Thursday, February 11, 2016

You are Mine.

The other day, I was at a training for Professional Collaborative Learning (PLC is the common terminology around the field of education).  the speaker, Rich Smith, was enigmatic, engaging, and just about the opposite of most presenters I've had the opportunity to learn under in my 6 years of teaching in three different states.

He recognized the challenges we deal with every day.  poverty.  language barriers.  race.  academic deficits.  they are challenges that we use as qualifiers, even with the best of intentions (i.e. yeah, she isn't proficient, but she's a language learner.  or  he has such-and-such behavior issue, but it's to be expected coming from a home situation like his).  these qualifiers are never meant to excuse a behavior or a trait, merely to help explain or shed some light.  nonetheless, they often times list like an asterisk, marring the simple identity of "child."

Rich spoke, admonishing that no matter the situation, no matter the challenge, when that child walks into our room, those labels should fall off at the threshold.  It is no longer, "you are broken," but instead, "you are mine."

Immediately, I was hit with the deeper truth: that that is exactly what the Lord sees in and says about us.  

I was also hit with the gravity and grace in which has been entrusted to me to steward well.  I have the unique honor of imitating the forgiving, grace-filled, blindly-loving Father for these children.

We come to him with our poverty, our bruises, our broken hearts and weary souls.  We come dirty and deprived.  And as we enter into His presence, as we cross that threshold to the throne, it all sloughs off.  and He doesn't see us for the laundry-list of items we aren't.  He sees us as His, as He comforts us and reminds us, "You are Mine."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

do not be afraid

It's clear: we are all nervous.  An attack like the one we saw unfold in Paris reminds us that terrorism is at our doorstep.  It is all too close to home.  It all-too-quickly brings to surface the fears we faced 14 years ago on our soil.  It makes our blood boil.  Causes our stomach to churn.  Nausea flairs with every thought of each life lost, each bullet fired, each bomb-- strapped to the chest of someone so committed to their cause, they are willing to not only die, but incite their own death-- detonated.  Its not that we don't lament the loss of life at all costs, everywhere, but rather, that in these attacks, we've been reminded of our own mortality, of our own fragility that has been exposed.

And when we are fearful and nervous, we search for a life raft to cling to.  We feel like we have to choose a camp, 'our people,' in which we choose sides, and simultaneously lob our own ammunition with the conviction that we now have a right to do so, lest the lives lost be in vain.

We feel like we must take a stand, one way or another.  With our politics, with our religion, with our country.  With whatever it is we truly pledge our allegiance to.

As a citizen of the United States, I want to feel as if my country is doing what they can to keep us safe.  That our commitment should be first to keeping our cities free of terrorism and arming ourselves with words and weapons to defend and protect our very fragile lives.

As a Christian, I feel a call to love my enemy, to turn the cheek (even when it wasn't mine that was slapped in the first place).  I feel a call to the orphan and widowed, the oppressed and the foreigner.  A call to live like Christ, and to live amongst those that don't know him, so as to be a light. To follow the most spoken piece of advice and "do not be afraid," and to "take courage," and to "love God and love others."

I get the fear, and I get the courage.  And it's messy, because I don't know which camp to stand with.  Practically, it can't be both, and.  Patriotically, it can't be, "let the refugees live freely here!"  Protestantly, it can't be "KEEP THEM OUT!"

I admit that I don't know.  My citizenship isn't strong enough to fully bleed for the protection of our country at the exclusion of those fleeing this terror.  My faith isn't strong enough to unabashedly say that I am without fear in ushering in thousands of refugees, unknowing if a terrorist is disguised within their mix.

But we are comforted that the strength of God is made perfect in our weakness.

I'm just worried that my weakness will cause harm to one side or the other, and that passing off the responsibility for Christ to shine in spite of my ignorance is a cop-out.  So, I resort to the Word.

 "For if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor*, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods top your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever."  --Jeremiah 7:5-7

Clearly, we have a call to walk in righteousness as we welcome the foreigner and orphan into our land.

But read on:

"As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lit up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede for Me; for I do not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of (Judah) and in the streets of (Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me ... Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place."   --Jeremiah 7:16-20

The truth is, we as a human race are ultra manipulative.  We can make just about anything say what we want our message to reflect.  We can easily pull scripture about inclusion and exclusion.  In the same way we do with research for or against what we hold to be true, we do with scripture, typically from Old Testament stories that were spoken over a specific people or place in history.  And while the Word is still true, I don't believe it can always be fully extrapolated to reflect God's personal promise over our own lives.  I am not denying his Providence.  I am not denying what I and many other Christians choose to believe as historical promises and assurances in our faith.  I am echoing what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12: "Beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God, and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person."  In other words, the *data* is infinite, and virtually inconclusive if you truly, open-mindedly review both sides equally and without bias. But in the end, follow God and keep His commandments.

One of my favorite books in the Old Testament is Isaiah.  I believe it shows God's heart for His people, and His faithfulness to upholding the righteous.  Chapter 41 is an encouragement to the nation of Israel, but as Christians, we adapt it as an encouragement and promise to us:

"You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts
And said to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you;
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored;
Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish.
You will seek those who quarrel with you, but you will not find them,
Those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent.
For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you."  vs. 9-13

I could pretty much go on and include chapter 40, 42, heck, all the 40s, and well into the 60s, but you get the point.  We take these verses as a promise that God is with us as our strength and protection.  If we believe these verses are for us, and not just Israel, that means we must also believe two things:

1) Even in light of war and contention, we must rest assured that we are not to cling to fear, but to God, or more specifically, Christ.  That we should take courage that God is with us, and for us.  He will protect us from the evil that lurks, no matter where it may be hiding.
2) If these verses are for us, and not just Israel, how can we be sure these verses aren't also for the Syrians that don't yet know Jesus as Lord?  What if this also falls as a promise that God will rescue and protect the innocent Syrians that are fleeing their land due to those that contend and quarrel and war with them?  Do we not look back, in our present-faith, to a time prior to conversion or commitment, and see God's providential hand on our lives, and relate to scripture in a way that we recognize our own rescue from our old-self?

If we're not entirely onboard with allowing these promises to be for Syrian Muslims because they are outside the fold of God as we recognize him (in the trinitarian view), then what about Isaiah 56?  After the prophet exhorts the righteous living under the covenant, promising they are welcomed in as daughters and sons, he says,

"Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the, Lord,
To be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My Holy Mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My alter;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."

In order for foreigners to join themselves to the Lord, they likely need to see a reason why they would even want to associate themselves with the tribe of people that call themselves Christians.  They need us to be the light that ushers them into the life-changing presence of the Lord.  What are we doing, and saying, to be that light?  We don't want you?  You are evil?  You're not welcome here?

What better people for Christ to speak to: the lost, those stripped of their identity, the rejected.  Those without an earthly home, living life chained in fear and isolation and the bondage of what they have experienced on their own soil.  But let's please not spoil that opportunity by being the reason that someone would not want anything to do with Christianity.

Paul charges us, those that have been called to freedom, to not turn our freedom into an opportunity to serve our flesh (i.e. fear, and other signs of living by the flesh), but rather, "through love, to serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor* as yourself.'"  --Galatians 5:13-14.

Christ Himself tells us whatever we do unto the least of these, we have done to Him (Matt. 25:40).  I not only believe that includes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, inviting in the stranger; but also in rejecting them.  

I know my musings have run in circles, with no declarative answer outside of this is a messy, messy world.  We are all bruised and wounded and scared.  And in our fear, we often turn to selfishness as a means of self-preservation and protection.  I get it, it's human instinct to protect ourselves and our own.  But please, let those of us that know the life-giving grace of Christ that has brought us out of the depths, let our love be the salve that helps to heal the physical wounds caused by bullets and bombs and well-intentioned words that have internally harmed those already broken and bruised.

{*for definition of neighbor, see the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10}

Thursday, October 1, 2015

no words.

there are really no words to begin with, so I'll start here, with a repost of my thoughts from 9/11:

This morning, after our class stood to say the pledge, we paused for a moment of silence. In that silence I prayed over my class; that they would never have to experience an attack on not just our nation, but in humanity. That they would remain innocent and naive for many years, retaining as much joy of youth as they can before its peeled from their fingers. That they would live by hope, and not fear; that their lives would be protected from the very things that changed ours 14 years ago. I remember being in school that day, and how nothing else mattered. Not race or poverty or hate or gender; nothing but love and grace and comfort. We've come so far (in the wrong direction) from the united front we were that day. My heart breaks and I openly weep at the status of brokenness and darkness in this world, and I stand helplessly before my class, striving every day to help build up kindness and love and acceptance and generosity in their hearts, yet knowing how hearts grow hard as they grow up. Jesus, I truly believe only you can rescue us from our current state and repair the brokenness in our nation and world. Please grant us the mercy and willingness and grace to stand united, in Love, and never ceasing to do good. Although many lost loved ones and our country lost civil servants, I feel my generation lost a lot of innocence that day. And for a moment, we stood in hope and love and contended for peace, but we've grown weary and complacent. Father, give us the strength to love harder, to speak gentler, to give more sincerely. I'm not quite sure why this is so heavy on my heart today and why after so many years I am still so impacted by this day, but reflection is my nature and the brokenness around us (children washing up on shorelines, pastors committing suicide, heinous genocide, divorces and adultery and heartbreaks abound)-- all of it is too much and renders me feeling so helpless. Jesus, may we act more like you and love more like you and forgive more like you, until you set it all right again.

my heart as of late has been unbearably heavy.  the tiniest things put me in such an emotional place that i finally realize how fragile i am, how fragile life is.  Humans of New York (if you don't follow them, reroute your browser to take you there stat.  Those photos say more than my blog could ever dream of) is wrecking me.  I'm certain he is the last living humanitarian of our generation.  I'm also certain every story he shines light on is just the face of a thousand more just like it; which is so weighty to think about.  this is modern day persecution people.  this is happening, in a time when cars are being developed to drive themselves and phones can do anything a developer sets his mind to and we are at a place we are finding water on mars-- we are freaking ON mars.  And yet, there is war and mass genocide and pain and fear and exodus and so. much. evil.  

it's so easy to dismiss.  it's on the other side of the world, not the other side of our front doors.  it's easy to carry on, to be distracted by Trump's hair or XYZ candidate or the season premiers of some trashy reality show.  but the reality is, this is happening.  more than HALF of Syria's population (of 22 MILLION) has been forced to leave their homes.  that's like saying HALF OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, the second most populated state in the country-- HALF of the state is being forced out.  Would we stand for that?!  Would we go about our day, thinking nothing of it?  more than TWICE the population of Colorado -- FLEEING in fear.  and that's just thinking of those leaving.  I don't know the numbers on those dying-- either in Syria or in transit.  

you guys, that is huge.  its weighty.  its unbearable.  i'm choking back tears just thinking about it, because I'm finally allowing myself to think about it.  

it is literally SO big, and yet SO seemingly far from us, that it feels absolutely impossible to be able to do anything.  i'd like to hope that for most of us, it isn't apathy that keeps our hands tied, but rather, that it's our own insignificance.  our distance.  the gravity of the situation and the limitations of being one person, a million miles away.  

there has to be something we can do.  prayer just doesn't seem like enough.  it seems like a cop out.  if we were being forced from our homes, and braving the sea in plastic boats because it is safer than hiding in the one place you should feel comfortable-- i'll be honest, someone telling me from the comfort of they keyboard that they will pray for me would likely infuriate me more than comfort me. 

i'm so at a loss.  i feel so beyond helpless.  my heart hurts, and i feel severely burdened by every story i read.  these are more than numbers.  these are lives.  of moms and dads and babies and kids that should be in kindergarten-- not watching their friends be torn to shreds by rocket blasts, literally in front of their faces, at school.  these stories are of real people experiencing real terror and fear and being literally chased by death and evil.  and i'm upset that I couldn't find anything i liked when I went shopping earlier.  i am the problem, too, you see.  because i am not a part of the solution.  i just don't know how to be.  

i can pray and ask God to intervene, but to be honest, it doesn't look like he's going to anytime soon.  that in itself is an entire different blog post, and I can't even begin to explore the evil and dark and demonic side of this suffering; i can only merely focus on the physical impact it is having on the lives of these refugees.  

there is no resolution in this prose.  there is no succinct phrasing I can wrap up all pretty, and you can take a little reminder as you depart.  I can't even say that I have hope for this situation-- although I know that Jesus is the only hope we have, i honestly confess that I don't know how telling that to someone that has endured so. much. more. than I will ever, ever, ever have to succumb to in my life would actually improve the situation (eternity, yes; but real, practical, help is what I am talking about).  

Lord, have mercy.   that is all I can muster.   Jesus, hurry.  Turn the hearts.  protect the innocent and persecuted.  let love win.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

if i told you how many unpublished drafts i had saved or how many times i sat down to write and the words just didn't come or how many times i tried to figure out another platform to start a new blog with a new vision, you'd understand my silence.

but i just have to pull the trigger.  i just have to write. and it doesn't matter where.  it doesn't matter if the background reflects a clean slate (it doesn't), or if i catch you up on all that has happened in between (there's no way, but you certainly know i will try), or if it flows in a poetic prose that takes reality and extracts the beauty to make it more visible to the naked eye (not in this post).

so, i will spend this post as a clarifying catch all (as if anyone has been following my 16 month absence and is on the edge of their seat dying to know whats going on as if i don't have a Facebook) (but thats just how my brain does story telling. it can not bypass important elements; it feels wrong to leave so much unsaid!)

in the past year three months:

ryan matched in Denver for residency
we flew to Denver (my first trip!) to check it out and look for housing
we got engaged!
we bought a house! online! that we had never seen!
we moved across the country
i officially accepted my contract for a new teaching position the last day of school/day we moved
we moved in to said house
and painted and painted and painted and decorated
and it feels like home. 

ryan has since started residency, and i've had a few things here or there to do that are school related, but mostly trips to home depot, lowes, and ikea for house related projects.  we still need a couch and a dresser, but aside from that, i love our little home.  i love our neighborhood, although not laden with trees like much of the other denver boroughs, its quiet, quaint, and still close to just about everything we would ever need (5 minutes to a Super Target!?! yes please!)  I have yet to visit a grocery that isn't TJ's, even though its a little further (farther?) of a drive.  we know our neighbors.  there's Ann on the right, and Neil and Jessica next to her.  There's the Hernandez family to the left, with their TACO TRUCK!!!! and Bill and a bunch of kiddos live in the duplexes across the street.  my mailman's name is James, the neighbor's dogs are Cody and Bella, and I know more in the 3 weeks we've been here than I did about most of my neighbors I have ever lived next to.  with the exception of Jessica and Neil, we are the only white folks on the block, and I love that. 

i'm slowly getting acquainted.  i've met my principal, and one of the other new Kinder teachers and I had lunch together yesterday. I sat on the committee to hire the third new K teacher, and she will be a first year K teacher, so I will have another "Sollman" to groom! :)

We've done three hikes, and two longer bike rides (meaning more than 5 miles, don't get crazy though, I'm not one of those 30+ kinda gals). but we've done a lot to the house and spent the first week with all the new interns, getting acquainted to the city and dinner parties.

now, we are in the throes of wedding planning and digging out venues!

slowly, this blog will make its transition to "the denver diaries".  but again, slowly.

rome wasn't built in a day.

neither will the blog.
or this house.
or this wedding.
or our new lives here, in denver.


Monday, March 31, 2014

 it's spring break. And as breaks go, I usually get sick from slowing down for the first time, or I put as much into my schedule as possible since I have the time for it. This break, I'm planning on doing neither. This break is about healing. Deep, physical and spiritual healing. Relearning the things that, after a long and difficult winter, bring me back to life. So today, in honor of the forecast in the mid-60s, I put on a spring dress and a patterned scarf and bright shoes. And I did my make-up, because sometimes you just need to do that even when you're not going any place special. And although my body is nearing 30, I'm feeling young today. I'm feeling creative. I'm feeling alive. So, take a moment and close your eyes. Think about what makes you feel the most |you|, and do that. My day will consist of learning new things, trying new trades, reading, praying, and sitting in the sun later on. Im learning it is hard to continue to pour into others if the well is dry. What's beautiful is that our wells all look different. The pails are all of different sizes. The consumers we fill all have different needs. So, drink up today, so that you too may be so full, that you spill into others.

Monday, January 27, 2014

a bruise in the shape of a ski on my bum.

it was supposed to be a fun day with the beau.  a two hour drive to the hills of Indiana.  sunshine, and actually above freezing.  a day outdoors after spending what has seemed like my entire time in Indianapolis holed-up inside avoiding the sub-arctic temps.

i tried not to notice it as the drive got long and winding.  i tried to ignore its presence like a misspoken word, in hopes he wouldn't notice and it wouldn't build and i could just go about the day being active and learning how to ski and tearing up the slopes.  but it stuck with me unnoticed, like dirtied, discarded gum on the bottom of my rain boots.

covered head-to-toe in heat-wielding accessories, with skis tightly secured to my rented boots, i hit the slopes.  I still had it.  I had been skiing only once before, at this very place, only falling once and thorougly enjoying myself.  certainly this would be the day i would graduate to the tougher runs and learn to cut in and out across the hills with the agility of a seasoned skiier.

and as i set forth down the first slope, panic overwhelmed my body. my chest felt hollow, as if no amount of breathing in would ever fill it with the oxygen needed to sustain life.  fearfilled my veins, and tears filled my eyes.  i wasn't close to falling, i wasn't unsteady on my feet.  my hands were shaking and i burst into tears before I could even come to a stop with my pizza-shaped ski position.

Ryan encouraged me from behind as i slowed to a stop on the other side of the path.  i couldn't go near him, i couldn't speak, i could hardly breathe.  the thought that i had to complete the course before i could even make it back up again ignited absolute terror throughout my body.  through the grace of God, I made it down (what to me was) the hill with the straight, deep, decline, and to the bottom by the ski lift. shaking and wiping away tears, i confessed what he already knew, that I had had a panic attack upon starting, and my body was overwhelmed right now.  i couldn't control the tears or the terror and felt awful for something like this ruining our day while we were just getting started.  he said he was more concerned with me being okay than him having fun, and I know he was sincere, but the thought of ruining his time just made me feel that much worse.

and every time i got to the top of the slope, no matter how many times i mastered it with ease, the cavity in my chest again became hollow, my hands never ceased to shake, and the terror never relented tormenting my mind.  and after a nasty spill the only time i tried a new run, one that left me with a ski up my bum (and the bruise to prove it happened) and no comfortable way to sit, each run was a battle to not give up, to do it afraid.  i was presented with the choice to make each time, to A) give into anxiety, and give up, just not even trying any more; or B) push past the anxiety, and do it in fear the whole time, stripping it of any fun that it could or should be?

it's this dilemma that drives me crazy.  in either option, i have zero control over my anxiety, and it wins.  as irrational as it can be, that is how it wins, every time.  it just has to show up.

so today, i start a new journey with my anxiety, and i ask that you would pray for me as each step is a little scary and asks me to be a little more vulnerable.  today i went to the doctor, and they prescribed an anti-depressant to help combat everything that has made me feel so unlike myself.  we will see how this goes.  right now, it's just for the next 6-9 months and we will reassess from there.  so much of my pride wants to not talk about this; wants to pretend all is fine and dandy all the time, and that i don't need to rely on anything outside of myself to help control the panic.  but that part of pride is a liar.  that part of pride wants to save face, rather than be real.  and although i can't control the anxiety, i can control my pride.

this post by jamie the very worst missionary spoke so much to me a year ago in this journey of discovering what i've been dealing with.  it also reflects a lot of honest thoughts i have had about trying to defeat this with a jesus-only prescription.

the bruise and welts and cut on my bum remind me that its a hard journey, and it will be filled with accidents and pain and days that are just no-good.  but, it also serves as a reminder that i did it.  afraid, yes.  but i still did it.  i start out these new steps with the same thoughts, and one day i'll look back and be grateful that I did it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

first things first.

about 2 years ago, i read a daily devotional that talked about Mary and Martha, and how they interacted with Jesus when they hosted Him for dinner one night.  Mary ran about the house, tidying things up, making sure the casseroles were baked and the laundry neatly folded.  Martha sat at His feet, and listened.  They each had very different ideas of hosting.

i like to think i've got a little bit of both personality in me.  when it begins, i'm totally Mary.  I plan and prep and cook away to make everything perfect, but when it's all said and done, i know that it's not the party that makes the people, it's the people that make the party.

i had planned to spend my day up at the school, getting things planned and prepped for thre upcoming week.  but instead, got wrapped into 3 hours of conversation about love and life and faith with Ryan's roommates.  as each minute ticked away, i thought of how i really should be headed out by now, but the resounding sensation in my heart and soul was that i was putting first things first.

these conversations are what awaken us to insight and enlightenment and joy and learning.  these conversations allow us to express our unique identity as human beings that we are simply able to express ideas and feelings and thoughts and beauty and love.  on top of that, these are the things that are good for our soul, contribute to our joy and sanity, and remind us that there is more to life than a clean desk or copies made.

so today, i vow to put first things first.  to put people ahead of projects.  to put feeding my soul ahead of checking off an item from my to-do list.  to sow into growing community and bonds and creativity, through conversations and insta-meets (yes, I'll be headed to an insta-meet this afternoon.  don't judge.).  relationships. discussion and dialogue. painting. writing. photography. dancing.  more of these things.

we work all week, and often into the evenings on work.  when do we work on self? on relationships?  on the parts of us we starve and sacrifice in order to meet the needs of our careers and callings?  there is much to be said about diligence and work ethic and professionalism.  but do those things fulfill us in the way that people and relationships and creativity can invoke joy and satisfaction and pure contentment?  i know it's a fine line, and most days, we must succumb to sacrifice and diligence because it's the responsible thing to do.  but some days, i don't buy that neglecting our humanity is responsible.  neglecting growing and building and sowing is what makes us machines, not humans.

put first things first.  the things that make you breathe and grow and love and give and live. those things.  those are first things.  everything else will survive if you nurture those things.  i'm sure of it.