Linking to an article I had published today on gracecentered.com about the joy God promises us as we observe Easter. It’s called “For The Joy.”
I spent the entire month of December wearing a dress, well, at least publicly. At the end of 2017, an organization called the Dressember Foundation launched a campaign to raise 2 million dollars of support for victims of human trafficking worldwide. People were encouraged to advocate for Dressember’s mission as individuals or teams via social media outlets. Around 80% of victims of sex trafficking are women and girls, and as a victim of rape myself, this subject as been close to my heart for many years. Whereas my assault was an isolated incident, a crime that was immediately reported, sex trafficking is usually a nightmare that goes on and on for its victims, with no end in sight. Also, it’s a profitable business across the globe, making it easier to push on the dark web and almost directly under people’s noses.
So, when I found out about Dressember’s mission during the month of December, my interest was piqued. All I was asked to do as an advocate was wear a dress every day, take photos of myself and post them to social media, and ask people to donate. That last part was the most intimidating for me because I’m not a natural salesperson, and December is already a heavy spending month for people; I felt a little awkward asking them to stretch their budgets even more.
But several things surprised me about my month of dresses. Wearing a dress didn’t seem like such a big commitment or statement to me at first, probably because I’m a girly-girl and I like to wear dresses anyway. But as the first week ended and the second week began, my perspective on my limited wardrobe options changed.
First, I noticed that I was relegated to about four dresses that suited the wintry weather in December in North Carolina, and that got me thinking about women in second and third world countries who may not even have that many dresses for the season. The fact that I had four warm and fashionable dresses and then went out and easily purchased a skirt to wear with some of my sweaters, just because I could, increased my gratitude. Second, as I had to decide which dress or skirt was better for that day’s schedule or itinerary—was it grocery shopping, hiking with my family, church or yard-work—I was aware that pants are a recent and western adornment for women, and that for centuries (and even today in certain parts of the world) women performed every task under the sun in a dress. It’s not comfortable to squat, to lift, or to sweat in a bulky skirt. This awareness tied my heart to women of all nationalities and races, past and present, and increased my resolve.
Finally, as I posted photos of myself in my dresses (more uncomfortably as the month went along), I learned how little people know about this issue, and how desperately most want to help once they become aware of its scale and power. Human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, is often regarded as something that happens in third world countries. Americans don’t believe that it’s a problem in their own country. But as I continued to post my photos with statistics about sex trafficking in the USA, I saw support pour in from women AND men, old friends and recent acquaintances who wanted to help somehow. I started to see the dress as a symbol not only of femininity and beauty, but of solidarity and strength to overcome.
If I’m being honest, yes, I really missed my jeans. There were days that month when the last thing I wanted to do was to pull on my tights and shimmy into a dress, but then I thought of all the women and girls who are victims of human trafficking. How many days have they wished that they could stay in their sweats, or just walk down the street in jeans and comfortable shoes in freedom? How many times have they been forced to shimmy into a tight miniskirt and step into strappy heels, only to walk down the street as slaves? The dress-wearing ended for me on December 31 and I began a new year in clothes of my own choosing. For victims of sex trafficking, 2018 brought no comfortable options. This year when you choose to wear a dress, I hope that you’ll stop and consider women across the world, across time, and that you’ll be grateful for the freedom your wardrobe represents.
To find out more about how you can donate to or partner with the Dressember Foundation, please visit http://www.dressember.org.
Come with me for a moment and picture this—you’re sitting on the bow of a boat in rough water. The boat moves steadily toward an approaching wave. It’s big, and you know when you reach it the boat will tilt upward and slam down hard on the other side of the wave. It may hurt, it may jolt you from your seat, so your body tenses in anticipation. You grab onto your towel and the handle beside your seat. And sure enough, you feel some pain after that wave. You may come away with some bruises from knocking sideways into the hull. But here comes another wave, and another, and soon your jaw hurts from clenching your teeth so hard every time the boat crests the water. So you decide to let go, and when the next wave approaches and the boat rolls over it, you intentionally relax your muscles, loosen your grip, and allow the movement of the boat to pass through you. The downward dip doesn’t seem as steep, you haven’t lost your place and you find yourself leaning forward, ready for the next wave.
Trying to maintain control of forces and people out of your control is like the above scenario. Over the last ten years, I’ve been noticing and pondering the differences in people’s reactions when things don’t go their way. When someone realizes that they have no control there are a myriad of ways they can respond. Perhaps they’ll be angry and bitter, frightened and immobilized. They can become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Or they can step back and take stock of the situation, understand they have something to learn or some plans to adjust, and they can change course and sail on.
What makes the difference for people in how they respond to drastic change or loss of control? For so much of our lives we are taught to become independent, to set goals and make plans, but I think there’s a flip-side to setting goals that you can only learn through failure.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “there is no effort without error and shortcoming, so that doers shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.” Teddy Roosevelt talks about action, about effort and perseverance. Truly, it’s a mark of maturity to work, to plan for our futures. To sit idly by expecting fortune to smile upon us is vain and irresponsible. There is definitely a time to plan, to rebound and be a “doer.”
But it’s also a mark of maturity for us to be at peace in the midst of adversity and unwanted change. There is an element of humility and trust that goes along with remaining flexible and teachable. The book of James speaks about contentment, perseverance, generally a humble and positive perspective toward life, but what I really like is this remark about making plans.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” James 4: 13-17
Ouch, that stings a little, doesn’t it? How many of us have laid out blueprints for our lives only to see the colors smear and run when rain begins to fall? Yet, these are good precepts to keep in mind. As far as I know, there is only One who knows exactly how my life will turn out. And after moving 14 times in my 39 years of life, being a victim of abduction and sexual assault, suffering three miscarriages, watching friendships die, dealing with personal temptation and sin, I can say with certainty that my life has not gone the way I expected.
Yet, I have a wonderful life. I can only be grateful, and it’s because of my trials, defeats, failures, that I can recognize today’s blessings. It’s because I have tasted humility and sorrow and heartache that I can have compassion, acceptance, and empathy for others when they are tempted to withdraw or lash out because their lives take a dip. If I had never experienced these dips in life, I wouldn’t see when I’ve crested the waves. And because I have gratitude, I have perseverance, because I know there’s always hope. This gives me the courage to not remain defeated.
A recognition of my lack of complete control also prevents me from giving full reign to judgment. Because of my past struggles, I know that at any moment, everything that I hold dear could be taken from me or I could make a mistake that would cost me peace and stability. This last year I’ve seen good friends suddenly lose loved ones. I’ve talked to people whose lives have changed drastically in mere hours due to hurricanes, health diagnoses, marital bombshells, and more. And as I get older, these things seem to happen more frequently.
When days and weeks and months of comfort go by, I count my blessings. I know that they come as a gift from my good Father. But I must confess that I am tempted to soak in that comfort and look down my nose at others who are struggling and wonder what they could have done to earn these difficulties It’s tempting to judge people, to sit back and analyze and smugly prescribe a solution for someone’s problem. My compassion weakens. My humility suffers. And I don’t like myself that way because it means that I’m starting to worship my blessings more than the One who blessed me. I forget that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1: 17).
I have a trick for bringing myself back to earth when I tend to mentally boast in how “together” I am. To me, the ultimate test for how I’d handle utter lack of control, human dependence and find out for sure how much I depend upon the Lord would be if I suddenly lost my husband. There have been nights when he’s been late getting home from a business trip and I’ve wondered: is he okay? Is he alive? And then that gets me thinking, what if he doesn’t come home tonight? So, every once in a while, I’ll allow myself to ask the “what if” questions. What would I do, how would I respond if I no longer had Bryan? How would I live if my bread-winner was gone? Would I trust in the Lord for my daily bread? How would I sleep at night and feel comforted if my lover wasn’t in bed beside me, holding me? Would I cling to my Comforter and the Lover of my soul? Would I remember that no matter how quickly my life changes, my Father does not change?
It’s these “what-if” questions in life’s comfortable moments that turn into living, breathing “what now” questions in life’s terrible moments. Because the fact is, as much as we like to pretend that we do, we don’t have absolute control over our lives. And living under the pretense that we do makes us self-focused, fearful, judgmental people. We grip so tightly to whatever is in our reach, whether that’s diet control, health control, emotional control, child control, spouse control, calendar control, to the point that we bring ourselves more pain, more fear, more reluctance to let go and ride the wave.
Life is an unpredictable sea rich with depths and storms and doldrums and peaceful currents. At times we will cruise comfortably, but rough waters are always a possibility. Then we will get jostled. Things around us will roll and tumble and fall. We can fight the wave and come away bruised and weakened, dreading what comes next. Or, we can loosen our grip and trust the boat to carry us over the swells to smoother waters once again. Either way, we will reach them, but our approach to the next swells will largely depend upon our posture in the past, and who we trust more, ourselves or the boat.
I trust the boat every time because it has an Anchor, a Life Preserver, and a Captain. Only He is fully equipped to guide me safely across the sea.
John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In grade school you’d hear it when you and a friend were caught whispering and giggling to each other— “secrets don’t make friends!” It was a chastising idiom that reminded you to not exclude others. Because when you lifted your hand to hide your mouth as you whispered into someone’s ear, while throwing glances around to see who was watching, you automatically gave the impression that you were hiding something at best, or at worst, stirring up trouble.
It’s one thing to keep someone’s confidence and trust. Those kinds of secrets can build relationships and lend silent support when someone who trusts you is going through a challenging time. But, what I’ve noticed recently about American culture is that we tend to hide too easily. We are very good, especially in American Christian spheres, about putting on our makeup, our best smiles, and pretending that our lives are perfect while we struggle privately.
And I know why we do it. We don’t want to look weak. Sometimes our struggles are too painful and personal to discuss. Perhaps they are too embarrassing and reveal parts of us that we’d rather not show. Maybe we know that our problems are not easily fixed or could last a while. In some cases, we may even secretly enjoy something that we know we shouldn’t enjoy, and speaking of it would require us to acknowledge a sin that the Lord needs to remove from our lives.
The snow has been falling steadily today as I’ve written this. It collects little by little—just tiny flakes that settle on the ground, lawn chairs and children’s garden toys until they are a nebulous conglomerate of snow that turn recognizable objects into unidentifiable lumps. It’s hard to know or remember exactly what’s covered up by all the snow. When the blanket of white is that thick, it can be dangerous to walk around my own backyard because I might stumble over a rock or root that I can’t see anymore.
Secrets can be just like this—they disguise the truth of what’s under the surface. They cover up our flaws with a pleasant, soft layer which is far more fragile than we want to acknowledge. They can turn familiar ground into dangerous, sensitive territory. Sooner or later, they must melt away, and we must acknowledge the raw and real materials left behind.
In the last couple of years, many of my friends have experienced great trials in their marriages and families. I have grieved with many over the shock and loss of peace in their home, and have rejoiced with others as they’ve experienced restoration that only Jesus can bring to their lives. But in the moments when they revealed their secrets, two things happened: 1) They talked about loss—loss of peace, safety, security and belief in someone or something. 2) I felt compassion for them—a need to pray for them and a desire to help in any way that I could.
This is what honesty and openness does—it brings people closer. It breaks down façades and walls and reminds us that we all struggle. It provides opportunities for us to show compassion and love. Being vulnerable is risky, but it also gives us the ability to admire people without idolizing them and assuming they “have it all together.”
And it’s also this openness that shows us how much we need a Savior. Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I am grateful for those people who have allowed me to enter their mess, because it strengthens the bond of community that we have as people who need the healing, restorative work of Jesus. I’m glad that I don’t believe that lie that anyone is perfect, because then Jesus would be inconsequential and unimportant. And once we allow Him to shine His light onto our darkest secrets they stop looking so scary and destructive. They lose their power and we begin to take steps in freedom. What was once a secret that enslaved us becomes a testimony of hope and deliverance.
This happened for me lately too. I was keeping something to myself for about a year and a half. I wrestled with something, prayed about it, tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, until I was faced with it again and realized that keeping it private was making the problem bigger than it really was. I was afraid to confess to my husband, fearing his anger and rejection. But a beautiful thing happened when my silence began costing my peace—I sincerely asked God for a way out and He gave it to me. I told my husband about it, in tears, and he showed me compassion and grace. He prayed for me and comforted me and expressed understanding, not condemnation. His reaction did two things: 1) it made me more grateful to the Lord and more aware of the power of confession, and 2) it reminded me of why I love my husband so much—he freely offers me the forgiveness of Christ and loves me just as I am.
So, let’s say that your life suddenly changed yesterday, or three months ago, or last week. Or maybe it will tomorrow, or five months from now because of someone’s poor choices, disregard, sin, negligence, distraction. Maybe it’s your own problems that got you into a mess. If you’re tempted to hide and stew over your anger and sadness and shame—don’t. Let God shine His holy spotlight onto your secret. I know from experience—it won’t seem as daunting once it’s exposed. Watch your secrets melt away under the warmth of His love. You’ll be amazed by the beauty they uncover.
As this year closes, the news has been full of reports of allegations of men abusing and mistreating women. I’ve been reading these headlines, while also spending the month of December fundraising and bringing awareness to the global money-making shame of human trafficking. And it all has me thinking a lot about the kind of man I want my son to become, the hopes that I have for his character. I have been praying for my son since the day he was born. My prayers have been very specific for him as a male. I pray for strength, a heart for the Lord, a heart for justice, a kind spirit and most of all, integrity. This is a personal trait that is becoming more precious, more valuable, and rarer every day. It’s defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. And almost every time I check the headlines I see men lying about their actions, making excuses for their misdeeds and expecting people to serve their whims instead of recognizing when their whims subject others to abuse.
And I look at my son, who is now only three, but who will soon have desires which will be admirable and gracious on some days, yet embarrassing and selfish on others. How do I begin to teach him to care about his choices and the impact they have on other people? How do I begin to explain to him that girls outside his family will always deserve the same respect and kindness that he shows to his sisters? How will he learn to sacrifice his creature comforts for the legitimate needs of those less fortunate in his path? How will he figure out how to use his strength to fight injustice? How will I coach his behavior so that he doesn’t become another woman’s disgraceful memory or headline?
Much of this he will learn from his father, who is a kind and generous man. He teaches our son that his job is to protect and never to harm. Much of it he will learn from me, as I demand that he minds his manners. I require him to say “please” and “thank you,” to ask me nicely for things instead of expecting me to get what he wants. Much of it he will learn from his female siblings as they ask for his help and show him familial love.
But there’s a message passing through our culture that I don’t want him to hear: and that message is that there is nothing special about him as a male. Because when women start emasculating men, men stop caring about women. When we tell them they don’t matter, that we can live without them, they don’t see the need to practice integrity. Why would we as women expect kindness and respect from men we don’t respect ourselves?
I want my son to know that his God-given strengths and tendencies are valuable. I want him to see his maleness as the other half of the beautiful design God created in humanity. When he notices the differences between himself and girls, I hope that the mystery produces a sense of awe and wonder in his mind, and not lust or greed.
I will continue to lift him up in my prayers even when I can no longer lift him in my arms. I will speak for him until, God willing, my prayers become his own.
In the very first days after my eldest daughter was born, I remember grieving my loss of sleep and discussing my exhaustion with my mom. She empathized with me and then said something that has stuck with me as I’ve navigated the twisted roads of motherhood. It went a little like this: “When your kids are very young they need your energy and constant attention because their problems are frequent but small. They are easy to fix but they happen repeatedly. When they’re older, your kids need your wisdom and your heart because their problems are fewer, but they’re bigger and there is less you can do on your own to fix them.”
Vivienne turned seven this month and her younger sister Georgia recently turned five, and although they still have many years head of them, I’m astounded at the depth of our conversations at this point in their lives. I’m always a little sad when I realize they are old enough to comprehend that the world isn’t perfect, that some people are mean or that I can’t give them every answer to soothe their tender emotions or settle their confused minds.
All moms are familiar with the gut-sinking-bitter-sweetness that comes when you discover that your kids have outgrown their clothes and need an entirely new wardrobe. There’s a double-whammy that hits while weeding out old clothes and buying new ones for our children. The first punch goes to our checking account—time to budget for clothing this month! The second punch goes to our hearts—our babies are getting bigger. And bigger. And as their bodies grow so do their minds. Their brains fill with new information, new concepts. Their eyes notice behavior and social structures. Pretty soon these children start to ask very good questions, very challenging questions that make us stop and consider, “Hmm, how am I going to answer/handle this?”
And what complicates this for me even more is that my girls are SO different. They have shared a room since my younger daughter was five-months-old, a bed since she was two, and they are the best of friends. But they could not be more opposite if they were characters in a story. Often a tactic or method or even tone of voice that I use with one does not go over well with the other. I must get creative with tailoring much of my mothering-methods to each of my three children (because my youngest is a boy—talk about different!) and their personalities, while maintaining the convictions and ideologies that my husband and I feel are important for our family.
My night-and-day daughters have tested me lately in my ability to succinctly yet thoroughly answer their concerns in a way that will assuage their fears, teach truth and be considerate of their immature emotions. My oldest daughter is very into science and dinosaurs. She has just learned to read and will devour any text about dinosaurs that she can find. But not all these books agree about exactly when dinosaurs existed, how long they lived and how they became extinct. My husband and I are Christians and believe in Creation, but we are old-Earth Christians, so we tend to agree with scientists who maintain that the earth is much older than the 6,000 years that the new-Earthers claim. We happen to own a book about dinosaurs by one of these new-Earth apologists, Ken Hamm, that we picked up from our local consignment store before we realized its angle. He claims that dinosaurs were roaming the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. But just last week, Vivienne came home with a book about dinosaurs from her school library which supports the traditional scientific view that dinosaurs predated humans and even evolved into birds! (An entire blog-post could be derived from this example about different schooling options for Christian families, but I’m not going to go there right now).
You can imagine Vivi’s confusion when she read these two conflicting accounts. I pointed out to her that the school library book was aging the earth at millions of years old, whereas Ken Hamm’s account ages it at around 6,000 years. I asked her what she thought. She said she agreed with the library book from the school because: “There’s no way people and dinosaurs could have lived at the same time because the dinos would have crushed or eaten the people!”
(Amazing the logic of little kids sometimes.)
So, I ended up encouraging her to take a faith-filled posture on this one. I explained to her that there are some things we will never know this side of heaven. But what we do know is that everything comes from something. Every creation has a Creator, and the timing is mostly irrelevant. We believe that God created all things for His glory and purpose, and that science helps us to learn about His creation and to reveal Him within it. She seemed satisfied with that. I believe her very words were, “I know that Mommy.” And then she waved me away so she could continue reading her book on her own.
Georgia’s interests are not in science. They are in performance, dancing, play-acting and looking pretty. I think that this is a confusing are for girls and women in our current climate. On one hand, people spend way too much money and time worrying about being beautiful. Just the number of YouTube make-up tutorials, Pinterest pins and beauty products is overwhelming. On the other hand, there is a growing movement among feminists which is telling females that beauty is shallow and unnecessary. This perspective suggests that beautiful women who take care of themselves are enslaved to some patriarchal system, and that they are brainwashed ignorant bimbos.
I believe both groups are wrong. I believe that my God loves beauty—it’s all around us in the animals we admire, the gardens that we cultivate, the mountains upon which we gaze, and yes, the diverse patchwork of humanity across this globe. So, my task with Georgia is not to squelch her interest in beauty and the pleasure she takes in looking pretty. My task is to put beauty in its proper place, to encourage her to focus more on cultivating a beautiful spirit and heart than on wearing an outfit or a hairstyle that others will notice.
She threw a fit the other day when I would not allow her to wear her play make-up to school. Now, the child is five, so it’s not like she was going to be in full super-model make-up anyway. But I know that she sees me wearing make-up most days, and she has asked me why I do it. I must be very careful about my answers because I don’t want her to ever think that her value lies in her beauty. And she is lovely—she has creamy white skin, big blue eyes and light blonde hair. She is blessed with a lean, muscular frame and her muscles are well-defined without that much physical effort. But I know that God created us in His image, and all beauty is ultimately there to point to Him. It’s nothing we can claim on our own because it was given to us. I also know that nothing spoils beauty in a person like an ungrateful and selfish heart.
More questions and explanations are sure to come. I hope that God gives me enough wisdom to communicate what He’s taught me, and that He’ll help me to tap into His grace when I get things wrong. Please pray for me as I continue to nurture these feminine souls, knowing the struggles and expectations that are waiting for my girls as they grow. Now my son, Roman, well…he’ll be an entirely different ball of wax!
Yes. Me too. I was abducted at gun point, robbed and sexually assaulted when I was 21. I can assure you that being assaulted changes your life in a heartbeat. Those are the testimonies that we’re hearing from these women who were bullied and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. Listening to the now infamous audio tape, it seems that he liked scaring them, wielding his power in the business over them, threatening their future. And many of them walked away from “the industry” at that point. They realized that they couldn’t participate in a game where their success depended on their willingness to surrender their morals. As Weinstein said in the audio, “everybody does it.”
And apparently everyone knew about it. From the jokes about Weinstein on shows like 30 Rock, to jabs at award shows, it truly seems as though this behavior had been happening for quite some time. As one person was quoted as saying, “it was the most open secret in Hollywood.” Yet the Weinstein Company and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are just now expelling Weinstein to distance themselves from his soiled reputation.
This tells me one thing, and I think we need to be reminded of this: Hollywood, powerful people, entertainers—they did not care about those women or their futures or they would have stepped in long ago. And guess what? They don’t care about you, or me, or our kids. They care about us insofar as we pay their bills, and that’s all.
So what can we do to stop sexual assault and harassment from happening in America alone? I believe that sin and selfishness are going to drive this sort of mistreatment until the end of time, but there is one thing that I do believe could help in stopping the endless flow of damaging sexual images, ideals, and practices into our own homes and minds.
If people really want to see a better future, I think we need to start asking ourselves some tough questions: Although we may tell our children how to treat others, how to respect them, give them space, are we following that up with what we allow to pass from our eyes or ears to our brains as “entertainment?” Weinstein is a movie producer after all–how did he get so powerful? His very pockets were lined by us! He has produced some 80 films, and many of them are blockbusters.
What we pass off as entertainment is damaging business and relationships and teaching our children harmful messages about intimacy. What music, TV shows, and films are we hooked on which promote casual, dangerous, selfish physical indulgence? It has been proven that pornography rewires the brain and viewing it releases dopamine which satisfies that “seeker” habit, however, after a while just watching isn’t enough, and the viewer must act out their fantasies. I wonder if this is what happened to Weinstein? And did you know that the pornography industry made $4 billion last year alone? That is symptomatic of a serious problem because it reveals a “need” that is feeding this business, and also because real people don’t respond to sexual advances the same way that actors do. It is not “normal” for people to watch porn–it’s destructive, plain and simple, and I don’t know a single man who has had a problem with pornography and is recovering from it who has ever been proud that he was exposed to it.
Here’s something pretty pornographic (and I apologize in advance but I felt this was important). A billboard hit about three summers ago contained these lines:
“You’re the hottest bitch in this place…”
“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”
The song? Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Pharrell. And it was featured on Jimmy Kimmel, The Voice, So You Can Think You Can Dance, played over the radio all summer (we heard it over and over again while living in Luxembourg), and who knows what other TV shows. Teens were listening to this for months and months. They were being taught, through music, that it’s appropriate for men to tease women in this way.
I was going to post a photo of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus when they performed the song together on MTV in 2013, but it was just too gross. Perhaps the most disturbing part of those images is while Miley is twerking all over Robin Thicke, young fans are reaching up worshipfully, in complete support of the perverse mess happening right in front of them. It’s no wonder Thicke’s wife Paula Patton divorced him after that.
Mainstream TV and movies, Netflix and Amazon originals are not much better. What people defend as artistic license appeals to the most carnal instincts in a person and is inherently damaging. When our children are little we want them watching educational television that will stimulate their brains, but as adults we entertain ourselves with tawdry trash that feeds perversion in people like Harvey Weinstein. I’m not blaming the public for his indiscretions. He of course is responsible for his actions, but I can’t help but think that the growing obsession with sex and self-gratification and lack of accountability in this country largely contributes to the twisted reasoning of people like Weinstein, and helped keep his secret quiet for a long time.
I think that it’s time we back up our words with our choices. This may require us to give up our favorite shows, to walk out of movie theaters or be a little less cool. So be it. Let’s stop lining Hollywood’s pockets when they don’t care enough about us to stop abuse.
I’d like to leave you with a picture of a man who did care. He was a champion for a woman who was being harassed and whose very life was being threatened. She had exercised poor judgment and cheated on her husband. A group of powerful men laid most of the blame on her and we have no mention of whether her lover was tried at all. But they dragged her into the street and prepared to throw rocks at her until she died. That’s when Jesus stepped in front of her and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7). The crowd, in its shame, dispersed, and the woman presumably learned from her own mistakes and walked away unscathed, her future ahead of her. So I don’t want to wholesale lay the blame on men and patriarchy. There are great men who follow Christ’s example in their fair and noble treatment of women.
In contemplating people’s indiscretions and sins, I think we should mourn the pain and loss that one miserable person caused, but we should also pray for them and search our own hearts, ask the Lord to reveal how we can contribute to change. It will take humility and grace to heal what has been broken.
Is it just me or are there more causes and criticisms than ever before? Oh, how I wish for simpler times. When there wasn’t such a need for instant information, when there weren’t ever-changing windows into others’ lives, when we weren’t voyeurs watching for something better than what is right in front of us. (When the temptation wasn’t so great to do all of the above).
Is it any wonder that children are happier and more content than adults? Is it any wonder that once young people are handed a smart phone they tend to become more rebellious, meaner, and depressed?
People poise ready to attack–anticipating being criticized and judged. People compete for attention and fame. People elevate their causes and their rights above compassion and empathy.
We don’t concern ourselves any longer with how our actions and words affect others. We shock intentionally, and more and more, just to get attention. Nothing is ever good enough for us. No ONE is ever good enough for us. We dismiss and discount and insult without a second thought whenever someone dares to disagree with us. This imperfect world will never satisfy–no matter how many times we protest, march, complain, fight, debate. And if we do win a court battle, if we do see legislation change, it will only pacify our greed for a little while, before we find another perceived weak spot that we feel needs to change so that our lives can be “fair” or “better.”
Whatever happened to contentment? The notion that things aren’t perfect but that it’s okay because that gives us the desire and opportunity to help, to contribute, to work instead of take. Not everything is supposed to be given to us—that makes us lazy and selfish. Instead of giving up on each other in friendships, marriage, government, communities—we’re supposed to give grace.
We elevate ideals above people. We obsess over problems. We go straight for huge issues that have already polarized a nation, instead of building bridges in our own communities—one relationship at a time. We yearn for change that may or may not prove to be healthy instead of acknowledging the goodness that exists here and now.
I want my kids to enjoy and appreciate this life. I want them to look back and say that their childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I want to see them content in the life they are living now. I want them to be grateful to God. I want them to see other people as fellows and contributors to their current joy, not as battles to fight, causes to push or stepping stones to nebulous dream.
I want to look my friends in their eyes, hear their voices and remember their hearts. I want to remember that behind each typed word is a deeply considered thought and a memory, an experience. I want to listen to what they say, to pray about it and let the Lord work out the truth. I want to try to understand. I really want to try.
Yet, there is hope in this jar of clay.
One day I will be no more. Maybe my words will live on (this is one of my personal dreams), but they may not. But I do believe that I will leave a legacy, and above all I want it to be one of faith, hope and love. Tests will come and go that will shake my faith, but if it fails and disappears like a vapor, it was never faith. Jesus has proved Himself to be true and trustworthy, and although I am occasionally untrusting, I can always hope to see His hand move. I can always hope that one by one, lives will be changed and hearts will be changed when people know Him as Savior. I can hope that as people go from sin to righteousness, from despair to joy, from idolizing themselves to worshiping Jesus, that the world will be different. Love has been minimized to simply a feeling and an acceptance of everyone and everything, when in its purest form, it means sacrifice and elevating others’ needs above your own. This self-sacrificing, submissive and encouraging love is one that the world at large does not know.
The joy of Jesus is not a promise of ease. Christians are not meant to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like all is okay, like the world doesn’t have problems, that there isn’t true injustice. But we are meant to identify FIRST with Him and His glory. We are not meant to hold our personal banners and causes, our races and genders and occupations and educations above Him. All those things are subject to Him. All those things are meant to point to Him, to celebrate His kingdom and glory and His perfect love. We are meant to hold our banners up to Him and see that He is still higher. We are meant to walk through our struggles with Him leading the way.
Oh, that I could love and hope like Jesus. That is my deep dream.
I’m copying a link to an article of mine that was published yesterday in Christian Woman Magazine. It pertains to seeking help and destigmatizing seeking professional counseling. I hope that you’ll enjoy it! (Even though it was written by my alter-ego Adrienne Floss. That’s a typo that the magazine made–hopefully it’ll be fixed soon).
I’ve been ruminating lately on how much of motherhood is moment-to-moment. When they are very young, our children’s needs are immediate and small, yet they can quickly fill up a day. From the minute they are born, they start changing rapidly. Every day brings a new development, a new milestone or challenge. So much of their questions as they learn to communicate, first with grunts and then single words and then phrases and eventually complex sentences, are about what they want or need from moment to moment. Mine are always asking what we’re doing.
“Mommy, what can I do NOW? What are we having for dinner? What are we doing tomorrow?”
They see in small slices of time. There’s no long-term vision for the future in these little minds. Therefore, I started to think like this not long after becoming a mother. In these busy moments of mothering, I am often putting one foot in front of the other and thinking of what needs to be done NEXT. What diaper do I need to change now? What sticky liquid must I clean off the floor now? What meal do I need to prep for next? Who needs to get dressed? Who needs a ride to school now?
Busy-ness does not provide much space for dreaming or for long term vision. So as a mother I easily became entrenched in what was happening in my life daily, focusing on the fine details–not so much the beauty and great significance of the fact that my child can NOW hold their own spoon or get themselves dressed, but that it finally happened and freed me from their dependence on me for basic needs. I was often overcome by these little, immediate needs. I felt so smothered at times that I inwardly scoffed when older people with independent children would remind me how much I should be appreciating mine…right NOW in THIS moment.
I brushed their comments aside, knowing they were right and silently acknowledging that one day I will most certainly be in their shoes, feeling compassion and sympathy for a young mom struggling with her tiny brood, while also feeling a pull to make her aware of the treasure that she has in her young family. I brushed their comments aside because although they are most likely correct, what they said did not change the fact that in those moments, I was the one struggling. I was the one yearning for a moment alone. I was the one wondering when I’d get a good night’s rest again. I was the one wanting to put on a nice outfit and not have it covered in food stains and snot. I was the one covered up in moments and lacking vision or the hindsight to see how these moments could come together.
Just a few days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two-year-old son. His older sisters have just begun their school year, and I’ve been looking forward to the days that I’m going to have alone with my son, my baby, who has had the least amount of quality time with mommy of all my children. We were alone at the table and I was kind of focused in on his round cheeks when it hit me. I am about to begin my final days as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. Over the last seven years my husband and I added three little people to our family and every day I was swept up in their now needs. It was hard for me to lift my head up higher than their faces to see the changes on the horizon, to see that the future was not “now”, but it came sooner than I anticipated. When I was home with all three of them, or even just two of them (when my oldest started kindergarten last year), it was easy for me to see all these moments as an endless stream of my reality. Like this was going to be my life forever, which is silly, because we all know that children grow up.
So NOW, when I look at my son, I see a boy who just yesterday was an infant, and tomorrow will be a kindergartner. Every time he kisses my arm or my cheek, every time he tells me he loves me and demands a response, every time he asks me to carry him or runs to me in tears with a boo-boo, I wonder if it will be the last of these moments of childhood urgency. Because moments have passed with my other two. I can no longer carry my six-year-old. My helpful five-year-old won’t be home in the afternoons to assist in putting her brother down for a nap. There’s less and less need for mommy’s help right NOW, and more that they can do without me.
Two nights ago, my five-year-old daughter was exaggerating about her speed and claiming that she could outrun me. I told her, “Yeah right, I’m way faster than you!” Then I thought for a moment and said, “But, there will be a day when you’ll be faster and stronger than me, honey. Then you really will beat me.”
Sometimes I think that I, and moms in general, could benefit from learning how to procrastinate, just enough to help us put off the trivial tasks that seem like they need to be done right NOW, to savor more of these moments. Later, our laundry will still be sitting in a pile on the floor, but our children will be running ahead, eventually too fast for us to catch them. Let’s lace up our shoes, take a swig of caffeine, and chase these moments when we can.