Learning from Little Ones: lessons from children about fear, hope and love.

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Before I had kids I had many great ideas about how I would rear them, what I would teach them and how they were going to obey me ALL of the time.  (Cue the smirks and snorts from my parent readers.) Then my oldest daughter was born, and the first time that my newborn cried for longer than ten minutes for no reason that was obvious to me, I realized that I would never be able to control her or any other children that would come along.  I realized that I had become officially enrolled in the Motherhood School of Sanctification.  (And it turned out that my oldest was the easy child.  The next one…well let’s just say that we call her Hurricane Georgia and let that give you an idea about her tendencies.  And the third is turning two this week, so the jury is still out on him!)

As a Christian mother, the most important idea that I want to communicate to my children is this: that God loves them with an everlasting love that cannot be shaken.  It’s a love so strong that He sent His only perfect Son to Earth to live a humble life, to be ignored, persecuted and then killed so that they, my children, could know freedom from sin, peace in the face of persecution, joy in God’s presence, hope for their promised reward in Heaven, and the love of Christ for the world.  It’s a love that casts out all fear and hopes for what God has promised.  It’s something that, for me, supersedes any other pursuit in their lives: education, financial success, romantic relationships, etc.  Sure those things are important, but I don’t believe that they amount to much or provide sustaining happiness apart from Christ.

So early on, I began to try to teach these things to them.  Most modern Christian moms will visit Pinterest or simply Google to find inspiration for ways to share the Gospel in creative ways with their children.  And I certainly did that a couple of times, but anyone who knows me well knows that I am not likely to laminate or craft a thing, so Pinterest quickly frustrated me and I started thinking about one of the first instructions in the Bible regarding teaching your children about God.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (emphasis mine).

This really encourages me because it recommends using the most powerful tool we have in order to teach: our own testimonies of God’s work in our lives.  And I have lots of stories about that!  (And I like to talk).  I decided that I would: a) commit to doing regular devotionals/scripture reading with my children, b) commit to regularly praying with them and for them, c) be very honest about my testimony (age appropriately), my walk with the Lord, and welcome any questions they may have about Jesus.  That’s it–no fancy plan or methodology, just a diligent commitment to sharing my love for my Savior with my kids.

The first few years of doing this with Vivienne were a little disappointing, mostly because of my own unrealistic expectations.  (Many of you moms know that we think that our first children are incredibly mature, and it isn’t until the last child is born that we see them for the babies they truly are).  Sometimes the principles that I was teaching her were repetitive and simple, and I kept wondering when she was going to grasp these faith foundations.  I persevered though, even when I was frustrated and tired of reading about Jonah and the whale or Jesus in the boat with His disciples for the 13th time, because I trusted that God would take these seeds and produce ripe fruit.

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Vivienne recognized Jesus as her Savior and acknowledged His leadership in her life at four years old, but still I was skeptical.  Why?  Because of my own testimony in which I prayed to “accept Jesus as my Savior” at six years of age without any heart commitment or full awareness of my decision, and then proceeded to live a self-centered, lustful, idolatrous life until I was 25.  My husband and I prayed with Vivi, but told her that we were going to be watching and listening to see if her heart had truly yielded to God.  And in the last year I have been stunned, moved, humbled by the deep truths that God has spoken through my six-year-old daughter to me.  I have worshiped the Lord in tears, and with a grateful heart, for the love she now has for Jesus and her desire to share Him with other people.  Here are some of the things that I have heard her say:

-“Today my friend didn’t feel well at school, so I went to a quiet place in my classroom (because I know that it’s best to talk to God in a quiet place) and prayed for her three times, and then God healed her!”

-“I know that sometimes bad things happen because there is sin in the world, and that’s why people need to know Jesus.”

-“At my birthday party today, how will I know when it’s a good time to tell my friends about Jesus?”

-(After a family hike in the woods, she stopped to sit on a bench and pray and thank God for the hike.  I asked her about her prayer time.) “I had a GREAT prayer time!  I told God thank you and He said ‘You’re welcome, and I love you and I’m glad that I made you.'”

What touches me deeply about these statements from my precious daughter is that they  demonstrate the Lord’s faithfulness to me and to her.  I have prayed many times that He would speak to her heart, despite my failings and missteps.  I am not a perfect person or mother–far from it.  Often I lose patience with my children, sometimes I yell at them, sometimes I’m too tired or wrapped up in housework to do a devotional with them.  There are even times that I am sick of being mommy and don’t want my kids around–GASP!  I regularly sin in front of them, whether they realize it or not.  But my Father has been faithful–something, some small thing or things that my husband and I said, or did, or read, resonated with Vivienne and impacted her deeply, even at her young age.  And God took that small thing and spoke to her little heart about the grace and love He has for her through Jesus Christ.  And now, she KNOWS Jesus.  She LOVES him, not perfectly, but genuinely.  It is beautiful to witness the relationship that she has with the God of the universe, growing everyday into something authentic and unique to her and Him.  And I have to believe that He will bless it.  Their relationship is something bigger than me, and although God may have used me as an instrument in her learning about Him, He deserves most of the credit for cultivating what was planted.  I know that she will have tough times.  I know that the temptation to sin will one day become a constant struggle for her.  I know that she will make large and small mistakes–that she will hurt people and that people will hurt her. But I have peace because His Spirit rests on her.  I have hope because of what Paul says in Philippians 1:6:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

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And knowing this also gives me hope for my other two children.  Georgia is very different from her older sister–she doesn’t care about perfection, she acts on her whims, she has a dominant spirit that is self-confident and doesn’t readily admit failure or mistakes. For her, fear is a recurring stronghold.  She is fearful of losing my love and my approval and does not like to come clean when she has messed up.  The other day she did something that she knew was wrong, and when I first asked her about it she tried to change the subject.  I held her gently but firmly and looked into her eyes, asking her again to tell me what happened. Her facade crumbled and she started crying in my lap telling me that she was afraid.  She didn’t want me to be angry with her, and immediately I thought of the scripture about perfect love casting out ALL fear, and how so many of us look just like little Georgia when approaching a righteous God.

We are inherently fearful of being vulnerable before Him, of exposing our weaknesses and failures, so we avoid issues, we blame-shift, we change the subject.  But God perfectly loves us and His reactions are always right, justified and tempered with grace.  We can trust Him, so I tried to communicate that to Georgia, to show her a smidgen of His patience and grace, and after a few minutes she confessed and she seemed to feel relieved to know that my love hadn’t wavered, that I was still there and willing to love her.  Sometimes it is discouraging when she does things like this–when she wants to brush her sin aside, when it seems that she doesn’t really see the need for a Savior, but knowing that God made her too, that He crafted her little persona, and that He will fulfill His plan for her, gives me hope and peace.  I can rest in that and have patience, and continue to tell her about Him until the right seed is planted.  And I see a picture of me in her as well, who I used to be before I met Jesus, and the person I can become when I am tempted and struggle with one problem after another.  I am grateful for Georgia, for her beginner’s walk with the Lord, and how she reminds me to be hopeful.

A recurring thought I’m having this Christmas season is how genius God is, that He would send a baby to kick-start His great rescue plan, to deliver people from fear, to give them hope and to demonstrate His love for mankind and then, in my own life, bring these things full circle in the lessons that I learn daily from Him through my own babies.  Praise the Lord, for He is good.

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Learning to Appreciate Your Elders

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There are some things that you take for granted to the point that they almost stop meaning something to you, until you suddenly realize that they are nearly gone.  And there are people we take for granted as well, constantly.  Usually these are the people who have a permanent place in our lives.  They won’t come and go like fair-weather friends.  They won’t stop caring about you because you ignore them one time too many, or don’t call them enough.  No, these are the people that WE ignore because they’ll always be there, so we think that the relationship does not require as much effort to cultivate or maintain.  But they continue to love us, because it’s impossible for them not to.  Sometimes they’re our brothers, sisters, parents, or grandparents.

Because I was brought up in an Air Force home which up-rooted and moved like clock-work every three years, I rarely lived near relatives.  I didn’t get together with them with any sort of regularity, so for me, the mood at family gatherings was polite but uncomfortable.  Before the days of FaceTime and Skype, my grandparents received updates on me and my siblings via VHS tapes that my parents recorded and mailed to them every once in a while, so by the time they watched one, we kids had likely moved onto some other activity, school event, or favorite toy or past time.  I grew up believing that it was normal to not live near any other family, to not have old traditions or a regular gathering place for Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, and indeed, those things weren’t commonplace for me.  But I even scoffed at the idea that I was missing out on anything by not living near my relatives.  I rolled my eyes in annoyance when my grandparents would ask me too many questions about school, give me advice on friends and relentlessly push Heavenly Hash ice cream.  How dare they assume that they knew me when they hardly ever saw me?

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I didn’t love my grandparents or want to be around them.  I liked being in their house–the smell of it always resurrected scattered memories from years before.  I liked the sound of the train whistle as I fell asleep.  I always looked forward to my grandmother’s blueberry pie with whipped cream–she made it especially for me.  My grandfather filled Dixie cups with pennies, pinched the tops and passed them out to us and our cousins, and I always felt so rich prying the cup open and seeing those shiny copper coins.  He introduced me to my favorite cereal, Crunchy Corn Bran, and my not-so-favorite mint, Certs, which he passed down the aisle during church services on Sunday.  My Nana gave soft, squishy hugs that enveloped you completely.  Having them in my life provided a sense of security, a grounding, but I wasn’t comfortable with the assumptions they made about me, about what kind of person I was or wanted to be, and I certainly didn’t take a serious interest in their lives and what they enjoyed because it just didn’t seem important.  Since they weren’t a consistent part of my daily life, my adolescent bravado assumed that there was nothing I could learn from them and nothing personal about myself worth revealing to them.

It wasn’t until I started dating my husband that I began to see the value in spending time with my grandparents, that I could make an actual effort where they were concerned instead of only showing up at sanctioned family events and grudgingly answering the same questions.  And the change began over ice-cream of all things!  I remember complaining to Bryan once back then about how my Paw-Paw ALWAYS tried to get me to eat Heavenly Hash ice-cream and I ALWAYS told him no, but he just wouldn’t take the hint.  Bryan said something like, “It’s one bowl of ice-cream, Adrienne.  Just eat it!  He’s your grandpa and it would make him so happy if you ate ice-cream with him, and then he’d stop bothering you about it!”  It seemed obvious to him, but it was actually a ground-breaking moment for me.  I realized that all these years that I had been telling my Paw-Paw “no, No, NO!” about the ice-cream, I had been building up resentment toward him that carried over into other ways that I perceived him, other areas of our relationship, and the issue was no longer Heavenly Hash.  It was my pride getting bigger and bigger and blocking me from seeing that my Paw-Paw just wanted to share something that he enjoyed with a grand-daughter he didn’t know very well, and ice-cream was his simplest method of forging a bond with me.

After that I began looking at my grandparents, and my extended family in general, with fresh eyes.  I realized that the responsibility of forming a relationship didn’t rest squarely on their shoulders just because they were my grandparents; I had to care enough about them to get to know them too.  I had to open up to them, to share myself with them, to ask them questions and be willing to learn and listen.  I had to discard the snobbery of youth that says that elderly people are outdated and irrelevant, and instead choose to recognize the wisdom and stability they offer.

Almost six years ago I became a mommy, and in subsequent years I’ve had the great blessing of living near both my mother-in-law (before she died) and then my own parents.  I now know what a gift it is to live near your parents when you have your own family, to see your children laugh and discover and learn from their grandparents, and although I loved my military upbringing, I am aware of some things that I missed in not being near my Nana, and my Mamadene and Paw-Paw.  I look back and regret many of those spiteful childhood moments when I rolled my eyes at my grandparents and shrank away from their embraces.  I wish I had spent more time sitting at their kitchen tables talking with them, even if some of their ideas were a little antiquated.  I lost my Nana the year before my oldest daughter was born, and although I have still lived a transient lifestyle as an adult (to this point), I truly try to take advantage of the moments I have with my surviving grandparents.  No matter how many times the conversation laps itself in circles, I listen for the deeper messages that are pouring from their hearts.

My grandparents are very old.  My grandfather will celebrate his 90th birthday this weekend, and I am traveling to Alabama to celebrate his life.  I will walk into the home that he and my grandmother have kept for over 50 years–the only home that has remained a constant one throughout my entire life, and breathe in its scent for what could always be the last time.   So much has changed in that house and in my grandparents.  My grandmother’s proud posture is a little stooped.  My grandfather doesn’t remember my name most of the time, but when I look through photos of him over the years, I see the same smile that lights up his face every time he sees me.  And I thank God that they have always been there, even when I took them for granted. I thank Him that their love was impossibly strong for someone who was often impossible.

I love you Mamadene and Paw-Paw.  Thank you for your legacy, thank you for your generosity and love.

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Big Sky: How an Incredible View Will Improve Your Perspective

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The Highlands of Scotland

No this blog post is not about Montana–sorry if the title misled you.  It’s simply about perspective.  I think it’s easier and easier to lose our perspective these days, and most of that is due to the wonderfully tantalizing, convenient and dangerous world of technology.  We have an abundance of information and entertainment literally at our fingertips, but somehow more people today are bored and depressed than ever before.  I don’t think that we were meant to have this endless stream of information spoon-fed to us so easily.  (And when I say “we” I’m primarily referring to first world, Western culture.)  I don’t think that we were were meant to have a digital window that feeds us experiences in a limited-dimensional setting.

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Barcelona, Spain

Recently I was feeling stressed and irritable after a day of just doing my mom-thing around the house: washing and folding laundry, cooking meals, washing dishes, running errands.  During my brief moments of “relaxation” I almost instinctively reached for my phone, but I found that those moments were not really relaxing at all and I was actually pretty annoyed with my kids when they climbed into my lap to see what I was doing.  Then, after dinner while washing dishes I looked outside at my backyard and had an irresistible urge to go out there and lay on our hammock, which is strung between two very tall pine trees that we’ve named after two of our children.

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Not my hammock–fields in Germany near my parents’ village.

So I gave in and did it, and the result was so profound to me that I’m writing about it now.  To lay there and look up at the blue sky just made me happy–happy to be a mom, happy to be living in North Carolina, happy to be ALIVE…even happy to be disturbed moments later when my kids discovered me and climbed into the hammock with me, without flipping me over thankfully.  And again last night, I felt that same sense of happiness and awe when I went outside and gazed at this incredible harvest moon that looked closer and brighter than I have seen it in a long time.  It seemed to be positioned directly in front of my house, but then I realized that the very same moon was just as big and bright and close for millions of other people, and all I could think was WOW.

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Elliott Bay, Seattle, Washington

Sometimes it’s worth coming out of your house, crossing off some things in your schedule, putting your Kindle or phone down on road-trips or in a plane to look out, or up, or down to see something awe-inspiring.  Whether it’s a mountain, a vast expanse of sky, a canyon, miles and miles of twinkling city lights, a patchwork of fields–we need those “WOW” moments that make us feel small to give us fresh perspective, especially if we come from a small, flat town.  Being stuck in your house, or office, or small town for too long can make you and your problems seem too large, too important and too difficult.  This contributes to depression and dissatisfaction that sometimes results in poor decisions and quick-fixes.  In contrast, sitting still under a big sky helps you see the BIG picture, calms and realigns your mind so that you can begin so see what and who really matters.

I was going to try to write a clever ending, but I don’t want you to keep reading.  Wherever you are, stop and look out the window or go outside for a little while.  Try to notice something new.  You may feel something new as well.

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Fjords of Flam, Norway

When Your Faith Makes You Unpopular: Being a Bold Disciple in a Postmodern World

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I was in a social setting recently where I saw a lot of people that I haven’t seen in many, many years.  There was a strange twist to this scenario because of social media–we all knew enough random details of each others’ lives to feel confident starting a conversation, but Facebook familiarity is no substitute for the comfort you have after years of quality time.  There were a handful of people at this event that have remained good friends of mine as time has passed.  We KNOW each other–we know that there is more depth, more fun, more complication in our lives than the highlights on Instagram and Facebook.  But most everyone else used social media as their stereotype gauge, which if we’re honest, is something that we all do.  We can’t help it!  And I have a feeling that my stereotype for the night was: Conservative, Fanatical Bible Thumper. I came home and told my husband about some of my disappointing encounters and he said, “Well honey, you do have some divisive opinions!”  I said, “So do you!”  To which he replied, “Yeah, but I don’t share like you and also I don’t care what most people think.”

It is very easy to hide behind a computer screen and say what you want, think or feel.  It is not so easy when you realize that your views are counter-cultural and oftentimes even offensive.  As I get older, it becomes more and more difficult to be a conservative Christian in the world.  I know that my life would be much easier if I would just acquiesce to social trends and religious relativism.  I wouldn’t have to bite my tongue, be concerned about how I come across in mixed crowds, pull my girls out of Kids’ Yoga at the gym because I don’t feel like explaining why we don’t believe in Chakras and energy flow.  In these awkward moments, it would be much simpler to deny what I believe and who I am for the sake of being liked a little more.

But I simply can’t abandon my beliefs.  And it’s not because I’m pig-headed or stubborn.  It’s because I have met Jesus, He has changed my life in a very real way, and I love Him too much.  I don’t share my testimony and my religious views because I am hoping to convert people or win arguments.  I do it because I am so grateful for what God is done in my life that I just enjoy telling others about it.  Sometimes it’s an overflow of my thoughts, sometimes it’s because I sense that something I have learned from God and experienced in my walk with Him may comfort someone.  Yes, there have been times that I have posted something in frustration over what I see happening in our country, but when I do this I am not so much angry with specific people as I am heartbroken over a country, a world, that is turning its back on Jesus, Who loves us and gave His lifeblood for us.  He rejoices over us and wants us to return to Him so that He can give us abundant life, not a fake life that is fun for a few years and then runs dry and leaves us exhausted and wanting (Zephaniah 3:17, Hosea 14, John 3:16, John 10:10).

This post is for those Believers who are tempted to give up and give in–be bold, speak up for Jesus!  Speak up in love, not judgment or condemnation (1 Peter 3:15,16).  Yet practice discernment and prayer in choosing your time, place, audience and method of testimony.  Our job is to show the glory, the awesome nature of Christ, which is represented by the Holy Spirit in us.  It is God’s job to woo people, to show a need for repentance of sin and to change their hearts.  You don’t have to work so hard to do that, Christian.  Just love.

This post is also for those who DON’T believe.  I know we Christians can seem strange, and there’s a good reason for that, but if you get around a GENUINE Christian you shouldn’t be able to doubt their heart or their concern for you.  Don’t be afraid of them, don’t be afraid to be their friend.  A genuine Believer just cares for you and wants to show you the goodness of Jesus, in whatever way speaks love and life to you.  We may be weirdos, but we’re usually weird in a good way.  I want to thank the people I call friends who aren’t Believers like me, who may not agree with me on various social and political issues, but who have given me a chance, who remain kind and have permitted me to earn a place in their lives.

I am choosing to spend the next few months silent on social media about faith and politics, instead focusing on praying for our nation during this election season while also building more relationships in my community and looking for ways to serve people.  (There may be a few people right now applauding me shutting up–you’re welcome.)  I’m sure that I will feel tempted to open my mouth here and there, but there is a time for everything under the sun, and besides, sometimes silence is louder than speech.

I leave you guys with some words of encouragement from the master Himself.

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved…So do not be afraid of them.  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matthew 9: 22, 26)

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“...In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16, 33)

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4, 14-16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing up Air Force: Recognizing my Favorite Veteran

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PDA alert!  Who are those people?  Is that a drunk pilot smooching a cute young photographer?  No….shame on you guys for thinking that!  Those are my parents!  (I’ll let it slide this once.)

This photo was taken after my dad’s “fini-flight.”  When a pilot climbs down from his aircraft after his last flight, he is traditionally doused with water (and sometimes champagne) and congratulated by family and friends and comrades from his (or her) squadron.  One of the biggest regrets that I have is that I wasn’t there to see this.  I was about 12 years old when Dad flew the F-15 Eagle, the crowning glory of his career as a pilot, for the last time.  I remember Mom asking me if I wanted to go and I said no, not fully grasping how meaningful this was to both her and my dad, and also completely unaware that this would be the last time that my dad ever flew for the Air Force.

As a kid, I never appreciated that my dad had a very cool job.  To me, it was just his job, another day at the office.  Except that his “office” was the cockpit of a jet that he flew at ridiculously high speeds through miles and miles of endless blue sky.

Some people may join the Armed Forces because they want a secure job, a dependable paycheck, to travel, to get help paying for college, or even because they don’t know what else to do, and there is nothing wrong with any of those reasons.  (Actually I even considered, very briefly, joining the Air Force in my early twenties when I was a hot mess, freelance writing wasn’t paying the bills, and I didn’t have many other promising options).  But, Mickey Folsom was not one of those people.  He joined the Air Force because he had known since he was a boy that he wanted to become a pilot, and he was ready and willing to fight for his country if he was asked to do so.  He even hoped to get that opportunity.  I remember hearing him complain that he didn’t get to fight in Desert Storm because my mom and my two grandmothers prayed him out of it.

He was a little cocky back then, but the nature of the job really calls for a little cockiness.  In the jets that my dad flew, his quick decision-making kept his aircraft operating as it should instead of hurtling to the ground.  He had to be 100% confident in the cockpit. He had to be sure of what he was doing, and this quality of his reassured me even as we moved from country to country , settling in new homes and making new friends in the middle of the school year, that our nomadic life was normal and that each move was an adventure.  At times this lifestyle was incredibly stressful and difficult, but we accepted it out of respect for my dad.

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Dad’s job took up most of his time.  Until I was about 13, Dad was gone for weeks, months, and once even spent an entire year in South Korea in training to fly the F-15 Eagle.  Often the amount of time that he was gone made it difficult for me to reconnect with him when he came home, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try.  Dad intentionally abstained from hobbies and projects so that he could spend time with us.  He didn’t play golf all day on Saturdays, he didn’t go hunting or sit in front of the TV watching football.  He played with us, he came to our games, recitals and church plays.  He snuggled us, talked to us and played in the back-yard (or garden for all my Euro friends).

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He showed us the world.  Thanks to Dad and the Air Force, I have seen things that many will only experience through photographs.  I have walked through Sherwood forest, been to Stonehenge, seen endless rows of tulips in Keukenhof, watched a play at Shakespeare’s Globe, danced at Oktoberfest, visited East and West Berlin before the wall came down, learned to snow-ski in the Alps, toured the Roman catacombs and the Jesuit caves of Belgium, gazed at the Sistine Chapel, stood inside the Coliseum, gone on safari in the Serengeti, taken a boat ride on the Nile River,  descended into one of the Pyramids at Giza, seen the Sphinx, picnicked in the Champagne valleys of France, toured Versailles, been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, had beach vacations in Greece and Croatia, taken a road trip along the Amalfi Coast, felt the cold winds in Ireland and gone clubbing in Sweden, learned to water-ski in the Emerald Coast of Florida, and have tasted oh-so-much good food and wine.

Those days are long gone, but they instilled in me an itch to travel and a terminal condition of cabin fever when I’ve been in one place for too long.  As an Air Force “brat” I learned that making friends is a survival skill, and that you can in fact have a decent conversation with someone who speaks a different language with the help of hand gestures and a bottle of wine.  I’ve seen that our military is a well-oiled machine that works around the clock in ways that most of us cannot comprehend, and that our service members deserve way more credit than we give them.  I know that the men and women of the Armed Forces observe a code of honor and integrity that many have foregone, and are willing to wake up in the middle of the night to put on a uniform and leave the safety of their homes to defend our country’s freedom and fight for the lives of terrorized people across the globe.

So I want to say thanks to my dad, retired Major Mickey “Mikhail” Folsom, for his service to our family and our country.  I love you Dad, and am grateful for all you have done for us.  Happy Memorial Day!  You were and still are my hero!

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Truths and a Truce: a message from the heart for the LGTB community

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Just last night I got sucked into a debate regarding restroom rights and how they are impacting the general population and transgender people.  I had some valid concerns and was sincerely trying to express them in a straight-forward way, but as usually happens when you post something on Facebook, the discussion took an ugly turn and before long I became frustrated with other people, frustrated that I was being misunderstood and then utterly exhausted by the effort and time it took me to convey…really nothing super important.

And then this morning I tried to take a moment while the kids were occupied to have a quiet time with Jesus and found that I could not concentrate.  My mind was so consumed by this Facebook battle of ideological punches and counter-punches that I had forgotten to communicate the primary thing that the Holy Spirit would lead me to communicate: love.  This scripture came to mind:

Matthew 5:23, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

I am not gay or transgender.  I have no idea what it must feel like to be bullied, shamed, hated, ridiculed, or marginalized for the complicated issue of sexuality.  I am not too proud to acknowledge that it is something that I do not really understand or feel comfortable with, but that has also proved beneficial as it has forced me to consider how I am to engage with the LGTB community as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ.  I believe in biblical precepts that God has revealed to us in His Word, and balancing my firm convictions with showing genuine love for people who are not like me can be difficult when I try to do it in my own strength. It is only when I am brought low at the feet of Jesus that I can abandon myself to Him, allowing His love to do something through me that no legislation or politician could ever do: change minds, hearts, create growth and understanding.

Here are some things that I know for sure:

All people are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139:14

There is no one righteous, not even one,” Romans 3:10

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus, Romans 3:23&24

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:38 & 39.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21

Romans is a good book, right?  See, sometimes as a bold, free American woman who has been told all her life that she can do or say whatever she likes, I forget the truth that “everything is permissible–but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:11).  The confusion begins when I try to combine my American citizenship with my Heavenly citizenship.  I can cast my votes and declare my opinion on various social and political issues, but when the results are not what I would have hoped, I then must choose instead to trust God and do the only thing He has really called me to do–bring glory to Him by showing His love to the world.

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I know that I have no right to judge or condemn others.  I was a sinner, wandering far from the Lord and bound for destruction before Jesus saved me.  The only thing I can boast about is His greatness and the Grace that I did not deserve.  And every other person, regardless of their sexuality, race, gender, past, present, future, economic class, social class, is as loved by God as I.  His grace is for all and for all time.  (Thanks Michael for reminding me of this.)  Sometimes we Christians are afraid to speak about God’s radical grace because we believe that it gives people license to sin and live a life that doesn’t reflect God’s righteousness, but those people have underestimated the absolute power of God and the transformation that happens when people have a genuine encounter with Him.  Here is another truth:

He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20.  As Christians ministering to a broken world, all we can do is love, pray and then get out of the way and watch God work.

And then be ready to wait, which is tough.  Life will go on.  One debate will be replaced with another.  Issue after issue will rise to the forefront of American and global politics and social relevance.  Some of us will do and say great things that the world will applaud, and some of us will do and say brave things that the world will criticize.  An action is often only considered worthwhile if it makes the news, and love and kindness rarely get much attention.  But God is able to use things such as this to reveal His power and everlasting peace.

So to the LGTB community and to their loved ones, I am extending a truce.  I am sorry if I have ever said anything or implied anything hurtful or hateful.  It was not and is not my intention.  I am not naive–I know that on some positions we will never agree, but that does not mean that we can’t live peacefully.  I am not able to love you because I am strong.  I am able to love you because God is great.  It is my sincere hope that you would know Him too, and find peace in His presence.

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life,” Revelation 22:17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons in Embarrassment

No one likes being embarrassed. People will lie, squirm, shut down, walk away, and do just about anything to avoid embarrassment. It is not a comforting feeling. I really do not enjoy talking about my most embarrassing moments, but in the spirit of honesty and to level the playing field, I have compiled a top-ten list of some of Adrienne’s Greatest Embarrassing Hits.

1. The time that I was new at school, went to lunch with the cool girls, fell and slid on my rear down a muddy hill (age 14).
2. The time that I held a boy’s feet in gym class while he did sit ups, and he farted in my face (embarrassing for both of us, age 15).
3. The time that the whole audience laughed at me because I was cast in a male role in a school play and had to dance with the female lead (age 15).
4. The time that I served my family macaroni and cheese without draining the noodles (age 16).
5. The time in college that I angered a female softball player because she overheard me in the bathroom at a club talking about wanting to steal her boyfriend. (You do not want to mess with softball players!)
6. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
7. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
8. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.

Disclaimer: Numbers 5,6,7, and 8 are from my “dark days” in college and early 20s. BC and BB–(Before Christ and Before Bryan)

9. The time I served my family a shrimp salad–covered in raw shrimp. (Last week)
10. The time I opened my big mouth on social media and hurt someone’s feelings. (Last week)

Looking back over the list, some of these memories now make me laugh, but some of them still provoke a cringe and remorse. So why mention them? Well, it’s because I believe that a little humility is good for the soul and something that our world respects, whether we acknowledge it or not. And sometimes, being embarrassed is the way to humility, even if it hurts.

I think my #10 is a scenario to which most people can relate. Most of you have probably made a fool of yourselves on Facebook at some point, whether autocorrect had you saying something you didn’t mean, or you forcefully gave your opinion without giving your emotions a day or two to settle. And you may still believe that you were right, or you may avoid mention of that unpleasantness at any cost. Regardless of what you think now, we can most likely agree that when we realized that we had offended someone we cared for, we had an “uh oh” moment and reluctantly read their response. When it comes to embarrassment, I think what we do with the fall-out is crucial. Do we become defensive? Do we go radio silent and avoid the person for months? Or do we step back and replay the interaction with fresh eyes and ears and realize that we made a mistake, do we apologize and own up to our part of the problem? This kind of honesty and vulnerability is never easy–as humans it frightens us, but it produces humility which is key in any kind of relationship. It builds trust and strong connections.

Humility is rare. It is the quiet little sister to the loud, boisterous brother who shows off and elevates his persona to get attention.

Now, this is not a political post, but the fact is that one of the top candidates for the presidency is a reflection of what is valuable to our country. From Trump, to sports stars, to celebrities, to corporate execs, to prideful parents, to YouTubers and even to bloggers, our culture at large has adopted a practice of perfection. Our opinions and methods are so sacred to us, heaven help the person who offers advice or tries to give constructive criticism. We can’t ever be wrong, we can’t admit that we should have handled a situation differently. We have all but lost the admirable quality of humility and therefore, forgiveness is even more rare and strange to most. People would much rather exercise retribution–just look at the theme of many popular films.

Yet something beautiful happens when embarrassment produces humility: we get to witness altruism, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts. The world stops and notices. In this age, we can make fools of ourselves faster and across greater distances than ever. But despite how the world has changed in its speed of communication, people’s spirits have never changed. The practices of humility and forgiveness are just as effective and work just as quickly.

I want to close with some lovely quotes about humility. (And by the way, I don’t know anyone in history who humbled Himself more than this last guy!)

-We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully, Mother Theresa

-Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right, Ezra T. Benson

-I believe the first test of a truly great man is humility, John Ruskin

-Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted, Jesus of Nazareth