Knock, Knock

Death is one of those things that we generally don’t like to talk about. When it comes to visit, besides being awfully sad and emotional, it also has the power to stop time and give everyone a proper shake in their boots for a bit. Depending on the closeness of the loss, it can be debilitating. Sadly, I think for many of us, the daily grind of life and striving for happiness seeps back in rather quickly and we no longer have death at the forefront of our minds. Not that I think we should be morbidly thinking of the Grim Reaper every morning, but the preciousness of life is something we too easily forget. I was skimming back through Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, and found a quote from Frederick Buechner where he writes, 

“Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

I just attended a funeral of one of my high school classmates this past weekend; a death of someone far too young. She was delightful and shining in so many ways. I saw the effects of this loss in her family and friends as they were mourning and it was heartbreaking. A couple weeks back, we celebrated the life of my grandmother-in-law and although I knew her fairly well for over the last 15+ years, it was so beautiful to hear the words of her grandchildren as they recalled how impactful she was for the duration of their lives.

As most would agree, I hate death. I hate the uncertainty of when it will come knocking. It’s one of my earliest fears as a child; wanting to have all the people I love in one room with me so I could keep them safe. As I heard the pastor say several times during his message at this most recent funeral, “We just don’t know”. We don’t know the time or place of our deaths and those we love. I’m re-reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and there’s a time when as a young girl, Corrie is exposed to the reality of death.

She cries out to her father, “You can’t die! You can’t!” In reference to their weekly train rides to Amsterdam, he asked her “when do I give you your ticket?” Corrie says, “Why just before we get on the train” and her father replies, “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”

We have a vet appointment for tomorrow afternoon to put down my dog, Millie. Although I’ve been thinking of it for a while now and I know it’s time, the reality of it makes me sad. I don’t like the finality of it. I’ve been wanting to do all I can to make these last couple of days really comfortable and trying to make sure she knows I love her. Death is hard. Life is hard, too, and we can work at a furious pace trying to keep all of our ducks in a row and strive to be “social media happy”, but I sure hope for a deeper and more grateful style of living. At least for today while it is louder than normal, I will try and recognize who is here and hug them a little tighter. After all, we just don’t know. 

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

Who The Heck Do You Think You Are?

First of all, this blog entry is my husband’s nightmare and makes him shudder. He is not a fan of reflecting or rehashing his feelings. He’s not an insensitive rock, but let’s just say we are a good balance! Now to my dramatic point: Anyone else ever sit back sometimes and wonder who you really are? You are likely not as introspective or slightly obsessive in your thinking as I am and you can thank God for that! However, I’ve heard the phrase “mid-life crisis” in many a movie scene and it may be more common than we recognize; maybe just not as dramatic.

As a teenager, I was as confident as they come. Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of poor choices based on the desire to be liked or funny, but overall, I felt like the world was my oyster. Then, as I hit the end of college my anxiety crawled into my life and left me crippled internally by the age of 25. If there’s anything that can shake up your confidence, it’s an anxiety disorder. I’ve made my way through life since then and now at almost 38 years old, I can see my Little Blue Confidence Engine saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” I was down in the valley for some time, but hope to keep chugging up hill.

All the time in the valley has recently made me evaluate who Emily really is. The real one. The one that’s been stripped of prideful confidence and wants to be humbly confident in my skin, cellulite and all! ha! Have you spent any time on this? If you’re not an over-thinker, you may just be living and not worried about it (like my man)! I envy you! I have some older women in my life who have described what happened when they hit 40 or 50 and they began to care a lot less about what other people think and are overall more confident in their skin. That sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, either way I hope you will stop and consider what makes you, YOU. What makes you genuinely smile? What do you love to wear that makes you feel confident? What would you most want your children or family and friends to say about you once you’re long gone? What colors, scents, or art make you feel vibrant? What music makes you feel good all the way down to your toes? How do you want to be treated? Is there anything you want to do that would improve your well-being, sleep, or stress level? How does God see you? What makes your shoulders release and fall and gives you a sense of peace? Do you love your work or do you feel purposeful in your work? What is your purpose?

I’ll go first: I love the word cozy and everything it entails. Rain makes me less anxious and gives me a feeling of calm. I want to wear comfortable clothing (with the exception of a fancy dress every now and then) that is stylish and modest, but not frumpy and certainly does not involve tight jeans that reveal my butt crack or muffin top! I want to clear out my closet to only make way for things that make me feel good. I don’t want to care what the scale says, but still want to balance good self-care with good chocolate desserts. Being a mother is something I am deeply honored to be and I love it. I wish that I were born in the early 1900s and could live at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island and walk magically under the poplar trees. I love the beauty of mountains, rambling creeks, and stretches of green. I love reading books that help me grow and grin and giggle. I absolutely love teaching and encouraging kids to know they are special and valued. I wish that I had a deeper relationship with my parents and hope that my children and grandchildren will feel safe to share life with me as long as I’m alive. I crave balance; solid sleep, quiet time with God, a tidy home, and check marks on my to-do list. I am still working diligently on healing and freedom from my anxiety and depression and believe that someday soon I will be free of unnecessary guilt and yuck. Although I don’t often believe it enough, the Creator of the Universe knows me and adores me and I want to love Him back. I want to glorify Him with everything I do; not out of guilt, but because He is so wonderful and powerful and yet so intimately aware of us. I want to be respected. I want to be someone that people feel comfortable sharing their struggles and to encourage them with honest hope. I want to be Emily.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Well, I wondered if I’d ever step foot into blog world again after my last one stirring the political pot on Facebook. There is irony found in the connection between my last two posts: one being about my people-pleasing tendencies and then the next one about Trump that allowed me to get a bit of a verbal whoopin’ and lose some respect from people that I care about. It is the complete opposite of what I strive for (to a fault) in wanting to make sure everyone likes me. I have thought many times that I wish I’d kept my thoughts to myself on such a fiery topic, especially when I question my decision as the future president continues to tweet nonsense…However, as I reflect on it, I think it was good for me in a lot of ways. My pastor has reminded me that because of Christ, I am free. I’m free to share my opinion on things and that is true regardless of the push back I may receive. However, I still feel sad about what feels like damage that has occurred with some relationships or even acquaintances; just for giving my opinion on how we should be treating others with a different perspective or choice of vote. I feel like any walls I may have worked at tearing down from certain people that are different than me (i.e. politics, religion, sexual preferences, etc.) were built right back up and maybe even a little higher. That may not be the case, but it feels like it and feels discouraging.

One area that in which I have prided myself and sometimes maybe a little too desperately, is the fact that I tend to consistently play devil’s advocate on issues and try to remain open-minded and seeing both sides. I never, ever want to be considered close-minded to issues in our country, world, or what’s to come in eternity. I am extremely sensitive by nature and that helps me to feel deep compassion for others struggling with life. My wonderful husband is a conservative-minded guy who reads up and listens to the news consistently and I value his opinion on things because he’s done his research, but like Paula Abdul successfully coined, “opposites attract” and we don’t always agree on the issues. With other family and friends on a more liberal field, I try my best to hear their side, too and often find myself right in the middle on big issues because I can understand both sides. I think it’s great to be willing to hear different sides and I will keep doing that, but not in an effort just to win approval.

So, the lesson from all of this? It could be that one should never publicly share their opinion on politics or other hot topics and only blog about fluffy things. But, that’s lame and not brave. Here’s what I know and will type out for all of us to see as a reminder:

Be mindful of the way you react to someone else. Stop. Pray. Breathe. Then you can respond, if you still feel led. (another great tip from my pastor)

Be willing to slow down and listen to the other side. They feel just as passionate about it as you do.

So long as you are being respectful, you are FREE to share your thoughts and opinions.

Not everyone is going to like you. And they may even say ugly words. That’s OK.

When you respond inappropriately out of strong emotion or act ugly to someone, tough up and seek their forgiveness! What a beautiful example that can be.

Overall, if you know and trust in the Bigger Picture, you are FREE in Christ.

Trump, There It Is!

I’m processing and stewing over the presidential election results from earlier this week. Facebook has been flooded, as expected, but many of the posts have been slaps in my face and I have been fluctuating between frustration, sadness, fear, and confusion. Yesterday I read something along the lines of, “If you voted for Trump, be ready to explain to your Muslim, gay, and/or black friends why you don’t love or support them”. Today I was extremely disheartened to hear of school-aged children that are frightened for deportation or judgment. It should not be this way and something is clearly wrong.

Trump is sexist and crude. That I don’t deny. Where I stray from some of the people I love on this issue is that I don’t see where he is a racist and hateful. I don’t understand why someone believes that he wants a “white America”. I feel that the media has done a “quality” job in bashing and twisting his words and not acknowledging any clarifications he may have made to mend misunderstandings. What I see is that he clearly does not think before he speaks, nor is he “politically correct” in the things he tends to say. That became misconstrued to mean he’s a racist and hates people unlike him.  I think he doesn’t want illegal criminals crossing over into our country and he wants to do something drastic to stop the flow of criminals bringing both danger and drugs into our country. I think he doesn’t want extreme Islamists coming into our country and plotting dangerous ISIS-related terrorist attacks on our soil, not a Muslim family wanting new opportunities in America. The video showing him allegedly mocking a disabled man…the videos of him doing the same hand motions when describing other non-disabled people, even in the same speech,were honestly very convincing to me that he did not do what he’s accused of doing. This is not me trying to find excuses for the man. Why would I? I am honestly confused and honestly frustrated. It is so interesting to me that I can see this so differently than other people in my life and that’s not meaning that they should be seeing it the way I do. To me, it seems the media hates him so much and they took his tacky way or maybe even inaccurate way of saying certain things and have blown them up in an outrageous way, to the extend that we have children scared and frightened because they’ve been told that Donald Trump hates them. It should not be this way! They (the media) were trying to make certain Clinton won and as a result, have helped to spread this fear. On top of that, the real crazy citizens that do hate like that, feel like they have the right to spew it out on others and think Trump represents their beliefs, too, and I just don’t think it’s the case.

I’m not an idiot for thinking that either, but of course I’ve been indirectly accused of it. Frankly, it pisses me off that I, someone that circled the bubble next to Donald J. Trump, am being lumped into a group being labeled as racist, heartless, hateful, etc. Are there “white sexist men” out there who hate gays, blacks, Muslims? Sadly, yes. Are they the majority of voters that elected him? That’s doubtful. I have been made to feel that I am not allowed to feel ANYTHING except what YOU say is right. I do not hate ANYONE. I do not spew hatred in any direction! I simply see things differently than you and have looked at the issues: concerns on terrorists and illegal criminal activity, abortion, freedom of speech and religion…and made a decision. I know it’s the people-pleasing tendency I have that makes me care so much what others feel about me and that I shouldn’t care, but I do; mainly because I want them to know that I honestly see it differently than they do, and although it’s so strange that we can be so different, that should be ok.

On a slightly different note, if this hate hadn’t been misconstrued, I wonder if Trump would be an somewhat ideal candidate for all political parties. He seems balanced on some of the important issues. Unlike a stereotypical Republican, he doesn’t hate Planned Parenthood and sees the good they do (besides abortions). I also don’t believe he’s against gay rights for marriage equality.

What is to be done at this point? I’m frightened for now. I’m hoping that with time and continued clarification over Trump’s intended plans, that everyone will feel safer and calmer. As my Dad would say, “it is what it is” at this point, and we as Americans need to do the best we can. The hate-spewing and riots ain’t doing the trick though.

I Don’t (Wanna) Give a Crap!

I have a good friend who is a big-time people pleaser and I can really relate. I’m tired of caring so much about what other people think of me. Are you one of those that don’t worry much about what other people think? Do you have a “girl power” attitude and are just naturally proud to be you and can say, “I don’t give a crap what people think of me”? I am sometimes doubtful of that persona and wonder if anyone really feels that way, but I imagine some do and I envy that quality. I think back to a couple of guys I knew back in the day that acted like tough cookies with sarcastic responses given left and right, but in reality, they were just as self-conscious as I was. I think we all care to a certain extent, but I’m more on the unhealthy end of the spectrum and I’m ready for a change. Last night at a party, I prayed again, “Help me to just be me” and today I tried to be extra mindful of it, but it is much harder than I’d like. P.S. I overthink things. That might be the problem!

My brain wants everyone to like me. I don’t mean that I desire to win the “most popular” award, but just “approved” by a variety of people. The ultra-trendy gal (and you’ll notice that I lost the chance of describing myself as trendy seeing as I just used the word “gal”)that I occasionally run into, my neighbors, the mail lady, my kid’s teachers and fellow moms at school, even family members…I try to keep up my smile and hope they think I’m “cool” enough, or even more than that, I want them to think I’m kind and friendly enough. It sorta makes me tired.

I’ve said before that I don’t always feel the need to wrap faith into this blog of mine, but it inevitably finds its way there; especially on a topic that has to do with my value. I can go to verses in the bible that serve as reminders of what is most important when it comes to my worth and how I’m ultimately seen: Psalm 139:13-14 says “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” I have been created on purpose and am loved very much. I don’t need constant approval of others, but I also don’t want to be a big grump that doesn’t smile at anyone either. I think it can be a tough balance and may be harder for folks like me (and other friends I know) who tend to lean more on hoping others like us. Another encouraging verse on this matter comes from Zephaniah 3:17, and one of my very favorites: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” He adores us!

Knowing I don’t have to have anyone’s approval can feel like a relief and that’s what I love about verses like the one above; it serves as a sweet reminder to my little heart. But knowing it, and then living it, is hard. However, I also think that if we can practice resting on that truth of being loved so deeply by our Creator and that it is enough, it will only naturally allow us to want to be genuinely kind and friendly to others (not talking every moment of every day here because we are humans living life).

I wear an extremely bright, possibly too-bright, neon shirt to exercise sometimes and it says, “Be the Light” in reference to Matthew 5:14-16 where it says,You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Isn’t that a beautiful picture? I don’t want it to place a burden on ourselves to strive to always be liked, but rather rest in our God-given value and allow Him to work through us to love others and glorify Him.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Why don’t I just jump right in and write a really awkward list of some of the song bites that I have stashed away in my brain from when I was a kid:

“Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.”

“Freak me, Baby, awe yeah. Let me play with your body, baby, make you real hot.”

“I need $50 to make you holler, I get paid to do the wild thing”

“Boom, boom, boom, let’s go back to my room…”

“I wanna sex you up, all night!”

I could go on and on (till the break of dawn. ha!) and make myself and most readers continue to squirm and have sweaty palms. Did my parents know I was listening to such inappropriate songs at a young age? I doubt it. One of the funniest jokes a friend and I have is over the overtly sexual piano sheet music that she bought and we played and sang together as young girls. Oh, how our mothers would have cracked if they’d known! Has mainstream music always had an edge to it that required older folks to declare, “Those young kids and their loud music!!” Sure. But, do we really have any clue how sex has infiltrated our current generation of kids and teens beyond just the lyrics in mainstream songs? I don’t think so.

I have twice now seen a commercial advertising a new reality show and one of the quotes coming from a 20-something girl was, “Am I still bang-able?” Yikes! It’s the norm. It’s what young ladies (and guys) are seeing everywhere. I know the basic idea of sexuality being woven into music and entertainment is nothing new because it has been a risqué piece of many former generations, but again, I don’t think we really have a solid understanding of how entertainment and social media is distorting sex for both Millennials and beyond. The YouTube videos bombarding our youth about sexuality, the pressure to be Instagram ready with just the right selfie, the television shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians that are portraying what our young girls should look like and act like and talk like. Modesty has gone out the window. Am I sexy? Am I hot? Am I “bang-able”?

This past weekend, I attended an extremely interesting and informative conference on sexuality. It was from a biblical perspective, but it was no holds barred as it covered almost every aspect of sexuality in the mainstream culture, from same-sex attraction, pornography, the biblical definition of both women and sexuality, singleness, how to address it with kids, etc. I was thankful to get a nitty-gritty discussion going on this issue because I don’t want to lay low on this as my kids grow. As the conference’s guest speaker, Melanie Cogdill (managing editor for Christian Research Journal), emphasized, God created sex and we must talk about it age-appropriately, frankly and regularly. Does it make me squirm a bit to think about bringing up these issues with my children? You betcha. But, it’s a part of my job and as I try to do with our Christian faith in general, I want my kids to know what they believe and why they believe it. That requires an open and welcoming environment at home where they can ask anything they’d like and feel comfortable sharing any feelings they have. Is that far-fetched? Maybe, but it can at least can be the goal. 

What I learned this weekend that was so incredibly important to remember, but that initially sounds like it’s removed from the issue of sexuality, is that of our core belief in God. Without a moral compass that was instilled by our Creator, what value is found in modesty or sexuality modeled in the bible? Why not fall head first in to the sexual revolution that’s taking place in our current times? As Melanie Cogdill said, “It all goes back to Genesis 1-3.” Do we believe in God? If so, do we believe that the Word of God is our authority? If so, what is the biblical definition of sexuality?

I can think of many ways that my own perspective on sex was distorted and most of that was from the exposure I had and lack of any memorable conversations that may have helped. I don’t write this to lay fault on my parents because how many millions of other families typically avoid it because of it’s awkwardness? It only increases my concern for our up and coming generations with the seemingly quadruple amount of exposure they have nowadays and leaves me wondering how they will view sex as it pertains to marriage. How do they think they need to look in order to attract someone from the opposite sex? What language, forward flirty-ness, or sexiness must they exude in order to get attention?

It feels like a drowning fad to consider the idea that girls dress modestly and that boys are gentle and encourage girls to act like a lady. I have an entire future blog idea on how we, alongside other parents in the same peer group, can hopefully support our kids through the dating phase, but for today, I’m leaving you with this: If God created sex for good, and as Tim Keller described it, “Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.'”, then how are we helping to encourage this truth, whether that’s in our own marriage bed, in relationship with others if we are single and/or dating, or in guiding our children? It’s a question I’ll be asking myself, too.

Sources:

Crowe, J. (2016, July 28) 5 Lessons My Parents Taught Me About Sexuality [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-lessons-my-parents-taught-me-about-sexuality

Cogdill, Melanie, (2016 October) Conference on Biblical Sexuality at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, FL

Oh, No You Didn’t…

I’m often wondering what direction this blog will take and whether or not I have an aim or theme under which most of my entries will fall. A majority of my posts have been faith-related, but that’s not always my goal or where I feel I have to stay. I listen and observe the news, social media, etc. and as I begin to form an opinion on it, I sometimes think, “maybe I should blog on that.” Most of the time it doesn’t happen because I wonder if I’ll even have more than 4 lines to say about the matter and then the idea will fall behind other pressing daily obligations. I know I could hop on and blog about anything I darn well please, but knowing that there are potentially more than just two people reading it, also gives me cause for pause. I don’t want to tick off someone and, (gasp!) lose them as friends on Facebook. However, I like the idea that someone could read it, disagree, and then give me some food for thought from their perspective on the issue. That’s what it should really be like, right? Respectfully having the right to share opinions and welcoming feedback, like grown-ups. Not expecting every human being to think just like you.

I follow a blog that I enjoy that’s clever and light-hearted most of the time. It makes me laugh out loud and she even does a Fashion Friday post each week that makes me envy her closet. I’m quite far from trendy and fashionable, so don’t worry about my adding fashion tips, but for my own sake and as the creative outlet I hope this can be for me, I want to write whatever’s on my mind and click “publish”, even if it’s a mindless, light-hearted read on my love of matching my underwear with my outfits. However, today’s not one of those kind of entries.

I hear the enormous load of political chatter from every direction and it can make my eyes cross and I generally want to avoid any and all discussions over it. When it comes to even considering a blog on an issue, I have to feel like I’ve settled into a place where I don’t feel as scattered, and that’s what all of this mess is; scattered, messy, and an often times unreliable pile of bricks. Lots of misleading headlines, articles filled with scathing descriptions on each person or party. I don’t like either presidential candidate. They are both yucky and a bit unnerving to me in their own way. One is known to have lied and is often described as a sneaky life-long politician. The other is aggressive, and says inappropriate and often disgraceful comments that make us squirm or feel downright angry. Then there are videos like this that hilariously expose a bit of the ridiculousness.  We all say, “How could this possibly happen that these are our two candidates?!? What’s going to happen to the future of our country?”

Regardless of this stark reality, most of us decide to, sometimes begrudgingly, stand behind one of these two candidates. Maybe we plan to hide it carefully under a bushel until Election Day for fear of persecution from “the other side”. Many people may still be unsure of where they stand simply because this election does not follow the general standards. I’m a Christian and I would say mostly conservative. Generally, I’d be more likely to favor the Republican candidate, but it’s not an automatic for me. One of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancey, just declared a couple days ago that he doesn’t understand how conservative Christians are possibly supporting Donald Trump because he, “stands against everything that Christianity believes”. Yikes. Although I know there are other well-known Christian leaders that are supporting Trump, it has still left me unsettled as to where I should place my vote.

There are extremely sour moral concerns in both candidates and many people have valid reasons to argue why one of them is worse than the other; choosing the lesser of two evils, as I’ve heard so many times. There are many descriptions made and twisting of truths about the candidates and I think it’s extremely important to question the validity of news media.  Yesterday, I read something and it finally clicked with me on who I believe I’ll vote for on Election Day and why. The reading (ironically from one of my least favorite Republican candidates, Ted Cruz) made me put aside the moral concerns for just a moment and I then asked what it is I most care about and what are top priorities that I know the next presidential candidate will have the power to change. (For those of you still reading that are liberal-minded, here’s where you may roll your eyes or do a mental SMH emoji). I care about the millions and millions of babies that are dying through abortion and I care about our freedom of speech and religion. Our president will have a great power in choosing future members of the Supreme Court. There are many issues on which I’m just plain ignorant: coal vs. oil and gas, etc. and others where I’m torn: immigration, Obamacare, etc. It’s boiled down to recognizing what matters most to me in the political/government basket of concerns and that’s left me with the choice to vote for Trump. If you’d asked me to pick from anyone in the country, he would not be even near the top or even on the list at this point, but to me, with these two choices, it is where I’ve landed for now and I reckon I could very well change my mind between now and November. Like I mentioned, I’m a fan of respectful dialogue on this issue and will keep my ears and mind open should I hear differing opinions from those I respect. If you are also uncertain as to where you’ll place your vote in November, I would encourage you to briefly push aside the messiness and murkiness of it all and ask yourself that basic question: “what do I care about the very most when it comes to the future of our country?”

Bashing Bondi

It’s been almost a week since the devastating massacre in Orlando. What emotions this has stirred up across the globe and especially on social media. I have Facebook friends on all sections of the political and spiritual spectrum, so that leads to an array of posts on the issues that stem from such an awful event…guns, Muslims, radical Islam, LGBT community, Obama, Trump, etc. It can make your head spin and cause us to lose focus on what has really occurred. Human beings, hated for their sexual preferences and lifestyle and/or race, were blatantly murdered by an angry, distorted man. It is wrong in every single direction and no one, regardless of their personal beliefs and personal choices, deserves such hatred.

The other night I watched a bit of “I Am Jazz”, a show about a young child struggling with gender-identity and her journey through the transitional period that started at a very young age with hormone-altering drugs, etc. It was disturbing to see, but an additional takeaway for me was the honest portrayal they gave of the backlash and straight-up bullying this and other trans kids endure as a result of their decision. I don’t agree with such extreme measures at that young age, but no matter what decision they and their parents have made, NOTHING is deserving of ugly, hateful, judgmental words.

With SO much information coming from many different directions and sources, it is confusing to know truth. What news channels or websites are accurately and responsibly sending out information and opinions? Should I be for or against gun control? Does it really matter if Obama refers to it as “Radical Islam” or not? It’s what keeps me from regularly really diving into the political arena or keeping up with the news. It’s why I generally play devil’s advocate to a great deal of my husband’s conservative perspective on issues (and I’m a touch stubborn). Another social issue that this recent trauma has brought up again that I continue to struggle with is my personal opinion on homosexuality. I go back and forth on what I think. My faith plays a major part in my thoughts on this matter. I read about it. I have asked questions of people on both sides. I’ve prayed about it. No matter where I fall on it at any given moment, it will always be my personal opinion. I am allowed to still have that, right?

There are obviously way too many people, some claiming to be followers of Christ, that are plain ol’ ugly, mean, judgmental, and critical of others that they deem sinful (forgetting the log in their own eye! Matthew 7:3). But not everyone feels and acts that way! There are Christians who may not agree with someone’s lifestyle, but still show love. I don’t hate someone because they have a different lifestyle than me. I know many people that don’t speak aggressively or ugly towards others that have different beliefs. I would certainly never think someone, like a person in the LGBT community, would ever be deserving of brutal murder for their lifestyle. I feel terribly that anyone would feel threatened, bullied, or in fear of their life for a lifestyle preference. YET, even though I feel heavy-hearted over how they must be feeling and want to support them as they recover from the Orlando massacre, I’ve somehow been led to feel that I’m not allowed to still disagree with their lifestyle. Why would I not be able to hold a personal belief that stems from my own personal faith? There are articles like these that imply Christians are inadvertently being held accountable for the Orlando massacre and that is very disheartening to me.

If I do decide that I don’t believe homosexuality is what God intended for his creation, then I could be “de-friended” on Facebook and thrown into the pit, like Florida State Attorney Pam Bondi was during her interview with Anderson Cooper. On my newsfeed I saw friends thrilled that he tore into her, implying she is a hypocrite for now supporting the LGBT community when previously, she adamantly fought against their right to marry in the state of Florida. Remember when I said I don’t often engage in politics or tune in to the news? Please hear me say that I know zilch about Pam Bondi, besides her job title and from the interview I watched yesterday, it’s obvious she fought against gay marriage to, as she said,”uphold the constitution for the state of Florida”. I have no clue if she’s a Christian.  I have no idea if she’s a big Meany-pants in real life. However, what I did hear her saying in that interview is that she was appalled by the atrocity that happened in Orlando and that she supports human life and wants to help the LGBT community. I do not personally feel strongly opposed to gay marriage or civil unions, but this lady is entitled to her opinion (and her designated career responsibilities) and that does not automatically discredit her seemingly heartfelt efforts to support the LGBT community after such a scary event. I believe someone should be able to sympathize and support another, even if they may not agree with their lifestyle.

Like I said, emotions can reach an all-time high at times like these. With folks on polar opposite sides of political and social issues, it can lead to aggressive words. What I want is the freedom to respectfully hold my personal beliefs and I currently don’t feel like that’s the case. This does not mean I have the right to belittle and aggressively torment those that don’t hold the same beliefs. It would also mean that just because I may not agree with you, it does not mean I should be treated as ignorant or heartless. I believe living in this country affords us the right to hold our own opinions, whilst still respecting mankind and being able to gently encourage and love other human beings through such painful times as these.

Isn’t It Ironic?

I just put another bumper sticker on my car that might take me over the cliff where I’ll secretly be called a Jesus Freak. If you knew how my insides have actually felt about this idea, it would really shock you that I even consider it.  I don’t like to draw attention to myself in a religious way in that I never, ever, ever want to be pushy about religion, faith, etc. I don’t bring the fire and brimstone attitude or try to scare people into believing in God. Eek. However, my bumper sticker decisions are a big deal in my little life. I put great thought into them and have had one of them personalized to make my point. Even though I shy away from being pushy about my stances, once I do feel deeply about something, I want to confidently express it and sometimes I wonder if something as simple as a bumper sticker could get brains stewing as they spend so much time in the car.  P.S. I only have 3 total; not like pieces of flair at Chotchkie’s (see clip for Office Space reference). 

Now to my point. My most recent sticker, as seen here, is a picture of a little sea turtle and when you look closer, you see that it’s holding a sign that says, “Save the Baby Humans”. A friend of mine from church had it on her car and after seeing it, I had a huge “aha!” moment and then kept thinking on this idea for the last month or so. It is yet a new way that I see the issue of abortion and how it’s distorted in our society. It’s similar to the fact that millions of dollars were probably pulled out of North Carolina over the transgender bathroom bill (I am still stewing on that topic as I try to figure out where I stand) whilst millions more US federal dollars keep flowing into foreign countries that execute people with any alternative lifestyle. Another day, another blog…

If you’re from Bradenton or I imagine any other beach community, you know about the potentially over-zealous sea turtle patrol. They wake up before dawn to stake out sea turtle nests along the shore. In turtle season, they are clearly marked with stakes and bright orange surveyor’s tape. You don’t mess with them unless you want major trouble. We’re not allowed to have any lights at night shining towards the gulf. It’s a big dad gum deal. As a young girl, I myself wanted to be a marine biologist (Let’s be honest and say that 8 out of 10 children wanted to have the same profession or something else related to animals) and used to read about sea turtles, so I can understand the passion that many have. BUT, what is going on with this picture when we have people fighting for the women’s right to end a HUMAN life, yet don’t connect that to the fight to passionately protect a sea turtle’s precious life? They are cute, for real. They need to travel and have more turtle babies like in Finding Nemo, but why are we not, as a society, thinking in similar terms when it comes to human children? 

This post was triggered by similar thoughts from one of my favorite fiction authors, Francine Rivers. Although I may not agree with every nuance of her tone in this blog (i.e. when she questions Planned Parenthood’s motives in providing women’s health, because I do believe they bring a lot of good), it hits the same nerve thats been pressing on me since stumbling onto this sea turtle idea. In her writing, she references the same newspaper printing two different articles; one about a new abortion clinic opening and another about the great lengths taken to care for a newly discovered panda’s fetus at the local zoo. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think? 

Is it Imperative?

I need help. I feel like I waste too much time with nonsense. I am far from over the top on my social media addiction, but boy, do I feel hooked at times. I often feel a low-level bleh feeling about my time spent mindlessly scanning through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. It’s a habit and I don’t like it. Maybe like most folks, I have a hard time balancing healthy issues (i.e. a bit of chocolate here and there, or checking in on Facebook to see what’s going on with my friends) with sometimes wasting what could be considered precious time in the day. I know I sound like I spend hours a day on social media and in reality I’m not even close to that, but my guilt-tripping brain makes me feel like I am. Just that minute here and there during the day or the time warps that suck me in when I have more open time at home.The bottom line: I feel like I waste time that makes me feel yuck and I want to do something about it.

The big question that popped into my brain just a few days ago was, “Is it imperative?” Is it imperative that I sign in to Facebook right now? Do I really need to skim pictures on Instagram? Is it absolutely necessary right now that I look for a new watchband to repair my 1992 Swatch watch (That was yesterday’s time fart. Did I just make that up? Time fart?)? I’ve spent a great deal of time debating over whether I just cancel my social media accounts altogether. It’s very tempting and I think overall I would really like it because I have a far-fetched dream that I would then live like Anne of Green Gables and spend lots of time frolicking in the yard amongst the rosebushes, but I digress. What about everything I would miss? My cousins from all over the country, high school friends, prayer requests, former students graduating…I also think there are many avenues of sharing love, compassion, and the hope of Christ via social media. Plus, there are funny cat videos.

My biggest guilt waves come at me when I’m trying to “multi-task” whilst with my kids. I want to kick myself when I’m looking on Pinterest (that I can rationalize in a heartbeat because it’s re: school lesson plans, dinner, etc.) or my neighbor’s dog pics on FB when I could be looking at my stinking kids! Have you seen my kids? They’re great! and funny! and as every human being that’s ever had a child tells me, this time goes by in a flash! What a cliché, but so very true. I want to squeeze them and not let them get any bigger (well, maybe just big enough for my littlest one to get out of diapers…)

Now I know I need to be realistic here and recognize that there are numerous times I can and need to (without guilt!) multi-task and have my face in front of the screen. But, I can be more aware and try to cut back on the wasteful time. I go back to my main question, “Is it imperative?” Sometimes, yes, and other times I can wait until after my kids are asleep to get a fix of social media, or even more likely, I don’t need to be on the computer in the first place. My book pile is there waiting for me. My husband is full of funny-ish jokes. Lots of living to be had and I’m bound and determined to live it more actively.