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Monday, March 23, 2015

Responsible TO, not Responsible FOR

I'm one of the "Moral Focus Coaches" at my older kids' school. It's just a volunteer thing - parents teach a little lesson on the monthly character trait once a week. I love it. I love teaching the lessons, being with the kids, and I love that the whole school does the same trait at the same time.

So this month, the word is "Responsibility." Sounds great. Maybe this will be the month my 2nd grader remembers that it's his responsibility to bring home his homework folder every day. (seriously - the child forgets it at least twice a week! Lord help us). I love Responsibility! We use Love & Logic a lot at home and the main idea behind L&L is raising responsible kids. 

But as I read the official definition of the word, I felt like something was missing.


Sure. Being responsible means I take care of my own stuff; I do what I'm supposed to do; I admit to my own mistakes and try to fix them. All of that is true.

But on some level, aren't we responsible TO each other? Maybe I'm not responsible FOR you - I can't make your choices, force you to do or not do something. I can't rescue you from the consequences of your actions.  But doesn't responsibility also connect me to someone else? The definition above seems to start and end with me. But I think we have a responsibility TO our community, TO the people with whom we share our world. Don't we?

I fear that Responsibility as an American value has become an individualized trait. I am responsible FOR me. Period. End of Story. While this is true in many ways (I can't control a single person other than myself), I fear what happens when "Being Responsible" is all about me.

I can do my own thing, take care of me and mine, focus on what I need to do. And life, for me and my family, would probably be okay. 

But what about my community, my world? The world I'm leaving for my kids, grandkids, and their children? Am I not responsible to the lives I touch? If I don't take responsibility to leave this world a better place, who will?

I think about the folks who are homeless that I see every week when I volunteer at our local day shelter. Am I not responsible TO them somehow? I am a person of means, with access to resources. While I can't make their choices for them, I can be responsible for treating them with compassion. I can't rescue them from the consequences of their actions, but I can be there when they need to talk, help them find the open doors to services, volunteer to make sure no one freezes outside on a cold night because there was nowhere else for them to go. I don't want to live in a compassionless community. Aren't we responsible for that? 

I think about the children in Swaziland. Are we not responsible TO our brothers & sisters across the planet? People, fellow human beings, are starving. They don't have access to medical care. Yet I have enough to eat; I can go to the doctor anytime I want. Emergency rooms can't turn me away.  I suppose I could say, "that's not my problem." But why would we do that? I don't want to be that kind of person. 

I think about women and children being trafficked in the sex trade. If we know it's happening, aren't we responsible to act? Because if we don't... who will? Do we want to live in a world where we know this is happening, yet don't care enough to do something about it? If the answer is no, then aren't we responsible TO act on their behalf?

And what about our fellow humans being forced to work in slave conditions in factories world-wide. We are the consumers of the products made by their hands. Doesn't this give us some responsibility? I eat chocolate; my money pays the chocolate companies. Aren't I responsible, at least a little, for making sure I don't purchase chocolate that was harvested by children who were trafficked into slavery? And my clothing? I buy & wear clothes... doesn't that link me to the hands that made my clothing? If I'm not responsible TO them somehow, then I guess it doesn't matter if I buy clothing made by slaves. But that's just not okay with me.

Right here, in my own community, people are being mistreated. We hear stories of racism every day. I don't want to raise my children in a racist society. But is it enough just for ME not to be racist? What about working towards equality? Aren't I responsible TO my fellow humans who say they've been oppressed? If I say I'm against oppression, there must be a responsibility that follows... right?

I would love to live in a community where being responsible TO each other is highly valued. I would love to see this become an American value: having compassion for one another, caring for one another to the extent that we feel responsible TO one another.. To be a truly great nation, we need to see and hear our most oppressed groups and take on the responsibility of solving the problems. Individualism isn't bad... but I think we can do something greater.

There's a big difference between being Responsible FOR and Responsible TO. And maybe I'm not responsible FOR anyone other than myself and my family. That's okay. But friends... let's be responsible TO each other. What a wonderful world that would be.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The missing piece of #RaceTogether

There's this crazy idea... I actually got it from Jesus: it's called Relationships.

It means investing in people, making sure they know you care about them no matter what before making any kind of commentary on their life choices, before talking with them about important, difficult, or controversial issues. (interesting side note: once you actually do care about someone, you may be surprised to find that you no longer feel a desire to comment on their life choices)

And it can look like this: I have a friend I can call when I need someone to tell me the truth. I hope y'all all have this friend. Mine's name is Amber. I call Amber after an argument with my husband and instead of joining me in husband-bashing she tells me, "Yeah, you definitely need to apologize."  Or I can call her after a mom-fail and Amber will acknowledge, "Yup. Total mom-fail. It sucks, doesn't it?"  Yet I never feel beat-down after talking with her. You know why? We've been friends a long time. I know she loves me. She has helped me out with my kids, has listened to me cry when I was losing my dad. She has put in the hard work. She earned the place in my life to tell me hard things, the things I don't always want to hear.  We don't have to agree all the time (and often we don't, especially about the controversial, difficult topics) but she can tell me hard things because we've earned the right to speak truth into each other's lives. We have a real relationship.

This week, Starbucks launched an interesting campaign, encouraging their Baristas to talk about race issues with customers and write #RaceTogether on coffee cups. I applaud them as a company for being willing to go there, for trying to be part of starting some hard conversations.  But here's what's missing from that equation: relationships. I don't know my Starbucks Baristas and the role they play in my life doesn't fall into that inner-circle of people with whom I can wrestle with the hard issues.

But this raises a good point: who are those folks for you? If not with your Barista, who can you have the hard conversations about race with? And... most importantly.... do those people all look like you? If the only people with whom I can have conversations about race are all white, there's a problem.

I wasn't planning on writing about this yet, but now feels like the time to share my latest "crazy idea" (I have some friends who probably cringe every time I send them an email with this in the subject line). I've just started meeting with a group to talk intentionally about race. We are a group of women of different races, different faiths, different backgrounds. And we meet once a month for two purposes: 1. to build relationships, 2. to talk about race issues.  No hidden agenda - just a place where we can come and talk honestly and openly about our experiences with race and invest in each other's lives.

You know why? Because talking about race outside of relationships tends to be counter-productive. Talking about any controversial or difficult subject outside of relationships doesn't quite help as much. It's like that old adage "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Who could you #RaceTogether with? Is it time to reach out? Maybe not to ask a stranger weird, intrusive questions about race... but to build a relationship?  Is your circle all the same color? Or the same faith? Imagine if it were different? You can change that!  Invite someone to coffee or a meal. Invest in a relationship.

And this can be awkward. I get it. Let me tell you - it was humbling to ask some of my acquaintances to be part of my Women's Group. I had to approach some women that I don't know all that well and say, "I'm doing this thing... and I don't know much about your culture but I really would like to. Would you be interested in coming?"  It was scary and I feared being misunderstood, or mocked, or just outright rejected.  But guess what? I wasn't. So far, no one has called me an idiot. At least not to my face.

We can do hard things. Relationships are hard. If you are married, you already know this. But they are also worth the investment.  It's hard to reach out and start a relationship with someone different from you. Harder even than asking a stranger random questions about race.  But when we invest in each other, we earn the privilege to have those conversations about hard things. And when we invest in people who are different from us, be it race, faith, socio-economic status, we grow. Usually into better humans. We understand more when we can learn to see life through our friends' eyes.

So thank you, Starbucks, for the willingness to try to start the hard conversations. It may be easy to mock (oh Twitter...) but I think we can still learn something important here and this could spark something good.

Listen to the Voices

"Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable." 
Nelson Mandela

Last week, I had a pretty amazing experience. I was invited to a meeting/rally/discussion about minimum wage.  Specifically, a community push to raise minimum wage to $15/hour.

I remember hearing about the fast food workers' strikes. They've been going on since 2012. And to be honest, while I have never believed that minimum wage was a livable wage, I haven't put a whole lot of thought into it. I am a social worker, I fully understand how ludicrous and unrealistic our "poverty line" is and I know that no one can actually live with just one minimum wage job... yet I haven't given it that much space in my head. At least not much about my responsibility in relation to the problem.

So that night, I went to listen. I'm not well-versed on the subject. In the past, I've read some studies saying that a $15 minimum wage would be feasible in our economy; I've also read some that say it would cause job loss and could ultimately harm those it should help. I'm not an economist, I hadn't done a lot of research. But one thing I can do: I can listen.

And that night, I heard the voices. There was a panel of people involved in the movement. A dad of a sweet boy still in diapers, struggling to provide for his son, sharing the indignity of having a strong work ethic, yet being paid little and treated even worse in a minimum wage job.  A recent college grad sharing that he was the first in his family to graduate from college, his family feeling like finally a college education was accessible to people of color... and then realizing that soon he has to start paying back that $25,000 student debt, and can't find a job that will pay him enough to manage his debt and support himself.  I heard from an in-home healthcare worker who has to work 80-120 hours a week just to support her family. There was a teacher there, describing the struggle of teacher's assistants and the effects on the children of the low-wage families she teaches. These are good people, people who are taking time out of their busy lives to make a difference... all while struggling to provide for their families because their jobs don't provide livable wages.

And then I was shocked. Y'all... I have been a social worker for almost 14 years. I do not get shocked. Nothing surprises me anymore. But I learned last night that our community has adjunct professors at our universities that are struggling to make it. We have PROFESSORS who can't pay their bills, Masters and PhD professors who are forced to teach 10 classes a semester at more than one university just to make ends meet.  And they are afraid to talk about it. A statement was read from one such professor. She didn't attend the rally because she feared she'd lose her job if her university knew she was speaking out.

The meeting started in the most beautiful way. It was a call and response chant: "I love my brothers, I love my sisters, I love my kindred."  If you've never attended a community action event, go do it. Even if you aren't sure you support the cause. Put faces to the people who are struggling. Hear the voices of the people asking to be heard. No matter what we believe or think, we can always listen.

And I have Privilege - I can walk away from this gathering and do nothing. I could go back to my every-day life. But just like I believe it takes a village to raise a good child, I believe it takes a village to create a good community. So now I've accepted part of the burden. I want to carry the message, carry their voices. I want y'all to know.

Here's my concern: $7.25 an hour is not nearly enough for someone to support themselves, much less a family. Clearly we need livable wages. If our economy can't handle paying folks $15 for minimum wage... what is wrong with our system? Something is seriously wrong if we have an economic system that can't handle paying, at minimum, a livable wage. These are the tough questions. The wealth gaps in our country are ever-widening. Our rich are getting richer and our poor are getting poorer. This scares me.

When someone says something and it doesn't line up with my own experiences, it's easy to discount it. I see this happen all the time.  But what if we listened? What if we believed people when they told us their stories, their struggles? When I hear you, I become part of your story and we can share our burdens. We can walk together.

I had the beautiful honor to listen last week.  And if you are so inclined, you can learn more about the Raise Up for 15 movement here: http://www.raiseupfor15.org/

There's probably not a simple solution. But no matter where you stand on the matter of minimum wage.... I want to remind you that we can always listen. It may be more powerful than you think.

Want some more resources? I found these helpful in understanding minimum-wage, livable or "Living Wage" 
This article is long, but great. If you are short on time, read the first two pages: 
http://www.ncjustice.org/sites/default/files/LIS%20report%20-%20PN-WEB2.pdf

This one is from back in 2013, but still has some good info on minimum wage:
http://www.ncjustice.org/sites/default/files/NCJC%20Brief%20-%20Minimum%20Wage.pdf


And just a fun-fact.. minimum wage hasn't been adjusted for inflation in a looooong time. If it had been, it would already be over $10/hour. Yikes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Truth About You...

It's really important to me to speak Truth to people. Not "tell the truth," although that's important too. I mean speak Truth. This is how Jesus spoke to others and I want to do the same.

It usually looks like this: I validate, encourage, normalize. I think the human experience has way more commonalities than it does differences. All moms are doing their best. All of us want the best for our kids. Sometimes those details look different, but at the end of the day we are all on the same team.  And all of us want meaningful lives. The details of what makes life meaningful may differ, but at the end of the day, we want to feel we've made a difference somehow. We all want to succeed. And when I talk to people in my life, whether it is personally or professionally, I try to speak in ways that communicate Truth to them. I'm on their team, no matter what that team is. We all are.

So yesterday, when the sermon at church was about some things that are true about us NO MATTER WHAT, I was pretty excited.

We're studying 1 John and it's been fun to watch my husband (who is the pastor of our church) get all excited about it. He says he has so much to say about it he could preach on it for a year (don't worry, missio, he won't). He says he may start a blog (two bloggers in one house? uh oh...)

Anyway, there are five things that the Bible says about us in 1 John that are true no matter what. No matter what we think, no matter what we believe, no matter what we have experienced. That's pretty amazing.

Here they are:
1. Your sins are sent away (like far, far away). Side note: sin is anything that separates you from God. So this means that whatever separates us from God was taken care of when Jesus died. I don't need to get all hung up on all my mistakes, all the ways I've failed. There's no point to that. Wow.

2. You know God - listen to that still voice, look at the beauty of nature, think of the good you see in yourself and in others... you've seen God!

3. You are strong. Yup. I have seen strength in people who thought they were weak. I've seen friends handle circumstances beyond their control. I wasn't sure I was ever going to get out of the depression I sank into after Amani came home and I started living the reasons why adoption is so tough... but I did. I didn't think I could make it through losing my dad but here I am. I'm still kickin', even on the tough days.

4. The word of God lives in you - this doesn't mean the Bible necessarily. When the Bible talks about the "Word of God" it describes how God became a living, breathing, alive being. That was Jesus and he lives on in the Holy Spirit in all of us. All the crazy details aside, God is in you. This is why I love the greeting "Namaste" - the divine in me salutes the divine in you. That is so incredibly beautiful it kinda makes me cry. I can see the face of God whenever I look at my friends. Amazing.

5. You have overcome the evil one. I love shared victories. Last year, I ran the Rugged Maniac with a group of seriously kick-ass women and we decided we would run as a team. Some of us (ahem, not me) were in much better physical condition and could have left the rest of us in the dust, but we worked as a team to get to the finish line. It was one of my most favorite days. The Bible says we get to share Jesus' victory. He died and came back to life to bring us back to God, to defeat evil. He won. But he did it for us. We won. What what? That's crazy.

This is the kind of Truth I want to speak into everyone I know. I'm not really comfortable speaking "Christian-ese" - that language we often use when talking about Jesus. But in regular words, I imagine it sounds like this: "God loves you, he is on your side, I can see God in you, you can do this."

So, my crazy crew of readers: what if we lived like these things were true? What if we lived like we knew God was FOR us and that we already have what it takes to be amazing? What kinds of things would we do if we stopped being afraid, stopped feeling insecure? What if we remembered that God is already with us?

Those things are true, friends, no matter what. Wow. So go ahead, be amazing. You already are.


Just for fun: here's how the some of the missio kids taught us the Greek words for those five things yesterday. I love how they are cracking up!  I seriously love my church! Can you see who was the "evil one" HA!

Jonas threw a ball as far as he could to show us that our sins were FAR AWAY
Caleb looked inside the bag to KNOW there was a car in it (versus believing when someone told him there was a car)
Noah got a medal for being STRONG and VICTORIOUS
Riley's all packed up to ABIDE with you (Rob may have made this a serious offer during the sermon. ha!)
Allyn - the DARK SIDE. Enough said. ;)


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mom-Fail

I often joke that I think part of the reason for my existence is to help others feel better about themselves. I am often a complete mess. I forget stuff, I double-book things, I certainly don't shower every day and I tend to drop my kids off at school while still wearing my pajamas.  And in the past years I've just started owning it. And every time I do, some other mama thanks me for making her feel better. So that makes me feel better. And then we all hold hands and sing kumbaya.

Ahem.

So I feel the need to tell y'all: I think I have now managed the BEST WORST Mom-Fail in the history of all my mom fails. In the world, possibly.

Allow me to set the scene:

My four year old is struggling a little lately with his behavior. Normal stuff - like doing the OPPOSITE of what he has just been told to do. Intentionally messing up his older siblings' stuff. You know how it goes.

He's also dramatic. Oh wait, I mean DRAMATIC. I think he has learned it from his older brother. And maybe there's a bit of drama in the Ethiopian genes as well.

So recently he intentionally ran his finger through his sister's drawing while the ink was still wet. And I'm all about some restorative discipline but I'm also human and I have three kids and I think I was trying to cook dinner and so in that moment I had no energy for one of those wonderful "let's work together to make it better" moments.

I sent him to time-out. And gave a little push to send him in the right direction.

And my wonderfully dramatic child throws himself to the floor. Screaming. Giant alligator tears.

At the exact same moment, my 8 year-old rolls his eyes and says, "he has to go to time-out for THAT?!?" Sass, people. Eight year old sass on top of four year old tantruming. Have I mentioned how much I am nailing this motherhood thing? Nailing it.

So in all my motherhood wisdom, I sent the 8 year old to go sit by himself in another room for being disrespectful.

At this point at least I did one smart thing: took care of the potential burning dinner on the stove while the boys sat. In time out. That parenting technique I no longer use (ha!) because those restorative discipline strategies work so much better. Failing parenthood but hey - at least we still eat!

And I gathered myself together, took some deep breaths (and a handful of chocolate chips) and calmed down. We always process together whenever any discipline has happened. So I talk with the 4 year old, make sure he understands why he had to sit in time out, he apologizes to his sister. All good.

I call the 8 year old over. He sits on my lap on the kitchen floor and says to me, "I just didn't like it when you hit Amani into the kitchen."

I'm shocked. We don't even spank in our house and my 8 year old believes I just hit my four year old (I told you - this four year old is seriously good at the DRAMA. Oscars, here we come.).

Have I ever mentioned that I talk with my hands a lot? Um... so my response to the 8 year old: "Oh my goodness... baby... Mommy would NEVER hit Amani into the kitchen!" To emphasize the "NEVER", my hands went out and into the air and ...smacked him right across his sweet face! And he has crazy chapped lips from all this winter air so his little already-split lip starts bleeding.

Y'all. In the moment of explaining to my child that "Baby, you know we do not hit! Mommy will never hit you or your siblings!" I actually smack him in the face! And make him bleed! Mom-fail of the year. Of the century. I thought I might sink into the floor right then and there.

You are welcome, universe. I think I can successfully make every mom on the planet feel better about herself with that one.

This parenthood thing requires a lot of self-forgiveness doesn't it? I'm still working on forgiving myself for that one.  And in case you were wondering, we did a LOT of snuggling after the face-smacking incident. And lots of chapstick. I think everyone's going to survive.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Color of Your Broken Pieces

For years, I didn't think I fit in to Women's Ministry. I would attend women's Bible studies and my thoughts didn't seem to align with the women with whom I sat. I would attend women's events with fabulously decorated tables and decor. Over-the-top beautiful settings. And I would sit at the table, uncomfortable, self-conscious, just waiting for the moment I knocked over my ginger-peach-sweet-tea-in-a-fancy-goblet.

Once I was asked to decorate a table at a Women's Event. You know, since I was a wife of one of the staff pastors at church. It's actually called "Festival of Tables." I wish I had pictures to show you. It's amazing, truly.  They gave me the theme of (drum roll please): Africa (insert pet-peeve about Africa being considered one big country)  Oh y'all, just imagine the mess: I owned four place mats; I think they were green. "Good," I thought, "Green. That can be African." So I brought them. And I had some random wooden African animals I'd brought home from Ethiopia for my kids. And a multi-colored wrap Rob bought me in Swaziland that I wear when I'm there (and I'm fairly certain a Swazi child peed on once). It was clean. I think. I put it all in a bag and arrived to set-up. Someone asked me, noticing my one bag, "Oh, do you need help for the rest of your stuff?" That was when I thought I might be in trouble. Women needed rolling carts to bring in everything they had for their tables.  I tossed my wrap on my assigned table, eyeing the women around me artfully arranging their table-scapes. I didn't know I was supposed to bring my own china, so used the church's plates (which were way nicer than anything I had at home anyway). Two places didn't have place mats. Some kind soul tried to help and encouraged me to "create some height" while handing me a small cardboard box. I plopped it in the middle of the table and stuck an elephant on it. I learned later it was supposed to be covered in some kind of linen and covered it in some of the church's napkins. You know, since I hadn't brought any napkins of my own. The table next to mine had a 5 foot-high centerpiece made of real flowers, matching china and embroidered place mats and napkins. And a personalized take-home treat for each guest matching the theme. Yup. Y'all, I didn't even sit at my own table! I hid out at a different one across the room, hoping no one would ask any questions. When it was over, I lingered, pretending to "chat" and then hid in the bathroom until other ladies had carefully dismantled their tables. Then I threw all my stuff in a bag and high-tailed it outta there. I probably don't need to tell you I wasn't invited to decorate a table the following year. I think the organizer knew that was an act of mercy, really.

I attended Bible studies about motherhood, about being a wife, about being a pastor's wife. And I always left feeling like a fish out of water. I wanted to believe God had a plan for me, but I could never find it in those beautifully decorated spaces where women discussed their roles as it related to their marriages. I thought it meant something about me. I wondered why I couldn't fit into the role God had put me in. Why don't I feel comfortable in all the ministry settings designed for women? Why does a doily send me into a tailspin? Why can't I play the piano and create beautiful spaces like all the other pastor's wives? What is wrong with me? Why don't my broken pieces fit?

So I stopped going. I realized it wasn't the place for me and it was too painful and exhausting to pretend all the time and bite my tongue. But over the years, I've found the places God has for me: I am at home at the homeless shelter; I have found groups of women with whom I feel safe being real; I can be me when I'm working on social justice issues and how that relates to following Jesus.  I discovered that people write books called "Jesus Feminist" and that God made me who I am and I don't have to mess with his design. My path isn't in the beautifully decorated spaces. And today that is just fine by me. I no longer worry about not fitting in. Because God has a place for me where my broken pieces fit. Even though those pieces aren't pink, pretty, or even coordinated.

This past weekend, I had the crazy honor of helping at the Connected in Hope table at a women's conference. Connected in Hope is an organization I believe in with my whole heart - they are helping the orphan issue in Ethiopia by helping mamas KEEP their children - providing the opportunity for sustainable, predictable incomes, and access to healthcare and education. Just amazing. And the icing on the cake?  Jen Hatmaker was going to be the speaker. I was SO excited.

As I walked in, I stopped dead in my tracks: the place was head-to-toe hot pink. Hot pink tulle draped from the ceiling, cascading down the stairs, tied in big bows in the center of tables. Black and white damask photo booths with ornate frames hanging on ribbons for photo ops. Tiny pink cupcakes on over-sized cake stands (artfully interspersed with chocolate brownies, of course). Hot pink couch with lacy pillows. Beautifully dressed women in perfect makeup walking around wearing monogrammed boots (For real. Maybe you already know about this? Monogrammed boots. This is a thing.).  This was the exact kind of event that made me feel so apart and alone years ago.

So clearly, I fit in just fine.

But instead of feeling inferior, I was happy. I looked around and saw the thousand women there and how comfortable they were in that setting. I thought about how much Jesus loved them. They did some kind of cheerleader-y dance in the morning session and I stood in the back, watching the participants clapping and singing along. (confession: I may have texted a few friends in search of some support. I had a teeny moment in which I thought I might sink through the floor. But, never fear, I persevered). I no longer need my broken pieces to be pink and I can celebrate the pink pieces of my sisters. I am not the woman this conference was designed for and I no longer worry about it.

Instead, the amazing part of the conference was hearing Pam Simpson speak about Connected in Hope; it was getting to proudly stand at the table and tell the story of my sisters in Ethiopia. It was having the honor of selling (and wearing) their beautiful scarves and jewelry - the amazing work that provides them the sustainable and predictable income they said they needed in order to break the cycle of poverty. My broken pieces fit just fine at the Connected in Hope table.

My broken pieces aren't pink. They are the red, green, yellow, and blue of the Ethiopian flag. They are the varied browns of the faces of the people I love in Swaziland. They are the dirty denim color of a donated pair of too-big jeans on a precious soul in the homeless shelter, they are the rainbow of the allies of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. My broken pieces aren't pretty or lacy or monogrammed. And I am a woman, designed by God, forever-learning to follow Jesus. I'm not a mistake.

I'm trying to learn that God loves me, no matter the color of my broken pieces, as much as he loves those hot-pink-pieced women. I know he does. I'm so thankful that he is proving it to me over and over again.

Are you a hot-pink-pieced sister? I love you. I love that you can go to those Women's Ministry events and connect with God. Are you an anything-but-hot-pink-pieced sister? I love you. And I'm so thankful to have discovered that you ladies are out there. I'm not alone with my hot-mess-colored pieces. God has a place for our broken pieces, sisters.

No matter the color of your broken pieces.... you can make a difference for a sister on the other side of the world. We can help fellow mamas, just like us.  I have yet to meet a mother who doesn't want the same things for her children: for them to be healthy, to have hope, for education. As a social worker, I have pretty high standards for organizations I support. Connected in Hope is getting it right. Take a minute and check them out here. Plus your broken pieces can look pretty fantastic in their awesome jewelry, scarves and bags. (ha. See what I did there?)

http://www.connectedinhope.org/



Our little team working the Connected in Hope tables

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If:Gathering


If you know me, you know I often struggle with "my own people." Every few months, I decide I am no longer going to call myself a "Christian"... mostly because of ways I see Christians acting in the mainstream media. Or politics. I love Jesus but there are days when I don't want to be aligned with people claiming to follow him. It's a problem, really. Especially when you are married to a pastor (!).

But this past weekend, I was reminded that those in mainstream media and politics aren't the only voices. They don't get to be the only ones representing Jesus. I was reminded that there are so many who call themselves Christians who are committed to beauty and empowerment and want to be used to bring peace and healing.

I had the honor to lead an If:Local again this year, a weekend conference for women. The conference itself takes place in Austin, TX but we live-stream it and have our own discussions/activities with our group.  Sixteen of us took off to Ocean Isle Beach and spent the weekend listening to the speakers, talking with one another, opening up, being honest and vulnerable and real. We left judgment and criticism way behind in Greensboro and focused on listening to each other, encouraging each other, building one another up. Time spent reconnecting to God, confessing our unbelief and doubts and struggles.

And I missed most of it.

My children lovingly shared the stomach bug with me just before I left. I was sick the entire time. I missed one of the speakers entirely and spent most of the rest of the weekend counting down the minutes until I could get back in bed, just praying I wouldn't throw up again. And praying no one else would get it and that I wouldn't be a distraction.

But you know what? The parts I was well enough to focus on were the parts that spoke the most to my soul.  There was a time when we were all called to get on our knees to repent for the state of our nation: to beg for forgiveness for our part in racism, modern-day slavery, and the mess that is our prison system/war-on-drugs and to pray that God would use us to heal our land. We were reminded that Christians should be leading the conversations about and doing the hard work of bridge-building between our races. That we should be the ones standing up, reaching out, and listening to others' experiences. I was reminded that, in the midst of everything, I am called to be "the next most-humblest version of myself." That in everything I do, I should strive to become more humble and think "what would the next, more-humble, version of me do?"

If God is real, then _______.  Then what? How do we live? If this God of ours is real, if he really wants to use us to redeem and restore this broken world of ours, what do we do? We had a chance to respond... to write what we felt God had for us to do next. I blurred these intentionally, but this is a pile of rocks full of BIG things. Actions of healing, of reaching out, of doing hard things.



There is a generation of women rising up, boldly running after God. We want to do the hard things: racial reconciliation, loving our neighbors more than we love ourselves, fighting slavery and sex-trafficking and homelessness and addiction and injustice. These are the words I want people to think of when they hear the word "Christian." I was reminded this weekend that I am not alone. That the face of Jesus is not confined to a political party, or to a vocal minority in the news. We were reminded this weekend that "God is not American." He has come for ALL of us, he is for ALL of us. He loves people, not causes. People, not political parties. God wants to restore and redeem PEOPLE. You. Me. And we can choose to be a part of that.

Me? I don't want to miss a minute.

Are you a local friend and want to know more? I purchased the download of all the speakers and plan to have folks over to watch/discuss in the coming weeks! Let me know if you want an invite! :)

 This post is part of a link-up with other blogs from women around the country/world who participated in If:Gathering. Check out the rest here: http://amyepatton.com/if-gathering-2015-ifstory/