Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Humble Recommendation

It’s already started:  candidates are throwing their hats in the ring and most people around me are looking for an underground bunker or getting ready to block half the people on their Facebook page in an attempt to dodge the crazy.  I can’t blame them, but I think there is a better way.  As opposed to making politics the ONE and ONLY THING or digging a hole and not coming up until 2017, I request that you consider the alternatives and attempt to save your sanity:

Look at the Issues

Every politician is going to do an about face on issues during their time in the spotlight.  By finding issues we care about and ways to support them instead of people we want to take care of those issues for us, we’re left empowered to help with the changes we hope to see, hence freeing up politicians to be corrupted by money, to pander to lobbyist, and to outright lie.  That’s their job, so leave them to it.  Our job as followers of Christ is to do His work.   Politicians will not have to answer for our apathy when asked what we did to better this place.  “Uh, I voted?!?”  Well, great.  Then what?

Please don’t misunderstand me:  I am NOT against involvement in government.  On the contrary, I realize how lucky I am to live in a country during a time when my gender alone doesn’t keep me out of the voting process.  Involvement is important.  But let’s please not depend on our government to deal with problems that Jesus told the church to handle.  Politics are one way, but they’re not the best way.  Voting is a great place to start and a horrible place to stop.  Claiming that Christian leaders will ensure nothing bad happens when we live in a country that has always prided itself on being a Christian nation, despite its history of slavery, sexism, taking land through murder, and only being able to brag of being desegregated for just over 50 years means we need to face the facts:  we have a shady history, and not a stellar Christian one.    There can be Christian politicians and Christians involved in politics, but I like reading about the Christians who locked into the grassroots movements that helped end slavery, helped create rights for women in the first feminist wave, the ones who fight for rape victims and victimized, marginalized people groups.  Those who go to strip clubs to tell those women they are loved and who adopt babies and give them forever homes.  Those jobs don’t come with term limits, and they are not limited to only an elite few. 

Feel free to not engage in unhealthy, impersonal ways. 

I’ve seen people’s political views changed by hateful posts, biting comments, and horrible social media manners exactly zero times.  I’ve seen people changed by God’s love shining through His people many more.  Let’s try that this election season, shall we?

Here’s an example:  want to know why we’re modified vaccinators, why I’m pro-all life, including anti-abortion and anti-death penalty?  Want to know how I feel about homeschooling, foster care, welfare, legalized marijuana?  You might see me post an article on my Facebook or Twitter page about these issues, but if you want to discuss them further, you will have to do something amazing:  meet me for coffee so a face-to-face conversation can commence where I will hear your side, share mine, and we can walk away with a better understanding of each other, though maybe still agreeing to disagree.  That conversation, that sincere effort to know another person’s view, will replace the mean spirited comments sections, the I’m-right-your-always-wrong smugness.  It will be people knowing people instead of alienating them.

Because Jesus was all about people and less about political systems.  He was more about loving someone insanely than cutting them off over the hot button issue of the moment.  He was more about loving our enemies (which I am good at about 2% of the time, maybe) and less about bashing, slamming, and looking for other’s weakest spots to exploit.  He was less about your side versus mine and more about believers coming together to work for good and be a light to the lost world.   And people, did I mention He was about all people since He knows the number of hairs on their heads and died for them and all?  Yeah, so be about people and not just about the havoc you can reek on their newsfeed.

Pray for Our Politicians

Seriously, whether you like them or not.  Whether you like politics or not.  Just pray for them. 

This is not an invitation to disengage but rather an invitation to engage in a different way.  When you see that comment on Facebook, that post meant to be inflammatory, the words that make you twitch and ache to respond with your far superior answer, do this instead:  walk away from the computer.  Go figure out what you can do right then to not leave your life up to a politician or destroy one of your “friends” on the internet.  Maybe it’s donating diapers to LifeTalk.  Maybe it’s dropping off gently used clothes to Shiloh’s Place.  Maybe it’s donating food to your local food pantry.  Maybe it’s “adopting” a child through Compassion International or Hands and Feet Project, or getting involved with Embrace Texas to help support foster kids throughout the state.  Maybe it’s reading Half the Sky and learning that help can be as difficult as full immersion in a culture before knowing how to help completely or as easy as sending salt to expecting moms in other countries, and you can get involved in the easy and the hard.

Before you get ready to side with “your man” or “your woman”, remember that if you are a Christian, “your man”, the God-man, is always on the throne.  He is sovereign, needs no breaks, doesn’t require a House or Senate vote, is not swayed by lobbyist or corrupted by cash.  Putting our support where it matters means backing Jesus and remembering any man or woman on this earth, even ones we admire, are fallible.  Politicians will not be your Savior. We already have one and the big battle has already been won.  We are free to start acting like it by doing His work all the time instead of reducing His work to hitting a like button or having the last word in an internet debate. 

It’s a fact that next November, the day after the election results are read, about half the country will wake up happy and the other side defeated and confused.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Living for Christ and involving ourselves in His work means the day after the election doesn’t have to be that different than any other day for us.  And the days leading up to the election do not have to reduce us to our worst.  God is still in charge.  We still work for Him.  Carry on with your sanity.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lessons from a Hard Week, a Fat Pad, and Snails

I did not go into Holy Week feeling at peace or calm, and possibly there was a reason for that, a kind of premonition.  Between Palm Sunday and Easter, Dennis’ coworker would lose his two-year-old son, 150 Christians would be killed in Kenya, our pediatrician would call to discuss the possibility of Wren having a tumor, Sammy’s face would swell up to three times its normal size due to allergies, and my grandmother would start bleeding out due to a gash in her colon (she’s okay now, we hope).  The cherry on top of all this crazy was rage inducing PMS and the fact that I had been such a less-than-stellar parent for a couple of weeks that I couldn’t shake the shame.  D pointed out that our kids had been acting kind of less-than-stellar, pushing boundaries and throwing sass, but I asked him, “Do we really get to blame the people who still have issues cleaning their own butts properly?” Only God knows how we survived. 

But we did, and amongst all the news that shatters nerves, He is still risen, every day, all the time.  It makes the not knowing bearable, the sadness momentary, the lack of sleep, the stress, they become a part of the journey, one that leads closer to Christ as we are refined.  Opportunities to grow and learn, sometimes to relearn, emerge.  The goodness of others prevailed as my sister gifted me with an hour long massage because she knew after four kids spent eight days puking on me, a break was needed.  Plus, she sensed my crazy increasing during our phone conversations. Grandparents cooked gluten-free breakfast, following every step of protocol to avoid cross-contamination, while I slept in.  My husband and family members collectively cared for our four young kids and offered me an opportunity to drive the hour to the hospital where I spent time with my Nanny, who was small and pale in a hospital bed but still wearing earrings and talking of escape.  And I remembered that the game-the one D and I call turtle, turtle-, the retreating to the shell during distress is sometimes the answer, but not all the time, and I might play it a little too often.  Even in the midst of great sorrow and agonizing waits, the cocoon of others is a salve.

And then after weeks of hearing the words “cancer”, “family history”, “increased risk” and “has the symptoms” referring to my six-year-old daughter, I learned new words:  fat pad.  That was the official diagnosis after the ultrasound that easily shaved 10 years off my life.  Fat pad.  As in, Wren’s thyroid is normal-sized, no goiter, lymph nodes within normal-sized range.  Yes, a few thyroid levels are slightly off, her liver is obviously underperforming, she is still at increased risk of papillary thyroid cancer due to Celiac, but as far as that swelling in the throat that our very conservative doctors thought might be cancer?  It’s a fat pad.  A pad of fat, my friends.  My child has maybe 0.00001% fat on her whole body, and apparently it is all in her neck helping hold up her head. 

We’ve had fun with that phrase.  I call Dennis at work and conversations like the following commence:

Me:  D, I think I’m pregnant!
D:  What?
Me:  Oh, wait, that’s just the fat pad covering my stomach!

D:  What are you doing today?
Me:  Sitting on my fat pad.

We will still have to be on the look out for tumors in Wren’s thyroid since a gluten-free diet seems to lessen the risk of her getting this kind of cancer by absolutely zero percent.  Her liver and thyroid have struggled since her Celiac diagnosis, but we’ve avoided meds and both organs are just on the we-have-our-eyes-on-you list.   It will be challenging to detect any tumors in her thyroid gland since she is already larger in the neck area.  It would be like if I was looking for a tumor in my thigh:  unless it’s the size of a toddler, it’s going to get lost in the fat pads.  But still, we know to look and watch, not as those who live in fear but as those blessed enough to have the information to do the best we can.

After the ultrasound Tuesday, we came home and the kids played in the backyard, looking for bugs and digging in the dirt.  Here in the homeschool world we call that science!  I was watching all four of them, and I was grateful for sunny days and naptimes, even when they go awry.  I was thankful for little boys who pee in the backyard because they can and girls who marvel at lady bugs, grateful for toddlers who crack themselves up and give kisses to all of us.  It felt normal.  It felt surreal after weeks of not normal.

Then just to prove we had in fact arrived back at normal, I heard Wren’s sweet voice.

Wren:  Sammy, check it out!  I found a snail, I named him Slimy, and he just sharted in my hand!  IN MY HAND!

For better of worse, for us, that's a return to charted territory.
Wren and Slimy

Sammy, allergic to grass, pollen, and possibly certain types of air.
Eowyn in the purple.  The girls ready to blow this joint!
Shaving your kids head because the rash caused by his allergies covered his scalp and had to be medicated?  That's allergies, Ramirez style.