Thursday, June 18, 2020

The church has left the building

Sometime in mid April I saw a little image on social media and it simply read, "The church has left the building". At first I wasn't sure how I felt about that little message.  I mean we all missed meeting together in our church buildings and at that point we weren't sure how long it would be until we would be able to see our people again and worship corporately with our brothers and sisters. There was an empty space in our lives and a little ache.

In the next several days for some reason that little phrase just stuck with me though.  I started to grapple with thoughts about what the purpose of the Church is.  What it should actually look like.  I grew up in church from the time I was tiny.  During most of my childhood if you would say "church" my young mind would conjure up images of a building.  Four walls and a roof.  Sometimes brick.  Maybe a stained glass window or two.  That was my limited definition of church.  It was a place where you learned.  It was a place you were quiet.  It was a place you behaved.  Much has changed in my mind since those late 80's early 90's small town Iowa days.  What a beautiful thing the Church is.

The day the stay home order was put in place by our governor, March 24th 2020, churches were immediately exempt.  We faced no form of "religious persecution" in my mind at all.  Most of our area churches made the choice to take into consideration vulnerable members and compassionately offered alternatives to attending in person gatherings.  Many churches, including ours, offered an online service.  Our particular church eventually moved to also include a drive in service; where our pastor preached from the roof of our church and those who wished to attend drove into the parking lot and could listen  to him from their vehicle radios.

It was difficult - change can be difficult.  It shook us up.  It removed our familiar.  It took adjustments.  But can a shaking up be good?  This time of being under "lock down" has felt like we were being turned upside down and shook up.  Our routine busy was taken away.  Maybe some of our idols were pried from our clenched fists.  It felt weird.  Uncomfortable at times.

"The Church has left the building."

I'm not saying I don't want to go back.  Our state is opening back up.  In the next few months we will, once again, enter those familiar doors and see the beautiful smiles of our church family.  But I want to stay shook up a bit.

Church was when our family gathered together in our living room that first Sunday, not knowing what was going to happen and how long it would be happening.
Church was Dave and Jacob's guitar on our deck and our voices harmonizing in agreement that,
"We'll raise a hallelujah, our weapon is a melody,
We'll raise a hallelujah in the middle of the mystery.
We're going to sing, in the middle of the storm.
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear our praises roar.
Up from the ashes hope will arise.
Death is defeated, the King is alive!"
Church was when Dave humbly served us, his family,  communion that one Sunday.
Church was our yard, and two close friends when the first few restrictions began to lift.  It was tears filling my eyes when I heard our voices sing,
"Is all creation groaning? (it is)
Is a new creation coming? (it is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (IT IS)

It is.  

Our family, along with a couple of our closest friends reminded each other of this.  Truth.  THAT was church.  In a tender moment we affirmed what our hearts needed to be reminded of.
Church was the next week - when things were opened up even further and our yard was full of beautiful souls.
Bon fire, guitars, frisbee, words, golden sun.
Church was yesterday when I sat down with my sister of color and we talked about race.

The church had left the building. And it landed in our yard.  In our living room. In a coffee shop.

I do believe that corporate organized worship and learning in a church building is important. There's unity and accountability and wisdom.

But I want to stay shook up a bit.  I want to keep a changed perspective.  I want church in my house.  I want church in my yard. I want church in my heart - wherever I am. I want to be a "yes" girl for God.  Yes, I'll drop what I'm doing and attend to the people around me.  I won't worry about my house being messy and I'll extend the invitation.  Not stuck in my young girl ideas of walls and a roof....

Shake me up - pour  me out.  

May the church continue to leave the building, even while we once again begin attending the building.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Space to process a heart for real change

I didn't have a black screen on my Instagram last Tuesday - or at any time this past week.
To my horror I found out yesterday that simple fact may very well have put me in a racist category. I see that silence has been interpreted as picking a side. But confusion hung heavy over all.

"Be silent!"

"Pause yourself."


"Speak up!"

"Your silence just labeled you.  You aren't loud enough!"


I would submit for consideration that we give each other a lot more grace and some more understanding. Try to understand that silence. Try to understand that by not immediately joining a movement or trend,  it could mean that someone takes time to process.  That if education is as important as it is being pushed (and I do very much believe in educating oneself with truth) then let's give grace and allow time for it.

My heart has been shattered over the treatment of human life.  I have always been deeply compassionate, empathetic, and pro life.  I know certain people groups have endured treatment I could never even begin to imagine and that I know nothing about.  I know I posses a naivety that is my responsibility to remedy.  I know that black people have been oppressed for so many generations and I know that's not right!

 It's never ever right. 

For as long as I can remember, as a little girl with big hazel eyes and very long brown hair - seeking truth, I have instinctively held to the beautiful concept that God created all human life in His image.  And that absolutely everyone was a treasure to Him.

To God Himself.

A created Treasure.

Every single one. 

Everyone.  All human life. 

And I likely just put myself in a racist category again.

My heart is so so heavy with that.  Because it's not coming from a place of racism and hate at all.  But truth and love and equality.

I have seen the scenarios to try to get white people to understand.

Why have a fireman come to your house if it isn't burning?

Who would ever say to a grieving mother who had just lost her baby, "my baby is important too!"

Yes, I've seen these explanations and more. We need to be more aware of the deep hurt of the black community! We need to be more selfless. I need to do better. 

Lord Jesus, help me to do better!

And what I've seen this week is some of the most harsh treatment of humans in general that I've ever seen in my life. What has surprised me in this fight for racial justice is all the nasty in white people against white people. We need to do better. How is this helping?! If what we are trying to do is erase lines of bias, stop oppression, love bigger,  end profiling and exploitation - it feels very much like failure.

I saw a photographer express some fear last week as she carried out a job photographing in a hot spot where riots were taking place.  She posted in a group I've been a part of for a while where there has always been a lot of encouragement and helpful feedback.  She was scared.  She wanted to do her job well, and the location was potentially dangerous.
In response she was belittled.  Told her fear was wrong. That it was fake.  Dumb. Selfish. Racist.  Called names.  Threatened.  Told she would be banned from the group.  She was told she had no right to her voice.  To shut the %$@* up.

I understand that what black people have experienced in the past, and still presently combat on a daily basis, is nothing compared to this individual's fear.  But to be supportive of the black community do we have to tell her she doesn't matter? Her feelings don't matter?  I won't do that.  I can't do that.

How is this forward movement? How is this motivating positive change?

I have always held strong to the belief that the biggest change I can make in the world is between the walls of my own home.  So that is where I will currently focus my mission to be the change I wish to see in the world. My boys are very much forming their world view.  I want them to know history.  We will not shy away from the grave truth.  The heavy and the hard.  But I am convinced that we will not be motivating positive change by inflicting guilt.  I watched my sons grapple with current events last week.  One is on social media, three are not. We had the news on a few times and they all saw and heard things that caused them to have to process a lot. I want them to be exposed to this stuff! I want them to have to process a lot.  I saw, as most of us did,  a very sad overall atmosphere. A question hung in the in air,
did they need to feel guilty for being born white?
And that is paralyzing.  Guilt stops heart deep change and goes against forward motion to doing better. 

Conviction is a beautiful thing that brings about repentance.  So I work on learning along side of my boys.  To learn and be convicted and repent {Repent/ to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong.  Motivation to make it right.  A change of mind. To go the other direction} and change where we need to.  But I will not tell them what to feel. I will try to give them space where they need to process.  I will encourage them that the guilt for things they had no control over is a ploy of the devil to paralyze forward motion and growth. And I pray fervently for their hearts.  I truly believe we can begin to see beautiful changes when the hearts of our children are prayed for and they lean in to God and truth!

We have had the clear blessing of having a home where a marginalized individual is in our space.  I will always advocate for those with special needs. Humans who could (sadly) be viewed as non contributors to society are also made in the image of God and so very loved by him.  My boys see differences in people, but having Caleb as a brother has helped them to see a special kind of unity as well as equality in the heart of God.

LIFE has always been precious to me.  I had the opportunity to work at the Center for Women in downtown Jackson for years.  I can't go into personal details of situations there because of confidentiality, dignity, honor.  But I will tell you that my soul was in that work.  The work of the marginalized, the black, the white, the hispanic, the special needs, the pre-born.  There were cultural barriers, language barriers, etc - and through my work there I grew and learned exponentially.

I vividly remember one night after I guided a client through a parenting class, helped with local resources, and talked about life, we grabbed some needed items for her from the mommy store in the back.  I saw it was a heavy load and offered to walk her home to help carry her items.  She slowly and deliberately looked me up and down. Tip of my head to my toes.  And her laugh was genuine and deep.  She was a very capable black women.  I liked her a lot and enjoyed my weekly appointments with her.  "Oh honey.  You wouldn't make it a block into my neighborhood.  You should never go there." It felt like my white skin was glowing. She was protecting me.  It felt strange.  I respected her wishes and sent her on her way, while I stayed there. It hit me hard that night and wow, I learned so very much my years there.

I appreciate my friends who have engaged me in productive conversation this past week.  Who have helped me to see things that were confusing.  And I continue to process.  As I stared at black squares occupying space on instagram, trying to make sense of it all.

 Pause. Pause and black out your space to give voice and space and honor to those who are marginalized.  Yes! Its so biblical to pause and to LISTEN.  "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Yes. Oh yes to all of this. I have always been deeply challenged by this verse in James 1. I need to quiet my voice and listen more!

But there was confusion and inconsistencies in the black squares as well.
Some did it with pure and beautiful motives.
Some used hashtags they weren't supposed to and they were called out.
Some did it wrong.
Some didn't do it and others were enraged.
Some did it because someone else did it and they didn't really know what it was but it seemed cool.

 I wanted to educate myself more, I wanted to clear my confusion.  I started seeking out historical facts.  I looked at some news articles. I read what friends were posting on line.  My mind started to feel borderline overloaded and paralyzed.  I saw some of the ugly I mentioned above in this process. The heaviness of my heart felt like it was going to cement me to the floor.

So I hit my knees and I asked God to help me.  Please give clarity in the heartbreak and confusion. 

And I was led to look at truth and only truth. To look away from everything else for a minute. My ultimate truth is the Bible.

Isaiah 58 ..."To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.  To share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wandered with shelter - when you see the naked - to clothe them, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I. "If you will do away with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like noon day."

I'm going to continue to educate myself and instill truth in my boys.  That is my mission.  I want to stay humble and I pray that I do.  I pray that I will love everyone well and be light.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Jacob turns 15

Dear Jacob,

Today you are 15 and I'm going to try to articulate this years birthday letter in a simple and concise way, even though my heart and mind would love to go crazy on all the feels. Here's the deal,  You know I am emotional and over the top and I know you aren't. ;) So, I will respect you. Because today is about you. (And maybe just a little, about me.) 

First of all, simply put - I like you.  I like who you are becoming and am in awe of how much you've grown in the last year.  
I'm also proud of you.  Proud of the self motivation that we are seeing this year.  Much improved and so good.  Thanks for putting the work in.  I see the maturity! I see the choices. 

I'm so glad that your high school experience is proving to be far superior to your middle school years. RIP middle school. 

I know lately there have been a lot of those "mom, you're random"  and "mom, why are you so weird" moments.  It's ok.  it's all pretty true too.  Here's the deal.  I don't think I'm overly delusional, but sometimes when I look at you I see this

Instead of this

But in my heart I know the truth.  You are unmistakably no longer our little Jay.  I want to give you that recognition.  I hope you see I really am trying to let you lead some of your own decisions - forge your own path.  Hopefully it will get easier for me to let go and not be over protective. 

I do trust God with you.  He has created you with many purposes and I can't wait to see a lot of that unfold! I love seeing your talents and personality really come out. Your fascination and knowledge of vehicles and mechanics.  How things work.  Your desire to learn more.  

A lot of the weird mom moments didn't just pop up in recent history, but started before you were even born.  After Joshua died I desperately wanted to have another baby.  Head knowledge said that I was over the top busy with caring for a very young Caleb and his many special needs.  Heart knowledge didn't care.  I wanted you, prayed for you, and then found out you were on your way to our arms.  Then, silly human nature, was immediately scared.  I knew pre-term labor was not just a thing of my past.  I spent weeks, months, in fear that I would not get to keep you. 

But we did. We got to keep you. Our precious third boy.  You came to us with a strong will and very fully functioning lungs. 

Nothing was like I thought it would be and you continue to show me that you are your own person.  You are not me, you are not my idea of who you should or would be, you are not your brothers, you are not your dad.  You are unique, with unique ideas and beliefs.  I pray that each year you will feel our love and approval and that you will grow in each of those things! 

Please know I do not intend to ever expect you to be anything except Jacob.  It has taken me a while to learn this.  This acceptance and lack of my own expectations.  Just a knowing that you were made in the image of God - for His purposes, not mine.  Still working on all of this. ;) 

The balance of 15 is knowing you still need guidance and boundaries, as well as the knowing that you need space and some independence.  

Thank you for listening to us.  All the talks about dating, driving, school, friendships, working, your future, decisions. I know you don't always want to hear it, but you have been gracious about pausing and truly listening.  Even asking for advice.  Let's keep that up.  I want you to always come to us and know there's not judgement here. There's wisdom, advice, strong feelings, maybe a "no" here and there, but there's always love, so much love behind it all. 

Part of the interesting thing for all of us at this stage of your life is that you are not our first born. A third born should not have to be the one that parents are, in a sense, "learning on". But I can't change that.  I can't change how your birth order just doesn't line up with our family dynamics.  And I pray that God will continue to give us grace as we cover uncharted territory with our third born in a first born position.  It's all new and we are taking steps with you, going down paths that we haven't yet had to with any of our other boys.  

You are valued, you are so important to us, and you are one of a kind.  I am blessed to be your mom.  Thanks for letting me in to your Star-Wars, Stranger Things, gaming, go-cart, music loving, moments.  I know in the next few years others will rise in importance and my role will change a bit.  I know you'll never need me the same way you used to.  And I am just so thankful for the privilege to be the one you will always call mom. 

Thanks for your patience in the journey. 


Friday, January 3, 2020

Caleb turns 17!

Dear Caleb,

Wow buddy - Seventeen!!

I learn things from you regularly.  Despite processing delays and learning delays and all the words the medical community could throw our way - which essentially could mean "less than",  you are "more than".

More than the ordinary human who chases fame or image or the best possessions.

You are simple and honest.   Honestly, unappologetically, you. You are interested in what you are interested in and don't care if anyone looks down on that.  Veggie tales and Little Einstein's for life. ;)

I have tried, as these years seem to go by faster and faster,  to just savor *you*.  Who you are, not who we can make you through therapy, and medical intervention, and medication, and talking you out of being you.  It's such a trap.  And such an easy one to fall into as a mama.  - Being embarrassed by your behavior or apologizing for you, in the absence of your desire to apologize for yourself.  - Which I just noted as a strength of yours.  Yes, this mama has a lot to learn.  While there is value in continuing to nurture and teach you through acceptable social skills and independence, I know God gave us *You* for a reason, and learning to embrace all that he has for us in that plan is still a process we are journeying through.

So, thank you.  For all you are teaching me.  For taking me out of the ordinary to see the treasure inside of something that is falsely wrapped in disappointment.  Thank you for slowing me down and anchoring me in the here and now, while simultaneously lifting me to the eternal and heavenly.

I am not even going to give time to writing here about questions, future, anxiety, adulthood, and change.  Because today you are 17, childlike, happy, and fairly uncomplicated.  We're going to live in the moment here, even as we slowly educate ourselves on the next step in front of us.

Sometimes I just so badly want you to see my logic.  My brain.  My processing.  I repeat myself so often and just can't make you see it.  You do not filter the world the way I do.  You do not see logic.  So we do an awkward little dance of me trying to get into your world and gently pulling you, where I can, into mine as much as is possible.  It's pretty routine now.  The compromise.  The praying.  Sometimes the walking away because this is like a language barrier, and the frustration level is not worth the fight.

I just want to love you.

Oh how I love you.  I have never seen so clearly my purpose and God's intervention and guidance as when I look in your eyes and see your place in my life.

As I reflect on your life, I can think of at least 3 distinctive times that God has used you to give me hope.  Hope that had nearly faded and I was desperate to find again.  While there may have been times that you have seemed to have been the cause of my hopeless feelings, I will never forgot the times that simply the thought of you has given me just the hope I needed. And in the moment I needed it the most.  Because the privilege hidden in the facade of frustration here is that you need me.  More than most mamas are needed, I have the biggest purpose.  When my life feels like it's crashing around me - there's you.

I have to be anchored, and strong, and soft, and nurturing,
and kick the discouragement, or desperation, or disappointment to the curb.  Because there is your smiling face and silly breathless laugh.  God gave you to me - sometimes to give me a desire to continue on.  It's one of his jobs for me. You need me. I need you.

Why me? I have asked it in frustration and I have asked it in complete and utter awe.

Of all of the amazing, qualified, strong, beautiful individuals He created - why were you born early, into my arms?

Because this is his plan, his shaping, his love - pouring through you - all around us. Like light pouring in and through and around our family.  If I don't see it and appreciate it and respond with the greatest of gratitude always, and I surely do NOT, please forgive me buddy.  My mind gets clouded by the world I live in, but in my better moments I see you for the life changing gift you are.

Love always,