Just living my life, and making it work!

Archive for the ‘My Soap Box’ Category

Today is the Reason I Never Visit My Parents’ Graves

Yesterday my cousin went to our grandmother’s grave. As many people do, she cleaned it up, and placed flowers in the vase. It made me realize that in all the seven years since my parents died I have only been back out to the grave once, and only at the request of my grandparents.  Today is Easter Sunday, and it also made me think of the women who went to visit Jesus’ grave. They went there to pray, and grieve. On that first Easter Day they chose to go there, because that is where they thought He was. Of course, we know He wasn’t there. HE Is Risen!

It is because of this truth that I don’t go to my parents’ graves. My parents are not in their graves, because Jesus  is not in His. Sure, there is some decaying shell of the human bodies they once occupied while they were here, but they are not there anymore. Just as there was nothing for those women visiting Jesus’ tomb, there is nothing for me at those graves. Now, I don’t know exactly where they are, or what they are doing. But, I do know that where ever it is they are waiting expectantly, just as I am waiting expectantly for Jesus to return. We are waiting for His return to cast  out evil, settle up with non believers, and conquer death once and for all. Basically, this is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again so that we can have hope in our grief, and not fear death. 

Jesus offers this hope to everyone, and just because some don’t believe it, doesn’t make it any less true. On that first Easter Day the tomb was either empty, or it wasn’t.  It is either true, or it isn’t. If you aren’t sure how to answer that, or if you think it’s a lie, I want to encourage you to really look into this question. All of us need to be absolutely sure about the answer we give. Like it or not, you are betting your hope,  your future, and your eternal life on it.  If you are thinking about giving the Bible a look, for what it’s worth, Romans is my favorite. 

Just Say No To School Choice, and DeVos

Let me start by saying I am a conservative Libertarian who is pro capitalism. Choice and a free market seem to work really well in the economic sector. So well that initially I was very pro school choice. You can read here how I was a never public school mom who now has four kids in my local public school.  Once  I really started digging into he subject I realized school choice programs are a terrible idea thatt will KILL our education system

  1. Its not a free market because public schools have so many more mandates and requirements that cost a small fortune to comply with. Take transportation for example. Neither the private school or the charter school my kids’ attended offered transportation to anything. Even at the charter school the cost of renting a bus for a field trip was passed on to parents.  Think about it, that is like saying Wendy’s has $100,000,000 more dollars of regulations they have to comply with that McDonald’s does not. McDonald’s would be able o use that extra money to make their food better or lower prices. It wouldn’t be very long before Wendy’s went out of business no matter how good their food.
  2. Education is a common public good , not a product. The better educated our population is the better off we all are. This is why everyone pays taxes for schools no mater where their kids’ go to school, or even if they have grown kids, or kids at all. We all benefit from, and are responsible for, quality education. Can you imagine what would happen if people got to choose to spend their road money only on the roads they used?  We’d end up with a few super nice awesome roads that everyone would want to use. And mostly crappy roads full of potholes. People that lived in rural areas would be screwed because they wouldn’t have the combined money to fund their roads, but would live too far to enjoy the nice awesome roads. Same with the poor neighborhoods.
  3. We will largely give up our collective representation in the public school system. School Boards are elected by, and responsible to, the people. This means you have a say in how schools are run, and what your child is learning. If you are dissatisfied you have an elected governing body to voice your grievance, and demand change. Private schools, and charter schools have governing bodies, but they are not elected by the people.
  4. It isn’t as big of o choice as you’d think. If you are dissatisfied with one public or charter school you can just pick another one right? Wrong. Many charter schools and private schools are at capacity with long waiting lists and huge lotteries every year. Finding another one that has openings will be difficult especially if you want to change mid year. Not to mention changing schools is a luxury poor families who don’t have their own transportation don’t have. Lastly, private and charter schools do not adequately serve most students with disabilities, or ESL students. I have both kids with disabilities, and immigrant ESL  children. We have been to a private school, a charter school, and now a public school. The public school is the only place that I could get the services my kids needed.
  5. Mixing public funding with private religious schools is a terrible idea. Think about it, once a private school accepts public money they will have to meet certain requirements. It is giving the government permission to tell you what you can teach, and what kids of families you have to let into your school. Don’t like common core? Don’t want to teach evolution? Once you accept public money you may have to.

I know our school system is badly broken, but school choice is a solution in sheep’s clothing. It seems like it would work when you first hear about it, but once you look a little closer you realize it will be the death of our public education system. The only people who benefit from school choice are those middle class or above families hat can self-transport, the “normal” kids without disabilities or a need for ESL services,  and he corporations making money  off charter schools. Just say no to school choice reform and call your senator and tell them to say “no” too by rejecting DeVos as Secretary of Education

 

 

 

For At Leat One Child,No, Five Isn’t Enough

My husband and I have recently started telling our friends that we are ready to adopt again, and are actively searching for a little girl to round out our family. To be sure many of our friends and family have been excited and supportive. However, the most common response is a look of half confusion, half shock accompanied by the words ” What? Five kids isn’t enough for you?”.  They say it as if somehow we are being unreasonable or even irresponsible with our choice to add another child to our family.  It’s almost as if adding another child is like adding a luxurious accessory such as a sports car, or vacation home. I mean seriously, just how many of those do you need? Mostly I respond with a polite grin, and chuckle, but this is what I am screaming on the inside. 

For us, five is enough. It’s enough laundry, and meal prep, and homework, and after school activities, and, and, and……. 

But, for at least one little girl sitting in an orphanage half way around the world tonigh, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who waits for a mamma to love her through the good times, and shepherd her through the bad ones, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who doesn’t get enough to eat, or have access to quality healthcare, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who even if she is lucky enough to get medical care doesn’t have a mom to advocate for pain management or even make sure her lunch is served in the hospital, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who even if she is in a “good”orphanage still sleeps in a room full of cribs or cots, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who will be on her own after she ages out, and likely will have trouble getting a job due to her “orphan” status, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who isn’t allowed to go to school because of her special need, five isn’t enough.

There is a little girl half way around the world who needs a FORVER family. A family to love her, protect her, and provide for her as much as they can for as long as they can. We have room in our hearts and our home for another little girl, so how could we not add another child to our family?  The saddest part is that six isn’t enough either. Neither is seven, or eight, or even 100. For that reason, my prayer is that every person who feels the tug of adoption on their heart would be able to overcome the fear and doubt to open their heart to “one less” little girl or boy who needs them. 

Dear Parents of Kids with Food Allergies on Halloween, You’re Doing it Wrong.

Leading up to Halloween there was lots of things circulating social media about the plight of kids with food allergies on Halloween. Stories of parents asking, and sometimes demanding, that candy or treats be purchased by the neighbors and passed out that meets their child’s dietary needs. I’m sorry, but if you’re one of those parents you’re doing it wrong.

To be sure, I get that no one wants to see their child be hurt by feeling left out. It hits you right in the feels to see the disappointment on their face as tears run down cheeks. I get it, I really do. Although I don’t have a child with food allergies, I do have a child who struggles on Halloween. My oldest daughter has Spina Bifida, and requires the use of  wheel chair. We live in a very hilly part of the country, and several of our neighbors have steps or a large curb up to their front door. I watched as she struggled to make it as close as she could to the porches. I watched her face cringe every time she had to wait until all the other kids left the porch to be seen. I saw the embarrassment as she heard her younger brother explain that he needed extra treats to give to his sister when she couldn’t make it close enough to the door for a neighbor to see her. Of course I helped her push up the steps when possible, but there were a good many homes where getting to the front door using a wheel chair just wasn’t possible. I still held her at the end of the night while she cried about how left out she felt, and how unfair it was that she couldn’t walk like the other kids.

I noticed that several of our neighbors decorated their yards and set up tables and chairs in their drive way. She rolled right up with the other kids, and could easily participate fully in the trick or treat experience. I could put out a flyer next year explaining my daughter’s difficulty with Halloween, and ask them all to set up shop in their driveway. I won’t be doing that, and here’s why.

  1. It teaches my child to expect fairness. Life is in no way fare, and it is crippling to teach your child that it is, or even that it should be. In the real world your child will encounter frustration and disappointment. Better for them to learn to deal with those feelings in a positive way than to try to manipulate the environment so that your child avoids hard and negative feelings.
  2. It teaches my child to make her problems other people’s problems. Using a wheel chair in a world designed for people who walk requires lots of problem solving skills. Halloween won’t be the only time accessibility becomes a problem for her. Just like it is not the only time a child with food allergies has to deal with people eating potentially dangerous food around them. Teaching my child to get what she needs and wants while facing accessibly issues is an important life skill. Instead of expecting everyone else in the neighborhood to make it easy for her I teach her to speak up for herself, and let the homeowner know she is at the bottom of the porch steps.. If I had a child with a food allergy I would encourage them to say “I’m allergic to nuts, and cannot eat Snickers. Can I have those Skittles instead.”. I’d also talk about how donating the candy they cannot eat will bring joy to someone else, and promise to buy them their favorite treat they can eat.
  3. It teaches my child its not OK to be different. The fact is my child is different. She will never be able to blend in, and there will always be situations that point out to her just how different she is. I want her to know that different means different, not less than. I want her to feel comfortable and confident in her own skin. If I ran around all the time manipulating situations so that she doesn’t have to feel different, it not only robs her of practice dealing with those feelings, but it teaches her that I am uncomfortable dealing with her being different. If I cannot accept and celebrate her in her diffenetness, how on earth can I expect her to be able to?

I know it is HARD to see your child struggle, but personal growth, problem solving skills, and self acceptance are born out of that struggle. Just as the struggle a butterfly experiences emerging from their cocoon is necessary to fill their wings and allow them to fly; so too is it necessary for our children’s to fully development, and eventual  flight.  Romans 5:3 says” … we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,  character; and character ,hope.” As a parent my job is not to go out of my way to fix everything for my kids so they avoid uncomfortable feelings. My job is to shepherd them through those feelings when they have opportunity to arise.

 

For Such A Time As This

This morning my Facebook feed started blowing up that a man with ties to ISIS opened fire at a LGBT night club this morning. This tragedy is being billed as the largest mass shooting in our nations history. There is so much going on in this story that I’m not sure where to begin, so I’m just gonna.

Dear ISIS,

You go about creating these “terror” attacks in hopes that the fear you are perpetrating will force some kind of change. Let me be clear, greater is He that is living in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). I am sure that whatever plots you design, and carry to fruition CAN and WILL be used for GOOD, even though they are conceived by you in hate (Genesis 50:20) God is our protector, and healer. Just as He rescued the Jews time and time again, so He will deliver us from the likes of you. I serve the God who is filled with grace, and mercy, and everlasting hope that none should perish, but CHOOSE to follow Him (2 Peter 3:9). Your god teaches you to terrorize and murder those who do not follow him. By your fruits are you known. (Matthew 7:16)

Dear Christians saying the LGBT community got what they deserved,

If sin makes you deserving of being shot down in cold blood by a mad man, we’d ALL BE WEARING BULLET PROOF VESTS. I have a tattoo on my wrist. It has a cross with the words “Romans 3:23”. This serves as a reminder to me that we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are ALL in need of Jesus, because we are ALL sinners. Keep your eyes on your own paper, and don’t’ act like you know the smallest thing about the hearts and minds of those who were tragically killed this morning, because you don’t. But, God does, and he expects  Christians to offer the same sort of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that He gives to us daily…..some times hourly. Jesus himself said the two greatest commandments are to Love God & Love Others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12 :30-31,  Luke 10:27)  If you are unclear about how God defines “love” please see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Dear Christian America,

Do not let this tragedy steal your love away from immigrants or make you fear them. First, this particular criminal was a natural born citizen. This tragedy has more to do with the general decline of patriotism than it does immigration. Second, unless your blood line is exclusively Native American or Mexican, you are from an immigrant family. Third, America has long been a refuge for the oppressed, and those who lack opportunity in their native country. . Let the immigrants from these war torn Muslim countries who need refuge come. Just as God used Jonah to turn Nineveh towards Him, so can He use this opportunity we have to pour love, grace, and mercy into the hearts of this immigrant population. Matthew 5:14-16 says “Your are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people hide a lamp, and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

 

We Aren’t Awesome People, We Serve An Awesome God

I’ll be the first to admit my husband and I aren’t like all the other families on the block. For starters, we are visually impaired. This means we live our life using public transportation as neither of us can drive. Second, we have five children, and two of them are adopted from China.Two of the three of our biological children are also visually impaired. Our oldest adopted daughter has Spina Bifida, and uses a wheel chair. She is very independent, and a great kid, but there are lots of doctor visits to schedule, and medical bills to pay. Not to mention that with five kids there is more food to buy, more laundry that needs washing, several schedules to iron out, and some one is almost always in need of correction. But, that  also means there are more birthday celebrations, more laughter, its never boring, and there is almost always someone to play with.  We live crazy, super fun, super loud, and sometimes stressful lives.
We have great friends and family who love us, and support our decision to build a large-ish family through both birth and adoption. In an effort to be encouraging I often hear “Y’all are AMAZING! I don’t know how you do it. I COULD NEVER DO SOMETHING LIKE WHAT Y’All HAVE DONE.” While I know people say this with nothing but love and respect, it makes me cringe.

I cringe because it vastly diminishes the role of God in our lives. There is nothing extraordinary about us except when God called we said “yes”. We were just as scared about an unknown future with adopted children as anyone would be. Like everyone else we wondered where the finances were going to come from, and if we had enough emotional reserves to parent kids from hard places. We worried about the impact on our three biological kids, and what if we had a child with big hurts that led to big family problems.  BUT, we were more confident in God’s abilities than we were  not confident in our own.

You see, we are confident that God doesn’t ask for what He isn’t willing to provide for. We are confident in His Word, and His promises. We are confident that aligning our life with His priorities will always be more fulfilling, than living with worldly comforts. We are confident that He sees each of our children, and will provide them with hope and a future. We are confident that God is our redeemer, our healer, and our source of  strength in times of weakness. There are those hard, messy days that make me feel like a failure, and doubt my ability to shepherd this crew. I remember that I am not enough, nor will I ever be enough, but I am confident that He is. I am confident that  His grace fills in, and restores all of the cracks.

At the end of the day we are just as frail and human as anyone else. By thinking we are somehow better than average it kind of lets people off the hook. It says others don’t have to do what we have done, because somehow they have the mistaken belief that we are more equipped. Don’t get me wrong, I get that adoption is a calling that not everyone has. But, I’ve heard  1,000 times  “I’ve thought about/wanted to adopt/foster, but….”  My prayer is that all of those who have even the smallest seed of orphan care planted in their hearts will bravely say “yes” to that calling. Does it require sacrifice? Yes. Is it hard and uncomfortable sometimes? Yes. Do we sometimes mess up in even big ways? Yes. But, there is no sacrifice or mess up too big for God to heal, and redeem. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to be a active participant in a small piece of God’s redemption story in the life of a living breathing human being who needs you. 

“We adopt not because we are  redeemers, but because we are the redeemed.” Sermon by David Platt 

I’m a Tax Collector

A few Sundays ago I was in church discussing the fact that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were thought to be particularly  terrible people as they got rich from taking more taxes than they were due, and by collecting taxes for the Roman Empire they were assisting in the oppression of their own people.  Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheaus were all used as examples of  tax collectors who Jesus spent time with. In Mark 2:16 the Pharisees called Jesus our for eating with “sinners and tax collectors”. The implication of this study being that as Christians we should climb down off our high crosses, and  reach out to the lowly sinners and tax collectors to show them the error of their ways. Are you kidding me?!?!  I find this sentiment especially  repulsive, because guess what ? We are all tax collectors.

In case you missed it I’m gonna say it again.

WE ARE ALL TAX COLLECTORS!

I can clearly remember being 15, sitting on my bed with my BFF discussing everyone else’ sins. We were patting ourselves on the back because we didn’t smoke, or drink, or sleep around, and we were absolutely judging those we knew who did. I had a list of do’s and do not’s, and I felt my list of do not’s was pretty clean (at least on the outside). It wasn’t, but I felt it was especially when I compared myself with the other kids I knew. In reality, on the inside, I was judgmental, manipulative, gossipy, prideful and self-righteous. I was every bit as big of a “tax collector” in need of redemption as the kids we were trash talking. The only difference was my sins are not as easily detected by others from the outside. And by the way over the years I have participated in more than my fair share of those easily detectable sins as well.

The point is all of us have stuff that puts us at odds with God’s standards. Even those who we would consider to be really “good people” are not. Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Furthermore, Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We are ALL sinners and tax collectors in need of reconciliation with God. Even our very best attempts at living a Holy life falls so incredibly short of God’s standards that it is compared to “filthy rags“. Our hope of redemption does not depend on how clean our list of do’s and do not’s is, but from accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the resulting infusion of the Holy Spirit within us.

I see people all the time standing on street corners throwing people’s sins up in their faces. They are ranting about sins like alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality, and promiscuity. They call these sins abominations, and tell people that if they stop doing them they can come to know Jesus. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not a 10 step program. John 3:16-17 does not say “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and  only Son, and whoever  shall not drink, smoke, engage in homosexuality, fornicate, engage in adultery……. will not perish, but have ever lasting life….” Instead it says ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is impossible for people to overcome sin and then come to Jesus, as it is only through Jesus that sin can be overcome.

So instead of thinking of ourselves as Christians reaching out to the “lowly” sinners and tax collectors how much more amazing would it be if we said “I am a sinner and tax collector too. This is my stuff, and this is how Jesus has brought me through it, and continues to bring me through it every  moment of every day of my life. AND this is how you can lay your stuff at his feet too.” Instead of putting on a face of perfection so people will see how Holy and self-righteous I am, I need to be showing people my brokenness so they can see how Holy and righteous my God is.  When confronted by the Pharisees for eating with sinners and tax collectors Jesus simply replied ” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I don’t know about you, but I’m just another sick tax collector patient in the hospital of life in need of a cure named Jesus.