This is how we fix it.

The world is so very, very broken right now, is it not? People are doing horrible things to one another, saying horrible things to one another, manifesting some form of hell on Earth daily. I don’t think I’d get much push back on that. The human race en masse? We’re not handling life so well lately.

But then there’s also this. There’s most IMPORTANTLY this.

Today, at my school, hundreds of volunteers from a local church swept in and took our lives over for the day. They decorated the entire building in snowy, Christmas beauty. They acted as personal shoppers to our kids as each picked out brand new coats, hats, mittens, boots. They clapped as the little girls spun in front of mirrors, admiring their faux fur hood lined, beaming faces. They guided the crafting of pillows and ornaments, delivered pizza, sang ‘Let it go’ at a concert during lunch. They poured hot chocolate, colored pictures, and pushed on swings.

IMG_8425

They loved my kids so well.

My small, resilient, grieving, exuberant, abused, malnourished, forgiving, imaginative, underprivileged, frustrating, lovable, beautiful kids.

I cried twice on the WAY to work thinking about it, but not as hard as I’m crying now recounting it.

Seven volunteers were specifically assigned to our class for the day. I watched my students hold hands with, get hugs from, laugh with, talk with, color with these people for hours. At the end of the day, I asked each student to share their favorite part of the day. Do you know what virtually every child said? “I liked hanging out with *classroom volunteer’s name*.”

IMG_8420

It caught me off guard, you know? They’d just gotten all of these new winter clothes, coloring books, treats, and prizes from games and the thing they loved most about the day was the PEOPLE. It damn near literally broke my heart into pieces. All of that stuff took second place to someone genuinely caring for them, listening to them, CHOOSING them. It was the best part of my day, listening to one after the other share this out.

However, despite leaving with warmer winter gear, many of my kids still went home to their painful realities. It kills me daily that I can’t fix it for them. New mittens won’t fix it, sparkly garlands won’t fix it, and whatever unimaginable sum of money it cost to put on that kind of amazing production won’t fix it which, on the surface, can feel terribly hopeless.

But,

BUT,

BUT!

For one day, those kids felt kindness from complete strangers. For one day, they didn’t have to work through academics when their minds are drifting to homefront issues. All day, through actions as well as words, they heard: “You are special, you are enjoyable, you are fun to be around, you are smart, you are funny, you are polite, you are important.”

Their realities didn’t change today but, perhaps, by the grace of God and goodness, their mindsets did.

IMG_8428

Do you see what this means for us? It means, (despite the dire need for these actions), no matter how much money we give to charities, how many clothes we donate, no matter how many food drives we support, we actually make the most impact with OURSELVES. When we love others well, when we are present, when we listen, when we make it known we are choosing the presence of another, we are in tiny but powerful ways healing the horrors surrounding us.

Never underestimate the power of your presence and affection for people- familiar or unknown. You, as it happens, are your most valuable influence on the world’s brokenness, one person at a time.

IMG_8423

IMG_8421

IMG_8422

IMG_8427

IMG_8419

Dear White Christians:

When I was little, my sister and I used to love playing ‘Guess Who?’ Do you remember the game? You had to flip all of these little face panels up and ask your opponent a series of yes or no questions to narrow down the one person whose card your partner drew. There were primarily male faces and I remember thinking it was unfair how there were only a few women. It made it especially disheartening when you had drawn a woman and your partner inevitably asked you the damning question requiring you to give them the right-away to flip aaaaaaaaaall of those men’s faces down. Drawing a female’s card was bad and even as a little girl I saw the injustice in that.

Think fast! What do you notice first about this picture?

Think fast! What do you notice first about this picture?

I still own the travel version of ‘Guess Who?’ and this summer before a vacation I threw it in my bag to play with my 5 year old. When I later dug it out and flipped all of the faces up, I was appalled. Totally sickened. The game I was about to play with my black son had two, TWO, people of color. Did I remember that from my childhood? No, I did not. I was about to play a game with my son that sent the message that whites are more important and, oh by the way, if you’re a person of color you must also look like you’re going to: a) hurt someone or b) bawl. (Both of which, honestly, were probably completely accurate expressions for those characters considering the injustice they were forced to live out on those tiny cards.)

The game was promptly put away and I spent a solid chunk of the rest of my vacation wondering what else I’ve been missing. When I was little, I just wanted to see more female faces because I was a girl. We make sense of our world by what we see around us and I didn’t see myself represented well in the game. I had tunnel vision because I was seeking faces like mine (white, female) which blinded me from noticing how there were even fewer faces of color than female faces. I hadn’t yet had an experience to teach me to look closer. My initial inability to see the lack of color didn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. This is the core issue when people of color say, “Something is wrong with this picture,” and we reply with, “I’m looking at the same picture I and don’t see anything wrong.” We aren’t viewing the image with the same life experiences. We’re looking, but we’re seeing different cards. We need POC to point out to us what we are missing. 

This issue played out over the weekend on a grander scale. I just returned from a storywriting/storytelling conference which was as good for my soul as it was for my writing. I spent time learning from some powerful speakers… but I noticed on the first day how the lineup (including the breakout speakers) was starkly devoid of any people of color. When I got back to my hotel room later that evening, I saw there was an entire discussion being held on Twitter about the same issue. The initial tweets were primarily from people of color and the replies were primarily from whites. I’ve got to tell you: It was uncomfortable for me to read them. The white comments were nearly all pushback because they took the POC’s comments to mean their experience was invalid; these POC were personally attacking them and the things they loved which, in this case, was a conference full of speakers they looked up to. (One commenter tried the angle that the conference was diverse because one speaker was in a wheelchair.)  Full disclosure: I had to battle through how I should be feeling about those tweets, too.  I had to reflect on whether their comments invalidated the powerful experience I was having.

Let me tell you: It doesn’t.

Let me tell you something else: We should be wresting through what people of color have to say. Even when it makes us uncomfortable. ESPECIALLY when it makes us uncomfortable.

Listen, from one white to another, we need to stop discrediting the voices of people of color on the basis that we haven’t experienced what they’re sharing. As whites, we’ve been so wrapped up in a culture holding whiteness as the standard it has made it impossible to see clearly even when we’re staring directly at that which we’re missing. (Remember my ‘Guess Who?’ game?) For generations, we have marginalized minorities and their voices so we don’t even realize when we’re still doing it. I hate how it took having a child of color for me to start seriously seeking out the voices of POC; until it was a concern in my own family I was mostly oblivious. Even after digging in much deeper over the last few years, it was still hard for me to read those tweets about the conference. I admit this with despair but honesty in order to show you how much we are missing the boat by dismissing the grievances voiced by POC. We are continuing to attempt to keep them in the box we have created without realizing we’ve done so because our instinct is to immediately take personal what is being said. We’d prefer not to have to deal with the discomfort of discerning what we should truly be hearing in their message.

Once I could get past my inclination to take their grievances about the conference as a dismissal of my experience, I heard something completely different. I didn’t hear them telling me my experiences at the conference were invalid. I didn’t hear them saying I was a bad person for attending. I heard how it could have been so much richer with the voices of POC. I heard how I should be making an even more concerted effort to seek out voices from walks of life different from my own, from people who look different from me. I heard how I needed to be sensitive of the POC attending the conference and how they were unable to see their own faces reflected in the line up of speakers and I needed to consider the message this sent them.

I am a lover of Jesus, thus, I am a lover of people.

Loving people means looking past ourselves. Consider, would you, how our experiences may not be the best or only way to learn and grow. Consider that the cries of POC may not be spoken in order to personally wound us, but to call out an injustice long held in white Christian circles. Consider how our point of views and our faith may be blessed by broadening our horizons. Consider how our history may have blinded us to the plights of others merely because of our skin tone. Consider looking at the world through a different lens before reacting and responding. And, most importantly, consider seeking out faces different from our own to listen to, learn from, and support.

We were not meant to be divided.

We can learn from each other.

And not everything is about us.

On Muslims.

In college, I studied abroad in London. One of our courses required us to locate some landmarks around the city, one of which was London Central Mosque. I’d never been inside a mosque and chose to go inside. I was welcomed kindly by a male greeter who certainly knew I wasn’t there to worship, as I had no clue what I was doing. He helped me find the spot to remove my shoes, gave me a scarf for my head, showed me where to walk up to in order to see inside. All of it was done with an honest welcoming. As I was leaving, he asked if I would like any literature on Islam and, when I said yes, he gave me a booklet on Islam as well as a hard cover Qur’an which I still have a decade later. There was no pressure. There was no appeal for my phone number or email address. There just was a man who loved his faith and wanted to share it. That was it. I’ve had less welcoming first visits to Christian churches and I AM a Christian.

Since that time, I’ve met many Muslims, I’ve got friends who are Muslim, I’ve taught Muslim children, and I’ve visited Egypt where I was also welcomed with open arms. As a Christian, my experience with Muslims has been nothing but positive and accepting despite our differences in faith.

I wish I had the permission to post the pictures of the Egyptians we met so you could see their real faces with their smiles and laughter and daily lives.

I wish I had the permission to post the pictures of the Egyptians we met so you could see their real faces with their smiles and laughter and daily lives.

That being said, it has been painful for me to watch and read the vitriolic commentary on large scale and social media sources regarding the equal treatment of Islamic terrorists and all other Muslims. I am not Muslim any more than I am an African American or adopted or gay, but I love Jesus and I am called to stand up for injustices against those groups and what the media is doing to Muslims is also an injustice. What some Christians are saying about Muslims is an injustice. You don’t have to identify with someone’s race or religion to stand against mistreatment; Jesus teaches this.

I am only one voice and I am not ignorant enough to believe that my one voice is enough to fix an enormous brokenness, but I also don’t want to keep quiet out of feared ineffectiveness. I certainly don’t want to start claiming my faith with all of the disturbing offshoots that somewhere FAR along the line began as Christianity and now promote the marriage of little girls,live in cultish societies, or protest the funerals of people who whom that group views as the very worst of sinners. I also don’t want to define the entire society of white America by the mass murderers, the school shooters, the outspoken racists who happen to also be white. One voice I may be, but with this voice I want to make it clear that I am a Christian and I am white and I vehemently disagree with the hatred flying so free lately under the false veil of patriotism or faith.

There is a powerful piece titled I, Racist, in which the author speaks about institutionalized racism and writes the following for a different story, same plea:

“So I’m asking you to help me. Notice this. Speak up. Don’t let it slide. Don’t stand watching in silence. Help build a world where it never gets to the point where the Samaritan has to see someone bloodied and broken.”

There is always more than one story. Not everyone feels the same, despite how heavily the media would like us to believe. Not all whites are murderers. Not all Christians worship in cults. And not all Muslims are terrorists.

IMG_0301

Why white Christians are looking at the black church in America all wrong.

It is probably best to just throw it right out: White Christians need to evaluate the ways in which we view African American Christians.

Now, with that out there in the open, allow me to break things down a bit. Bear in mind, my writings are those of a white, American Christian. If you want to understand more of the experience of being an African American in our country (and you should), I implore you to read words from their voices. Me? I’m talking to you, White America, because from there I can speak with experience.

That being said, permit me to share some truths which have been left out of our nonexistent dialogue about our views of the black church in America. Set aside the stereotypical qualifications you may have already used to tag it in your mind: the worship style, the length, the preaching. Set all of that aside for a moment and try viewing history through a different lens.

Chances are that every February, for Black History Month, you learned in school about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Rosa Parks? You could recite facts about them from memory. As a teacher, I need to admit that we have also been numbed into regurgitating the same facts every year. In the bland retellings, the textbook readings, they lose their power to disturb, to move to action, to cause a rethink of the status quo if we are not diligent about making history fresh each time we teach it. However, one year as I retold the story of the bus boycott, what blindsided me was the unbelievable level of FAITH it took to actually accomplish that boycott. I don’t like waiting for things and despite often going through the motions of praying, I quickly lose faith when I don’t see results. SO quickly. What they knew about that boycott was that it was good, it was right, and that God wanted the same outcome. And so they waited. They waited for 381 days- over a YEAR- for God to answer a prayer they trusted Him to answer. I am humbled to think about how likely I would have been to just say, “Screw it. This isn’t working.” And it would have happened in about 370-ish less days than the 381 they devoted. Such great faith. Why are we not learning about the Montgomery Bus Boycott in our churches?

Rosaparks_fingerprints

Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain image

Now I need to ask you again to set aside what you’ve learned about our nation’s history of slavery in school. For a minute, think about it in relation to Christianity. For generation after generation, plantation owners horribly misconstrued the Bible to condone slavery. By these same plantation owners, African Americans would have been told lies of the God they also worshiped. And yet, their faith had the strength to see through the blasphemes. They knew God’s character. The God they were taught did not line up with the God they followed and believed in so they rejected the lies. My faith is rocked by the smallest of bumps and I too often swallow what others tell me about God as opposed to deeply knowing Him in a way that substantiates my beliefs. This realization reminds me of how often we are all going through the motions- missing out on a faith that conquers the lies that society feeds us. I want a faith that is that real, too.

407px-SwingLowSweetChariot1873

Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain image

Having said all of that, it still seems as though we whites assume, without ever uttering it to ourselves let alone aloud, that we don’t all really worship the same Jesus. We put churches into boxes labeled ‘US’ and ‘THEM’ and continue to segregate not only our Sunday mornings, but the images in our minds as to what it actually looks like to live as the body of Christ. We forget (Can you forget something you never realize you chose?) overlook Jesus’s teachings that we are all brothers and sisters under the SAME CHRIST, residing under the SAME GRACE AND GODLY AFFECTION. God did not tell us, the white people, to go help ‘the suffering African American people’. He told us, all of us, of every race, to love above all else. We are equal heirs. We should not be moving to stand with our African American brothers and sisters (Christians or not) as a result of having somehow been led to believe that we hold the monopoly on following Christ’s teachings of caring for those in need. (We are not, as it turns out, God’s gift to the suffering peoples of the world.) We should be reacting to their unequal, unjust, and un-Christlike treatment out of the overflow of our hearts because our hearts should break for the things that break His and RIGHT NOW, our hearts ought to be overflowing with despair over the treatment of members of OUR FAMILY, who are all equally loved by a God who did not design us to worship, support, and live divided.

If we truly believe that we, as Christ followers, are to be the hands and feet of God, then for the literal love of God, we should be doing a better job of functioning as one body. There is much that is broken. There is much to restructure. There is much to rethink. God is the best place to start the process and, as it turns out, we both reach out to the same one. IMG_0207

The danger in silence.

Scrolling down my Twitter feed is an exercise in Godly trust. I don’t work for a nonprofit. I haven’t written a book. (Yet.) I am one voice among many, MANY voices and what I am on a daily basis is a wife, a mom, an elementary teacher. What the hell can I possibly do that will make any semblance of difference in the justice fights so many of my brothers and sisters are waging day in and day out? I don’t trust that God can use me and I fight the feelings of failure and jealousy with every flick of my thumb on my social media feed full of justice crusaders.

I am full of righteous anger for the underserved, underprivilidged, overlooked. I talk a big game and I write a blog and then… I put away the laundry. I make my son’s lunch. I water the garden. I regret that I’m not being used for more: “USE ME, USE ME, USE ME!”I cry out! I walk the precarious line between begging to be used by the God I love but not wanting to hear him tell me to be patient, to align my motives, to focus my passion.

 

Journal scribbles.

Journals. So many journals.

Romans 9:21 – A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn’t he? He can make something for a special occasion or something for ordinary use from the same lump of clay.

The crux of the thing is, God isn’t really concerned with what I think He should be doing with me. I can try to make my own path, but I’ve tried that enough to know how that goes which means that my options are:

1) Keep moping in assumed mediocrity and frustration with opportunities not aligning with my own vision of justice reparation or

2) Stop being absurdly childish and start each day begging God to give me eyes to see the ways in which I can fulfill the purposes He has set for me which, coincidentally, do not require my bulleted list of suggestions.

Given the options, I’M GOING WITH THE SECOND.

So here’s what I’ve got:

*Words. I adore words. I love shaping them, reworking them, forming them into phrases that were previously only fragments of a thought. I can write.

*Privilege. Unasked for, undeserved, unearned, but there nonetheless: my race, my economic status, my sexual orientation, my education, my religion, my origin of birth, my nationality… None of these things should give me a platform above others, but regrettably, embarrassingly, they do and so I will warp them until they serve a purpose.

These things? These are what I’ve got to fight injustice. I will wrestle these into weapons I can wield and I will pray continually that I not underestimate the ability of the God of all the earth to use me without my intervention or pouting.

I will remember that my job is not to take over for God. My only assignment is to speak to what I know, learn from others what I don’t, and use my unearned but present privilege to lift the voices of those whose aren’t being heard. There are topics upon which I can speak with authority and there are far more for which I cannot. Kathy Khang (@mskathykhang) advises that on such topics we should: listen, learn, ask questions, open doors, and then step aside. Those things- those are things I can do.

Greater society would love us to believe in the “us & them” lie. The divisions are many and exist for so many painful reasons that are unjust, unfair, unearned, and ultimately un-Christlike. So for now, I will write. I will write in my downtime between lesson planning and tucking my child in to bed and catching up on the day with my husband. For now, that’s what I’ve got to offer.

So come Jesus. Come use the least of us. You’re enough and right now, in the midst of all of this overwhelming brokenness, our silence is doing more harm than good.

 

Less wallowing. More chickens.

Tonight I worried a lot about the size of my ass. (A little bit just now I worried about what some of you would think of me for writing ass instead of butt. I will continue to worry about it after I post this- probably even more so- but, as a lover of words, I firmly believe that there are times when an obscenity just suits better than its watered down counterpart.) I was worrying about my ass because I haven’t been working out as much as I’d like and I fear it is getting closer to the point of no return. I worry about this because I am self-centered and conceited.

I have also cried a lot this week. It was for a number of reasons: infertility crap (aaaaaaagain), my new chicken pecking Chicken Bicken’s comb to the point of bleeding in introducing the two, feeling overwhelmed with balancing the mom and the teacher and the wife and the working out and the relaxing, over the spilling of the chicken waterer late at night causing me to have to go back inside and refill it again, and about the sudden and unexpected death of the father of one of my favorite students who, God knows, already had more than his fair share of trauma on his 7 year old plate. I cried because I’m a perfectionist , because I try to do too much, because I’m dramatic, and because I have an occasional Messiah complex.

In between all of THAT, it has occurred to me that I am really, really content to be sad or angry or pitiful. You know how I know? Because at one point this week, the type of thought I recognize as a Jesus shoulder nudge noted, “Despite these things all being worthy of grief or anger (some more than others…) it seems like maybe you’d rather just nurse the junk instead of making something of it,” and I immediately recoiled. As in, there is no daaaaaang way I want to stop being sad/angry/pitiful because I’m totally comfortable here.

I saw this quote the other day:

“For those habituated to high levels of internal stress… it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. People may become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol… To such persons stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.” (Gabor Maté M.D.) 

I am totally comfortable with wallowing. I can admit that I’ve completely become addicted to the sensation of feeling overwhelmed or sorry for myself or angry at the status quo. I’ve been doing it for so long now that I’m just stuck here and despite it being a place I don’t like inhabiting, change is hard. (Once, I teared up because Ryan wanted to replace the tiny, crappy tv stand I’d bought on clearance and had ZERO attachment to with a larger one that looked nearly identical. I actually devised arguments as to why we shouldn’t replace it which was idiotic because our new tv wouldn’t even fit on the old one.) Change is hard.

While I’ve been snubbing my nose to this gentle shoving out of my comfort zone, I’ve been raising an interested eyebrow to what that could mean. MAYBE, if I stopped worrying about my ass, I could start enjoying working out again as opposed to putting so much pressure on my sorry-self to work out specifically to reshape said ass. MAYBE, if I stopped feeling so sorry for myself for being overburdened, I could spend the time reading a book and learn to listen to my husband when he tells me that the world will not, in fact, implode if I leave the laundry for the weekend. (I am not kidding there. It honestly feels like something really, really awful will happen if I don’t do those dishes. I don’t know what. But bad.) MAYBE, if I stopped moping over the weight of the beyond depressing day-to-day life that most of my students experience, I could spend more time searching for actual solutions like looking into ways to help that newly widowed mom raise money for funeral expenses.

Let’s be honest, this is a far larger issue than a crappy, particle board tv stand. I’m working on it, albeit reluctantly. As in so many situations, this is a perfect opportunity to fall back on wise, blunt, Anne Lamott, who writes:

“Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper. So I keep trying gently to bring my mind back to what is really there to be seen, maybe to be seen and noted with a kind of reverence. Because if I don’t learn to do this, I think I’ll keep getting things wrong.”

I don’t really believe that I want to stay here… I just need to train that puppy a little more. A lot more. But no drop kicking. Maybe a few more chickens would help though.

 

IMG_6378

Less drop kicking of puppies. More chickens.

 

In defense of the good guys: Santa Claus

My Facebook feed has been alight lately with Jesus-loving parents wrestling with what to tell their kids about Santa Claus. They state understandable reasons: Santa blurs the line between fact and fiction (read: lying), he promotes rewards based on works (the opposite of grace), but mostly that he just creates too much competition with a baby in a manger.

Since I’m a pitiful, in-recovery people pleaser, it immediately made me feel embarrassment that we DO Santa at our house. It made me second guess our decision. Am I a bad Christian because Santa Claus comes to our house? (Oh my word: I am!) And is my son is going to grow up and have to go to counseling for whatever symptoms result from being told that Santa is a fake?! (He is!) Conclusion: I AM A TERRIBLE PARENT!

After praying through some self-imposed guilt, I reassessed the situation. I totally respect the decision not to do Santa. I wrestled through many of the points made by families who don’t and I completely support that choice. I’m not trying to convince anyone that they SHOULD do Santa. I just felt like Santa had been getting kind of a bad rap this Christmas and thought maybe he needed a bit of a pick-me-up. A grown-up Santa letter, if you will:

 

Dear Santa,

I loved you when I was little. I loved looking out the car window coming home from the candle-light Christmas Eve service, my parents in the front seat tuning in Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” and me scanning the darkness with my little sister in the back looking for any sign of you. I loved crawling into bed and thinking about what presents I may have under the tree the next morning. I loved the secret tradition my sister and I started with telling each other one present we got the other. On Christmas Eve, we always got to sleep in the same room. (I still really miss not doing that actually, but I don’t think our husbands would go for it.)

I still love you now as an adult. I love the expectation of joy and suspense and curiosity my child and others exude this time of year. It hypes me up even more than I already am which is hardly believable, because I really, REALLY love Christmas.

I know that you don’t intend to overshadow Jesus and I don’t think you do in our household. We LOVE telling the story of the birth of Jesus, singing songs about his birth, and minimizing your role by focusing on the human manifestations of Jesus: the giving to the needy, the celebration of his birth with our church family, the gathering of loved ones. I don’t remember how I even found out that you weren’t real, but I know that by the time I did, I realized that it was something I’d been slowly unfolding in my brain for a while and it wasn’t really the shock I think most parents fear. I remain grateful for the memories my parents handed me by pretending. (I did, however, draw the line at your co-worker the Easter Bunny. He’s completely ridiculous and he skips over our house.)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we’ll still put out milk and cookies for you this year. I know you understand why some families don’t and I don’t think Jesus is angry that we do. I really, really love my Jesus and all that his birth in that manger means to my broken, messy self. Now, one could justifiably argue that the whole commercially driven, holiday gift giving culture  has gotten way out of hand, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame you for that. We’re a pretty imperfect society, you know, and while I look to Jesus to be my savior, I am grateful to you for providing another way for us to look on the bright side of things. Merry CHRISTmas, Santa.

Love,

Sara

IMG_6078

**Sidenote: If you,like us, are Jesus loving parents who also do Santa up, I’d highly recommend the book Santa’s Favorite Story, by Hisako Aoki.

On thankfulness.

To be clear: I am not overweight. I am not of a minority race. I am not starving. If I get sick with a curable illness, I have access to the medication to heal me. I do not fear over a very real threat that my child will be sex trafficked, nor did my parents worry about this when I was a child. I do not fear that my child will be brainwashed and drugged and forced to fight in a war when he should be in elementary school.

Things have always happened easily for me or I was able to work to make them happen.

Until, that is, I entered my 30’s and began the walking the road of infertility. It has completely shaken my faith. Please, hear me out on this. I am not comparing infertility to child warfare in the Congo, malaria outbreaks in Africa, or a typhoon in the Philippines.

What I am comparing, is the trend in my life for things to work out to what we consider GOOD and for the lives of so many others to trend to what we consider BAD. The realization that I didn’t have to manage long term struggle until I was well into adulthood devastated me because it served to reaffirm in a huge way that things in the world in which we live are desperately, intensely unfair.
Last week at school, one of my first graders was called fat by her peers. She is 6. It deeply and quite possibly punctured a wound in her that she will bear for the rest of her life.
I have a son whose skin is darker than mine and so has a life ahead of him that will need to be navigated more carefully in many areas than his Caucasian friends, solely as a result of his genetics.
I cannot personally relate to these obstacles. I don’t think that shame is the correct term, but it confuses me that I feel without a doubt that my heart was made to break for the overlooked,  under-served, underprivileged, and defenseless when my life has been a comparable cake walk. I’ve been mulling this over and over for months. It does not reason out neatly.
There are, however, small breakthroughs. I watched this viral video of a woman named Ash Beckham speak at a TEDx conferences about homophobia specifically, but more broadly about society’s propensity to be uncomfortable with what we don’t understand. She said,
“Hard is not relative. Hard is hard.” 

I related to this thought. Going through hardship is personal AND universal. Although this is not to say that my hardship is even remotely on the same scale as the hunger that some of my students experience, it IS to say that hardship has a way of breaking down some of those barriers between the lot of us. Working through difficulty puts people on something of a common ground- it makes us seem so much more HUMAN. Weakness makes us vulnerable and I want to believe that seeing vulnerability in others makes us more compassionate which God knows we need more of. I want to be able to look around at deep need and move to act because righting wrongs is what we do when ONE of us is connected to ALL of us as opposed to seeing the distribution of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and feeling hopeless.
Another breakthrough is this verse, which I have been trying to focus on for the last few weeks, though often failing miserably. In Luke 6:45, it says this:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

I have been so deep in grieving the brokenness around me at work in my urban school, in my son’s past without me, and in the global community for the last year that it has sometimes almost completely overwhelmed me. There is SO MUCH BROKENNESS and SO MUCH UNFAIRNESS that it literally clenches my heart to think about it. Unfortunately, it has had a tendency to break me down and create in my heart anger and frustration which speaks out of my heart instead of the good which I should be storing up to even remotely combat the evil around us. We are called to continual thankfulness because it is the only thing to keep us from sinking into despair over the negativity we face on a daily basis. Being continually thankful is an art. It is learned. It is a process. I’m working on it, because I want desperately to focus outside of myself in a manner that is proactive. Grieving has a place, but so does activism. When the outlook looks too bleak to handle, thankfulness pushes us to action. I want to be there.

Rejoice always, pray continually, 
give thanks in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18