The Dominican Republic, part 1

Hey, girl, hey! 

I haven’t blogged in nearly a year, but here I am! 

Well, I can’t ever tell for how long I’ll be back because blogging is hard. Blogging the way I do – where I feel my heart and soul travel through my fingertips to the screen, is exhausting. And I’ve been in a place for awhile where that was simply not possible. It wasn’t possible because of normal busy life stuff, because of the same doubt stuff, and because of some mental health stuff that had been lying below the surface and decided to pop through.

A few months ago, I remembered that I always wanted to do foreign missions, and never have. I did go to Mexico with Grace once, but we also brought our kids, and it’s really hard to actually be involved in the missions work stuff and also parent. I had 1 and 3 yr olds with me, and I was exhausted – come to find out, I was pregnant with #3. Scott was there too, and we traded off a bit, but #pastorswifeproblems, he was much more essential than I was. It’s really ok, but I didn’t get the full experience. I wondered if maybe doing the thing I had felt so called to at 13 would help me find what I’m missing. Lucky for me, I have a friend who is a Missions Pastor, Benji, and he was able to fill me in on all their trips while we were all out on a double date. He recommended the first-timer’s trip – a trip to Hope House International, run by missionaries Michael and Amanda Braisted, to do a variety of things: manual labor, VBS, hospital visit, etc – to help figure out what sort of missions draws you in and suits your skills. It fit perfectly into my schedule and finances, so I signed up.

I am so grateful, that through donations and our church, I didn’t have to pay any of the fees, including my passport. The people of Grace are generous, and listened to God speaking to them, and I got to go on this trip with very little financial impact on my family.

I wish I would have blogged every day, but I was exhausted, and at the end of those kinds of days, words are hard. Words are less hard, now, though, so it's a little long to do them all at once. I'll break it into two parts. 

Please know that my general first response, probably from growing up in the church that I did, is to see myself as the problem, that my natural inclinations and feelings are wrong, sinful, in fact. I have no doubt that this clouded my experience, and that other people’s experiences varied greatly. When I felt guilty about something, I do not believe that everyone should have felt guilty, or even that it was wrong. I'm simply sharing my experience.

A cutie from the orphanage. More on them later. 

Day 1 was all travel, and we arrived at the Braisteds' home open to 23 people, warm and welcoming. And humid. Very humid. This desert rat didn’t even realize that 95% humidity was a thing that didn’t involve actual drops of water in the air. 

In the airport, I was immediately struck by how difficult life must be for immigrants who do not know the language, or know a few words (like I do of Spanish), but not nearly enough. I was overwhelmed by the not-knowing. I can’t imagine if I didn’t have a bunch of people with me, or translators, or if I was going to be living there. I just kept thinking of how I would feel if I was already overwhelmed and frustrated and someone said rudely, ‘Why don’t you just learn Spanish?!” People stared at me (#ginger), but no one acted frustrated or short with me, much less downright attacked me. 

Day 2 was Sunday, so, duh, we went to church at Iglesia Cristiana Oasis, which is where the Braisteds attend. They have their own Christian school that the church helps to fund, so that children from all socioeconomic groups can attend. We were kissed by all the women, and so welcomed by everyone. We sang in Spanish, sometimes vaguely remembering the English words and sometimes not. It’s amazing to me how a mess of Spanish and English all being sung together will be one of the most beautiful memories of my life. I was moved, truly moved, in that service. It was as if the Spirit of God was as heavy as the humidity that surrounded us, thick in the blessed breeze that blew through the building. Easily one of my top ten life experiences. We sang the same song a week later, at home, and I wept for the emotion I had felt the week before. However, this was probably the only time I "felt God" during the week. Now, I'm realizing that the antidepressants that I had weaned off in the beginning of August (under a doctor's care, because of unwanted side effects) may have been doing more than I thought, and this was probably my least exhausted time (depression and exhaustion definitely amplify my cynicism). 

We saw "The Monument," which was originally a home for the vicious dictator Trujillo, but became a monument to the revolutionaries that worked to overthrow him. At roughly the same time America was involved in The Civil Rights Movement, the Dominican Republic was being ruled by a murderous dictator. Think of how far we've come, and more importantly, NOT come, since the Civil Rights Movement. 

We also visited the Hope House Int'l land that day. We saw both the land and the Braisteds' vision for an orphanage system that reminds you of a family system. There will be 4 houses, with "parents" living in each. They have visions to be self-sustaining, through crops like plantains, bananas, and limes. They hope to have a soccer field and a play area, and to keep some of the natural forest for natural exploration. Let me just stop and say these two people are amazing. They've been in the Dominican for 10 years, and saw a need for true orphan care. There are estimated over 200,000 orphans living there, and the process of adopting is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. For Americans, both members of a heterosexual couple would have to live there for 3-6 months! And that's if everything else works out. They've been working tirelessly to create a place where kids could live and grow and thrive. There is extreme poverty on this island, and an extreme need to care for the fatherless. Mike and Amanda are lovely people, pouring their hearts, bodies, souls, and minds into caring for the least of these. Learn more about Hope House, and follow them on Facebook
Hope House Land
The tilled earth to the right is for crops. The casitas for housing children will be in the back. 

That night, Amanda spoke of how hard it is sometimes to go to church, that we know we need to look forward to it, but we sometimes get hung up, and just don’t want to. Then Benji spoke of being burnt out, and I was immediately moved to tears, like I was punched in the nose, and didn't understand the water leaking from my eyes! I didn’t think that could be me. I’m just the pastor’s wife. The pastor isn’t even burned out, how could I be? After I thought about it though, I realized, I’ve been active in ministry since I was 13 years old. I started teaching preschool in VBS the first year I was allowed to work, and never looked back. I fully believed (and was reminded often) that service was my duty and obligation to the church. I’ve not volunteered for very much at church in a long time. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And while my many doubts certainly played a part (I just can’t teach kids that Jesus will always protect them), I think burn out did too. I haven’t had anything that I could pour out into others in a long time. Occasionally, something will pull at my heart, generally something involving the oppressed in some way, and meeting a physical need rather than a spiritual one, but I have not been routinely involved in serving in 2 years now. Scott immediately asked what my next step was, and I have no clue. If you've got suggestions, I'm open. 

The first night (after travel) of a mission trip is arguably the single worst time to realize that you're burnt out on ministry. I mean, nothing but ministry going on for the next 4 days. That's the predicament I was in after the first night. To be continued. 

Letter to a Middle School Parent

Mommas and daddies of middle-schoolers, I have to tell you something.

We pretend like the first day of kindergarten was the hardest first day.
We pretend like those tears we shed were just a one-time thing, and that it’s just because they’re so small and vulnerable.

That’s a lie.

Listen, we know how hard it is to send your vulnerable not-always-little guys off to a building with 1000 other vulnerable kids just like yours. It may even be harder than that time you discreetly wiped tears as your 5-year-old ran to climb the huge orange slide. 

Because so many of our 5-year-olds knew what they wanted out of life, at least that day, and that was enough. They were looking for fun, they were looking for knowledge, they were looking for friends. And many of them just knew that those things were waiting for them on that playground. That kindergartener knew that his answers were right, that her parents loved her, and somehow that friends would miraculously appear. Even if he wasn’t sure, you could be sure for him. You knew that, even if not right away, she'd make friends, letter sounds would click, and she'd do great. You may not have thought you knew that, but, you did. Deep down, you knew your kid would eventually learn to read, with very few exceptions to that rule. Sure, we worried, but we really figured it would all work out in kindergarten. But now, your sweet little boy or girl knows that school can be hard, and friends come and go, and that when they're gone, it hurts. She knows about insults and rumors. He is so unsure of everything, and nothing you can say can bring back that 5-year-old confidence you once admired. What's worse, is you no longer have that deep-down assurance. 

Like your child, your fears have grown. They're bigger and hairier and maybe even an octave lower. It's not a matter of "Will the other kids let him play tag?" anymore. Now it's school shootings, and bullying, and suicide, and sex. And even when it’s not those, it’s the right friends, and for your kid, the right clothes, and suddenly that’s a puzzle you can’t decipher.

Look away from that hairy fear. I want you to look over here at me, your kid’s teacher.
What you need to know is that we know. And we care. 

We know how hard it is. For you and your kid. 
We know what it's like to walk down those halls, lockers slamming, basketball players rushing past, girls snickering, and wonder what planet you fell onto, and how to survive. 
We may not know what it's like to watch your child walk through those big double doors, but we try to imagine (and some of us do know). 

We know which kids are quieter and have a hard time finding friends.
We know which kids are louder, but are really insecure.
We know they struggle with concepts that are beyond them for a time. 
We know they’re just trying to figure out who they are and where they stand. 
We know they’re stranded somewhere between kids and teenagers, a place our culture doesn’t acknowledge.

We know all these things because we care about them.
We care for them because we want so many things for them.

We want them to succeed.
We want them to be people who have compassion for each other, who not only see, but fight for the underdog.
We want to see them figure out that they have a talent for something, and how to make it grow. 
We want to protect them, and keep them safe from all types of harm. 

We will never care or watch as carefully as you do. Maybe that's good. This is an early step of the process to becoming an adult who does all of these things outside the view of his guardians. They have to learn how they will stand when you're not there. But, for now, when you're not there, they're not alone. They have us. Watching them, cheering them on, fighting for them to accomplish the challenges that necessarily are put in their way. 

You remember how hard it was to walk away from that small human that first day of kindergarten? It might actually be harder to drive away from a middle school, knowing what awaits them inside. But, just like back then, they have a teacher - or 6 or 7 - who is waiting for them with a smile, hoping to calm their fears and create a safe place to become the teenager they will soon be. 

One more thing. This letter isn't only for you. It's for me. See, we teachers are sometimes parents too. We see your kid walk in our room, and we see our own. This week, I dropped off a kindergartener and a middle-schooler, (and a 2nd grader for the first time in public school, and a 4th grader who hated public school, and a preschooler for the first time - momma's gonna need a good cry), and I had that same feeling of entrusting my very heart to another person each time.

Relax, mommas and daddies, myself included. They're in good hands. 
A middle-school teacher

Searching For Sunday Book Review

I was lucky enough to receive a preview copy of Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Do you ever read something and think, "Oh my gosh. This is ME. This is exactly how I feel." Followed by the possibly-stalkerish thought "We should be besties," but maybe that's just me.

Rachel's words moved me to tears in so many ways. It brought up past and current hurts. It challenged me to see things in a different way. It pushed me to turn to Jesus when my heart is hurt, especially so when it's because of his followers. If you've ever wondered why so many American Christians spend so much time trying to one-up each other with "holiness." If you've ever thought that maybe we should put more energy into caring for orphans than opposing gay marriage. If you've ever been struck by doubt so heavy, you thought you'd never stand again, reach Rachel's book.

I've said for a long time now that I don't really care much for the stories of people who've never doubted. Not that those don't have value, they do. It just doesn't do it for me, personally. I want to hear about someone who not just stumbled from the lofty mountaintop of communion with God. I want to hear about someone who fell all the way down the mountain, tumbling, scraping, breaking bones along the way. Maybe they even turned to the sky and gave God the finger after that, wanting nothing to do with this Christian life. And then, somehow, found their way back to Him. Of course, they found His arms open wide. Those are the stories I want to hear. While that's not Rachel's story, nor is it mine (I'm far too afraid of smoting), because this story is so close to my own - the tumbling and scraping down the mountain, at least - that it is one I will return to again and again.

Rachel's book is centered around seven sacraments of the church. I thought I'd give a few of my favorite quotes, and explain its significance for me (all emphasis mine). Honestly, this is difficult because approximately half of my copy is underlined. But, I figure that wouldn't really serve the purpose of reviewing the book. I've chosen the quotes that impacted me, but I could have done this with quotes I feel are calling for a change in American Christianity. Maybe a blog post for another time.

"The people didn't have to go to God anymore; God was coming to the people. And God, in God's relentless love would allow no mountain or hill - no ideology or ritual or requirement or law to obstruct the way. Temples could not contain a God who flattens mountains, ceremonial baths a God who flows through rivers. Repentance, then, meant reorienting one's life around this reality. It meant repenting of the old ways of obstruction and joining in the great paving of the path, in the demolishing of every man-made impediment between God and God's people, and in the celebrating of God's wild uninhibited presence filling every corner of the earth. It meant getting baptized in rivers and getting out of God's way. After all, with enough faith, a person can move a mountain . . .  even a mountain of her own making."

photo cred: Michelle Ziegler 

As one raised Southern Baptist, I understand the importance and beautiful symbolism of baptism. To this day, one of my favorite songs is Washed by the Water by Needtobreathe gives me chills and brings me to tears (they must be Baptist too, they have a real focus on baptism and rivers). But, this idea that baptism changed from a ceremonial bathing of feet to a anywhere-declaration of love and commitment moved me. As one who's built up mountains of theology, opinions, mistakes, doubt, and failures, I needed to hear this.

"We Christians don't get to send our lives through the rinse cycle before showing up to church. We come as we are - no hiding, no acting, no fear. We come with our materialism, our pride, our petty grievances against our neighbors, our hypocritical disdain for those judgmental people in the church next door. ... We come in search of sanctuary, a safe place to shed the masks and exhale. We come to air our dirty laundry before God and everybody because when we do it together, we don't have to be afraid."

Ruth Meharg illustrated each of the seven sacraments with birds. They are all gorgeous. Check them out at:

This sacrament is wholly unfamiliar to me, as a sacrament anyways. But the idea that we are here to be real with one another, to help one another, to hold one another up and share our trials, doubts, and difficulties is home to me. It's why I write. Funnily, I feel free to be that broken self everywhere except the church. That's something I'll be working through for awhile to come.

"But the gospel doesn't need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, 'Welcome! There's bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk!' This isn't a kingdom for the worthy; it's a kingdom for the hungry."

photo cred: Ashley Hamel

This section meant a lot to me; I already wrote a blog post about it. Yet, there's still so much more to say. I used to have a lot of food issues. I used to not drink alcohol because I thought it was bad. Over the last few years, I've gradually let go of those things, so the practice of communion really speaks to me - carbs and wine, no guilt! Just kidding. Mostly. More than that, it's the practice of being real. I believed, from as young as I can remember, that church is the place you put on the fake face for all the people watching - side effect of the fishbowl of being a PK. I still get anxious when I invite people to my house, thinking they'll be judging every tiny thing (What is that stain on the wall? Is there no jump house at this birthday party? Wow, those kids are LOUD. Why does this dish smell like socks? etc). The idea of communion being a place to invite people to see the real you (which, for me, sometimes requires a little wine), in your home, and you let them be themselves. That makes my heart lift with hope for the church more than anything else.

"No matter where I went to church, I realized, doubt will follow, nipping at my heels. No matter what hymns I sang, what prayers I prayed, what doctrinal statements I signed, I would always feel like an outsider."

"No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new."

photo cred: Stephanie Baldwin Tresner
When I was younger, I was wholeheartedly Southern Baptist. I was Baptist Faith and Message, baptism by immersion, communion once a quarter, Sunday morning/Sunday night/Wednesday night, Republican, anti-feminist, all of it. As I began to question and shed some of these things, I began to wonder where I belong, if anywhere. That first quote hit me hard. I wasn't alone in my feelings, but I still felt - feel - like an outsider. And yet, denomination doesn't matter between me and God. My confirmation rests in the fact that I want to follow Him, wherever that leads, a denomination or not. My beliefs will be based on my communication with God, and no one else's, and God will honor that.

Overall, this book is about how we need church, and we don't have to find it under a steeple. We can find it in so many places, and that building with the cross high in the sky is just one of many. "Even when I don't believe in church, I believe in resurrection. I believe in the hope of Sunday morning."
photo cred: Julie Provost

I received a free copy of the book to read and review. All opinions here are completely my own. I received no compensation for this review. You can buy the book at most bookstores or at:

Take Me To Church

It may or may not surprise you, but this pastor's wife did not worship at church last Sunday morning. I think I literally heard 2 words: "The Cross..." and could not get my voice to sing a single word. My throat was too tight with tears.

But I did have church.

At home. In my bathtub. With the blood of Christ, a full worship band (on Pandora), bath salts named "Heaven," and teaching from Rachel Held Evans newest book, Searching For SundayAnd this was exactly what I needed. Today. 

Let's back up to what was essentially an abysmal Easter morning. Scott had to leave at 6:30 am because we're a vagrant church in the process of changing buildings, and things didn't go as planned, so we ended up with no building to worship in on Easter Sunday, and ended up having our Easter service in a park.

To quickly sum up, I didn't help my husband on one of his biggest work days of the year, I yelled at my kids, I didn't get to wash -much less curl- my hair, we were late because I shaved my legs, I was given the stinkeye and a reprimand at church when I tried to walk quietly to the back during prayer (which I was actually taught to do - walk while eyes are closed, but is, apparently, a whole thing), was called out for not singing during worship (whispered out? I don't know.), and I forgot extra clothes for my son being baptized. I was a mess before the second song finished. 

I stood separate from the service, thankful that my freckled skin gave me an excuse to move to the shade. I thought about how the church is where I feel most judged. How I put on my fake face at church more than anywhere else. How I'm more honest with 7th graders than I am with the people that I call my "church family." How I grew up living in a fishbowl, and somehow willingly jumped into another one. How church really stresses me out - getting kids ready, looking decent, saying the right things. Keeping the kids from running rampant through the building, answering questions I'd rather not, smiling and nodding. I wonder what people think of me, and if I'm honest, it's because I'm judging too. Wondering why someone lets their kid do something, or why someone thought that outfit was a flattering choice. Most of the rest of the time my motto is "to each her own" and "whatever works for you!"and I try to rein it in, but I feel so open and vulnerable, and (again with the honesty) wounded, by the church in general that I default to that nearly every time.  I was convicted that I need to "judge not, lest ye be judged."

That's my boy, getting baptized in full Easter attire. 

I made it through the service, then did the whole family dinner thing, the egg hunt thing, the clean-up thing, the pack-up the kids thing, the late Easter basket thing (because dad left crazy early), the promising to play with outside toys tomorrow thing, and the bedtime thing. 

Then, I went to church. 

As I read Rachel's section on Communion, I dissolved into tears. She was describing an experience giving communion to each and every person at a youth retreat - nerdy, cool, athletic, needy, white, black, chaperone, student. God welcomes us all to the table. She said, "This is Christ's body, broken for you" to each and every one, over 300 times. We are all welcome at God's table, as we are. No need for new dresses and shiny new shoes. No need for clean hair or shaved legs. No need to fix all your doubts and insecurities first. Just come to the table. "Communion has a way of flattening things out like that, a way of entangling our roots and joining our hands." - Rachel Held Evans

We need the table. We need the church. Rachel quoted Norah Gallagher, "On those days when I have thought of giving up on church entirely, I have tried to figure out what to do about Communion." We need the experience of family around the table. I have always felt that my favorite time with my kids is dinnertime. I've never been able to pin down the reason, but it has something to do with intentionally looking at each other, sharing the same experience, and stopping everything else that swirls around us in our busy days. Rachel (she responded to a comment of mine on Facebook, so I'm taking liberties and saying we're on a first-name basis) discusses how communion doesn't have to be the wafer and grape juice, but can be the casseroles and desserts we bring to families, or the spaghetti dinner that lasts well into the night, discussing God, life, parenting, school, work, and all the myriad other things affecting our lives. 

I discussed with Scott right away about how to bring more Communion into our lives. I feel like I'll be able to open up more in my own home, over pasta, brownies, and a bottle of wine. Perhaps that vulnerability (will people notice the stains on the walls? the broken couch?) will push me to remember the way I really feel - to each their own. That experiment will be underway soon. How do you have Communion?  

Also, a full review of Searching For Sunday will be on the blog next week! Look for it! If you already want it, you can preorder and get free gifts! See for more details. 

I cried at yoga.

I cried at yoga tonight. 

I held back tears for a good twenty minutes, and then, at the end, she had us do that starfish thingy, and said to lean your head back "to open up your throat chakra," and that was it. Tears streamed down my face into my sweaty hairline. 

I cried because I was too fat. Too fat to make my body do the things that I wanted it to do. 

Now, anytime a woman says she's fat, someone says, "You're not fat!" even if she is. Which is nice. But unnecessary. I mean, I know I have quite a bit of excess weight. I'm overweight. Obese, even. Thing is, I'm really, truly ok with that word. It's something I'm working on, something I want to change, but it's a fact, and it's ok. Further, the same decisions that made me ok with that word, are also part of what brought me to my current weight. I'm ok with that too. 

What was not ok was that I love doing yoga, and all it did tonight was bring me shame. If it wouldn't have been even more embarrassing, I would have packed up my mat, put my shoes on, and walked back out. 

But I wanted to do yoga tonight. I wanted the feeling of working hard and stretching my limits, literally and figuratively. I just couldn't do much. My belly and my legs had too much fat on them to allow for room to bend the way I want them to. 

So I cried. 

Then, I wiped my tears discreetly (geez, who cries at yoga?!), and walked out.

I texted a friend, who (sweet soul) called immediately, and I couldn't answer because I was in the middle of the gym daycare.

I went home, got kids into bed, and myself into a bath. 

And then, a funny thing happened. I realized that I didn't go home and eat chocolate, or brownies, or ice cream, or pie - all of which exist in my house right now. I had carefully poured the glass of wine I had planned for, and took it up to my bath. I lit some candles. I chose silence to process my emotions better. I didn't even want to do the thing I've done every other time I've felt bad about my body for the last 15 or more years. 

That is BIG. 

Even more, all through the twist-your-arm-around-your-back-and-grab-your-other-hand-under-your-thigh mess, I had been embarrassed for the way my body looked, and embarrassed for the way it did not move, but I did not berate my body. I wanted to, a little bit. I even tried. But my heart wasn't in it. I simply did not want to talk to myself that way. 

That is HUGE. 

So, it seems a little anti-climactic that I cried in yoga, then went home and took a bath, and decided three things: 
  1. I'm going to make better choices when I eat, to lose that fat that inhibited me tonight.
  2. I'm going back to that yoga class to keep improving.
  3. I'm going to keep doing the things that make me love my body.
It might be anti-climactic, but I think it's evidence of a truly healthy mindset that has been missing in my life for a really long time. 

Is two kids easier than five kids?

My husband took 3 kids with him on a mission trip this week. You math wizards know that means I was left with 2 kids. Two! It takes more letters to spell it than there are children! I have that many hands! Do you know what that meant? I'll tell you what it meant.

It meant only counting to two at the park.
It meant we fit as the "extra" on a friend's museum membership.
It meant only brushing teeth for 4 minutes.
It meant only buckling 1/2 a carseat all week ("I buckle my top! I do it!")
It meant only finding 4 shoes before leaving.
It meant fewer than half of the fights.
It meant only 2-3 different requests for meals.
It meant bringing one sleeve of graham crackers and 1 container of blueberries as an entire snack.
It meant I could take them for ice cream and not spend over $10 OR lose my mind.
It meant driving my little car and not my minivan-mom-mobile.
It meant I could say, "You'll get the next turn," Every. Single. Time.
It meant that several times this week, they were both occupied and I could actually get things done.
It meant I only had to sweep once.
It meant 2 loads of laundry.
It meant I had the energy to cook and clean.
And, it meant I had less to do in order to cook and clean!

#3 got the special cone because it was $1.50 difference instead of $1.50 x 5!  And that face on #5? That pretty much describes how I felt all week. "Look at this! Two kids!" 

I'm not saying it was EASY, but it was definitely loads easiER. (It might not have been if I had been thinking about them growing up with just the two of them. I really love that they have 4 friends for the rest of their lives.) I still was exhausted at bedtime, still said, "Mommy can't take any more questions right now!," and still thought, "SERIOUSLY?!" at least once a day. Parenting is never easy, be it one or fourteen kids. 

So, I came up with this fabulous idea. It's not that two kids is easy. It's that two kids is easier when you're used to five kids.  So, how do you get that when you've only ever had a few kids? Read on.

Here's the deal. For a low, low price, (yet to be determined, but probably equal to two weeks of a hotel + meals for the hubs and I), you will spend two weeks at my house, and take care of my 5 kids. It must be two weeks because that is what is required for a good vacation you to fully reap the exhaustion benefits of having five kids! You will be responsible for (remember to take your usual workload for your number of kids and multiply it accordingly):

  • feeding them all healthy meals (which includes meal planning and grocery shopping - don't forget the wine!) (P.S. Every single one of them eats like a horse!), 
  • bathing them all daily 
  • making sure they're all buckled up correctly when you 
  • take them on multiple outings each week, 
  • brushing their teeth every night (just checking the oldest two! bonus!) - 2 min each!, 
  • refereeing fights, 
  • keeping a mental count of who's turn it is on video games, 
  • and when they have to stop playing,
  • letting them snuggle and climb on you, especially when you're trying to do something,
  • making sure they get enough time outside, despite outside temps in three digits everyday, 
  • reading to them (sometimes different stories for each one), 
  • trying to understand Pokemon and Minecraft, 
  • and carrying on endless conversations about them,
  • choosing movies that make everyone happy (ha! it's a trick! doesn't exist!)
  • and doing all their laundry 
After these two weeks, you will return to your own home, grateful for the lightened burden of however many kids you have! You're welcome! 

Who wants to sign up? Did I miss any of the requirements?

I Need to Apologize

Thanks to a Facebook comment from a friend, I realized I need to make an apology about my negative attitude towards Christians and The Church, particularly the American groups of those.

I didn't realize I had been negative, so when she called me on it, I was a little shocked. I knew that I have been disenchanted lately, and upset lately, but I didn't think I had been overly negative. I wondered how much of my negativity has been on Facebook or other public scenarios, and how much of it had been on my couch. Did it even matter? So, I began to think: Is there a deep negativity inside me towards Christians?

As I introspectively brushed my teeth, I realized, yes. Yes, there is something there. And I realized it was anger. I am angry. I am angry that I was nearly 30 years old before I realized that Jesus wasn't a Republican (that's embarrassing to admit). I didn't think that Jesus was literally a Republican, but I believed if He were alive today, He would agree with the party line (that's not less embarrassing, but maybe more understandable?). I am angry that I spent so many years thinking that the only clear way to heaven was through a Southern Baptist doctrine, and that I thought I was very progressive for thinking that other denominations could go to heaven, but they'd have to not really believe some of their doctrines (that's embarrassing to admit). I'm angry that I spent years believing that bad things happen to people because of something bad that happened, even if I never articulated it into thoughts. I'm angry that I thought myself better, more intelligent, than the Calvinist who told me that aborted babies would fulfill their predestination, but tried to shrug off my conscience when I wondered how God would send entire people groups to hell because they'd never heard of Jesus (again, embarrassing). 

I thought and thought, and while there are a few individuals I'm angry at, the first and foremost is myself. I am the one who cobbled together those beliefs. I am the one responsible for the conclusions I made. 

I thought, "What is my goal when I share things like this or say things like that?" I know that my ultimate desire is to remind Christians of our origins of loving God and loving people. I want people to see Jesus the way He represented himself - as a servant, a compassionate man, a lover of all people.When people think of Christians, I want them to think less and less of people like Pat Robertson and Phil Roberts and more and more of people like Jen Hatmaker and Pope Francis. But, do my methods match my goal? 

Very quickly, I realized, no. My methods this week were exactly the method that I find so bothersome: post something on Facebook, and pretend it tells the world something they didn't already know, that they desperately need to know (do I even need to say it? that's embarrassing to admit). Worse yet, read something quickly, think, "Yes! That's what I think, so it's obviously right!" and post it, hoping to enlighten others and bring them to your way of thinking (wow, really embarrassing).  I guess old habits die hard. 

So, I'm sorry. I'm very sorry to have acted that way. Furthermore, I'm (obviously) embarrassed that I acted like such a tool. If that post, or any other even remotely negative post of mine offended you, I apologize. That was wrong of me. I'm still going to work to promote love for all people, and a Christianity that focuses on Jesus and his methods and actions. But I will not do so with anger and negativity. 

It's exactly what irks me about many "movements." Some Christians try to reach and convert gay people by telling them that God is sending them to hell. Some Atheists try to convince Christians by humiliating them with language they don't understand. Some anti-vaccine people try to convince the mainstream by calling them "sheeple." Some medical folk try to convince anti-vaccine people by calling them "Dr. Google." Has this method ever worked? Have we completely forgotten the phrase, "You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"? I'm ashamed and very sorry for playing a part in that.

As with any hurt, I can't promise I won't react out of anger or hurt or embarrassment. But I can promise to do better, to try harder. That's all I'd ask of anyone else, and that's all I'll ask of myself. I have always felt like the main reason for writing this blog is to struggle publicly. To say, "You're not alone." I've felt a need for this for mothers, for Christians, for teenagers, specifically, but really for everyone. Part of that has to be admitting my faults and wrongs, and asking for forgiveness. That goes with the territory of making the struggle more public. So, that's why I had to write this. I could have apologized to my one friend alone, but I wondered if she was just the only one to confront me about it, and I wanted to make this part of my struggle available for all to see. 

I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I'll do better.