Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A New Definition of Good

I feel trapped in this place where I want to write about the last eleven weeks, but I'm not ready to write out all the details... and I want to do it justice, but I'm not ready to share all my thoughts and feelings with the entire world.

Eleven weeks ago my friend Rachel lost her baby boy about a week before he was due. I've never experienced a loved one losing a full term baby, one that she could deliver and hold but not keep. It was, to that point, the worst week of my life, full of anxiety and worry. The world was no longer the safe place I'd imagined. A world where babies just die, for no reason, is a world where no one is safe.

I know now, as I knew then, that this world isn't really safe. The safety I enjoy is a middle class, western, suburban illusion... but it was one that I was enjoying, even if intellectually I knew it was false.

Rachel's baby Caden was due on September 8th, the same day as Corinne, one of my closest friends (who happens to also be my SIL), was due to deliver my niece. Corinne had endured nine months of the ultimate difficult pregnancy. She had hyperemesis gravidarum of the most-severe variety. Multiple hospital stays, a PICC line, home health nurses and bed rest were finally coming to an end and we were all so very excited.

On the Tuesday before she was set to deliver, Corinne had a non-stress test and sonogram that showed baby Clara moving and healthy. The next day her home health nurse couldn't find a heartbeat.

The week that followed Clara's death was a nightmare. Even now, just thinking about all I could write is making my heart race and my head pound. I don't even know where to start or what to leave out. It was awful, I didn't sleep or eat for days. Meeting and holding and saying goodbye to Clara was pain I can't begin to explain.

It's been 11 weeks since Caden died and 10 weeks since Clara died and none of us will ever be the same. Everyone I see on a regular basis is grieving. Everyone close to me has been deeply affected by these two events.

The day of Clara's death I wrote these words, "The same Truth I believed last month is true today. The same God that was good in June is good in September. Tragedy has always been reality to somebody, and now that somebody is me. But Truth is true, always."

I only partly believe those words now. Corinne put it perfectly when she said that God's definition of good and my definition of good are not the same. I know that God hasn't changed but I am beginning to see the lies I believed. I believed in a God that I created in my own image, who cared about the same things I did, in the same ways I cared.

God is still good... but my definition of good is changing.

Friday, November 07, 2014


It's really hard to write a back-to-blogging post. Like when you haven't talked to someone in a really long time and the longer it gets the more there is to talk about so you need to set aside a huge amount of time to catch up... but you don't have that kind of time and so things get awkward and life changes and then it's been eight months.

Eight months since I last blogged... and only 11 posts in all of 2013.


A lot has happened. I don't care about the things that used to be so important. I don't think about life the way I've always thought about life. I don't want to write in the same way I used to... but I'm not sure what the new way IS yet.

Is this what a midlife crisis feels like? Woah.

I think I still want to write though. I have a lot of things in my head that would be nice to get out... might give me some much needed space in there.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Cleaning Out My Brain

I've had lots of random thoughts this week. No one of them is worthy of an entire post, but if I don't get them out of my head I'll never have room for anything else!

The other day I met someone who guessed that I was 33 years old, "tops!" She asked me how I manage to look so young and I wanted to say, "I try to stay a little chubby, helps fill in the wrinkles." But instead I shrugged my shoulders and said thanks. Don't want to scare off the source of future ego boosts by revealing too much of my true personality.

I have Bizzaro World body image issues. I know that many people have real problems with scale/mirror dissonance that cause them much anxiety. My problems swing the other way. I genuinely think I look great all the time. My mental image is fabulous, and then I see a candid picture or catch my reflection as I walk by a mirror and think, "Who IS that?! That can't be me, I'm WAY better looking." My anxiety comes when I'm faced with the reality of my unhealthy BMI and wonder when that extra chin (or two) arrived.

I wish I could be funny on command instead of in response... then I could choose more appropriate times to crack a joke. If I could pick one friend's humor to emulate it would be Kasey. She's a riot and I laugh without ceasing in her presence.

My husband has been reminding me lately that conservatives are interested in conserving things while progressives are interested in progress. While I care very little for political passions, I don't really get the focus of the conservative agenda. It seems like they put a lot of energy into conserving things that are already gone or are on the way out. If I was going to pick some things to stick around forever I'd choose differently.

I love a full house and all the noise it brings. We had (another) snow day this week and the kids had friends and cousins sleep over. I once again witnessed this truth: when there are a lot of kids in one place they ALL TALK AT THE SAME TIME!! LOUDLY!! They all ask me questions at the same time. They all move at the same time. And I love it. I couldn't do it 24/7, but I'm happy for the noise of a full house.

If I was going to write about the last year of my life it would sound a lot like this. I like that Jamie doesn't care about what other people think of her... or maybe she does and she's just braver than I am. It's hard to put it all into words but I will say that I'm forever thankful that Jesus was there to get me through while I was waiting for the drugs to get me better... and he's still here to keep me going.

I have been more productive in the last two months than in the previous 12 months combined.

My brain feels lighter! Lots of room for more random thoughts!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Toxic Charity Seminar Notes

Last weekend I had the privilege of hearing author, entrepreneur, community developer, Vietnam veteran and president of FCS Urban Ministries, Dr. Bob Lupton speak. When I first read his book Toxic Charity, two years ago, I became an instant fan and encouraged everyone in all my circles to read it. His seminar was more of the same wisdom and knowledge he presented in his book, fleshed out with stories of his experiences living in urban Atlanta and working with missionaries and entrepreneurs all over the world.

I love to hear people speak from experience and Dr. Lupton has spent more than 40 years living what he teaches. He spoke of being a neighbor, he talked about his experience in the city. He shared the lessens he learned from his personal failures and where he's seen success in his own ministry. I could have listened to his stories for another couple of hours.

Here are my notes:

Service projects in the city are "fun" for the server but can be humiliating for the receiver. How does the resident feel about the volunteers? How do the volunteers unintentionally insult? When the volunteer repeatedly says things like, "WOW! your house is so clean," or, "WOW! your kids are so well behaved and respectful," it comes across like they expected the people in the city to be living in a dump and their kids to be out of control.

One way giving dis-empowers and erodes.
Give once = appreciation
Give twice = anticipation
Give three times = expectation
Give four times = entitlement
Give five times = dependency
This is a downward progression that leads to unhealthy and toxic relationships.

A crisis need demands an emergency intervention and lives are saved (tornado, flood, fire) ie: stop the bleeding
A chronic need requires development (rebuilding) ie: strengthening capacity
Address a chronic need with crisis intervention and people are harmed.

Has Katrina response created a victim culture? (He just asked this question, he didn't answer it or say that it has. I have a number of friends that have been involved with Katrina response since the beginning and they were able to give examples of how the current ministry in NOLA is healthy and not a crisis response.)

We need to evaluate how programs impact and strengthen the community. The best way to truly impact a community - become a neighbor. Being a neighbor changes your perspective. You see that everyone has something to bring to the table, everyone has something to contribute. USE every person as a resource. Young people were created in the image of God, they are not just thugs. The home bound elderly make a great neighborhood watch.

Three stories of toxic charity made healthy with community involvement.

1. Christmas adopt-a-family. Kids loved it, moms tolerated it, dads were embarrassed and emasculated. Changed the program to a Christmas store with donated items priced somewhere between garage sale and wholesale. Gifted parents with the joy of selecting and giving presents to their own child. Gifted parents with the dignity of taking care of their own. Employed local people from the community it served. Proceeds from the store went to fund a local job training program.

2. Food pantry. Created tension between giver and receiver. Created tension between receivers due to inequity of goods received. Changed the program to a food co-op. Enabled community members to work together to achieve a goal. Provided various roles in the program (shopper, treasurer, organizer, recorder) and required rules to be set and followed. Brought respect to a charity program that lacked dignity.

3. Clothing closet. Began as a free-for-all that had people leaving with armloads of clothes and discarded clothes found scattered around the community. Led to tension between givers and receivers as various rules and regulations were attempted. Changed the program to a thrift store. Created a merchant and a consumer situation where the merchant needs the consumer. The consumer is valued and valuable. Created jobs in the community. Allowed individuals in the community to be trained in retail and taught to work together.

Projects meant to help should be community directed and community led. There should be two-way evangelism where both helpers and residents share their faith, their struggles and their stories of how God provides.

Hunger in the United States isn't a crisis issue it is a function of poverty. The response to hunger in the United States is a crisis response that fills bellies but ultimate hurts the recipients and does nothing to alleviate the poverty at the root of the hunger.

Is bad charity better than no charity at all. No. Example: bloodletting was a primary therapy used by doctors for 5,000 years. In one generation the discoveries of Louis Pasteur turned it from a practice to malpractice.

We are in a moment in history. The searchlight of research is shinning on giving. We are ripping the lid off the time honored practice of charity to the poor. There may be a downturn in charity while people pull back, regroup and figure out how to do it right.

What the poor need most is a caring, connected neighbor. The poor stay poor due, in part, to isolation. Everything changes when you become a neighbor. It is hard, if not impossible, to help from afar. It is all about community.

One way giving is irresponsible. DO NOT DO IT! Responsible giving is key. If Dr. Lupton had his way there would be no benevolence committees. There is a massive misappropriation of kingdom dollars.

As urban families migrate into the suburbs, suburban churches should be agents of hospitality. It is biblical justice to welcome the stranger in your land.

We evaluate the wrong things when we ask, "How does this benefit me." We need to ask, "How does this benefit the community. We spend billions of dollars each year on short term missions trips that produce little lasting results. Short term teams are often major work for the hosting community and frequently complete work that must be re-done by professionals.

We are asking the wrong people to go on missions trips. We send helpers, we need to send entrepreneurs. We send servants, we need to send those with the capacity to create jobs.

You cannot serve a community out of poverty. Only jobs can lift a community out of poverty.

Many thanks to Dr. Lupton for his wise words on the topic of Toxic Charity!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Crochet Minion Slippers

I saw these minion slippers on Pinterest and thought they'd be a great project for a road trip. The original post was not in english and didn't include a tutorial so I figured, what the heck. It can't be that hard, right? Ah, the hubris of a new crocheter. The first slipper I crocheted was terrible. It was giant, didn't fit and was misshapen. So, I went back to the drawing board, found this tutorial and started over.

I've never written a crochet pattern, and I'm not going to attempt to start now (learning lessons in humility every day). I followed the slipper tutorial posted on 2CreateInColor along with her tips and tricks for fitting your slipper. I kept fitting it to Christopher's foot and stopped when it was big enough. The eyes are just white circles rimmed in gray with a bit of black sewn in for the eyeball. The mouth and black glasses band were stitched into the slipper at the end.

The second slipper took about three hours to make. The third took less than an hour. Take chances, make mistakes, get messy! Thanks Miss. Frizzle.


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