Drafts

I have seven unfinished blog posts in my drafts folder. Some are thoughts on interesting times. Some about listening to people you disagree with. Most about how good life is despite craziness and change. But all are unfinished. I don’t know how to finish them. So this post may be more disjointed than I prefer, but I want to try to solidify the thoughts of those drafts in one post.

The elections are over. Whether or not you and I voted for him, and as unbelievable as the past year still seems to be, Donald Trump is our president. That doesn’t mean we agree with him. (When have Americans ever agreed with their president?!) But it does mean that we put the “not my president” signs away and work within the reality of these next four years.

Changes are taking place. We are going to debate, but could we put despair on hold? Let’s watch and see how events pan out. Let’s take time to observe where the system works and where it is broken. Instead of posting our gut reactions on social media, let’s take time to gather facts, write out our thoughts and conclusions, and then send them to the people who can make changes. We could actually get to know our representatives!

People will hold opinions opposed to our own. Let’s listen instead of blowing them off. If your opinions are fact-based and well thought out, then you shouldn’t feel threatened by opposing viewpoints. Listening–not trying to persuade, but actually trying to understand another’s opinion–will strengthen your own opinions by helping you identify where you can compromise and what you must hold to.

So that, in a nutshell, is what’s been on my mind and in my draft folder.

Now, go befriend someone who disagrees with you.

 

The Open Road

“The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” -Toad, The Wind in the Willows

I got a new old car!

After five years and heaven knows how many miles, my first old car breathed out a smoky sigh and pulled off the highway for the last time. Gathering its personal belongings, I was surrounded by ghosts of the amazing adventurers and therapeutic meanderings we had shared.

Grad school: last minute vocab card cramming over the steering wheel (not that I was ever desperate or stupid enough to do that while driving…never 😉 ), escapes to Paris Mt. or the Swamp Rabbit Trail–my bike crammed in the trunk, runs to QT for bad coffee and chocolate covered pretzels, or just long drives with the windows down and music up. Life was good! Super intense, but good. Let’s never do that again.

Just the Two of Us: Me and my car in little North Augusta (where the cops do not like speeders…at all). A little house, a job that covered bills, friends, family, and spare time–a luxury I will never take for granted! Remember when we surprised Doodlebug and Chucklehead with a trip to the Coke Factory for their b-day? And visited the niece and nephew (and their parents, but mainly the kids) just because we could? And that time we decided just to spend our whole day off driving and wound up in Tennessee. And then there was that special Thanksgiving we went down to Florida for Thanksgiving and came home with a gorgeous ring and a ton of planning to do ❤

After the Ring 🙂 : We followed the Uhaul as far south as we could get! Wasn’t long before we were exploring every inch of Miami–perhaps not always the wisest or safest way to get to know a city, but we survived. The route between Miami and Tampa became very familiar, too, as we visited my other nephews and niece. And the Keys became a favourite long drive when we just needed to drive. And I learned how to change a starter! (OK, so its not that hard, but whoever designed the Taurus put the starter in THE most inconvenient location ever.) When it was time to pack up again, my car was ready for the long drive up the coast!

And now: My car made it up to Frederick, MD. Even lived long enough to explore a good amount of the area.

But my first car’s chapter in my life is over. My new old car and I are bonding: ready to stake our claim on the open road! I feel more memories growing as we chase the adventurous spirits that are not yet ghosts of the past.

Love and Peace

“Peace! Love and peace. Do you think I don’t long for them as you do? Where do you see them?” Ben-Hur (1959)

We’re drawing battle lines in our country, and pressuring neutral groups or individuals to take a side. Black Lives. Blue Lives. All Lives. Old wounds–which had been bandaged, but never fully healed–are bleeding. Fear generate distrust throughout our nation. We want healing, but how do you heal? Through justice? Revenge? Unity? Understanding? Legislation?

We long for peace. We want the shootings to end. We want to trust the police and know that they themselves are safe from senseless targeting. As President Obama said, “The demented individual who carried out those attacks in Dallas, he’s no more representative of African Americans than the shooter in Charleston was representative of white Americans or the shooter in Orlando or San Bernardino were representative of Muslim Americans. They don’t speak for us. That’s not who we are.” And yet, the violence continues.

“I know there is a law in life, that blood gets more blood as dog begets dog. Death generate death, as the vulture breeds the vulture. But the voice I heard today on the hill said ‘Love your enemy. Do good to those who despitefully use you.'” Ben-Hur (1959)

Love. So easy to say, “All you need is love,” but are we capable of love? Can we walk in another’s shoes? Change our personal cultural norms to make others more comfortable and accepted? Can we value others enough to listen and respect them knowing our political, religious, cultural views will always be opposed? Our country is tearing itself apart because we search for love and peace in division, hatred, and blood. We choose a side, and tune out anything “our opponents”–our fellow countrymen–would say. We cannot heal ourselves.

But that voice on the hill is still speaking: “Love your enemy.” He gives so much more than just good advice that we are incapable of actually following. He promises an entire heart change, which is what we need as individuals and as a nation. We’ve seem individual examples of protesters from each side meeting in the middle, talking, and praying together. Imagine that unity in your community, in your state, in our nation. Christ is the Prince of Peace. He can heal our relationships, giving us the love for others that we cannot generate within ourselves.

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
-I Corinthians 13:13

 

Life is Short…

Life is short–too short to settle for something that’s not really a good fit; so Peter and I moved from Miami, FL to Frederick, MD. The abundant hiking, the historic feel, the proximity to DC with its museums and memorials, the job opportunities, friends in the area, and a more central location to family, are just some of the amazing benefits we’ve enjoyed in the three weeks we’ve been here.

Life is short–too short to live unfocused, to be working toward no goals. We found that to work toward our goals, we needed a change of location. I doubt many of you are in that situation, but we all have ambiguous ideas that could be goals if we focused on them. If you do  nothing to plan for that “someday” when you accomplish whatever those ideas are, “someday” will never come.

Life is short–too short to take family and friends for granted. G’ma always said “people are important, not things.” People definitely take more effort to invest in than work or hobbies, but in the end, our whole purpose in life is to love God and our neighbor. As much as you can, organize your life around your loved ones instead of scheduling your loved ones around your job or hobbies.

Life is short–go hiking.

Religion, Politics, and Polite Company

“Never discuss religion or politics in polite company.”

Ah, the joys of an election year! The time to show our countrymen of the error of their ways and–through repetition of overpowering facts–convince them that our candidate is the last chance for ‘Murica. It’s the American way: as time-honored as blue jeans and as necessary as pumpkin pie.

Over the past 250 years, American access to news has expanded from shared month-old newspapers to innumerable sources of dubious credibility literally at our fingertips. Our gossip, once word-of-mouth about waste of money or affairs, now includes videos of exhausted seven-year-olds pushing away their father’s goodbye kiss. And our setting for political discussions has evolved from face-to-face over a mug of beer at the local tavern to Facebook posts from a table near an outlet with a quad-venti-non-fat-with-extra-whip-but-no-foam-and-five-extra-pumps-white-mocha. We excessively post unyielding opinions and disregard or verbally crush responses from others.

In true American fashion, we cannot separate religion from politics. Religion–or lack thereof–shapes our individual values: politics apply the values of us as a nation to our lifestyle. Political conversations reveal that our neighbors, coworkers, even our friends have different values from our own. Our backlash to that discovery is fascinating, enlightening, even frightening. Allow me to paraphrase some reactions of my Christian Facebook friends:

  • Rubio and his supporters are morons. Oh, and he’s Catholic, so…
  • Obviously, true Christians would never consider Bernie or Hillary because of abortion and homosexuality.
  • How could Christians vote for Trump? Because they are “Christians.”
  • Cruz is the only Biblical option for Christians. If you disagree, you are either uninformed or need to get right with God.
  • Carson doesn’t believe in hell. [Somehow this disqualifies him from the presidency.]
  • If a professor is a pacifist and share that belief with his/her students, he/she should not be teaching at a Christian institution.

Election years bring so many issues to the forefront: immigration, healthcare, civil rights, taxes, environment, education, foreign affairs, military, etc. None of us will agree 100% with any candidate’s plan to fix or adjust our system [if you do, you probably don’t know enough about your candidate]. Also, there are many strategies for voting: based on principle, despite your candidate’s chances; based on who could best unite the party, though your principles may be compromised; based on the lesser of two evils; even voting in the other party against the one you REALLY don’t want to win. With so many factors in the political game, we should be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).

We are one nation. We have vastly different experiences and beliefs. We are proud, passionate, and opinionated. Ironically, we are both united and divided by our love for our country. In trying to secure her future, we often lose site of each other. We will argue and disagree–it’s as American as Coca-Cola…or Pepsi, if you prefer–but we can do so without name calling, without verbally biting and tearing at each other, without separating from one another. Especially as Christians, we are united through Someone greater than our country. What does He say about our principles and political opinions? He says, if I may quote one of Hillary Clinton’s favorite passages, “…if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” -I Corinthians 13:2

Living The Dream

When I was eight, I read a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and thought I’m so glad I wasn’t living way back then! In my world, racial discrimination was a thing of black-and-white photos and bell-bottom jeans. That I knew people who were “living way back then” hadn’t yet dawned on me.

I grew up in a military environment, and for a chunk of that time, my family was in the UK. The Americans I knew were not divided by race, but united by a shared American experience. My parents taught me that, as descendants of Adam and Eve, all people are of one race—the human race. Genetic variations show God’s creativity: in no way are they a basis for division among people. I assumed these truths were self evident—all people are created and should be treated as equals. The discrimination of “way back then” was a thing of the past.

It wasn’t until we moved back to the States that I realized how raw the scars of racism still were among my people. Yes, legally, we are all equal. But individual relationships did not always reflect that reality. I felt sharp jabs subtly—and sometimes not so subtly—mixed into conversations. I witnessed passive acceptance of racist attitude. And I felt inside myself pressure to prefer one person to another because of shared or familiar culture.

Most shocking to me was the Christian racism I experienced. How could Christianity and racism be anything but a dichotomy? And yet, I met Christians who argued everything from the Tower of Babel (which was a linguistic—not racial—separation) to genetic mutation/diseases in their justification of racism.

America has changed so much since the events I read about in Dr. King’s biography. Employees promise Equal Opportunity. Communities and schools are desegregated. Leadership positions and political offices are not solely the domain of white male Protestants. Civil Rights Activists have seen much success; however, The Dream is not an item to be checked off a list. It’s not a bill to be passed and forgotten. It’s not simply desegregation. It’s an attitude: the attitude of every American citizen towards his fellow Americans. It’s recognizing and valuing our differences while uniting as family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen. It’s reaching out to those from various backgrounds instead of cliquing with those we understand. Dr. King had a Dream: we must live The Dream.

“Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To be…

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be, blessed.” -Alexander Pope

A new year! Time to reevaluate goals and envision life’s improvements within the year. By this time next year I’ll be working a job that both uses my education and challenges me intellectually, I’ll have a more comfortable couch, I’ll be writing blog articles regularly, I’ll have found a cozy, locally-owned coffee shop to hang out in, I’ll be making enough money for Peter to think about getting a grad degree, I’ll be working out regularly and will have lost 20 lbs, I’ll have a newer car, I’ll have time to read all the books on my list…basically, one year from today, my life will be perfect!

Hope looks to the future. It sees what is lacking in life now and looks to a time when those desires will be satisfied. It promises happiness if we just wait a little longer, work a little harder, tweak our circumstances just a little. Hope is good–necessary to life, actually–but there is so much more to life than that shiny future.

Life is Now. Part of Now is reaching for those future blessings; part of Now is replaying past happiness; but most of Now should be enjoying this moment. This moment. Pause and experience this moment. What do you hear? see? feel? Whom do you love? What do you have? The past is gone; the future isn’t promised; but you have Now.

Maybe a year from Now I’ll have that list of things I want. But Now, I have the hum of the air conditioner (it’s Miami, OK?), the lingering smell of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and coffee, the smooth feel of my laptop keyboard under my fingers…DANG! Apparently I also have am impish husband leaping around corners with a “ROAR!” OK, enjoying Now…enjoying Now… I have friends and family, access to more books than I can read, a regular pay check, jeans, and coffee 🙂

The future is exciting, but Now is beautiful!