore. His glass is perpetually half empty. Doom and destruction are right around the corner. That’s simply his personality and it’s helpful because it urges my sunshine-and-roses-and-its-all-going-to-go-swimmingly self to consider what could end up being the true cost of something. Throughout our marriage, though, I often lay my hand on his arm and say, “Don’t speak that into existence. Leave that hell uncreated.” I firmly believe that spoken thoughts can become reality.

This isn’t true because I have discovered the secret of how the universe works, though. It’s true because the One who spoke creation into existence made me in His image. See that subtle shift of focus? It goes from “I’m god and I control,” to “I serve God and He made me in His image.”

 

BEING THE DIVINE BODY

Here’s another of the twists on truth from Dooley. “I believe that we are, truly, the eyes and the ears of the divine. Including us. Our thoughts. Our actions. It’s all god.”

Christians hear a version of this in church all the time, right? We’re the hands and feet of Jesus, we’re told! The whole concept of us being divine body parts stems from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we call “First Corinthians.” He gets to the body concept in chapter two, where he shares that some of us were made to be hands, some to be feet, etc. However, that entire concept is given as Paul describes how God created the church to function as one body for God’s purposes. It’s less about, “I’m the hand of Christ,” and more about, “I have a role and purpose in this body of the church and am being/doing that as part of God’s overall story. My role is necessary, as is each other person’s.”

My eyes and ears aren’t divine. God’s divine.

 

CONTROLLING DESTINY AND ENVISIONING OUR WAY TO A DESIRED OUTCOME

Remember Dooley told that show host to simply envision herself healthy and the universe would order itself to bring about that end? He tells the story in another video of making a scrapbook of all the places he wanted to visit (envisioning himself as a well-traveled person) and how, a couple of years later, he found himself looking out at a vista that was exactly what had been in one of those photographs. Eureka! Envisioning himself in that place caused the universe to bring him to that place.

But history tells us this doesn’t work. Consider William Wallace, who died in pursuit of freedom for the Scottish from England’s rule. I’m nearly certain that William Wallace spent countless hours envisioning Scottish independence. He also worked hard for it. But freedom didn’t come in his lifetime. Instead, the King of England killed Wallace in gruesome fashion. Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All his prayers and thoughts and envisioning didn’t bring freedom from Hitler in his lifetime. Bonhoeffer was killed in a concentration camp.

These men, and countless other men and women, envisioned themselves in their desired outcomes. They lived their beliefs and what they understood to be their God-given purpose and calling, even unto death. But an individual’s story isn’t the whole story.

We must bear in mind that God’s is the unfolding story. My path (your path) is one part of that grand story. Because of this, I don’t always quite understand why He allows some things to happen and others not but I do know that there is a divine plan, that He is in control of it, and that – to quote those ancient words again – He is working all things together for my good (and the good of everyone who loves Him).

See the twist? Dooley’s idea makes it all about me. Actual truth says that something far greater than me is at work within and around me.

 

 SELF-GOD VS GOD

Ultimately, Dooley has interesting ideas but their downfall is in that subtle yet seismic shift from God to self-god. To quote those ancient words one more time, these from Isaiah:

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me,” or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

We are the clay. Made in the image of the potter and granted, by Him, many of His characteristics and access to His abilities and powers. But, at the end of the day, still clay.

A clay creation cannot know the intricacies of all the other creations to the depth the potter does.

A clay being who believes he is the potter has succumbed to the tyranny of self, and in this lies no freedom at all.

 

P.S. (Because you have to read through the P.S. It’s what many find most interesting!) Where I find common ground with Mike is the concept of living as less than we are. We who are in relationship with God are not taking Him up on all that He has promised us we can do in His name. Because He loves me, He has granted enormous ability, power, grace, and mercy to me. I didn’t create power, grace, mercy, and its cousins, but I can access them because He allows such within His will. (As scripture puts it: He’s the vine, I’m the branch.) We act as if we are weak, even while our lips speak of God’s strength. That is our failure as His people – it is a lack of embracing that we’ve been empowered to live as a people at peace, in kindness, merciful, gracious, forgiving, compassionate, and generous. It is looking at the beautiful land and reporting that there are giants in it, we must retreat. Instead, we should hold that thought captive and release its counter-truth: our God conquers giants if He wills, we need only walk in His name.

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Life Lessons, Living Out Loud

 

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Living Out Loud, Defined (LOLv1)

“I’m not like you. I don’t live out loud.”

The woman before me kept talking, but the rest of her words floated over my head. “Live out loud?” Me? Um, no. I’m an introvert. [small smile to you other introverts here) I may have learned how to “turn it on” for public events, but I go home from those exhausted and in need of non-people, no-talking time to recover.

I lose my mind if I don’t have at least some alone time every day. By that I mean I get agitated, fidgety, exasperated, easily angered, and feel as if the world is caving in too close to breathe easily or think fully. My mind tries to shut down, to stop the inflow of experience.

It’s kind of like going underwater in a swimming pool. I can glide through the cool environment, feel the water slide over and around me, hear the dull thud of someone jumping in, see the blurry edges of pale legs all around, watch the sunshine play on the surface above, kick into the deep to retrieve the pennies or dive sticks, put my hands down for a handstand, twirl my arms for a somersault, and revel in the sensation created by each…but the whole time, I also acknowledge my chest getting tighter and tighter as I do not give it the oxygen it craves.

At some point, I have to surface and gulp the life-giving air up there.

My hubs and kiddos know this about me. If we go out – to one of their basketball games, to a birthday party, to an event – or have a lot of people over, they know that afterward Mom will retreat to her bedroom and crave quiet. I need to let all the communication and sensory experience settle. I must sort and sift the tidbits, casting aside what has no further use and pondering and testing the rest for wisdom and lesson. I participate in the events, talking and laughing and letting the experience flood in (swimming), but it doesn’t mean I am energized by it or need it to feel alive/useful/worthy/genuine.

Interestingly, my son is this way as well. He’ll say, “Mom, I need some non-people time,” and go off to his room to lie on his bed and stare at the ceiling a while. I’m grateful to know exactly what he’s saying and feeling.

So, having the “living out loud” concept applied to me struck a wrong chord. I’d always known that phrase to be interchangeable with “life of the party” and “social butterfly.” Words for those mysterious people who breathe underwater.

Now, though, I think I know what the speaker meant behind those words. And I plan to spend a lot of my foreseeable writing here on the topic.

The speaker was a woman who is very dutiful to authority. She does what is expected of her, even when she does not want to and does not appear to get particular fulfillment out of it. For her, to fulfill expectations is its own end. There is worth in living out the life others mapped out for her, in doing as she should.

And that might very well feel like she is only living on the inside, quietly.  By day, she is what she ‘should” be. In her mind, where no one else can know, she is her real self.
When she declared that I live out loud, I think she meant, “You do what you believe you were created to do, you pursue the becoming of what you were created to become.”

I think ultimately she meant:

Girl makes the graceful throw at sunset“You live with abandon.”

The more I learn about others and myself,

the more the race and pace swirl around me,

the more I see loved ones living but not alive,

the more I watch a decaying world age passionate minds and stop courageous hearts,

the more I think it’s worth spending some time writing about life like that.

 

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Life Lessons, Living Out Loud

 

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From Beneath the Trees

“I just cannot believe that you’re gone…Rest in peace, my friend.”

I read the posting of an old high school friend to another high school friend’s wall on Facebook last night. Confusion. Alarm. What was she talking about? I frantically clicked over to the friend’s page and began scrolling through condolences and utterings of shock. It took a few minutes before I read the post explaining that a tree had fallen on our friend’s car as she went to pick up her kiddos from school, killing her instantly.

A tree.

Fell.

At the exact moment she came down a two-lane country road.

Falling in the precise way needed to cause immediate, deadly impact.

My mind scrambled. Where was the logic? How could this make sense? It’s one thing for someone to lose their life because they were doing something or being somewhere they shouldn’t have. Then we all nod our heads and think it makes sense and it can’t happen to us because we’ll make wise decisions and avoid that kind of danger.

But this? A tree fell. A RANDOM TREE. Who can prevent that? Outwit it? Prepare for it?

And why her? I live in a town whose main road is Pine Ridge. It’s lined with, you guessed it, pine trees. Giant ones. I’ve marveled at their majesty and rolled down my windows just to listen to them as the wind blows through, to breathe deeply and take their scent into my lungs. I never considered them a threat.

Now, fear lanced through me. With the fervor of a mom whose kiddos have been threatened, I started planning routes to school, work, the grocery store, the hairdresser, and the bookstore that wouldn’t involve Pine Ridge Road. Should I write the city and ask them if the trees could come down? Tell my husband of other, safer, less treed routes?

Within an hour, our high school class rallied together on Facebook, coordinating donations for flowers at the funeral and funds for her children. And then, once it was clear all the details were handled for the logistics of our meager attempts to do something, anything, to combat this incomprehensible tragedy, the postings turned to grief. And then, as if we all realized everything we hadn’t said to her when she was with us, what we hadn’t said to each other in years, these people I haven’t seen for twenty years began reminding each other, “I love you. I miss you. Kiss your babies tonight. We should get together. A reunion.”

I trudged up the stairs and fell into bed. Wrestled through the night as falling trees and high school memories collided in my mind. Woke up to the realization that this is how the enemy ruins life for me. He wraps fear and tragedy around beauty, encompassing it so completely that it can barely be seen or felt and so I abandon the beauty inside. He robs me of the joy of a good thing that succumbed to the broken world in which it was placed. He doesn’t let me see the “I love you” and “I miss you” and pulls my mind hard toward the fear that this could happen as easily to anyone else I love, or to me – leaving my babies behind – and that makes loving people a dangerous thing, not a beautiful thing.

But I didn’t die yesterday. Which means I need to live today. Somehow. Even as I fear and try to handle the troubled soul in me. So I got out of bed. Showered. Dressed. Dressed the kiddos. Piled them into the car and backed out of the shelter of the garage. And, as my little girl read a story aloud and my son told me about the basketball practices he’s loving, I drove us right down Pine Ridge Road.

The pine trees still majestically lined the road, drinking in the morning sun and gently waving in the breeze.

And I defiantly chose to acknowledge their beauty from my broken place here, beneath the trees.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Life Lessons, The Misc Bucket

 

His First Sleep Away Camp: A Mama’s View

Since that moment the ultrasound tech announced, “It’s a boy!” I’ve been committed to raising an incredible man. A man who knows his own mind and chases the One who gave it to him. Who models his heart and self after his Maker’s heart and self. I’m not a mom who keeps the apron strings tightly tied or keeps her chicks close to the nest. I’m raising a leader here. Two of them, actually. He has a little sister.

Andy and his camp counselor

Anderson and his camp counselor

And then came the first sleep-away camp.

Four weeks. Thirty-two days, to be exact.

Jumping in with both feet.

At ten years old, my firstborn eagerly anticipated attending the same sleep-away camp in North Carolina that his father enjoyed for four blissful childhood summers over twenty years ago. Tales of swimming, sliding, hiking, and shooting filled our home, inciting visions in young Anderson’s vivid imagination that could not be denied.

He wanted to go at nine.

I said no.

Not because of the apron strings or umbilical cord, but because he wasn’t ready. Moms know these things.

This year, though, I felt pretty sure he was ready.

Until we arrived at the camp. Oh my goodness, what a place. Running water was the biggest luxury the place could claim. “Cabins” more aptly described as “shacks” or “shanties.” Hanging on to their stilt-leg foundations by a prayer. Gang “showers” with shower-heads that even Lowe’s has the decency to not sell.

My modest boy changes in his bedroom with the door closed. How would he handle showering with eight strangers every day? And then sleeping in a room with five more of them? I eyed the “mattress” of his bottom bunk, fairly certain the bubble mailers I use to send books to clients had more padding.

My son’s face also registered misgivings. My mama heart and mind went into overdrive. Ready? Not ready? I hid on a hill and peered through the trees as he stood with other pale-skinned boys in front of the freezing pond chosen for their swim test. Some jumped in – loud, so loud, covering their panic and fear with voices that hadn’t yet deepened into manhood – while others paced the makeshift deck, casting furtive glances to the water and counselors, gauging if this test really had to be taken right here, right now.

My boy elected to take the test another day, in a pond they promised would be warmer.

I wondered anew. Ready? Not ready? I had the camp leader get him from his cabin and bring him to me. We set off down the gravel path across from the freezing swimming hole. I showed him where I’d spied on him. Asked him if he’d felt scared. (Yes.) Disappointed in himself for not taking the test. (Yes.)

And then I turned and faced him full on.

“You’ve had a taste of this place. You want to do this? You feel ready to do this?”

I watched him fill his lungs, chest expanding – a chest so much wider now than that day they’d placed his 7lb frame in my waiting arms.

He gave one nod. Short. Quick. Hard. “I can do this.”

Mama pride filled my chest and I fought tears. “Yes, you can.”

We walked back to the camp leader and I handed him over with a fast hug and soft, “I love you.”

I drove away thinking of Hannah taking her newly-weaned son, Samuel, to the temple and leaving him to be raised to serve God. How did she do that? What a woman. A real mother.

I sent Anderson his first letter today, along with the bar of soap he forgot in the van. (Did Hannah send Samuel care packages?) I made sure to let him know I’m proud of him. That he doesn’t have to choose between growing up and pleasing me. The two are synonymous. I told him, “My job as your mama is to discern the moments for testing and the moments for resting.”

My boy is on a grand adventure that will come with testing. He’ll come home a little less boy, a little more young man.

And I’ll walk the path a million other moms have walked before me. Raising our baby boys into astounding men. Goodness, it’s not for the faint of heart.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Life Lessons

 

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How Do We Respond to Confederate Flag Fighting and Other Brouhaha?

Okay, y’all, this flag debate has gotten past a momentary foolish distraction from a very real tragedy to dangerous levels of cultural cleansing of an entire people. Apple, Sears, Wal-mart…the rebel flag is even being removed from the car made famous in “Dukes of Hazzard”, the General Lee!

Girl with a laptop on the table

Is anybody else feeling as scared and undone and confused and exhausted as I am? Anybody spending way too much time in mental debate about whether to post something on FB or just let it go?

Ignorance is ruling the day because, in our media-obsessed culture, the loudest voice is granted “truth” status. Bandwagons increase exponentially when just enough lemmings hop on. Tipping points come early if the speaker knows algorithm tricks. The illusion of “rightness” is granted when the “views” or “comments” or “likes” numbers go up … which creates truth by perceived public opinion.

Seriously. Think about that. We’re determining truth about history – hard facts – by how many people agree with them.

We’re determining truth by people.

People who we truly love, but who don’t believe this if we disagree with them. On anything. Agh! So frustrating!

Consider yourself for just a second. Do you know everything about everything? (Me, neither.) Have an eternal view of existence so that all your judgment calls have proper perspective? (Don’t I wish.) Know what’s coming tomorrow, next week, next year, two generations from now? (If I did, this blog would be $2.99/minute to read.)

And yet we’re relying on each other to decide who gets a presence in the public square and who doesn’t? To “officially” determine what happened in history and why? We’re okay that opinions, screamed and repeated enough, become the “true” story of an entire people?

Are you kidding me?!

We don’t do this here. This is America, where we lay down our lives for the right of our fellow citizen to voice an opinion we do not agree with. An opinion we may even hate. Here, the standard is to talk and listen. We are not a country that silences with force those with whom we disagree.

Or, we weren’t a few days ago.

But there is comfort and it is this: Real Truth, lived one life at a time, one day at a time, one relationship at a time, speaks for itself. It cannot be silenced.

Truth, lived, cannot be silenced.

I’m not a consistent living example of it – only Jesus can claim that – but I am a consistent believer in it and a consistent get-back-up-and-try-again walker in it. And I truly believe that this is more powerful than screaming back at an angry mob.

So, I’m going to follow a quote I put on Facebook just a couple of weeks ago before the current cultural chaos began:

“There’s no spirituality in opposing a fool. We need only spend enough time on the matter to discern that [the individual]…is a fool and then get on with what God is doing.” (Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A Wall)

I’m putting the screamers in my rearview and continuing to be about what I’m about.

Acting justly.

Loving mercy.

And doing my dead-level best to walk humbly with my God.

I’m supposed to ask you at this point to “share” this or comment on it or link back to it on your own blog if you agree or have a reaction. That’s what I teach to writers, so they can amass a tribe and be able to get their viewpoint into the world. Put an ask at the end of your post. Because that’s the way of the world in which you’ve been placed. It’s being wise as a serpent yet innocent as a dove.

But I don’t want you to share or like or comment or link this post to get people to agree with me or you so that it’ll appear we have the loudest voice.

I only write this today because I needed to give myself permission to let the swirling arguments alone in favor of living in the real world. I needed to say out loud that my silence online isn’t a reflection that I don’t care about what happened to my believing brothers and sisters in Charleston.

I care too much to do anything but keep living.

And I thought maybe somebody else might need permission, too.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Life Lessons

 

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