Tuesday, September 24, 2013


I thought I was going to die this weekend.
For real.
This bug bite on my leg got infected and over the course of two days I watched it slowly spread across the front of my thigh and run down the back of my leg. I pictured it rotting before my very eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I could feel the toxins running through my blood. Hot, red, and swollen. So maybe I've read way too many articles about flesh eating bacteria, but since my mom and mother-in-law have too, I was in good company.

Then yesterday morning we woke up to no water pressure, and found out after drinking the water we were on a boil advisory for the next 48 hours. Saweeeet.

And remember the whole wall thing?

So let's recap.

Toxic body.
Toxic water.
Toxic air.

My goodness. We seem to be a bit of a mess here in Mulberry.

It's actually pretty funny. When you think about it. Because really, none of it's going to kill us. It's frustrating and annoying but pretty funny.

Isn't that life?
It's like this ridiculous pendulum swing from crazy good to just craaaazy.

And there's no choice but to laugh at the absurdity sometimes of
Why it is so. freaking. toxic. sometimes.

One minute you're drinking from the deep wells of it- all the joys and beautiful moments, and then just a small drop of ugly spills in. A poorly timed word. A quick eye roll. And the sinking feeling creeps in. Just a drop. Not enough to steal. Yet. But if left alone.

Our words.
Fire and water.
Bringing hurt or healing.

A spark.
James says that "by our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell."

We can be toxic.
With our spouses, our children, our friends. With people we don't even know.
Our words can hurt. So quickly.

In community.
Busy bodies. Knowing looks that know nothing.
Leaking in toxicity that has no place.
It steals.
It kills.
It destroys.

We can live by a different Spirit.
One whose words give life. As a spark can quickly set off a fire, our words can also quench a thirsty soul.
Living upside down in a world whose expectations are based on fear and formulas, replacing them with grace and truth.
And above all love.
Holy Spirit love.
Love that only makes sense as other than our toxic flesh.
Other than but empowering within.
Speaking strongly, standing boldly.

Wounds finding hope.
Chasing out the toxic sludge of irresponsible words.
Flourishing. Bringing life.
Seeing life. And people. As good gifts from the hands of a creative and abundantly generous God.
Who. Loves. Us. Fully.
Unified and made whole in Him.
Made in His image.
Reflecting His image.
With tongues tamed through Spirit fire and washed in grace.
Bringing life.
Beautiful, crazy.
Gift of life.

It's funny, really. Isn't it?
Forget the toxic.
Don't give it space.
And watch it dissipate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Paleo for Dummies Like Me

My family went Paleo yesterday. We're a day in and it's going well, I guess. Except for the fact that I'm sitting here at Starbucks chomping on a cucumber and sugar snap peas when there's scones and salted caramel hot chocolate inside. Whatever. We can do this.


It's not that I want my kids to be Paleo freaks. I'm being very lenient with them. They both ate chocolate pudding with lunch yesterday. And a little vanilla ice cream after dinner. I may or may not be living vicariously through my children's dessert eating right now. It's just that along with that chocolate pudding I want them to get in the habit of eating food that actually nourishes their bodies, too.

A few weeks ago I took Jax to the doctor, and she noticed that he looked a bit pale. Matt and I had both thought this before but attributed it to the fact that the boy has Scandinavian genes and nether of his parents are particularly bronze. She wanted to run blood tests though. As it turns out he's anemic and needs to up his veggie intake.

What 3-year old likes veggies?
What 32-year old likes veggies?

I did really well for the first week. He ate them with pretty much every meal. And since the doctor said it, who is evidently more of an authority than his silly mommy, he ate them.

"The doctor saaaid," he sang each time he stuck a piece of broccoli in his mouth.

What was convenient soon took over though. My meals weren't planned around getting our veggies, our meals were planned around what we could get quickly, which for me usually doesn't include a whole lot of vegetables. So, I realized if I'm going to get my family to eat what they need to eat in order to be healthy, I need to have a plan.

I'm not particularly good with plans. 

It's not that I think Paleo is superior to any other way of eating, but it includes lots of fresh food and provides me with structure. I decided to get everyone on board, first sitting down with the kids on Sunday night and showing them pictures of different colorful, veggie-filled Paleo lunches. They told me what they wanted and what they didn't. It actually worked really well. Since all the choices available were good, they couldn't choose poorly. They liked being involved. Jax wasn't in school but I packed his lunch anyway, along with mine, so we wouldn't be out and about and suddenly find ourselves starving and cranky, needing to grab something. We were prepared. Plus, I made Matt his lunch, which I haven't done in years, but I actually enjoyed that, too. It was fun to do something for him. Of course it helped that he both called and told me when he got home how much he enjoyed it, too.

I have to be intentional if we're going to change our family's eating habits. I do really well for short spurts and then give up though. Not give up, just stop planning ahead. Maybe that will happen again. I don't know. Or maybe it will put us on a trajectory of actually being a family five years down the road that makes good food choices, often. Maybe I'll become a mom that likes to cook as an expression of love to those around me. Or maybe it'll just stay as a necessary evil that I'll always want to choose ordering a pizza over. And that would be okay too. My boy will somehow get his veggies in his little white body though. I'm committed. :)

Would love it if you had any good recipes to pass along!

Speaking of eating good food, have you seen this video that Chipotle did?? I love it. Makes me happy. Reminds me that choosing to eat good, natural food is good for all of us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Liberation from Causes

"That is such a great cause."
"That's so awesome that you're involved in a cause like that."
"What an important cause to support."

These phrases are nails on a blackboard.
I've used them myself.
And it's not that there's anything wrong with a cause, per se.
Sometimes it's a launching point that catapults someone to the next step.
It's just that it's so easy for a cause to stay just that.
A cause. 
A thing to support that evokes an emotional sigh. 

This is what can be difficult about being involved with anti-trafficking efforts. 
It's an easy cause to latch onto.
I mean, what decent human being doesn't want to end human trafficking?

There's a book that I read several months ago called Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God that I keep sneaking peeks at again on my Kindle. It talks about the powers of this world and how we are not to imitate them, even in efforts to do good. Instead, it presents a theology of weakness that relies on the tabernacling of God both in our own lives and in communal life. Jesus did not approach the leaders of the day to get his message out, but ordinary (or even less than ordinary) men and women. It seems I talk about this idea a lot but it's just so counter-intuitive that I need to remind myself over and over again. I don't naturally want to trust God to work in and through me; I want to do what I can to urge him along.

Marva J. Dawn says, "It is not truly liberating if we participate in worthy (even biblical) causes just because the media makes them the 'issue of the day.' Such fads and fashions pass away when they are no longer front page news."

If we as a (universal) church are to be involved in human trafficking efforts, causes, missions- however we want to label them, then we must make sure that what we are doing looks more like the posture of Jesus than the posture of the powers of this world.

So how do we know whether it's something that we should be a part of or if it's just another fad?

It's kind of a Sunday school answer.

Prayer and listening to God.
When we're choosing which areas to be involved in, we should be asking God. Duh. Sometimes decisions feel like a bit of a trust fall. Yet when we know who will catch us it's easier to let go. When we're already immersed in knowing Him there are a couple ways that help discern God's voice through the narrative of Scripture.

So that brings the question, why trafficking?
A couple simple reasons, actually. 

Theology, what I know from the pages of Scripture to be true, informs who I am and what I do.
At some time in our lives we are all enslaved and need liberation.  As one liberated I am now an *agent of liberation, reconciling all things under Christ. And while salvation is the ultimate liberation, the act of being liberated is an ongoing process. It is never just personal, as we are human beings created to commune with each other. Our liberation is tied together with others, as what we do effects those around us. We are connected to each other as well as responsible to each other. When I find myself enslaved to myself and my own self-interests, it impacts those around me, whether that's my husband and kids or the lady I get annoyed at on the road for not driving as fast as I think she should. This is destructive for everyone around me. Human trafficking is the ultimate expression of slavery that both effects the individual and the community. It is exploitation that effects every aspect of a person's being- physically, mentally, and spiritually. Christ is the only one from whom true freedom can come. We live it when our lives have been changed by it.

The opportunities right in front of us.
The beginning of all of this in my life came through relationships that I've had for years. Friends introduced me to new friends who broadened my circle and helped me see a bigger picture. I was given eyes that have been learning to see what's right in front of me. And that is crucial- it's right in front of me. It's local. It's part of the make-up of our own community. I see things differently and seek out people and places that have been right there all along but I didn't have eyes to see before. I've been able to meet new people that continue this cycle. It's pretty awesome, actually. I get to build relationships with people I wouldn't encounter for any other reason. For a while I wanted to depend on my already-friends to share my passions, but this way is so much better. They can all continue on in the ways in which God made them to impact the world and I can learn how to best support them as they do that, but at the same time I get to meet more incredible people to collaborate with. This is one of the most beautiful ways to see God answer prayers, in giving us eyes to see what is right in front of us. This is where the Holy Spirit guides, in showing us how to be a part of addressing the needs in our path.

*Sidenote- And this is super important- when it comes to the expression "agents of liberation" - the end does not justify the means. How we do this is just as important as that we do it at all- not through oppressive means that are just an alternative to another way of controlling or holding power above, but through a theology of weakness that relies on the power of the cross (God's ultimate display of power over evil, sin, death and corrupted power through an act of weakness). We cannot force, we can offer. We cannot manipulate, we can love. This is especially true in dealing with people who are used to being controlled.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Silence and Shame - How Do We Increase the Dialogue?

When I was in ninth grade I got a phone call from an adult male who asked to speak to me and then kept asking who my favorite teacher was. I had two male teachers at the time and didn't know if I recognized the voice on the other end or not. I should have hung up when he persisted. Then he started talking about how he saw my "gorgeous little ass everyday" and began telling me the X-rated things he wanted to do to me. I was in shock. And mortified. And scared. I was home alone and called up my best friend who lived behind me. Her mom came to get me and when my parents came home my uber-protective mom called the cops. They came to file a police report but I never told anyone everything that he said. It was just too disgusting and made me feel dirty, so I never repeated it and seriously blocked it out. His words made me feel such shame that I couldn't even say them out loud.

It was completely humiliating.

My senior year of high school I had an art teacher that would often say borderline inappropriate things to me. It wasn't anything major; he would just comment on how I looked and it made me uncomfortable. Maybe it was in my head though. Then one day he took me aside and told me how he had seen me around all year and had always wanted to have me in his class. Total inappropriateness confirmed, I stopped doing work in his class and got a C. I shut down and didn't tell anyone about it because again, I felt shamed and embarrassed.

While these incidents weren't life defining, both had an impact, which seems almost silly because compared to a lot of people, these incidents were no big deal.
But, it started to shift the way I looked at men.
It made me a bit distrustful. Especially of men in positions of authority.
Because there were other incidents I knew of during this time period with men that were supposed to be trusted, but they are not my stories to tell.

I'm not saying I'm screwed up because of any of this. And I'm not playing the blame game with men in general. All I'm saying with my very mild encounters is I'm pretty sure it's the universal story of growing up female.

I can't imagine what it must be like for someone who has endured abuse.
And it scares the heck out of me because I totally understand how people never say a word.

There was a time in college when I received a couple creepy, threatening emails. Actually, they weren't even threatening me but a guy that I had been hanging around with but was no longer (a long, weird story). When I filed a report with Campus Safety, and it turned out that the emails had come from his computer, I kid you not, the officer said to me, "You don't really think ___ did it, do you? I mean, he's such a nice guy." I should have said whole-heartedly that I was certain he did, but instead I pretty much just let it go.

I have such regret about that.

I can't imagine what it must be like for someone who has endured abuse.
A child. 
A teenager.
And it scares the heck out of me because I totally understand how people never say a word.

I've had this conversation with several friends about what this means for our own kids. How in the world do we prepare them? How do we explain things in a way to a child that, God forbid, if anything did ever happen to them, they would not be shamed out of telling us? How do we prepare our kids while at the same time not scare the crap out of them? How do we find balance between being crazy over-protective and completely naive to the world around us?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Caring for What We Create

I saw this project on twitter this afternoon and fell in love. What a great way to mesh the creativity of both a parent and a child. I liked it so much that I went looking for my old portfolio to see if I had anything that would work. Couldn't find it. I vaguely remember throwing it out during one of my de-cluttering binges. I figured I wasn't going to do anything with it anyway. It was mostly just sketches from a couple classes I took to finish my art minor while I was pregnant with Emma. But oh, the symbolism that could have been there with her completing something I had started while she was growing inside me. Saaaad. I wish I had shown more care for what I had created, even if it was just some silly drawings.

This evening, I got thinking about the care that should be given to what we create.

Matt's uncle came over for the second time to look at some problems we're having with our house. The walls are leaking, growing mold and destroying our wood floors. Now, I understand, this is part of owning your own home. There's going to be things you'll have to fix. Stuff breaks. It happens. But with our house, there's a couple things about this particular situation that just really bother me. From what it seems, it's due to poor craftmanship that wasn't limited to our house. Rumor has it that several homes in the neighborhood have had the same problem. I remember being shocked by how quickly our neighborhood went from a handful of houses to stuffed full in a matter of months. I also remember being in the office listening to a sales person push people to spend more than what they were comfortable paying. But hey, as long as the product sells, who cares what happens afterwards? The foreclosed houses and unkept yards didn't effect them. So up the houses went. Quickly.

If this was our first problem, it wouldn't be a big deal, but our first issue was even worse. We had Chinese drywall, which essentially meant our walls released toxic gasses. Really great for the health of our children. Yes, it was "made right" and fixed but not without signing papers saying we wouldn't sue for their negligence. And negligence it was, as this was a good year after builders realized their materials could be tainted.

So here we are again, with our back wall literally crying when it rains, growing mold that once again, doesn't effect the builder, but the lungs of my small children. So thank you, to the powers that be, for caring more about profit than people. Because let's just be honest about it. Yes, I understand that you are a large company. But question, why can't we get it through our heads that bigger does not necessarily mean better? The health of an organization is not necessarily in it's growth if that means you can't care well for those in front of you.

It's not that I wish my first home was custom built. Not at all. I just wish that there was care put into building it. I wish there was pride in workmanship. Mostly, I wish my greedy little eyes hadn't looked for the most house for the least amount of money but instead looked for a well-loved house with a history.

This has been a reminder for me in some big picture concepts:

1. What you do effects everyone around you. 
Wow. This has been huge lately. Another post in itself because it extends to all aspects of life, but for this, we'll stick with our work. Or simply what we create. We have opportunity to add beauty to the lives of those around us. We are responsible for each other. Act like it. Live like what you do isn't just about you. Or your wallet. Our selfish actions have consequences, even when it seems it's only about self, it's not.

2. Take pride in what you do as a creator/creative being.
See your God-given abilities as gifts from God and regift the heck out of them. We are all created with a purpose. Gift the world and serve as you are uniquely made to do. Don't be lazy with what you've been given and don't get all puffed up about it either. Recognize yourself as the work of an incredible Creator and get creative yourself. Take joy in creativity.

3. Buy local.
This is a huge source of so many of our problems. When those selling to us have no connection to us, and when life spins around the economy, when choices of saving money or caring for people come up, most will choose the dollar over a mass of nameless faces. How else can we possibly explain the fact that we still buy chocolate harvested by children and wear clothes made under slave labor? And I admit, I am still guilty of this. Evidently, this extends beyond just our food and small products, too. When we think locally, it's about relationships. It is much more difficult to not care about the welfare of someone with whom you have looked in the eye.

Finally, I want my children to reach their full creative potential, but not at the expense of others. I pray that they become wise little creators who learn how to love others with the gifts they've been given and not use people for their own gain. I pray that making money is not what drives them the most. I pray that they never sacrifice relationships to chase their dreams or use their creative abilities in ways that hurt others, knowingly or not. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blurred Lines

So we're all so totally over the whole blurred lines conversation. Every angle has been covered and analyzed to death. It's funny, depending on who you talk to, the lines are still blurred though. I understand that we live in a society where we're all coming to the table with different views on sex and displays of sexuality.

I get it.
But. And here's the big but because I'm not sure what the answer is. BUT- aren't there certain lines that we can all, as human beings, hold fast to? For instance, our children. Can't we all just say enough is a freaking nuff and hold our kids sexuality to be sacred ground? While what's done in secret is exposed in big scandals like what happened at Penn State last fall, instead of being shocked and wondering how in the world so many people failed those kids, could we possibly start looking in the mirror instead? Can we look all around at what's in plain sight that fuels this exploitation and abuse of our kids and say we won't stand for it a second longer? Seriously. Because when scandal rocks our schools, our churches, our society in general, we all need to take a second to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "What could I have done to stop this?" How can we prevent this from ever happening?

But we'll face blurred lines.
Fights that are bigger than we can handle.

I think audacious is the word I've heard to tackle fights like this.

So what fuels child exploitation that is right before our eyes? While I'm sure there are many things, here is what I have my sights set on right now because I stumbled upon it while looking for a cartoon for my children the other day. Verizon Fios On Demand has an adult section three or four clicks down from Kids Zone and if your system is anything like mine, it gets stuck sometimes and you end up just pounding on buttons to get it to do anything. So, lo and behold, I ended up in the adult section and got so freaking angry about what I saw there. A whole set of titles devoted to TEEN SEX movies. And again, I get it. Eighteen and nineteen year olds are technically adults of age to make these types of movies.

That's not the point. 
The point is that this pornography in particular fuels demand for young girls. Our kids. And I can tell you this for sure, the demand for young girls is high already. The average age a girl is coerced into commercial sex trafficking is thirteen years old. When a man solicits a prostitute on Craigslist or visits a massage parlor or gets sexual favors from a girl he meets at a strip joint, do you think he checks her documentation to make sure she's of legal age, especially after he's answered the ad that has advertised the girl as young?? But in mainstream big businesses, like Verizon, we say it's okay for them to do this because it's a blurred line. These particular girls are of age. But then we're shocked when child sex trafficking happens right in our own communities and we turn our eyes away from the enablers.

Please, can't enough be enough? 

I called Verizon on this and they said there's nothing they can do. File a complaint with the Federal Commission. I kind of took that as being blown off. If it were just about me, I'd be annoyed, but whatever. However, it's not about me. It's about our kids. It's about looking at what's fueling demand for child sex trafficking right in the face and saying, "NO MORE."

Someone recommended that I start a petition, so I did. In almost 24-hours we're 125 signatures strong. I realize this is small potatoes. I realize that we would probably need thousands of signatures to possibly make any difference at all. And I realize I'm up against something that many people may just roll their eyes at and say it's just a blurred line. Forget it. But maybe, just maybe it's audacious. Maybe it's not caring that we're up against something too big. Maybe it's about believing in something bigger than our own efforts because maybe there are glimpses in this life right now of wrongs made right. Maybe there's things worth fighting for, even if we're bound to lose.

I choose to live in a world of what ought to be. I think may faith ensures that. A world where not quite yet, but someday, all wrongs will be made right. I won't give up on that hope because I won't give up on the hope of the One who will make all things new.

Will you join me?

Please, take a moment to sign the petition and share. 
Verizon Fios Change.org Petition