Fighting for Dear Life

After Bernie Sanders’ speech at LU convocation, David Nasser asked him an abortion-related question, to the effect of “Aren’t our unborn children in the greatest need of protection?” The crowd of students cheered thunderously, and for the only time in the entire broadcast I noticed, gave a standing ovation – just to that question.

Students, dreamers, protectors, defenders: please don’t forget to keep that fire alive for mothers, for children, after they are born. In the way we vote, in the issues we fight for, in the way we look at women with screaming children on the street: will we choose to KEEP fighting for life? It gets much, much harder from here.

How will your church or Christian school deal with the unmarried pregnant woman? Will you babysit for the single mother? Do you belittle your co-worker for loving lavishly on his children? Do we fight for education? For resources that so many women, families, and little ones so desperately need?

Or will be just be clanging, clanging, clanging symbols?

broken

Image

//

– _ / { “ /

I can’t do it anymore.

I cannot keep crying over you.

Over your hurt and your words and your lies and accusations.

I should have run out of tears by now, but they just keep coming.

I can’t keep agonizing over what went wrong every time I have a moment’s silence. In the shower

{quick, hum}

in the car

{quick, turn on the music}

waiting in lines

{don’t think, can’t stop, don’t cry}

.

“It would be different if you were actually helping,” he told me.

It’s true. But I’m not. You keep spiraling down and down and further and further away from the one I knew.

You never saw me right, but you never saw me so very wrong, either. Now you look at me and see everything so. so wrong.

~

I just wanted to love you.

I want to have funny facebook exchanges on your wall.

I want to give you the good marriage books I read and warn you about the silly ones.

I want to talk about your dreams and hopes and your hair and where you’re going to live.

I want you to sit me down and cut my hair and tell me about all the adventures you want to have. I want to tell you mine.

I want you to look at me without hate in your eyes.

I want to know why you never trusted me, never believed me. Why you lied to me. What did you think I would do? say?

did you think I would leave you?

did you think I would throw you to the wolves?

I just want to be your friend.

I’ve only ever wanted to be your friend.

but I can’t do it anymore.

I have to stop trying to fix it.

I have to stop trying to fix
every
broken
thing

I see.

some things are just broken i guess.

[2013]

2013 taught me about some things.

1. Love looks like whoever is the least-burnt-out willingly doing the dishes

2. It’s OK to give money to a person on the street. And ask what kind of coffee/sandwich they like, before you buy it for them. And their names.

3. It’s amazing how many doors get opened by asking questions and really listening to the answers. And caring.

4. I understand now why people have to break off relationships for their own mental, emotional, or physical safety.

5. As exhilarating as it is to live in a breakneck-speed world of academia, articles, voices, debates, questions, long conversations, doubts, study, and challenges – it’s lonely. Because you inadvertently fall out of pace with so many people who aren’t in such journeys themselves, or who don’t care about so many things, or so deeply.

6. “Please / I know that we’re different / But we were one cell in the sea in the beginning / And what we’re made of / Was all the same once / We’re not that different after all.” ~Miss Alison Sudol

7. Going back to visit school gets harder and lonelier every time. Life at University is like a Polaroid of golden hour, right at the space where it’s the prettiest, ugliest, hardest, most thrilling, achiest, and greatest thing all at the same time. But that’s it. Teachers and students leave, new faces fill up, new buildings come in, new rules and regulations get set down. Eventually everything you loved about it fades or crumbles away, like when you paint the floor black after a show…erasing scuff marks, tape, tears, sweat, and everything else that went into building the performance. It’s just shiny black, now. Somewhere underneath are your memories, but nothing recognizable remains. Just echos in a familiar space.

8. I might love something so much, with so much of myself, but I can’t do it alone. It takes many hands and hearts to pull off something great.

9. Nothing will break you more solidly than learning you’ve been lied to for a long time.

10. Wanting to help, and not being able to, is the worst.

11. Being open, being honest, is worth any awkwardness or faux pas that tend to come along with it.

12. If you aren’t saying something good, beautiful, wise, or worth my time, I really don’t have to listen to you or accept what you’re saying. Conversely, I ought to listen openly to anyone’s opinion, especially if they are older and more experienced than I am. It’s finding a happy medium between the two that’s the difficult bit.

13. And finally, wise words to live by imparted to me from a world traveller with a T.S. Eliot tattoo on her back:

“You do you. I’ll do me.”

The Florist’s Shop: A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Flower Shop. It was a small shop in a small town, owned independently by a sweet family – namely a  young woman named Lily and her husband Jack. They were bright, peppy entrepreneurs, and their devotion to their small business was exceeded only by their devotion to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Lily had ordered hand-painted signs off etsy, etched in her favorite Bible verses, to adorn her Flower Shop. Their “open/close” sign proclaimed a cheerful “God Bless!” at the bottom. They even invited customers to attend church services with them on a fairly regular basis.

They were not shy about their faith, and furthermore they were not shy about arranging fabulous flowers.

One day Lily received a phone call from a prospective customer. The voice was that of a cheerful young lady, much like Lily’s own voice. “I have heard so many wonderful things about your shop,” the woman gushed. “My sister hired you to arrange flowers for her wedding last year.” Lily remembered the name, delighted to make a family connection. Lily invited the young woman and her fiancé to come into the shop sometime soon to discuss details and prices.

“I will tell her,” the woman replied excitedly. “In fact, Lara and I will see you around 3 this afternoon. Sound OK?”

Lily replied in the affirmative and hung up the telephone slowly.

Feeling torn, feeling unsure, Lily called Jack from the back room and discussed the gay couple who was coming to look at their flower shop. The gay couple who was planning to hire them for a gay wedding.

At 3pm sharp, the young couple arrived at the shop. Lily and Jack shook hands with Lara and with Simone, the young woman to whom Lily had spoken on the phone.

The pair of couples talked about pricing and the wedding budget.

They talked about themes, colors, and wedding gowns.

They talked about sizes, quantity, and all the different shades of orange.

They talked about many things, and it grew close to closing time.

“Lily, thank you so much for taking time out of your afternoon to chat with us,” said Simone, adjusting the shoulder strap of her purse in preparation to exit the shop. “I will be in touch.”

Lily smiled. “It was wonderful to meet you both.”

After shop proprietors shook hands again with Lara and Simone, Jack placed his arm around on the small of Lily’s back and nodded his affirmation to the pair. “Please continue to keep us updated. It sounds like it will be a really special ceremony.”

Lara smiled excitedly and caught eyes with Simone. “That’s our hope. It’s tough reconciling enough family and friends to make a wedding without too much… arguing, I guess. But I’m optimistic.”

Lily placed both her hands over Lara’s. “Well, please don’t hesitate to call even if you just need a friendly voice. I remember how stressful planning our wedding was.”

“And believe me,” said Jack, “Lily has been shoulder-to-cry-on and counselor to the girls around here just as often as she’s arranged flowers for their weddings.”

Simone and Lara chuckled, and Lara gave an appreciate squeeze to Lily’s hands. “That really means a lot. Thank you so much.”

As they turned toward the door, Simone turned back and asked one final question. “I take it you guys attend a church, right?” she said, gesturing with her eyes to the various indicators of Christianity sprinkled tastefully throughout the shop.

“We do,” said Lily, smiling, and told her the name. “Are you two looking for a home church?”

“Maybe,” said Simone. “Either way, we’d love to visit yours, if you’re representative members.”

“Let us know, for sure,” said Jack. “We’d love to take you sometime.”

Goodbyes were said. The bell caught the door on the way out. The clock read 5:03pm. Lily changed the sign from Open to Close.

[and, because of love without boundaries, two searching hearts were tugged from Closed to Open]

Remembering Deborah / Being the Baby

I.

This is Deborah:

Deborah

In a time when the children of Israel did was what right in their own eyes, Deborah stood as a prophetess of Yahweh and a civil judge. As a judge, she oversaw matters of administration, the settlement of disputes, and military leadership. Deborah went with Barak, a trusted military commander who was under her authority, into battle against the forces of Jabin and Sisera.

On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves– praise the LORD!

Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.

O LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.

In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.

When they chose new gods, war came to the city gates, and not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD!

You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the righteous acts of the LORD, the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel.

Then the people of the LORD went down to the city gates.

‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, O Barak! Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.’

Christ followers and Bible-believers have struggled for centuries with where to put women.

We have struggled with how to reconcile women like Deborah with other biblical language about “submitting,” “being busy at home,” and Paul “not permitting women to speak in church” meetings. It’s a valid struggle. I don’t think it’s a struggle we will fully figure out without God’s direct intervention. Until then, every day we must face the imperfect efforts of women trying to follow God, men trying to follow God, and a world trying to put men and women in their Right Places.

But no matter how we interpret troublesome or difficult passages, Deborah existed. Deborah is a celebrated figure in the Hebrew Scriptures. Deborah gives me something important to hold on to. Because of Deborah, if God has given me something to say, I will not be afraid of saying it. While I respect and submit to my father and husband out of love, family, and in following the example of Christ, I will not be afraid to call them out for sin or foolishness. I do not have to second-guess myself simply because I am a woman. If I am in a God-honoring position of power, I don’t have to let anyone tell me that I’m only there because “God couldn’t find a man.”

Because that’s what I see in Deborah.

II.

My husband and I both have full-time jobs. He is also a full-time student, and I’m on the leadership board of a nonprofit theatre group. On occasion, we deal with stress and drama from both sides of the family. And sometimes we’re just in bad moods. Sometimes one of us is needy, upset, or frustrated.

Sometimes….well, we need to be the baby.

“…Are you the baby today?”

“I’m the baby.”

These are not at all uncommon phrases to be uttered in our living room. Because, you know, life can be draining. Family members feud and friends abandon you and work is really demanding sometimes. Sometimes you just need someone to cradle you on the couch.

This is one of my favourite aspects of our marriage. My marriage isn’t defined by unflinching roles of Leader/Follower, Stronger/Weaker, Aggressor/Peacemaker, Breadwinner/Homemaker or anything else. In our marriage, we can be weak when we need to be weak. We can be strong for each other when weakness does come. Life is hard, and we all relate to it differently. Some days will not be hard for me, but they will be hard for him. And it’s a source of the greatest, wordless reassurance when my husband becomes my shoulder to cry on when it’s a hard day for me.

That’s taking care. That’s {submitting}. That’s {loving as Christ loved} – which is characterized by not insisting on one’s own way (1 Cor. 13:4-5). And, oddly (or not so oddly…) those two things look so similar…don’t they?

Because it’s just two different phrases for selflessness. It’s two different terms for dying to myself and lifting the needs of the other person above me. It’s different phrasing for the core issue of “you are my priority, and I will help, support, and care for you in any way that I possibly can.”

We’re talking about the same thing. Mutual submission. Mutual love.

And boy, am I glad that we can each be the baby sometimes. We need each other.

You Keep Using That Word {i do not think it means what you think it means}

Today I will talk (again) about Just Saying What You Mean.

Currently, it is very “in” to talk about “traditional marriage.” But if you are inclined to say “traditional marriage” – I think it very likely that is not what you mean to say.

What you mean to say is “one man one woman marriage” or “marriage as I believe God intended” or “marriage modeled after Adam and Eve.”

But -in the hopes of appealing to nonChristian audiences, and in the hopes of making nonChristian arguments against the legalization of gay marriage- people have instead really jumped on the phrase “traditional marriage.”

So, in light of that… here are

Four Things You Can Do To Preserve Traditional Marriage:

1. Marry your spouse for money, social position, or political advantage

2. Give your husband the right to rape, beat, or divorce you with no social, legal, or monetary ramifications

3. Get married and start having children around the time you’re able to reproduce – or at the very least before the age of 20

4. Let your family pick your spouse for you

Ready to rethink “traditional marriage” yet? Ready to get more specific, more intentional with your words?

What Has Fear to do with Faith? Part 1: An Introduction / The Romeike Family

1
::in which I introduce the topic of Fear.

I have decided to write a series of posts on the subject of Fear. Fear is something that creeps into the carpet and into our minds quietly, but more and more I am shaking awake and noticing others embedded in the coils of fear. Christians do talk about fear. Sometimes. Kind of. Certain types of fear; certain things to fear.

We talk about fear of loneliness, fear of singleness, fear of disease, failure, and death. We have such a strange juxtaposition in Western, Christian culture, in the way we talk about fear. On the one hand, we talk about having “freedom from fear” through Christ in such a fluffy, abstract way. Yet at the same time, we foster fear of losing our freedoms. Fear of the government. Fear of bodies, fear of sex, fear of differing opinions, fear of persecution. Fear of messing up. Fear of being wrong. Fear of sin. Fear of other people’s sin.

I think we have a fear of giving too much grace. Or of giving grace but not giving enough “truth” (or, our opinion on Truth). I think we have a fear of looking weak. I think we have a fear of our God looking weak. But Jesus took on weakness in many ways; he came to shame the powerful by using weak – and he started with himself. Jesus was serious about reminding people that choices have consequences, but Jesus never picked up a sword and Jesus didn’t fight back when he was beat up on. Jesus didn’t invoke his God-given rights. Jesus died. And this biblical description should speak loudly into how we fear, and think about fear.

2
::in which I talk about the Romeike Family

Currently there is a German family called Romeike seeking permanent asylum in the United States, because attending an outside school is mandated in Germany, and Mr. & Mrs. Romeike desperately wish to homeschool their children. Though they have been living in the U.S. for 5 years, and though initially they were approved to stay, the ruling has recently been reversed by the courts. Still they fight (with the aid of HSLDA) against deportation.

I ache for my brothers and sisters, fellow believers, in the Romeike family. My own mother has told my numerous times about when she was first convicted to homeschool, and I cannot imagine the pain that loving, involved parents must endure when they are told “no” by the state or country. I count myself blessed to live in a country where such laws do not exist; I enjoy living in a place so generous about personal liberties and subcultures. I think the German stance of desiring to prevent parallel societies is a terrifying one – and one that stifles creativity, faith, and individual growth.

However, just because I think something is sad does not mean much. The Romeikes may be deported. The courts may rule that U.S. asylum spots would better serve other people who are fleeing from more dangerous, more life-threatening situations. The Romeike children may be compelled to continue their education in German public or private schools; and if Uwe and Hannalore continue to keep their children at home, the children may be forcibly removed. I think that is a sad thing – and I am fortunate to be neither a ruling judge nor a German refugee in this tricky situation.

3
::back to Fear

The Main Thing in this situation, after the sadness and the anger and the talk of basic human rights, is the fear.

Many people desire to increase the time they spend with their children by homeschooling. Many educators desire to homeschool their children to ensure the quality of the child’s education does not suffer in a chaotic, teach-to-the-test public school system. Many Christians desire to homeschool in order to remove influences of bullying, peer pressure, Godless sex-ed, science with which they disagree, and generally secular worldviews.

Those desires, I think, are generally good and benign. Those desires often spring from strong, nurturing, parental love. I would share some of those desires; were I to ever have a child, I don’t know if I could put him in a public school. I’ve seen so much hurt from it.

But I also know that, if for whatever reason, I had no choice in the matter, God is so much bigger.

And it seems so often that the possibility of good desires not coming to fruition scares the living daylights out of us.

From their actions, I think it’s very possible the Romeikes cannot imagine being able to raise their children without homeschooling. It seems like public school would be the very worst thing for them. And yes, public school can be a very bad thing. But again, fear has started to strangle when we go from very bad thing to the Very Worst Thing.

It is wonderful to have rights – but we live in a broken world and cannot always have them. Christ gave up his own rights in order to show us how to love and serve. Christ showed us that, no matter how dire of a situation we find ourselves in, we still look to God; we still trust God. The Bible is not a parenting “handbook” – and nowhere in the Bible is modern homeschooling advocated above modern public schooling (neither institution existed). What God desires of parents is for them to protect, love, and train their children in the best way they are able.

And when we are shut down? When our options are taken away? When we are persecuted? There is grace.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (M. 5:4).

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (M. 5:10).

Let us show the world, let us show our children, that the kingdom of heaven cannot be stifled by persecution. That love covers over a multitude of sins. That no hard thing is too hard for Christ. That government-mandated worldly influence, even for 8 hours a day, can be defeated by a mother’s example and a father’s kind word. That grace is big enough – that grace covers.

***

Postscript: If your take-away from this post is ‘my personal opinion on whether the Romeikes should be deported,’  you have misread and can find that conversation elsewhere on the Internet.