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30 Things, 4 Years Later: Day 17

I read this article this evening and it reminded me of my 17th goal.

30 Things to Accomplish in my 30s: Day 17
#17 (Original wording) Raise awareness for victims of domestic violence. This does not mean wearing a ribbon, posting underwear colors or even raising money. It means educating people as to what sorts of things are classified as abuse. It means developing relationships with victims and helping them see their value and purpose. It means teaching parents how to raise kids who are neither victims nor abusers. It means putting forth time and effort in order to eradicate domestic violence from our society. I’m really passionate about this because heathy families equal a healthy society. And every child deserves to live in a non-chaotic, non-violent, healthy and happy home.

I spent many years prior to moving to SD being deeply involved in ministry and leadership at the church I attended. Then things happened. Jesus did something in me. I had been really…. arrogant, I guess. I looked down on people who weren’t as “righteous” as me. I avoided people who were different.
 
And then I became the “different” one. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I went from top of the heap to bottom of the pile in my social circle. I learned what it was like to be treated the way I had treated other people.
 
I spent a lot of time on my face, sobbing and crying out to God to fix it.
 
He didn’t fix it.
 
Some things happened. One person wanted to reconcile, but by the time she had gotten to that point, I had begun to realize that I had learned many of those habits from her and I didn’t want to be that way, so I said no.
 
For two and a half years, I spent most of my spare time on my face on the floor, sobbing and asking for things to change.
 
The thing that changed was me.
 
I finally began to have a small understanding of grace.
 
I looked at the people around me. Not the pastors. Not the deacons. Not the elders. Not the wealthy people who had it all together. Not the married people. Not the people who had good careers and natural abilities to do wonderful things.
 
I looked at the addicts. I looked at the broken people. The ones who had their first babies when they were 13 and the ones who were on their 4th marriages. I looked at the ones with mental illness and physical illness and the ones who had had abortions and the broken families. I looked at the moms whose hearts were breaking because their sons or daughters were dying from alcoholism or drug addiction. I looked at the children who had been abused, the mothers who had to choose between a “godly home” (staying with a spouse who was abusive) and a safe home.
 
I looked at those things and I think I saw what Jesus sees when He looks at us. I didn’t see sin. I saw broken people. Scared people. People who need love and support and a place they can call home filled with people they can call family.
 
I looked at those people and I saw myself.
 
A broken person, desperate for love.
 
I looked at those people and I said, “But for the grace of God, that would be me.”
 
When one has that kind of revelation, one of two things happens.
 
The person could get incredibly stuck up. “Oh, yeah. Look at me! I just happened to escape all these horrible things that other people struggle with every day.”
 
Or, they can be incredibly humbled.
 
The latter happened to me. I began to be more open and friendly. I had tasted the grace of God and I was eager to extend it to all who came. It was a beautiful time in my life — except for one thing.
 
The church hated this change in me.
 
The straw that broke the camel’s back was that I was a friend to a woman who had chosen to leave her abusive husband and I was as much of a protector to their sweet baby girl as I could be.
 
I could go into a bunch of detail about this, but I’ll spare you. I got really familiar, really fast, with the resources available to battered spouses and victims of domestic violence. I also got really familiar with how little law enforcement wants to be involved. I got really familiar with the retaliatory tactics of abusive spouses. I learned what abuse is and how to spot it and how to get away from it. I learned how it hurts children for generations to come.

I learned that domestic violence has got to end.

I haven’t been closely involved with shelters or anything like that because my life has been so busy with so many things.

When I converse with people and learn of people experiencing violence in their homes, I try to provide education and options. If I can, I take women and kids into my home so they can be safe. I do whatever I can, whenever I can to see people as Jesus sees them — broken people who need love.

Learn more about domestic violence by clicking here.

If you need help, click here.
A book for women in abusive relationships.
Understand why abusers do what they do.
Understand how childhood trauma affects people into adulthood.
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in 30 Things

 

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Stumbling

I was talking tonight with a friend of mine about ridiculous things that have happened to us at the hands of pastors and elders and whatnot from “Christian” churches.

I don’t think that a lot of what happens in churches and between clergy and congregants is necessarily something that Jesus would condone and I don’t think He would be pleased with a large chunk of it.

I have to put quotation marks around the word “Christian” after the things I’ve experienced. Many of those things have been decidedly un-Christian. Many of those things have caused me to question my faith and whether God is really real and if He really loves me. The very places where we are supposed to go to learn and grow and be nurtured and protected have been more painful than helpful for me.

Believing is hard when the place you’re supposed to go to get watered and cared for is a war zone.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:1-2

I’m not sure how one would process those verses with this situation. Obviously, Jesus is compassionate to the broken and the oppressed. He has no tolerance for those who break and oppress.

If you’re broken and oppressed, Jesus loves you. Jesus weeps for you. Jesus wants to crush everything that is breaking you and oppressing you.

I don’t know what that means when the breakers and the oppressors are at church. What does it mean when a pastor lies about you? What does it mean when the church’s agenda is to control every little detail of your life and keep you in perpetual childhood? What does it mean when the people who think they’re serving Jesus use their “ministry” as a means to micromanage every last detail of your life?

Believing is hard when the people who are supposed to demonstrate Jesus to you use their “authority” in ways that hurt you.

I want to believe. I really, really do.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
(Psalm 27:13-14)

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Rants

 

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God’s Not Dead: Thoughts on Christianity and Romance

The other day, my Bible study group and I went to see God’s Not Dead.

I enjoyed that the movie was one that made me think. If I have to sit and stare at a screen for longer than 5 minutes, it has to keep my mind engaged. This movie did that, and I enjoyed it.

I’d have to watch the movie a few more times in order to be able to comment on the arguments for and against the existence of God. I might need to take notes or something — which is hard to do in a theater, so we won’t get into those arguments.

There is another interesting elements of the movie that I’d like to comment on — you know, the softer, less logical, more emotional part. Those things are (sometimes) easier to understand….

Aside from the main theme of the movie (God’s not dead), the other blaring theme is that of relationships.

Here is a brief synopsis of the relationships in this film:

Reverend Dave and Reverend Jude: According to this movie, if you’re a white, single male pastor, it’s appropriate for you to be close friends, go on vacation and do ministry with a single black male missionary. This relationship was intact at the end of the movie.

Ayisha and her father: Ayisha’s father is a strict Muslim, who puts Ayisha on the streets when he discovers that she has a relationship with Jesus. This is a tragic cultural and spiritual issue, but I’m not sure why it’s part of the plot. It has nothing to do with the main premise of the movie (God’s not dead), and the only thing it proves is that if your family is Muslim and you are a Christian, you will lose everything if they find out.

Willie and Korie Robertson: There isn’t really anything interesting to say about this. This is the only romantic relationship that is intact at the end of the movie.

Josh and Kara: They’ve been together for 6 years, but as soon as Josh does something that Kara doesn’t agree with, she dumps him. How is it possible that they lasted 6 years without having any disagreements? This doesn’t make any sense to me because as one gets older, he/she (should) be growing in maturity, not the other way around. Kara makes a hasty exit about 1/3 of the way through the movie. Josh is left to fight his battles alone. This is (unfortunately) realistic, but very dissatisfying. Josh finds inspiration in his relationship with Reverend Dave and this relationship is intact at the end of the movie.

Amy and the Jerk: They are a non-spiritual, career-oritented couple. And as soon as he finds out that she has cancer, he dumps her. Amy’s cancer diagnosis and new single status lead her to realize (when questioned by the dcTalk dude who is now a Newsboys dude) that she has no hope.

Professor Radisson and Mina: As soon as Mina starts to stand up for herself (and her faith), the relationship implodes. Mina seeks comfort from Reverend Dave.

If you think about this movie from a relational standpoint, you will find that romantic relationships are incompatible with belief in God, unless you are a Robertson, in which case, your redneck awesomeness trumps your belief in God (at least in the romance department) and your marriage is impenetrable. Oh, if we could all be part of the Robertson clan….

As far as platonic relationships go, apparently only single white pastors get to have them. They get to (attempt to) go on vacation with their buddies. They text it up with young male college students. They counsel beautiful (but broken) women. They get to do relationship with all kinds of different people, and in the end, they pray with dying ex-athiest professors and they live happily ever after, knowing they’ve made a difference. But…. they are still (sadly) romantically unattached.

(On another note, Josh develops a friendship at the very end of the movie with the Chinese student from his class. So perhaps they are saying the only appropriate relationships between men are either with clergy or with someone from another culture?)

At any rate, the way relationships are portrayed in this movie is disturbing to me because I’ve noticed a strange trend in most of the Christian circles I’ve been part of, where romance just doesn’t happen. Let me describe briefly what I’ve noticed:

I went to a church for a while where there weren’t very many single men, but the few single men who were there made it clear that they were not “available.” I’m not sure what the reasons for this were — they were so “unavailable” that they wouldn’t even talk to me. And it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part.

I had a situation in this particular church where someone saw me speaking with a single young man twice after church. She asked a mutual male friend to tell this young man to stop talking to me because I “wasn’t ready for a relationship.”

I went to a church where the pastor made it his business who my friends were. His rule was that people who were involved in ministry (me) weren’t allowed to have friends of the opposite gender, unless all parties were involved in ministry, and then it was only appropriate if one or both of the people were married. Two single people were not allowed to spend time together unless it was chaperoned. There were specific rules stating that people involved in ministry were not allowed to date each other, but they also weren’t allowed to talk to anyone who wasn’t involved in ministry, except for very short, very generic conversations. So basically, there was no interaction between single people. Consequently, there were no sweet little romances going on at that church.

I had a group of friends who decided that I was “boy crazy” (and this was a problem) because I spoke with a male friend from church on the phone twice and mentioned it to them once. Shortly after talking with these friends, the male friend in question took me to Perkins to tell me that he wasn’t interested in me. Um? Ok? Did I say I thought you were? Can’t we be friends? I like having friends…. No? Well, this is awkward….

On a happier note, I got a free meal out of the deal. And I haven’t had a conversation with the person in question since.

His loss.

I had a male friend during that time that I only got to see or talk to when I was around the girls who accused me of being “boy crazy.” He told me I was hot once. And my entire life imploded. Literally. The girls in question just couldn’t handle it. Including myself. It was a lose-lose situation for me. If I had responded to it, I would have lost my entire life outside of him. I knew that, so I chose to not respond to it. It turned out that I lost it all anyway, because my “friends” couldn’t deal with the idea that my friend found me attractive.

My experience has been that in Christian circles, relationships between single men and single women are not encouraged because it could lead to romance and romance is not compatible with Christian belief.

I’d like to point out that God invented romance, and He said (back in the book of Genesis) that everything He invented is good. When did this change? And how? And why? And how do we get back to the idea that it is good?

Because….. I want to love God. But I want to love a husband and children and friends (of both genders) too. And I think that is the way God wants it to be.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Current Events

 

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84B

On I-29 in South Dakota, exit 84B exits onto I-90 West toward Rapid City. I’ve learned this well. I go to Sioux Falls (what I like to call “going to town”) for work a lot, and when you drive the same route several times, you sort of start to pick up on these things. One time I went to Sioux Falls 3 times in a 7-day period. It was awesome!

In this blog, 84B is sort of an exit from this (84) to other, somewhat related topics.

This morning in church, my pastor was talking about Philippians 1:21- For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

My understanding of this passage is that our goal should be to live in such a way that whatever we do brings honor to Christ (of course, we will never be able to do this perfectly), and also in such a way that we aren’t so caught up in life that leaving it (leaving life- dying) would be devastation or disappointment. Basically, it’s about balance — be grounded in our faith enough that we are compelled to behave in ways that honor Him, be grounded enough in the world around us that we feel compelled to share the love of Christ, but at the same time, not get caught up and carried away in the things of this world. Always, no matter what one goes through in a day, focus enough on Jesus to remember that one day, all of these things will fade away and we will trade it in for the beauty of forever with Jesus. To die is gain — not because we’ve lost something, but because we’ve gained something far better and far more beautiful.

My pastor challenged us to think about this verse and remove the words “Christ” and “gain” and fill in the blank. His example was that for some people, to live is to make money and to die is to leave it all behind. Or to live is to be popular and to die is to be rejected.

Throughout church this morning, I thought about my previous post (84).

For me, to live is to make everybody else happy at the expense of my own happiness, and to die is to keep doing it day after day after day.

I got to thinking. If you look at this situation from a biblical perspective, one could say that it is not biblical to be a people pleaser. Being a people pleaser puts people in the position that God alone is supposed to fill, and when that happens, nobody truly, truly lives. The pleased person doesn’t have to learn how to please himself and the pleaser doesn’t get to learn to please herself. No one is healthy. No one is happy. God is not honored — He’s left out of the picture entirely — and neither the pleased nor the pleaser is blessed.

My resolution today is to stop living for the happiness and convenience of others and to start living to honor God — and part of honoring God is to take care of me — so that the death part can be a one-time experience (many years down the road) instead of a continuous, all day, everyday deal. No more sad, bored and almost dead for me.

It is ok to say no!

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Current Events

 

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#74

One thing that I really like about my church is that they almost never do music that I did with the worship team I used to be part of.

Today was an exception.

Instead of thinking about Jesus at church today, I thought about how messed up the whole situation was back then.

Back then, there was a question as to which key to play the song in. Being a soprano, I typically enjoy singing more if the song is in a higher key. I cast my vote for the higher key — and I was promptly criticized by another worship team member because “the only reason you want the higher key is so you can sing higher notes.”

Um, yes. Isn’t that sort of the point of playing a song in a higher key?

Apparently higher notes are evil or something? Maybe? Does this make me evil because singing high notes is sort of my thing?

I spent several years feeling guilty for preferring to sing that song in a higher key. I’m not making that up.

Today I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to sing the high notes — and there’s also nothing wrong with enjoying doing something that you’re good at. I also realized that there was no reason for anybody to be critical of my opinion. My opinion is just as valid as anybody else’.

And, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m no longer part of that group.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Current Events

 

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A Year of Ambiguity

(And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….)

Toward the end of July of the year I finished home school, I found a job in a bakery at a grocery store. It was the first in a long string of food-related jobs that I’ve had. And I’ve never liked working with food. Yuck.

I was a terrible employee. Not because I had a bad work ethic or was a crabby, mean person. It was just that I was clueless in so many ways and that made working with me not so fun for some people and way too much fun for other people.

I thought I had to have permission to do anything. For some people, this manifests as slacking off and not doing anything. I’m not that type of person, so I was constantly pestering my boss, asking what I was supposed to do next, and should I do this or that? After a few weeks of this, my boss said, “You don’t need permission to do your job. If you see something that needs to be done, do it.” Well dang…. Who knew pleasing the boss could be that simple?

The consequences of that new rule was that sometimes I would start doing something and the boss would ask me to do something else instead. And every time I was redirected, I thought she was mad at me and I’d get so stressed out I almost couldn’t function.

My cluelessness provided a lot of entertainment for my male coworkers. They would make sexual jokes about me and since I was clueless about the fact that their comments were sexual in nature and the fact that this was harassment, they kept on making jokes.

After I’d worked there a few months, my boss told me that they had hired another person who would be working the same shift as me, and it was going to be my job to train her. My response to this announcement was “Are you sure about that? I don’t even know what I’m doing. How am I supposed to train somebody when I don’t know what I’m doing?” My boss gave me a funny look and said, “You’re kidding, right? You learned this job faster than anybody I’ve ever trained.”

My response to this was, “For real?”

I had been convinced I was an imbecile. This was the first time anybody had ever given me a reason to rethink that conclusion.

I began to train my coworker.

My new coworker was a middle-aged disabled woman that I’ll call Ginny. (Name changed.) Ginny had been brain damaged at birth, had never graduated from high school or learned to drive a car and sometimes she couldn’t remember how to count to 24. It was a challenge, but I loved every minute of it. We would finish our work and then we would role play with me being the customer and Ginny taking my pretend cake orders.

I told my coworker bits and pieces about myself as the weeks went by, and after a while, Ginny started to ask questions. One of the observations she made to me on several occasions was, “You’re so smart…. If I were as smart as you, I’d get my GED. Then I’d take Driver’s Ed and get my driver’s license. And after that, I’d go to college.”

Ginny was convinced that she was perfectly capable of doing all those things — even though she sometimes got lost on her way to 24 as she was counting cookies. Day after day, I’d hear, “I’m going to get my GED. I’m going to take Driver’s Ed. I’m going to college….”

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at my Tuesday morning church gig….

I had been working with home school kids on Tuesday mornings, but when the new school year started, somebody decided not to do the home school kid tutor thing anymore, so they asked if I preferred to work with the toddler group or the baby group instead.

I asked to be placed in the baby room. Babies are the best.

I began to work with a mom-type woman that I’ll call Hannah. (Name changed.) She had lots of experience being mom to several kids and foster mom to (literally) dozens of others.

In the beginning, I didn’t say much. I changed diapers and soothed babies. I rocked babies to sleep and played peek-a-boo. But I never said anything to the other people I was working with unless it pertained to the babies.

(I want to take a moment to say that this was the most rewarding and fun job I’ve ever had in my life. There’s nothing quite like being the center of the universe for 6 squealing, squalling, rambunctious little people who all want your attention at the same time, but they all want you to be doing something different. It’s quite a challenge — but you always know if you’re doing a good job or not, and if you aren’t, you have infinite re-dos. It’s awesome. I love hanging out with little people.)

After I’d worked there for about 4 months, Hannah started asking questions about my background. I don’t remember a lot about the conversation, but I imagine my responses were probably one or two words. I was painfully shy. Somehow, the conversation turned to my plans for the future.

I didn’t have plans for my future. I was told my plans for my future were that I was going to get married, have babies and then home school those babies and live happily ever after as a stay-at-home mom and wife. What no one (absolutely no one) knew was that I had been questioning the plausibility of that plan since I was 3 years old. I was convinced that even though this was the “plan” for my life, there was no way this was going to happen. I was so convinced that one time when I was in the midst of one of those parent/kid interactions where the parent says, “When you have kids….” my response was, “I’m not going to have any kids.” And I was completely convinced that this was the gospel truth.)

Of course, I didn’t explain all that to Hannah. I just said, “I don’t know.”

Hannah and I went back to tending babies.

After a while, Hannah said, “I have an assignment for you.” She told me that she wanted me to think about what I would like to do with my life, and the next Tuesday we would talk about it. She said she wanted to know what kind of job would make me just as happy as I could possibly be.

This kind of thinking was completely new to me. Thinking in terms of possibilities and thinking about the possibility of doing and being something other than what I was told to do and be was a little beyond my comprehension. But I thought back to when I was about 3 years old when I had a strange fascination with nurses and everything medical. Sometime in the seven-day period between shifts with Hannah, I decided that I wanted to work in the medical field and that I was specifically interested in becoming a nurse-midwife.

It only took me 7 days to come up with that cockamamie scheme. Once someone told me it was ok to dream, I began to dream big.

I told Hannah what I wanted to do and she told me exactly what I needed to do to get there. I hadn’t officially graduated from high school. When I told Hannah this, she asked why. I said, “Because I’m stupid. I’ll fail the GED test.”

* * * * *

Throughout the next few months, my conversations with Ginny and Hannah centered on the importance of graduating from high school. They both worked very hard to show me that I was smarter than I thought. But I was scared. Very, very scared. I had always tested well above my publicly and privately educated peers, but somehow, I was convinced that somewhere between 8th and 12th grade, I had lost everything I’d ever known.

Hannah must have been praying about this. Finally, toward the end of April, I decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. (Knowing myself like I do, I can assure you that this never would have happened without fervent prayer.) The worst I could do is fail, and if I fail, I would have still won, because at least I wouldn’t be disappointed about it. (I know — strange way to look at it, but that was the way my brain worked.) I reserved my spot to take the GED test in early May.

Back then, you took 5 different tests during the course of one full day and then you would go home and wait for 2-3 weeks for your results. I don’t remember what my thoughts were as I was taking the test, but when I was done, I was sure I had completely bombed the whole thing.

Fortunately for me, I went to work every day and Ginny and Hannah reminded me of it constantly. They wanted to know everything, and they weren’t going to let me get by without letting them know if I had graduated or not.

* * * * *

I graduated, alright, much to my astonishment.

I walked to the testing site and I told the receptionist my name and asked if I had passed or not. She found my file, looked in it and smiled at me and told me I had. That was the first big shock of the day. I waited while she copied the information for me. She handed it to me and said, “Congratulations.” I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to look at my scores.

When I opened the envelope, my first thought was, “there has to be a mistake.” I asked if she was sure these were mine. She said she was sure.

I had somehow managed to score higher than 88-98% of people who had taken the test in 4 out of 5 subjects. How was this even possible?

Was it possible that I might be smart after all?

* * * * *

The first thing I did was run to work to show Ginny. I think we were both crying all over the place as we examined the sheet with my test scores scribbled on it. Ginny gave me a huge hug and said, “If I was as smart as you, I’d go to college.”

“I am.” I said.

The decision was made. I was going to college.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in My Story

 

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