How Do You Do It All?

Someone asked me recently, “How do you do it all?”

My answer? “I don’t.”

I am busy. This is true. I have four kids ranging from 11 to 20 and that means a lot of driving and juggling schedules, etc.

I am a full-time Realtor and I am an author in the midst of launching my second book. Yes, there’s a lot going on in my life. But I think that when people see success in one area of your life they assume you must be successful in all areas.

Those people have not been to my house. I have a lovely house and if someone would come over here on a regular basis and de-clutter and clean it for me, it would look wonderful.

But the reality is that something’s got to give and for as long as I can remember right now, that’s the house.

Now I know some would say, “Your children should be helping you keep your house clean.” (Insert laughing/crying face here) Yes, I agree. So if someone wants to come over here and figure out how to make that happen on a regular basis, be my guest.

I know what my kids should be doing. (They also know what they should be doing.) I know what I should be doing. But, it’s just not happening right now. (You may wonder about my husband…well he’s awesome and he irons his clothes and he does mounds of laundry—very kindly folding the laundry into random piles on the dining room table—and he will do the shopping, he’ll cook dinner, he’ll wash the dishes. All those things. As I said, he’s awesome.) But the problem is that we’ve had a ton of change in our family over the last couple years and we just haven’t figured out how to make it all work. We haven’t nailed the adjustment yet.

So we are moving at the speed of light and we are reacting to life instead of being proactive. And at some point, Bill and I are going to slow down long enough to discuss it and make a plan. But until then, the laundry will still be sitting on the dining room table and the dishes will be in the sink and my younger boys will make themselves ramen noodles for lunch because there’s nothing in the fridge.

Is this ideal? No. Is it easy to ignore. No. But sometimes you just have to admit you can’t do it all and live in the mess.

I know I’m not alone. How do I know that? Because I posted the following picture on Facebook the other day …

 

My kitchen. Right now. ‪#‎reallife‬
My kitchen. Right now. ‪#‎reallife‬

 

… and I received a lot of “Me too!”s and other such commiseration. That’s so comforting. But my favorite comment came after about 15-20 people who were “right there with me.” One lovely young friend simply said, “Pretty dish, I love it.”

How adorable. Everyone else, including me, focused on the mess. She found the beauty.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do during this topsy-turvy time of life. I’m going to look for the beauty amidst the chaos.

I hope you can find a pretty plate amongst your mess today, too.

~rebekah 🙂

 

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IMHO

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IMHO. That was one of those “text speak” words that I had to look up after seeing it over and over on Facebook and having no clue what it meant. Most of them I could figure out when I first noticed them:

  • LOL= Laughing out loud (although, I’ve heard it said that it should really read LQTM…Laughing quietly to myself…because that’s really what you’re doing most of the time that you type LOL).
  • BTW= By the way
  • BRB= Be right back
  • OMG= Oh my gosh/god (depending on your convictions)
  • IDK= I don’t know
  • OMW= On my way

You get the idea. But IMHO stumped me. (as did SMH…shaking my head). IMHO means In my humble opinion (thank you Google, you’re my BFF). Often it’s thrown in at the end of a rant or someone’s explanation of how they feel on any particular subject. (I think it’s kind of a funny statement because rarely when I’ve seen it used did the user sound very humble.)

 

But anyway, I digress. I’ve been thinking about my opinion today. I am trying to figure out exactly what I think about a sticky situation someone brought up, and I was stressing a little. Because I’m not sure what I think but I know it’s not what I’m “supposed” to think. Not what I’ve been told to think my whole life.

 

And I was getting a little frustrated. Because while I believe it is admirable to really know why you believe what you believe, I get a strong sense that thinking too much about what you’ve been raised to think, pushing on some edges, makes others uncomfortable. But I can’t not think about things. I want to know why I believe what I believe. Whether it’s in regards to politics, religion, raising kids, whatever.

 

But after a few minutes of mulling over things, I got really excited because I realized something that is so freeing; I don’t have to tell anyone my opinion about anything, if I don’t want to. I know that may sound obvious. I’m sure a few of you are saying, “Duh.” But it was kind of revolutionary for me. I’ve always thought that I should be an open book. It’s the way I’m wired—a people pleaser, at heart. But after some awkward conversations lately I’m coming to realize that I don’t have to share my thoughts about anything unless I feel safe doing so.

 

I know. It’s really an odd stance for a blogger to take. I mean, what is a blog like this if it’s not my opinions? You’re right. It is odd. (It’s also why I’ve written almost nothing in six months.) But I mean…I am a writer. I’m writing a book about parenting a strong willed child, for goodness sake. Obviously, I’ll be sharing my opinions. So, I’m not saying I’ll never give my opinion. I’m simply saying that I’ve realized I get to choose what I share and what I don’t and just because someone wants to pin me down to a position, doesn’t mean I have to let them. I can still have a great relationship with someone even if they don’t know what I think about all the “hot topics.”

It was quite freeing for me to realize that I can choose to keep:

  • What I think about God between me and Him.
  • What I think about politics between me and the voting machine.
  • What I think about raising kids between me and my husband.
  • What I think about the weather…well that it SUCKS. (See, I don’t mind sharing some of my opinions ;))

 

I may be the only person in the world who never realized I had a right to keep my thoughts to myself. But probably, someone out there reading this also needed “permission” to think for themselves and not let anyone push them into doing otherwise. So there it is.

That’s the truth.

IMHO.

~rebekah

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Just Airing My Clean Laundry

[originally posted this in May 2014. Someone mentioned it to me this week and it made me laugh when I looked back at it. Hope you enjoy the pics at the end ;)]

(Alternate Title: Stop Comparing your Behind-the-Scenes with everyone else’s Highlight Reel!)

So, I’ve been collecting pictures for months for this particular blog post. Some time around Christmas, a friend told me she wasn’t going on Facebook anymore because seeing everyone else’s perfect kids and perfect husbands and Pinterest-worthy one-year-old birthday parties and Hawaiian vacations, etc., etc., was making her feel bad about her life.

I thought, but you know that’s just people’s highlight reel, right? It’s not their every day. It’s where they post the things they are happy about, excited for…you know…the highlights.

 

Then, I remembered when I posted some family pictures (I actually don’t post many pictures of my kids. Not because I’m against it or anything. No, I just forget to take them). So we hired an incredible photographer (shameless plug here for Sj Bridgeman) to take some family photos and I shared some of them on Facebook…mostly so extended family could have access to them. (Because you know, I’m probably never going to actually get around to having prints made. Yeah, it’s been on my ToDo list for six months.) And also, cuz it’s probably the only time I’ve ever looked half decent in my photos.

 

When I posted this pic…

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… a sweet young friend commented that she hopes she and her baby girl have a relationship like me and my daughter. I remember looking at that comment and actually laughing out loud. Not because it’s not a sweet sentiment. It is. And not because I don’t want her and her little one to have a great relationship. I do. But because the assumption appeared to be, because we look happy in the photo, that we have a great relationship.

Um…I can say now, that we really do, but that’s very recent. After nineteen years, we are finally starting to get each other. But at the time, we were really struggling to like each other. And being her mom has always been hard … because she’s amazingly smart and strong-willed.

At this moment, I couldn’t be more proud of the young lady she’s become. As a matter of fact, yesterday was probably one of my favorite days ever, with her. I think she’s pretty brilliant. But she will tell you, there were times we didn’t know if she would make it out of childhood alive! (Settle down…it’s hyperbole. I wouldn’t actually have killed her. On purpose.)

Anywho … it struck me then, as it did again when my friend went on her Facebook fast, that so many people are comparing other people’s Highlight-Reel with their own Behind-the-Scenes.

Friends, that doesn’t work. Stop doing it.

It’s unhealthy for you and for those around you. You’ve probably heard it said, “Comparison is the death of contentment.” That’s true. And that’s when you’re comparing apples to apples. But this comparing your life to what you see online? That’s not even apples to oranges. It’s like apples to orangutangs monkeys. (That word just looked strange.)

Most people don’t post the bad stuff on Facebook. Cuz that would just be weird:

“Here’s the picture of Tommy writhing on the floor after his brother kicked him in the balls.”

“Oh, and here’s a great one of my teenager giving me the finger.”

“And this one…can’t forget this one. Little Suzy had just puked and decided to rest her head on the toilet. So sweet.”

“And this is a selfie of me, giving my husband the silent treatment cuz I’m pissed at him.”

 

People! All this stuff is happening to other people, too. It’s just not socially acceptable to share it. So settle down. Relax. You’re not the only one who’s a hot mess.

As a matter of fact, as I said, I’ve been trying to remember to take pics for months for this blog post. I was looking for behind-the-scenes kinds of moments. I got several.

And then I forgot about it. Cuz I do that. A lot.

But this morning, I saw a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Kristen Howerton, and it was about this exact thing!! I mean…exactly what I wanted to talk about. She even used the word “highlight reel” (this is the second time this week that I’ve been pretty sure someone has been spying on my brain.)

At first, I thought … Dang! Now I can’t write my post!

But then I remembered I’m not comparing myself to anyone else so I can write about it, too. I stopped reading immediately, so I wouldn’t be tempted to compare her awesomeness with my awesomeness (haha). 😉 Now I’ll have to go back and finish reading her post. And I’ll even link you to it…cuz even the small part I’ve already read, is awesome: “I’ve Got Your Lifestyle Blog Right Here.

So, I wanted to let you know, if you ever feel like you can’t get your shit together, feel free to send me an email. (When I first wrote that, I wrote ‘shizzle.’ Then I deleted that and wrote ‘s#%t.’ Then I decided that was dumb and I used the real word…cuz it works.) I can list so many things that I fail at. I’ll be happy to give you a list so you can feel better. Actually, I already did. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it.

And to make you feel even better, here’s a fun story. Just this weekend, I broke Nine’s little heart when I got him to the baseball field at 7:30 pm for his 8 pm game … that actually started at … 6pm.

Crap.

“But I was supposed to be the starting pitcher and I was going to get to play first base and shortstop!” (I heard that sentence over and over and over for the next two days.)

I felt HORRIBLE. Seriously, wanted to throw up cuz I felt so bad. But, it happens. I had to let it go. (I even sang the song to myself. Really.)

 

So, now, for your viewing pleasure…I have some Behind-the-Scenes family pics for ya. Enjoy! (and I really did take a pic of my youngest, sitting on the bathroom floor, just after he threw up. But, I can’t find it. So you (and he) have been spared :))

The contents of my linen closet. Pretty much how they looked when they were still in the closet. (At least it's clean.)
The contents of my linen closet. Pretty much how they looked when they were still in the closet. (At least it’s clean.) I still can’t fold a fitted sheet!

 

Even if this started out as fun, you know there was screaming within seconds... Fighting. Even if this started out as fun, you know there was screaming within seconds...
Fighting. Even if this started out as fun, you know there was screaming within seconds…

 

This was a fun day. When Twelve broke his arm the day before basketball season started. It was awesome.

 

This one has a story. This is a picture of my very favorite tea cup. My friend, Marissa, knew I loved this little tea cup so one day, she stopped by and gave me a matching one. I was thrilled. So, I took it to the sink to wash it, and proceeded to drop it. CRASH! I don’t think my friend was even out of the driveway yet. FAIL!

 

What my dining room table looks like, most of the time.

 

I was the one who applied the sunscreen. (or didn't)
I was the one who applied the sunscreen. (or didn’t)

 

What happens any time I don't use a timer. Take that, Pinterest!
What happens any time I don’t use a timer. Take that, Pinterest!

 

And last, but certainly not least, this picture was taken …

IN FEBRUARY!!!
IN FEBRUARY!!! Bam!
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Why Bill is no longer with Carrabba’s…

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Well folks, I wrote a post on why my husband was let go from Carrabbas because I didn’t think it was fair to let people assume the worst, when it was about labor and kitchen costs. I didn’t want any moral ambiguity about why a top partner was let go from an extremely successful restaurant, suddenly, after ten years. He did nothing wrong and he worked extremely hard, right up to the day he was let go. He just couldn’t meet the company’s requirements for labor and food costs.

I posted it Sunday morning, August 3rd after I found out that corporate declined to let us send out a thank you/goodbye letter to his customer base through the company’s local email list.

And…it reached about 15,000 people in 24 hours. Wow. My goal was to get the news out to his customer base. I think that’s probably been accomplished at this point. If any of his customers wish to know the full explanation of why he is no longer there, they are welcome to contact me. (reb@rebekahruthbooks.com)

I took the original post down because I did not intend to start an internet debate about Corporate America or encourage people to boycott chain restaurants. Although I totally appreciate everyone’s support, we still know lots of people who work at Carrabba’s and its sister restaurants and we wish them success.

Thank you,

Rebekah

P.S. There are so many comments that I can’t reply to them all, but I want you to know I’ve read every one and appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s especially touching to hear so many stories from current or former employees and customers. Thank you!

 

UPDATE: 2016-Just for any who are wondering, Bill is doing really well working for Paychex. He helps small businesses with their payroll, (feel free to call him if you need payroll services! 445-0778) and that means he’s home on nights and weekends. We are loving that part of the change. He has been able to coach the boys in volleyball and baseball and he’s loving the “regular” hours a day job affords him. He still misses the people that he worked with and the fabulous regular customers but he’s very happy to spend more time with our family. And because of the ridiculousness with Carrabba’s, I started a career in real estate that’s going very well (call me if you’d like to buy or sell a house! 😉 598-6437) Thanks for checking in!

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Hey, “Look Up” video dude…Back Away From My iPhone! (In defense of social media)

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Hello dear readers. This one has been brewing for a while and I just can’t keep myself from writing it today. So, instead of working on my book, like a good girl, I’m getting on a little bit of a soap box.

I’m sick of basically being told that because I use my smartphone regularly and I engage in social media, I don’t know how to communicate or connect and I don’t have real friendships and if I let my kids use smartphones they won’t play outside ever again and my son may never meet the wife he’s destined for because he found directions on his smartphone instead of being lost and asking a pretty girl on the street for directions and I could go on and on and on. Enough already! (Yes, I’m aware that was a very long run-on sentence. I’ve obviously forgotten all grammar rules because I text so often.)

There’s a viral video circulating social media this week called, “Look Up.” It’s cleverly written and shot. It’s a beautiful video, actually. I even agree with some of the things that the author is saying (I love smartly written things). I respect that the point being made is to encourage people to interact face-to-face. I do think that is a valid point.

But overall, I think most of the arguments put forth in the video are emotionally manipulative, logically flawed and one-sided. I get why it’s appealing and I understand why so many people are sharing it, but I resent the manipulation. And the irony? It’s had over 30 million views in a week. The video telling us all to put down our phones and close our computers has had over 30 million views on phones and computers. Come on. That is funny. (It even appears to be monetized which is even more ironic! But also, good business ;))

So, this video was the tipping point for me writing this post. But it’s not the only reason. This post comes from personal conversations, articles I’ve read and even a speaker I heard at a conference a few weeks ago. (I’ll get to him in a minute.)

First, I will say that YES, moderation is needed. If you are addicted to your phone, can’t put it down for the span of a meal, have convulsions if you forget it at home, check Facebook 100 times a day…well then maybe there’s a 12 step program you should check out. I’ve personally tried to be more cognizant of when I pull my phone out and when I should leave it in my purse. But in general, I don’t think our “display” (be it phone, computer, iPad, whatever) is ruining our lives or our ability to communicate. I think, if used properly, our displays can enhance our lives, increase our communication and our community.

If you are not communicating because you are so wrapped up in Candy Crush…well, that’s on you and you should definitely seek some reprieve, or a dentist or something. But, for the most part, I think people who are on their phones “too much” are still communicating. It’s just a different kind of communication than what the previous generation had, so it’s automatically misunderstood and looked down upon.

(Read this in the same voice that says, “In my day, we walked to school…uphill, both ways.”) : “In my day, we didn’t type at people on our phones, we actually called them on the phone and talked to them.” 

Congratulations.

I, for one, hate talking on the phone. I have four kids and I think some time around their first birthdays, a Telephone Radar Fairy snuck into their rooms at night and implanted a chip that told them exactly when I was just starting a phone conversation.

I could be two floors away from them, but as soon as that conversation got started, everyone suddenly neeeeeded me. Like now. Like “my arm is falling off, mom. How can you be on the phone at a time like this?”

Not to mention that I’m ADD and can do almost nothing else while I’m on the phone because I have to use every ounce of my concentration or I’ll get distracted by something shiny and miss what’s being said.

So, I grew to hate phone conversations. When email became a “thing” I was ecstatic. I could respond to phone calls via email at midnight (when it would not be acceptable to call) or during the day in the midst of two children having an epic battle over who’s chair it is. No one on the other end of that email would hear my children screaming while pushing each other off said chair, or me yelling back or anything like that. It was blissful.

Then, enter texting. “Hallelujah…Hallelujah…” (you can do the whole chorus in your head right now if you like. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

So, texting. It’s like Al Gore  someone invented this just for me. Because they knew that I love staying in touch with people but I hate talking on the phone and writing letters. Texting is a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom’s sanity sometimes. (Not even going to get into how convenient it is for getting quick answers to questions, etc. There’s so much I could say on that…but I digress…)

I have funny friends and I love getting random funny texts throughout the day. It makes me feel…wait for it…connected. Social media does the same thing. For a mom with young children who doesn’t get to leave home very often, Facebook can be a lifeline, making her feel like she’s still connecting with people. I reject the notion that it’s not a real connection. I think that it’s all in how you use it and in choosing (as with just about anything) not to abuse it. I also respect that it’s not for everyone. And not everyone likes to text. That’s cool too. But for me, they are fabulous tools.

For example, I have a very close friend named Karen, from when I lived in Virginia, almost twenty years ago. Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. But neither of us are good at phone calls or letters. So it was maybe once every four years or so that we’d see each other with hardly any communication in-between other than the yearly Christmas letters that we both usually got sent out by January 15th.

Then, about five years ago, I ran into her on a business trip and pleaded with her to get on Facebook because I’d found it to be such a great way to keep in touch with out of town friends. So, she signed up that week, and not only has it been wonderful to see each other’s kids as they grow and hear what’s going on in each other’s lives, it’s actually caused us to physically connect way more often. I think we’ve seen each other every single year since we connected on Facebook. And our kids have connected as well and become friends as a result.

Without social media, I don’t think that would have happened. I actually have several close friends that have moved away and I am able to stay in touch, thanks to texting and Facebook. I am so thankful for that.

Some would argue that I am able to balance screen time with face-to-face connection because I didn’t grow up with smartphones and iPads, so I learned those skills before the advent of mobile tech. But that this generation doesn’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation because they’ve grown up with their faces in a screen. I’m quite sure that’s true of some kids. But it’s not true across the board. Not even close.

I look at my four kids, ages 9-19. Very different personalities and very different ways of communicating. All of them have had liberal access to screens and displays and technology of varying types. All of them had the means to be staring at a screen all day long. (However, if they did that, I would cut them off. Moderation, right?) Here’s the thing. Three of them are pretty good at face-to-face conversations (two of them really excel at it). And one is pretty terrible at it. So, if the reason for his lack of communication skills is screen time, it would make sense that he would be glued to an iPod or something, right?

Nope. He doesn’t spend nearly the amount of time in front of a screen as some of the others. It’s just his personality. He’s an introvert. He doesn’t come by conversation naturally, especially with new people. It’s something we’re working on and it will take time but he will probably never be someone who loves to sit and chat. I’m okay with that, because we don’t all have to fit into an extroverted mold.

He may not be chatty, but he spends hours drawing cartoon characters and he loves doing it. For his ninth birthday, he wanted charcoal pencils and sketch pads. I love that he’s developing a skill and that he gets genuinely excited to show us his creations. And guess who taught him to draw?

The internet.

He looks up “how to draw” videos on YouTube and learns it on his own. Is it bad that he’s learning from a screen? The logic of some of the arguments out there would be, “Yes, because it deprives him of the connection he would have with an actual teacher. Someone who sat with him and showed him how to draw.”

Maybe, except that would never have happened. It’s not an either/or. I wouldn’t have hired an art teacher to come to my home and teach him how to draw Phineas and Ferb. So, I’m thankful for the screen time he’s put in, learning how to draw. I think it has enriched his life.

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Patient reader, already this post is waaaay longer than I wanted it to be. But I’m not quite done. So, if your blood sugar is low and you need a snack or if you need to check your email and come back, feel free. I’m gonna finish soon. I promise.

I was at a conference a few weeks ago and the keynote speaker was a very well known basketball coach. He had some excellent stuff to say and I was captivated by his talk. But he lost me at one point. The minute he said, “People don’t know how to communicate anymore,” my radar went up. I knew what was coming. “Everyone’s on their phones, all the time. It’s terrible. I saw a family sitting at a table in a restaurant and the parents were on their phones the whole time. They didn’t communicate at all.”

First, he has no idea why they were on their phones or if they actually know how to communicate. It’s simply a judgement made by a judgmental person. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard that kind of judgement. I just read something yesterday pleading with moms on playgrounds to put down their phones and pay attention to their kids. Sounds nice at face value but again, it’s really just ignorant judgment. I’m impressed that the moms took their kids to the play ground, in the first place. They’re already better moms than me! Haha.

Are there people who should learn to put their phones down and engage with the people in front of them? Sure. Are there people who are rude and don’t pay attention when they should? Heck yeah. Does it mean we’ve lost the ability to communicate. No. That’s absurd. Smart phones didn’t invent rude people. They were probably rude before, too.

So, back to the speaker, I was irritated by his line of reasoning but I got really annoyed when he said this, “Parents, don’t text your children. Pick up the phone and call them!”

The assumption being that his way (calling) is superior to texting. That calling is communication and texting is not. I mean no disrespect, but that is just ignorant. Texting IS communication. My relationship with my teens is enhanced by the fact that we text each other. Again, it’s not an either/or concept. My kids tell me things via text that we would probably never get to if they had to call me or tell me in person. My relationship with my daughter improved greatly when she got a phone and we started texting. Our communication increased. So, the texting isn’t replacing our face to face interaction. It’s adding to it. Sorry Coach…you’re just plain wrong on this one. I call a foul.

To sum up, rather than dropping the smartphone in the recycle bin, I think people should really just take some personal responsibility and use their screens wisely. If you have children and you feel they aren’t learning to communicate because they’re playing Minecraft, then by all means, take the iPod away. You are the one with the power, so use it.

But we shouldn’t make blanket statements like, “People don’t know how to communicate anymore.” It’s all the rage to say that. It’s vogue to dis the smartphone. But the reality is that the technology and social media aren’t going away. They’re going to evolve but they’re not going away. So instead of complaining about it, we should just learn to use them in a responsible way.

Okay, I’ve been in front of my screen for two hours now and three friends are joining me for lunch. So, I’m going to close my computer and connect. But I’m glad we’ve had a little time to connect here on my blog. Me and you, my lovely reader. Thanks for stopping by. And as always…I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

P.S. I read this to my friends at lunch and one of them suggested that I do a video blog for this post, so people can hear my tone and expression, because much of it is meant to be funny and that comes across when I read it. She said it would help those, like her, who don’t catch all that when they read. I have never done a video blog (don’t really care to have people looking at me) but I’d love your opinion. If you’d like to see me try something like that, let me know 🙂

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Would Jesus Cancel His World Vision Sponsorship?

village (mofinor)

I’m a storyteller at heart, so imagine with me…

You’re stirring a pot of sauce on the stove, thinking over your last interview. This job is exactly what you’ve been looking for. After growing up in the foster care system, the thought of a job that helps destitute children stay with their families, feeds them, clothes them and schools them…it’s just such a perfect fit.

You tell yourself not to get too excited. The third interview seemed to go really well but you probably won’t get in anyway.

When the phone buzzes on the counter, you take a deep breath and answer. And then you smile in wonder…

You’re in.

You’re in!! The job is yours. You stick the pot of sauce in the fridge and tell the family to get ready to go out to your favorite restaurant. It’s a night for celebration.

You call your friends and tell them the news. The job you’ve been hoping for is yours. And you breath a sigh of relief, knowing that finances won’t be so tight anymore. Not that the job is a windfall. But it’s a step up from your University salary and more than that, it’s exactly what you’ve been praying for.

The next morning you wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and you begin to formulate ideas for your new position. You can hardly wait to start.

You have orientation to attend so you put on your suit and head to your new office. As you make your way to your supervisor’s door, you notice some odd stares and whispers. You smooth your hair, wondering if something’s out of place. You glance at your feet to make sure both shoes are the same color.

What is going on?

Your supervisor opens her door before you reach it.

“Come on in,” she says with a strained smile. Warning bells go off in your head. Something is definitely wrong.

“Have a seat.” She indicates the chair across from her. “I have some bad news. And I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but we have to terminate your employment.”

It feels like a bowling ball has just lodged in your gut. “What happened?”

“I’m so sorry. I truly am. I think you are perfect for this position. But the policy change that allowed us to hire you has outraged many in the Conservative Christian community. So many have canceled sponsorships or threatened to, that we’ve had to reverse our position. We just couldn’t survive the backlash.

And in the end, we have to think about the children we serve. We couldn’t allow them to suffer. I wish I could do something but it’s completely out of my hands. I hope you’ll understand. Thank you for coming in.”

Dismissed. Let go.

You were in but now you’re out, once again.

You’re out.

Granted, this is a fictitious story. I don’t know anyone who was hired at World Vision and then let go. But it seems that all the righteous indignation and posturing on social media ignores the fact that we are talking about real people. Those affected by the decision and reversal of World Vision policy last week, are real. They are not fictitious. They are not a political statement. They are not an enemy. They are moms and dads with families and bills to pay and they are loved by God. But they probably don’t feel so loved by Conservative Christians right now. (Or in some cases, ever.) I can’t even imagine how they feel but I know the whole situation has made me angry.

In case you don’t know, here’s the deal. Early last week, World Vision U.S. President, Richard Stearns, announced in a Christianity Today interview that World Vision had made a “very narrow policy change” regarding “conditions of employment.” (To read the full article on ChristianityToday.com, click here.

In effect, based on their hiring policies that state that they require employees to practice abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage, they broadened their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples (in keeping with the laws of Washington State where they are headquartered).

Keep in mind, this was not a change in whether or not they will hire someone who is gay. They essentially have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. So it’s not like they were saying they previously would not hire gay people but now they were changing that policy. It was stating that they would no longer consider someone in a gay marriage as someone who was having sex outside of marriage (because sex outside of marriage goes against their hiring policies.)

The article by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber in Christianity Today, March 24, 2014, states:

In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently “tearing churches apart” over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.

Given that more churches and states are now permitting same-sex marriages (including World Vision’s home state of Washington), the issue will join divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors among the theological issues that the massive relief and development organization sits out on the sidelines.

World Vision’s board was not unanimous, acknowledged Stearns, but was “overwhelmingly in favor” of the change.

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

 

I saw a bunch of comments on Facebook, the day this was announced. Some were for it and some were against. That’s expected, any time you’re dealing with a polarizing issue. My post today is not meant to land on one side or the other of the raging debate over same-sex marriage. (I don’t have the energy to enter that debate right now.)

No, today’s post is more of an appeal to fellow Christians to consider the people affected by your protests. When I saw comments like, “I’m canceling my sponsorship. I don’t want to send money to a company that doesn’t maintain Christian values.” Or other similar posts, I just wanted to throw up. Seriously. There are so many things wrong with the way many Conservative Christians handled this situation. (Not all Christians, by any means. But way too many!) And, within 48 hours, World Vision caved to the pressure and reversed their decision.

They issued apology statements and assured their conservative, Evangelical Christian base that they were not initiating a change in their stance on the morality of gay marriage nor were they intending to question the authority of scripture. Basically, they said, “Ooops, my bad.”

So, now, I imagine all those people who called and yelled at the poor men and women who answer the phones at World Vision are feeling vindicated. As a matter of fact, now that they’ve been heard and the decision has been reversed, I doubt they will give it much thought anymore.

But honestly, I’m left feeling embarrassed to call myself a Christian, this week. To be clear, I’m not embarrassed of Christ. I don’t think the Jesus I serve would ever behave the way that a number of his followers did last week. To see people of faith, whom I respect, stating that they canceled their sponsorships because of World Vision’s policy change made me wonder if I were in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

How can a person who loves Jesus possibly think it’s okay to tell some little African girl, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t continue to feed you and help your family anymore because I don’t like the hiring policy of the program you’re in.” Are you freaking serious? How is that loving? How is that a good witness? How is that standing up for what’s right?  I can’t even comprehend it. Yet thousands of children were dropped.

I don’t believe that most of the people who reacted hastily and revoked their sponsorships are bad people. I really don’t. But I do think they behaved badly. (Which I understand because I’ve certainly behaved badly at times in my life.) I’m not trying to be judgmental. I’m just reacting to my puzzlement at how this was handled.

By all means, if you don’t agree with the stance a relief company takes on an issue, you can avoid sponsoring any more children and take your dollars elsewhere. I may not agree with your reasoning but certainly, that is your right. But to cancel current sponsorships? To take the picture of that little South American boy off your refrigerator because World Vision might hire a married gay person? Can we not see how upside down that is?

Should we refuse to support a Homeless Shelter who hires a woman who had an affair and got divorced?  Even if she claims to be a believer? Jesus didn’t even mention homosexuality but he mentioned divorce plenty. So, should we hold that line?

Um, no. That would be ridiculous in most Christian’s eyes. Yet people pulling their sponsorships from World Vision last week is the same thing, in my eyes.

The fact that children were dropped from sponsorship…that’s what drove me absolutely crazy about this whole thing. But I’m also so saddened by the message sent to the gay community. I believe the church has botched this issue over the years (myself included). And healing needs to take place, not more division!

I understand that the Evangelical Christian Church maintains that being gay is a sin. Well, even if it is (I’m not entering that debate either, btw…at least not today), so are lots of other things. Why is special evil status given to this one issue? Why are gay people made to feel like they are less worthy of Christ’s love? How must this uproar make them feel? Christians would rather let a child starve than allow a gay person to work in their organization? I’m sure that feels pretty crappy.

I haven’t asked any gay friends how they feel about this, yet. I actually feel too embarrassed to bring it up because there is no way I can defend or explain what Christians did. But I can’t imagine the gay community thinks too highly of the body of Christ right now. They probably wonder if there will ever be a place for them in the church. When I see things like this, it makes me wonder if there’s a place for me, either. Some days, I’m not sure I fit where I used to.

Again, I’m not intending to come across as judgmental. I’m just frustrated and disappointed. I wish the church, as a whole, would be more concerned with loving people like Jesus did, than they are with rallying the troops and calling for boycotts.

In closing, I believe an organization has the right to make their own policies within the law. And consumers have a right to support or not support whichever organizations they choose. I just think it’s a shame that Christians can be so blinded by this issue that they forget that they are talking about real people who have real feelings and who’ve been treated really badly by the church. And in addition, in this case, that the check they write every month goes to feed real children on the other side of the world, who don’t even know or care what a hiring policy is.

When I was younger, WWJD bracelets were all the rage in my youth group. “What Would Jesus Do?” It was a good question. And it still is.

 

I wrote this post a week ago and I’ve just kind of sat on it. Not sure I wanted to put it out there. But last night, I read a post by a guy named Ben Moberg that confirmed how I thought some people on the receiving end of this mess might feel about it. I don’t know much about Ben, other than that he’s a great writer/blogger who is a gay Christian. (I know many Christians think that’s not possible…to be gay and a Christian. But I believe it is.)

His post (read it here) made me so sad that I decided I would go ahead and publish this, even if it causes some backlash from my readers, friends, fellow church goers, etc.

I don’t think my post will make much of a difference in the debate. But if one person reads this and feels like they are not alone in their puzzlement or disappointment over what happened with World Vision last week…well that’s good enough for me.

P.S. The other reason I wasn’t sure if I should post this is that I’ll be out of the country all week and unable to access internet/email, etc. I didn’t want to start something and not be able to respond to comments and questions. But, after reading Ben’s post, I just couldn’t sit on my thoughts anymore. So, don’t take it personally if I don’t respond to comments right away. 🙂

 

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Medication is not Evil (or) Why I take Drugs

Hey friends…this is a pretty personal subject for me. The post is a bit longer than I like, but I just couldn’t tell the story with fewer words. If you have a family member or friend who struggles with depression, anxiety, Bi-polar disorder, ADHD or any other mental health issue or disorder, please read, for their sake. They need your understanding and support…

 

Avenue G

When I was a little girl, my mom had sinus headaches. Lots. Of. Sinus. Headaches. I remember most days, my younger siblings came home from school asking, “Where’s mom?” The answer was always the same: “She’s lying down. She has a sinus headache.” Well, many years (and Sudafeds) later, she discovered what she actually had was a case of chronic migraines. (Which I inherited…faaabulous).

Anyway, the interesting thing about it is the way she was diagnosed. I’m sure there are many ways to diagnose migraines, but I remember her saying the doctor had her come to his office when she was experiencing a severe headache. He told her he was going to give her a medication and if it stopped the headache, it was a migraine. If it didn’t, it wasn’t a migraine. So, she took the medicine and, lo and behold, the headache stopped.

Pretty simple test, don’t ya think? That always stuck with me for some reason. And the other day, when I was pondering something a family friend had said, it came back to me. We were talking about how his wife has been struggling with health issues. He said she feels like she’s an old woman in her thirties. She has several health issues that are causing her fatigue and pain. Then he said she just can’t seem to feel good enough to do anything about it. He said if he could give her anything for a day, it would be a day without pain. (What a sweet thought!)

Then, as I asked more questions, it sounded to me like she was quite depressed, and had been for some time (takes one to know one and I’ve been one). He agreed that she was depressed, so I asked him if she’d considered talking to her doctor about an anti-depressant. If she felt better, she might exercise…lose weight…be in less pain, etc. He replied, “Yeah, actually, she asked me recently if I thought she should go on medication. I told her she could if she wants…but that it’s really just a band-aid.”

When he said that, I felt something snap inside me like an over-stretched rubber band. I took a deep breath so I wouldn’t snap at him; It wasn’t his fault he’d hit a sore spot.

See, I once felt the same way, that anti-depressants were just a band-aid. I thought, “If you take meds, you’re not really addressing the problem, you’re just masking it.” As a woman of faith, I thought maybe you weren’t relying on God enough, if you needed medication to handle life. I thought all those judgmental, ignorant things…until I went through a clinical depression.

That was fourteen years ago and while I’m happy to share that journey with you, starting back at the beginning will make this long story even longer. So, you can click here to read about “How a Happy-Clappy Girl Ended up in a Clinical Depression.” However, today’s story starts in 2012.

That was a very tough year for me. I went through some personal upheaval at the same time my husband was going through some really stressful things at work and for both of us, the extreme stress lasted many months. And by the spring of 2013, I was in a very bad place.

In 12 months, I had gained almost 30 pounds (food = medication). I was emotionally spent. Physically exhausted. And I felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t seem to make any headway in the areas of my life that I wanted to fix: Healthy eating, weight, exercise, self-discipline of any kind, clearing the clutter, keeping my home clean, training my kids to do the same, etc.

I finally admitted to myself that I was indeed quite depressed and I needed to do something about it. I saw my doctor and explained what was happening and he suggested a medication called Wellbutrin. Well, let me tell you……it was exactly what I needed. Remember the migraine test? If the medication worked, it was a migraine. I’m not kidding, this stuff worked so well for me that within the first two weeks, I lost ten pounds, de-cluttered my entire main floor and felt better than I had in years.

photo cred:  Schjelderup

And within four months, I’d lost 35 lbs and felt more in control of my life than I ever had. So, when that family friend said he told his wife that medication was just a band-aid, I politely said, “With all due respect, you’re so wrong. Medication may be exactly what she needs to make the positive choices in her life that will create a lasting change.”

I should clarify that I don’t believe that medication is always the answer, nor do I believe that it is the only answer. BUT, it shouldn’t be ruled out because people have a misconception that depression is something you just need to “get over.” For some, it is just a short season due to stress or trauma. But for many people, it’s actually a brain chemistry issue and it can be helped with medication that addresses that chemistry issue.

Why is there such a stigma about taking medication? (Especially in faith circles!) If you have diabetes, you take insulin. If you have asthma, you use an inhaler. You don’t say, “I think this insulin is just a band-aid.” Or, “Well, I think I’ll just try and pray through this asthma attack.”

My husband said something very perceptive, when I told him about the band-aid comment. He said, “It’s more like a bandage. And sometimes a bandage can be the difference between life and death, like when you’re bleeding out.” I love it when he’s profound.

He’s right. A bandage stops the flow of blood, preserving life. It then gives the wound time to heal without it getting infected, causing the whole body to fall ill. If medication is that kind of “band-aid,” why would anyone refuse to consider it?

When I’ve told people I’m on medication, many people reply in hushed tones, “Me too!” But I have had other people say things along these lines: “So many more people are on anti-depressants these days. Why is depression diagnosed so much more than it used to be? They can’t all be actual cases of depression. I don’t think medication is the answer.” Some have even suggested, “Maybe you should look into other ways of dealing with your symptoms.”

Well let’s go back to the diabetes example. If your sister was diagnosed with diabetes, would you say, “So many more people are on insulin these days. Why is diabetes diagnosed so much more than it used to be? They can’t all be actual cases of diabetes. I don’t think insulin is the answer. Maybe you should look into other ways of dealing with your symptoms.”

Of course not. Because medical issues are acceptable but mental health issues are still a taboo subject. In mainstream America, it’s a rare thing for someone to be told they should pray more and not take medication for their high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or allergies.

But God forbid (kinda literally) if you should need to medicate your child for ADHD, if your wife needs bi-polar medication or if you need an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. If you or a family member is diagnosed with any of those, you will likely keep it quiet. Because there is a pervasive feeling that taking medications for those things means that you are failing as a Christian, a mom, a husband, etc. You’re not praying enough or walking in enough faith. Or in some circles, you must be hiding some kind of “secret sin” and that’s why God is not helping you feel better.

Well, I’m sorry, but I just have to say I think that’s a load of crap. This topic gets me a little riled because I’ve seen so many friends and family members needlessly struggle for years under a cloud of depression or the fears of anxiety. I’ve seen children struggle with sitting through six hours of school with ADHD, barely able to contain themselves, always feeling like there’s something wrong with them.

Medication is not the only answer but it can help! And people should feel free to explore all options, rather than excluding the thing that may help most because they don’t want to use a “band-aid.”

I wanted to speak out about this because I think it’s a discussion that needs to happen. I don’t claim to have all the answers or know what is best for each situation. I just want to be someone who removes the shame label for those who take medication for a mental health issue.

You’ve probably heard the story of the young guy who prayed and asked God to save him from a flood. He saw the flood waters rising past the level of his front door and he said, “Please save me, Lord!”

Before long, a woman came by with a paddle boat and yelled for the man to swim over and get in. He told her thanks, but God was gonna save him.

Soon, the water had him taking refuge on his second floor and again, a boat came by. This time an older gentlemen pulled up to a window with a speed boat. “Jump in!” he shouted. But the young man said thanks, but God was gonna save him.

Finally, he had to crawl out onto his roof and soon a helicopter came by and offered rescue. He again said thanks, but no thanks.

Within the hour, the young man was standing before God, on the other side and he said, “God, I believed in you. I asked you to rescue me! Why didn’t you?”

God said, “What are you talking about. I sent three people to get you!”

God’s answers don’t always come in the packages we expect. So yes, I take drugs. The anti-depressant/ADD kind. And I am so thankful to God for providing a rescue for me, so that I can be more myself. A better wife, mom and friend.

And…the comment section is open for discussion. Ready…set…go!

(…and if you haven’t had enough reading yet, you can read the rest of my depression story here.)

 

photo credits from Creative Commons.

Headache picture: Avenue G
Medication picture: Schjelderup

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