Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Screenshot 2017-10-11 15.37.47
Sandi Patty and Wayne Watson

Sandi Patty.  Larnelle Harris.  Gaither Vocal Band.  These were the household names for me growing up.  I was raised on a music diet that consisted primarily of Christian music with a bit of classical thrown in on the side.  Sandi Patty was my favorite.  I knew every word to every song.  To this day, I still believe she has the voice of an angel.  Duets, like those with Wayne Watson, sounded like music from heaven.  Truly.

Though it has been YEARS, I can still hear one of their most famous songs, Another Time Another Place, play in my head.  The main refrain begins, So, I’m waiting for another time and another placeWhere all my hopes and dreams will be captured.  These lyrics remind me of the verse in Revelation, where it says that He will wipe away every tear, that there will be no more sorrow, no more pain.  I love that verse because it speaks to the brokenness that we all carry plus God’s redemption promise.

At my church, we’re doing this series called, Upside Down, looking at the most famous sermon ever given – the Sermon on the Mount.  Embedded in that sermon is the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus commands us to pray that Up There Come Down Here.  It turns out, the work of the cross continues, in and through broken people like you and me.  Till we get to that other time and place, there is work to do.

 

So what is that work?

In August, I wrote about what I’d learned in my year-long journey of trying to *actually* live out the Micah 6:8 verse.  Option B was more about the process than the outcomes.  So, here I want to expand on the WHAT….what do justice, mercy and love look like?  I am still learning, myself!  But, these are the doors God has opened.

Community Equity Collaborative

In May, a few of us met over a cup of coffee to talk about what we could do to promote social justice in our community.  At a Starbucks in Menlo Park, Community Equity Collaborative was born.

400dpiLogo (1)Who are we?

  • We launch, support and connect initiatives across the San Francisco Peninsula that promote educational equity, especially in the area of early learning.
  • While we believe that charity is a cheap substitute for justice, an opportunity to distribute 7,000 pairs of toddler shoes kinda fell into our lap, providing a great platform for connecting with the early childhood education community in our area.

What do we do?

  • Some examples of the work we’re doing now:
    • Assist faith-based organizations in assessing their site for preschool and connect these organizations with early learning operators.
    • Create career pathways into early learning, collaborating with Able Works and Canada College with integrated teacher/student mentoring and individualized coaching.
    • Support local school districts that have or are building early learning programs.

I intended all summer to write about Community Equity Collaborative.  I’m just now doing it because we have been busy, which is a good thing – God is actually using us!  Who knew!?!  And, it is confirming for me that the Micah 6:8 work precedes the writing, not vice versa.  It is as if God keep telling me, “just do the work, I’ll give you the story.”  And, stories He is providing!!!!

Domestic Worker Oral History Project

Very little research or reporting is done on domestic workers.  They are this essential ingredient, helping us take care of our little ones and keep our homes in order (especially in the high-paced, over-achieving region of Silicon Valley).  Yet, we know so little about their *actual* lives.  Simone Weil, says, “Attention is the purest and rarest form of generosity.”  We have decided it was time to shine a light on these women….to stop and just listen to their stories.

So, what exactly are we doing?

  • I, along with a partner from Community Equity Collaborative, decided to personally organize and fund the gathering of stories from Bay Area women.
  • We partnered with Able Works, as many of their clients are formerly or presently in the domestic worker field.

How are we doing it?

  • We identified someone who these woman would trust and are having her interview the women, using a set of questions we designed, the answers to which are recorded, transcribed and then translated (if needed).
  • In total, she will have sat down with ten women, and from what we’ve already seen – the stories are amazing, as they paint pictures of both great tragedy and triumph.

Why are we doing this?  

  • Well, for starters, we believe in a God who always seeks out the marginalized and disadvantaged.
  • Second, we believe in the power of story.  It is easy to be indifferent when you don’t know.
  • Our hope and prayer is that these stories will create a foundation for greater understanding and compassion for domestic workers.

What will we do with these stories?

  • There will definitely be a blog post!!!!
  • We will also work with partners, like Able Works, to share these stories though local news outlets and organizations, so that others can learn from these women.

Life Moves

This week, I was back at Life Moves in Palo Alto, serving lunch.  Those two hours, serving the homeless, never cease to soften my heart.  Here are two stories from Monday that have stuck with me.

  • PB Guy: We always try to smile and engage in friendly banter as clients move through the food line.  One elderly gentleman began trying to tell us something, in Spanish.  A handful of us were trying to translate what he was saying.  We finally figured out he was telling us that when he eats peanut butter, it gets stuck in his intestines.  (Okay….thanks for sharing.) We naturally jumped into problem solving mode….now that we understood, how could we help….what should we do….what did he want?  Turns out, nothing.  He didn’t want anything, other than for us to know.  Later, as we were cleaning up, this same guy starts coming to us with paper-towels, pointing at the towel.  Again, it took us a moment to figure out what he wanted.  Finally, we figured it out – he wanted us to put some of our cleaning spray on the towels so he could help.  I drove home, thinking about the PB Guy – he just wanted to be known.  He wanted to help.
  • Late Girl: Around the same time that the PB Guy was helping us clean-up and stack the chairs, a young lady came running in, asking if it was too late to eat.  She explained that the buses were late today and she was really hungry.  Quickly, we began gathering bits and pieces…..an apple here, a handful of crackers there.  We began stacking it all on a plate.  She looked over at a huge tray of pasta.  “Can I have some of that?”  Those of us serving looked at one another, our hearts breaking.  We explained that this tray had not been opened.  If we did open it and serve her, we would have to throw out the rest of the entire tray.  In the end, we were able to give her a plate that was stacked pretty high with different items we could take from the refrigerator or pantry. I will remember the Late Girl, her eyes filled with longing.

I return to Life Moves, not just because my faith requires that I am loving the least, but because my heart is the life that needs to move – more than any other.  If those of us with power and privilege learn how to see PB Guy and Late Girl with the eyes of Jesus, we will see Up There come Down Here.

Better Together

These ladies are my soul sisters.  We read.  We cry.  We organize.  We pray.  We celebrate. We talk….a lot.  They are my people.  I am reading Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Anan.  He writes about how Micah 6:8 kingdom work is a long run – there are no easy solutions or short-cuts.  I’m in this for the long haul, but in the same way that Aaron helped Moses hold his arms heavenward during the battle against the Amalekites, so we all need folks who come alongside us.  I need these ladies to hold my heart and lift my hands, as we put our heads together for how we can do the same for others.  WE are better together and we know the same is true for the rest of the world.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

There are my *real* girlfriends and then there are my fantasy BFF’s…..the gutsy, progressive female Christian writers I do not know for real but they mean the world to me and they keep me sane during this not-so-sane season.  Sarah Bessey recently tweeted, “I’m fired up and burned out at the same time.”

THAT.

That is where I am right now.  Part of me is so weary but the other part of me remains mobilized and ready to fight.  As Cory Booker just recently said, “The opposite of justice isn’t injustice, it’s indifference, it’s inaction.”  So I’ll be damned if I go back.  This past year or so has been my Damascus Road.  Now that the scales are gone, there’s no retreating or surrendering to the numbness, even as the onslaught is unending.

DACA.  Charlottesville.  North Korea.  Puerto Rico.  Las Vegas.  Weinstein.  Earthquakes.  Floods.  Fire.

Disaster, both natural and manmade, have become a daily reality.

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Wine Country Devastation

Today, it isn’t just my heart but my literal home that is being burned out.  For the fourth day, Northern California, where I live, is on fire.  Thousands of acres have been burned.  Nearly thirty lives have been lost (that’s surely going to go up).  Again, our schools are forced to shelter-in-place.  Wineries, like Stag Leap, where I have wandered through the vineyards and tasted Cabernet’s with my husband, are completely destroyed.  While we are about 100 miles from the front lines, the smoke is heavy across the Peninsula.  You see the ash in the sky and your lungs instinctively tighten.  The feeling that it’s hard to breath….It seems oddly familiar.

 

Church, the world is going up in flames and it’s waiting to see whether or not we give a damn.  Too many of us have allowed religion to morph into sanctified indifference enabled by privilege.  But, once you take the mask off.  Once you open your eyes to the Syrian refugee and the young black man and the Latina domestic worker and Puerto Rican still without power….even if you’re not in the midst of the fire, you still see and smell the smoke.  You still can’t breath.

Screenshot 2017-10-12 12.16.06“I can’t breathe.”

Eric Garner’s last words have become the mantra for many protesting injustice.  There’s a line in the oldie, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, “When your heart’s on fire, you must realize smoke gets in your eyes.”  If you go anywhere near the fire, if you take a stand against power and privilege, if you intend to actually get into the trenches and love the least, smoke will get in your eyes.  That is just a fact.  What’s also true, is that anyone seeking God will find Him in the margins.  He is in the middle of the fire, and he calls us to join Him there.

 

Screenshot 2017-10-12 13.47.54In a couple of weeks, I’m crossing another item off my Forty-for-Forty list, attending a Lecrae concert in San Francisco.  Since November, I just can’t turn on Christian radio.  Happy worship songs play and chipper DJ’s banter with nary a mention of those desperate for a gospel that is good news.  They sing of love and grace, but where is the fruit?  Their silence reminds me of a people who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, take offense at athletes taking a knee but not at police brutality, value life in the womb but not enough to support commonsense gun control, pray for Texas but say nothing of Puerto Rico and I could go on and on.  On days when my chest feels tight and I can’t breathe, I crank up Lecrae.  One song called, Fuego, includes these lines:

I know this life it comes with pain
But it’s through our pain we win though
Could be made like Him so treat these streets like flint bro
Cause our God can spark up the dark
In the hearts of the hardest departed let’s go

Treat every night like it’s the last night
Like it’s the last time you get no other chances
Get your torches high let’s set ablaze the sky
Passion’s a fire bright and we’ll be burning forever
Set the world on fire let’s set the world on fire

The world’s on fire.  I can’t breathe.  But, then, but then….  Up There comes Down Here.  John the Baptist says in Matthew:

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Long before Metallica (I now listen to more than just Christian worship and Classical), it was Shakespeare who coined the phrase, “Fight fire with fire.”  It means basically that – fight as your opponent fights.  In the Kingdom, we too fight fire with fire.  But, fire from above is nothing like that of earth.  In Christ’s upside down kingdom, the weak are strong, the first are last, there is no hunger, nobody ever receives a cancer diagnosis, justice prevails, the poor are blessed and love always wins.  When flames of holy fire come from Up There to Down Here, we taste shalom and see slivers of heaven.

This is not only the promise of eternity, it is His command to the church today.  And, the whole point of the gospel is that this is the time, this is the place.  Therefore, I am not waiting.  Give us this day, bring your kingdom Up There to Down Here for I am here, fired up and burned out.  Use me.  Let’s set the world ablaze.

 

 

Where Women Belong

fullsizerender531I went!  I drank the Kool Aid!  It was a super fun weekend, attending the Belong Tour with friends.  Once the conference was over, I dashed to Santa Cruz to spend 24 hours with my family.  Last night, we drove back, returning just in time to watch the 2nd Presidential debate (talk about a brutal return to reality after 48 hours of bliss).  I promised a handful of friends that I’d pass my notes from the conference to them.  So, I’m going to start there.  As I sit here now, on the heels of last night’s political spectacle, I can’t help but end with a few political observations – in addition to my Christian conference notes.

Quick intro, for those not familiar: the Belong Tour is a conference for Christian women to spend time reflecting and connecting, to ultimately move closer to discovering who we are and whatfullsizerender537 we’re called to in this world.  It kinda takes the place of the Women of Faith conference, which ran for many years.  The main speakers are Patsy Clairmont, Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist.  Nichole Nordeman, Sharon Irving and JohnnySwim were the musical guests.

SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS – MY NOTES 

Jen Hatmaker

  • Our struggles flourish in the dark.
    • Things don’t just disappear because they can’t be seen – they merely hide them from someone else’s eyes.
    • The light is the only thing that reveals truth.  And, the truth is the only thing fullsizerender533that will set us free.
    • When we pull something into the light, we take away its power.  
    • Whatever it is, whatever we keep in the dark, God is big enough to overcome.
  • Personal adoption story + lessons
    • Most of the world’s orphans are POVERTY orphans.
    • It’s that nobody wants them or loves them – it’s that their families can’t afford them.
    • We should want EVERY mom to raise her kid in safety and security.
    • POVERTY = PAIN
  • He built us with things in mind.
    • Not one of us wasn’t built deliberately.  God has a plan for all of us.
  • Clues for finding your purpose
    • What are you good at?
      • Your playing small does not save the world.
      • Claim the gift you have – not the gift you want.
    • Pay your dues.
      • Do your thing.  Run your race.  Do not get derailed if it is small.
      • He did not ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
      • You are in charge of obedience – not outcomes. (God’s got outcomes)
  • Put your 1st yes on the table – DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.
    • If He has set it in front of you – nothing is impossible.
    • Throw Aspirin at people running their race.
    • Failure won’t kill any of us – it will teach us.
    • “I used everything you gave me.” – Erma Bombeck

Shauna Niequist 

  • 2016-08-15-1471272657-4725875-shauna_niequist_present_over_perfectOften pain and clarity go together.
    • Lost track of what was important, prioritized projects over people.
    • Sacrificed the best part of herself on the alter of productivity.
  • God doesn’t forget us.  Sometimes, there’s wreckage along the way.
  • Pain is isolating – Joy is connective.
  • The story of God is ALWAYS a love story.
    • Sometimes you have to ‘fire’ your version of God…the version that has started to sounds like the meanest voices in your head.
  • Two new spiritual practices (and tattoos!)
    • Heart
      • There is nothing we can do to earn more love.  Nothing.
      • There is nothing we can do to ruin His love.
    • Yes
      • The things you say yes/no to define your life.
      • Now, she says no to proving, pushing, competing, hustling.
      • God’s unconditional love was there all along.

Nichole Nordeman 

  • She describes herself as, a “wrestling poet,” this singer/songwriter doesn’t shy away from life’s messier realities.  Her Opening the Garage story will stick with all of us.
  • Friend’s story
    • She started with the story of a friend who had avoided clearing out his mother’s open-garage-door-in-suburban-1garage (she’d recently moved into a home).  The friend had a very strained relationship with his mom, and was avoiding going thru the boxes, unpacking the memories and possibly confronting some painful reminders from the past.
    • His wife finally got him to go, saying that they’d just drive there, open the door, close it, and go.  And, they’d keep doing that, till he felt ready to actually go in.
    • Once he was there, he went ahead and began the task.  And, it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought.
    • Since then, for this couple and for Nichole and her family – this has become a mantra: Just Open the Garage.
  • Nichole’s Story 
    • She had her own pain and brokenness, namely in the form of a marriage that fell apart.
    • She hid this news from her grandma, who was the person who loved her most in the world.  For a long time, she kept the garage door shut. She was too embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Grandma’s Story 
    • Grandma loved her family – she was a fierce defender of her grandkids!
    • Late in Grandma’s life, when her father was checking into a hotel, the front desk clerk remarked how strange it was that there was a guest staying at the hotel with the same last name.  Long story short, it was a son that grandma had had years before this other family.  Turns out, Grandma had her own secrets, her own pain.
  • Missed Opportunity 
    • You could have heard a pin drop, as Nichole shared the sadness of realizing they’d each carried their own painful stories, yet neither had been brave enough to just open the door.
    • On the flip side, she shared how in recent weeks, as grandma passed over to the other side, her daughter was baptized on the same day.
  • Favorite song 

Sharon Irving (yes, from America’s Got Talent)

  • Do it afraid.maxresdefault
  • Love people with the same love we have been loved with.
  • Trust God to meet us in the rubble.  There is beauty in the breaking.

 

 

 

Patsy Clairmont 

  • Born with the ‘gift of correction’ (later realized that’s not listed with the other gifts in the Bible).
  • Learned the hard way that we have to ‘lean toward mercy’.
    • What you give comes back to visit with you.
  • Growth takes risk.
  • Former agoraphobic (fear of open spaces) – long journey of recovery.
    • Prayed: “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.”  She wanted to change the world,
      patsy-clairmont-0140-1
      Enter a caption

      but kinda hard to do that from bed.  So, God said to get out of bed.

    • When you are faithful in little things, God will give you more.
    • A course on listening to the voice of God thru creation was life-changing.
    • Open your heart.  Be kind to other people.
      • Husband: “You’re not angry.  You’re jealous.”

BEST ONE-LINERS 

  • Shut-up in Jesus Name
  • Do it afraid
  • Beauty in the breaking
  • Lean toward mercy
  • Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
  • Your playing small does not serve the world.
  • He didn’t ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
  • The story of God is always a love story.

Ra Ra Versus Crosses 

I’m still processing what this conference meant to me, and how I can use it as a catalyst for diving even deeper into the places God is calling me.  It was such a treat to see these teachers and musicians in person.  And, I had a great time hanging out with my BFF’s.  If I were going to make any tweaks (and, Lord knows, I’m a rare bird, so that might not be a great idea), I’d love to see the following:

  • No jazzercise.  Sorry!  I know many, including some in my own group, loved Angela Davis.  It was just hard for me to go from jumping up and down to techno music while she shouted *encouraging words*…..to a quiet reflection, as I consider my purpose in life, a little while later.  A little too ‘Ra Ra’ for me….
  • Tell me more.  I loved the moments when they briefly touched on poverty or racism or the issues that symbolize a world that’s broken and hurting.  But, I think that while the church has a few brave leaders speaking out against these things, you could have attended this conference and not felt convicted that we should do more.  As I told one friend, ‘We can not *World Vision* our way out of poverty’.  We should do World Vision – but, we need to do much, much more.  Like, oh, let’s say pay for better schools, invest in early childhood education (esp for lower income families), support fair wages, fight injustice in the criminal justice system, and the list goes on and on.  To be fair, I know these ladies have advocated for these things on social media – but I think that we need to step even further out of our comfort zones when we have these big platforms, and encourage the evangelical community to fill the holes in our gospel.  
  • Show me more.  Again, I am 110% behind these ladies.  I love their vulnerability and desire to make faith relevant for Christian women seeking their purpose.  But, here’s the rub.  Historically, the church has put the stay-at-home mom with her home-cooked meals and well-decorated, clean house on a pedestal.  This 33856bfhas made it hard for women, who have to work in order to put food on the table, or who want to work because they feel called into certain careers/callings.  One reason I personally hesitated to enter the blogging world, is that it seemed there were already SO MANY moms who had found their *calling* in writing.  And, let’s be honest – this is a bit of a fad.  But, here’s the thing: we need Christian women in medicine, technology, law, the classroom, the boardroom, non-profits, police/fire departments and more.  And, those of us raising daughters and even trying to find our own path, need the stories of women taking Jesus into the laboratory, courtroom, classroom, jail, food bank, start-up, etc.  WOMEN BELONG EVERYWHERE.  I would love to hear from women who have followed God into spaces, other than just being a Christian author/speaker.  We need to broaden the spectrum of examples out there for women of faith, young and old.  There are a lot of brave women, already coming alongside those carrying very heavy crosses – I’d love to hear their stories and maybe inspire others to do the same.

Dear Donald.

OMG.  Where do I even start?  I’ve made it pretty clear that I’ve never

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Nate Silver: What the electoral college would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.

considered voting for this man, even for a single second.  In every way, from his policies to his character, I’ve found him not only wanting, but repulsive.  But, last night….I was physically ill, watching him threaten to throw Hillary Clinton in prison.   Going nuclear against his opponent felt like a punch in the gut for so many women – LIKE ME.  Afterward, Republicans and Democrats quickly came out, saying that it was ‘dangerously authoritarian‘ to even make such an assertion.  Still, he reeks of complete disregard for women – including the one who could be our first female President.  One reason his threats and vulgarity hurt so deeply, is because much of the pain felt across the globe is sexist...whether we’re talking poverty, access to education, sex-trafficking/abuse, time, equal pay, etc.  Our world needs leaders who will actively take up the cross and work on behalf of women (and other groups!) who suffer from bigotry or bias.  Nate Silver posted this map of what the electoral map would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.  Translation: evangelical women could have a major impact in this election.  

I WANT TO BE BRAVE 

I don’t know if others connect these dots, but I do.  When I hear someone tell me that the story of the Bible is a love story….when I am told that God created me with a purpose and His love is unconditional, I am driven to hope, to love, to mercy and redemption – away from fear, anger, aggression, revenge and greed.  The contrast could not be any clearer.

bravenicholeI am a feminist, in large part because of my faith.  As Laura Ortberg Turner explains, feminism is simply the belief that women are equally as human as men—equal in the eyes of God, equal in image-bearing, equal in ability.  From the very beginning, God called us out as warriors.  Sarah Bessey writes in her book, Jesus Feminist, “Neither one of us – woman or man – is secondary or backup; we are all key parts of Kingdom building, intrinsic to the story of God, right now.”

Right now, we need to be brave.  Right now, we need to stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.  Right now, we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room – and, it’s not Donald Trump.  It’s all of us.  It took decades to sow the seeds that he is now harvesting, seeds that have been watered intentionally or not by evangelicals.   Here’s the thing…  You can’t talk justice and advocate for stop and frisk.  You can’t act like you care for the poor and yet reject policies that lift them up, like fair wages.  You can’t say you’re not a racist and yet fail to acknowledge systemic injustice, implicit bias or white privilege.  You can’t declare yourselves the defenders of the family and yet offer late-in-coming tepid support (and sometimes opposition) to pro-family policies, like Paid Family Leave.  You can’t say women are to be loved and cherished and then turn a blind eye to mindsets and policies that subjugate and hurt them.  (Btw, kudos to Beth Moore for her brave and public words to both Trump and evangelical leaders.)  You can’t scream ‘the unborn!’ as your rationale for irrational candidates, especially when their policies actually do less to prevent pregnancy.  (Check out this article in the Christian Post outlining why Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for voters against abortion or this thoughtful post by Rachel Held Evans.)  You can’t say ‘character counts’ and then vote for someone like Trump.  You can’t just quote scriptures about suffering the little children and then ignore actual statistics on spending for children vs the elderly (FYI, it’s about 1:6.5) or turn a blind eye to child molestation by clergy.  You can’t say that the main message of the Bible is a love story, and then remain silent in the face of violence, hate and greed.  Right now, we need turn slogans of love, justice and mercy into both personal mantras and public policies.

I’ve already got a ticket to attend the Belong Tour next year.  When I go, I’m praying there’s not only a woman in the White House, but a broad-based willingness to keep constructive conversations going.  We will not stay silent so that others can be comfortable, for the battle does not end on election day.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’  So, we will meet God in brokenness and rubble, and we must sow new seeds.  I am reminded of a conversation Nichole Nordeman talked about, which happens to be the longest conversation Christ had with anyone – it’s the discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well.  This was a radical conversation for many reasons.

  • Jews weren’t supposed to speak to Samaritans.
  • Men couldn’t talk to women without their husbands present.
  • Religious leaders/rabbis were forbidden from talking to a woman, such as this.

Jesus didn’t just offer her the Kool Aid.  He wasn’t looking for a convert; instead, He offered living water, inviting her to open the garage, and find freedom in truth spoken with sincere love.  John Ortberg expands on this encounter in a sermon at Menlo Church:

“In John 4, the first sermon in the movement of Jesus, was given by a woman. A five times married/divorced/Samaritan woman. Jesus thought it was a good idea for the first sermon to be given by a woman. As it turned out, the entire town came out to listen and believed!”

He goes on to say, “maybe it’s women that ought to argue about whether men should be ordained to preach!”  We belong in a conversation with other women, and with our world, that that leads with love.   Till then, I am taking to heart the words of the Belong Tour speakers: I am raising the garage door for evangelical women.  Let us all bring truth into the light, and believe that it will set us free.

 

 

 

Hurray for Women!!!

Earlier this week, I was apologizing to one my kids.  It had been one of those days when I’d gotten buried in a mountain of back-to-school paperwork, bills to pay, etc.  Confession: I had pretty much ignored my kids all day, in trying to cross a few things off my list.  Anyways, in an effort to be a good example, be the bigger person, yada, yada….I pulled aside my kids and said, ‘I’m really sorry I’ve been so busy and kinda MIA all day’.  One unnamed cherub of a child looked at me and replied, ‘What do you mean?  Today was kinda like everyday?’.  OMG.  Stick a dagger in my heart!  Do you really think I ignore you everyday?!?!?  Today has NOT been like everyday!!!  Don’t you remember the coding camps and the sports camps and the ‘mommy and me’ times and the freakin’ falconry in IRELAND!?!!?!?  Have you already forgotten the laundry list of priceless memories we made together this summer!?!?

So, today is redemption day.  I vowed then and there to end the year on a bang by taking them to the beach!!!!!  By golly, their last memory of this splendid summer, will be of the fantastic array activities and experiences we shared, including one last glorious hike to Half Moon Bay.

Ninety-six years ago, women got the right to vote.  In commemoration of that, today is Women’s Equality Day.  I was thinking about that this morning….that on this day we celebrate women’s suffrage and equality, I am closing out the summer with my kids, with this ‘best ever trip to the beach’; it’s as if, as one chapter closes, another begins.  I sometimes joke that school starting is like my ‘grand emancipation’.  This phrase is especially true this year: I’m sending my youngest off to Kindergarten.  Part of me can’t believe my baby is headed to elementary school.  Another part of me is practically giddy with anticipation, envisioning all that I’ll get done sans children and sans the guilt of handing them the iPad….again.  So, watch out, world!  We are about to put something other than ‘personal chef, chauffeur, life-coach and activities coordinator to three darling kids’ on my LinkedIn profile.  (Ha Ha)

Here’s the thing…  While I am so excited about life beyond cooking, cleaning and driving my kids all over the Peninsula – I don’t want to screw this up.  On the one hand, I want to be an example to my daughter and sons, that women can do anything!  On the other hand, I don’t want to be so completely preoccupied with saving the world, that I lose my own family.  

I think the hardest part about being a woman right now is that we’re living in 2016, with all of the dreams and aspirations of the twenty-first century, yet we are stuck in a society that still often operates as if it were 1950.  Newsflash: women can do anything but women can’t do IT ALL.  And, this is what’s so hard.  We want to cure diseases and fight racism and sit on the boards of big companies…. but, then we’re trying to serve on the PTO, run our school’s book fair, stay on top of crazy sports schedules, have a healthy (locally-sourced and organic, of course) dinner on the table when everyone comes home, find time for our own health/wellness, plan awesome beach excursions, etc..  Don’t even get me started on Pinterest.  God bless you, if that’s you’re thing.  But, I’ve pretty much banned myself from Pinterest when trying to plan birthday parties.  #noteveryoneismarthastewart  We try so hard to do it all and be it all.

Here’s the deal, ladies.  It is hard and messy; truth is, our lives may never be simple.   I suspect women will always have a more complicated patchwork of pieces, compared with men.  But, let’s commit to cheering each other along the way.  I wouldn’t be ‘here’ – if it weren’t for the people who spoke words of encouragement and empowerment into me….women who didn’t make me feel guilty for saying no – even when it was to them. I’ve learned the hard way, that another person’s project cannot become my problem.  One of the biggest gifts we can give our kids is not only the example of strong women, but authentic living.  Brene Brown defines authentic living this way:

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

I want my kids to see the ‘best’ and true version of me – not the ‘trying to be everything to everyone’ me.  Don’t get me wrong.  Love the spirit of Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes. But, Lord help me, should I try to say ‘yes’ to everything.  Another smart lady, Lysa Tyrkeurst writes: “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” Wow.  I sometimes say, you can’t give what you don’t have.  How can we pour into the hearts and minds of our kids, if we are running on fumes?

It’s not just back to school for my kids, it’s back to school for me.  I’m trying to go back and learn who I am…the me who believes my most sacred work is loving my family AND the me that’s ready to peek past the curtains of my home.  I know my kids learn best – not by hearing me ‘preach’ but by seeing me ‘do’.  If I want them to learn purpose and balance – I have to live it.  Few meaningful acts or profound thoughts happen when you’re going 10 different directions at once.

So, whether at school or church or wherever, this is the year of me trying to be me….not me trying to be Super Woman.  Our most important vote isn’t just at the ballot box – it’s the one we give to ourselves.