You Were Made on Purpose.

This month they are talking personality tests at the Mudroom and if you know me, you know I am into that! 

The first time I read the description of the ENFP in the Meyers Briggs personality test I took, I cried. Gregarious, full of energy, passionate, an ability to inspire others, I knew who they were talking about because I was who they were talking about. I cried because if I was one of 16 types than I wasn’t created on accident. I didn’t have to work to be a little less, a little less enthusiastic, a little less in love with other people. I didn’t need to tone it down. There were REASONS I was so boundless in my energies. I was an ENFP, and this was the way my tribe navigated the world. I was supposed to be talkative, I wasn’t wrong. I was me, an ENFP.

I cried again when I found out which number on the enneagram chart I was. This wasn’t because I was relieved. This was because I was horrified. I am not alone in this feeling after discovering I was the helper. Turns out the two is most sensitive to criticism and your enneagram number is really best found when you think of yourself at your very worst. But I also cried because I didn’t totally understand what the enneagram was for. I thought it was telling my HOW I was to behave and not WHY I was behaving. The enneagram isn’t very interested in labeling your behaviors, but rather telling you why you might be doing those things. I thought I had been made incorrectly again, I thought I was being told I was behaving outside the bounds of a two.

But as I continued to work through my understanding of the enneagram I came to realize that, again, I was made on purpose. I didn’t have to fit myself into an imperfect box.

You can read the rest here. 

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If You Want to Subvert Betsy Devos, Choose Your Neighborhood School

“There are no such thing as other people’s children” – Glennon Doyle Melton

It has become rallying cry amongst women like me. Most of us white, Christian, maybe a little more liberal than our pastor or families suspect, (but maybe not since the election, when we outed ourselves on Facebook). There are no such thing as other people’s children. This is a thing that we say, because this is the point at which our activism began. Our motherhood linked us to global motherhood and we could hear the cry of mothers with less privilege than our own.

This is why the appointment of Betsy Devos has made so many of us so angry. The system of education that she promotes is a system that employs an us and them dichotomy, one that makes you believe that the best education of your own child requires that you abandon the kids who do not have a choice to leave. It is a system that pits mother against mother, instead of one that demands that all children we treated as precious and worthy of a quality education.

Like most of the fury in this country, we are both angry at the things that this women promotes, and furious at a system that got us here in the first place. We rallied, tweeted, we called our senators and pledged to actively campaign against them. Some of us pledged to run against them if we had to. We were, and are loudly and proudly against the threat this woman is to public education, and in particular to special education. We were clear, and we were ignored.

I was heartened by the enormous support of a NO vote on Devos, but I am afraid that when it comes down to kindergarten registration, there will be such a thing as other people’s children. There will be an us versus them. There will be a quiet getting in line to go to the schools with the best reputations, because while there are no such thing as other people’s children, I still need to do right by my own child. I still need to protect my own, even if that means other people’s children get left behind. This dichotomy is powerful; it is also a lie.

I am one of the few middle class parents in my area who has decided to send my kids to the local neighborhood school, despite the space available in the neighborhood charter school. What started as a “well, it is free so we will see” spot in the pre-k program has turned into a deep love for the community that is my daughter’s school. I have the principal on speed dial and the PTA president in my text messages. I hear every day about how well-loved my babies are, mostly from my babies who are thriving there. I have been blessed by a community who teaches reading,writing, and math to my kids, and also has time for a robotics lab experience and a deep commitment to raising good citizens. It is also poorly rated on the state website. Because of this, most of the parents who look like me won’t even give this school a chance, because this school was set up by the system that Betsy Devos represents.

No one wants to fail their babies by sending them to a failing school. The schools in this country are given this label based on test scores. The test scores do not in fact reflect learning and positive environment accurately. All they reflect is how much money the kids in the school come from. Mostly, standardized tests test for poverty. They also tests for whiteness. A school with a “failing” score is pretty much guaranteed to be impoverished. It is also very likely to be primarily students of color. The system is rigged to create an us versus them and to capitalize on white middle class parents making choices out of fear. This lie encourages parents to pull their kid from the neighborhood school and send them to a safe school, whiter, richer, less kids with special needs. It isn’t about that these other kids are bad, it is just that the this lie works. Our schools are more segregated than they have ever been because parents are afraid of the label failing that has been foisted upon schools that serve communities of color.

I know it is no small thing to send your kid off to school. I know it is serious business, educating our children. I spent almost 10 years doing it. I know how important this decision is.

Betsy Devos isn’t the beginning of the systematic dismantling of our public schools. She is simply the face of a faceless nameless entity that has been subverting public education since I went to college to be a teacher, probably before that.

The system  she represents currently uses the rhetoric of competition and choice, ignoring the fact that these choices are not available to every person within the community. Ignoring the fact that competition means someone will lose, and our kids are too important to participate in a system that has a loser. But the truly amazing thing about this rhetoric of choice and competition is that the parents still have a huge amount of power. As the mother of two daughters in a public school, I have far more power on the local level than I ever did as a teacher.  Parents, the choice is still ours.

We can choose to reject the dismantling of the public school system. We can say, we have looked at your choices. We have chosen not to choose them. Our choice is a vibrant and beautiful community school where all kids are looked after. I choose to believe that the education of my child is wrapped up in the education of all children. I choose to believe that my neuro-typical child benefits from the inclusion of children all over the spectrum of learning. I choose to believe that my child will benefit from a diverse environment that accurately reflects my community more than my child will benefit from any special programming a charter or private school may have to offer.

I can give you the research that backs this claim. ALL children benefit from a diverse learning environment. ALL children benefit when disabled children are included in the learning environment. I can give you years of personal anecdotes from my time as a teacher in an inclusion classroom. I can give you testimony as a mother, who is benefiting from a neighborhood school that I love.

But I am afraid this will not matter. The lies that the schools are in fact failing, that sending your kid to a school with low test scores is to fail them as a parent is a lie that is powerful and prevalent in this country. It is one that I was almost willing to believe, and it is now one that I find on the lips of people in my community on almost a daily basis. But it is a lie.

I am afraid that the very parents who have fought, and yelled, tweeted and sent letters, marched in protests against this very appointment because it will hurt our schools, will not be willing to put their children in my school. Instead of staying and demanding equality for all, they will take their child and all the resources that go with her, and run to the haven of a school with higher test scores. I am afraid that when it comes right down to it, Betsy Devos can be maligned, but her system will be used by the very people who vocalized so loudly against her.

We can still defeat her system. We can still win this fight. It is going to take committing to our public schools in word, deed, money, time, and especially in the sending of our own children. If there are no such thing as other people’s children, there needs to be nothing but all of our schools.

When You Cling to the Rising

Today on SheLoves I am writing when I am in the middle of something. Really just at the very beginning. It is probably better and prudent to wait until the whole thing pans out so I can either never speak of it, or speak of it often to the glory of God. But I am not doing that. Instead I am clinging to the rising of hope. I am publicly Hoping that this thing just might work. 

“But how? How are we going to accomplish that, God? How is this going to happen?” It was one of those chicken and egg problems. I needed a space to generate the art to get the funds, but I needed the funds to get the space where I could put the artist. I really needed an artist, but I didn’t have the funds or the space for that either.

I had been dreaming with my pastor about the intersection of art and justice. If God is a creative God who creates all people to create, what does that say about the lack of opportunity for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness, who do not have access to ways of creation? No laptop for writing, no instruments, no paint and brushes and easels. How can we facilitate all people to create in the image of our creator? These were the questions we were asking, but we hadn’t even begun articulating an answer, when an artist showed up to eat breakfast with us.

You can read the rest here.

Evangelical Church: In the wake of banning refugees, what do you believe?

If you spent your teens years in an evangelical youth group, you know about the 10/40 window. As I have very poor spacial awareness, maps and globes never meant much to me, but I knew that the box between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator with huge amounts of poverty and no access to Jesus. At least, that is what I learned when I was being implored to pray for these people. And I did pray for these people.

In stadiums full of other kids learning about Jesus and just how sold out we had to be for him, I learned about muslim countries and how going there for Jesus might just be the death of us. I learned we should do it anyway. I was told that the gospel was worth my life, that Jesus may call me into dangerous places. I was told that I should follow Jesus no matter the cost. I pledged that I would and I meant it.

I went to college and majored in English education so that I would have a skill to rely on and a good cover to get into countries closed to christians. I joined bible studies that also had a 10/40 bent. I heard stories of people praying on the sly in restaurants while pretending they were commenting on the pictures on the walls. I read emails and updates where everyone’s names had been changed to the names of candy bars and I spent weeks and months faithfully praying for “Kit Kat” and “Reese Cup” to know the grace of God.

I was told that God could and would change the hearts of these people, if we were only willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost, God promised that it would be worth it. God would make a way when there seeme to be  no way.  I believed it. I still do.

The same churches that taught me to love my global muslim neighbors as myself, before myself, are the same churches who categorically voted for a president who has made good on the campaign promise of a muslim ban. He said he would ban muslims from entering this country and he has. Many who sent me to my knees, weeping on behalf of the 10/40 window are complicit in sending those same people to die in the very places we begged God for access to.

The muslim people that we knew only God could reach are in our airports, and the church is complicit in turning them away. You asked me to give my life. You told me it would be worth it eternally, and now you cry SAFETRY FIRST to mostly women and children who are desperately looking for safety.

The same church that told me that people were dying eternally damned because no one was willing to risk their life to tell these people about Jesus, is the same church that is telling me it isn’t safe for these women and children to be in our neighborhoods. I thought following Jesus was worth the risk.

You wonder why the millenials, even those raised in your churches, are exiting your pews en masse. It isn’t because we didn’t believe what you were saying. It is because we did. We believed you. You said, go do something dangerous for God and we said YES! But when it was your turn to welcome these people you said it was too  dangerous. We still want a Jesus who is worth following no matter the cost.

The evangelical church told us that souls were on the line, that eternal life was at stake. But the evangelical church was willing to elect a president who staked his claim on banning muslims. The church voted for that. You with your big T Truth and your make Godly choices, you decided that refugee banning was worth it.

My theology has moved quite a bit since those days. I am now a proud member of a mainline liberal congregation. I go to a liberal seminary and find my current beliefs well represented there.

But I will never forget my theological mother tongue. I know the evangelical message well. It introduced me to God and the power of Jesus Christ, and for that I will always be grateful.

As a daughter of the evangelical church I am asking: What do you really believe? If you really believe that anyone who hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ as their savior is eternally damned, wouldn’t you demand that any muslim who wants to can come in? Wouldn’t it be worth whatever risk there may be for the chance to introduce this muslim to Jesus?  This is what you told me. I believed it. My question now is, do you?

 

 

 

 

Not My Business

I talk about this instance a lot. Like, a lot. The one time I preached, I talked about it and that is the piece of the sermon that most often people tell me stuck with them. That not my business is such a hard lesson for me to learn.

“Mommy, that not you business.”

I think this was the most important thing anyone has ever said to me. It was said to me by a child who could not yet use the potty on her own. It was said to me from a five-point harness I had to buckle, because her tiny thumbs didn’t work well.

“Mommy, that not you business.”

At that time, I was worried about the state of someone else’s heart. I was worried about the ways I was being perceived. I was worried about everything except for me and what I was feeling and thinking and choosing. I was worried about everything, except the thing that was actually my business.

Now this tiny prophet is just a little bit bigger. She comes home every once in a while with reports she didn’t get her work done.  When I ask her why, she shrugs. “I didn’t want to. I was bored with it. Everyone else at the table was doing something I did want to do.”

You can read the rest at She Loves. I just love that place. 

When it is still Christmas, and Christmas is Inconvenient.

I met a friend at Target the day after Christmas. Specifically we met at the Starbucks in the Target. There is also a Starbucks in the Kroger, and in the Barnes and Noble . The Edgewood shopping center is convenient like that. You can get your coffee fix wherever you already are. No extra stop necessary.

I needed a planner. As we finished our drinks we wandered around the Target, my friend and I on a totally predictable and also perfect mom date I couldn’t seem to settle on one, but I did find an awesome Christmas tablecloth on clearance. Apparently, the Target clearance bins are not subject to the liturgical calendar. On the 26th of December Christmas has to go. By the time I checked out all the planners at Barnes and Noble and decided what I really needed at Target were some brush markers, the dollar spot had been completely cleared of Christmas, and Valentines day was securely in place.

Didn’t anyone tell Target there were twelve days of Christmas and we were only on number two? No time for lingering on the virgin birth of God in the flesh, we have the next thing to sell! The next to anticipate! Christmas trees are dropping their needles and we need to MOVE ON ALREADY. Those decorations are beautiful but we are tired of bumping our heads on the hanging garland and the tree is taking up too much room in the living area. We need more free space so we can embrace our NEW lives in our NEW year. Get that stuff put away.

This last day of Christmas I have to admit that I have been obsessed with Mary in a way that I haven’t been since I was great with child on Christmas Eve. Her life got totally jacked up. What dreams died to her the moment she said YES to God? What was she sacrificing? Did she ever grieve it, the way she thought things would go?

I wonder a lot about Mary, if people thought she was completely insane her entire life. If she ever looked God dead in the face and said “this is not what I signed up for.” I wonder if she ever felt like it wasn’t worth it, and sometimes I wonder if she was the first person the angel came to. I wonder sometimes if she wasn’t number three, two others too scared to be blessed by God. I don’t think this actually happened, but I don’t know that I would blame those ladies if it did.

I am wondering a lot about Mary, and the ways that saying a bold YES to God permanently inconvenienced her life, an unexpected pregnancy, a swift and terrified detour to Egypt, years without introducing Baby Jesus to her mom. I am sure, that it was awful watching Jesus on the cross, and I am sure that she had a unique and beautiful joy when she embraced the miracle of the resurrection. Only a mother’s love, you know?

I am 33 and could have retired as a teacher at 52. But instead I am in seminary, surrounded by mostly 20 somethings and wondering what the heck I am doing. Where will I be when this all ends? I have no idea. Church? maybe. Chaplaincy? Maybe. With a writing career that is helped by MDiv. beside my name? I don’t know. I know that this decision isn’t the safest financially. I look at the expression on my husbands face as the budget gets tighter and dream of a home where neither of us are in school. My kids will be 10 and 9 at my graduation. They don’t know a life where one of us isn’t in school. Going back to school was kind of inconvenient, it wasn’t what I planned.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the inconvenience of Jesus coming as a baby, for really all parties involved. Babies are a lot of things, but not exactly paradigms of efficiency. They come when they want, they sleep when they want, they spit and poop on whatever they want. Plans with a new born need to be flexible whether or not you plan them that way. I wonder if it also wasn’t inconvenient for God, to be cold and have no way to tell anyone to pull up his blanket a little, to become a human and not even have control over his bowels. I wonder if God also didn’t wish a little to move on already.

I have been thinking a lot, about how inconvenient twelve whole days of Christmas is. I think maybe God isn’t really interested in our convenience. I think maybe our need to move on already is exactly what needs interrupted. Twelve days of Christmas is terribly inconvenient, and being pregnant unexpectedly while still being a virgin is terribly inconvenient, and being a baby is inconvenient. I think perhaps that is exactly where we meet God.

 

Where There is Smoke

The mountains have been burning. I live in Atlanta, and for days and days just north of here there has been a forest fire. The mountains that I can get to in just a short car ride are burning. Someone told me this was happening. There was one lone voice on my Facebook feed who had been shouting for months that there was a drought. She showed pictures of scrawny cows. She had grave concerns that this was going to land us in a fire situation. I mean, I guess I believed her. I knew that I should probably be praying for rain. When I thought about it I guess I realized that the dog park was a lot dustier than usual. Mostly, I didn’t think about it, mostly it wasn’t affecting me.

A few days ago the smoke finally reached my city. You go outside and it smells like a camp fire, but also like factory smoke. You stay outside and your lungs burn. I heard on the radio today that the air quality has been rated “unhealthy for everyone.” You come back inside and your clothes and hair smell like they did some late nights in college. You didn’t smoke but most of your friends on the speech team, and that cute boy you liked did. So you went outside when they needed a cigarette and you came back into your dorm room reeking as if you had lit up yourself. Everything smells like smoke. My lungs burn. Didn’t my friend tell me that the mountains were on fire?

I knew that the mountains were on fire, but I didn’t really know. I didn’t get it. I read somewhere that it is very very hard for the human brain to understand suffering we don’t see, that it is difficult to understand experiences that we have only heard about. I saw the skinny cows. I knew there was a drought. I knew this could lead to fire. I knew, I mean, I had heard, that the smoke was coming. I didn’t really understand until my lungs were burning.

I think I could say the same about Brexit. Some of my closest friends live across the pond. They were shocked and horrified that their country voted to exit the EU. They were stunned that people they knew and loved voted on the fear of immigrants and people who did not look like them. My British friends were looking at the rise of Donald Trump. They began telling me it was possible in America, that the same conditions, the drought of racially charged hate and fear, and brushing away of “it isn’t that bad” may very well lead to a fire. I shrugged. This couldn’t possibly be happening.

My friends of color tried to tell me of the fires they had seen in their own life. They tried to tell me that the mostly safe America with the occasionally bad racist person was not the America they knew. They tried to tell me that I knew more people who were going to vote for Donald Trump then I thought I did. They tried to tell me that their were more people than I thought who would ignore and explain away the racist vitriol as ‘just talk.’ I guess I knew that they maybe had a different perspective than I did. I saw maybe pictures of their reality, but I didn’t really understand. They told me how things were getting uglier and uglier. They had seen the fire, I still had not smelled the smoke.

The days following the election, I could finally smell the smoke in the air. I thought of my daughter’s kindergarten teacher who wears a hijab. I worried about my black friends in mostly white classrooms. I saw the terrified faces of my classmates. I hugged my LGBTQ friends. I processed my own feelings of betrayal. I opened my eyes to how many people in America were still totally unwilling to have a woman in the office, no matter who she was running against.

Because of my position in society I still do not see the fire very often, just moments of it here or there. But I can smell the smoke now. The breathing of it burns my lungs. I can smell the smoke and I am committed to not shutting myself indoors and hoping it will go away. I am committed to watching closely and better understanding. I am committed to praying for rain.