Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weedend Wanderings

Because weekends are for catching up on your reading.
Because lately I've needed to quiet the frenzied noise.
Because these have left me speechless, and with much to ponder.


My True Name // Jennifer Trafton for The Rabbit Room

Martin Scorsese's Silence, and a Strange New Evangelical America // Rebecca Reynolds

The Art of Repairing Broken Things // Lore Ferguson Wilbert

A Tree Grows In ...  // Amanda Phifer





























Photo Credit: Wayne
Coffee Art Credit: a kind barista in Singapore

Saturday, January 21, 2017

That Powder Blue Suit Though

I streamed the inauguration from my desk yesterday. I've watched every transition of power since Clinton took the White House. The pageantry, history, and scope of a peaceful transition is inspiring and makes me proud to be American, no matter the party or politics.

FLOTUS Melania Trump was brilliant in her Ralph Lauren powder blue suit—everyone knows that already. It was so lovely, so stunning, she may have even overshadowed the new president.

I discussed her inauguration day clothing choices on social media. I indulged in scrolling through photos of everything she's worn since arriving in DC on Thursday, past first ladies' ball gowns, and Jackie Kennedy's bar-setting style.

I enjoyed every minute of it until I didn't.

I started feeling icky, like I was betraying of my own gender.

I understand that when you become the First Family, a piece of you belongs to America. Which piece? Well, that depends entirely on which piece our fickle society cares to have on any given day. We feel entitled as the followers because our leaders represent us. I get that. And as leaders, we  (because I am one of those, too) know this is a dynamic intrinsic to leading. It's just going to happen, fair or not.

On inauguration day we care about hairstyles, designers, and how much leg shows through the slit in the dress. We care about necklines, jewelry choices, and make up and who applied it. Yet, I heard not a single comment about President Trump's choice of shoes, handkerchief, or what he carried in his pocket yesterday. President Obama either. Just the fashion choices of the women, who apparently are fair game, are open to our scrutiny, opinions, and even approval or disapproval.

It makes me a little sick inside.

Yet I like to look my best. I enjoy style as much as the next person. And I would hate for my haircut or my wardrobe choice to stand in the way of being paid attention to for my character, my work ethic, my intelligence, and the contribution of my good ideas.

Because we women have those things, too. We are more than a great set of legs, and I'd hate for our humanity to get lost behind our beauty, no matter how hard we work to look and feel pretty.

I'm not sure where this one ends up when these ideas are carried to their ultimate conclusion. Double standards never lead to a single place. And I'm not sure where women expect to arrive when we rail against being objectified and participate in it at the same time.

I will continue to care about how I look. I'm no idiot—I know my appearance and how I present myself convey something of who I am to those I meet. That's true of all of us—to some extent regardless of gender. But if that's true of men, it's even (somehow) more true of women, and I'm not sure I want to contribute to that double standard.

Melania Trump's sense of style from her first 48 hours in Washington seems to say she is, or at least aims to be, classy, timeless, feminine, respectful and dignified. I like what that says about her.

I just hate feeling that I learned this much from Melania's clothing and grooming, while learning little—nay, nothing!— from President Trump's.

I believe the biblical standard is that men and women are different from one another, but equal in value and worth. I don't think we're there yet in real life. Not even in Western culture or 2017.

I think I speak for many women when I say I want my contributions to be of more import than my appearance.

That Ralph Lauren suit was something, wasn't it. Classic and timeless, for sure. It has brought me back to a classic question through the ages and will haunt me for the rest of my days.

We are such suckers for beauty, all of us.

I loved that blue suit, and I hated it.




Saturday, January 14, 2017

On Unexpected Tears and Being a Curator


Emily Freeman's book, A Million Little Ways, is about making art, and in it, she says you should listen to your tears. What makes you cry? Why would this thing make you cry? Those tears will tell you something about yourself if you only listen carefully.

////

Listening to the Hope Writers podcast on the way home from the office yesterday, I paused it and replayed the part where Logan Wolfram begins to cry.

Logan is the owner of the Allume Conference, and after four years of organizing, planning, and hosting the annual conference, she killed it, at least for now. It was a growing, vibrant, successful conference, yet she suspended it because it wasn't taking her to the places she wanted to go in life. She was talking about her two-book deal and the need for reasonable expectations of yourself and the publisher.

Logan says, "I can't just make something up and expect to write all of this book on nothing, when I have nothing to say. It has to come from somewhere. What I write is something that's welling up and needs to come out, and there needs to be a message."

"And if you're tired, and exhausted and worn out, then probably you should refill before you think you're going to have anything else great to say. You can't write from an empty well."  

Gary, the host, brings up something she mentioned before they started recording and Logan says this:

"I started telling you about it earlier, and then I started crying, and I didn't realize I felt so emotional about it. My friend Tim said that he thought it was interesting that for four years I was running this conference and he felt that, somehow, my own voice had gotten lost behind this space that I was curating. And I feel emotional about it again—I'm not going to cry again right now."

"Why?" Gary probes. "Why do you think that means so much to you?"

"Dang, Gary!"

"Because it's true?" Gary offers.

"It's totally true," she concedes. Almost unable to speak for trying not to cry, she continues, "'cause I spent four years....GEEZ ... I spent four years cultivating a space out of the overflow of my own heart. And it's not that I need the credit for it. But I need to not get lost behind it and then be expected to somehow reinvent myself for public consumption. Like my "self" was Allume the last four years. It was about hospitality. And it was about caring for your neighbor. It was about looking outside of your own city and seeing that there's a hurting world. And it was about loving people, and writing from a place where you're authentically you, and stewarding a space well."

She goes on to say that people don't understand what it takes to do such a big event that has so much heart, and that it drained her and, yes, the conference was better for it, but she wasn't.

She used words like cultivate, and pour into, and steward. She used the word curate so many times I finally looked it up.

////


Mike and I sat down at the kitchen table with our respective calendars and responsibilities and, as we find ourselves doing more and more often, we synched the next few weeks of our sprawling lives.

With all the details recorded on calendars, I said, "I think we should schedule some date nights." And I began to cry.

The tears came as a sudden surprise, bubbling up out of nowhere. I didn't know why I was crying and I said so, and laughed even while I cried. I was kind of a mess, and embarrassed, and it caught me off guard.

Mike has been urging me for years, maybe ten, to schedule time together, and I have always been outraged by the idea.

I saw myself as part of his soul on the inside of him, intricately knit into the fiber of his being. I was inside the man who opens his calendar, not an event on it. I refused to be reduced to something penciled in on a given day. 

I am more than a casual lunch with a friend that you should write down lest you lose track and forget the appointment.

I won't be on par with church activities. "I am not part of your schedule; I'm part of you," I said indignantly for all these years.

But now, now that we are almost three decades into this marriage; now that we've bragged for 20 years (at least) that our marriage comes easy and is good and we are best friends, and we are healthy; now that we are approaching an empty nest and we're so close to being able to focus on each other again but we are instead becoming strangers to each other; now that we sit down regularly to synchronize our complicated lives; tears well to the surface when I tell him, in essence, "You're right. We need to be on your calendar."

I'm telling him we have gotten lost behind all the things we curate. I'm telling him we need to find us again. Because it's not like we need credit for it, but we need to steward well these things we curate. And in order to do that, we have to actually be a we.

////

Mike left his phone at home. Mike left his phone at home! On purpose and of his own volition. We went to a movie for the first time in three years. We got lost in La La Land, a movie about chasing dreams and the good things to be gained and the hard things to be forfeited when you pursue your passions, when you are an artist, and what you do is create art and curate it.

////

CURATE: noun  1.  Chiefly British. a member of the clergy employed to assist a rector or vicar.
2. any ecclesiastic entrusted with the cure of souls, as a parish priest.


verb (used with object), curated, curating.
3. to take charge of (a museum) or organize (an art exhibit)
4. to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation



  













Saturday, January 7, 2017

Favorites: 2017 Week One

I took stock this New Year's like never before. Is this my age making me more reflective? Perhaps. There's more to look back on, and I'm becoming more aware that my lifetime's future amount of time is growing more and more limited as I approach 50. It makes me want to live more intentionally.

So I have begun with this first week of 2017 incorporating a few intentional things. They are making me exceedingly happy. I wasn't quite finished preparing to start yet by January 3, so I dove in because time marches on even though I didn't feel prepared enough. I'm giving myself room for these concessions:

permission for these things to not be perfect,
knowing mistakes will happen, 
and instead of seeing them as failure, recognizing I'll be better for the learning process.

So here are my favorite things from Week One of 2017.

1.  TRUST

My Intentional Theme for the year is TRUST 

(in the Lord) 

(for what I need)

(with what he wants)

The Control Freak–Worrier–Everything Just So version of me has to go. And besides, I don't have to decide everything. It's quite freeing actually (okay, and terrifying).


2.  JOURNALING



On a whim, I bought this powder pink leather journal. On another whim, I decided to use it as a bullet journal. I've read a little about bullet journaling and how a few people are using it. I've taken lots of sticky notes on what might work for me. I've never bullet journaled before, but I am a stickey note queen, and wouldn't it be nice for all that "stuff" to be in one tidy, pretty place? So this is what it's going to look like for me:

Daily Log = Daily Dump

It's a daily log of the things I think that needs to get out of my head. That can be "To Do" stuff, things I need to remember, something I want to look into later, a thought I want to capture. It's going to be a diary place to chronicle the things that are significant today — like "Who, What, When," another Adrian original he posted on FB today. For me, the bullet journal is the new stickey note. I keep a separate calendar. This is strictly a journal of free writing, organized only by date and bullet journal signifiers. I hope it has enough pages to last me a year. I hope I'm still using it at the end of the year.

I have started a few collections: LionsHeart, Gift Ideas, one called Trust, so I can look back at the end of the year to see all the times and ways God taught me to trust him more. Instead of Freak-Worry-Just So, I will write, list, and chronicle the testimony God is giving me about letting it all go—right into his hands.

And one I've stolen from Tsh Oxenreider, called Nightly Examen. Before I turn off the bedside lamp, I plan (because I haven't started this one yet - see? I wasn't ready but I started anyway.) to quick-review my day with this question: Where have I seen God at work today? One thing a day.

I'm keeping it simple—mostly handwriting. I'm using washi tape to mark collection pages, but other than that, it's a basic journal. I love the pretty stuff, but it would keep me from doing this and my brain and my soul need it more than my eyes need pretty pages. 


My journaling Pinterest board for more inspiration.


3. WEEKNIGHT DINNER

My kids are old enough to come to terms with their vegetables. So even though it's causing nightly dinner crisis for one of my kids, I have started cooking clean. One week of clean meal planning is under my belt. A few meals that are utilitarian, a few that are scrumptious, one that works for eating crazy-late after Wednesday night church. It was a great first week, and I will build at least five more weeks worth of menu plans to hopefully build a new repertoire of weeknight dinner go-to recipes that keep us healthy and trimmer for the future. If it's a keeper, it gets printed and added to my green binder.


Scrumptious and more scrumptious from this week.


4. WORKING OUT

Okay, I only got two days in this week because it's a struggle, but I'm determined to win. I hate the gym, working out in public is not super power. Instead, I find my best success with videos in the privacy of 5AM and my living room. My favorites, in order, are my P.I.N.K. workouts, P90x3, and a small assortment of Jillian Michaels DVDs I've accumulated over the years. Stress relief and staying strong? Yes, please.  PINK taught me how to eat clean, and the workouts target women's problem spots like tight hips, triceps, inner thighs, and obliques. But don't think this is a stupid-easy girly workout. These workouts will kick your hiney and are as challenging as Tony Horton or Jillian any day.





5. LORE FURGESON WILBERT's SAYABLE

I have enjoyed Lore's writing for several years now, but in the last months so much of what she has written has been beautiful, thought-provoking, and worth every minute I have spent reading her site. She also has begun to curate other beautiful writing online, and all those links are just as fabulous, quality writing, quality thinking, and challenging. Thank you, Lore. You have helped cut down my wasted time online, improved the quality of my online reading from hit-or-miss to almost all homeruns.

Here's a not-so-recent one that has stuck with me deep and long.











I hope your new year still feels new, and is still full of hope, peace, and promise.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Surprised By Beautiful Easy and Messy


"I became a Christian as a result of this loss," he said. "Tragedy or opportunity? The lines get blurred on this side of heaven. Perhaps the tragedy lies in not seizing the opportunities."                            --Carolyn Weber in Surprised by Oxford, p. 397.

Today I finished reading Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber. I also put my father on an airplane back home to Boston and waited to hear if the surgeon thinks the lump he removed from Mike is a cancer relapse.

I began the book months ago, relishing it slowly. It's a coming-to-faith memoir of a Canadian graduate student who traveled to Oxford University to study English Literature. Beautiful writing about literature and faith, it is a 400-page delight to me, a writer with an English degree.

Dad came on Friday for his third visit in six years, which is to say I've spent more time with him in the last six years than the previous 25 put together. But this time it didn't feel like making up or catching up. It felt like a plain ol' visit with your dad, who lives far away. It felt regular and normal.

The things we did before we did again:
We ate wings from the round table at D's.
We toasted — this time to Columbia, Singapore, Boston, Houston and Daryn, who isn't with us this time and whom we miss. (Cheers!)
Wayne and Dad slipped out to share a beer.
We sang all Dad's old favorite songs, and this time everyone already knew them.

We weren't forging new territory, and we weren't making new traditions; we were keeping old ones.

This is no small thing, even though relationship status quo is a plain ol' regular, small thing.

I said goodbye to my father at an airport without crying for the first time in a lifetime of saying goodbye in airports. It felt so, so good. And easy.

From the eternal perspective of grace, I began to see everything with new eyes. Especially my relationships. Especially my relationship with my father. Through grace, I now realized I had so much. Loving him was like giving away pennies when I was rich beyond measure. And somehow my coffers never lessened; in fact, they seemed fuller for the giving. Having my identity in an eternal Father gave me the freedom to explore better how to love best.                  --Carolyn Weber in Surprised By Oxford. page 439. 
We prayed and we kissed and they wheeled Mike to the O. R. I read in the waiting room and finished the last chapter just as the desk called me and took me back to Mike. The surgeon came in long enough to shake hands and repeat he think it's a fatty cyst, but they're sending it for pathology to be sure. Mike dressed and stood. We hugged and kissed and cried relief in recovery, something we haven't had to do in 16 years.

Dad texts (Dad texts!): Just landed. all ok.

Another notification tells me Wayne checked in at Yard House in Atlanta for a late lunch with his daughters on their way to Birmingham.

...a happy ending makes up not only for a lot, but for everything. And then some. ... Often, it is messy, but that's okay. Abundance tends to look that way.                                                              --Carolyn Weber, Surprised By Oxford. page 428 and 439.










Saturday, May 14, 2016

Coming Out: I Want To Be Joshua

Facebook is my social media neighborhood, and if you're friends with me there, you might have noticed I've become more political in the last year. This post is by way of explanation.

I'm a southern girl. which is to say Mom and Grandmommie taught me to be socially gracious, pleasant, and complimentary — polite at all cost. Because of their fine examples, my introvert tendencies, and almost 50 years of practice, I'm the Polite Ninja.

Controversy makes my skin crawl, my stomach knot, my blood pressure rise, and both sleep and appetite to evade me. I'm a middle child and, hence, a people-pleaser. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I don't know how to do politics publicly.

But I'm beginning to take issue with my generations-long "polite at any cost" path. The price is too high now, because this is not my grandmother's America anymore.


Our nation moves farther and farther left. For example, the Democrat Party of President Kennedy was more conservative than the Republican Party of today. Socially we are going the way of post-Christian Europe. Economically, we are moving toward socialism, a philosophy and social experiment called evil by our beloved President Reagan, which doesn't seem like ancient American history to me. The drift has felt, until recently anyway, like one inconsequential Conservative concession at a time, none of which was foundation-shaking alone.

I am the frog in the proverbial kettle.

When you add them all together and top the boiling concoction with President Obama's most recent executive orders and SCOTUS's recent rulings, we are likely witnessing the end of marriage, family, and gender as defined by a biblical worldview (historically the view of Americans) in American society. Have we learned nothing from the fall of Rome?

Christians are to blame. Me, to be exact, and maybe you, too. I have done a terrible job of passing on my Christian faith and values to those around me. Oh, I've done a superlative job in this with my children and as a leader in my church. But I'm talking about acquaintances, neighbors, store clerks, the mail carrier, and my kids' Geometry teacher and PTO president. In other words, the people with whom I am the Polite Ninja. When I and Christians like me leave a vacuum in a society's values, another worldview is happy to fill the void. So here we are, on the precipice of the systematic dismantling of the nation I love and feel obligated to preserve.



Two of my children are of voting age and neither lived in the Reagan era. Although it doesn't feel like it to some of us, Reagan was a long time ago. We are not that country anymore, and I have been waking up to that hard truth over the last months.

I am part of the generation that birthed a generation who are embracing the very socialism we called evil not so long ago. That, dear friend, is an epic fail.

This season of unorthodox American primary elections tells us we are at a crossroads in our country, and no matter how uncomfortable for me to bring my social engagement to such a place of social faux pas, I am doing it. I am doing so because our son Adrian recently attended a private Christian college where, to my surprise, there are lots of Christian students supporting Bernie Sanders.

The conservative Christian kids are feeling the Bern. Let that sink in. Christian, we are failing.



There are social progressives that label themselves Christians and stand directly opposed to biblical social mores as dictated by God's precepts plainly stated in scripture, whose infallibility we in American Christianity no longer agree upon.

When we abdicate our biblical mandate to pass our faith and our biblical social values to the next generation, we become a godless society and have no one to blame but ourselves.

We have forfeited enough — too much, actually. So I'm coming out of my comfort zone and joining the public discourse.

Social media feels like a safe place to start. I can post thoughts from the distance of my keyboard and my screen and hope to make a difference, but most of my friends are like-minded and that means I'm not converting the views of others to Christian values. But it's a start.

Beyond that, we need to make a difference by socially engaging the people we come into contact with each day one-on-one. For me, face to face is scary.

But if we don't, we may find ourselves not only going the way or Rome, but also the way of ancient Israel. 



After Israel wandered in the wilderness for their unbelief, they were about to finally enter the promised land. God warned them that when they entered the land of promise and experienced life blessed of God (That was a good life, indeed!), they would be tempted, in their ease, to forget God.

Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers ... to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

God commanded Israel to teach his precepts to their sons and daughters, reminded them of his instructions on how to live as a holy society before him in what we know as the book of Deuteronomy. He warned them of an upcoming temptation and not to succumb to it. But succumb they did.



After Israel's godly leader who was valiant and full of faith (Joshua) died, the people buried him in the hill country of Ephraim, and...

All the generations also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord ... (Judges 2:10-11).

I cannot go the way of Israel a a lamb to slaughter. I must resist if there is a shred of hope that it's not too late for America. So I'm getting my brave on and defying my Southern charm and fighting the political and cultural fight. I will do it through social media and in my real life as much and as often as possible, so help me God. And I will need God's help. The Culture Warrior suit makes me sweat.

But it's a suit I will wear because losing our nation to humanism or secularism and nationally turning our back on all God has done and blessed to bring us into this land I have always known as the land of plenty is not a viable option.

I want America to stay great. God has shown societies of people how to do that in his word.

So I want to be Joshua, the scared but faithful man who needed to hear the life-giving words, "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. do not turn from it to the right or to the left... (Joshua 1:7)."
















Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Best Kind of Leaving There Is

Milestones are funny things. They just show up right in the middle of your ordinary days. If you're lucky, they warn you with a feeling in your gut that this is important — pay attention. Today was one of those days.


Today, our son Adrian announced he was leaving our church fellowship.

It feels like the end of an era. Our family of five won’t worship together anymore. Not on Mother's Day next week, not on ordinary Wednesday nights, and not on Easter Sunday.

And this is a good thing.

It means he's ready. He's a man of his own faith now after 21 years of our leading, teaching, correcting, watching, praying, coaxing, rejecting, repositioning, forgiving, cheering – and receiving a little of each of these on the parent end along the way, too.



God has opened a ministry opportunity to Adrian that has been blossoming slowly. Just over a year ago, he began playing acoustic guitar in the band at another church in town for their Wednesday night youth services. As of Easter Sunday, that role has expanded into worship leader of an entirely new Sunday service. Their church is growing, and beginning a new service was their way to expand. It's a modern, contemporary service with all brand new music. Think Jesus Culture and Elevation Worship. 

Adrian is planning worship services, leading a new band, coordinating musicians, singers, technicians, overseeing sound equipment, and answering to the youth minister and the senior pastor. He prefers to see his position as lead worshipper rather than Worship Leader.

About a month ago, our pastor of worship was on vacation, and Adrian filled in. I hadn't seen him lead worship since he had begun doing it weekly at Northside Baptist, and seeing him lead worship that day was like watching him do what he was created for. I've since described it like this: He is more "himself" when he's leading worship than when he's doing any other thing he's ever done. 

This morning, he told his musical worship story from the beginning, when he bought an electric blue electric guitar from my cousin on an installment plan in 6th grade, determined to learn to play. After switching to acoustic soon after (How do I thank you, John Mayer?), he begged to be a part of our praise band, and was finally welcomed aboard at the tender age of 13. He led his first youth worship service in September 2009.







For eight years, from the second row, I watched him  grow musically, spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally. He's been frustrated, exhilarated, challenged. Things have gone great, badly, according to plan, and off key.

Until Mike's mother passed two years ago, we had the blessing of four generations of Gonzálezes in our church. Because of this, some in our church family, even some Gonzálezes, may not see Adrian's leaving as a good thing — but it is.

Maybe one day he'll be back; maybe not. But that's not the point. The point is that God can use us if we avail ourselves to him, and often that leads us away from places of familiarity, places where we've settled into complacency, and places where ministry is comfortable, predictable, and hence, easy (if that can be said of ministry – ever).  

It will be good for Adrian to expand his identity beyond being the PK, beyond the shadow of his father's ministry, which Adrian called a legacy this morning. It's time. It's the next step in Adrian's growth as his own independent adult with cord cut.


We want him to stand tall in the light of God on his own, not hanging onto his dad's coattails, but standing firm upon his foundation of faith and ministry, and looking forward with his guitar strapped firmly over his shoulder and his songwriter-heart fixed on Him who will lead the way into a ministry all his own, not attached to his father. We would never want to limit him or hold him back.



One morning twenty plus years ago, I snapped his footed pjs back together and lifted him, clean diaper, from my bed and stood him up on the floor to hold on to the edge. He cruised down to the foot of the bed, where he sat down, turned around, and crawled out of my bedroom without so much as a glance behind him. Before I stood up and followed him out, I said to myself, that's just the first of many times he will leave me. Little did I know how much I would need each small leaving. They would build upon one another with growing consequence and graduate in degree of separation. That is as it should be — we both needed the practice.

Today we celebrated all we've watched God do in Adrian's life. Our pastors, including his dad, his uncle, a fellow band member, and two that were his youth pastors, drew near to him and blessed him in his going. Now his new ministry opportunity can begin without division, but with blessing and a sending out, in the fullness of joy. It's a both/and, not a either/or proposition, and the best kind of leaving there can be.


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