I’m STILL With Her: a letter to my tween daughter

dayna_044Dear Ana,

In a few days, our nation will hold a historic election.  Either, we will elect the first woman ever to hold the highest position in the land.  Or, we will elect someone who comes to the stage via an unconventional path, offering with it, a promise to bring change.  No matter who is elected, we can be sure that change is coming.  Here’s what I want you to know and remember about this, the eve of the 2016 Presidential Election.

I’M WITH HER

First and foremost, I voted for Hillary Clinton.  Even with all the ups and downs, at the endflat800x800075t-u1 of the day, I am 110% certain she is better prepared and more qualified than her opponent – just look at the incredibly long list of business leaders, academics, religious leaders and even members of both parties who have endorsed her.  Her platform aligns with my beliefs regarding important issues, like making investments in education so that we can compete with countries like Singapore (where your dad is from!), helping the poor and middle class, reforming our criminal justice system and fighting gun violence, tackling immigration and terrorism in thoughtful and measured ways that do not see those of a different faith or race (like you!) as our enemies, taking care of our planet, etc.  She isn’t perfect, but she has the right then-us-democratic-presidential-candidates-barack-obama-and-hillary-clinton-pose-for-photographers-prior-to-the-cnnlos-angeles-times-democratic-presidential-debate-in-hollywood-california-january-31-2experience and temperament for the job.  In addition, she is the first woman to represent a major party in a Presidential election.  When you’re older, I hope this is commonplace.  But, for now, this is historic!  In your lifetime, you’ve gotten to see an African American and now a woman at the top of the ticket; I am so glad you will grow up, witnessing women and minorities break ceilings in all kinds of industries and roles.

When I voted, I thought of you and the world you would grow-up in…..as much as I john-f-kennedy-inauguration-1961-1considered my own preferences or interests.  You deserve as much, and I hope that when you grow up, you will have a similar mind towards democracy, embracing both the rights as well as the responsibilities of citizenship.  As John F Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  Thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom; we must not discard the sacred honor, that is the right to vote and participate in a democratic process.  In seven years, when you are old enough to vote, do your homework.  Listen to and read sources from varied perspectives.  Then, go vote.  Never again could a man like Trump think of holding such a high office if someone like you shows up to the polls….a young, female, mixed-race voter.  Your voice matters.  Young people, matter.  Minorities, matter.  Women, matter.

ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

Second, while my blood pressure, along with the hysteria of this moment in history will eventually die down, it will take a long time to fully recover from this election cycle.  Pundits, researchers and writers will spend years dissecting this moment in history – mark my words, there will be an entire chapter on this election in your high school American History text book!  In this instance, 5c801018f3dacaa014c2652d4e0598eethe hyperbole is actually closer to truth than not – there has never been an American election in our nation’s history, quite like this one.  This is why I have been so public in my own thoughts, because it matters that much.

Many of your peers are getting ready for a theater production of Anne Frank, playing this weekend at your middle school.  I have thought of that era often during this election, reflecting upon the lessons learned and how they might apply to today.  It is easy to criticize bygone eras through the 20/20 lenses of history.  But, we are dangerously close to electing a man who talks like many strongmen before him.  We cannot turn a blind eye, as our democracy is more fragile than we think.  The best way to keep it strong is to stay informed, speak up and get involved.  Perhaps, I should have done all three a lot sooner.

BE STILL AND KNOW……

Third, though I suspect emotions will run high for a while, your Dad and I were reminded at church last Sunday, that God is still in control and He’s not worried.  I remember when you were a tiny baby.  There were nights when you’d cry for no reason.  I’d check your diaper.  I’d make sure you were fed.  Yet, you continued to fret.  So, I’d just

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After much rocking and swaying…

rock and rock and rock.  Sometimes, I’d walk and sway…and, sway….and, sway….  One night, around 3 am, while doing lots of rocking and swaying, I felt God telling me that in the same way I wished so desperately that you, my baby, could know that everything was going to be okay and there was no reason to cry….similarly, He wished I knew just how much He loved us, cared for us and held us in the palm of His Hands.  We are God’s children.  No matter how big or how small this is in the course of American history, it cannot alter God’s plans.  We should be interested to the point that it gets us informed and involved.  But, we should always keep these events in perspective – God’s got this!  Therefore, I do not worry about the Kingdom above; I do, however, wonder about the church below.

YOUR FAITH CHOICES

I worry that your generation is being offered a choice between a version of belief that raises its fists in condemnation and judgement verses a faith that is wishy washy at best.  You don’t become a better Christian by getting good at pointing out the flaws and sins of others.  (Newsflash, we’ve all sinned….including me, your amazing mother…shocking, I know.)  Adults like to use funny sayings, like “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”  In this case, young people can get disillusioned by churches or Christians that seem hypocritical and irrelevant.  I get it.  But, don’t throw away your faith because of others.  You focus on what you believe.  In my case, I’ve learned that you can be madly in love with Jesus and have a progressive view of the world; it does not have to be an ‘either or’ decision.  My advice, in discerning the essence of faith: start with God’s Word.  It is precisely because of the Bible, that I am teaching you to prioritize love, justice and mercy above all else.  Read it!  Study it!  Learn the scriptures, looking for how they all point in the direction of the great commandment Jesus Christ gives us in the New Testament.  In Matthew, when Jesus was asked pointblank what mattered most, he said:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.   

img_9250Our family follows this commandment as best we can, not because it is our ‘nice to have’ insurance policy for entrance into heaven.  Rather, we surrender all because the story we read from Genesis to Revelation is of a God that loves us with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love (to use the words from your Jesus Storybook Bible).

Take the path of love, justice and mercy, and as you do, stick close to Jesus.  In your faith journey, religion and the church may disappoint, but Jesus never will, as no human has advocated for or personified to a greater extent, these ideals.  There does not exist, any greater sacrifice for these virtues, than the Son of God’s death on the cross.  No matter who wins on November 8th, God’s already won the greatest contest.

DIVERSITY AND GRACE IN FAITH

So, a moment ago I encouraged you to find a faith built of love, grace and mercy.  And, while we believe strongly in that, we need to watch that our own assurance doesn’t breed arrogance.  The church can often reflect the brokenness that is in all of us.

menlo-park-presbyterian-church

At the church we take you each Sunday, we try to be open and honest about that, in saying that nobody is perfect and everybody is welcome.  Liberal ideals of inclusion and diversity must apply universally, and be true within our own faith.  We must be civil and gracious towards those who practice our faith differently, while at the same time committing ourselves to a better way.

 

A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM…

You can be that better way…in the church and beyond.  In fact, I want you kids to learn that the best way to practice your faith is OUT there.  I believe your generation will be advocates for helping the poor or bringing justice to the persecuted.  We get to be the hands and feet.  We get to be Jesus by loving others.  And, you are never too young or the wrong gender or race or whatever the label or reason…..there is nothing you cannot do, if you do life with Jesus.  For such a time as this, we were placed upon this earth, to do His will….to bring heaven to earth, in our homes, classrooms and workplace.  You can make a difference, from volleyball games to math class, summer camps to play dates.   Now, and in the years to come, know this: you matter, you have a voice and God’s given you gifts so that you might make an impact in this world.  

FAITH AND DOUBT

Some might question the wisdom in sharing my own doubts with you, but I believe there’s value in authenticity, especially in matters as significant as my walk with God and relationship with the church.  I would not want to pass you a faith built upon Christian cliches and etsy wall-hangings (displaying our favorite220px-madeleine_lengle Bible verses, of course).  Like much else in life, faith is a journey and it can be a rocky path, at times. Madeleine L’Engle, an American writer, who authored stories like A Wrinkle In Time, wrote:

Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.

So, while it can be heartbreaking and even maddening, stay on the path.  Ask good questions.  Let your doubts lead you to deeper understanding.  You probably learned about Susan B. Anthony in school; she was a pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement.  She once said, “I distrust those people who knew so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”  To go back to Madeleine’s idea….it is the idea of God (namely, their idea), more so than God Himself, that entraps so many.  Be more afraid of ignorance than doubt.

YOU ARE A WARRIOR

Whether it’s the latest trend in fashion or faith….don’t feel like you always have to follow the masses.  BE YOU.  Be the person that God made you to be.  Stake out your own faith.  And, don’t be afraid to go against the flow.  The characters in the Bible look so familiar and tame to us, we often forget how radical they were at the time.  Did you know that the name God gives to women, ezer kenegdo, in the very beginning of the Bible, means Warrior?  You, my sweet girl, are a Warrior.  

cxll4jrk_400x400GO CUBBIES!!!!!!

So, last night, we saw a different kind of warrior.  You, your brothers, father and I all watched the Chicago Cubs battle their way to victory, in a seven game, extra-innings nail-biter of a World Series finale – ending their 108 year losing streak.

FLY THE W!!!!

Next Tuesday, is going to be another nail-biter, as we watch the election returns come in, on what promises to be another historic night!  It seems that good things come from Chicago, these days.  Eight years ago, we had Barack Obama, who was from the South Side of Chicago, and became the first African American elected President.  Today, we have Hillary Clinton.  I don’t know if you knew this, but Hillary Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, which is just outside Chicago.  As you are well aware, I, your own mother, am from Chicago….so, just sayin’….  But, seriously, I do hope and pray we can fly the W once more – only this time, for her.  If ct-hillary-clinton-high-school-park-ridge-20161017Trump wins, it will disappointing, but we cannot despair.  I am reminded of a famous line from Anne Frank’s diary, one which we all must remember during tumultuous times:

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

For now….I’m STILL with her.  I’m holding to my faith in God and hope in the democratic process.  Know always, that from the breakfast I cook for you each morning, to the vote I cast in the afternoon, to the prayers I say before bed….in everything, I will do all I can to provide the best possible future for you, believing always that God holds the two of us in His Hands.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mom

 

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