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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Interview Questions #3

Here are my answers to some question and I'll try to do this again in a week or two.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
I LOVE teaching people about their Strengths. I would really enjoy Strengths coaching as a full time job.
What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
I regret not fully cutting sugar and grains out of my diet 20 years ago. They have added nothing but pounds on my hips. I often regret not being fully present with my kids. I'm working on this, and regretting it less.
Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?
My need to be understood. 
When you are 80-years-old, what will matter to you the most?
Knowing the location of the nearest restroom? 
When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?
I think I exercise fairly good judgement in this area. I think ahead but I'm not afraid to jump in and act. If I'm ever erring on the side of caution I immediately know it when I hear myself start to whine.
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
Like, if one day I woke up and I didn't remember how old I was and had to go strictly on how I feel? Physically, 75. Mentally, 25. If I could choose one age to be, 35. Not because of what was happening in my life at 35 but because I think 35 has life experience and wisdom without being old.
Would you break the law to save a loved one?
Probably. Depends on why they needed saving. Cross into a no-trespassing zone to rescue a kid from certain death? Of course. Steal a loaf of bread to feed my starving children. Yup. Help you cheat on your taxes because you made bad financial decisions and are now broke? Sorry. Break into the impound lot to get your car because you parked in a no-parking zone and got towed? Nope. Hack a professor's computer to get you the test you are unprepared to take but need to ace to graduate? No way. If your poor choices, lack of integrity or failure of responsibility got you into a mess from which you require saving, I'm not likely to break the law to get you out of it.
What makes you smile?
My husband. My children. Sunshine. Kittens, puppies and other baby animals. Cold beer. Warm sand. Ice cream. Puns.
When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you've done?
Probably. I'm a talker.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
God loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. Redemption and grace are real and available and freely given. God created you a unique and beautiful individual; you are not a mistake. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Enjoying This Sun Day

Because there have been WAY too many snow days in the last week and a half.

Our life was full of screen time and coffee, legos and sleds, melting beads and pinewood derby cars, food and food and food.

The kids were great.

I got pretty much nothing accomplished.

I ate a peach vodka snowball that was fabulous. (Am I the only adult that still enjoys eating a big cup of snow every time we have a storm?)

Now the kids are finally back to school and I'm putting the house back together and catching up on all the things I neglected while we were snowed in. The sun is out and the temps are in the 40s. It feels like spring, and I'm ignoring the forecast of more snow for next week.

This morning when I dropped the kid at school my friend Charlotte was walking back to her house. She came up and got in my car without asking if it was ok, which I love, and I drove her home without asking if she wanted a ride, which I love. We sat and talked in her driveway, catching up on the little things since we last saw each other (dropping the girls off at Brownies last night). I love normal days.


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