Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
Last Sunday night, I was watching a segment on Sixty Minutes which really touched a nerve, not to mention my heart. It had to do with lynchings in the deep, and sometimes not so deep south. Lynchings that occurred post- civil war era all the way through decades of desegregation. It made my stomach turn to hear the gory details—the details of women being strung up if their husbands couldn’t be found, of children being doused in gasoline and then burned to death, of white children looking on with their parents and learning to accept that because some people look different they somehow deserved this.
It made me sick. Pure and simple. Sick. I don’t often get passionate about many things, but I feel a need to step on a soap box today. So, you’ll have to bear with me while I do this.
The man who was telling these stories is building a memorial to those many, many people who were so brutally murdered and denied justice in so many ways. He made this point, we can’t heal from our past until we learn to face it and deal with it. In other words, slavery, lynchings – seemingly matters of the past, still resonate within our nations walls today.
Who we are as a nation is seen every day in the way we treat all of our citizens, every single one. This doesn’t have to be a racism issue, but I can’t help but feel that the promise of freedom doesn’t ring true for all Americans - not all of our huddle masses who are yearning to breathe free have that promise fulfilled. And if experience has taught me anything it's this - America can never be truly great as a nation until we face the past, deal with it, learn from it and then, and only then, can we be set free from it.
Racism lives on today. It does and to say that it doesn’t is simply a lie.
So where does the healing begin? When we reach out and give a hand up to someone who doesn’t have the ability to stand up for themselves. And it starts with education. I’m a teacher and one of the reasons I educate is because I believe in the power of education. It can set hearts, minds and spirits free. Children stuck in cycles of poverty and injustice deserve the best resources a school district has to offer, but it seems to me that all too often the schools that need the best of our resources are given the leftovers. Let's work to change that. Let’s offer those children stuck in cycles of poverty and, in many cases, chaos, a hand up. Let’s give them our best to enable them to be all they were meant to be.
Finally, let’s not dwell on the past. But let’s learn from it, so that healing across our nation can truly begin.
We just returned from a week long family vacation in San Clemente, CA. Admittedly, before we embarked on our adventure, I had a few reservations. Namely, how would we all get along for an entire week together. Would we survive that much quality time? The answer is a resounding, 'Yes.' We had a great time. The kids behaved. The adults behaved. In general, our spring break trip was a good one filled with lots of memories to treasure for years to come.
As I had time to reflect this past week, I thought a lot about how the kids have changed over the years. I remember when they were little tykes, the days seemed to stretch out endlessly before us. Back then when they were three and one, I thought we would never survive. So much work goes into being the parent of two young ones.
But now, standing on the cusp of one being a teenager and the other in double digits, it's hard to believe that, together, they have less than eight years before they are both out of the house. And if experience has taught me anything, that time will fly.
I remember when they were little, how many parents with older students who were getting ready to graduate would come up to us and remark on how fast the time flew for them. They always spoke in such a wistful way, as if they wished they could go back in time and cherish the moments more. I get it now. I understand the sighs behind those, "They grow up so fast."
My son when he was about three used to call oatmeal some cute version like 'Eat-eel.' When we corrected him and he started to pronounce it properly, there was a part of us that almost regretted teaching him the correct way. It was almost heartbreaking to know we'd lost that cute little voice asking us for his favorite breakfast, 'Eat-eel.'
My kids aren't ready to fly the coop just yet, but the lesson remains to cherish these days. I don't want to take for granted the fact that I have living, breathing miracles walking around under my very roof, under my very own nose.
I can't go back in time, but I can drink in all that we have left. Maybe the lesson is that they don't grow up too fast but that it's easy to wish the days away a little too much. So, I'm not going to wish any more days away. Even when they turn into teenagers and stink and smell in more ways than one. Yes, they'll annoy me at times, there's no way around that. But, and here's the big one, they'll also bring a lot of joy and that's what I want to hang on to. The joy that comes from being a parent.
Psalm 127:3-5 The Message
Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you; you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
I have been so stable for so long I sometimes forget what it’s like to swing from highs to lows. But this post from three years ago reminds me that being bipolar is an ever-present reality, and that life as I know it is a precarious gift. I enjoy every day for what it is. I hope you can say the same.
You're so stupid, you're so stupid. Those are the thoughts running through my brain right now. I'm so stupid. The temptation to give into these thoughts crouches in the corners threatening to control me. Before I was diagnosed over twelve years ago, these thoughts constantly held my attention. I couldn’t get past them.
But as I began to cling to God's word, one particular verse remedied all of that, “You are so beautiful my beloved, so perfect in every part.” Verses like this reminded me that I’m not stupid, it’s just the bipolar part trying to keep me down.
So, I'll update you on how living with bipolar is affecting me these days. I've been a bit unstable as of late. For so many years, I have been Stable Mable, not dealing with the low lows or the high highs, just steady and smooth sailing for this girl.
But, in the last few months I've noticed that stability giving way to unsteadiness. It scares the heck out of me. So, my doctor has been working with me, trying, through medication changes, to get me into smooth-sailing-mode again.
But yesterday was an especially hard day. Though most days, when I feel depressed, I can push through it and eventually my mood rises, yesterday was about more than just depression. It was deeper and darker than that. It was like an unwelcome parasite sucking the very life out of me. I worked so hard to just survive the day and be productive, but it wasn't easy. And when you're bipolar and you’re in the throes of an unstable mood swing, nothing is easy. Can I get an Amen?
So, all day I struggled with this deep dark depression. Then early this morning, I woke up in the wee hours wide awake. I got up for a while. Scolding myself for not being able to go back to sleep, I returned to bed, but I couldn’t settle down. Thoughts kept chasing themselves inside of my head. I couldn't stop them. When I'm manic, controlling my thoughts is very difficult.
For the most part, I am one of the fortunate few who is mostly stable and on the cocktail of drugs that keep me that way. So, whenever changes occur, it worries me. Not sleeping last night worries me. My depressed state yesterday worries me. This morning, I called the doctor and he wanted me to start on a different dosage for one of my meds. UGGGGHHH. Not what I wanted to hear.
All day after I received his recommendation I felt anxiety creeping up on me. Why am I so reluctant to make a med change? The answer is pretty obvious. I remember all too well what it was like to be deeply depressed and then swing into out-of-control mania. I remember how badly it hurt and any time I experience a change in my mood or stability, I get scared.
Not necessarily a hopeful post this week. But maybe that's okay. Maybe you need to know I struggle too. Press on. I keep telling myself that. Press on. So I will and I'll be praying that, not only will I get better, but that those of you who struggle with some form of mental illness will find relief as well. God Bless you as you walk this difficult path. Know that you’re not alone. You can weather these storms. You are stronger than you think you are. Press on.
This is going to be a post about nothing, but I really wanted to write today. Mostly, because classes are starting up again soon, and I won’t have much time for writing anymore . . . for fun that is. It’s okay, life won’t always be like this, and that’s a good thing. But it got me to thinking about how in life it seems like we’re always waiting for the perfect conditions. For this, that, or the other to happen. We think if we only have this, we’ll be happy, or if our circumstances changed to this, life would be good.
I think what I’m learning in life is that you don’t have to be in a certain situation to have happiness, you don’t have to have so many cars, a big house, the right kind of job. In other words, you don’t have to have it all together to be happy.
In fact, happiness in and of itself is an elusive thing. That’s because I think there is something even better than happiness waiting for us out there. It’s called joy. In the past, I never really got joy. What does it mean to be joyful after all? It’s such an abstract word. But joy, real joy when you have it, when you experience it, well there’s nothing abstract about that.
It’s something, too, that can’t be taken away. Situations in life change, my family knows that all too well. In fact, everything can be taken away. Job security, loved ones, even your own health. None if it lasts forever, but joy is so much better than all of it. It goes so much deeper. It’s like a seed planted deep in the ground, growing and stretching and putting down roots so that no matter the changes that life brings, it thrives.
When I was younger, I was afraid of so much. Afraid of failure, of loss, of pain, of sickness and of losing those I love. But I’m learning that fear isn’t of God. And I can’t explain how I came to this place, this place of no longer being afraid. It’s a remarkable feeling, really, and it stems from joy and peace. His peace—the kind the world can’t give. The kind the world can’t take away.
Proverbs 31 was always a place in the Bible that I turned to when I thought about what kind of woman I wanted to be. One of my favorite verses in there, is verse 25:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs with no fear of the future.”
Laughs with no fear of the future. I can honestly say I’m there. Don’t ask me how or why. I chalk it up to God, a God whose perfect love drives out all fear.
I hope you know that fear is not of God. Faith is. Hope is. Joy is. Rest in his perfect love for you and know that you don’t have to be afraid of anything anymore. God’s peace and joy be yours in abundance. ‘Til next time.
As a kid I used to get so excited for this Season. I loved all things Christmas. From baking cookies, to participating in the school Christmas program, to decorating the tree, I was all about the festivities of the Season. Presents were the best. Weeks before the big day, my mom would oh-so-carefully wrap each gift with love and place it under the tree with a little gift tag attached to let us know who each present was for.
I always counted how many presents I was getting to make sure I wasn't getting shortchanged. I'd shake them, too, trying to guess their contents or figure out what gift might fit into what box. Yes, the gifts were my favorite part. In fact, sometimes the anticipation of what was inside the boxes was too much for my little heart to handle. One Christmas, I even grew so bold as to unwrap one of the presents and peek inside the box. To this day, I can't recall what the gift was, but I still remember the guilt I felt for being so sneaky. But back then I just couldn't help myself, I loved getting presents for Christmas
The night before Christmas was the best. I knew Santa was coming and that when I awoke in the morning, the living room floor would be littered with presents. I was usually too excited to sleep, so when I thought everyone else was in bed, I would carefully crawl out of my room to the living room trying not to make a sound. Once I reached the "Santa pile" I would feel around in the dark for which gifts I thought were for me from Santa.
Getting presents at Christmas was just so exciting. But here's the deal, once the gifts had been opened and I'd inspected every package, I always felt this let down like, "Oh is that all?" After weeks and weeks of anticipation, was this all there was too Christmas? It wasn't that I didn't like my gifts. I usually did, well except for the underwear. Underwear wasn't that exciting of a gift. But mostly, I got what I asked for, what I wanted. So why, once the presents were unwrapped, did I feel so disappointed, so empty inside.
Maybe it's because my focus was all wrong.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. There's so much to do, so much to celebrate, so much fun to be had. But truly if that's all Christmas is about, the busyness, the festivities, activities and, yes, even those wonderful presents, then I'm afraid it's going to leave us feeling shortchanged every time. No matter how many presents we get or how great the Holiday Meal is, Christmas, in and of itself, will never be enough.
That's because Christmas is about so much more than what we tend to make of it. It's about the Babe in the manger, the one sent to us from heaven above. The one who never disappoints - never hides behind fancy wrappings and turns out to be not what we expected.
The gift of Jesus is the fact that he's with us always. Each and every single day of the week, Jesus is with us. There's joy in that knowledge, joy that can't be contained. Christmas may never fully live up to all of the hype, but Jesus does. He truly is the gift that keeps on giving. May we all be wise enough to remember that, not only today but every single day of our lives.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Until next time!
Life is full of ups and downs. That’s what I’ve learned in my 45 years on this planet. Today is my birthday and one of the gifts I decided to give myself was the gift of writing. I love to write, but I don’t have much time for it these days. That’s okay. The older I get (which is now pretty old) the more I realize that everything happens in stages. Seasons come and go. And life, in these changes and seasons, can be pretty beautiful.
Yesterday, however, I grew a little misty-eyed thinking about the ups and downs of life. As I was driving down the road, listening to Christmas music, I thought about my mom who passed away in December several years ago. I thought about how much I miss her and wish she was still with us. Tears formed in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks-tears of mourning. But that mourning wasn’t just over the loss of Mom. It was over the fallen state of our world and the darkness that seems to overwhelm..
Every day, we live with so much sorrow and joy, pain and delight, triumph and defeat. All of it gets mixed together and I guess I just was overwhelmed with the idea that life can be so beautiful and dark, and cold and hopeful all at the same time. I guess that’s why we refer to so many moments in life as bittersweet.
I guess I marveled, too, at the thought that God can still preserve hope in a world that seems so hopeless at times. Who but a merciful, powerful God could make a world that has seen so much tragedy still have its shining glorious moments of triumph?
After all, isn’t that what this season of Christmas is all about? How one little light shining in this world can bring us home, can make us hopeful, can fill us with joy. So yes, life is bittersweet. There’s no getting around that, but for all the hard things in life I can count a million other reasons to be thankful. I hope that you can, too.
Whatever darkness you’re facing this season, know that it really will be okay. There is hope for even the darkest of nights you find yourself in. Hold on to that hope, look to that light, no matter how dim it might seem. Find joy and beauty, and most of all the strength to carry on. Christmas hope, joy and peace be yours in abundance this season, my friends. ‘Til next time.
Well, I didn’t do so hot on my midterm exam in the class I’m currently taking. Pretty bad, actually. Yea, pretty much bombed it. Whenever something like this happens, I always get kind of down on myself. It’s easy to throw that pity party and sit in a pool of misery. But I’m learning to be a bit smarter when it comes to setbacks. I’m learning to go to the One who can get me through even the toughest of circumstances. My friend. My Savior. Jesus.
I admit that today, though, I felt kind of mad at him. A kind of mad I haven’t felt for a long time. It’s the kind that had me questioning why there have to be bumps in the road at all. Why can’t it all just be smooth sailing? Anyway, the one great thing about having matured in my faith is coming to the understanding that it’s okay to be mad at God. It’s okay to bring my frustrations before him. In fact, if I try to cover up my anger and grief, I’m really only lying to one person, well, three actually—me, myself and I. God knows I’m mad. He knows my grief. I think he just maybe wants me to own it sometimes.
Why? Because I believe he meets me in my grief. It’s the questions that bring out his faithfulness. It’s the questioning that shines a light on his promises. I know it did for me today.
Later on, I grabbed my well-worn, trusty old Bible and a cup of coffee and just sought out my Savior. Here’s what he had to offer. A few promises, actually. Four written on the front cover. They all spoke to me in different ways, things I needed to be reminded of, things I needed to hear. The one that helped me past the bombing of my test?
Psalm 138:8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, oh Lord, endures forever.
As those words sunk in, I remembered, God has a plan for my life. It’s a good plan—one that no one and nothing can thwart, not even a crummy old mid-term.
I hope you know that, too, and that after reading this, you take two things away. Number one? It’s okay to be angry with God. And number two? He has a promise for every question mark you bring to him. So, don’t be afraid to get real. A word of caution, however. After you’ve poured out your soul, be prepared to listen to what he has to say. I don’t think he’ll scold you, unless you really need it that is. But I do think he’ll meet you where you are and bring you his sure and certain promises to apply as balm to any and all of your battle scars. God’s peace be with you always, my friends. ‘Til next time.
Tonight, I was thinking about some things going on at work and I got kind of sad because, let’s be honest, sometimes the work place can bring a little drama with it. It kind of has to do with people being upset with each other and thinking the worst about each other, and it just got me down.
People being upset with each other is nothing new. It’s been happening since the dawn of time. Well, almost the dawn. Let’s just say it all went awry in a little garden called Eden. Adam and Eve yea, you’ve heard of them - how they blamed each other for their sad, sad tale and the sad, sad state they found themselves in. But, hey, let’s face it, their story is our story. We blame each other. We pick at each other. We tear each other down, rather than building each other up.
And it doesn’t just happen in the workplace, it happens everywhere. It plays out on our television sets every night on the evening news. It happens in our backyards, in our homes, in every part of our lives there’s the potential for strife and division. It’s very much so a reality of the America we live in these days, isn’t it?
All of this got me to thinking about myself - how I act when situations arise that are a little unpleasant, uncomfortable, when someone makes me upset or does something I don’t like. And I realized something, when those moments come, I can either become part of the problem or I can become part of the solution.
Part of the problem. The problem is we choose to see the worst in each other instead of the best, we pick at each other and pretend like we have it all together when in reality we’re as much a mess as the person we judge so severely. We like to see ourselves as better, but if you take a moment and think about it, are you really any better?
Jesus warned about our hypocrisy in Matthew 7.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
So how do you stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution? Take some time. Do some soul searching. Ask God to show you if your heart is right with him. If it’s not, get before him and start fixing things. That’s how you become part of the solution. You start with you. You first. Always.
Then, you reach out and remember that God loves your neighbor as much as he loves you. He died for them, too. No matter how much they annoy, frustrate, ignite the deepest, darkest feelings within you, he died for them. He loves them. So should you.
I don’t know about you but there’s enough strife and division in my world already. I’d rather not add to it. I want to be part of the solution. I want to start making things better. After all, as God’s children isn’t that what we’re called to do, make things better? I hope you want the same for yourself. Love. Love. Love. It can’t get any better than that. A love that is pure and simple and true. That’s how you can start becoming part of the solution. Love always. Love first.
This past spring, my family and I visited Adventureland for the first time ever. We figured that since we were so close, why not take advantage of the opportunity. At the time it sounded like such a good idea--a chance to do a little family bonding on a beautiful, spring day.
At first I was having a blast. The crowd was small and we weren't having to fight the masses or stand in winding lines. The first ride we got on was my personal favorite, the ferris wheel. Though it does go a little too high for my comfort, still it's pretty tame as far as rides go. From the ferris wheel, we roamed further into the park. As we walked along, I breathed in the sunshine and enjoyed the atmosphere around me. That is, until we came upon what would be our next ride, The Space Shot. My first ride of this nature in years.
I guess it would be good to let you know at this point that I'm not much of a risk taker. I don't like ups and downs. So the fact that it was called the Space Shot should have been my first clue that I was not going to enjoy it. In fact, as I was being strapped in by the harness, I began to have second thoughts.
By that point, it was too late. The nervousness that rumbled deep inside of me, rocketed into full blown terror as the ride shot into the air and plunged back towards earth. My heart jumped about a mile above the ground and didn't return to my body until the ride was over. Getting safely onto ground, I stood on shaky legs and breathed a deep sigh of relief. At least I'd survived. But as we continued to walk deeper into the park, I knew the rest of the day was going to be anything but relaxing.
The next ride we got on was a roller coaster called the Outlaw, one of Adventureland's older, more "tame" roller coasters. It was a rickety, old one, and as the rails click-clacked up that first hill up, I gripped the bar tightly and held on for dear life. The plunge was terrifying. I am not a hands-in-the air girl, but beside me my daughter threw hers up in ecstasy and screeched in absolute delight. Meanwhile, I screamed my lungs out and tried desperately not to toss my cookies.
Some people love roller coasters. Not me. I've always been a play-it-safe kind of girl. I like the straightaways, no surprises, no dips, no steep climbs for me. No, sir.
In fact, that pretty much sums up life for me. I like straight, level paths. I don't even care for little bumps along the way. In fact, if my life would operate as one, long smooth sail, I'd be perfectly happy. Unfortunately in life nothing operates exactly like that. In fact, it's probably more precise to compare life to a roller coaster. There are steep climbs followed by exhilarating, terrifying plunges. It's just life. It's just part of the deal.
Remember that clip in the movie, Parenthood, where the Grandma talks about how life is so much better as a roller coaster than a merry-go-round. If you've never seen it, take time to watch it now. It's well worth your time.
Love that clip. Love that analogy. No, roller coasters aren't my favorite ride, but that's part of the deal of life that I really can't get around. So instead of fighting it and letting it terrify me, I'm going to try to enjoy the ride of life even with all its ups and downs. After all, it's the climb that makes life interesting. It's the plunges that make life fun. The twists. The turns. They all serve to give a pretty good ride, if I would just learn to relax and enjoy them.
Don't be like me, a merry-go-round girl. Learn to accept the highs and lows of life. More importantly, learn to enjoy each and every moment--whether terrifying or exhilarating and make the most of this ride we call life.
“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” ~C.S. Lewis
The dog is snoring at my feet just as he has been for the last six weeks. As I sit here typing this I’m just going to catch my breath for a moment. It has been a long, grueling six weeks. Six intense weeks of studying, and writing papers, and reading articles and developing power points. Yikes! But I made it. I’m on the other side of things and once again, God has proven his faithfulness. Two A’s and a B+. Not bad for a jam-packed, academic adventure.
Before the outset of this adventure, I wrote about my fears for the upcoming weeks. How was I going to make it through? I worried, which, if you know me, is nothing new. But I also kept in mind that if I just clung to it, God’s mercy, grace and peace were there for me in abundance. I knew that if I could keep that knowledge close to my heart, I would do more than just survive.
The thing about God’s grace and mercy is that they’re constant. Eternal. Ever present. They’re the very reality of who God is. But to keep a quiet heart, to have his peace at the center of everything I do, well, I think that’s a little bit up to me. I mean his peace is always there full and available. But the thing is, will I take it, will I keep it, will I trust it?
I’m currently reading through and journaling in a Bible that I plan to give to my son someday. I just finished the book of Genesis this morning. One of my favorite things about the book of Genesis is the fact that there are all these stories about the great heroes of faith—people just like you and me who struggled in their day to day living. People like Noah and Abraham, Issac and Jacob. I know their stories well. And as I’ve been reading through this book, it struck me that none of their lives were easy. They all struggled in one way or another. But the great thing about reading their stories is seeing how God provided for them through each and every struggle they faced. When they came to the end of their days, it’s apparent, they didn’t go through their journey alone. God’s grace, mercy and peace were there with them every step of the way, just as it is for us.
But it’s easy to forget that in the midst of our difficulties, strivings, frettings and fussings. And In the day to day drudgery of life, it’s very difficult to operate out of a quiet spirit. That’s where the quote from one of my all-time favorite Christian authors, C.S. Lewis comes in:
“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
Coming in out of the wind. So how exactly does one do that? For me it has to happen straight away in the morning. It’s very much so about how I start my day. Quiet time. it’s more than just a Christian catch phrase. It’s a very real way to function in a world that sweeps us up all too often in its chaos and confusion.
For me it looks like this. On my busy days, five minutes, tops, I sit down, read a chapter or passage or even a single verse and let God speak to me through it. Then I take another minute or so and pray to God about my day. Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Just simple words expressed from my heart. My worries, fears, struggles, I just lay them out before him. Then, I finish by saying a couple of verses to myself. After that, I start my day.
The thing about a quiet time is it doesn’t have to be extravagant. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. But for me it’s more important than even that morning cup of coffee. It’s how I start my day, every day. Even when I’m busy, even when life is frantically rushing around me. That’s how I keep God’s peace close to my heart. That’s how I come in out of the wind.
As I sign off for this week, I hope that you will take to heart what I’ve written and practice coming in out of the wind each and every day. Then you will know God’s mercy, grace and peace like you’ve never known it before. May that mercy, grace and peace be yours in abundance my friends! Till next time.