Category Archives: Life

I’m Not That Kind Of Girl

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Yes, that’s me last New Year’s Eve In Victoria, BC with Bigfoot. Yes, I am drinking champagne, thus my chumminess with the squatch. However that’s not what I want to attract your focus. Behold… the pink coat.

In the fall of 2014 I was invited to my neighborhood’s semi-annual CAbi party. In case you are unaware, CAbi stands for Carol Anderson by invitation, and it’s a home-based clothing business. It’s Tupperware for clothes, basically.

Each evening that I go to one of these parties (conveniently held next door every spring and fall) my husband cringes as I walk out the door.

“I’m just going for the wine!” I call out cheerfully.

Every time, though, I come home having placed an order.

This time, however, I was determined not to buy anything. I had recently purged many items in my closet and was going for a simpler life. And less laundry, theoretically.

Then I saw it. I got butterflies. It was beautiful.  And it was pink. Cotton candy pink.

I never wear pink. Ever. I’m not a fluffy, girly person, and because of my body type, wearing pink always makes me feel a bit like a drag queen.

But this coat looked like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn wrapped up into one stylish package.

I tried it on, and of course all the ladies at the party insisted this coat was ME, and I just HAD to buy it. I felt like a million bucks.

Alas, this coat was not cheap. True to my word, I went home without placing an order.

A couple weeks went by, and the CAbi rep emailed me to say that she was selling off her samples, and I could buy the coat for 50% off! Of course, 50% off of beau coup is still mucho dinero. (Yes, I am aware those are two different languages. Becoming more globally-minded is one of my New Year’s resolutions.)

My husband was out of town. Could I slip a Pepto Bismol pink coat into my clothing repertoire without him noticing? Not likely. But still… I had to have it.

I waited a month before the grand reveal. If I recall, his exact words were, “Whoa! That’s pink!”

There are only so many events for which a pink (with a capital P) wool coat seems an appropriate choice, so over the past year I have only worn it a handful of times. Every time gets a similar reaction to the first; Whoa. That’s pink.

Yesterday was a frosty  morning and I was headed out to my hair appointment. Knowing I would feel fabulous following my sprucing up at the salon, I decided it was a good day for the pink coat.

My hair is the longest it’s been in a while, and my colorist is slowly evolving me into an auburn color. Right now it’s sort of a mahogany shade, and since I can take zero credit, I will admit it looks amazing. I get lots of compliments, and so every time I get a refresh, I walk with a bit more of a spring in my step.

As I walked to pick Parker up after school, I felt fancy. Classy, even. So many times I show up in yoga pants and a pony tail, so it’s nice to step it up once in a while. He took one look at me and said, “You’re wearing pink.”

“Yes. I’m wearing pink.”

“You never wear pink.”

“I know. ”

“I don’t think I’ve seen you wear pink in like 15 months.”

I have no idea where this random number has come from, and I know it to be inaccurate, but his point is made- I never wear pink. He’s not sure what to do with this sudden shift of color palate.

As we crossed the street, another mom that I don’t know said, “I really like your coat!”

“Thank you!” I beamed.

“You remind me of The Gilmore Girls. I don’t know if you watched that show or know what I’m talking about.”

“I know the show, but I didn’t ever watch it.”

“Oh. Well you remind me of that!”

I gave a little laugh as she crossed the other street, not really knowing to what she might be referring, but hoping it was a good thing.

That evening when my husband got home from work I said, “I got a compliment on my coat today.”

“Oh yeah?”

“A mom at the school came up to me and told me she liked my coat and I reminded her of Gilmore Girls.”

He laughed and said, “Which one?”

“Well the mom, I assume.”

He stared at me for a moment, and then chuckled again.

As we waited in line to order our dinner at the local pizza place, he looked at my coat and said, “You’re taking this awfully well.”

“What?”

“Being told you look like a Gilmore Girl. I would think you were more like the one who dated all the men more than the mom.”

Blink. Blink.

“Um. Are you referring to the GOLDEN GIRLS?!”

He began laughing really hard.

“She said GILMORE girls NOT GOLDEN girls!”

“I kept thinking, wow, she seems okay with this. I would think she’d be really offended.”

I pulled out my phone and googled the following photos:

“THIS is the Gilmore girls:”

gilmore-girls-main

He was really laughing at this point.

“I was so confused. You were like ‘I guess I’m like the mom’ and I was like, ‘really?!’ but you seemed to be rolling with it.”

For reference,

golden girls

Blanche (the one who dated a lot of men) did wear a lot of pink, as did Sophia, the mother.

“I wonder what pink coat in the Gilmore Girls she was talking about.” So I googled that as well, and sure enough, there were tons of photos like this:

pinkcoat

Having never watched the show, I was unsure whether this was a running gag, or whether the pink coat was considered a staple piece. Further research revealed that the pink coat was the envy of many viewers, which took the sting out of the fact that my husband thought I looked like a geriatric character.

Here’s the thing;

We all have things we love but feel we “can’t get away with.” (Forgive the dangling preposition) Two piece bathing suits. Skinny jeans. Girly clothes. Statement jewelry. Long hair after a certain age. (I remember telling my friend Marques who cuts my hair that I wanted to grow it out until I was too old to wear it long. He replied, “You’re never to old to wear your hair whichever way you want.”)

I say, wear what we love. Buy into the fantasy for that moment. Do I look more like an Easter peep than Audrey Hepburn in my pink coat? Probably.

I like to imagine myself as “that kind of girl” sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. And so I shall continue to wear the pink coat on days when I want to be “that kind of girl.”

 

 

 

 

Keep your Friends Close, And Tell Your Enemy To Go Away

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I’ve long ascribed to the phrase, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” In my mind, it’s been important to keep an eye on those I do not trust, in order to protect myself. Recently I have started to realize that those I might perceive as such aren’t really my enemy, they are only broken people like me, hurting people who use their personal pain as a weapon against others.

In truth, I only have one enemy. And I have allowed him to remain close to me.

Here’s what happens to you when you allow proximity to your enemy: He whispers in your ear. He tells you things that warp your perception of yourself and others. His lies are so precise that they feel true. He takes your true identity, your God-given gifts and your designated purpose in this life and warps them just enough to render you ineffective, full of self-doubt, sometimes even self-destructive.

Priscilla Shirer said, “Your mind is the spiritual expression of your brain. What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul.”

The lies that we believe when we allow the enemy to whisper in our ear change everything about how we interact with the people and the world around us. The way we think becomes how we behave. How we behave reinforces what we already believe about ourselves. This is true of both positive and negative thinking.

I’m not sure who said it first, but my friend Lisa says her father’s favorite phrase is, “You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you certainly can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

The same is true with our thoughts and feelings (or more accurately our thoughts about our feelings and our circumstances.) When we actually believe and know that the enemy is the father of lies, we won’t let those lies “nest in our hair.” When we give him access to our thoughts, when we doubt the truth about ourselves and believe the lies, that’s all the invitation he needs to set up home.

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In Ephesians, Paul talks about the helmet of salvation. While the helmet is supposed to evoke an image like this:

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For me, I think of it more like this:

tin_foil_hat

Someone is trying to take control of my mind. He wants to control me, he wants to inhibit me from the life God has intended, he wants to intimidate me, and he wants to keep me in bondage to the thoughts that rob me of peace and joy.

Without my protective tin-foil hat, without the protection that comes from the barrier of truth that God has given me,  my mind is wide-open to attack.

The enemy whispers, “You are unworthy.”

God says, “You are MY child, and your worth comes from Me.”

The enemy whispers, “You are weak to your desires.”

God says, “I’m strong, and I have equipped you with my armor.”

The enemy whispers, “You cannot overcome.”

God says, “I have ALREADY overcome.”

In the ancient world, armor was an essential part of fighting the battle. However, can you imagine the leader of the army inviting the enemy into their camp to give the soldiers all the reasons why they were likely to fail? Can you imagine the impact such access would have on morale?

You know who the enemy is, don’t let him into your camp. Don’t allow him to undermine your mission by giving him influence or a platform.

Keep your friends close because they will speak truth over you. Keep your friends close because they want to see you have victory. Keep your friends close because they will fortify you.

Keep your enemy as far from you as possible.

 

 

A Legacy Of Significance

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It’s an innate human desire to leave a legacy. We all want to know that at the end of our time here on this planet, our lives have meant something, had a purpose, and that when we are gone, we will have left a mark of some sort.

It’s a rare occurrence when someone leaves a legacy  like that of Mr. Charles “Tuck” Gionet; For he obtained his own legacy of significance through imbuing a sense of significance in those who had the privilege to know him. Every kid who set foot in his classroom, every athlete that stepped on his track came away a better person from knowing him, and came away believing in their own potential.

As I stood near this tree yesterday, awash in tears, I found that I wasn’t just grieving the loss of this amazing man, but was also overwhelmed with the joy of the beautiful stories I was reading of lives changed forever because he gave so much of his heart, his time, his wisdom.

The second greatest loss, after knowing you will never be able to see someone again, is the realization that you missed your opportunity to tell the person what they meant to you. When I first found out Mr. Gionet (after all this time “Tuck” seems so informal) was fighting cancer, this homage began to write itself. And then I remembered the man, and that he would HATE that. As he said to my mother last year, “What, a guy’s gotta get sick for people to tell him how great he looks?”

Truth is, I never believed it would come to this, or that he wasn’t going to overcome this challenge.

I first sat in Mr. Gionet’s classroom in September 1986. While others had trepidation, as his reputation for toughness was well known throughout the halls of Snohomish Junior High School, I had none. For you see, I already knew a secret many of my classmates didn’t: behind that no-nonsense man was a heart of gold. My older sister Colleen had him as a teacher and track coach in 1983-84, and her admiration for him told me everything I needed to know.

Looking back, it’s unfathomable that he was really only a kid when I first had him as a teacher. He already had a commanding presence in the classroom, and a wisdom that belied his age of 26.

On the very first day of World Cultures he did a name exercise. It started with the first person in the front row, they would say their name, followed by the second person who would say the first person’s name, and then their own. The third person named the first two, then said their own name. It went on like that through the whole classroom, until it came to Mr. Gionet, who would then rattle off every single person’s name; Names he never forgot. Ever.

That year he asked me and another student, my friend Eric, to attend a local government meeting. I can’t remember if it was a county council meeting, or if it was a chamber of commerce meeting, but I do remember that he chose us because he said he saw leadership qualities in us. We each gave speeches about “kids today” and what issues mattered to us, and then we opened it up to questions from the officials at the meeting. I will never forget that feeling of knowing that he saw my potential, and gave me a venue to explore it.

There’s something that happens inside you when someone you admire looks at you and says, “I believe in you.” You are forever changed.

By the time I was a junior in high school, Mr. Gionet had transferred up there, and I got him again as a teacher for U.S. history. While others may have dreaded what they knew would be required of them in his class, I was thrilled.

Our very first assignment that year was to write a persuasive essay, which would be strange in a normal history class, but he was no normal history teacher. He cared less about what our opinions were, much more about our critical thinking skills and how well we could defend those opinions.

This was my essay:

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I don’t know if he really preferred banana Popsicles (see, I’ve learned to spell Popsicles since 1988) or if he was simply playing devil’s advocate. That was pretty much a foretelling of the nature of most of our interactions. He would say something, I would contest it. I would say something, he would challenge me.

For all I know, he actually agreed with me most of the time, but he would never admit it, lest I become complacent.

Last Friday night I was sorting through my high school mementos in anticipation of the next night’s 25th reunion, and I came across this cartoon:

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This satirical comic was printed that year in my high school newspaper, created  by one of my fellow U. S. history classmates. While I believe our banter was was much more congenial and light-hearted than this, it illustrates the point well enough.

Notice the teacher is wearing slacks, a button down shirt and a tie. This was something that mattered a lot to him. Manners mattered a lot to him. Civility mattered a lot to him. Involvement and investment mattered a lot to him. (Also, proper spelling of the words “a lot” mattered to him, as my friend Andy reminded me yesterday.)

That first semester I got a B. I wasn’t happy about that. However, in Mr. Gionet’s class, I knew the grades given were always and only the grades we earned.

Our final major assignment of the school year was an oral report on some major event in U.S. history. I knew if I was going to get an A, I was going to have to go all out.

I chose to do my report on the Vietnam war. I didn’t want to stand up and read dry facts off of note cards. I decided I would create a vignette in which I was a teenager during the war, and I would act out a scene of reading and writing letters with a friend who had been drafted and was serving. I compiled actual letters between my mother and her high school friend from his time in Vietnam. I recorded videos off of TV like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane to be playing in the background as I read the letters out loud. I infused my mother’s responses with facts about the climate in America and what he could expect when he returned home. And I did all of this dressed head to toe in full hippie gear.

Somewhere in my mother’s house is the VHS recording Mr. Gionet insisted on making of my report, and I can tell you that my transcript showed an A for that semester.

When it came time to get letters of recommendation for my college applications, it was a no-brainer that I was going to ask him. There wasn’t a teacher in that school whose opinion mattered more to me, and who I felt knew my potential the best.

I wasn’t disappointed. He wrote me a letter of recommendation that I have kept and looked at occasionally over the years, if only to remind myself that someone great once believed in me.

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The first time I ran into Mr. Gionet after graduation was at the wedding reception of a close friend. I had dropped out of college after three years and was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I didn’t want to talk to him, because all I could think about was that he would be disappointed in me that I hadn’t reached my potential. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Being a mom is the most important job in the world.” And I believed he meant it because he NEVER said anything he didn’t mean.

As news of his passing began to circulate on Saturday morning, something amazing began unfolding before my eyes. He wasn’t just MY favorite teacher who believed in me and made me believe in myself, he was that to nearly every student he ever had. How can it be that over the course of 30 plus years he could make each and every kid feel significant? But he did. The popular kids. The lost kids. The smart kids. The kids who struggled. The athletes. The loners. The whole damn Breakfast Club stood a little taller because this man told them they were more than, and they BELIEVED HIM BECAUSE HE BELIEVED IT ABOUT THEM. He was able to see what made each kid special. He was able to see where their confidence was lacking. He was able to get all of us to catch his vision of who we could be.

He did this without coddling. “Suck it up!” ” Don’t do anything stupid! ” “Fer cryin’ out loud!” (This was his signature phrase, and I can verify it goes back at least as far as 1987, as my yearbook attests. )

IMG_4561(My friend Robyn wrote that)

He did it by fostering confidence through achievement, creating standards, expectations of personal responsibility. He did it by seeing the innate value in each person, making it a priority to know their name.

The last time I laid eyes on him was last summer at the farmer’s market. He was nearly a year into treatment and still had his Clooney good looks, his ascerbic wit and kick-ass attitude. He was anticipating his son’s upcoming wedding, and scoffed at the invitation he had received to attend the class of ’89’s reunion that weekend.

“No one wants an old teacher hanging out at their reunion.”

As I drove to my own reunion Saturday night, my heart heavy with his loss, the words of old friends as they posted story after story of what he meant to each of them running through my mind, I thought to myself, “I hope he knew.”

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Grace, Love And The Politics Of The American Church

I have yet to decide if I’m actually going to post this blog. If you’re reading it, that means I have decided to go ahead and do it, knowing that the result may be alienation of my readers and even some of my friends. Please know that I have not made this decision lightly, but thoroughly and prayerfully.

You should also know off the bat that my intended audience for this particular post are my readers who have a proclaimed affiliation with Christianity. While my atheist and agnostic readers are more than welcome to read what I have to say, please don’t use this as  fodder or a platform for the bashing of my faith.

What this also isn’t, since I’m already in the process of clarification, is an exegesis of current religious and political hot topics. I don’t have the scholastic credentials  to tackle theological apologetics on any issues beyond the basic tenets of the Bible.

Neither, I suspect, do many of you.

Which is sort of my point in writing this in the first place.

My heart has been deeply burdened of late with grief over the politicization of the American church, the statements and actions made by some church leaders (I’m not just looking at you, Franklin Graham and Creflo Dollar, but you’re at the top of my list right now), and the conversations, both in person and on Facebook that I have witnessed among my acquaintances, my friends and family who are self-described followers of Jesus.

My “Arugula!” warning signals are already going off in my head. I know that what I am about to say isn’t going to win me any popularity contests. While there was a time in my life when I actually thrived on debate, my desire to live in peace has tempered that part of me.

What God has been revealing to me over the past few years is how hurtful my approach has been, how my desire to prove my point came at the cost of relationships. He challenged many of my long-held beliefs, and even more so, challenged my attitude towards people who view the world differently than I do.

I have had some moments when I felt like everything I thought I knew was being tossed on its head, and I had to re-examine each thing to determine what was truth and what was an opinion based on my own personal experiences or beliefs.

I’m not claiming to have discovered irrefutable truth; Quite the opposite, actually.

I have come to believe that the smartest thing Albert Einstein ever said was, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

I have said often I am by nature a very black and white thinker. http://kbjackson.com/zero-shades-of-grey-confessions-of-a-black-and-white-thinker/

I can see by many things I have heard and seen posted recently that I am not alone in that.

Everything must go in a bucket:

Good/Bad

Right/Wrong

For those of us who subscribe to what is by definition the pretty narrow lens of the Christian faith, this auto-labeling carries with it a significant implication for most issues and those who fall on either side of the spectrum of opinions.

And it often leaves very little room for grace.

People who have an agenda to control and manipulate the thoughts, feelings and actions of large quantities of people really like black and white thinkers. They need people who adhere steadfastly to absolutes because they know that with the right approach, once they get a black and white thinker to place an issue in their desired bucket, it will remain there, tenaciously defended regardless of any argument that may be used by someone of an opposing viewpoint. Black and white thinkers rarely change their mind.

Adhering to the ideology of Christianity appears to be one of those black/white right/wrong sort of scenarios.

Only, guess what? It’s not. Not really.

The Bible is filled with rules. It’s true. Some rules are given more weight by people than others, just as we like to weigh some sins heavier.

However as many “rules” as there are in the Bible,  there are many more declarations of  the unfathomable love of God for ALL mankind and  the unwavering command and admonition for His children to love others.

Why did God create rules? Is it so he could gleefully pour out his wrath on those who cannot/ do not abide by them? To give ammunition for believers to bash “sinners” over the head?

No. He created rules for two purposes:

1)To protect us from the natural consequences of our sinful choices

2)To make it crystal clear to us how incapable we are of following these rules on our own and how much in need of His grace and salvation we truly are.

He wrote the rules knowing we would break them. ALL OF THEM.

And He loves us anyways.

Out of that understanding of our depravity and His undeservedly lavish love we are to go out into the world to tell of the good news. The GOOD NEWS. Not the bad news. THE GOOD NEWS.

Instead, we fill our Facebook feeds with a version of “Christianity” that in no way sounds like anything resembling good news, or, honestly, that sounds like the words or example of Jesus Christ.

 

Did you know…

That God loves both Republicans AND Democrats?

That the message of the cross was as much for the Muslim as it was for the Jew, the Atheist and the American Christian?

That the good news of the gospel is as valid for both homosexual and heterosexual? (Also that sexual sin=sexual sin=sexual sin , and accordingly, sin=sin=sin)

That Jesus’ sacrifice was as much for those who would willingly accept him as those who would continually reject him?

That salvation is a gift of God, and the ONLY people it is intended for are sinners? (Know anyone who doesn’t fit into that category?)

That the grace that saves is enough to break the bonds of ALL religion, ALL sin, ALL human failings?

The beauty and the message of the cross is for everyone- even for those who have deemed all of the above unworthy to receive it.

I believe in democracy and I value and assert my right to vote.

However you will never find me affiliating with a political party again. I will examine each candidate and issue with prayerful consideration on their own individual merit, making my decision based on the values espoused by the only man to walk this earth blamelessly.

I refuse to accept that either political party represents these values.

How republicans and democrats can have opposing viewpoints and still both be inconsistent with Biblical values is why many like me find ourselves in political limbo. Abortion, gay marriage, government programs for the poor, government programs for the rich; you can be on the technically “right” side of an issue Biblically, but a lack of compassion can still make you wrong. And Christians, we’ve been getting these issues wrong.

The democrat party has made inclusiveness its religion, to the point of having little-to-no moral compass. The leadership uses the fears of the poor to manipulate and control. They exploit gender issues for political gain. Obama may or may not be everything those on the right say he is. (Of course it depends on the day. Sometimes he’s a total incompetent, other times he’s an evil mastermind.)

 

However, I am truly appalled that the American church has allowed many of its pulpits to be co-opted by the political agenda of a party that spews hateful rhetoric on a daily basis.

Nothing that is coming out of the RNC or its leadership, or frankly the people I know who have conservative political leanings are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether or not it was your intention, here, in no particular order,  are the values expressed through the posts and re-posts I have witnessed over the past few years by my politically active Christian friends:

>Racism/lack of understanding of systemic racial problems in America

God says-

Mark 12:31

“The second is this:’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

>Demonization of the poor

God says-

Psalm 12:5

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD.” I will protect them from those who malign them.”

>Hatred for those of other faiths, particularly Muslims

(Fox news recently ran a story which attempted to paint Vlad the Impaler as simply a patriot hero fending off Muslim attackers. You’ve got to hate a group pretty bad to justify the actions of a man who roasted children and fed them to their mothers)

God says-

Luke 6:35

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

>Disdain for those with differing political views

God says-

Proverbs 10:12

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

>Support for unbridled greed

God says-

1 Timothy 6:10

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

>Hateful speech, passing judgement on external sin,  particularly  homosexuality  while ignoring sins of the heart

God says-

Mark 7:20-23

“And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

>Disregard for anything that might be considered “environmental”

God says-

Genesis 2:15

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden  to work it and take care of it.”

>Lack of compassion, grace and mercy for anyone who isn’t white, conservative, affluent, Christian, American

God says-

1 Peter 4:8

“Above all love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.”

Whether you disagree with his political viewpoint, the vitriol spouted against our current president is sin. It just is.

Justifying personal and corporate greed as “capitalism at its finest” but shaming the single mom who chose not to have an abortion and needs financial help to care for her child is sin.

Focusing on one type of sin and making those who struggle with it feel unwelcome in the body of Christ is sin.

Pride in your “lack of sinfulness” is sin.

Hateful speech of any kind is sin.

Racism is sin.

Lack of compassion and mercy is sin.

Gluttony is sin. (I’m still not over the “gorge yourself on chick-fil-a to support the anti-gay marriage stance of the owner” protests. To me that whole incident said “we hate gay people so much we will shove fried fast food in our faces to prove it.” How many hungry people did they pass on their way to and from their “protest? )

Creating fancy churches to house our obese rear-ends and buying our “leaders” fancy jets so they don’t have to fly coach is sin.

We continuously focus on the speck in the eyes of others while ignoring the redwood forest growing in our own.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to cling to the Word of God, the only real truth in this world, and leave behind the political agendas that seek only to divide us and distract us from our true purpose on this planet- to love our God and to honor Him by loving those He has made. It is possible to be unwavering in your beliefs and still be loving and compassionate towards those who don’t share them. It is impossible to follow the values of the world and do the will of God.

I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and vote republican. But I do object to the idea that somehow those two things are congruent. Because they aren’t. They aren’t any more congruent than any other political party.

Please view everything you read and hear through the lens of the gospel and the Word of God, not through the lens of those who feed hate, fear and lies. Be conscientious and diligent in testing everything against the example set for us by Jesus.

Jesus came into a political and religious climate not unlike the one we live in now. The people felt oppressed and overtaxed by the government. (Legitimately I will admit). The religiosity of the people overshadowed every aspect of their daily lives… except their hearts.

Jesus said, “The government isn’t going anywhere. Deal with them the way you have to, but that really is no concern of mine. My issue is your hearts, and boy oh boy, you guys are really missing the point.”

(That was a paraphrase, in case you couldn’t tell.)

If we were busy serving the poor, the widows, the orphans, the hungry, the elderly, the sick…. would we have a moment of time or an ounce of desire to gripe about politics? Would we spend our time freaking out about whether someone else is gay? If we were telling people the good news, would we be taking the time in the middle to complain about health care legislation?

There’s a good chance that this whole thing has come off self-righteous and judgy. If it does, I’m sorry, it is not my intention. I am guilty of all of this and more. I include myself in every category of where I see us failing as God’s ambassadors to the world. We must be very cautious with whom we choose to affiliate ourselves.

We only have a short time on this planet in the scheme of things. Do we want to spend that time disseminating political propaganda or loving on people?

That’s all I’m trying to say. Pick the path that leads people to the cross.

 

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Getting Lost In The Moment

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Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit “The Californians”? (see video link above) For those unfamiliar with Southern Cal, it may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but having lived there for a quarter of my life, and just returning from a weekend there, I can assure you it’s more accurate than you might suspect.

Friday night I was making my way back from LA to my hotel in Orange County on the 405 South when I came upon signs that indicated the freeway ahead was closed and all lanes consolidated before being forced to exit at the 605 North.

Although I lived only 15 minutes south just 6 years ago, this was an area with which I was not too familiar. When I lived there, I made every effort possible to avoid the labyrinth of the SoCal freeway system. Even those with limited sense of direction can probably understand that when you’re headed south and then suddenly find yourself on a northbound freeway, you’re going the wrong way.

Earlier in the day I had already had the experience of getting on the 405 north when I had intended to go south leaving the airport, so while I wasn’t thrilled, it was not an unfamiliar feeling. Some people I know would find this situation completely unnerving. For me, though, I’ve always had this deep sense that no matter how many wrong turns I take I will ultimately find my way.

Eventually I did find my way to my hotel. I’d be lying if I said that after passing through several unfamiliar intersections and not recognizing any of the roads, and a gut feeling that I was indeed still headed the wrong direction, I pulled out my phone and entered my hotel into Google maps.

The first word out of male Siri’s ( I replaced the female because I thought she was a bit condescending) “mouth”were:

“Make a u-turn if possible.”

I’m pretty sure that 99% of the directions he has given me include that phrase.

Saturday morning I checked out of my hotel and headed to my sister Colleen’s house in Irvine to pick her up for our weekend in Palm Springs.

I entered the destination for the resort into my GPS. My sister, who has lived in the area for several years said, “I don’t understand why it’s taking us this way. Somehow this doesn’t seem right.”

However, I continued to follow the directions given to me by the man in my phone (Let’s call him Fritz). Sometimes he didn’t give me very much warning before telling me where to turn, and I would miss it. When that occurred he would do one of two things: readjust the course or utter the frequent and all-too-familiar, “Make a u-turn if possible.”

Soon we discovered that the route he had chosen required getting on to a toll road. Since I was driving a rental car with no transponder, the resulting fine would have been exorbitant.

We got off at the next available exit and made our way onto I-5 north, then onto the 55 , then the 91 east, to the I-215 to the 60 to the 10.

See? I told you “The Californians” wasn’t an exaggeration.

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Somewhere after we got onto the 91, we ran into a large traffic jam. Saturday traffic jams in SoCal are not unusual, but are typically inexplicable. The back-up was likely the reason my GPS had tried to divert us onto a toll road. Either that, or because the toll roads are actually the most direct routes. Direct routes are only for the wealthy, apparently.

We sat in traffic, but neither of us minded because we had great conversation. I’m not even sure how long it took us to reach our actual destination, but that was the beauty of this trip; we had  planned to have no plans. Our only goal was to connect, spend time together and take each moment as it came.

Taking each moment as it comes and not trying to control my vacations is a new experience for me and not something at which I typically excel. I’m a work in progress.

After checking in  at the resort, we spent the afternoon poolside. The forecast predicted a rainy sunday, so we decided to take advantage of the sun while we had it.

Dinner was an easy choice; We both love Mexican food. I yelped Mexican restaurants in the vicinity and found one not too far away named Huerta’s on Jackson St that had a 4 1/2 star rating.

Once again I turned to “Fritz” for guidance. The area of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indio is a lot more sparse and spread out than one might think, and a lot of the roads are not well-lit at night.

I followed the directions given me by Fritz, and having visited the area a few years prior, I had a general understanding of where I was. Turn right on Hwy 111. Turn left onto Jackson. We passed a sign that welcomed us to Indian Wells.

Fritz said something about turning left that I couldn’t quite hear. Then he named a different road on which to turn left , as if he’d  changed his mind. I turned left at the next light and Fritz gave another street name on which to turn left, but I couldn’t see the street he named, and it certainly didn’t look like an area where a restaurant might be.

Colleen picked up my phone and said, “It says we just passed the turn.”

We were once again directed to take a left at the next light. After turning I said, “Why do I have the feeling we are going in one giant circle?”

My sister responded, “I believe we may be.”

Sure enough, we got to the next intersection and I noticed on my left was the giant sign for Indian Wells that we had passed earlier. We were back at Jackson Street. Fritz had indeed taken us in one giant circle.

Colleen looked at my phone again and said, “It looks like we are headed right for it. It’s on this street. Oh wait. It says we just passed it again.”

I looked to my left  and saw nothing but a dark residential neighborhood. There weren’t even street lights.

“I’m starting to think Huerta’s is really just someone’s house where they make a good chile relleno and someone thought it would be funny to put them on yelp just to make tourists go insane trying to find it.”

I drove in the darkness for a bit and finally made my way to a gas station so I could pull in and find another restaurant.

My sister said, “Why don’t we ask someone where we can find good Mexican food?”

I looked over at the monster truck that had pulled into the parking space next to me,  and at the man who leered at me as he got out.

“Uh. You’re welcome to. I think I’ll take my chances with Yelp.”

We looked over the other restaurants and realized a couple of the higher rated ones were listed as being on the road we had been approaching before pulling in to the station.

I said, “What about this El Mexicali Café?”

She said, “I was just looking at that. It says there are two of them, so they must be good.”

“It also says people prefer the one by the railroad tracks.”

(Possibly the only time I have uttered those words.)

We pulled back onto the road and kept our eyes peeled for a building showing some signs of life.

And then it appeared, like a literal oasis in the desert. An oasis near the railroad tracks that serves margaritas.

There were people outside but I couldn’t tell if they were waiting or just hanging around. Inside it was pretty small, and as we walked in we witnessed a scene that could only be described as festive. There were two mariachis (mariachi?) playing guitar and singing under a flatscreen  TV that was showing a basketball game. There was a small bar with stools where two older couples were laughing and eating. Every table and booth was filled with lively conversation except one small table for two that sat empty. Two men and three women were waiting in the entrance, and three waitresses were moving quickly between the kitchen, the bar, and the various tables and booths.

One of them, an older woman, came rushing up to us and asked in a heavily accented voice, “How many?”

We told her there were two of us, and she began scanning the restaurant. She went over to one of the waiting men and said, “You wait, yes? I give the ladies this table.”

The men seemed to grudgingly agree, but after waving us over to the not-yet wiped down table, another of the waitresses started yelling at her in Spanish from across the noisy room. My one year of high school Spanish told me that the plan had been to push the table with a table for 4 to seat the party waiting.

Our waitress hurried over to the other one, and there was much debate, complete with gestures and waving hands. Our waitress came back and said, “Sorry. Sorry. You wait a bit more.”

We got up and moved back to the entry and she said, “You want margarita. What kind? Strawberry? Mango?”

We ordered Cadillac margaritas, which she brought over to us while we waited. We people-watched and listened to the music. Neither of us was annoyed by the wait, because the room was electric and interesting. Occasionally the whole place would rumble as the train passed by. When we were finally seated we ended up at our original table, as the larger party had been put in the back once another group had left.

Our waitress returned and shouted at me, “You want peppers!” and pointed on the menu at a picture of what appeared to be some sort of stuffed peppers. My recent obsession with jalapeno poppers led me to agree. She rushed off before I realized the peppers were stuffed with shrimp, which I don’t eat, but I was able to flag her down and cancel the order.

It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in this restaurant. The employees somehow managed to make every customer feel like a part of one big extended family. When the mariachis (mariachi) began playing “la Bamba” the whole place broke out into song. One of the waitresses would randomly grab a diner from their seat into the only open space and begin salsa dancing with them. Those who were waiting danced in place and clapped along. When certain songs came on, the entire staff would start trilling.

Besides the food being seriously delicious, that may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

During dinner we mused about getting lost and yet somehow finding our way to this amazing, unexpected place and experience. We ended up exactly where we were supposed to be, even though we hadn’t meant to go there.

And here, finally, is my point in telling you all of this:

Life can be that way a lot of the time. We have agendas and expectations, and yet still we sometimes get lost.

Sometimes we get detoured.

Sometimes those we trust or allow to guide us take us in the wrong direction.

Being lost can be terrifying, unnerving. It can make you question everything you think you know.

But sometimes we discover that in the midst of being lost, we find something remarkable;

We find extra time to connect that we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone the direct route.

We find treasures or experiences we would have missed out on had we ended up where we intended.

We learn more about ourselves while lost and searching than we ever do when we stay on the path.

I’ve felt a little lost lately. As I said earlier, typically when I find myself lost while driving I feel certain that I’ll eventually arrive at my destination.

However when I feel spiritually or emotionally lost, I don’t always have that same confidence.

It’s so important in those moments to cling to what we are sure of, and to take inventory of who and what we truly value. Many times it’s not the destination that matters, but who we take along for the journey, and being fully present with them in those moments.

Someone recently told me that whenever I feel anxious, unsure, disconnected, or simply trying to control a moment instead of experiencing it, often it takes only to stop and get my bearings through the use of the 5 senses.

What do I smell?

What do I hear?

What do I feel?

What do I taste?

And what do I see right in front of me?

This past weekend I got lost more times than I could count. Our drive back from the desert included a 15 mile jaunt in the wrong direction of the 215 freeway (10 to the 60 to the 215, to the 91 to the 55 to the 5 to the 405). Fritz’s tone sounded a bit  offended when I finally gave in and pulled him up on my phone. I had thought I could figure it out on my own. He directed me off the southbound and back onto the northbound 215. I guess there are times when you’re lost that you have to be willing to take advice and guidance.

In all of my “lost-ness” though, I had a fantastic weekend of being in the moment with my sister; maybe not in spite of being lost, but because of it.

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“It’s Just A Game”

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I can’t count the number of times that I’ve read that statement over the last 18 hours.

“It’s just a game.”

You’re right. It’s just a game. It’s just two groups of men, knocking each other around, running the ball (or not), throwing the ball, catching the ball (or not), all in hopes of winning a game. A game.

I’m not playing the game. I don’t even personally know the people who are playing the game. You’re right. It’s just a game.

So, what do I do with these feelings that I’ve been told I’m unjustified in feeling?

Did you know that’s what you’re telling me when you say, “It’s just a game”?

What “It’s just a game” really means is, “I have deemed your disappointment, sadness, frustration as unworthy. I have cast judgment on your feelings and found them lacking validity.”

I suppose the argument could be made that “it’s just a game” is a completely accurate statement. You and I could sit down and make a list of all the reasons why my feelings are unmerited.

Of course, if we wanted to, we could use the same exercise to undermine all feelings, couldn’t we?

“I know you’re disappointed that the concert you’ve been waiting to watch for a year got cancelled at the last minute, but it’s just entertainment.”

“I know you’re frustrated and upset that you’re snowed in at the airport and can’t get to your vacation destination, but it’s just a trip.”

“I know you’re unhappy that the political candidate you voted for didn’t win,  but it’s just an election.”

It would be easy to make all sorts of arguments as to why these situations aren’t significant in the overall scheme of life that would be technically accurate.

However, when we start making ourselves arbiter of the feelings of others, where’s the line?

“I know you’re upset that you didn’t get the job you wanted, but at least you have one.”

“I know you’re mad that your friend betrayed you, but at least now you know.”

“I know you’re hurt that your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you, but at least you weren’t married, it’s not like a divorce.”

“I know you’re devastated that you miscarried, but at least you have 2 other kids. And it’s not like you were that far along.”

I see this even with more serious situations like illness, financial crises, death of loved ones. Maybe it’s our own messed up way of dealing with the uncomfortable nature of facing each other’s feelings.

“It’s just…”

“At least…”

“It’s not like…”

These innocuous-sounding sentence starters actually have a pretty significant impact on the one who’s on the receiving end of them.

Under the guise of “lending perspective,” these statements tell each other, “you aren’t entitled to feel what you’re feeling.” Maybe they say, “you aren’t entitled to feel what you’re feeling as much as you do,” or “you aren’t entitled to feel what you are feeling for as long as you have been feeling them.”

The reality is, yes, it’s just a game.

The sun still came up today (or so I believe, because all I see is rain and clouds, but since it’s no longer night, I’ll assume it did.)

My husband went to work as he does every Monday morning.

My kids went to school as usual. (And by usual I mean Parker is wearing unmatched socks)

Life goes on.

But even with seemingly insignificant losses in the grand view of life and eternity, there are feelings.

I’m sad today.

I have a sense of grief over what could have been, what almost was.

I mourn the end of an inspiring season that seemed destined, and, at times, miraculous.

I’ve loved the unity in our community, the fight against all odds, the striving towards a glorious finish.

When hopes are dashed in the end, it’s inevitable that feelings will be a part of that experience. If there are no feelings, there was no connection. If there are no feelings, what was the point in watching at all?

“The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”

That statement isn’t just about the individuals who are participating, it’s also for those who have invested their time, their money, even emotionally investing themselves.

I was emotionally invested. I am emotionally invested. Today my heart is a little broken. I don’t need or want anyone to give me perspective today.

Today  I get to feel what I feel.

I would apologize for feeling a way that you might think is silly, small-minded or self-indulgent, but I’m not sorry.

I still love my team, I love my city, and I love my Seahawks community. I do believe that adversity builds strength, and I believe the future remains bright.

The outcome of a sporting event doesn’t alter my life in a dramatic fashion, and tomorrow the sting will lessen.

But please know this:

I get to feel what I feel.

I’d appreciate the opportunity to process my feelings without scorn or derision.

I’m sure you’d want the same consideration for your own feelings, regardless of my opinion of their validity, right?

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Please Hear What I’m Not saying

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Last night was a brutal night on social media. Even more so, it was brutal on the streets of Ferguson , MO and major cities throughout the United States.

From the outset, let me make it clear that this post is NOT about my opinion of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Not to say I don’t have an opinion, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I had quite an extraordinary opportunity last night when I witnessed the interaction on my posts regarding the breaking news between several people that I know, none of whom know each other.

As I watched the conversation become tense, I saw that people I know and care about were perceiving each other in negative ways and I found myself crying “Arugula! Aruugula!” ( Arugula is my safe word on Facebook http://kbjackson.com/i-think-my-brain-just-broke/)

I found myself wanting to explain to each one of my friends  who the others are, what I know about them, and where they are coming from.  It was an eye-opening experience. I kept thinking, “If they knew about each other what I know, they wouldn’t assume what’s in their heart.”

One friend chose not to engage because they realized their contributions might add fuel to the already stoked fire. Another deleted many of the comments they wish they hadn’t made. I know this was out of respect for me and I appreciate it greatly.

 

Every sentence that was pounced upon came from someone who has a unique perspective based on their own life experiences. Everyone who pounced upon a sentence brought their own life experiences to the conversation.

Two of my friends who commented on the post currently live in the South, and have for some time. Living in the South brings the concept of race relations to a whole other level.

One of my friends who commented is a former police officer who has dealt with having to defend his actions while on duty in a court of law.

One, my husband, comes from a family of police officers.

One is a pastor’s wife who helped create an organization to help local low-income mothers and children in need.

One is a pastor (not married to the wife above) who runs an organization dedicated to helping those in need, with a strong focus on serving the people of Haiti.

One is Haitian-born.

One is born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up seeing crack destroy the families of his surrounding community.

Two are teachers.

Most are college educated, at least two of whom have masters degrees.

All are hard- working and successful in their own fields.

Five were raised in my same small hometown.

One is a  sitting member of the US Dept of Commerce/NOAA Diversity and Inclusion Counsel.

One is a social worker, who has worked for Child Protective Services, rehabilitation in the prison system and Adult Protective services and has witnessed societal horrors most of us couldn’t imagine.

One has worked as an Alaska state trooper and was present in full riot gear for the tumult following the not-guilty verdict of the LA police  officers who assaulted Rodney King.

Most live in communities or near large metropolitan areas where police departments have had systemic racial investigations.

One has two white teenage sons, one has three black teenage sons.

One of those two men has to tell his sons to keep their hoods down and their hands where they can be seen.

One is dating a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Two are black men who have personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

One is a biracial woman who grew up in a nearly all-white town and is married to a black man who has personally encountered racism, racial profiling and police harassment.

Most are white, some of whom have personally witnessed racism, racial profiling and police harassment of minorities, while others have not.

All are responsible, law-abiding citizens.

All are caring, kind, loving people.

Several are Christians, whose mandate is to love others.

A couple are agnostic but believe passionately in caring for others.

Some are angry. Some are sad. Some are both.

All are my friends.

Don’t assume who is who, you could quite possibly be wrong.

My point is this: When a statement is made online to a stranger, they don’t know the heart behind it, the life experience behind it. We must “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” -Steven Covey.

So many of our contentious discussions could be mitigated if we followed this simple idea.

At the end of the day, my friendships with all of these people still stand. Do I get frustrated? Of course. Do they get frustrated with me? Absolutely. I actually got two separate messages from friends who read but did not participate in the conversation. One said “Katie, for the life of me I don’t know how you think the way you think about certain things, but I hope you and your family have a happy thanksgiving.”

The other read, “I would enjoy a friendly discussion with you at some point based on different view points.”

I consider both of those messages an encouragement that I am finally, after years of bullying my way through conversations and shoving my point of view down people’s throats, figuring out how to have healthy debates where people don’t leave despising me.

I continue to pray for peace and understanding in the midst of the anger and chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

The Title of this blog post comes from the 1966 poem by Charles  C. Finn  http://poetrybycharlescfinn.com/pages/please-hear-what-im-not-saying

Pardon Me, Do You Mind Holding My Purse While I Have A Midlife Crisis?

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Some of you may have noticed it’s been a while since I last published a blog. It’s been nearly two months, and while I have been silent, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything to say. I just have finally come to the point where I have the words to express what has been going on in my mind and heart.

We’ve all heard the phrase “mid-life crisis,” and most would use stereotypes to describe it:The man who dyes his hair (or gets hair plugs), buys a sports car and/or a motorcycle, and finds some young girl to feed his ego. Maybe it’s the woman who gets a boob job and starts hitting on her personal trainer.

In reality, those stereotypes do sometimes happen, but it usually is a lot more subtle; a chipping away of respect in our marriages, a dissatisfaction with our lives as they have played out, focusing on what we thought our lives would look like, and resenting the turns and twists that have led us to where we are. If we aren’t careful, a midlife crisis can undo a lifetime of good things in pursuit of unsatisfied dreams and desires. It can make us forget what we have, and ignite a search for what we think we are missing.

For me, it started with a stupid Facebook question that had me questioning everything I have ever believed about myself, about my life, my marriage, about the world I live in.

DO YOU PUMP YOUR OWN GAS?

That wasn’t the actual question, but the gist of it was, a woman was asking if it was unreasonable to expect her future husband to take care of all of her car maintenance, take her car to get the oil changed, and pump her gas for her.

My initial response was, “Pump your own gas, lady!” After all, it’s 2014, women can do for themselves. Right? I’ve never asked or expected any man to do those things for me- I’m perfectly capable of doing it.

Then I began reading the responses from men, most of whom were claiming that of course they do these things for their woman. That’s what a man is supposed to do.

Now, in my house growing up, my mom didn’t drive, so my dad took car of the car stuff because a) he’s a car nut and b) he’s the only one with a car.

But there were other things I watched my mom handle without feigning helplessness. She mowed our lawn, she de-popcorned our asbestos ceiling, she hung wallpaper,  she helped build our sunroom addition. She let my dad take on a lot of the DIY projects around the house, but there never was an expectation on her part that she would sit around protecting her manicure while my dad did all the  “man stuff.” She modeled self- sufficiency.

In my relationships, no man had ever made a fuss about opening doors for me, pumping my gas, treating me like I was a delicate flower. And I had no expectation of that. I have always taken pride in my independence, my self-reliance.  I am a “low-maintenance” kind of girl, I like sports, and I’m not afraid to squash a spider in the house. I know how to change a light bulb, solve a problem, fix what needs to be fixed and do what needs to be done.

And, I have very low expectations of everyone else. I try to make my relationships easy.

After all, who wants to be with a needy, demanding woman?

But these responses from these men had me puzzled, and a little off-kilter. I filed them away in the back of my brain and went on with my life.

A few days later, my husband invited me to lunch. I got to his office, and as we walked out I asked, “Which car do you want to take?”

He began walking to mine, and then I said, “Oh! I just remembered I’m low on gas.”

His response was to shift direction towards his car.

And in my mind I thought, “Hmmm.”

Later that night we took my car to dinner because there was a bigger group of us than would fit in his car. As we left dinner, I said, “Oh geez, I can’t believe I forgot to get gas this afternoon.”

My husband’s response was some sort of agreement that he couldn’t believe I had forgotten either.

And my mind thought, “Hmm.”

So I said, “You know, it’s funny…” And I began to relay the Facebook conversation.

He said, “Depends on how hot she is.”

He was joking, mostly. “Oh so I’m not hot enough for you to pump my gas for me?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you never had that expectation. And this chick better be pretty hot if she’s going to be that demanding.”

He wondered if I had been testing him all day with my “I need gas” statements, and I swore I had not.

I began to ask my guy friends what they thought of this question. Some said they do it because that’s how they were raised. Some said they DON’T do it because that’s how they were raised.

And it seemed it came down to one very important distinction in my mind: Is the gas pumping issue more about the pumper or the pumpee?

One friend said that all the women he’d dated were independent, and never asked, but recently his new girlfriend had asked him to do it. He said her expectation and annoyance at his response almost felt like she was questioning his manhood. She expected him to step up, and her having that expectation made him want to live up to it. He said that older men that he knew that were on second marriages were with women who expected MORE of them, and that made them feel more needed, more wanted, more essential.

And I thought, “Have I been thinking about this all wrong my entire life?”

This one stupid gas pumping question had spurred a thousand more…

I thought having low expectations was a good thing, but do men really want someone more demanding?

Would my husband respect me more if I relied on him more?

Why hasn’t anyone wanted to pump my gas for me?

Is it the way they were raised?

Is it that I’m just not the kind of girl that makes a man want to pump her gas?

Does that mean I’m not valuable?

Is it that they don’t see me as valuable, or that I don’t see myself as valuable?

How do I know when I’m being grateful or when I’m settling for less?

If you teach people how to treat you, has my approach to having low expectations of others led to them not respecting or valuing me?

What am I modeling to my children?

What am I showing my husband? What does he think of me? How does he see me?

What DO I deserve?

Am I a woman of value?

If I AM a woman of value, how do I prove that to myself and others?

I have to admit that this one question turned my head upside down and sideways.

I won’t go into all the details of what came next. Some are private, some are painful, some are a topic for another day.

But here’s what happened: In questioning my worth and my value and my attitude, and my relationship with my husband, my children, my friends and my God, I found my answer.

I thought back to 13 year old me,  17 year old me, 21 year old me. For a moment I reconnected with each of those girls. I viewed my life at 42 through the lens of who I was back then, the one with the dreams and what I had lately been viewing as unfulfilled potential.

I was surprised to discover that 13 year old me is thrilled with the life that 42 year old me has. 13 year old me wondered if I would ever find a boyfriend, and now sees that I’ve been with the same man for 21 years. She thinks my house is big and fancy, and loves that I live close to my parents and get to see them often. She thinks it’s cool that I’ve continued to sing, and now I get to share that with my own daughter.

17 year old me sees that certain struggles with my self-esteem have never gone away, but she’s amazed that I have such great supportive friendships, and loves that I have remained connected to those who were so integral to my spiritual growth in high school. She is impressed that I’ve figured out a way to live with straight hair instead of constantly perming it. Oh and she likes my boots.  She is proud that I’m a part of a great church, and sees that I am finding ways to use my gifts to serve others. She also likes that my husband still thinks I’m hot.

21 year old me reminds me that when I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, I wasn’t sure what the future held. Unmarried, uncertain, frightened, but determined to make a family where there was none. And I did it. She likes that we’ve filled our home with tons of kids- our own and all of their friends. And she heard my husband say, “If I had known then what I know now, I would have married you sooner,” and she knows it all turns out okay.

The best part of a midlife crisis is the realization that for every mistake that you’ve made, you still  have an entire half of your life to do better. For every unfulfilled dream, there is an unexpected blessing. For all the unfulfilled potential, there are opportunities. For every poor choice, there is wisdom gained.

A midlife crisis doesn’t have to destroy what you have been building for the first half of your life in order for your second half to be even better. A midlife crisis can remind you of what’s truly important. And it can be a fresh start without upending your family and your marriage.

My husband DID get a motorcycle, which is totally fine with me. I’m starting a new venture myself, a way to fulfill all the potential I believe I have within me, but it’s not going to look quite like what I thought. Turns out that God has a different idea of how he wants me to use all of that untapped potential than what I ever would have come up with on my own. I’m excited about this new “Second-half” phase of my life because I have all of my favorite people with me as I embark on this new journey.

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out what it will be…

Oh, and by the way, I’m still pumping my own gas. And I’m totally cool with that. I’ll save my requests for things that really matter.

 

 

 

 

 

I Can See Clearly Now… Except When I Can’t

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So this happened a couple weeks ago.

I got glasses.

Do I look smarter?

My husband keeps saying things like, “You look so smart,” and “I would have believed you knew what you were talking about if you had your glasses on when you said it.” “Now you look as smart as you always think you are.”

He says I used to be a Candy Crush addict, but with my glasses, I’m now the Dr. of Candy Crush.

He loves to tell people, “Now she can see how bad she parks!”

Last night I asked him a question and he responded, “Why are you asking me? You’re the oracle!”

This morning as I was brushing my teeth he looked over at me and said, “You’re a wizard, Harry!”

I, of course, feel that I have now fully transitioned physically into the person I always felt I was on the inside.

For the majority of my life, I was a blonde-haired big-boobed  girl who was constantly trying to prove that I was a brain not a bimbo. Now I’m a brunette with glasses, and as Parker keeps pointing out, I “look like a nerd, from the nerd herd.”

I don’t have the inclination to try to figure out why people with glasses are considered to be smarter-looking, but it is what it is.

While in many ways I feel that my look represents me better, I have actually been having a bit of an identity crisis, truth be told. I had PERFECT vision. During those elementary school tests in the nurse’s office I was always told I had 20/20 vision.

When Sydney came home and said she couldn’t read the board at school or street signs as she drove, I was convinced she had diabetes because “We don’t have vision issues in this family.” (In my defense, she also ate like a horse, gained no weight and was always cold.)

Turns out, she was blind as a bat, and did NOT have diabetes.

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But still adorable in glasses

Here’s the funny thing about poor vision- until you can see clearly, you have no idea how bad it is. (Boy if that’s not a true statement literally AND metaphorically, I don’t know what is… )

A few weeks back, I was looking for a movie on Netflix. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to watch, it was late and I was tired, but not quite ready to go to sleep. I was sitting with my head propped up on my pillows and scrolling through the titles, but having a difficult time reading them. They were so small and across the room, I was having to squint to see them.

I moved closer to the TV to finish looking, but the next day I woke up with a terrible headache, and I was convinced it was from squinting so long the night before.

The day after my bad headache I went to breakfast at the local coffee shop with my friend Lisa. We like to order their specialty oatmeal (fresh fruit- no raisins), but as I looked at the menu board, I realized I could see there were two types of oatmeal, but couldn’t read the difference between the two.

Why did they make the writing so small??

A couple days after that I was in line at a large store (that everyone hates that shall remain nameless). I, of course, picked the slowest line with the cashier who appeared to be in a race for slowest cashier. She was winning. I glanced over at the optical department, looked at  the time, and realized I might be able to sneak in a vision check.

My thought was, I’m probably getting old, and now I need glasses. It was depressing, but I figured I might as well deal with it head on.

I filled out the paperwork and handed it back to the assistant. She asked about my insurance and if I had a previous prescription.

“Oh no. I think it’s just that I need reading glasses because I’m getting old. Although, my husband is convinced it’s all the time I spend on Facebook. I’ve always had perfect vision.”

The assistant laughed and assured me it was NOT Facebook-related.

When the doctor called me back, he sat me in the chair and I repeated my assertions of previous perfect vision that is degenerating because of my age.

He looked at my first eye and said, “Whoa!”

“Whoa?!?” My first thought- it’s a tumor.

“You have astigmatism.”

“What? What is that? What does that mean?”

“It means, good news- you’re not losing vision because you’re getting old.  It’s the shape of your corneas. They’re angled like this *insert awkwardly angled juxtaposed hands* and have been your whole life.”

“But… How can that be?!”

“You must have had some very generous DMV testers over the years.”

“I’ve never had vision problems. I mean, when I was younger some eye doctor said I had some weird depth perception issue that could be addressed with eye exercises, but other than that I have never had a problem.”

“Well, you have. You just didn’t realize it. When you’re younger, your eyes are more pliable and can compensate. The older you get, the more tired your eyes get, the less you are able to compensate. Didn’t you ever notice that the corners of your eyes are blurry? That you can’t read the bottom lines on the eye chart?”

“I always thought those were for people with extra good vision.”

Like who? Superman?

It’s true. I thought far away signs were blurry because they were… far away.

The day I picked up my glasses the girl who gave them to me warned me about breaking my eyes in, getting used to them.

As I drove home I decided while stopped at a stop sign to try them out, see how well I could see with them.

It was crazy.

I got home and said, “Everything looks 3-D.”

Jeff said, “Yes. The world is 3-D. It always has been. ”

What I found so amazing was that I could now see edge definition I had never realized was possible, causing trees to look separate from each other, instead of blending in. It reminded me of seeing a diorama.

However, it wasn’t like my vision was instantly great. I found myself high stepping everywhere I went because the ground looked way closer to me than it actually was. I fell off of a few curbs and stumbled around a bit because my depth perception was askew.

I’m sure there were people convinced I was showing up to school pick-up drunk.

I tried hitting a button on my car dash, only to discover the reason it wasn’t working was because I was about a centimeter off.

There are other things that people who don’t have glasses don’t realize about life WITH glasses.

#THESTRUGGLEISREAL Y’ALL

1. Sun

When it’s sunny, I wear sunglasses. I get headaches if it’s too bright. I wear sunglasses every day that it’s sunny, especially when I’m driving. Even when it’s not sunny, a lot of times there’s a glare. But when I’m driving is when I really need my glasses so that I can see street signs. Unless I buy an extra set of prescription sunglasses, I’ve got Sophie’s choice happening.

I don’t want to buy those clip-on shades to go over, I’ll feel like:

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There’s always transitions, but those always remind me of those poor kids who always had wonky yearbook photos because the flash darkened the glasses.

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Young George Clooney anyone?

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2.Rain.

I live in Seattle. We happened to have had the driest summer pretty much in the history of Seattle this year. Now it’s October and the rain has come. It’s not even so much the rain. When it rains, I use an umbrella. It’s the mist and the drizzle. I feel like someone needs to buy me a set of these:

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3. Smudges

The first day I had my glasses everything was clear as a bell. Now, much of my day looks like this:

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This is the same view I have when I drink my steaming coffee, open the oven, or breathe when it’s cold out.

I cannot seem to get these things clean. I bought wipes, spray, fancy silk cloths- everything is streaky, leaves spots, or lasts all of five minutes before I catch a glimpse of some smear in the corner.

4. Knowing when to take them off

I like to watch TV before I go to sleep. I actually like to fall asleep watching TV. If, however, I do fall asleep…

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Also- kissing. ‘Nuff said.

5. Once you go glass, you never go back.

I’m not sure if the glasses are affecting my vision, or if my vision really has been this bad and I’m only now realizing it, but when I take my glasses off, I can’t see. Everything is blurry. It used to be that I could read things close up just fine, it was just far away stuff,  but now I have to have my glasses on to read anything.

6. The comparisons.

Hipsters like to wear non-prescription glasses because they like the “serious look” of them. I have yet to figure out my “look.”

Initially, I received the “naughty librarian/nurse/teacher” references- even from Zoe ( “I know this is creepy because you’re my mom but you look like a sexy teacher” ) which has left me wondering how my 10 year old even knows about this concept.

One person said I look like Alex from “Orange is the New Black”

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I’ve never watched that show, so I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult, but she looks a little mean. And a little like she belongs in “50 Shades Of Grey.”

 

Someone said I looked like Wonder Woman’s alter-ego Diana Prince

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Which made me very happy. I wanted to BE Wonder Woman as a kid, so if I’m giving off a Wonder Woman/Diana Prince vibe I can totally live with that.

And then this conversation happened:

Nathan came in the kitchen, stared at me for a minute and then said, “You look like that Canadian lady from Alaska who tried to run for president. ”
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“Are you talking about Sarah Palin?”
“Yes. That’s it.”
“She’s not Canadian.”
“I said Alaska.”

Thus proving once and for all that glasses don’t always make a person look smart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying To Find The Words

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Photo courtesy Aimee Carr

I’m a writer. I’m a talker. It’s what I do.

But there are times when the words don’t come easily, and this is definitely one of those times.

For days my hands have hovered over the keyboard as I attempt to communicate my heart, but every spoken word, every written word feels inadequate.

On Friday around noon, My friend Paula went to Heaven to be with Jesus.

I know people like to use the phrase “went to Heaven” as a euphemism for death, but in this case, I have no doubt in my mind there is a Heaven, and Paula is there.

I met Paula shortly after we moved to Utah in early 1999. We began attending a tiny little church that had recently moved from the lead pastor’s basement into some office space.

Paula’s husband Shawn played guitar and sang on the worship team, a set-up that, between guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, speakers and mixing board, and three singers on mics, took up most of the room.

Oh and Shawn’s hair took up the rest.

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Shawn and Paula circa awesome hair band days

My first impression of Paula was that she was the perfect yin to Shawn’s stage-ready yang. He was the performer, she was his grounding.

We started attending a small group evening Bible study together along with the worship pastor and his wife, some of Shawn and Paula’s friends who had recently begun attending our church after leaving their previous faith, and some other couples from church.

When we would all get together, you could feel that something special was happening; the result being huge spiritual growth in all of us, and a bonding that took place.

Paula would listen more than she would talk, and then she would say something so profound that I would sit in awe of her. She had a quiet, gentle way of cutting through BS to the truth that was inspiring and sobering.

Paula was a Proverbs 31 woman- faithful, steadfast, giving, charitable, loving. She didn’t have an easy path, which made her cling to the promises of God all the more. And she was silly. She found humor and delight everywhere she went.

One of the things I loved and admired Paula for was her constant state of gratitude. Even before she got sick, I knew that here was a woman who took nothing for granted: not her marriage, not her children, not her friends, and definitely not her faith.

Last summer Paula was diagnosed with cancer. She was supposed to beat it. In fact, she did beat it. Just a little over a year after her diagnosis, she rang the bell signaling the end of that journey.

She found herself in a strange place emotionally a couple weeks later as she contemplated life going back to normal. She lamented the return to ordinary after her extraordinary year.

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What happens when someone is facing a diagnosis like cancer, is that often life becomes significantly more intentional. The opportunities to give and receive love are clearer, the desire to make the moments matter is stronger, the things that are insignificant are revealed for what they are in light of what truly counts in this life.

Just a couple of days after writing that blog, a mere three weeks after being declared cancer-free, Paula and her family learned that her cancer had returned with a vengeance.

My first indication that something was wrong was a post made by her newly-married daughter that was quickly deleted. My heart sunk.

In the spring, I seriously considered making a trip out to Utah to visit my friends, particularly Paula and Shawn. As her treatment came to an end, though, I breathed a sigh of relief and the urgency slipped away. It had been years since I had seen her, but now that she was going to be okay, waiting another year or two (or three) didn’t seem like such a big deal. After all, we kept up on Facebook, and that’s sort of the same thing, right?

And then came the word from Shawn:

The LORD is SOVEREIGN
He said NO…
PAULA ‘s Lymphoma is back, all throughout her lungs, and is terminal.
We have ‘weeks’
Thank you for your love and prayers. This last year was a gift, but now He is calling her home

 

And I fell to my knees sobbing.

My first thought was I need to get there, to be there. I irrationally and immediately booked a flight to Salt Lake.

But friends had gifted Paula and Shawn with a vacation to the Oregon coast and they were headed this way. I cancelled my flight and told them wherever I needed to go to see them, to hug them, I would go.

We made plans to meet up in Portland on their way to the coast. Paula may or may not have also procured cannabis oil from a hipster on a bicycle in a park, but I can neither confirm or deny that. (Bucket list- √)

We went to dinner and then back to Shawn’s sister’s house to hang out before I had to drive back home. We caught up on things the way we would have under any other circumstances.

We watched the country music awards and made jokes about what we were seeing.

We talked about old times, and about times I missed since moving away 10 years ago. Shawn plucked on the guitar as we talked and threatened to make me sing with him. Paula told me about how they nearly adopted children who had escaped polygamy, but in the end, another family from our church was a better fit.

Shawn would say something that annoyed her, and she’d say, “Shawn…” with a disapproving tone. I loved that they were still them.

And I loved that as he talked about his wife and their tough journey of the past year, his admiration and love was shining from his face. Whatever the year’s long battle had taken from them, it had failed to temper their beautiful relationship.

As the evening wore on, Paula became more tired. She crawled up on the couch next to her mom and laid her head on her shoulder. Her mom stroked her head as Paula lay there with her eyes closed. It was a beautiful heartbreaking sight, one I will never forget.

Soon she said it was time for her to go to bed. I hugged her and we said, “I love you my friend.” But we didn’t say goodbye. We said goodnight.

On Friday, while her family sang praises and prayers over her, Paula went to be with Jesus.

If I had it to do over again, knowing it was the last time I would see her, I don’t think I would change a thing.

“I love you my friend.” What else is there to say?

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Theoretical park where we might have possibly maybe obtained medicinal cannabis oil

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 Say a prayer if you could, for Shawn, Hollee, Heather, Andrew, Grace and Paula’s mom LuAnn.