Category Archives: Faith

Ramblings on Refugees

I’m challenged by the Syrian refugee issue. I don’t know the right answer. On one hand, I feel compassionate to people who live in a horrible place, made that way by war. I don’t believe people deserve to live that way and I don’t believe the majority of them have the power or capacity to change their country/region. As a human and a person of faith, I am called to help, to be compassionate and caring.

On the other hand, as a thinking person living in a free country with a culture vastly different from where this war is taking place, I feel cautious. We have seen many examples of the hate manifested in attacks on innocent people. People who did nothing to deserve it. I feel the need to protect my family, my home and my way of life. I think that’s fair on my part.

How then do I reconcile the two? How does one show compassion for hurting people and at the same time provide safety and security for their own family? I really would like to hear how others have resolved this conflict personally.

My thoughts – First, I think you have to identify if it’s a real threat. Is it the kind of “perceived threat” we feel when we see someone who looks different from us? Or the real threat of someone who likely intends to do harm? I think in this case it’s both. There are desperate people who need help. They need the basics of food, shelter and safety. And among them there are people who are evil. People who will use our compassion against us. People who will give up their own lives to hurt us. Both are real.

It seems this issue is like every other; there are only extremes. My feed is filled with calls to reject all refugees or risk death, to close the borders quickly. And with claims of willingness to open their own homes to refugees, to let them all come. Either you believe the refugees are a threat which makes you a heartless, cruel Christian who picks and chooses when to follow your faith. Or you think we should open the doors wide and welcome everyone in which makes you naïve and willing to risk the freedoms our forefathers fought to gain. People who are against bringing refugees to this country forget what our ancestors went through to get here. People willing to bring refugees to this country forget the danger and evil that exist in the world. There is no in between.

Is bringing refugees to our home, our country the only way to help them? Is there another solution that is somewhere in between? It seems like if we take a breath, step back a moment, we can come up with a solution that cares for those in need and maintains some level of security for this country. (Ya, I know, I’m living in a fantasy world to think anywhere is safe!) At the very least is there a place for conversation without name calling? Is there a place for an intelligent, thoughtful conversation without resorting to hyperbole and extremism? Can we articulate our ideas and opinions with our own words rather than an exaggerated meme? Is it possible to hear someone else’s thoughts and opinions and validate their concerns? Is it so risky to acknowledge that you can understand where someone else is coming from? Or must we shut down and label those who might see the world differently? Is there a place for a real conversation?

I don’t know if that exists anymore.

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Dad’s First Easter in Heaven

For some reason, Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t know if it is Easter, the time of year or the approaching anniversary of his death. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.

I have heard so many descriptions of heaven. They are all somewhat similar. Heaven, it seems most everyone agrees, is a place of peace and everything wonderful. I’ve heard it described (I think it was in a book I read, but can’t remember the book) as a place of everything you love. A place where you feel whole, complete; a place of love and peace. I’ve heard heaven is different for everyone – which makes sense to me. The challenge is we won’t know while we are here on earth. We just have to find a theory or idea about what comes after death that we can live with. An idea that resonates with us. A way we can come to terms with after death.

I grew up in the church and believe in heaven, and to a lesser extent hell. I haven’t spent a great deal of time contemplating it other than to determine, for me, it means the place of contentment. A place where one is close to God, in the arms of Jesus. I’ve always believed heaven would be wonderful.

Since Dad died, I’ve struggled with heaven.

Not because I don’t believe that is where he is, but because I don’t know how it can be all I thought it to be.

First, why I believe that’s where he is. My dad was not a man who spoke of his faith. I don’t remember him ever leading a prayer. He would never have professed his faith to others. That wasn’t who he was. I believe he had tremendous faith. I believe he knew the many ways God was present in his life. I don’t believe he came from a background that would prepare him, or maybe even allow him, to speak of his faith. But I believe he lived it in the way he served his church, his friends, his family and his community. He wasn’t the spiritual leader of our family – that is very much my mom’s role. But I don’t believe that is a reflection on his personal faith. I have to believe the God I worship, knew Dad’s heart. That my God understood my dad. That my God welcomed my dad home when his body wore out. I believe my God greeted my dad with a father’s love that my dad never knew on earth. That he accepted Dad, just as he is and as he lived his life. I believe that Dad finally found the Father who loved him unconditionally and valued him.

Maybe that is the answer to the part I have struggled with.

I have been trying to reconcile how heaven can be that place for Dad when he is without Mom; the person he loved most in the world. I have thought of him each holiday, each birthday and significant day. How heaven can be all I imagined for him when he is separated from Mom. I couldn’t reconcile him not feeling lonely. Not feeling apart from his family. I imagine him feeling he had so much more he wanted to do. Things he hadn’t yet tried. Ideas still in his head. I have struggled with him being content.

We are often told those who have passed are watching over us. They are with us and know what we are going through. If that is true, Dad has to know the pain Mom is experiencing at losing him. How hard it is for her to “go on” with life without him. Knowing someone you love so much is going through such pain and not being able to “fix” it is troublesome not peaceful. It would be anguishing for Dad.

I suppose this is like so many God things I can’t wrap my head around. Somehow I have to put human limits on God and what He can do. I make assumptions that God is limited by the laws of our universe and the ability of humans. My God is so much more than I can really comprehend. Our pastor gave a sermon back in January about how literally we should read the Bible. There was a part that has stuck with me and maybe applies here. He was talking about the creation story and offered that maybe the creation story is about describing the indescribable. Maybe the concept of order from chaos is so indescribable, something our human minds could never comprehend? Maybe there are not words to describe this; that we could never get our minds around the concepts?

Maybe heaven is beyond my comprehension as well? Maybe there is just no way I am going to come to terms with it. Maybe I can’t comprehend what dad is experiencing and I just have to trust God. I have to trust that Dad is content.

My heart is faithful, but my mind struggles.

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Vacation Musings

I just returned from a relaxing vacation with family. I had plenty of time to let my mind wander. I miss being able to do that regularly. Life has been so busy, so full of tasks that thinking has been squashed out. It was refreshing to pause. I debated about going media-free for the week, but decided better of it. I just dabbled instead.
Here are a few thoughts and realizations from the week.
• When I don’t trust my gut, that inner voice that tells me what to do, I don’t feel in sync with my own life.
• I won’ t look back in 20 years, or even 20 days for that matter, and wish I had spent more time cleaning, working, planning.
• I am a happier person when I can take a moment and make some order of my life.
• I don’t have to be in control of my life, but I do have to be in control of my responses to my circumstances. I need to make deliberate, intentional choices about how to move forward at any given moment.
• When I look backward, I realize I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.
• Faith is a journey, sometimes a hard one, sometimes a boring one, sometimes an exciting one. It’s hard to stay focused when you are in the boring parts.
• If you can stay focused in the boring parts of faith, you may find great reward in the exciting parts and comfort in the hard parts. It can be like eating your veggies to get to dessert. You don’t see the immediate impact of eating the veggies, but in the long-term, you can’t survive on just dessert.
• Life is a balance between seeing things in the micro and the macro. It is challenging to both look at what is best for an individual and what is best for the group – community, family, world – that individual lives within. Especially when what is “best” for the individual and the group is not the same.
• Loss is inevitable. It will happen. It will be painful. And I will survive. And each loss, be it a parent dying or a son moving off to college, hurts tremendously. And each will make me a more compassionate, understanding person if I let it.
• Creating experiences is one of the best things I can do as a parent. It is the thing that will bind us together when life takes us in different directions. It is the thing that will keep each of us grounded when the world seems to be beating us up. It is the soft spot we can land in our mind when we don’t feel like we have a friend in the world.
• Helping my kids develop their faith and nurturing that faith is hard. I see other parents who do an amazing job of this and feel I fall short. I miss opportunities to nudge my sons in the right direction. I miss the mark myself so often it’s hard to imagine they can see how it should be. Faith is hard.
• Personal wellness is a journey, just like faith, it can be hard to see the impact of your actions for a long time. You have to trust that the tiny steps you are taking are making a difference. You have to keep piling good habits on top of each other until they make big steps and big impact. And still it is work. Always will be.
• Letting people go is hard. Watching your life change is hard. Even when you know the changes are good. When you believe things are heading in a good direction, it is still hard to let go.
• I feel a constant tug between feeling appropriately blessed, fortunate or grateful for all that I have, for all the conveniences, wealth, health and acknowledging that sometimes life is tough. The reality that even if my life seems “good” there are still bad days. There are still times I struggle, still things that get me down. This doesn’t make me ungrateful or complacent, it makes me honest. Event the luckiest people have bad days.
• Sometimes I feel like there are no words left I can say. I live in a world that is so obsessed with analyzing every word we speak, every phrase we utter that no one listens to anyone’s heart. I can’t say I feel blessed – that implies God has bestowed something special on me and skipped someone else. I can’t say I have struggled with anything- after all I am one of those who experience “white privilege” so I’ve had no struggles. So much energy is expended making sure our words are not misinterpreted by someone else. And yet, they will be. Regardless of intent.
• My world is obsessed with categorizing and labeling people. You must fit into a box for me to know how to respond to you. We are not people, individuals; we are the categories we fit into. I want to relate to others as individuals, finding the things we have in common, and learning about the things we see differently. Trying to understand each other. There is good and right in all of us if we just get past the labels and categories we could see that. This feels like too big of a problem to tackle fresh off a relaxing vacation.
• I haven’t written much since I took a new job. This job has monopolized my creative energies, taken over my problem solving space, and challenged me in new ways. I miss writing and have to find a way to get my fix. A way to make writing a priority. Maybe all that extra time I’ll have when two kids are gone off to college….

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Celebrating the Spirit

I have always struggled with the notion of predestination. I believe to strongly in free will. Recently, I got into a discussion about this with good friends. We talked about how we see God intervening in our lives, about how we understand His intervention or guidance in our lives.
I believe there are many “right” paths to take. I believe God continually creates opportunity for us to experience the future He has dreamed of for us. We just have to be open to the nudging.
Which takes me to a celebration of sorts. A lesson for me in listening to the still small voice {or sometimes screaming alarm} that I believe to be God’s leading.
A little over a year ago, last spring, I started thinking about a gap I felt in my life. A missing link or hole of sorts. I hadn’t done a Bible study for MANY years. When the kids were young I did 3 or 4 Disciple Bible Studies. They were so powerful for me and made a huge impact on my spiritual life. Then I went to work full time and the Monday morning study didn’t fit in my schedule anymore. And the kids started getting involved in lots of activities quickly filling my weekend. The timing was just not right.
Fast forward about 8 years and I found myself with a hole that I knew needed filling.
At the same time, I found myself longing for more connections with Moms in my life stage – with teenagers and kids with one foot out the door. It occurred to me that many of my relationships to this point centered around the life of my kids. And though there were lots of great women I had made this journey with, we were connected because of our kids or their activities. I realized what I was craving is women I could connect with because we picked each other! Women I would remain close to whether our kids hang out or not, whether we are on the booster board together or not.
I needed connection.
Connection to other women and reconnection to my faith.
And I had a compressed work week at my job so my Fridays were free – me time!
What to do…
I sat with it for a long time, mulling ideas in my head. I looked at options out there. What I felt God leading me to do was start a Bible study in my home. It seemed to be the perfect solution to using the beautiful space I had, creating real connection with others and deepening my faith. But that was a risky idea. What if no one wanted to come? What if their lives are already so full, they have no need for a connection like I do? What if everyone else has all the close relationships they want? What if they already have a safe, supportive place to study God’s word? It sounds funny for me to say out loud now, but those were real fears of mine. I was taking a risk. Risking being rejected when what I needed was connection. Risking being the only kid raising their hand and saying, “I need help.” It was scary.
But I felt like this is what I was supposed to do. So I started making a list. I checked it way more than twice. I thought about women I had met who I wanted to get to know better. About women I thought might be open to a Bible study. About those I thought could be available on a Friday morning. There were some on the list I knew really well, some I had known for years and some I had only had very short superficial conversations with at a game or meeting. I didn’t know if any of them knew each other, but that didn’t matter.
After carefully wording a letter, I emailed about 20 women inviting them to participate. I was careful to let them know, if this wasn’t their thing, I wouldn’t be offended. And then I waited.
There were plenty of no responses. Lots of reasons it just wouldn’t fit or wasn’t the right timing. But, there were a handful of yes responses too. You could say the rest is history. But the rest is the real heart of the story.
I am so blessed {and yes, I do mean God looked on me and gave me a gift} by these women. I can’t imagine getting through the loss of my father without them. I don’t know how I would have gotten through May with Dad’s illness, Middle Son’s graduation and Dad’s funeral. They cleaned my house! Who does that?! They brought us meals and all those things we do to help each other. But more importantly, they have prayed with me, wiped my tears, understood the struggles of my heart, held me close when I didn’t know if I could get through and continue to pray me through it all. That is really powerful stuff!
And now, a year after that first anxious Friday, I see why God put it on my heart to start a summer study. God knew I was going to need something special, something more than what I had, to get through the things to come.
Not predestination, but working on my heart to prepare me in the way I needed.

PS. I debated about writing this for fear of hurting someone in my real world. There is risk- why didn’t she invite me? I would have come. I am sorry if I left you out, sorry if you are searching and not finding. My hope is that this post inspires others to listen to God’s calling, to reach out and ask for what you need. God will help clear the path for you!

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Anything But Content

I feel like my heart is raw. Like a wound that keeps getting torn open, again and again. There is no time to heal. There is no balm for my soul.
It is as though I’m running on a sandy beach, feet sinking deep into the warm sand making each step a little harder than the last. I know I need to keep going, but it’s so difficult.

I want to stop the world, stop all the change in my life, to regroup, to get my bearings again. I want to mourn and wallow, and feel sorry for myself. I want to cry until there are no more tears. And some days I do. But the next day they return, flowing strong and steady.

I’m going through the motions, but feel like my world is spinning out of control on the inside. Like the merry-go-round that I used to ride as a kid. The one that terrified me and made me feel ill. The one that spun and spun and left me puking in the grass.

I’m trying to be present. To be focused on the things that are big in my kids lives. The changes and challenges they face. I’m trying to be the mom they need me to be. But it’s so very hard.

I don’t want to take care of anyone else right now. I don’t want to problem solve with them or be their shoulder to cry on. I want my Dad back. I want to remember him, to think about the stories he told, to hear his voice again. I want him to not be gone. And I’m having a hard time focusing on anything else.

I guess I’m just shocked at how hard it is. I didn’t know it would be like this.

It has only been a few weeks. But life has gone on at breakneck speed. Work keeps happening, the house needs to be cleaned, the bills need to be paid the pictures need editing. There are college orientations and teenage transitions and all kinds of life still happening.

It all just keeps going. And I try to hide the tears when they come at work. I try to focus on my health and Bible study. I try to move forward. And yet I just want to cry.

A lot.

I find myself thinking of all the people who have gone through this before me. The people who seemed to keep going like their world hadn’t fallen apart when I know it had. They kept it together. I know they had to be hurting just like me, but they made it through. They went through the motions. They put one foot in front of the other and kept going. And I had no idea how hard it must have been.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I didn’t know what you were going through. I’m sorry I didn’t remember those things that would bring back the tears. I just didn’t know.

I am thankful to those who have been where I am today. Thankful for their understanding; for their notes and cards and texts.

I’m grateful I’m not going through this alone.

But most of all I’m thankful that I know I will see him again. That I believe life isn’t over at death. I believe in heaven and the afterlife. I am thankful that despite missing him terribly, I know that I will see him again. And that helps. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it gives me hope.

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Time to Speak Up

I was at the Kansas Capital on Monday advocating for individuals with MS. I was there with others who care about issues that impact those living with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis. There were lots of appointments scheduled with Senators and Representatives. I knew the “religious freedom” bill was up for discussion that day, but honestly didn’t think much of it. However as the program portion of the day wrapped up and we got ready to make visits, we received word that many of them would be cancelled because the House was still in session discussing the “religious freedom” bill.

I have a twitter account, but I don’t tweet. And honestly, I only use it to check up on my kids. But someone more hip than me showed me how to follow the action in the house on twitter. I was truly riveted to the feed. It was shocking to hear the 140 character descriptions of what was happening. {As an aside, I think we just figured out why I don’t tweet…140 characters?} Just as I was considering going into the gallery to hear the discussion live, I saw they had voted. And it passed.

I will be the first to admit, I don’t totally understand our legislative process. And yes, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know exactly how things work. It has kept me from speaking out when I probably should have. I like to know the facts, know and understand what I’m talking about before I run my mouth. Not completely understanding the process or the legal verbiage used in bills keeps me from talking. I know enough to know, that I don’t know a lot.

But what I did realize, is that I do know enough to have an opinion. I probably understand the issues as well as the next guy. Maybe better on some topics and undoubtedly less so on others. I also realized from participating in advocacy days…our Senators and Representatives are just like me and the next guy. They know enough to be dangerous on some topics too.

In the interest of not sounding like a fool when I express my opinion, I try to be a diligent consumer of information. I watch sources; look at who wrote a piece, where it came from, how well it is cited. Essentially is it worth reading? I try to go to the source. I have read more bills lately than I ever imagined I would, in the interest of knowing what I’m talking about. {I tried but didn’t make it through the Affordable Care Act, but then neither did those who passed it:)!} I try. I try to understand where they were coming from and more importantly, what injustice or wrong is being corrected. What travesty avoided, what problem solved by any legislation that comes to my attention.

So when I read this bill had passed the House, I felt the need to read the text for myself. Now I’m not a lawyer, but what I read is concerning at best. Down right frightening the longer I sit with it. By my read, in my understanding of English, it sounds to me like this bill gives every person the right, based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs” to not only refuse to serve someone, but refuse to recognize them in very basic ways. And then it goes further to say that the individual being refused does not have the right to claim they have been discriminated against. Huh?

Let’s play that out a little bit. So my “sincerely held religious beliefs” call me to polygamy. I believe with all my heart this is the way God intended us to live. I also happen to be the clerk in the county office that issues marriage licenses. I have the right to refuse to issue a license to someone who is choosing a monogamous marriage. The idea of marrying just one person goes against the way I was raised, the faith I follow and my personal beliefs so I will not issue a marriage license to someone who believes differently than me. And don’t think you can sue me for this, because this law makes it perfectly acceptable for me to refuse to serve you. It even adds adoption, foster care, social services and employment to the mix. And I cannot be fired for refusing to do my job.

Sit with that for a moment.

Government employees, private businesses, big corporations, small mom & pop shops. They all have the right to refuse to serve someone who goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. Every employee of every agency, business or organization. That’s a lot of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Certainly there must be a horrible injustice being corrected by this legislation. Well…So if…Maybe…Nope, I got nothing. I cannot figure out the problem. I can’t figure out the horrible oppression religious people in our state are experiencing to precipitate this law. I don’t get it.

It doesn’t pass muster.

The reality is, it is a thinly veiled attempt to take a preemptive strike against the inevitable ruling of the Supreme Court rendering gay marriage bans unconstitutional. It is a blatant attempt to single out a group of Kansans as less than. Less worthy of the pursuit of happiness we are all promised by our Declaration of Independence. It is glaring discrimination! Yet they have said it is not and just in case you don’t believe them, they will prove it by declaring you cannot claim it is. This legislation is dangerous. I don’t care where you stand on gay marriage, homosexuality or polygamy for that matter, this is scary legislation. And it is a giant leap back in time to a day when it was normal to fear those who are different from us. A time when our world views were so narrow, we would rather hate than learn about someone else.

On our vacation last spring break we drove through Montgomery, Alabama. We made a quick stop at the Greyhound bus station to read about the Freedom rides. One of the things that struck me as I stood there was how certain the whites were that they were doing the right thing. And how easy it was today to see how wrong they were.

If you live in Kansas, please get involved in the legislative process. Make your opinions known to your Senator and our Governor before it’s too late. This link will take you to the bill so you can read it for yourself. Go to openkansas.org to find your legislators.

If you don’t live in Kansas, please know that many of us are feeling like our state has been hijacked by a few with beliefs that I simply can’t understand; a real fear of those they don’t know. I am a conservative Christian and these people do not speak for me.

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The Healing Power of Quiet

I don’t often have the opportunity for quiet. Or maybe I just don’t make the time for quiet.

I’m not sure which it is, maybe a bit of both. But when I do have a moment of solace. Quiet. I find peace and calm. It is intriguing to me how the absence of sound (other than the dog snoring on the couch beside me) can fill me up. Just sitting, alone with my own thoughts, if only for a moment. It is peaceful.

I have always been a very social person, being fed by the energy of interaction with others. But the older I get, the more I value the solitary moments. Not instead of interaction, but filling a different part of my soul. Maybe it’s another of God’s ways of preparing me for the life ahead. The days when my home will be silent more than chaotic. When the quiet of my living room will become deafeningly loud. The days when I will look back fondly remembering the wrestling matches in the middle of the living room. For the days when I will control the remote and miss the fights over what to watch. It is hard to see what is on the horizon and not feel a little apprehensive. Its a delicate balance between anticipating what is to come, not letting yourself be caught off guard, and continuing to be present in the here and now. Being careful not to worry or wish my life away. I guess that is the fine line I have been walking since a begged and pleaded for a full night’s sleep with a newborn or wished for just a day without a “why” from my toddler. Life is always changing. Thankfully. My challenge is to anticipate change, embrace it, welcome it, and yet be present in the moment. Not spending too much energy on the what ifs.

Silence allows me that room. The place where I can let go of the chaos of life, hear my own thoughts and maybe even dream a bit. Process life’s big events and the tiny ones too. Silence might be a good practice for this Advent season. Making room in my life for what God wants me to hear.

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