Category Archives: Family

Something We Can Agree On: From the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook School Shooting

This goes with a complimentary post:

Art of Advocacy: How the Sandy Hook Shooting Can Awaken Us

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After the horrific Sandy Hook Shooting a week ago, where almost thirty people were brutally murdered, I was sent this post written by fiction novelist and analyst, Joel Rosenberg. It doesn’t take long to infer he is a classic right-winged W.A.S.P.  Actually, I agreed overall with what he had written in his post. But I was irked by it too. It seemed so . . . generic.

Indeed, Americans need to be better, different, remade.

Yes, we need our schools to be great (we just differ on how this looks).

We want our politics to be awesome (again, where we are all but unified).

Indeed, we should stop bad people and keep guns from bad people (yes, that includes both concerned sides of the gun debate).

Then, undoubtedly, we really need our families to improve.

Oh, and maybe we shouldn’t let our eight-year-olds whittle their days away playing Assassins Creed.

We need to stop sinning. Pretty sure that is a given.

(On a quick side-note, no pointing fingers! We are all guilty of sinning, so stop saying it is the people who kill their babies’ fault, or God’s wrath on us because some people sleep with whomever- I’m pretty sure self-righteousness, pride, lying, lusting over porn, etc… all qualify as sins too). 

Lastly, it should be obvious that there is evil in our world, even though there is a lot of good stuff in the world too (Look at my rant on this here if you haven’t yet).

To all of this- No kidding!

Not to be mean to or anything, but thanks for stating the obvious, buddy (Rosenberg)! Even so, maybe sometimes someone does need to state the obvious.

Yes, we need help to be transformed, and I believe we should pray. I believe we can only be remade by seeking out the life Jesus promises (for many reasons, feel free to ask why).

But instead of focusing on guns, politics, prayer, schools, religion mixed with politics, views on abortion, video games, military, etc… all which are not agreed on and are hotly being debated in the wake of Sandy Hook, my question revolves more around how we can be practically proactive on something we can agree on.

In case you haven’t read a version of this blog post yet, this is a must read:

I Am Adam Lanzas Mother

After reading this, and pushing aside our initial “What the ______!” reaction, I have no doubt EVERYONE believes we need to help parents and children like these.

Why are Michael and Adam Lanza the way they are? Are they born with crime in their DNA? Are they products of their environment? Do they just have terrible mental illnesses? Could it be more than that? Do they have demonic influences?

I don’t know and this is where we will start differing in our opinions again.

But what I do know is that even if Americans are remade and there is a “revival” in America, that doesn’t guarantee horrific things like the Sandy Hook Shooting will disappear. I don’t think more people being quick-fixed “saved” will change our world, not they have true life-change. Then, if someone prays over a loudspeaker at school, verses just with their friends around a flagpole- that isn’t going to make a school immune to a violent upheaval either.

Why? Because you need less than .0000001 percent of the population to do terrorist-like activities.

But what we can do, proactively, is look around us and start caring for parents who are readily asking for help, like Michael’s mom. If we had relationships with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and actually chose to get uncomfortable enough with them to actually talk about more than the weather, then we might be able to support families who need it.

I am part of an experiment called the Art of Neighboring. One of the challenges is to know families around you so well, you actually know the state of their marriages. Or maybe, in this case, the state of their children.

You see, I need people to help me parent.  I know others need that too, and feel honored when people I know are willing to consider things I have learned.  What if we lived life with people so we could be there for them when they have an out-of-control kid? What if we hosted community parenting classes, advocating for parents when they confess their child scares them? They don’t have to agree with everything we say. It requires a certain vulnerability to have conversations like these, a vulnerability we don’t often embrace.

It goes beyond parenting, but about being there for students, about being there for young adults as they find their way in college, in the world.

Am I so naive to believe that if we are attentive to those around us, if we learned how to have healthy conversations with those in our circles, even if challenging, lives could be spared? Am I so naive to believe that living life with people literally changes the world?

Why yes. I think I am.

Then, the other obvious factor is that another scenario needs to be available rather than just throwing thirteen-year-olders with mental illnesses in jail. I am not sure what that looks like, but it looks like something. Who will raise up to the challenge to make that happen? Who already is making that happen? How can we support their work?

Yes, of course I want the people in our country, heck, in our world, to be spiritually transformed. I think we should seek this, pray for this, and ya, ask God to heal our land. But having real relationships with people around us and coming up with immediate solutions to help families like Michael’s is a practical stepping stone that I think we can all agree on. This might be vague, but it is less generic than “God Save America.” It is better than just arguing about what is wrong; who is wrong.

And, now that I have effectively written a whole blog post on the subject, I must humble myself by saying I need to be more aware of those around me. I have had friends talk with me about their children’s mental illnesses, and I was either skeptical or didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t offer to help them or walk through their unique situation with them, and for that I am sorry.

God, please change me to be aware of and compassionate for those around me. When it happens, help me to have a clue on how to be there for a family walking through these types of situations. Please transform us to care for the Adam Lanza’s of the world and know how to fight the “rulers and authorities of darkness” which the Bible’s Ephesians tells us our real battle is against. And as always, thank you for your love and bigness, even in the midst of suffering like this. You are enough. Amen.

Again, the companion post to this one is found at The Average Advocate, where I typically blog. But as this didn’t really fit the theme of that website, I decided to post it here on my personal blog instead. Be sure to check it out and sign up to receive those posts!

From “Internet Minute of Silence Declared for Sandy Hook Victims” Zoe Fox from Mashable.org

Updates: Websites, Weddings, Work, Writing

Hi! Here are some updates of our life over the last few months.

Most of my blogging time these days goes to http://www.AverageAdvocate.com I have been excited because recently I have had people guest blog (finally)! I need the help, the other opinions/experiences, and the networks which other people have. So this is great. In addition, I was a contributor to the Human Trafficking Daily (a web news site) with my book review on Not For Sale. Score! In case you can’t tell, really getting this going has been important to me. Its the merger between some of my passions and a skill- my little small fish and loaves.

Of course, being mommy is still my main job (I hear this rumor I should expect this for at least the next eighteen years). Avi is now four and Josiah is now two. They are so much easier now, having grown a bit older.  We love them bunches! And it seems anyone else who meets them does too! As of yet, Avi is a drama queen and Josiah is a soft-spoken linguist.  They have had their fill of wedding this summer. My cousin Brett’s wedding in Wisconsin, Josh’s brother Ben’s wedding in New Jersey, and Josh’s dad’s wedding in Tennessee.  Annoyingly, none of these weddings were at a beach! Oh well. But, apparently, we discovered that getting down with sweet dance skills is my kids’ fave thing to do!

I have also been working for my church , J10 Church, as “connections chick” for coming up on a whole year now. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and hopefully I have been a blessing there too. I wouldn’t say it has been easy at all in any way. But I think the job fits me; I feel content in it. Although I do confess, I also feel like I am about to screw something up at any moment! So, on a positive note, it draws me to God.

Because it is writing related, I can easily share with you the book review posts I randomly write for my friends’ website, Reading Teen. This is total fun and fluff for me. Here are some others posts beyond what I have shared to you before:

This is my most favorite review because I thought it was really funny, the author of the book asked me to write it, and a lot of people liked it 🙂

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/08/cascade-river-of-time-2-by-lisa-t.html

These are some other not-so-thrilling posts:

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/waterfall-river-of-time-1-by-lisa-t.html

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/choices-by-katrina-l-burchett.html

A buddy and I pretended we were the site’s typical authors, and did an IMM for them. They are on either side of us, coaching us on the books we were supposed to let their readers know about. To us, this was hilarious, but maybe its just because we are all friends. Here you go anyway!

Soundtracks: Changing the World in Humility

Sometimes I am pretty sure the only reason our lives are so dull is because we don’t have the appropriate music playing in the background constantly. I am convinced my life would be amazing as any Oscar-winning movie if some D.J. in the sky always had a perfect soundtrack going for me.

This evening, I was sitting here feeling slightly melancholy. It was one of those rare days when it hit me that my kids are growing up right before my eyes; the moment is precious and yet it will slip away. I know in my mind that these are the moments I want to remember forever. I am often told how cute my kids are. I remember what it was like before I had kids, finding myself momentarily impressed with the beauty, life, and adorableness of a child I would be watching. But I struggle with the infamous disease all parents seem to battle, just knowing this rather than experiencing it. You see, I wish I could typically feel these sweet moments for my own kids. They are like drops of water that I hold on a leaf, but will soon stream off, rushing into the river with countless other drops. Coldplay, Fix You.

I won’t say I was sad tonight. Just pensive and melancholy. And the amazing Pandora has been creating my soundtrack, playing in the background.  All at once I wanted to capture the moment: my children, this night, this day, the urge to read sacred ancient text, wanting to discover who God is. Mainly just for time to be penetrated in the depth of me. So I heavily drank down my coffee just to feel the warmth spreading to the inside of my body, imagining its heat to be the moment becoming unforgettably one with me. The music in the background seemed appropriate, creating the soundtrack I craved. Album Leaf, Red Eye.

I am still young, beautiful and sharp. I am blessed in my marriage and with my children. I am as rich as can be in every way.  I have a wonderful life. And then often I feel pride. I struggle to believe I am not the end-all, as if I matter so much that the world as a whole would be sad without me. All I can see is things through my own perspective. I guess I know that I will die trying to change the world, and so somehow I begin to think that I am important. David Crowder, Alleluia Sing!

I sat in a room today with other people who are also trying to change the world. It was energizing. If you could feel electric without it hurting, that is what this room full of hopeful world-changers felt like. It was that same feeling you might have gotten the first time as a young teenager when someone told you that you mattered to them. Or that you could be anything you wanted to be, back when you might actually believe them. I then glanced over at one woman, and I realized she just might be feeling the same way I often feel- important in her own right. I then remembered the awkward moments I’ve had with so many other people who have my same interests. Maybe its just that we are so used to no one else caring that we think of ourselves as better, or maybe its just too hard to get on the same page as someone else. Regardless, those focused on one cause or another seem to want to find others like-minded, yet when they do it might be hard to practice humility and work as a team. Florence and the Machine, Between Two Lungs.

And then I remembered I am just one person, whom God is called, amongst the millions. It doesn’t mean that I am not important. It just means that I am an essential part something more important. I am part of a group of people who is God’s own, His instrument of change within this world. Citizen Cope, Let the Drummer Kick.

My pastor mentioned The Beatitudes today, in a message focusing on the teaching of Jesus. When was the last time I read those? God is an Astronaut, Fall From Stars.

The Beatitudes

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Matthew 5:3-10 NLT

I look at that and I think “There I am!” or “That is so not me!” And yet, although I feel like each verse has a right to be given special attention, especially in light of international or social issues, the one that is speaking the purest to me now is that the humble are blessed. They will inherit the earth. Jesus taught about humility while living an example of humility I can’t even begin to comprehend. Mute Math, Break the Same.

I feel like it is wisdom who speaks, reminding us world changers that in the height (or lows) in our hopes of affecting this world for good, we will make no difference and have no lasting change without humility. Yet, when our pride melts away, the promise is that we will inherit the world. How’s that for being a world changer?  The Kooks, Seaside.

If my life had a soundtrack it would have  music with a strong beat to keep me pushing forward, to make a difference. It would have a lot of happy, busy and excited music. And it would also have music to express my roadblocks and sorrow. But my soundtrack would also have a lot of melancholy music, although not in order to depress. Instead its purpose would be to assist me to stop and think. To remind me of what I have been given, and whom I am in debited to for marvelous love. The music might move me to slide off my bed, humbly curl up on my knees besides it, and ponder how life is just so much bigger than me. It turns out am lucky to have a part in it. Feist, The Water.

Labels, Housewives, and L2F

I am part of an organization, L2F Needs Network. Actually, a best friend (the director of L2F) and I spend the majority of our non-essential-household-taking-care-of-time (there has got to be a better way to say that) running L2F. Well, her more than me- It’s her baby. But I like it too, partially because it categorizes some of my life under a label. I like labels. After studying things like psychology, sociology, and anthropology for so many years I am excellent at analyzing, categorizing, and labeling things. Ironically, we who study the social sciences proclaim the evils of stereotyping and labeling,  but that is pretty much what we do.

I’ve been thinking about labeling because sometimes I want another label in life. Typically I am labeled as a stay-at-home-mom, also known as a homemaker, housewife, domestic engineer. . . or my personal favorite (which is on my business card): domestic goddess. Lots of people understand this label as really meaning one (or all) of three things:

  1. Housewives are too stupid to do something else.
  2. Housewives are obsessed with their kids.
  3. Housewives are super traditional.

Of course, this is only my opinion of what others think, which might not be true at all. Regardless, I don’t like being stereotyped as such because I don’t feel as though I fit into any of these categories. Now, before you cynically remark about why I do fall into category number one, beware, before the character war begin! Case in point: these are the dangers of stereotyping. People only like being labeled into some categories, and not others.

In short, being a stay-at-home-mom is not my dream job. Raising my kids and managing my house are part of my dream job, yes. But, in addition to that I have been consumed with a little thing which I crave from the deepest part of me: Changing the world. I really want to reply, when someone asks me what I do, by saying “Oh, you know, I am a professional world-changer. For the better, obviously. What do you do?” If you really must ask, yes, my business card says “world changer” on it too.

I have spent countless hours psycho-analyzing why I am like this. Nurture, nature, life experience, etc. . .  might all go into it. I could write my life story here, if you really want to know why I am like I am. Thankfully, I will spare you this time.

I am pretty sure that having a label helps you change the world better. For years I have wanted to go back into an official position at an organization, church, non-profit, NGO, or have a profession, in part, just to have a label. People respect you, consult you, or consider you an authority when you have a title. I guess I don’t think people take me seriously otherwise, which annoys me because I think it hinders me. I wrote up the hours I spend doing various activities this week. Trust me, doing dishes and laundry were probably lowest on the list. Which explains why they are not done (and I don’t care). But, time spent trying to make a dent in the world was definitively at the top of my hours-spent worksheet.

Another benefit of the label is the accountability that comes with it. There is a set of responsibilities one has when they are a professional. Professional engineers, spys, dry cleaners, trash men, worm catchers, and even bad guys all have a standard they are expected to meet. Helping out on the side typically has minimal expectations and accountability. Even being an official contract signing volunteer, one has just a few standards to live up to. Yet, as a professional, with a title, the responsibilities and pressure to perform is actually there. I know most people view this as negative, but if you think about it, there can be a lot of positive motivational value as well.

I have semi-successfully been raising a family while trying to serve God by loving others for a few years now. Even though my label might not be what I prefer, I should only be thankful that I am able to raise my kids, that I am able to manage my own time, and I am therefore able spend so much of my time putting into what I believe matters. I might not feel fulfilled in having a dream job as a professional, but I am at least trying to be the first to admit how overwhelmingly blessed I am. I am content in my blessings; blessed by God and my husband, notably.  Regardless of whatever our label is, we can at least still make a difference where we are.

Hence, I wanted to introduce you to L2F (click here to see our blog, still in development). It is part of who I am, and its cool (so I think you should like it). In a nutshell, we pretty much find out about needs, communicate those needs, and try to meet those needs. It’s like we are Robin Hood, but we don’t have to steal from the rich. Which is good, because I would probably have some moral qualms about that. The vision goes beyond just helping people, it is really also just as much about giving others opportunities and teaching them to be world changers. Of course, I am the only one who is a little too ahead of the game, caught up on the phrase “world changers.” Most of us are just excited to be making a difference in Ashburn.  Our motivation is because we love Jesus, and we feel that this is the way He has guided us right now to show His love to our community.

A lot of what we do is through the local schools, but its kinda been all over the place. This week I delivered a bunch of diapers and formula to a social service organization, did some social media stuff, got school supplies for some kids,  talked about assisting a refugee family, helped plan a backpack program for hungry kids at our schools, and packed backpacks for the homeless. See, I told you its a bunch of random stuff! Personally, I love working with immigrants and developing contacts and relationships with those in need, as well as those who are already active in the community. Yet, there is always more to do! In fact, through our church (J10 Church), L2F Needs Network was really able to make a difference in an area that had no assistance directly after the earthquake in Haiti. I’ll conclude by showing a video of that experience below, and here is a link to some pictures a friend, Herb Looney, took while on this trip to Haiti.

Question: I know culture typically considers it morally good to want to change the world. But I have come to realize a lot of people don’t have that urge. Do you, personally, have that passion? What do you feel your responsibility is to your family, community, and the world as a whole? What is one practical step you can take right now, to make a positive difference?

Conversations with Avi: Delighting, Remembering, Doing Good

Image by Laura Wolfgang

Today, I spent about twenty minutes just listening to Avi talk as she walk around our living room, playing. I was laughing hysterically almost the whole time.

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(Avi walked up to me, pointing at the picture she drew on her doodle pad).

“See it mom? Korean girl.”

(I look at the triangle she drew on the pad, trying to remember if I ever taught her the word ‘Korean.’ And thinking it would be pretty cool if she actually had a clue of what that word means).

Me: “Oh, it’s a Korean girl.”

Avi: “Say it.”

Me: “Say what?”

Avi: “Say Korean girl.”

Me: “Um, okay, Korean girl.”

Avi: “No, say it!”

Me: “Say what?”

Avi: “Say it!”

Me: “Sing it?”

Avi: “Ya, sing it?”

Me: “Sing what?”

Avi: “Sing Korean girl.”

Me: “Um, Korean girl?”

Avi: “Ya. I myself did it.”

Me: “Okay. . . that was weird.”

(While I try to comprehend our conversation, Avi walks back over to baby doll, babbling about drawing a picture of “him” [her] and putting “him” to bed. For the next 15 minutes she alternates between having other typically nonsensical conversations with me, and going “night night” on a chair with her baby doll).

Avi: “Em, gonna give baby the toy”

(She picks up some stacking pegs, then goes about dropping them in specific locations on the floor. This must either be creative art or she is practicing war tactics again. If the latter, these landmine-like devices will cause pain in one foot and hopping up and down on the opposite leg. I choose to presume this is an artistic expression, while make a mental note not to step on them).

Avi: “Here mom.”

Me: “Thanks”

Avi: “Your welcome” “Here, three, six, seben. . . . I’m gonna get em mom on my chair on my my my  head.”

(She goes under a chair, pulls out more pegs, and brings them to me as Josh comes up the stairs).

Avi: “Uh oh, a hurry daddy”

Me: “Where are you hurrying to?”

Avi: “Oh look at her [him], its dan its sue . . . What are you doing dad? What’s your hands doing? I hab Toys. I want to have more grandma.”

(drops pegs on me).

Avi: “Oh, Sorry mom, sorry.”

(I think, “Thanks Avi,” as we move on to the next activity- which would be a zip-line in poison ivy. And, you should know I’m not kidding).

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My daughter is a delight. She makes me crazy, grating on my impatience or shocking me with her callous little girl evil. But, its impossible to not love her. It is thrilling to see her discover everything from gravity, to social graces, to language- her ability to soak up the world around her mesmerizes me.

I love enjoying my daughter. Vaguely, in the back of my mind, I know I am blessed. There are many parents who don’t get to enjoy their children. Some parents die, leaving their children orphaned. Some are separated by war or poverty. Others only have languid children, not happy and experiencing life like my daughter is. Their children are sick, thirsty, and hungry. Some other three-year-old children are hurt by the most gruesome forms of oppression. I encourage you to read this story, which gives a glimpse of other stories kids the same age as Avilynne’s experience.

I know I am being a kill joy, but as the radio sings, “. . . you don’t know what you got ’til its gone . . .”‘ I am reminded to try to be grateful before it is too late. I am sure I just lost some of you; I did not just change subject to trees and parking lots. I am still on the subject of being thankful for my little girl. I guess I just want to be so grateful for what I have been blessed and entrusted with, rather than take it for granted. And I don’t want to forget the truth that there are so many whose children suffer.

In the Old Testament God directed the Israelites to do all sorts of things to remember what He had done for them, bringing them out of oppression as slaves in Egypt.  God prescribed holidays and memorials. He wanted them to sing about it, read about it, slap reminders on their foreheads, door frames, and tell their kids over, and over, and over, and over again of what He had done.  It was like God was putting post-in-notes all over their lives, getting them to see the obvious- He is good! God saved! God heard them! God cared!

I have a few post-in-notes in my life, as well. I am overwhelmingly blessed, and sometimes its good for me to remember that. So, thank you God for Avi, “The Father’s delight!” (as her name means).  Just like the Israelites were directed to do, I want to tell Avi as she grows up of how good God has been, and how she is a reminder to me of that. And every time I tell her this, I hope to be spurred on to remember the other children whose lives are anything but full of hope. I have no doubt God sees them, hearing their cries, just like I hear my daughter’s when she has a nightmare. I wish I could see all the stories of how God has intervened on their behalf already. But even more than that, I hope my thankfulness for God’s goodness in my life, overflows as action to change the lives of these hurting children. After all, I have been blessed to bless others. God might have used Moses, plagues, fiery pillars, and a wall of water to save the Israelites. I am sure He can do so again, if He wanted to. But, I am also pretty sure He can use little me.

“So be careful how you live, not as fools, but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT